Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Defending Robbie Cano

(Courtesy of Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Pretend it's the start of the 2013-2014 offseason.  The top free agent available is a lefty hitter in his prime who hits for both plus average and plus power and owns a .307/.351/.503 batting line in 9 career seasons.  He plays an up-the-middle defensive position that the Yankees would desperately need to fill and plays it at a plus level.  He's almost universally regarded as the best player at his position, one of the top 10 players in all of baseball, and has been a perennial All Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and MVP candidate for the last 5 seasons.  Oh, and he also fired his agent earlier in the season, the one known for squeezing every last drop he can out of the free agent market, to replace him with a rapper whose ties to New York couldn't be tighter if he was a sidewalk in Times Square.

Homer-Prone CC

(Not the look you want to see.  Courtesy of the AP)

One of the more surprising things to read after last night's game was that CC Sabathia was up to 14 HR allowed on the season.  Even though I've spent plenty of time noticing and writing about how much more hittable he was this year, I honestly didn't realize it was that high.  That's 4th most in MLB and 2 more than resident Yankee "HR Giver Upper" Phil Hughes.

In tying this new trend to the rest of the major CC-centric talking points this season, I think this elevated HR rate (currently a career high 13.9%) can be linked directly to the drop in fastball velocity.  Not only have 7 of the 14 HR allowed come against his 4-seamer, 11 of them have come against right-handed hitters.  They're the guys squaring up CC better this season than ever before, and it makes sense that they'd be doing so against CC's diminished fastball.  Just one more hurdle the big fella has to overcome as he makes the transition away from being a power pitcher.

Mark Montgomery To The DL; I'm Not Surprised (Updated)

While it hasn't been as severe as it was last year, the Yankee farm system has dealt with its share of injury problems again this season.  They added another body to the pile yesterday when, as first reported by Chad Jennings, Mark Montgomery was placed on the Triple-A disabled list.  I haven't seen anything on what body part is the source of the move, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if it was something related to Montgomery's pitching arm.

Montgomery has been sluggish this season, nowhere near the level of dominance he showed in 2011 and 2012.  His K rate is down to 26.7%, the first time he's been below 38% at any level, and he's walked 20 batters in 30 IP.  After throwing up a 1.88/1.33 line in Double-A to end 2012, Montgomery currently sports a 3.00/4.20 line in 2013 and has only 1 clean appearance without a baserunner out of 18 this season.  That appearance, if you wondering, was his first back on April 4th.

The smoking gun in trying to explain this regression could be Montgomery's diminished velocity.  He's reportedly been sitting at 89-90 for most of the season and not the 91-93 he lived at for the last 2 years.  It wouldn't surprise me at all if Montgomery's lost velocity and injury are both related to the heavy workload he took on last year.  Montgomery pitched 64.1 innings at High-A and Double-A last season and then another 10+ in the AZFL.  When he was announced as a selection for that league last year, I questioned the need for him to add more innings to his arm after only 28.1 in 2011 and now I can't help but ask that question again.

Because we don't know the nature of the injury yet, nothing can be said definitively.  But the pieces all add up to somebody who's been overworked and whose performance and health has suffered because of it.  I'd hate to see this become the first in a long line of health problems for Montgomery as a result of overwork.  The Yankee bullpen is in great shape right now, but he was and still is a big part of their future plans after Mo.

** UPDATE 12:10 PM- Mark Newman on what's wrong with Montgomery: "Nothing really."  That doesn't make me feel better. **

Game 64 Wrap-Up: OAK 6 NYY 4

(Courtesy of the AP)

With a more forgiving outfield setup in Oakland, Lyle Overbay was back in right field last night when the Yankees kicked off a series against the A's.  The decision was just as much a statement about Overbay's still-very-important value to this team as it was a statement about Vernon Wells basically being useless.  Wells hasn't hit for a month, to the point that his current offensive numbers are worse than what he put up last season.  The Yankees need to start turning things around offensively, and they had a tough pitcher against whom to try to do that in Bartolo Colon.  He's still going strong in Oakland and outpitched CC Sabathia last night.

Game Notes:

- Top 1st, bases loaded, 1 out, 0 runs from it.  I feel like I've heard this tune before...

- And that familiar sad tune looked like a big problem when CC gave up 2 runs in the first 2 innings.  His fastball velocity was back down to 90-91 and the Oakland hitters weren't fooled by it.  They were timing him up and teeing off.

- CC got the velocity up a tick in the middle innings, but he never found the command of his fastball and it seemed like the rest of his pitches suffered because of it.  He gave up the back-breaking 3-run HR to Derek Norris in the 5th on a poorly-placed curveball.

- It didn't help that the offense was lifeless again after the top of the 1st.  They sprinkled a few baserunners here and there through 7, never more than 1 and never past first base.

- They finally decided to wake up when the game was out of reach in the 8th.  Mark Teixeira hit the third of 3 straight singles to lead off the 8th to plate a run and drove in 2 more in the 9th to make the game respectable.