Monday, June 30, 2014

Joe's Bad Bullpen Decisions Doomed That Series

(What do you think here?  Gotta be Huffy, right?"  Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I've been a slow convert to the Joe Girardi management method.  At first I really didn't like how he did things, and it was only in the last 2 or 3 years that I fully got on board Team Joe when it came to evaluating how he went about his job.  If I'm being honest, and also a bit of a homer, I think the job he's done since the start of last season, with the teams he's been given and the injuries he's had to deal with, has been the best work of his career and arguably the best managing job in all of MLB.  So now that I've prefaced this post with that setting of context, let me say that I have absolutely no clue what the hell Joe was doing with his bullpen this weekend.

Congratulations To Ichiro...

... For finally getting another extra-base hit and ending a nearly 2-month drought without one!  Well done, Ichiro.  Well done indeed.

His triple to center field to lead off the bottom of the 5th last night was Ichiro's first of the season.  It was also his first XBH since May 3rd, when he had 2 doubles against the Rays.  That's a stretch of 115 plate appearances, 56 calendar days, and exactly 50 games between XBHs, which is almost impressive.  You'd think someone with Ichiro's "speed" would be able to leg out a bloop double at some point over a 56-day span, but he found a way to not even hit enough bloopers for one to drop into a favorable spot.  Helluva job by a world-class hitter to keep a streak like that going.

For those keeping track, Ichiro's season batting line is down to .297/.349/.335.  He's hitting .268/.303/.296 in the month of June, his production regressing back to a more appropriate level now that he's playing every day.  Just another friendly reminder to all the Ichiro lovers out there that he's washed up and to the Yankee front office that it's never a good idea to sign a no-power hitter in his late 30s to a multi-year deal.

Game 80 Wrap-Up: BOS 8 NYY 5

(Courtesy of the AP)

At this rate, I honestly don't know if I'm going to be able to keep writing these.  The Yankees are so horrible to watch these days, even when you don't get the chance to watch them often.  I watched as much as I could of last night's series finale against Boston on ESPN, but there was just nothing entertaining about the game.  Chalk it up as another series loss and another week spent hovering around .500.

Game Notes:

- Chase Whitley's crash back to reality started early in this one.  The Red Sox got 1 run in the 2nd thanks to a double by Yankee murderer Mike Napoli and a ribbie single by Stephen Drew.  They got 3 in the 3rd when Big Sloppi crushed a fastball for a home run to take a 4-0 lead.

- It took a Boston error to set the Yankees up in the bottom of the 3rd, but it was a lot of hard work on their part to get a run in.  Ichiro stole second base, moved to third on Brett Gardner's 10-pitch at-bat, and scored on a Derek Jeter single that came on the 11th pitch of his.  That's big time manufacturing.

- The Yanks did it the easy way in the 4th.  Mark Teixeira yoked an 0-1 changeup that John Lackey put on a tee for him into the right field corner for his 15th home run of the season, and Carlos Beltran hit his 8th on a curveball to get the deficit down to 1.

- With a rested 'pen, Joe had a quick hook and yanked Whitley after a 4-pitch walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. to start the 5th.  That backfired as Shawn Kelley and David Huff allowed 3 runs to score.  Why Kelley and Huff were the first 2 men out of the 'pen in that situation, I'll never know.

- The offense hung tough with 2 more runs of their own in the bottom of the 5th on a Brett Gardner RBI double and Jacoby Ellsbury RBI groundout, but they blew a big chance to pull closer when Beltran got thrown out at the plate in the 6th.  They'd never create another good scoring chance.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Yanks' Top Two Draft Picks Make Their Debuts

The Yankees' draft strategy this year was high on probability on low on projection, and those 2 different means of talent evaluation were no better exemplified than by their top 2 selections in the draft, lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren and righty starter Austin DeCarr.  Both players signed quickly and both made their professional debuts yesterday with the Rookie GCL Yankees.  DeCarr threw 1 scoreless inning with 1 hit, 1 walk, and 1 K while Lindgren tosses a scoreless frame of his own with 2 hits and 2 strikeouts.

Lindgren, the high probability pick, was promoted to Low-A Charleston after the game, so he's already on the fast track that could end up at the Major League level before the season is over.  Assuming he performs well in his first few outings there, I expect him to be moved to Tampa before the halfway point of July.  DeCarr, the projection pick, could stay in the GCL for a few more appearances and likely won't end this year in a full-season league.  As young prep pitcher from a cold weather area, he needs the experience and also the slower path to building up his workload.

Good to see both of them get on the field and into games quickly.  Now let's see what kind of promise they show in their first taste of pro ball.

Sabathia Watch: Throws First Rehab Start For High-A Tampa

Start the countdown clock to July 27th, because CC Sabathia made his first Minor League rehab start yesterday.  He threw 2.1 innings for High-A Tampa, giving up 2 earned runs on 3 hits while striking out 2 and walking 1.  Of his 36 pitches, 24 were strikes and according to Erik Boland, a scout had him sitting high 80s with his fastball and touching 90 once or twice.  The scout said it "looks like Spring Training", which is not a huge surprise considering Sabathia's age, the injury, and the slow-paced nature of his rehab schedule.

Also not surprising was CC's take on his outing.  He said he "couldn't be happier" with the way he felt.  This is the same thing we've heard for every other injury rehab, so take it with a grain of salt, but at least it's better than him saying he felt pain or discomfort in the knee.  No word yet on when or where his next rehab outing will take place, but signs point to it being sometime next week for Double-A Trenton.

Game 79 Wrap-Up: BOS 2 NYY 1

I saw the last 2 innings of last night's game, from across the bar while my girlfriend and I were out to dinner.  You can imagine what kind of fun late night conversation that made for as I watched Derek Jeter ground into the most predictable double play in baseball history and Masahiro Tanaka lose a game on a Yankee Stadium cheapie home run that he probably shouldn't have even been in the game to give up at that point.  It's gotten to the point where the offense isn't enough good enough to win when he's on the mound.  2 steps forward, 1 step back.  What a perfectly blah, bland, mediocre team this is.

Game Notes:

- The Red Sox got their first run on a David Ross homer in the top of the 3rd.  Tanaka missed with a fastball and Ross pulled it into left for a 1-0 lead.

- The Yanks got their run to erase the lead in the bottom half of the inning.  Brian Roberts reached on an error, Yangervis Solarte got hit by a pitch, they both got sac bunted over by Brett Gardner, and Roberts scored on an RBI groundout by Jeter.  Yankee baseball, boys and girls.  Catch the fever!!

- Tanaka was brilliant except for the Ross homer, but I was surprised to see Joe go to him in the 9th when he had D-Rob available.  Facing the 3 best Boston hitters, already over 100 pitches, and coming off a start when his velocity was brought into question, seemed like the perfect time to get him out and go with your best reliever.

- Joe didn't, and after getting a shift-induced double play ball by Papi and getting ahead of Mike Napoli 1-2, Tanaka decided to try him with a fastball.  He left it up and over the plate just enough for Napoli to drive it the other way for the game-winning home run.  Heart-breaking.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Nuno Cracks The Code

Not to make too much fun of Jack, because I think he's one of the best Yankee reporters and analysts out there, but this is about as "duh" a statement as you can make.  You mean to tell me a pitcher who throws a good fastball, good slider, and locates his pitches is going to have a good game?  NO WAY!!!  Hot Take City USA, population Jack Curry.

In all seriousness, good for Nuno for turning in a good start last night.  His team needed it to calm the talk about how he needs to be taken out of the rotation, and he needed it to get a little boost of confidence.  To have a start like he had at home can only help that confidence and hopefully it means more good starts like this for the next.  Hopefully it also leads to more groundbreaking analysis like this from the Yankee beat guys.

Game 78 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 BOS 0

How about that, huh?  A shutout outing from Vidal Nuno, 3 home runs, solid relief work, no catastrophic defensive screw-ups.  The Yankees actually looked like a competent, contending baseball team last night in the series opener against the Sawx.  Guess that off-day on Thursday did them wonders.

Game Notes:

- Nuno's night wasn't without baserunners.  He had 1 on in each of the first 4 innings.  What it was without was multiple hits.  Whenever he started to get in trouble, Nuno made pitches to get out clean.

- A pair of Yankee hits in the bottom of the 1st got them their first run.  Derek Jeter singled, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled him to third, and Mark Teixeira's sac fly plated him for the slimmest margin possible.

- That margin grew in the 4th and it was thanks to the power game this time.  With 2 outs and Brian McCann on first (single), Kelly Johnson smacked a 2-run home run to make it 3-0.  Brett Gardner was the next batter and he popped a homer of his own to extend the lead to 4-0.

- Nuno kept Boston off the scoreboard into the 6th and Joe decided not to push his luck when Nuno walked 2 straight with 2 outs.  He went to his bullpen and his fireman Dellin Betances to end the threat and hold the lead.

- Adam Warren worked a 1-2-3 8th (a rarity for him lately), Brian McCann roped a 2-run homer to right for a last bit of insurance, and Matt Thornton handled a low-stress 9th.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 6/27/14

Did this feel like a slow week to anybody else?  Like painfully slow?  My body feels like it should be late Saturday afternoon already, and for all they did on the field, the news and coverage of the Yankees this week seemed to be lacking.  Really killed my blogging vibe, brah.  Whatever.  Onto the links!

- On Tuesday, Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes made his case for dumping Kelly Johnson and trading for Martin Prado.  Not a move I'd make, but to each his own.

- Jesse Schindler of Pinstripe Alley wondered if it was time to call up Jose Pirela.  I wouldn't hate it if it was.

- On Wednesday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog commented on the Yankees' poor team defense and how it speaks to the half-hearted attempts to build a truly contending ballclub.

- Mike Axisa of RAB broke down the potential trade targets among the Cubs pitching staff.  What the hell?  I'd make an offer for Shark.

- SJK of NoMaas made his picks for who he'd dump and who he'd call up to shake up the offense.

- William Tasker of IIATMS/TYA talked about how the advancements in baseball coverage and analysis have changed the kind of fan he is.  I think it's something a lot of us can relate to.

- On Thursday, Chad Jennings of LoHud had another big batch of Minor League news and notes.  Everything that's going on with everybody.

- Greg Corcoran of Bronx Baseball Daily highlighted the prospects and MiL guys who've been hot this month.

- On Friday, Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits looked into the possibility that Vidal Nuno could improve and unfortunately came up empty.  Might as well get used to him, folks.

- El duque of It Is High... lamented the lost luster to this weekend's Yanks-Sawx series.  I hadn't really thought about that until now, but yeah.  Both these teams do kinda suck.

Got some "Evil Eye" by Fu Manchu as this week's Friday jam.  Yep, the vibe's back.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

Prospect Stock Watch: June 2014

(Courtesy of Mark LoMoglio/

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

There's still a few days left in June, but everybody's level of success for the month has already been decided.  The midway point of the season has been reached, All Star Games have been played, and a lot of midseason moves have been made, both up and down the ladder.  While the success of the Yankee farm system as a whole continues to be up for debate and interpretation, there's no doubt who the biggest individual stars of this season have been.  Some names will be popping up on this report for the second time this year, the names that have now separated themselves as the head of the 2014 prospect class.  Here are the biggest prospect stock movers for June:

Friday Morning Food For Thought: Did The Yanks Screw Up?

Joel Sherman wrote an article on Tuesday examining the Yankees' decisions to sign Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran instead of re-signing Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, and how those decisions may be backfiring this year based on each player's production.  It's tough to come up with a fair way to compare 3 players to 2, especially when the positions they play don't match up, but just for the sake of Sherman's argument take a look at this:

- Cano & C-Grand: 46 XBH, 74 R, 78 RBI, 3.5 fWAR

- Ellsbury, Beltran, Big Mac: 61 XBH, 84 R, 90 RBI, 1.7 fWAR

Factor in the boost that both Cano and C-Grand's power numbers would get if they were still hitting in YS3, and for this year alone the argument can be made that the Yanks would be in better shape offensively if they had brought back their own.  Not that that means much for the future.  C-Grand could lose his power soon, Cano could start to, Ellsbury could have a hot second half, and McCann has to figure it out sooner or later.  If Beltran doesn't crash over that wall in Tampa and have his elbow issue, who knows how much better his numbers would be.

The points is that there's a lot of baseball left to be played for a lot of years by all of these guys.  Not that Sherman was implying it, but there's no need to be calling last offseason's decisions bad ones or mistakes a few games short of the 2014 midway point.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Happy Birthday To The Captain

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

He may not be able to hit a fastball anymore.  He may not be able to move laterally in either direction to field a ball that's hit more than 2 steps away.  He may not even remember how many outs there are in any given inning.  But there's something to be said for playing professional baseball at the highest level imaginable at age 40, and that's something Derek Jeter can proudly say he's doing as of today.

The Captain officially turns the big 4-0 today, and the laundry list of accomplishments he's achieved in his time spent as a Yankee over those years need not be repeated to anybody who follows the Yankees or the game of baseball in general.  He's one of the greatest players of the last 20 years, the greatest Yankee that anybody my age has seen in his or her lifetime, and his name and accomplishments are going to live on in New York sport history long after he and we are gone.  He may be a fraction of the player he was in his prime, but he's still out there doing something that almost all of his peers will say they wish they could still do when they turn 40 and that's pretty impressive.

So happy birthday, Captain.  If you want to celebrate by racking up a few hits tonight* and not making any physical or mental errors in the field, that'd be A-OK by me.

* (Or tomorrow, since the Yanks are off tonight.  Either works fine for me)

Kuroda Quietly Settling In At The Halfway Point

In his final start of June, Hiroki Kuroda finally picked up his first win of the month last night, tossing 6.1 innings of 3-run ball against the Blue Jays and helping his team leave Canada with their dignity intact.  In doing so, he wrapped up his best month of the season to date, a season that's seen him take a step back from the levels of remarkable consistency and occasional dominance that defined his first 2 years in pinstripes.  Kuroda pitched to a 3.52 ERA and 3.65 FIP this month.  It was the first time he's had a sub-4.00 monthly ERA this year.

Strangely enough, there hasn't been a big shift in Kuroda's peripherals to explain the better results.  His K and BB rates were both worse this month than they were in May and at his age he's not the type to experience a big boost in velocity as the weather warms up.  What has helped him is the fact that he's been far less hittable than he was in previous months.  34 hits in 29.0 IP in April, 41 in 36.0 in May, only 24 in 30.2 in June.  He also only surrendered 2 home runs in June after giving up at least 4 in each of the previous 2 months.

Is this just a better sample size of BIP luck?  Hirok finding better command of his pitches?  The cop-out answer is that it's probably some of both.  Regardless of cause, the important thing is that Kuroda has established some semblance of consistency, which he lacked earlier in the season.  After giving up 4 or more runs 4 times in his first 8 starts, he's allowed 3 or less in 6 of his last 8.  He's not the pitcher he was and it doesn't look like he's going to become that pitcher again, but he's been much more steady behind Tanaka and that's been one of the quiet blessings of the last few months.

Game 77 Wrap-Up: NYY 5 TOR 3

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

The halfway point of the regular season is almost here and I still have no clue what kind of team the Yankees are this year.  They've looked very, very good in small bursts, good enough at times even when they haven't been at their best, flawed for the majority of the season, overmatched at certain points, and downright awful and pathetic for stretches.  This recent 4-game losing streak falls under that last category and more than anything else, the Yankees needed to play a solid, competitive 9-inning game of baseball last night.  They managed to do that for a change and salvaged a little something from this series on their way out of town.

Game Notes:

- It wasn't the start the Yankees were hoping for at all.  Brett Gardner was stranded at third in the top of the 1st after leading off with a double, and Hiroki Kuroda gave up a leadoff homer to Jose Reyes in the bottom half.

- Kuroda shook off the undesirable first at-bat though, and got through the next few innings unscathed.  It took some good luck (lineout double play to end the 2nd), but Hirok was generally pretty good with his stuff and got a few big strikeouts when he needed them.

- His offense came around to supporting him in the top of the 3rd, when Kelly Johnson walked and scored on Francisco Cervelli's double to tie the game.  With 2 outs, a Jacoby Ellsbury base knock and a Mark Teixeira 2-run homer gave the Yanks 4 runs and the lead.

- Reyes ignited the next Toronto scoring strike in the 5th with a 2-out ground-rule double.  Melky Cabrera cashed in with a 2-run on a sinker that didn't sink and the Jays were back within 1.

- The Yanks stretched it to 2 with a Teix sac fly in the top of the 7th.  Probably should have been more since they had the bases loaded with nobody out beforehand, but old men Beltran and Roberts couldn't muster a hit for the extra insurance.

- Not that it was needed.  Joe pieced together 3 outs from Kelley, Thornton, and Warren to get himself within 5 of closing, then went to D-Rob for the 5-out save (3 straight Ks, 2 straight groundouts).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Alfonso Soriano Must Be Delusional

Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger had an interesting article earlier today about Alfonso Soriano and his struggle to adjust to life as a primarily bench/platoon player.  Within the article, Castillo gets a lot of good quotes from Soriano about the transition, how he feels about the demotion, and what he tries to do to stay ready, and for the most part it's all good stuff.  But Soriano's self-evaluation when it comes to his hitting leaves a bit to be desired:

"The most important thing is the ability with my hands is there. The most important things are health and the hands. I feel like my bat is there, too."

Al.  Buddy.  Dude.  I don't know what you think you're feeling in your hands when you're up to bat, but I'm telling you it's not ability.  You haven't drawn a walk all month.  You've been striking out in over 35% of your plate appearances since the start of May.  You've hit .212/.212/.273 this month and your season slash line would put you in the bottom 10% of hitters in MLB if you had enough PA to qualify for the batting title.  You're not showing any ability.  Your bat is not there.  I mean, it's literally there, in your ability-lacking hands, but not "there" in a sense that you're doing anything good with it.

I get that you'd like to be getting some more run, but you've got to do a little more to convince Joe that your bat is actually useful than just say it.  Trying using it to hit a ball into a gap or over an outfield wall every now and then.  That might help.  What won't help is saying that you think it's there when it's not.  That type of talk would have me walking you into the trainer's office to be concussion tested if I was the manager.

Mid-Week Minor League News And Notes

There were a handful of stories and updates on some well-known Minor League guys yesterday.  Here they are in case you missed any of them:

- The bad news first.  According to Mark Newman, Slade Heathcott is set for another surgery on his knee and will miss the rest of this season.  Considering it was the same knee he had surgery on last year and he only played 9 games after returning from it, I think we can start to turn on the light on Heathcott's prospect status.  Too bad.

- Now the good.  Luis Severino and Peter O'Brien were selected to represent the Yankees in this year's Futures Game.  O'Brien is 3rd in all of baseball in HR this season.  Kudos to both.

- A paper thin Triple-A rotation will get a boost this weekend when Nik Turley returns from the DL.  He's been out since suffering an arm strain in March.

- Via Nick Peruffo, lefty starter Daniel Camarena was promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton.  He pitched to a 2.72 ERA in Tampa and is only 21 years old.  I profiled him early last year as someone to watch.

Sabathia Watch: 2-Inning Sim Game; GCL Start On Saturday

Next step in the CC Sabathia rehab plan has officially been taken.  The big guy threw a 2-inning simulated game at the team complex yesterday, 34 pitches in all, and came through the outing with no issues or pain in his knee.  The plan for the rest of this week is a bullpen session sometime in the next day or 2 and then a start for the GCL Yankees on Saturday.

This would be the official beginning of the CC's 30-day MiL rehab stint, an important milestone because it's one that allows us to start figuring out his eventual return date.  If the plan for him to pitch Saturday holds, we're looking at a late July return, Monday the 28th to be exact.  Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet though.  There's a lot that can happen in that time and the whole thing goes out the window if Sabathia starts to feel something in his knee.  For now, let's worry about getting him to and through Saturday.

Game 76 Wrap-Up: TOR 7 NYY 6

(Way to have your head in the game, Captain.  Courtesy of the AP)

I was in attendance for all 16 innings of the Brewers-Nationals game, so I saw my fair share of baseball last night.  As agonizing as that game was (take a pitch for me one time, Carlos Gomez!!), I would have watched another 16 innings of that 2-2 baseball if it meant not having to watch the garbage ball the Yankees played on their way to a 4th straight loss.

Game Notes:

- Starter David Phelps wasn't terrible.  He worked the first 3 innings with only a walk and a single against him.  But he got into trouble after putting the leadoff runner on in the 4th and hanging a curveball to Dioner Navarro with 2 men on.  1 swing, all that good work undone.

- The next 3 runs in the 5th weren't exactly his fault.  With 2 on and 2 out, Derek Jeter fielded an easy groundball from Edwin Encarnacion and brain farted, looking at second and third before finally throwing to first.  Encarnacion beat it out to keep the inning alive and Colby Rasmus hit a bases-clearing single to make it 6-0.

- The Yankee offense valiantly chipped away (for real) to get back into the game.  Jeter homered to start the 6th, Brian Roberts hit a 2-run home run in the 7th, Jacoby Ellsbury singled 1 home, and a Jose Reyes throwing error plated the 2 tying runs.

Of course, more bad defense had to make all that effort for naught.  Jose Reyes doubled off Adam Warren to start the bottom of the 9th and came around to score when the infield couldn't handle a sac bunt properly.  Throwing error by Yangervis Solarte, Reyes trots around to score, game over.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Should The Yankees Try To Trade For David Price?

We're still far enough away from the trade deadline for it to not officially be "trade season" quite yet.  Those winds don't start really blowing 'til the All-Star break.  But business is already picking up on the David Price front.  Arguably the best player who will be available and the type of difference maker in the rotation that any contending team could use, Price is the talk of the trade town both locally and nationally.  TB beat writer Marc Topkin wrote over the weekend that there are already some teams with scouts following him and the Rays' preference is to trade him to the NL, and earlier today Buster Olney suggested (Insider-only) that a trade could materialize as soon as this week.

The Yankees have not been involved in any of the early rumors, outside of Jim Bowden's trade proposal from last week.  Price would fill a huge need for them though, and it will come down to how serious the Yankees are willing to get about what they'll have to give up to get Price.  If you're Cash and the rest of the front office, that's a move you have to be willing to make, right?

Contemplating Adam Warren In The Rotation

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

A popular topic of conversation right now in Yankeeland is Vidal Nuno's spot in the rotation and whether or not he deserves to keep it.  He did little to help his cause last Saturday when he gave up 3 home runs in a loss to Baltimore, his 11th, 12th, and 13th in 12 starts, and I think Joe would like to remove him if he could.  Unfortunately for him, the organizational starting depth being stretched thin by injuries has left the Yankees without a suitable replacement sitting front and center.

One name that's been talked about a lot as a possibility is Adam Warren.  The former starting pitching prospect has settled nicely into a middle relief and occasional setup role this season after being given a token spot in the Spring Training 5th starter competition.  Warren made the transition from starter to reliever almost full-time last year when he earned himself a bullpen spot out of spring camp, and while he hasn't worked as a starter since 2012 it's reasonable to think he could be at least a slight improvement over Nuno.  The question of swapping Nuno for Warren has been brought up to Joe plenty in the last week and he's admitted that it's something he's considering.  The real question is whether it's the right move to make.

Game 75 Wrap-Up: TOR 8 NYY 3

(Courtesy of the AP)

When the Jays came to town to face the Yankees last week, New York was fresh off 2 tough losses to end a series against Oakland.  They won 3 straight against Toronto to right the ship, pulling themselves back up close to the top of the division in the proces.  Last night, they were coming off 2 tough losses at the hands of the Orioles over the weekend and looking to get the ship going the right way again.  Chase Whitley put in a strong effort in his first start against Toronto.  Fellow rookie starter Marcus Stroman not so much, so the advantage appeared to be on New York's side.  The Yanks also had the benefit of not facing Brett Lawrie or Jose Bautista, both out with injuries, and yet they managed to find a way to get blown out again.

Game Notes:

- The Jays hit Whitley early and often in this one.  A double and a single gave them a run in the 1st, 3 straight singles set them up in the 2nd, and a big 3-run home run by Adam Lind highlighted a 6-run inning.  Lotta sliders left up.

- Naturally the Yankee lineup curled up in a ball and puked on itself to attempt to help Whitley.  Brendan Ryan got their first hit against Stroman in the 3rd inning, and a Mark Teixeira solo home run was responsible for the only run through .

- Joe left Whitley out there to take his whooping and eat up as many innings as possible, but that still only got him into the 4th before he was finally lifted after 8 ER allowed.  David Huff was up next and ate 3.2 innings without giving up any more runs, so at least the bullpen was saved.

- The Yankees made a gallant attempt at coming back and making the game interesting.  Just kidding, they only got 1 more hit post-Teix homer and went down as quietly and easily as possible while the game was close.

- When the game was over in the 9th, they made their move.  Yangervis Solarte's first hit in 29 at-bats scored Carlos Beltran for 1 meaningless run and a Kelly Johnson RBI double got another.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Afternoon Food For Thought: The Quad-A Replacement Brigade

From this morning, we know that the Yankees have a ton of guys hitting at well below-average rates this month.  From watching the season in its entirety, we know they've had plenty of guys struggling to produce since Opening Day.  There's been no indication that any new "shakeup" roster moves are coming as a means to jump start the offense, but there is a bounty of potentially interesting call-up candidates in Triple-A right now:
And that's not including guys like Zoilo Almonte and Scott Sizemore who've already spent some time on the Major League roster, and Ramon Flores, who's on DL presently but was hitting .261/.352/.447 before getting hurt.  If he were healthy, there's a non-zero chance he'd be on the Yankee bench by now.

Among the 4 guys mentioned above, only 1 of them is young enough to be truly considered a "prospect" and that's Pirela at age 24.  The other 3 are classic Quad-A 'tweener types and none of the 4 are currently on the 40-man roster, which is surely a major determining factor in why the Yankees haven't made a move to call any of them up.  Another is expectations, which are tough to accurately set for players like this.  None of these guys is even close to a sure bet to replicate his current production at the Major League level or even match what underperforming 25-man guys like Alfonso Soriano or Brian Roberts are doing.  I suppose it couldn't hurt to give someone like Roller or Garcia a look, but at the same time they really haven't dominated Triple-A to the point where it's clearly worth it to cut bait on a more established, albeit mostly terrible, option.

I'll say this, I'm glad that's not my decision to make.  Classic "damned if you, damned if you don't" scenario.

What Is Soriano's Role Now?

It's been a little over a week since Alfonso Soriano was removed from an everyday role in the lineup.  An 0-4 day against Oakland on June 14th bottomed his season slash line out at .224/.249/.388 and since then Soriano has gotten 6 plate appearances in the last 7 games.  3 of those 6 PA have come as a pinch hitter, 3 came in the lone start he got against Mark Buehrle last Wednesday, and in the other 3 games Soriano stayed glued to the bench.

Going back to the start of the month, when Soriano's slump was at its worst and his playing time started to decrease, he has now not played in the same number of games that he has played (10).  His production in June (.214/.214/.286, 12 K in 28 PA) is as unproductive as it's been all year, which raises the question of what, exactly, is Soriano's role at this point?  He's the de facto 4th outfielder with Ichiro starting and Beltran DH'ing, but Joe is never going to use him for defensive purposes.  And even though he does have 3 hits in his 6 PA since 6/14, all 3 of them have been singles, so he's not exactly filling the role of late-game masher option off the bench.

Soriano serves almost no purpose to Joe and the team right now with what he's contributing.  If and when Beltran is able to return to the field and get back in the outfield rotation, Soriano's usefulness will shrink even more.  He's been almost completely phased out as it is, and it may only be a matter of time before he's removed from the active roster completely.

Sabathia Graduating To Live BP This Week

The rehab process for CC Sabathia and his degenerative right knee took another step forward over the weekend and could take another step or 2 forward this week.  Sabathia threw a 36-pitch bullpen session at The Stadium before Saturday's game, at what sounds like full strength.  Sabathia said he "got after it a little bit" when he was throwing and that he was trying to really test the strength of his knee to make sure it will hold up.  For what it's worth, he said the knee felt good after he finished.

From there, Sabathia is heading to the team facility in Tampa this week, where he will move to throwing live batting practice tomorrow.  If he comes through that well, the tentative plan is to have him pitch in a MiL game on Saturday.  The decision on what level won't come until later in the week, but I wouldn't be surprised if the team tries to get creative and get him in a few unofficial games so as not to start his 20-day MiL clock early.  We're still 3 weeks away from the All-Star break and the plan was to bring him through a full ST simulation to get him stretched back out.  Regardless of how good he feels and how poorly Vidal Nuno is pitching, there's no reason to rush that.

Monday Morning Food For Thought: Offense Is Still Offensive

2 weeks ago, I declared it time for a change in response to the Yankees losing 2-1 to the Royals.  That game marked the 10th straight in which they failed to score more than 4 runs, a stretch that saw them go 3-7 and fall back to .500.

Over the last 2 weeks, the Yanks have gone 8-4 on the strength of 2 separate 4-game winning streaks.  The latest ended on Friday night with the walk-off victory over the Orioles, as the Yanks managed to score a single run in the final 2 games and dropped both easily.  The offensive blackout brought the issues of 2 weeks ago back to the forefront and a quick check of the numbers shows that not much has changed since June 9th despite the W-L record.
That's two-thirds of the lineup hitting well below-average this month.  Kelly Johnson and Alfonso Soriano have also hit below the .300 wOBA in limited PA.  When that's what you're getting from the bulk of your major offensive contributors, and the above-average production you're getting from the other 3 (Gardner, Ellsbury, Teix) isn't great enough to carry a team, that's not good.  The halfway point of the regular season is 1 week away and the offense remains stuck in the mud.  That change I talked about 2 weeks ago?  It's still needed in a big way.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Game 74 Wrap-Up: BAL 8 NYY 0

(Yep.  That's Matsui pitching.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

It was Old Timers' day at The Stadium this afternoon, always one of the best days of the year.  Fresh from the Saturday ceremony honoring Tino in Monument Park and the quick, dirty beatdown at the hands of Bud Norris and the Baltimore Oriole bats, the Yankees came back today looking to draw some inspiration from all the past Yanks who were on hand, including recent teammates like Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon and all-time greats like Goose Gossage, who joined Tino in his Monument Park induction.  Another series victory halfway through this stretch of interdivisional games would have been the perfect way to end a strong week and Masahiro Tanaka was the perfect man for the job on the mound.  He was pretty good again, not as great as we've seen him, but once again it was the complete and utter lack of offense that did them in.

Game Notes:

- Tanaka never seems happy with his command, but today he did have a few real problems.  He gave up a pair of singles to start the game in the 1st, walked a batter with 2 outs in the 5th, and left a 2-strike slider up to Jonathan Schoop in the 2nd that Schoop hit for a solo home run.

- The lineup couldn't put anything together against Baltimore starter Chris Tillman.  A challenge overturned a potential Brett Gardner leadoff double in the 1st, a Derek Jeter GIDP killed a rally in the 3rd, and Jacoby Ellsbury was left stranded in the 4th after leading off with a double to right.

- Joe sent Tanaka back out for the 7th at 93 pitches, and that might have been the decision that decided the game.  J.J. Hardy singled, Manny Machado doubled, and both scored on outs to make it 3-0 and mar Tanaka's line.  Give the O's credit.  They worked him hard and finally broke through late.

- If Adam Warren was looking to show he shouldn't be moved back into the rotation, he did a good job.  He gave up 4 runs in the 8th inning, the big blow a bases-clearing double after an intentional walk, to put the game out of reach.

- No shortage of controversy in that inning when the umpires decided that Steve Pearce did not interfere with Kelly Johnson on a ball he threw into the stands for what was ruled an error before the intentional walk.  My opinion is jaded as a Yankee fan, but I thought the interference was blatantly obvious and agreed with Joe's assessment that it was a dangerous and malicious play.

BREAKING: Teix Leaves Game With Left Foot Injury (UPDATED)

The AB4AR Jinx strikes again.  Mark Teixeira just left today's game in bottom of the 8th after being hit by a pitch on his left foot.  According to Dan Barbarisi, he fell to the ground after taking a slider from T.J. McFarland, tried to get up and walk it off, then stopped, threw his helmet and shin guard off angrily, and immediately left the field.  He was replaced by Brendan Ryan.

It sounds like Teix's reaction indicated that he knew something was wrong.  I have to imagine he's going for X-rays as this post goes up.  Losing Teix for any amount of time beyond a few days would be devastating.  More on this story as it develops.

** UPDATE 4:28 PM- Via Barbarisi again, X-rays on Teix's left foot came back negative.  Joe told reporters after the game that Teix was "OK".  Whew. **

Teix Staying Steady And Solid In The Middle Of The Order

Did you know that Mark Teixeira has a 10-game hitting streak?  I had no idea.  I thought he had been pretty consistent since coming back from his wrist stiffness, but I didn't think it had been 10-game hitting streak consistent.  After being the only offensive presence in yesterday's loss with a solo HR, his 12th of the year, Teix is now 11-37 in his last 10 with at least 1 hit in every game.  The power has been there (2 2B, 2 HR), the patience has been there (5 BB), and the production has been there (6 R, 8 RBI).

For the season, Teix is hitting .250/.365/.473 with a 13.7% BB rate, good for a team-leading .368 wOBA.  For all the games he's missed with a variety of ailments, and for all the uncertainty that comes with his health day-to-day and week-to-week, there's no denying that Teix has been rock solid and unexpectedly consistent in the games he has played.  While new guys like Beltran and McCann go days without a hit and then have 1 big game to carry the team, Teix has been the constant, the steadying force in the middle of the lineup.  Getting on base, driving in runs, providing the consistent power presence this team needs.  It's been the most underrated and undercovered story of the 2014 Yankee campaign.

Pineda Has A "Trace" Of Inflammation In His Shoulder; Rehab Pushed Back Again

Michael Pineda was supposed to play catch yesterday for the first time since suffering a setback with his right shoulder/upper back last month.  The team scheduled him for what they called a precautionary MRI on Friday to make sure there was nothing wrong in the injured area and turns out there was.  Joe told the media before yesterday's game that the MRI revealed a "trace" of inflammation in Pineda's shoulder, so the decision was made to scrap yesterday's planned catch sesh and bump it back a week to next Saturday.

I fully understand and appreciate the need to be careful with Pineda because of the previous injury and close proximity of this back muscle to his shoulder.  But at this point, I think we have to start talking seriously about whether Pineda is going to pitch another meaningful inning this season.  He's been out with this injury since late April, he may or may not start playing catch again by late June, and the team has already said they're going to put him through a full ST to build him back up.  If the back and shoulder haven't healed up right after 2 months of rest, I highly doubt they're going to hold up once he actually starts pitching again.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Game 73 Wrap-Up (Abridged Version): BAL 6 NYY 1

The Yankees honored Tino Martinez before the game today by inducting him into Monument Park and unveiling his plaque.  It sounds like it was a nice ceremony, and it was easily the high point of the game with glorified home run derby pitcher Vidal Nuno on the mound.

Game Notes:

- Nuno gave up a solo HR to Adam Jones in the 1st inning, a 2-run shot to Nelson Cruz in the 4th, and another 2-run job to Steve Pearce in the 5th.

- The lone Yankee run came on a Mark Teixeira solo homer in the bottom of the 4th.  That was the only real dent they made against Bud Norris and the Baltimore bullpen.

- Jose Ramirez relieved Nuno after 6.1 innings and continued the home run parade by giving up a solo shot to J.J. Hardy in the 8th, the 4th of the day for Baltimore.

F*ck Yeah:

- Teix: 1-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI.  Blah.

Oh Nos:

- Nuno: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R (4 ER), 2 BB, 4 K.  Triple blah.  That's now 13 home runs allowed in 12 starts.

Series finale tomorrow afternoon.  It'd be nice to get another win against a divisional opponent.

Game 72 Wrap-Up: NYY 5 BAL 3

(That's an awesome shot.  Courtesy of the AP)

Riding high off the sweep of the division-leading Blue Jay, the Yankees welcomed another divisional rival to town last night in the form of the Baltimore Orioles.  The O's took 2 of 3 from the Yanks at The Stadium in early April and they're right behind them in the AL East race right now, so this was another important series for the Yanks to show they're in it for the long haul.  Hiroki Kuroda got the start last night, and he's sneaky been getting better and better over the last 4-6 weeks.  He had has A-game working early last night, but it wasn't until his offense came around very late in the game that this one turned into an instant classic.

Game Notes:

- The Yankees got their 1 early run in the 1st, something they seem to do every game these days.  Jacoby Ellsbury singled with 2 outs, stole second base, and scored on Mark Teixeira's double to right field.

- Hirok was absolutely brilliant in this game.  He carried a no-hitter into the 6th inning, the only baserunners reaching on Derek Jeter throwing error and a walk, and had 6 strikeouts through 5.

- Then he came out for the 6th and hit the wall.  Double, flyout, double, single, and suddenly it was 2-1 Orioles.  Hirok managed to get out of the inning but it would end up being his last.

- The O's took and held that 2-1 lead because the Yanks could never put another run across despite having tons of chances.  They loaded the bases in the 2nd and got nothing.  They walked the bases loaded in the 5th and got nothing.  Loaded them again in the 6th, nothing.

- Baltimore added an insurance run in the top of the 9th and all looked lost, and then the Yankees woke up for their best comeback of the year.  Brett Gardner singled to lead off the bottom, Teix drew a 2-out walk, and Brian McCann hit an RBI single up the middle to make it 3-2 and set up the dramatics.

- Carlos Beltran stepped in against a smoke-throwing Zach Britton and saw 4 straight 95+ MPH fastballs, 3 of them for balls.  He knew he was getting another one on 3-1 and he crushed it into the left field seats for a 3-run, game-winning, walk-off home run.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 6/20/14

Supposed to be going to the Milwaukee Zoo for the first time since moving out here tomorrow.  I'm pretty stoked.  I'm a big zoo guy, and I think it's a disgrace to myself and my own existence that I haven't made it to a zoo that I live 15 minutes away from in 6+ years.  If I had serious money, I would build and open my own zoo where all the animals had generic people names.  You can't try and tell me you wouldn't want to go see a hippo named Steve and a kangaroo named Walter.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes recapped all of the Derek Jeter farewell ceremonies and gifts to date.  Gotta say the Cubs' gift was the best.

- Mike Axisa of RAB identified Yangervis Solarte's expansion of the strike zone as the primary cause for this latest slump.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud had a lot of updates on every level of the farm system.

- On Tuesday, Derek Albin of Pinstripe Pundits discussed some of the biggest unexpected stories of the Yankee season thus far.

- On Wednesday, Andrew Mearns of Pinstripe Alley commented on the all-around disappointing season that Gary Sanchez is having.

- Katie Sharp of IIATMS/TYA used what we know and the numbers we have on Chase Whitley to try to predict what we'd see from him moving forward.

Delia Enriquez of Bronx Baseball Daily had Adam Warren's thoughts on his role in the bullpen and how open he would be to changing back to a starter.

- On Thursday, el duque of It Is High... wondered if Big Mac's big Wednesday night can be the start of his offensive breakout.

- SJK of NoMaas had a suggestion for Cash on where he should look to find the source of the team's average performance this season.

Going back to a familiar and favorite well this week with some Deftones.  Hadn't heard this song for a few years until it came up on the iPod shuffle earlier this week.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

Analyzing The Early Trade Rumors

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

The trade deadline is now less than 6 weeks away, and the engines on the rumor mill have started churning.  On Wednesday, Brian Cashman discussed the Yankees' plans for the deadline with Ken Davidoff, saying "we usually make moves every year, so I expect to make moves" when asked what he expected.  As for how aggressive the Yankees will be, I guess this statement from Cash sums it up best:

“I feel that we do have the ability to make trades if that’s a route we so choose.  How we line up with other clubs, I don’t know … but I definitely have people that are wanted within the industry. But we want those guys, too. We’ll see.”

Cash is no fool when it comes to playing the media game.  He isn't going to tip his hand.  But we all know what the Yankees' biggest needs are (starting pitcher, infielder/backup first baseman, right fielder) and we know they're going to look to fill some of those needs.  It's far too early to make any rational predictions, but there are already a couple rumors that popped up this week involving the Yanks.  Here's a quick trip around the early deadline rumor mill.

Kelly Johnson Day-To-Day With Bruised Fingers

The jinx strikes again!  I write about how Kelly Johnson is coming on and deserves to be in the lineup every day and pow!  He takes a pitch off the right hand trying to bunt in the 6th last night, leaves the game, and might miss a few more with bruised fingers.

Why Johnson was even being asked to bunt in that situation is beyond me, but the good news is that X-rays were negative and the injury is bruises instead of breaks.  Joe seemed like he had been coming around to the idea of going with Johnson more and Solarte less, evidenced by his decision to start KJ last night.  A quick recovery to get Johnson's bat back in there would be the best possible outcome here.

Game 71 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 TOR 4

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Thanks, Toronto!  See you again next time!  Enjoy the flight!  You kids get home safe!

Game Notes:

- The scoring was early and often against Blue Jay starter Drew Hutchison.  Brett Gardner doubled to lead off the game for the Yanks and scored on an Ellsbury sac fly in the 1st, Carlos Beltran worked his way around and scored on a Kelly Johnson sac fly in the 2nd, then sac flied Ellsbury home himself in the 3rd.

- In between all the saccing (sacking? sacing?), David Phelps gave up a 2-run home run to Melky Cabrera in the top of the 3rd to keep the Jays close.  Those were the only runs he'd allow in 7 very good innings.

- Not that he didn't have to work for them.  Toronto put a runner on base in all but 2 innings and put a runner in scoring position with no outs in the 5th.  Phelps handled the trouble well every time and he punctuated the outing by K'ing the final 2 batters of the 7th.

- The Yanks tacked on for him with a Beltran RBI double in the 5th, a Derek Jeter RBI groundout in the 6th, and a Yangervis Solarte bases loaded walk in the 7th.  Toronto just couldn't keep them off the basepaths.  Story of the game.

- Shawn Kelley took over in the 8th and very quickly gave up a 2-run home run to Edwin Encarnacion to pull the Jays back within 2.  Joe had to use Matt Thornton to get out of that inning and Adam Warren for the save with a short bullpen, but they did the job.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thursday Afternoon News And Notes

Been a little slow around the blog the last day or so with my 9-5 cutting into my time, but thankfully it's been relatively slow around Yankeeland as well.  Here are some of the smaller stories I've missed from the past 2 days:

- CC Sabathia threw his second rehab bullpen session yesterday.  It was another 25-pitch sesh, not sure if he mixed in any of this offspeed pitches this time.  Next one is set for Sunday and his pitch count should be bumped up.

- Michael Pineda is scheduled to play catch for the first time since his last setback on Saturday.

- 2 more top draft picks signed yesterday, 4th rounder Jordan Montgomery and 6th rounder Jonathan Holder.  Montgomery signed for full slot value, Holder about 60-70k below.

- Via Chad Jennings, outfielder Taylor Dugas was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A today.  He's way under the radar as a prospect, but he was hitting .294/.403/.424 for the Thunder this season and has a .293/.422/.368 career slash across 4 levels of the Minors.  Got a little Brett Gardner-ness to him.

Homegrown Hoedown

Big Mac was the king of the night last night and justifiably so.  Dude was swatting home runs over the short porch in right, speeding around the bases for 3-run triples to seal the game, and navigating a relatively young pitching staff through 9 innings of solid work to secure another win.  In looking at the box score this morning, I noticed another cool trend from last night, one deserving of its own post.  All 5 Yankee pitchers who pitched last night were under 30 years old and all 5 were homegrown players.

Chase Whitley, Adam Warren, Jose Ramirez, Dellin Betances, and David Robertson.  All drafted or signed by the Yankees, all developed through the team's farm system, all graduated to the Majors within the organization, and almost all contributing in very meaningful ways.  That's pretty cool.  When you can get 9 innings of 3-run ball with 2 BB and 8 K from a crop of your own pitchers against the best offensive team in the AL, that's gotta make your scouts and MiL people feel good.

For the season, that 5-some has combined to throw 149.1 innings.  They have a 2.41 ERA, 183 K/37 BB, and 4.6 total fWAR.  That's pretty damn good when you consider that Warren was working as a low-leverage middle relief guy at this time last year while Betances, Whitley, and Ramirez were all either working in different roles or just starting new ones in Triple-A.  Their overall track record when it comes to pitcher development doesn't look that great, but based on last night's game it would be unfair to say the Yankees completely suck at it.  There's at least a few things they have to be doing right.

Game 70 Wrap-Up: NYY 7 TOR 3

(Job well done.  Courtesy of the AP)

I know I said this series was going to be a big test for the Yankees, but in all honesty, can they just play the Blue Jays at home all the time?  They own them there.  Totally have them twisted into pretzels.  Case in point, last night's game.  Yanks had Chase Whitley up against Toronto ace Mark Buehrle, a matchup that should heavily favor the Jays.  Not in The Stadium though, and not when Buehrle was sporting a career ERA over 6 against the Bombers.  They tuned him up for a few early last night before tacking on against the bullpen late to secure their 15th (!!!!) straight win over the Jays at home.

Game Notes:

- The usual suspects at the top of the order gave Whitley a tad of run support in the bottom of the 1st.  Brett Gardner led off with a single, moved to second on an error, third on a flyout, and scored on a 2-out ribbie single by Alfonso Soriano.  For real.

- Whitley made it stand up through 3 innings.  He was mixing pitches again, working both sides of the plate to hitters hitting from both sides of the plate, and keeping the Blue Jay lineup off the basepaths.  Not electric at all in comparison to Tanaka, but effective.

- A 1-out HBP seemed to rattle him in the 4th and he surrendered a couple of RBI singles to give the Jays a brief lead.  But a Carlos Beltran leadoff single and a Brian McCann home run in the bottom half put the Yanks back in front.

- Joe got Whitley through 5, then got out of that game while he was ahead and went to his bullpen.  Adam Warren tossed 2 perfect innings with 3 Ks, Dellin Betances cleaned up Jose Ramirez's mess in the 8th, and D-Rob breezed through the 9th.

- The offense tacked on 4 insurance runs in the bottom of the 7th again to make life a lot easier down the stretch.  Gardner was at the forefront of the rally with his 4th hit of the night, Ichiro drew a pinch hit, bases loaded walk, and Big Mac cleared the bases with a triple to right-center.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kelly Johnson Is Starting To Get Some Shine

("Thanks for the at-bats, guy."  Courtesy of Getty Images)

When the offseason ended and the Yankee roster started to take shape over ST, it looked like Kelly Johnson was going to be an important piece.  He could play a lot of positions, he could play the infield ones well, he had left-handed power.  He was like Joe's "Draw 4" Wild card in Uno that he could use at any time in any situation.  Then Yangervis Solarte came out hitting like a maniac and Brian Roberts' switch-hitting body managed to stay healthy enough to play and suddenly KJ was the odd man out, getting his only playing time when Teix was hurt and he had to play out of position at first.

Now Solarte is really slumping at the plate, Roberts' body is banged up, and Johnson finds himself back in his regular position getting regular playing time.  He's been a fixture in the bottom of the batting the last few games and could finally be starting to settle into the role he should have been playing all along.

Wednesday Morning Food For Thought: Nothing Like A Good Old Strikeout

Mashiro Tanaka: 113 K in 99.2 IP
Dellin Betances: 68 K in 40.2 IP
David Robertson: 43 K in 23.2 IP

The strikeout is the best possible outcome for any at-bat from the pitching side.  The Yankees have 3 of the best in the business when it comes to getting strikeouts and all 3 of them were in action last night.  Correction, they WERE the action last night.  15 combined Ks in 9 innings, 6 of those victims being Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion, the 3 best Toronto hitters.  Tanaka struck out all 3 for the side in the 5th inning, Betances nailed them twice in the 8th, and D-Rob ended the game with a K after a 2-out triple.

Betances and D-Rob's combined total of 111 strikeouts is the most by any relief duo in baseball.  By a lot.  The next closest is Andrew Miller and Koji Uehara with 88.  Tanaka is tied for 2nd most among all starters behind David Price.  When you're playing a lot of close games and not scoring a lot of runs, run prevention becomes even more important.  The best way to prevent runs is to prevent guys from putting the ball in play and these 3 have shown a tremendous knack for coming up with those big strikeouts in big moments.