Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 5/31/13

Back in CT for the night and the East Coast for the weekend.  Let's get right to it.  Onto the links!

- On Monday, Lenny Neslin of lenNY's Yankees weighed the corner infield roster options with Teix and Youkilis scheduled to return and gave his solutions to the overcrowding problem.

- On Tuesday, Mike Axisa of RAB commented on the difficult to pinpoint problem with CC Sabathia this season.  I thought it was pretty easy in my analysis, but Mike makes some valid points and observations.

- On Wednesday, Mike Ashmore of Thunder Thoughts had all the videos of Teix and Youkilis' rehab ABs, in case you wanted to check in and see how their swings looked before they return tonight.

- William Tasker of IIATMS/TYA asked the all-important question of what happens when Teix and Youkilis do return and went through the most likely scenarios.

- SG of RLYW laid the bad May offensive numbers out there for everybody to just breathe in.  Damn that fucking stinks, doesn't it?

- On Thursday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog dug through the numbers to show how legitimate the Yankees have been in their first 50 games.  No smoke and mirrors here, folks.

- Hunter Farman of Yanks Go Yard was back with another round of predictions for next month.  He smartened up and made some more realistic ones this month.  Kudos for that.

- Martin Riggs of NoMaas pointed out some statistical predictors of even better things to come for Shawn Kelley.

- Steven Goldman of Pinstriped Bible checked the numbers, standard and sabermetric, to try to determine just how good or bad Chris Stewart has been defensively this season.

- On Friday, Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes mused on the idea of bringing back Curtis Granderson in 2014.  I wouldn't be completely opposed to it, but that would kill any chances of getting below the luxury tax threshold.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud looked at all the changes that come with the return of Teix and Youkilis.

- Rob Abruzzese of Bronx Baseball Daily looked into Vernon Wells' and Travis Hafner's simultaneous slumps and what they need to do to get out of them.

We're going seasonal for this week's jam with "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince of Scientology himself Will Smith.  At long last, it looks like we finally are moving towards summer.  70s in Wisco this weekend, 80s-90s out east.  Good times.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

The Importance Of Teix And Youkilis Returning

If there's a way to spin this current Yankee slump into a positive, it comes from pointing out how it's put a quick end to all the growing talk about the team not needing all their injured players back, and what's going to happen to the current players, and what do they do if the team plays worse with the better players back?  This current version of the Yankee team appears to have hit the wall and they are in serious need of a spark, one they thought they had when Curtis Granderson return.  More than anything else, even if neither guy gets a hit in tonight's game or all weekend, that's what Mark Teixiera and Kevin Youkilis will give this club when they return tonight.

And if it turns out they both can shake the rust off quicker than expected, even better.  From a performance standpoint, the 2 things this team lacks the most right now are right-handed power and patience.  The lack of power has been an issue all season long.  The lack of patience is something new and it's been at the forefront of this week's offensive disappearance.  Teix and Youkilis have always been good at working counts and drawing walks, and blending that patience with their power presence and balance they bring to the lineup should help turn things around.

Lyle Overbay has done the job well, but he's got an OBP in the .280s.  David Adams has looked more than capable of hacking it at the Major League level, but he was still never expected to be in this position this year and is already showing signs of being exposed at the plate.  Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner helped carry the offense through the first 6 weeks of the season, but the grind of playing every day appears to be catching up to them now.  Teixeira and Youkilis are the salve to ease these wounds, the reinforcements for the reinforcements, and they represent the first step towards a return to business as usual for the Yankees.  If they're both healthy enough to play every day, and I don't think the team would be bringing them back tonight if they weren't, they should be just what the doctor ordered.

Joba's Bullpen Role Lost Already?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

I still think it's a little early to start talking about Joba Chamberlain as a trade piece, despite Buster Olney sparking some chatter on that front with his tweets earlier this week.  The Yankees aren't going to be in sell mode at the deadline if they're even close to the postseason race, and it's highly unlikely they could get matching value in return for Joba in a position of need.  For now, let's just see if Joba can keep himself on the field before worrying about whether or not he'll be wearing a Yankee uniform on it.

What I will talk about is where Joba stands in Joe's bullpen pecking order right now.  He had been the official 7th Inning Guy before getting hurt and was pitching well before he got hurt.  Last night, Joe went the 'pen in the 7th inning of a 1-run game after Vidal Nuno left and it wasn't Joba he called on but Shawn Kelley.  Kelley has been a monster this month and he was last night again, striking out the side swinging.  Joba got called into mid-inning fireman duty in the 8th and didn't exactly shine in that role.  Has Joba already slid down the totem pole?  How will Joe use him if Kelley has bypassed him?  That's what I'd be watching over these next few weeks before concerning myself with possible Joba trade scenarios.

Game 53 Wrap-Up: NYM 3 NYY 1

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It's been a rush of a week with travel Monday/Friday and about 4.5 days worth of work crammed into 3, so I really don't think asking the Yankees to get 1 measly win to save some semblance of dignity in this series was too much.  The first 3 games of this series had been bummerific enough.  No need to send me home for the weekend with a frown on my face.  Vidal Nuno and his bag of left-handed tricks was on the mound before presumably going back down to Triple-A SWB when Andy comes back Monday, against the pretty terrible Dillon Gee.

Game Notes:

- Deflating 1st inning from the Bombers.  Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano led off with singles and were stranded after back-to-back Ks by Wells and Hafner and an Overbay groundout back to the pitcher.

- The Yanks left 2 more on in the 2nd but finally cashed in when Cano came up again in the 3rd.  He got a hit first-pitch swinging the first time.  Second time he needed just 1 more pitch to park a solo HR in the right field seats.

- He gave up a 2-run homer to Marlon Byrd in the top of the 2nd after trying a fastball up 1 time too many, otherwise it was hard to find fault with Nuno's night.  He allowed just those 2 runs on 3 hits in 6 IP, and retired the final 9 batters he faced.

- He got no support other than Cano's HR and left behind, though, as the offense continued to be inept and impatient to an almost comic level.  Dillon Gee had 8 strikeouts and 7 GB outs through 6 innings.  On 69 pitches.

- Joba Chamberlain didn't get the nod for the 7th inning after Nuno.  That went to Shawn Kelley and he struck out the side swinging.  But Joba was involved in the mess in the 8th that gave the Mets their insurance run, allowing the runners to move up on a wild pitch.

- It only got worse for the offense.  All you need to know is this- After Cano's HR in the 3rd, the final 20 Yankee hitters were retired in order.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

First Rough Stretch Reached

(Guh.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Well here we are.  The low point of the season to date has been reached.  The Yankees wake up this morning losers of 4 straight games, games they were outscored 21-9 in, and 6 of their last 8.  They've looked absolutely putrid in those 4 games, on the mound, at the plate, and in the field.  For the first time this season they have the appearance and accompanying performance of the cobbled together, replacement-level mess they were expected to be.  The quick gust of wind that was blown in the team's sails when Curtis Granderson returned to the lineup has been snuffed out by his re-injury, and tonight the boys will try to wake up out of their funk in time to not get swept out of town by the effing Mets.

Here Comes Tyler Austin...


He's still included in the crop of top OF prospects that's underperforming early this season, but Tyler Austin is showing signs that he might be starting to remove himself from that herd.  In his last 10 games, Austin is hitting .316/.378/.632 with 3 2B, 3 HR, 7 R, 9 RBI, and 5 BB.  He's raised his season batting line to .266/.368/.411 (.360 wOBA) and the power/patience combination that was his calling card through the lower levels of the system is starting to come through now that he's over 200 PA at the Double-A level.

Kid's starting to put it together, people...

Game 52 Wrap-Up: NYM 9 NYY 4

(That's a lonely walk.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Losing back-to-back 1-run games to a team like the Mets is the baseball equivalent to a swift kick in the apple bag to any baseball team, no matter how much that team may be overachieving.  The Yankees lived in that reality the last 2 nights, dropping both games at the hand of their 2 best pitchers and having the added insult of only scoring 2 runs total in those games.  Getting outscored by the Mets lineup is difficult to do and the Yanks managed to do it in consecutive days.  They tried to wash the stink of all that off last night back at The Stadium with David Phelps on the mound.  The shit only got stinkier and got stinkier quick.

Game Notes:

- There's nothing to say other than to just call Phelps' top of the 1st a complete disaster.  It was an awful combination of badly-located fastballs, missed curveballs, and poor defense behind him and when it was all said and done the Mets had 5 on the board and Phelps was out of the game after recording 1 out.

- Not much more to say after that horrid 1st inning.  Adam Warren gave up a run in the 3rd on a Marlon Byrd HR and 2 in the 4th on a 2-out Lucas Duda double.  That made it 8-0 Mets and the Yanks basically folded their tent at that point.

- Brennan Boesch at least tried to contribute, hitting a solo HR in the bottom of the 4th to get the Yanks on the board and singling in another run in a 2-run 6th.

- Of course Ivan Nova came on to pitch 5 good relief innings in a game that didn't mean anything.  For what it's worth, Nova looked really good last night, mixing and commanding his fastball and curveball really well and striking out 6 to just 1 walk.

-Garbage time RBI single for Robinson Cano in the 9th.  Yay.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cash Confirms Pettitte Return Date

Via my girl Meredith earlier today, Brian Cashman confirmed that Andy Pettitte will indeed come off the DL next week and rejoin the rotation during the team's Monday-Wednesday series against Cleveland.  Vidal Nuno is scheduled to pitch the Subway Series finale tomorrow, and is currently occupying Pettitte's spot in the rotation.  He'll more than likely be sent down Triple-A to stay stretched out as a starter when his spot comes around again next Tuesday and Andy will get that start.

Pettitte had no problems in his 75-pitch sim game yesterday and I imagine he will throw one more simulated session of some kind before returning.  It will be interesting to see how Joe manages his workload now that he's coming back from his second back problem of the year.  The important thing is that the Left-Handed Jedi has returned.  Now somebody hit the music!

Gardner Getting It Done Lately

(Got that HR trot down.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Amidst the scores of struggling bats, one man has been flying under the radar and quietly putting together a really nice month.  That man, if you were unaware, is Brett Gardner.  I almost didn't realize it myself until a day or two ago, so I'm sure hopeful there are a few more of you out there who didn't realize it either.  After a slow start to the year and some slightly disturbing swing trends, Gardner has really come around and been both a spark at the top of the order and a stud in the field in May.  Were it not for his contributions this month, the Yankees would likely be out a few more Ws.

Injury/Return Updates: Pettitte, Teixeira, Youkilis

Yesterday was a rough one on the field for the Yanks, who lost their 3rd straight game and 5th of their last 7.  The news was much better off the field, as a trio of important veterans took another big step towards returning and providing a much needed boost.

Andy Pettitte threw a 75-pitch simulated game at the team's complex in Tampa, reporting no problems with any part of his back.  No word on whether he'll be scheduled for a MiL start or not, but he could rejoin the rotation next week.  Mark Teixeira, now confirmed to be starting his MiL rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton today, got a partner for that trip when the Yanks announced that Kevin Youkilis would be joining him.  During his pregame presser last night, Joe said it was possible that both could rejoin the team as early as Friday after playing in 2 rehab games.

While I'd prefer to see both guys get a little more rehab game time under their belts to make sure their bodies respond favorably to playing every day, I trust the Yankee training staff knows what it's doing.  It's not like the lineup couldn't use both bats right now, and the presence of David Adams gives Joe the option of using the DH spot for both players against LHP.  First let's see how these 2 games go before we worry about that.

Game 51 Wrap-Up: NYM 2 NYY 1

(Just keep on Web Gemin', Brett.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Despite all the injuries and all the lineup inconsistencies, the Yankees came into last night's game as the only team in MLB without a losing streak of at least 3 games in 2013.  That's a pretty impressive feat, and their reward for the accomplishment was trying to keep the streak alive against Matt Harvey, the Mets' young ace and already one of the 5 best pitchers in baseball.  Oh wait, that's not a reward.  Silly me.  At least the Bombers had Hiroki Kuroda on the mound to give them a fighting chance, as Hirok looked to bounce back from a poor start his last time out.  He did just fine after a rain delay, but for the second straight night the bullpen let one get away late in a stunning loss.

Game Notes:

- He gave up singles to Reid Brignac and Brett Gardner in the 3rd, otherwise Harvey was the real deal through 4.  His stuff was as electric as advertised and he used it all to strike out 6 of the first 14 batters he faced.

- Kuroda was equally effective in his 4 first innings, although with a helluva lot less flash than Harvey.  He had good fastball life and slider sharpness and retired 9 in a row at one point to keep the game scoreless.

- The Yankees squandered Ichiro reaching on a leadoff error in the 5th.  They didn't make the same mistake when Brett Gardner took second base on a Marlon Byrd bobble to lead off the 6th.  With 2 outs, Harvey left a changeup belt high to Lyle Overbay.  Looking to swing early after striking out in his first 2 ABs, Overbay lined a single up the middle to score Gardner and give the Yanks a 1-0 lead.

- Robinson Cano returned the leadoff error favor on a truly horrid play to start the bottom of the 6th, but some nasty pitches and a killer pickoff play by Kuroda, and another great OF play by Gardner killed the threat.

- It looked like the Yankees would finally really get to Harvey with 2 outs in the 8th after Cano and Vernon Wells singled.  Harvey stayed in with a pitch count over 115 and got Overbay to line out to right to keep it a 1-run game.

- That out turned out to be big in the bottom of the 9th, when Mariano Rivera came on and shockingly gave up 3 straight hits to blow the save and the win.  He was just a little off where he wanted to be on the corner on 3 pitches and it cost him.  First time this season, won't be the last.  You can't get pissed at Mo.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Joba Chamberlain Activated From The DL

I was starting to wonder if Joba Chamberlain was getting the same stall treatment I thought Ivan Nova was last week.  Thankfully this time the Yankees were nice enough to announce his activation from the DL before I wrote the post and made myself look like a double jackass.

The Yanks activated Joba this afternoon after a few MiL rehab assignments and I believe 2 comebackers that hit him during said assignments.  With the number of players still going down these days, it only makes sense to bring Joba back and have him get hit with a pitch in a Major League game.  David Huff was DFA'd to clear a spot on the active roster and in the suddenly chock full bullpen that has Mo, D-Rob, Logan, Claiborne, Kelley, Warren, Nova, and now Joba.  That's a lot of innings to go around.

As an added bonus, the Yankees have now opened up 2 spots on their 40-man roster.  They'll need them as the rest of the injured core continues to heal.  Now let's see where Joba fits back into the bullpen pecking order.  They certainly haven't been hurting without him.

So What's The Deal With CC Sabathia?

(Courtesy of the AP)

CC Sabathia made his 11th start of the 2013 season on Sunday night, and if you saw any of it you know that it wasn't pretty.  The big fella got smacked around for 7 ER in 7 innings, the most he's given up in one start this season, and currently finds himself with a 4-4 record, a 3.96/4.10/3.76 slash line, and in search of answers.  With 2 months of starts under his belt, there is now a big enough sample size to truly start evaluating CC and not much has changed for the better in this second month after many of us wanted to wait and see how CC would look with more work under his belt.  His fastball velocity is still underwhelming, his command in the strike zone is still spotty, and he's still way too hittable for anybody to feel as comfortable as they used to when CC takes the mound.

We knew making the adjustment to compensate for his lack of velocity was going to take some time, but CC has looked worse in his more recent starts than he had earlier in the season.  What's going on with his transitional period that's making it such a struggle for him?

Recent Offensive Struggles Shine A Light On The Need For Injured Bats

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

It was bound to happen with the way the Yankees have played and the positive contributions the new guys have made this season, but it doesn't make the notion any less silly.  With Curtis Granderson having already returned (and get hurt again) and Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis possibly set to do the same soon, the idea among fans that the team would be "better off without those high-priced guys" has grown.  It's sure to grow even more when A-Rod gets ready to come back, as it always seems to do when he's coming off the DL.  This is obviously incredibly flawed logic, something the MSM likes to throw out there to stir up fake controversy and sell papers.  Almost as if in anticipation of that issue, the team's production recently has shown exactly why the Yankees are still very much in need of their injured stars' services.

Game 50 Wrap-Up: NYM 2 NYY 1

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

After a sour ending to their series in Tampa, the Mets were just the type of team the Yankees needed to see to get back on the right rack and that's exactly who they got to see last night.  The 4-game Subway Series kicked off at Citi Field with Jon Niese and Phil Hughes taking the mound.  The Met lineup was a perfect one for Hughes to continue his turnaround as well, and continue it he did.  Too bad his lineup forgot to show up last night and GIDP'd themselves and Hughes out of a W.

Game Notes:

- Hughes was aggressive with his fastball from the start last night, which doesn't come as a surprise.  What does is him throwing it for strikes consistently and generating a lot of groundball contact with it, yet that's just what Hughes was doing early.

- Another rarity for Hughes is being efficient with his pitch count, and yet that's also what he was doing last night.  Through 6 innings, Hughes gave up just 3 hits and threw just 78 pitches while holding the Mets scoreless.

- While the Mets' opportunities were few, the Yankees had a great one against Niese in the top of the 2nd.  They loaded the bases with 1 out on a pair of singles and a walk before Chris Stewart rapped into an inning-ending double play.

- They Yanks managed just 1 baserunner after the 2nd before finally breaking through in the 6th.  Brett Gardner led off with a triple and scored on Jayson Nix's RBI single.  A Robinson Cano GIDP quickly ended the rally, and turned out to be a big play later in the game.

- It always seems like it's just a matter of time with Hughes and time finally ran out on him in the bottom of the 7th.  He couldn't put away David Wright with 2-strike fastballs and the final of 4 straight that he threw in the AB was hit for a game-tying HR.

- As dominant as he looked a week ago, D-Rob was the exact opposite in the 8th last night.  He had no command of his cutter or curveball and gave up the go-ahead run on 2 hits, a walk, and a HBP.

- The lineup left 2 on in the 7th and went down quietly in the 8th and 9th, wasting a great opportunity to earn Hughes a win on a night when he did more than enough to earn it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Weekend News & Notes

I took my first real break since last Christmas this weekend, and you probably noticed it was a little slow around the site.  If you spent as much time away from your computer as I did and need to catch up, here's what you missed:

- CC Sabathia got absolutely shellacked yesterday in the series finale against the Rays in what was arguably his worst outing of the season.  He gave up HRs to Sean Rodriguez AND James Loney, which is unforgivable, and continues to have the Rays be a thorn in his side.

- Still no more news on C-Grand's injured pinky, but both Chris Stewart and Eduardo Nunez are still feeling the effects of their recent injuries and still aren't ready to return.

- Ivan Nova returned to game action for the first time on Saturday night, and almost predictably loaded the bases in extra innings against the Rays before wriggling off the hook and ending up the winning pitcher.  Good to see nothing has changed with Ivan.

- The Yanks finally got rid of Ben Francisco's dead weight to clear a roster spot for the recently acquired David Huff.  The lefty pitched in yesterday's game and was pretty terrible.  The team is currently carrying 13 pitchers with Huff, and presumably looking to play lefty matchups this week.

- Mark Teixeira is confirmed to be starting his MiL rehab assignment this coming Wednesday in Trenton.  No word on whether Kevin Youkilis is joining him, although he has been getting sim game ABs with Teix, or if Michael Pineda will also start his assignment.

- Subway Series starts tonight, 2 at Citi and then 2 at YS3, and the highlight will be tomorrow night's pitching matchup of Hiroki Kuroda and Matt Harvey.

OK, break over.  Blog on.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Game 48 Wrap-Up: NYY 4 TB 3

I'm on vacation, so you get the short version of this recap.  There couldn't have been 2 different types of lefties on the hill yesterday.  Matt Moore was the big kid with the monster stuff; Vidal Nuno was the small, unassuming kid with the average stuff.  Looking at the numbers, you'd be hard pressed to guess which one was which yesterday as Nuno stood toe-to-toe with Moore and gave his team a great chance to win.  He didn't come away with the W, but his team did enough late to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.

Game Notes:

- The Yanks used a familiar formula to get their first run in the top of the 1st- Brett Gardner leadoff double, Travis Hafner RBI single.

- Nuno was steady through 4 innings and never in trouble.  He gave up the game-tying run in the bottom of the 5th on a pair of doubles.

- Moore didn't allow another run after the 1st, but he wasn't as dominant as he was last time against the Yanks and New York made him work in his 6 innings before getting into the bullpen.

- The bullpen let down Nuno big time in the 7th after he left.  Shawn Kelley gave up a double, Boone Logan gave up a single, and it was 3-1 Rays.  Preston Claiborne came in and got out of the jam.

- The Yanks were down to their last out in the 9th against Fernando Rodney, and apparently that was the way they liked it.  Lyle Overbay walked, Brennan Boesch doubled, Brett Gardner singled, and we were going to extras tied at 3.

- After Ivan Nova pitched a shaky 10th, Overbay came back around again in the top of the 11th and hit a go-ahead solo HR, his 8th of the season, setting the stage for another Mariano Rivera save and a great team win.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Timing Of C-Grand's Latest Injury Couldn't Be Worse

(Courtesy of the AP)

Man, Curtis Granderson just can't catch a break this year, huh?  Well technically he's caught 2 breaks, although neither of them are of the lucky variety, and at this point both Curtis' and the team's continued injury problems are getting a bit ridiculous.  After being back for just 8 games and hitting .250/.323/.393 in those game, C-Grand is heading back to the DL after having the pinky finger on his left hand broken by a Cesar Ramos pitch last night.  The amount of time Curtis has to miss won't be confirmed until he gets the finger checked out by a doctor on Monday, but the early estimate is at least 4 weeks.  There's never a good time for injuries in baseball, and even less of one for a team like the Yankees who have been snakebitten by injuries since last year's ALCS.  This latest setback for Granderson really comes at a bad time, though, for multiple reasons.

I'm Sorry, Ben Who??

Joe during his postgame presser last night after saying the team only had 3 healthy outfielders with C-Grand out again and having to be reminded that Ben Francisco existed:

“Oh yeah, Francisco.  Four. So disregard what I said. I don’t know what we’ll do. We have so many roster issues, I’m not sure what we’re going to do.”

If that isn't just the perfect statement to sum up the Ben Francisco Era.  Joe just straight up forgot about the guy.  I guess you can't really blame him though.  Francisco is still barely hitting, sitting at .114/.220/.182 for the season (13 wRC+!!!!), and he's played in just 3 games in the last 2 weeks, 1 since May 17th.  He's an empty roster spot at this point and yet he'll continue to linger around like a bad fart because players keep getting hurt.  Brennan Boesch will get called up to assume the 4th OF role again while C-Grand is on the DL, but don't be surprised if we see Francisco's name on a few more lineup cards in the weeks to come.  That is, as long as Joe doesn't forget about him again.

Game 47 Wrap-Up: NYY 9 TB 4

(Fuck.  Courtesy of the AP)

I'll say this about last night's game.  It's a good thing I wasn't home following it live because I probably would have lost my mind and broke something when Curtis Granderson got hit by that pitch in the 5th inning.  This team has been absolutely ravaged by injuries already this season, more than enough to make last year look like a walk in the park, and C-Grand was one of the prime examples of that.  He's barely been back in the lineup for a week, he was just starting to come around at the plate, and now he's going to be out for an extended period of time.  Totally overshadows what was a very good win last night.

Game Notes:

- The Yanks got 3 in the top of the 2nd thanks to a blown call at first base on a David Adams "infield single" Lyle Overbay was up next and hit one of his trademark doubles to right to score 2 runs before coming around to score on a Jayson Nix single.

- David Phelps looked very good again last night, working through the first 4 innings in order.  He was throwing his fastball for strikes early and often in the count and the Tampa hitters were looking to swing early and often in the count.

- Tampa starter Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez got absolutely pounded, giving up a 2-run homer to Brett Gardner in the top of the 4th to make it 5-0.  He was out after 4 innings and Tampa's 'pen had to put in a lot of work.

- The game was broken open in the next inning when New York loaded the bases and plated 3 on a walk (Nix), single (Chris Stewart), and HBP (Robinson Cano).  8-0 lead and they went into cruise control mode.

- Things got a little hairy for Phelps in the 6th when he gave up 3 runs and in the 7th when he gave up another, but it was hardly devastating.  He gave up 2 groundball singles to start the first rally.  Sometimes the BIP luck goes against you.

- Phelps worked up to 2 outs in the 7th before leaving after taking a line drive off the forearm.  Sounds like he's going to be OK and Boone Logan and Shawn Kelley combined to finish up the game without issue.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 5/24/13

It went from high 70s in Wisconsin on Wednesday to mid-50s yesterday.  When I woke up this morning and left my apartment to head to work there was frost on my windshield.  Not just a little that comes off with a quick flick of the windshield wipers either, I'm talking a solid layer of frost worthy of a multiple-minute defrosting session.  I had to defrost my fucking windshield the day before Memorial Day weekend.  So glad I'm getting the hell out of this state for the weekend.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Martin Riggs of NoMaas checked Brett Gardner's swing/whiff trends against the fastball to see if it made sense as an explanation for his slow-ish start.

- Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits identified a few MiL hitters who are having good offensive seasons, since that seems to be the exception to the rule for most of the top positional prospects.

- On Tuesday, Dan Barbarisi of the WSJ had a cool profile piece on Travis Hafner and his unique gameday routine as a strict DH.  To me it actually sounds better than shagging flies.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud had Phil Hughes' thoughts on his recent struggles and problems with his fastball command.  Good to see Phil start to turn that around last time out.

- El duque of It Is High... lamented the eventual return of all the injured superstars and worried about how the team might be impacted if/when they get hurt again and the current guys aren't around to replace them.

- On Wednesday, SG of RLYW pointed out the Yankees' AL last place ranking in P/PA this season.  As something that's been a Yankee offensive staple forever, this is not good to see for a team this offensively weak.

- William Juliano of The Captain's Blog noticed a trend in strikeout rates and looked into whether it's the pitchers or hitters who are the leading cause.

- On Thursday, Mike Axisa of RAB looked back at the Yankees' 2008 draft and what could have been if they were able to sign their top pick.  This year's draft is only a few weeks away and Mike is easily the best source out there for pre-draft scouting reports on possible Yankee targets.

- Mike Eder of IIATMS/TYA examined David Adams' career MiL contact rates to try to predict what kind of Major League hitter he'll be moving forward.

- Andrew Mearns of Pinstriped Bible commented on how high Mo has set the bar for future Yankee closers and how impossible it's going to be for D-Rob or anybody else to reach it.

- Andrew Ball of Beyond The Boxscore had a little fun with projections and looked at what kind of performance Mo would turn in if he was converted to a starter.

- On Friday, Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes broke down the 1996 and 2013 Yankee teams to see if the comparisons being made between the 2 are accurate.

This week's jam is "1Train" from the new A$ap Rocky album.  It features pretty much every new rapper worth a damn who's come out in the last year or so and they all pretty much lay down some fire with their respective verses.  Gimme this over 2 Chainz 25 hours a day, 8 days a week.

Enjoy your long weekends, everybody.

Teix Could Start Double-A Rehab Assignment Next Week

With Curtis Granderson back in the lineup, looking healthy and relatively comfortable in the outfield, and showing signs of improvement at the plate, we can shift our focus to the next DL returnee to the lineup.  That next guy in line is Mark Teixeira, and based on the latest news about his comeback it sounds like he'll be back sooner rather than later.

Teix himself tweeted earlier this week about hitting in sim games and he's continued to play in those games and take live BP all week without any reported problems or lingering pain in his right wrist.  Yesterday, Erik Boland tweeted that Teix could start his official rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton as early as next Tuesday.

I would anticipate Teix spending more time than C-Grand did in his rehab assignment given the nature of his injury.  It's to both Teix's and the team's benefit to make sure there are no issues that crop up with the wrist from playing every day.  The big league club will be at home for a week straight starting next Wednesday before hitting the road for another West Coast trip.  That would give Teix a week of rehab games and if he's good to go maybe he joins the club on June 5th before they head to Seattle.  If he's not ready by then, I would bet the Yanks wait until mid-June when they're back from their road trip to activate him.

Are The Yankees Stalling With Nova?

(Is time up for Ivan The Terrible?)

It's been exactly 4 weeks to the day since Ivan Nova left his last start and hit the DL.  Prior to the Cleveland doubleheader he was talked about as the likely second starter, at least before feeling a tweak in his left side while playing catch the day before.  That issue was immediately talked down as nothing serious by both Joe and Cash, and yet here we are almost 2 weeks later with Nova still not back on the active roster and with there still being no announced plan to get him back on.  Pitching has been the strength of this team this season, especially lately, so it begs the question.  Have the Yankees been stalling in bringing Nova back?  Do they even want to?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yanks Continue To Shuffle The Rotation

Today is the Yankees' first scheduled off-day in over 2 weeks.  They've played 16 games in 16 days and get a chance to catch their breath before a weekend series in Tampa that kicks off another stretch of 17 games in as many days.  With that extra day to play with and an open spot in the rotation, Joe has decided to juggle the order again for the next turn through.

David Phelps will get the start on Friday night against the Rays, with Vidal Nuno slotting into Andy Pettitte's spot on Saturday.  This pushes CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and Hiroki Kuroda all back and gives each an extra day of rest before their next starts.  For Sabathia and Kuroda this is a safe move and a smart move, especially for Kuroda, who sounded determined to make his next start after leaving last night's game early.  For Hughes, who's been struggling with his fastball command lately, who knows what kind of impact the extra day will have?

There's still no word on when Pettitte will be ready to return to the rotation.  Per Chad Jennings, he's scheduled to throw either today or tomorrow and is eligible to come off the DL on July 1st.  The Yankees will wait to see how he comes through the throwing session before making any plans, but in the meantime it's a wise move on their part to give their other 2 veteran starters a little extra rest when they can.

Game 46 Wrap-Up: BAL 6 NYY 3

(Whew.  False alarm again.  Courtesy of the AP)

If you didn't catch much of last night's game, you didn't miss much.  It was over early, not the kind of night the Yankees wanted to have with their best starter on the mound.  Hiroki Kuroda was off his game from the start, and he ended up out of the game early although once again it appears he avoided serious injury.  That's the best news that came out of last night, that and Curtis Granderson possibly starting to break out.

Game Notes:

- Kuroda only made it through 2+ innings and he gave up 5 ER on 8 hits in that span.  In the top of the 1st Kuroda gave up 2 HR, a clear sign he was off, and he was out after taking a comebacker off the leg in the 2nd inning that didn't get any better in the 3rd.

- The Yanks got on the board with a C-Grand double and a Robinson Cano RBI single in the top of the 3rd, but the bottom half was when Kuroda left and Preston Claiborne entered.  He gave up a 3-run HR, his first Major League run allowed, to make it 6-1 and that was basically that.

- Solo HR for Granderson in the 5th and another one for David Adams in the 9th were the other Yankee runs.

- Another good appearance for Adam Warren, who came in after Claiborne and pitched 4 shutout innings.  He gave up 5 hits, walked none, and struck out 2.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Growing Pains For The Top Outfield Prospects

(Some early struggles for Mr. Austin.  Courtesy of Beverly Schaefer)

The Yankees entered this season with what appeared to be very good prospect depth in the outfield.  At best, 4 of their top 10 organizational prospects were outfielders, with 3 of them showing up in almost every respectable top 5 list.  Anticipation and expectations were high for this group based on what they did in 2012, and it was starting to look like the outfield was going to be one spot where the team would have good options for the future if they were planning on committing to a reduced payroll.  Almost 2 months into the MiL season, it appears as though the first potholes in this group's development have been hit.

Bullpen Getting Big Contributions From Unexpected Sources (Again)

(Alright, guy.  You're better than I thought.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Anybody who's read AB4AR for at least a year knows I'm an unabashed sucker for relievers coming out of nowhere and performing well in the Yankee bullpen.  It's been a staple of their overall bullpen success for at least the last 5 seasons running and last year it reached new levels of surprising success when Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley teamed up to provide a major boost to a bullpen in need.  That familiar story is being written again this season by a new group of unheralded, unexpected pitchers, many of them part of that large group of rookies who've made their debuts in 2013.  Unsung bullpen heroes AND they're homegrown?  You betcha.

Dirty Dave

(Courtesy of Texas Leaguers.  Click to embiggen)

Do you see that?  That's David Robertson's pitch breakdown from his 9th inning appearance last night.  Do see you those percentages?  Do you know what that means?  The term "unhittable" gets thrown around a lot these days anytime a pitcher has a good outing and sometimes it gets used improperly.  Last night was not one of those cases.  D-Rob threw 10 strikes out of 15 pitches last night. All them were swinging and 8 of the 10 were swung at and missed.  Not a single ball got put in play, only 2 had contact made, and D-Rob struck out the side.  Robertson was pretty much unhittable last night, truly unhittable.

I made the comparison to Mo last week and last night was one of those outings that was very reminiscent of Mo at his best.  D-Rob was out there throwing whatever he wanted and the other team was absolutely helpless against him.  It's been a while since Robertson has held down the fireman role, but he was in top form last night.  The inning could have started with the bases loaded and the Orioles still wouldn't have had a chance.  For old time's sake, somebody hit the music!

Game 45 Wrap-Up: BAL 3 NYY 2

("Am I wrong, Dude?  Am I wrong?"  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Phil Hughes has been all or nothing this season.  8 starts, 4 of them excellent and 4 of them atrocious.  He talked about needing to command his fastball better and have better mechanics before last night's start, and somehow it always seems like it comes back to one of those things when Phil starts to run astray.  It's why he's never reached what was once thought to be ace potential and it's why he might not be back in pinstripes after this year.  He took his first stab at correcting his issues last night in Baltimore, and did a pretty good job of it.  It just wasn't enough to get a win in another close, low-scoring affair.

Game Notes:

- Brett Gardner got things off to a great start against Miguel Gonzalez, doubling to lead off the game and scoring on a 2-out RBI single by Travis Hafner.  That's how that should work.

- Hughes was fastball-heavy in the 1st inning and in the 3rd when he gave up a solo HR to former Yankee C-Dick.  Other than that, he was pretty effective through 4 innings, allowing only that run and showing a willingness to throw offspeed early in the count.

- Hafner and The D both put on repeat performances of their efforts, Hafner with another ribbie single in the 4th and Dickerson with another solo HR to lead off the 5th, and the game was tied at 2.

- Strong finish for Hughes after the second Dickerson homer, working around a walk and an error to escape the 5th without former damage and retiring the 6th in order.  Hughes struck out 3 of the final 5 batters he faced.

- You want a definition of "dirty"?  How about David Robertson striking out the 3-4-5 hitters in the Baltimore lineup in order, all swinging on curveballs, on 15 pitches?  Of the 10 strikes he threw, 8 of them were swinging and 7 of those 8 were the hook.  That's dirty.

- Just like last night, the extra innings were singular.  After Preston Clairborne worked a scoreless 9th, Joe went to Vidal Nuno to start the inning against Nate McLouth.  McLouth hit the third pitch he saw for the game-winning walk-off HR.  Sucks.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Saddest Shortstop Platoon Ever

I tried to put a little polish on the turd that was the Reid Brignac acquisition this past weekend.  Mike Eder tried like hell to put about 4 more coats of super polish on it over at IIATMS/TYA yesterday.  In a world of teeny-tiny, barely there marginal upgrades, Brignac did and does represent a step up from Alberto Gonzalez, and there's something to be said for that.  But the plain fact of the matter is that Brignac is a .260 wOBA career hitter who rates out negatively on defense, Nix is a .286 wOBA career hitter who rates out negatively at the position the Yankees need him to play, and the thought of them teaming up to play the position that Derek Jeter has held down for the majority of my life on this planet is depressing as hell.

Reid Brignac sucks at baseball, Jayson Nix sucks at baseball, and together they are going to combine to be the most sucktastic shortstop platoon in recent MLB history.  The nearly-as-bad-as-them Eduardo Nunez is somehow still an upgrade from them if and when he comes back from the DL.  That's how low things have gotten without Jeter this season, and it's a sad preview of what's to come when life without him finally begins.

First Impressions Of Adams And Romine

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

While the unexpected success of veterans like Wells and Hafner dominated the early headlines, lately it's the kids getting the bulk of the spotlight as the Yankees continue to get helpful contributions from rookies.  5 in all have made their Major League debut already this season, something that the Yanks haven't done since guys like Mo and Jeter debuted back in '95.  For a team that's had its MiL system defined by a lack of upper-level impact talent, it's notable not only for the number of players but also for the fact that the team continues to win ballgames and have those rookies be major contributors to those victories.  Vidal Nuno throwing shutout starts, Preston Claiborne getting late-inning outs in big spots, David Adams raking from the middle of the order, it's all great.

Whether you're a prospect hugger or not, something like watching a bunch of  homegrown rookies come up and play well is always exciting from a fan's perspective.  Those guys are easy to root for and I always find myself paying more attention to their at-bats and plays in the field to see how they look as Major Leaguers.  For a number of reasons, I hadn't watched a live Yankee game in a couple weeks up until last night's ESPN broadcast.  I got my first ever look at Adams and Austin Romine last night, two guys who I ID'd last year as rookies I expected to contribute this season, and as a fan and a pseudo-prospect hugger here's my take on them.

Pineda Comeback Continues, Could Start MiL Rehab Soon

Michael Pineda has been pitching in simulated and Extended ST games for exactly 4 weeks now.  He's gotten positive feedback from all the coaches who have seen him throw, was reported to be throwing mid-90s earlier this month, and is now having his ExST starts stretched out (51 pitches in his last outing) in anticipation of starting his offical 30-day MiL rehab stint soon.

Those details come courtesy of Ken Davidoff, who reported yesterday that Pineda "received strong reviews"  from his latest outing on Saturday.  The plan is to have him pitch once more on Thursday and next Tuesday to extend his pitch count before starting his rehab assignment.  That would put him on track to make his first rehab start either on June 2nd or 3rd depending on the schedules and which affiliate he's assigned to and his return to the Major League roster sometime in early July if everything goes according to plan.

David Phelps is doing a nice job filling in on the back end right now, but between Andy's back issues and Phil Hughes' recent struggles there are still plenty of opportunities for Pineda to work his way back in.  This latest development puts a somewhat definitive timeline on when we could see him finally make his Yankee debut.

Game 44 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 BAL 4

(PRONK!!!!  Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankees have been rotating so many new bodies through this season that I almost forgot Freddy Garcia was on the roster, and in the rotation, just last season.  It was a strange 2 years for Freddy in New York to say the least, and the guys who were on those teams got to see him again last night as the opposing starting pitcher for the Orioles.  Freddy can still go out there and give some innings, but if his early SSS numbers were any indication the Yankees had the decided pitching advantage with CC Sabathia on the mound.

Game Notes:

- Brilliant piece of hitting by Robinson Cano in the top of the 1st.  After wasting a bunch of 2-strike offspeed pitches, he forced Garcia to throw him a fastball, which he promptly deposited in the left field seats for a solo HR.

- CC gave a run back in the bottom of the 2nd after throwing one slider too many to Chris Davis.  Sabathia left it up and over the plate and Davis didn't miss it after fouling one off earlier in the at-bat.

- It looked like it was going to be a long night for Freddy after a David Adams HR (his first career Major League HR) in the 2nd, and then he seemed to find his stuff a bit and worked through 5 innings without further damage.

- CC was workmanlike through 6, though he was hardly sharp or dominant.  He gave up a lot of hits on the fastball early, but used good slider-change combo to limit damage.  All in all, he gave up 8 hits and 2 runs through 6, and Baltimore hitters just looked too comfortable against him.

- Surprisingly, Buck played the matchups and went lefty-lefty to start the 7th and it backfired on him big time.  Troy Patton hung a 2-2 curve to Lyle Overbay and Overbay gave the Yanks the lead back with their 3rd solo shot of the night.

- Joe elected not to go to the 'pen in the bottom half and it backfired on him too.  CC gave up 2 hits and the tying run in a handful of pitches and the go-ahead one just a few later.  Belt-high sliders and changeups a shutdown inning does not make.

- It didn't look good heading into the top of the 9th, until a crumbling Jim Johnson gave up another solo blast to Travis Hafner to tie the game and give us some free baseball.  Just an inning of free baseball, though, as consecutive Ichiro and Wells doubles in the 10th got a 2-run rally started and a clean Mo 9th saved the W.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Phelps' Early Results Solidifying His Rotation Legitimacy

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It's been just short of 3 weeks since David Phelps re-entered the starting rotation as Ivan Nova's replacement.  He's pitched better in each of the 4 starts he's made in that time period, the best outing coming this past Saturday in the form of a 7-inning, 1-run, 8-K shutdown of the hapless Blue Jays.  That start marked Phelps' 15th of his professional career, by no means enough to definitively predict what he'll do going forward but enough to make some reasonable observations.  Phelps is the latest homegrown pitcher to break into the rotation semi-full time, after Ivan Nova in 2010/2011 and Phil Hughes in 2007/2008, and he's all but earned the right to stay there with the way he's pitched.  Without getting back into the "the Yankees suck at developing starting pitching" argument, let's just see how Phelps' first 15 career starts stack up against Nova's and Phil's.

Hey, Remember This Fight?

Stacey Gotsulias is the queen of the historical posts over at IIATMS/TYA.  She's always good about remembering what big Yankee moments happened on what days, far better than I am, and it's always a pleasure to see those posts and be reminded of moments I experienced (like David Wells' perfect game).

Somehow I don't think she's going to get to this one, since it probably only matters to manchildren like myself, so I'll do the honors.  With the Yanks heading to Baltimore for a 3-game series tonight, and the video still being up on YouTube, let's take a minute to look back and remember the classic fight from 15 years ago between the Yankees and O's.  It's arguably one of the greatest fights in baseball history and another moment from my early Yankee fandom career I remember watching live.

Upgrading The 2-Spot In The Lineup (So Cano Doesn't Have To)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

With Derek Jeter around, the #2 spot in the lineup was never a problem.  Just pencil him in there and fill in behind him or pencil him into the leadoff spot and just plunk somebody in behind him.  The loss of Jeter, paired with the injury or free agent losses of a few other guys, has left the #2 spot in order an absolute dead zone this year.  Of all the issues the platoon-heavy and injury-shortened roster has caused in 40+ games, the biggest and consistently most noticeable is the gap in the 2nd spot and the problems on the back end of that get caused by Robinson Cano hitting there.

Cano has spent the bulk of his time hitting 2nd this season, and in 94 ABs there he's posted a .362/.406/.681 slash with 16 XBH, 16 R, and 22 RBI.  The 77 non-Cano ABs from the 2nd spot have resulted in just 14 total hits (3 for XB), 7 R, and 4 RBI.  Those results aren't surprising when you consider that it's been the Nixes, Ichiros, and (yeesh) Franciscos of the world occupying the spot, nor is the frustration that comes with having to watch those guys hit there.  Based on some recent roster additions, there might be some upgrade options available and opportunities to bump Cano back down and lengthen the lineup a bit.  Options like ...

Rain Helps A Shortened Rotation

(Thanks, Mother Nature.  Seriously.  Courtesy of Anthony McCarron)

Yesterday's rainout was a bummer in that it didn't give the Yankees a chance to sweep Toronto again and extend their division lead.  In the context of their current rotation situation and the always-important big picture, however, it could have been a blessing in disguise.

Andy Pettitte's spot in the rotation was scheduled to come up in this series against Baltimore, and the recalled Vidal Nuno was the likely candidate to make that start.  Because of yesterday's postponement, Joe announced that he will push the rest of his rotation back a day and go with CC, Hughes, and Kuroda in this series.  The team has a scheduled off-day on Thursday, with David Phelps getting the start Friday in Tampa and then CC and Phil cycling around again after him.  Pettitte/Nuno's spot would not come up again until May 28th, which would put Andy in a position to only miss 1 start if his back issue turns out to be as minor as the teams says and he comes off the DL as scheduled.

Andy missing any time is a loss for the rotation, there's no way around that.  But to have that loss minimized is another small silver lining to a bad situation.  It's not the first time something lucky like this has cropped up in a larger, unluckier circumstance.  Just another strange occurrence in a season full of them.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What Can Reid Brignac Do For You?

In their now never-ending quest to upgrade their infield depth, however so slightly, the Yankees acquired Reid Brignac from Colorado on Friday for $75,000.  This was the second time they went back to the Rockies well in a few weeks after acquiring Chris Nelson.

As for what he can do, the honest answer is not much.  At least not offensively.  Brignac is a career .228/.270/.321 lefty hitter with a BB rate under 5% and a K rate just less than 25%.  He was only slightly exceeding those career lines in 53 PA for the Rockies, so the Yankees didn't purchase him for his offense.  What he can do is play shortstop better than anybody the Yanks have right now, and he's also useful at second or third base.  If Eduardo Nunez is going to miss another week or so, and signs point to that happening, he could be a SS platoon option with Jayson Nix.

Brignac is basically a slight upgrade over Alberto Gonzalez, and if the Yankees can slightly upgrade at a position of need for such a minimal cost then they should do it.  Gonzalez was DFA'd to clear a roster spot, and Brignac was scheduled to be the starting shortstop this afternoon, so the Yankees seem ready to put him to work and see what they can get out of him for the next few weeks.

Shut Up, Hal

(Courtesy of the AP)

Hal Steinbrenner was in the house yesterday for team photos and he took the opportunity to make what I believe are his first significant public comments on the team's performance this season.  As expected, Hal's comments were all of the positive variety.  He said he was "pleasantly surprised" but "not shocked" at how well the team had done, citing the unexpectedly good performances of some of the veteran signings and the young MiL players called up to fill the injury gaps.

I know the day after a victory to put the team 11 games over .500 and third best overall in MLB isn't the time to get salty, but Hal's comments did nothing but make me roll my eyes when I read them yesterday.  I'm sure his feelings of excitement and surprise are genuine, as they are for a lot of other fans.  I just can't help but feel like this hot start makes Hal feel like his approach this offseason was the right one, and that in his mind his continued commitment to "building a championship-caliber team" is justified by the club's current record.

The real credit here goes to Cash and his scouting staff and Joe and his coaching staff for finding cheap players who still had something left in the tank and coaching them in a way that allows them to best use what they've still got.  All Hal did was handcuff Cash into only being able to target these players and force Joe to build the best lineup he could with them.  So enjoy the early success, Hal.  Your team's performance has given you the right to do that.  Just don't pat yourself on the back too much thinking you were a key part of this and that this was your plan all along.

P.S.- "I knew that the guys we got in the offseason were veterans. Whether people thought they were worth getting or not, I felt they were veterans and this is what you expect veterans to do.”  You knew that old players who had been in MLB for years and years were veterans?  Real astute observation.  I'm sure that was the determining factor in Hafner getting signed.