Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Night Yanks-O's "Might As Well Watch This Ship Go Down" Live Blog

(So appropriate)

The Yankees and the Orioles are the ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" game tonight, and as much as it pains me to have to watch with the way they're playing right now, I can't not watch them when I have the chance.  So with the play on the field being of little entertainment, I figured I could try to make tonight's game a little more watchable with the first live blog since Opening Day.  The Yanks send Hiroki Kuroda to the hill tonight to try to salvage something from this series.  Here's the lineup that will attempt to support him:

1) Brett Gardner- CF
2) Ichiro Suzuki- RF
3) Robinson Cano- 2B
4) Travis Hafner- DH
5) Zoilo Almonte- LF
6) Lyle Overbay- 1B
7) Jayson Nix- SS
8) Chris Stewart- C
9) David Adams- 3B

First pitch is set for a little after 8 PM EST/7 PM Central.  Live blog will start sometime shortly before then.

Get Ready For More No-Name Roster Additions

Earlier today, Chad Jennings reported that both Josh Bell and Adonis Garcia were officially activated off the Triple-A disabled list.  Both players have spent the bulk of the MiL season out and just began their rehab work recently in the lower levels.  Even though neither are household names by any stretch of the imagination, they represent another opportunity for the Yankees to marginally upgrade their roster and add some desperately needed offensive options to their completely decimated and unproductive lineup.

Bell, 26, has played in the Majors before and offers a ton of flexibility, both at the plate as a switch hitter and in the field as a guy capable of playing both outfield and infield corners.  Garcia, also 26, was an unheralded international signing out of Cuba - one I've profiled before - and could stand to get his shot at reaching the show thanks to the Major League roster's offensive ineptitude and injuries to Ronnier Mustelier and Brennan Boesch.

It's highly unlikely that either of these guys will make much of an impact, but with their season and postseason hopes starting to crumble around them the Yankees need to do something.  The 3-man bench isn't working for them and there's little need for 8 guys in the bullpen.  I wouldn't be surprised to see another move or two made in next day or so.

Game 80 Wrap-Up: BAL 11 NYY 3

This is starting to get sad.  That's all that you can really say right now.  The Yankees just don't hit, at all.  Ever.  It doesn't matter if they get a great starting pitching performance, a good one, a decent one, or an absolute horseshit one like David Phelps gave them yesterday.  This team is folding its tent as we speak and there's a good chance they head into the All Star Break in 4th place or even 5th in this division.  It's hard to say they no-showed with 11 hits last night; that's better than nothing.  With what Phelps gave them in his start though, nothing would have been just as helpful.

Game Notes:

- It was ugly right from the start last night.  The Yanks strung together 3 straight hits in the top of the 1st only to come away with nothing, and Phelps responded by giving up 4 in the bottom half, the big blow a 3-run homer by Chris Davis.

- He managed to keep Baltimore off the board in the 2nd, then melted down big time in the 3rd.  After getting the first out of the inning, Phelps went walk, single, walk, single, HR to the next 5 batters and was lifted after giving up 5 more runs.  Less than a third of the way through the game and it was 9-0.

- Even when the Yankees did score in the top of the 6th it was pathetic.  With the bases loaded and 1 out, they got a run on a Zoilo Almonte sac fly and another on a fielding error.  The Bronx Bombers these guys are not.

- Davis hit his 2nd HR of the game - and 30th(!) of the year - in the bottom of the 6th.  Even as an opponent, you have to marvel at what he's doing this season.  That was the only stain on an otherwise solid relief outing by Ivan Nova.

- Brett Gardner doubled in a run in the 9th for the final Yankee run.  Not that it mattered.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Some Not So Fun Yankee Facts

- The Yankees have lost 4 of their last 5 games, 6 of their last 9, 11 of their last 16, and 19 of their last 31.

- They've scored 4 or fewer runs in 6 of their last 10 games and 14 of their last 20.

- In the month of June, they rank dead last in MLB in: Runs (83), Home Runs (17), SLG (.326), wOBA (.270), and wRC+ (65)

- They rank second to last in: Hits (181), RBI (80), Batting Average (.221), and OBP (.287)

- For the season, their team batting line is now down to .239/.301/.379 (.297 wOBA, 83 wRC+).  If the entire Yankee offense was one player, they would be Drew Stubbs.  That sound you hear is this team's ship sinking.  Something needs to change with the construction of this roster and it needs to change soon.

Game 79 Wrap-Up: BAL 4 NYY 3

(I feel ya, bro.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

There was a bit of confusion yesterday afternoon when the Yankees announced that David Phelps had been scratched from his scheduled start and CC Sabathia would pitch in his place.  After a brief stir of wondering what happened to Phelps, it turned out last night was always supposed to be CC's scheduled day to pitch and a mistake had been made in setting the rotation order for the series.  It was CC's first shot at getting his 200th career win, an impressive milestone for any pitcher in any era but one even more impressive in today's baseball world where 300 now looks out of the question.  Sabathia looked well on his way to getting that win early before things fell apart in the later innings.  Once again, the Yankee offense was nowhere to be found to help him in those late innings and the Yanks lost their 3rd straight.

Game Notes:

- The lineup wasted no time in getting CC a lead in the top of the 1st.  Brett Gardner doubled to lead off the game, came around to score an a single by Robinson Cano, and it was 1-0.

- They stretched it to 3-0 in the top of the 3rd on a pair of RBI singles by Vernon Wells and Chris Stewart.  Jayson Nix and Cano set the table with singles of their own and the cushion was built.

- CC made it stand up through 5 innings with little issue.  In fact, he didn't allow a single hit in those 5 innings.  He had all his pitches working, threw them at different times in the count, and used his slider to neutralize the big Baltimore lefty hitters.  Dude was cruising.

- Then he hit a speed bump in the 6th.  After a Nate McLouth single and an Alexi Casilla infield single that David Adams basically let happen by trying to field the ball at first instead of covering the bag, Manny Machado doubled to right to score them both.  He came around to tie the game on another infield single off the bat of Adam Jones.

- McLouth struck the final death blow in the next inning, crushing a hanging 1-0 slider to right for the go-ahead HR.  CC stormed off the mound and threw a bit of a tantrum in the dugout after the inning and with good reason.  He let the game get away after being handed a lead.

- But give the offense credit.  They did their part to make sure there would be comeback, failing to get even 1 baserunner to second base or beyond from the 4th inning on.  You pretty much have to make no mistakes with this group supporting you right now, and CC made too many mistakes in the 6th-7th innings.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 6/28/13

If you didn't catch it yesterday morning, I took a fair amount of heat in the comments section of my Jayson Nix gif post over at IIATMS/TYA.  Apparently nobody likes it when you say something that could be seen as mean about a "scrappy" player like Nix.  Here's the deal; with the offseason going down the way it did, and with all the regulars getting injured, and then the A-Rod media firestorm getting a tanker truck full of lighter fluid dumped on it this week, sometimes you have to take a step back and just laugh at everything.  That's what that post was and it blew my mind that more people didn't pick up on that.

This has been the most bizarre season I can remember in my time as an educated Yankee fan, and it's not even half over.  They've put lineups on the field that would give the Bad News Bears a run for their money and they've played some games, like yesterday's and to a certain degree Wednesday night, where they look like the Bad News Bears.  If you can't find some humor in things like that, frustrating as it may be to watch at the time, that's just not healthy.  And this year's team is definitely full of unintentional comedy.  Also, if you're a Jayson Nix defender you are just a lunatic, but that's a discussion for a different time.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Josh Norris of Minor Matters interviewed Mark Newman again and talked about all sorts of different topics.  Players discussed include Austin, Heathcott, Murphy, Campos, DePaula, and Eric Jagielo.

- On Tuesday, Mike Ashmore of Thunder Thoughts had a whole mess of video from Michael Pineda's most recent rehab outing.  If you wanted to check his progress out for yourself, here's your chance.

- Brian D. of Yankees Fans Unite asked if it's worth re-signing Cano if it means handcuffing the future payroll plans.

- William Tasker of IIATMS/TYA looked back at the very brief Yankee career of Mike Torrez.

- SG of RLYW played with the WAR and salary number projections to pinpoint some reasonable contract estimates for Robinson Cano.

- On Wednesday, el duque of It Is High... weighed in with his take on the Cash/A-Rod fiasco.

- Matt Warden of RAB broke down A-Rod's career - as far back as his pre-Yankee days - to attempt to determine what his final legacy will be.

- On Thursday, Derek Albin of Pinstripe Pundits analyzed opposing pitchers' approach against David Adams to explain his total offensive disappearance.

- Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes weighed in on the handful of rumored Philadelphia Philly trade targets.  Personally, I'd take any and all of them at the right price.

- Martin Riggs of NoMaas pointed out the role that BABIP might be playing in the team's offensive nosedive.

- On Friday, Brian Heyman of LoHud asked the question I think we're all asking right now; what should the Yankees do about their putrid offense?

- Jason Cohen of Pinstriped Bible came up with some options for what to do with Joba now that he's become a huge bullpen liability.  Surprisingly, trade him was not one of the options.

This Friday's jam is some old school Foo Fighters.  Haven't gone with them in a while.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

This Can't Be A Good Sign, Can It?

I mean, it's been a while since I've taken any English classes but I'm pretty sure that's not the type of message you want to be sending as the manager, even if your offense is as hapless as Joe's is right now.

Visual metaphors, people. Deep stuff here on a Friday afternoon.

Eduardo Nunez Starts His Rehab Assignment

It's been ages since he last played in games, and we've still never got a good explanation as to just what the nature of his ribcage injury was, but Eduardo Nunez has re-surfaced on a baseball diamond again.  He started his official rehab assignment yesterday with High-A Tampa, playing 4 innings at shortstop and going 0-2 with 2 groundouts at the plate.

Nunez has a 20-day window for his rehab, and unlike the Pinedas and A-Rods of the world he would actually be a good candidate to return earlier if his body is ready for it.  The left side of the Yankee infield is an absolute joke right now and even Eduardo would be an upgrade.  He'll still need to get more at-bats under his belt and it'd be nice to see him hold up physically to a couple of full games in the field, but hopefully he's able to return before the All Star break and give Joe something else to work with on that left side.

Andy's Struggles At Home

(This definitely didn't help matters)

Didn't get to it yesterday, but there was another troubling trend in Andy Pettitte's game that came up on the ESPN broadcast the other night, that being his rather significant home/road splits this season.  Andy's been getting knocked around pretty good at Yankee Stadium in his last 5 starts there and his season home slash line presently sits at 5.72/3.91/4.29, compared to 2.81/3.14/3.18 on the road.

The simplest explanation for this extreme split is that Andy has gotten hit a lot more at home and given up more walks at home.  He's given up 11 more hits in 2.1 fewer IP in his starts at The Stadium and walked over twice as many batters there than on the road (15 to 7).  Digging a little deeper, there doesn't seem to be a drastic difference in his H/R contact rates and he isn't giving up more homers at home, so as with his overall uneven performance since coming off the DL this could just be a case where his .346 BABIP at home is a little unluckier than it should be and his .277 BABIP on the road is a little luckier.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Game 78 Wrap-Up: TEX 2 NYY 0

(Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankees and Rangers wrapped up their mid-week series this afternoon, and the Yankees didn't come into the game looking like they were in a good position to win.  They rolled out a lineup that featured no less than 6 severely below-average hitters (Ichiro, Nix, Wells, Adams, Gonzalez, Romine) on a day where they had Phil Hughes and his Harvey Dent act on the hill.  While he stopped short of saying Hughes is pitching for his spot in the rotation, Joe did call this start an "important" one for Phil and it was.  With Michael Pineda getting closer to returning every day and Ivan Nova still hanging around on the active roster, the heat is starting to get turned up on Phil.

Game Notes:

- Hughes had a pair of 1-2-3 innings to start the game, then it was back to business as usual.  He gave up a run in the 3rd on a sac fly after giving up a 2-strike walk and 2-strike hit, and another in the 5th when Jurickson Profar hit a hanging changeup for a leadoff HR to make it 2-0.

- The offense was predictably impotent through 5 innings against Derek Holland.  They managed just 2 hits, 1 of which was erased in the bottom of 1st on a Robinson Cano GIDP, and wasted a Jayson Nix leadoff walk in the 4th.

- To Hughes' credit, he did retire the next 9 batters in a row after the Profar homer.  He started locating his fastball better to get ahead in the count and got 4 swinging strikeouts.

- It didn't matter.  The offense was weak.  So, so, soooooo weak.  Holland continued to blank them through 7 innings, and needed just 72 pitches to do it.  Sinker, slider; slider, sinker.  Didn't matter the order, the lineup couldn't do anything with him.

- The domination continued through the 8th and 9th, when Holland retired the final 6 in order.  Just a pathetic display by a pathetic lineup today.  Only 1 Yankee hitter reached second base all day.

First Impression Of Zoilo

(The fans seem to like him.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

It was a nationally televised game on ESPN last night, which gave me my first look at the newest rookie call up in 2013, Zoilo Almonte.  Almonte's made quite the splash in his first few Major League games, contributing with his bat and glove and relegating Vernon Wells to the situational bench role he deserves.  I did this exercise last month with David Adams and Austin Romine, and my optimistic predictions for both of them haven't exactly come true since.  But with the Yankees still struggling for offense, still trying to piece together a competent and competitive lineup every day, and still looking for some cheap young talent to fill the roster next season, it makes sense to evaluate Zoilo as a solution to all 3 of those needs.  While it wasn't a banner night for him last night (0-3, 2 K, 1 BB), there was still some good stuff that I saw in his game.

Nova Still On The Roster

It got overshadowed by STFUgate 2013 yesterday, but if you're a close follower of the 25-man roster you may have noticed that the move to send Ivan Nova back down and call up a position player that was supposed to happen on Monday never did.  Nova is still on the active roster as part of a 13-man pitching staff and the Yankees have played the first 2 games of this current series with a 3-man bench.

There has been no formal announcement from anybody in the organization about what they intend to do with Nova, but in talking to reporters on Tuesday Joe left open the option of Nova making another spot start sometime in the near future.  The Yanks are in the early part of a "20 in 20" stretch leading up to the All Star Break.  Maybe they want to use Nova to spell Andy and get him some extra rest.  They've scaled back his between-start workload and their goal is obviously to keep his back from becoming a bigger problem.

Hopefully we get some kind of clear picture on just what the plan is for Nova soon because playing for a long period of time with just the 3-man bench is not the best strategy in the world.

Game 77 Wrap-Up: TEX 8 NYY 5

(Have a day, Jayson.  Have a day.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

After a noteworthy pitching matchup in the series opener featuring the 2 best Japanese pitchers on the planet, there was another interesting matchup last night when grizzled veteran Andy Pettitte went up against rookie Justin Grimm.  Pettitte has been "meh" since coming off the DL, leaving some to question his health, and a good start against a good offensive team would have gone a long way in helping to ease some of the concerns about him.  Another Yankee victory would have secured a winning homestand and hopefully gone at least a little way in quieting all of the negative A-Rod/Cash/Teix talk that dominated Yankeeland yesterday.

Game Notes:

- Lyle Overbay got off to a nice start as the official everyday first baseman again, cranking a solo HR to right-center in the bottom of the 2nd to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead.  He got a hanging slider and put a beautiful swing on it.  More of this please.

- Andy danced around a near disaster in the 1st after putting 2 on with no outs.  He wasn't so lucky in the 3rd when some horrific Jayson Nix defense and a few poorly-located pitches up in the zone led to 4 Texas runs.

- Nice rebound for Andy after the ugly 3rd.  He found his slider, started hitting the corners of the zone that he was missing earlier, and retired 8 hitters in a row into the 6th while keeping the Rangers off the board.

- The top of the order came up to start the bottom of the 6th and set things up perfectly with a leadoff infield single by Brett Gardner and a follow-up double by Ichiro to drive Grimm from the game.  Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner spoiled the lefty-on-lefty matchup with RBI singles to bring the Yanks back within 1.

- Joe went to Joba Chamberlain in the 7th and on just 5 pitches Joba managed to undo the good work the offense did the previous half-inning.  1-out single and a 2-run homer by Nelson Cruz on a hanging curve and it was a 3-run game again.

- Ichiro breathed life back into the Yankees' chances with a 2-out, 2-run homer to right off lefty Robbie Ross in the bottom of the 7th, but that breath was quickly choke off by a Gardner error that led to 2 more Texas runs in the 9th.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Surgery Recommended For Teixeira

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

The writing for this was pretty much on the wall from the moment he injured his wrist in March.  It was filled in darker a little more than a week ago when he asked out of a game and ended up back on the DL with inflammation.  And it got written over in big, bold permanent ink today when the Yankees announced that surgery is being recommended for Mark Teixeira's injured wrist tendon sheath.

Based on a review by both team and outside doctors, it has been determined that the sheath is not healing "adequately" and the recommendation is for surgery to properly correct the problem.  At a press conference a little more than an hour ago, Teix expressed his frustration and disappointment with the situation.  He said he plans on having the surgery sometime next week and with an expected rehab timeframe of 4-5 months it will be the season-ending surgery we all expected it to eventually be.  Teix did say he expected to be 100% within 6 months, which should put him in good shape to return at full strength next year.

That this was the widely anticipated endgame for this injury since its initial diagnosis in March doesn't make it any less of a blow to the Yankees.  They're essentially going without their 30 HR/100 RBI first baseman for this entire season, a loss that has been just as impactful on the poor offense as any other.  With Lyle Overbay struggling in June (.208/.255/.313, 33.3% K rate), the Yankees will likely need to look for an upgrade at first base.

Pineda Strong Again In Latest Rehab Start

In injury/comeback-related news that's not playing out like a middle school argument, Michael Pineda made his latest MiL rehab start last night for Double-A Trenton and turned in another good performance.  He tossed 6 shutout innings with just 2 hits and 2 walks allowed and 4 strikeouts.  With a pitch count of 80, Pineda threw 77 pitches (52 for strikes) and according to Mike Ashmore was hitting 95 on the radar gun.

This is the same type of stuff we've seen from Pineda in his previous rehab outings and the news continues to be encouraging.  With less than 2 weeks left on his 30-day rehab window, Pineda should be looking at 2 more starts before the Yankees have to make their decision and I'd like to see both of those come against the highest level hitters possible in Triple-A.  The smart move is probably to send him down to the Minors again to regain the year of team control, but there's still time until that call has to be made.

Brian Cashman Should Probably Stop Talking

(Ahh the bad old days.  Courtesy of the AP)

I ended last week's speculative post on what might be going on behind the scenes in the Yankee front office by saying, "Let's see how Cash handles the next big injury situation with the media and then we might be onto something."  After the bomb he dropped yesterday in regards to Alex Rodriguez's tweet about being cleared to play, I think it's now safe to say that we're onto something.

“You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will].  Alex should just shut the fuck up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.”

I'm a Cash guy through and through, and I'll usually go to bat for him on pretty much anything, but this was absolutely inexcusable on his part and way out of line.  All A-Rod's tweet really boils down to was him saying he was excited about getting closer to returning and Cash ran over him with the bus at full speed for it, backed over him about a half dozen times, and then circled the block just so he could build up enough to momentum to run him over one more time.  It was way out of character for Cash, even compared to the stuff he said about Kevin Long last week, and it was wrong and downright childish.

Game 76 Wrap-Up: NYY 4 TEX 3

(Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankees started a 20 games in 20 days stretch last night leading up to the All Star Break and they welcomed the Texas Rangers to town for the first time this season.  It was must see TV in Japan with a pitching matchup of Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish to start the game and some fireworks from Ichiro to end it.  My fellow IIATMS/TYA writers and I were joking yesterday about the odds of Darvish throwing a no-hitter or a perfect game last night, something that anybody who's been watching the Yankee offense lately would have had to actually acknowledge as a possibility even if they were joking.  As luck would have it, the Yankees didn't only not get no hit but they managed to dust off the old "too many homers" meme for a night and slug their way to victory.

Game Notes:

- In the bottom of the 1st it looked like it was going to be more of the same from the lineup.  3 straight 1-out singles loaded the bases for Lyle Overbay and all he could do was strike out looking.  Zoilo grounded out to end the threat and the inning.

- Texas got on the board first in the top of the 3rd on a solo HR by Leonys Martin of all people.  Kuroda left a sinker up just enough for Martin to get a good swing on it and it was 1-0 Rangers.

- They tacked on more runs in the 4th on a pair of singles and an RBI groundout and another HR by Martin to lead off the 5th.  Kuroda was a little shaky - 5 hits and a walk, plus the 2 Martin homers, through 5 - before cleaning it up and retiring the final 5 batters he faced without issue.

- The lineup started its HR parade in the bottom of the 4th on a solo shot by Travis Hafner to lead off the inning.  Brett Gardner followed suit to lead off the 5th to make it 3-2 before Overbay stranded 2 more runners, and Jayson Nix made it 3 leadoff dingers in a row to tie the game in the 6th.

- Kuroda gave way to Boone Logan to finish the 7th, then it was on to David Robertson and Mariano Rivera for the 8th and 9th.  They each pitched around base hits to hold the Rangers at 3 and set up for Ichiro's 9th inning dramatics.

- Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers had to feel good after working around a leadoff walk of Chris Stewart with a force out and caught stealing of Gardner.  He tried to sneak a 1-2 fastball - his 4th straight of the AB - by Ichiro and instead Ichiro turned on it to put it over the fence in right and give the Yankees their first walk-off win of the year.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yankees Still Generating Plenty Of Catching Depth

(Do it, Murph.  Courtesy of the AP)

There was a time not too long ago when the Yankees looked like they were going to be set at catcher for a long time to come.  They had Russell Martin as the immediate replacement for Jorge Posada, top prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine waiting in the wings at the upper levels of their farm system, and an 18-year-old kid named Gary Sanchez raking down in A-ball.

Fast forward to the present day and the catcher position is basically a wasteland.  Lifelong backup Francisco Cervelli is on the DL with a broken hand, which cruelly befell him just as he finally seemed to be nailing down the starting job.  His backup Chris Stewart is who we thought he was and who he's always been as an all field/no hit player whose defensive reputation always seems to outweigh what he actually does on the field.  And Romine, now forced into the backup role for Stewart, has looked awful in his real Major League debut, posting a .151 wOBA and -17 wRC+ and striking out 17 times in 61 PA.

Oh, and the once great savior Jesus has been traded to Seattle and demoted back to Triple-A after registering as a negative WAR player in almost a full season's worth of games.  Yep, things have taken quite the bad turn in the world of Yankee catchers.  And yet somehow the future still looks just as bright for them at the position as it did 2 years ago.

Joe, Your Right-Handed Hitters. Woof!

Wild stuff from Joel Sherman this morning on just how inept the Yankee offense has been from the right side of the plate:

"The Yankees have played 29 games since then [May 22nd], and in that time their righties are hitting .185 with a .241 on-base percentage and a .224 slugging percentage. That is a period of 406 at-bats and zero homers."

It's actually 1 HR, from Mark Teixeira on June 4th, but you get the idea.  A .185/.241/.224 batting line in 400+ ABs is hilariously terrible.  It's beyond pathetic.  It's almost...

Talking about how bad the offensive output has been is starting to enter dead horse territory at this point, but it's one that will continue to be beaten as long as they continue to hit this poorly.  Let this serve as another reminder of how much this team needs A-Rod back.  If you still think they don't, you're only fooling yourself.

Who's Next On The Active Roster Merry-Go-Round?

The Yanks will return to the diamond tonight after their last off-day before the All Star Break.  The expectation is that they will send Ivan Nova back down to Triple-A after his Sunday spot start and recall somebody from the Minors.  As much as a 13-man pitching staff might help against the Rangers and Orioles, a 3-man bench of Austin Romine, Alberto Gonzalez, and Vernon Wells is not an ideal scenario and Nova won't be able to pitch for at least a couple days.  Adding a position player is the right move to make here.  The question is who.

The players who would be ideal call-up options are either hurt (CoJo, Mustelier, Boesch) or ineligible (Neal), and the only other guy on the 40-man roster who could be called up is Ramon Flores.  The Yankees aren't going to make that jump, nor are they going to make a rush move and call up somebody like J.R. Murphy, so what's the play here?  Smart money would be on either the newly-acquired Brent Lillibridge, who can play literally every defensive position except catcher, or lefty swinger Dan Johnson.  Johnson has some power in his bat and would be a nice option to sub for the slumping Lyle Overbay, but I bet Lillibridge's extreme defensive flexibility and right-handedness gets him the nod.

We've already seen the Yankees give 219 combined plate appearances to 7 guys - David Adams, Thomas Neal, Zoilo Almonte, Corban Joseph, Chris Nelson, Reid Brignac, Alberto Gonzalez - that nobody expected to see on the field this season.  In a few hours, we should see number 8.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Divergent Paths For The Injured Infield Corners

The Yankees got some good news and some bad news on their $50 million worth of injured All Star corner infielders today.  Earlier in the day, the Daily News reported that Alex Rodriguez has been cleared to start his MiL rehab assignment on July 1st.  He began taking live BP last week after doing running and fielding drills for the last few, so this is a pretty big step in his comeback.

Now the bad news.  Andrew Marchand had an update on Mark Teixeira's wrist and it was unsurprisingly negative.  Marchand reported that Teix is still feeling "pain" in the wrist after last week's cortisone shot while Cash called it "soreness."  Either way, that's not good and just one more step towards what now looks like an inevitable season-ending surgery.

The Yankees aren't getting great production from either infield corner right now with Adams and Overbay.  While A-Rod should be an upgrade at third when he's finally deemed ready to return, Cash might want to start checking in on options for first.

More Of The Same, Both Good And Bad, From Nova Yesterday

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

It was slightly fitting that Ivan Nova got the start yesterday on Old Timer's Day.  Like a lot of the Yankee old timers, he's become a rare sight on the field and in the dugout at Yankee Stadium.  We'd seen Nova only twice in the last 2 months before yesterday, both times as a relief pitcher, and hadn't seen Nova start a game since April 26th.  While it might look like Nova turned in a sound outing yesterday - 2 of the 3 ER charged to him scored on a single off Boone Logan - the overall performance and means used to get there was actually not that different from what we've become accustomed to getting from Nova.  The all too familiar results bring up more questions about what the future holds for Nova in a Yankee uniform.

Giving The Kids The Keys

(Courtesy of the AP)

Call me crazy, but I saw something significant in the small flurry of personnel moves the Yankees made last Friday.  No, it wasn't the end of the saddest SS platoon in history, although it did get a little dusty in here when I read that Reid Brignac was gone (not really).  It was the commitment being made to the young guys on the active roster that stood out to me.  In making that move to dump Brignac, call Alberto Gonzalez back up from Triple-A, and make Jayson Nix the everyday shortstop, the Yankees were also in effect giving the everyday starting third base job back to David Adams.  Add to that the insertion of Zoilo Almonte into the everyday lineup for Vernon Wells and it looks like the Yankees are finally ready to follow the demands of tons of fans out there and let the kids play.

Time To See How "Open For Business" The Yanks Really Are

Brian Cashman declared the Yankees "open for business"  on the trade market last week, not a huge declaration given the constant wheeling and dealing he's been doing since early in spring camp.  With the regular season now almost half over and the shine almost completely worn off the handful of spring acquisitions, now it's going to be put up or shut up time for Cash and the Yankees to follow through on that declaration with more than just marginal moves.

They've already been unlinked to Manny Ramirez and the recently DFA'd Ramon Hernandez, both of whom play positions at which the Yankees could afford to upgrade.  Their status as defensive liabilities and below-average offensive players hardly makes either an upgrade though, so Cash choosing to pass on them is understandable and justifiable.  But the trade market is starting to come together with both Chicago clubs announcing last week that they're looking to sell and more teams likely to follow suit in the next few weeks.

There's no question that there are potential upgrades to be had on both of those clubs should Cash try to pursue them.  What is a question is how aggressive the Yankees are willing to be to get those upgrades.  Cash considerations and players to be named later aren't going to get it done if they're serious about adding someone like Nate Schierholtz.  The lineup is still badly in need of a boost in multiple areas, and the team's willingness to seriously engage teams in talks over the next month will give insight into how serious they are about contending down the stretch this season and also possibly into how serious the budget plans for next season still are.

Game 75 Wrap-Up: TB 3 NYY 1

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It was Old Timer's Day at The Stadium yesterday, always one of the most fun and most attended games of the year.  The regulars were all in attendance - O'Neill, Bernie, Cone, Guidry, Whitey, Yogi, etc. - along with a few new faces like John Flaherty and Orlando Hernandez.  Once those festivities were over, all eyes were on Ivan Nova, who was making his first start since late April.  As previously mentioned, there was little chance that Nova was being used for anything more than a spot start but he could still lay the groundwork for consideration later in the season with a good performance.  He turned in a pretty good one actually, albeit one that got stained a bit by some poor relief pitching behind him in the loss.

Game Notes:

- It was vintage Nova early and not in a good way.  He gave up a run in the top of the 1st on a couple of line drive singles and a walk.  His fastball command was spotty and he needed a big GIDP to escape the jam.

- In a continuation of a positive new trend, the offense picked up Nova immediately in the bottom half.  Brett Gardner singled and moved to second on an error, then third on a wild pitch.  Robinson Cano drove him home on a sac fly and the game was tied.

- After the tough 1st, Nova adjusted and went with more offspeed stuff early in the count.  His curveball was really working - the Rays hitters couldn't do much of anything with it -  and he leaned on it through 5 innings, scattering just a few more baserunners and striking out 7.

- Nova tired and hit 2 batters with 2 outs in the 7th, Shawn Kelley walked Evan Longoria, and Boone Logan hung a slider to James Loney to mar Ivan's final line and give the Rays a 3-1 lead.  Not what the binder ordered.

- The offensive dormancy returned after the 1st.  The Yanks left 2 on in the 3rd and the 4th, and stranded Zoilo on a 2-out double in the 6th, and that was about it for them.  Not much of a fight.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ya Gotta Love Old Timer's Day

(Courtesy of the AP)

Say what you want about him as a broadcaster, but old Pauly still looks like he could handle the stick up there.  I guarantee the water coolers in the dugouts were a little nervous with him back out there today.  Little surprised the Yankees didn't talk to him in the offseason before making the Wells trade.

P.S.- Totally kidding but not really.

Game 74 Wrap-Up: NYY 7 TB 5

(Courtesy of the AP)

CC Sabathia was the big stopper for the Yankees the last time he took the mound.  He came back yesterday with a chance to help them start building another winning streak after a satisfying and Zoilo-tastic win on Friday night.  He was back in an almost identical starting lineup - hitting 6th and playing left field for Vernon Wells again - against Tampa starter Alex Colome.  The AL East race is really starting to heat up with Boston and Baltimore still strong up top and Toronto rattling off 9 in a row to get back to .500.  If the Yanks are serious about contending for a playoff spot, they need to start putting together more than 1 or 2 wins at a time.

Game Notes:

- The offense squandered a scoring opportunity against Colome in the 2nd and seemed poised to do it again in the 3rd until Zoilo came up.  He smacked a 2-run single up the middle with 2 outs to give New York a 2-1 lead.

- Evan Longoria got to him for a solo HR to lead off the 2nd (he's killing Yankee pitching this year) and a double in the 4th, otherwise CC was very good through 5.  He was mixing all his pitches well, throwing his fastball for strikes, and getting a ton of GB outs.

- Bad Tampa defense contributed to the first Yankee runs and it did again in the bottom of the 5th on a James Loney throwing error.  The Yanks wore down Colome with walks to force in another run and drive him from the game.

- It fell apart quickly for CC in the top of the 6th.  He walked Sam Fuld to lead off, Desmond Jennings doubled him to third, and after getting 2 outs the call was made to intentionally walk Longoria to load the bases.  As it has to CC before, this backfired when he gave up a grand slam to Wil Myers to make it 5-3 Tampa.

- In an incredible, and ballsy, turn of events, the lineup picked him up in the bottom of the 7th.  They loaded the bases again with 1 out, Adams walked in another run with 2 outs, and Joe went to Vernon Wells to pinch hit.  Wells rewarded the undeserved faith with a bases-clearing double to put the Yanks back up.

- D-Rob and Mo made the lead stand up again and the Yanks had another comeback win.  Maybe the offense is finally starting to come around.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Previewing The Short Season Leagues: Rookie GCL Yankees

The GCL season got started last night, with the Yankees now sporting 2 full squads.  You may have noticed that I didn't preview these teams before the season like I did with the Staten Island Yanks, and that's because after botching the Jordan Cote assignment I didn't want to take any more chances misspeaking about players.  The GCL rosters hadn't been announced prior to the start of the season, as is usually the case at this level.  The teams are made up of a combination of the HS guys from last year's draft, new draftees from this year's draft, young international free agent signings, and higher level guys rehabbing injuries.  Now that each team has gotten a game under its belt and we have an idea of what each roster is going to look like, here's what and who you should watch for.

Nova To Start Sunday

The Yankees send their ace out today to try to get a leg up in this 4-game series.  If CC is able to help them get a win today, they'll then be sending their 6th starter out to try to lock down the series victory tomorrow.  Due to the rain delay and Tuesday doubleheader earlier in the week, the Yankees need that 6th starter and it will be Ivan Nova who gets the call tomorrow instead of Kuroda or Hughes on short rest.

Nova has been the forgotten man since hitting the DL in late April.  He's lost his spot in the rotation to David Phelps and looked on the verge of losing the 6th man role until Vidal Nuno tweaked his groin recently.  He last appeared in the Majors in a 5-inning, 1-run relief effort in late May, and since then he's pitched pretty well in the Triple-A rotation (2.04 ERA/2.69 FIP over 17.2 IP in 3 starts).

The message sent by the Yankees in how they've handled Nova since he came off the DL is that they don't have a lot of faith in him, and tomorrow's start is highly unlikely to be anything more than a necessary spot start before he's sent back down.  But with the way Hughes has struggled and with Andy's back always a concern, you never know.  If Nova tosses a gem (also highly unlikely) maybe he forces his name back into consideration with Pineda still a few weeks away.

Game 73 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 TB 2

(Zo, Zo, Zoilo!  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Yankees have been safely ahead of the Rays in the standings almost since the season started.  At least up until the last few weeks when Tampa started to get it together offensively just as the Yankees started to fall apart.  They entered play last night just a game and a half clear of Tampa with no offensive resurgence in sight.  That didn't stop them from tinkering, as another roster move was made before the game to try to add some slightly better offense and 2 young guys (Adams and Zoilo) were given the keys to the starting lineup again.  For one night at least, it worked.

Game Notes:

- More smallball early from the Yankee offense.  Brett Gardner scored on a Robinson Cano sac fly in the bottom of the 1st after a pair of leadoff walks and Ichiro drove in Austin Romine (who doubled) with a groundout in the 3rd after a Gardner sac bunt to put and keep the Yankees out front through 3.

- David Phelps was pretty good through 2 innings, and then he started to slip a bit.  He lost control of his slider and got hit for a run each in the 2nd and 3rd innings.

- In a very rare turn of events, it was the offense continuing to come through to help Phelps.  After Tampa tied the game again at 2 in the top of the 4th, the Yanks responded with 2 in the bottom half on a trio of singles and 2-out hit by David Adams.

- There was finally some familiar offense when somebody hit a HR in the bottom of the 6th.  And wouldn't you know it, it was Zoilo Almonte who did the honors, with his third hit of the day to make it 5-2.

- About what you'd expect from Phelps.  His tough middle innings upped his pitch count and he hit his limit in the 6th inning.  He didn't allow any more runs though, and finished with just those 2 allowed.

- The bullpen was called on for a lot last night and they responded.  4 guys combined to go 3.1 innings, and they allowed just 1 baserunner combined with 4 strikeouts.  Mariano Rivera finished things off with a 1-2-3 save.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 6/21/13

Thank you to the NHL for scheduling Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals for Saturday and not tonight.  If it was tonight, I don't think I'd make it to the second intermission.  From the NBA Finals game on Tuesday night to Game 4 Wednesday night back to NBA Finals Game 7 last night, that's a lot of late nights and 4-hour text marathons with everybody I know who's been watching.  Waking up early to write game recaps about some of the puke we've seen on the baseball diamond this week doesn't make things any easier.  I need me a nap and I needed it yesterday.  If I'm still in the office by the team this post goes up later, I have failed myself as a cubicle monkey and a human being.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Chad Jennings of LoHud had the real meat and potatoes from the Cashman conference call, with detailed quotes about Teix, Youkilis, and the trade market.

- Mike Axisa of RAB touched on the positive trend in Dellin Betances' performance since being converted back to the bullpen in Triple-A.

- On Tuesday, el duque of It Is High... was back with his always snarky and almost always spot on dose of perspective on the current lay of the Yankee land.

- On Wednesday, Derek Albin of Pinstripe Pundits started looking at realistic trade options for the Yankees as the deadline starts to appear in the distance.

- Mark Feinsand of The Daily News hopped in the way back machine with Brian Cashman and got Cash's explanation on the "Girardi-over-Mattingly" managerial hire.

- On Thursday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog analyzed the Yankees' performance against their Pythagorean expectation now that they have an even run differential and saw bad things in their future.

- Rob Abruzzese of Bronx Baseball Daily ranked Don Mattingly's top 10 Yankee moments, fitting for his return to New York earlier this week.

- Walter Peck of NoMaas wasn't all that thrilled with the Yankees' promotional selections for the All Star Game.  You mean Ichiro doesn't deserve to be there??

- On Friday, Michael Eder of IIATMS/TYA pondered the possibility of David Phelps maintaining his high K rate.  That has always stuck out to me more than anything about Phelps.  He was never a high K guy in the upper levels of the Minors.

Tanya Bondurant of Pinstriped Bible wondered if Michael Pineda could take Phil Hughes' rotation spot.  Yes, Tanya.  Yes he could and yes he will.

- SG of RLYW compared the lineup's actual performance to its projected performance to show how badly they've been underproducing.  If you want to take that as a sign that things will turn around, be my guest.

This week's jam is "Tomorrow Never Knows" by The Beatles.  Good tune to unwind to after a long, tiring week.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

This Offense Is Offensive

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

There's no need to sugarcoat it anymore.  It's a scientific fact at this point, why try holding out hope that it's going to turn around?  This offense sucks.  It sucks and it sucks hard.  Whether you want to blame ownership, Cashman, or both, we can all be unified in agreement that this performance from the lineup night in and night out is just pathetic.  Each game brings a new low, and the numbers and anecdotes to prove it are starting to get frightening.  Reid Brignac isn't OPSing CC's playing weight.  Vernon Wells may have inadvertently started the takeover of the machines.  Francisco Cervelli is the team wOBA leader right now, by a wide margin, and he hasn't played a game since April 26th.  Alberto Gonzalez is statistically the team's best offensive shortstop.

What's Up With Andy?

Andy Pettitte turned in another ho-hum performance last night, giving up 5 ER on 9 hits in 6.2 innings of work.  Since coming off the DL, he's posted a 4.91 ERA in 25.2 IP, with 30 hits allowed in those innings.  Like CC, he's been much more hittable since coming off the DL, but why?  Is the back still bothering him?  Has he lost some of his stuff because of it?

Hard to say.  Pettitte's FIP for June is just 2.66, a full 2 runs lower than his ERA.  He's walked fewer batters on average than he did in April or May, and there's nothing in his June contact splits to suggest he's getting knocked around the park by opposing hitters.  He's got a .341 BABIP against this month, so there could just be some bad luck in play here.

The Yankees need more from Andy, there's no doubting that.  But to turn his June struggles into a bigger story might be a bit premature based on his overall statistical and PitchF/X profile.  The only thing that stands out to me is a slight trend in him leaving his cutter up in the zone a bit, and even that is registering him a better whiff rate on the pitch than he had in the first 2 months.  If Andy's back is still giving him problems, there's really not much other than the ERA to support it.  It could just be a case of him needing a few breaks to go his way.

Game 72 Wrap-Up: TB 8 NYY 3

(Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankees got back to normal last night after a rough road trip and a hectic 1-day doubleheader series against their old rival.  They were at home, they had Andy Pettitte on the mound, and they were facing AL East rival Tampa Bay, who's slowly been creeping up on the Yanks as they've floundered recently.  Tampa had their own big time lefty on the mound in Matt Moore, who'd already dominated the Yankee lineup twice in his 2 previous starts against New York this season.  How would he fair a third time?  Did you really have to ask?

Game Notes:

- Andy struggled with his fastball command early, and it cost him 3 runs on 6 hits.  He was able to limit damage and keep his pitch count down, but the Rays hitters were making him pay for every mistake.

- Predictably, the Yankee offense didn't get much going against Moore.  Brett Gardner led off the game with a solid single, and from there Moore faced the minimum number of hitters through 4 innings.

- The offense generated runs in the 6th the only ways they seem to know how these days: luck (Moore lost the zone and walked 2 then threw a wild pitch), station-to-station baseball, and productive outs (Robinson Cano sac fly, Travis Hafner RBI groundout).  It worked and got them within a run, 4-3.

- Pettitte, after righting the ship in the 4th and 5th innings, couldn't respond to the offensive support.  He gave up a solo HR to Evan Longoria in the 6th and back-to-back doubles with 2 outs in the 7th to end his night with 5 Tampa runs on the board.

- It got no better when the game got the bullpen.  Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan combined to give up 4 ER in less than 2 innings to really put the game out of reach.

- Very fitting ending in the bottom of the 9th.  Yanks put 2 runners on as a tease and Chris Stewart grounds into a game-ending double play.  Balls.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Do You Hear That, Phil?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Do you?  You should listen to it a little closer.  That's the sound of Michael Pineda coming.  That's the sound of your rotation spot disappearing in about a month, and possibly a nice chunk of your upcoming free agent money with it.  Take a look around, buddy.  You're the weak link in the rotation, and the truth is you have been since the minute Ivan got DL'd.  You're sitting with a 5.09/4.43/4.41 split now, with just as many bad starts than good this season after another Phil Hughes 101 clinic last night- missing in the strike zone with fastballs, inconsistency with the offspeed stuff, no ability at all to put hitters away with 2 strikes.  It's all just getting old, dude.  You're waking up today coming off another stinker and Pineda is pitching again tonight down in Tampa.

And guess what?  This time the Yankees won't shuffle guys around and roll out the red carpet for you in the bullpen.  They don't need to do that this time.  Things are just fine in the 'pen.  Maybe you'll get put on the phantom DL with more shoulder fatigue.  Maybe you'll get sent down to Triple-A to hang out with Ivan.  Maybe you will get sent out to the bullpen, to be Adam Warren's caddy and D-Rob's sock washer.  It doesn't really matter anymore.  What matters is that your act has gotten tired and Pineda is on his way.  He's coming and he's not coming just to be a placeholder for Andy's back.  He's coming for your job.

Game 71 Wrap-Up: LAD 6 NYY 0

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Things were looking good for the Yankees last night after they won the day game of the doubleheader.  Then the lineup remembered that they're mostly crummy hitters and Bad Phil Hughes showed up.  Pretty simple really.  Not much to this one.

Game Notes:

- Bad Phil.

- Bad Phil.

- More Bad Phil.

- Adam Warren HR.

- No offense.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Game 70 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 LAD 4

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It was delayed by a day, but Donnie Baseball finally made his return to Yankee Stadium today and even with a less than desired early crowd for a day/night doubleheader still got a nice tribute and a few opportunities to deservedly doff his cap to the fans.  His Dodgers were also making their first visit to The Stadium in way too long, and all of it was getting packed into 1 day.  After last night's rainout, the Yankees juggled their rotation a touch and gave Hiroki Kuroda the day start against impressive rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Game Notes:

- The Yankee offense got back to executing smallball in the bottom of the 2nd, getting 2 singles from Thomas Neal and Ichiro to set the table and a sac bunt by David Adams to move them over.  Lyle Overbay came through with a 2-run double right after and it was a 2-0 game.

- Efficient start for Kuroda, and effective too despite the 5 hits in 4 innings.  He was sinker/slider heavy and locating well to get a ton of groundball contact.  He had to work around a 2nd and 3rd/0 outs situation in the top of the 4th, but did so successfully thanks to a nice defensive play on his part to start a lineout DP.

- Things got back to normal offensively in the bottom of the 5th.  The Yanks loaded the bases with 1 out only to have Vernon Wells strike out and Neal ground out to let Ryu off the hook and keep it a 2-run game.

- Ichiro quickly made up for that blown opportunity by leading off the bottom of the 6th with a HR.  As underwhelming as he's been this year, he's been one of the better hitters for the last few weeks.

- Kuroda continued to cruise through 6 before getting into trouble again after putting the first 2 runners on in the 7th.  His pitches started coming in a bit higher in the zone and the Dodgers took advantage.  Kuroda failed to make it out of the inning after a Jerry Hairston RBI single, but he left with the lead intact.

- The Yanks extended that lead in the bottom half on some hilariously awful defensive errors and another Ichiro hit, then Preston Claiborne almost gave it back in the 8th.  D-Rob and Mo came in to lock things down and preserve the win.