Saturday, May 31, 2014

Yankees should test new bullpen arms while they can

Every time the New York Yankees bring Preston Claiborne or Alfredo Aceves into a game, I cringe. While they are not typically used in high-leverage situations, they still play a part in the outcome of the game.

Claiborne came into Friday’s game with the Yankees down three runs in the seventh inning and allowed two runs on three hits and walked two batters in 1 1/3 innings. The Yankees offense was not producing, but they’ve had recent success putting together late-inning rallies in such a situation.

Claiborne has allowed runs in four of his last eight outings. Remember, this guy was not given a roster spot at the beginning of the season. We are witnessing the reasons why.

As for Aceves, he’s nothing more than an innings waster at this point. He's allowed runs in six of his nine appearances. He's done and does not deserve a roster spot at this point.

With guys like Mark Montgomery (28 Ks in 23 IP), Danny Burawa (just allowed his first runs of the season Wednesday across 15.1 IP) and Jose Ramirez (walks are an issue, but owns a 1.17 ERA and he’s on the 40-man roster) performing well in at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, why not give some MLB experience to one of them why there is a chance?

Shawn Kelley will hopefully return soon (he threw off a mound Friday for the first time since May 13), but with a balky back, who knows.

Claiborne and Aceves have no upside at this point, while the players mentioned above have a chance to be an integral part of the Yankees bullpen in the future.

Get them up now while the Yankees can provide innings which are not super-critical, but seemingly prevalent of late. What’s the harm at this point?

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

New York Yankees: Off-day ramblings

The New York Yankees completed a nine-game road trip Wednesday night, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 7-4, behind a make-shift lineup. The Yanks won five of the nine games and will enjoy a day off today before hosting a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins.

Some rambling thoughts/questions:
  • The pitching as a whole has been solid over the month of May – 3.55 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and .261 BAA
  • The offense on the other hand has been dismal in May - .251/.313/.377; .690 OPS ranks 20th among all MLB teams
  • The Yankees were not well-prepared to weather issues they must have known were coming for Mark Teixeira – already 6 different players have spent time at first base at some point this season.
  • Will the Yankees be forced to look at Kendrys Morales if Teixeira continues to need frequent rest, or worse if this wrist issue is more than the Yankees are making it out to be?
  • The Yanks have still rate a negative seven on the run differential scale – Pythagorean W/L is 25-27
  • They’ve been outscored by 18 runs at Yankee Stadium, but have a scored 11 more runs than their opponents on the road.
  • The Yankees have just three inter-league contests left on the schedule (July 18-20 vs. Cincinnati Reds at home).
  • They are 10-7 in inter-league play this season.
  • I think Joe Girardi has done a decent job resting Derek Jeter. I expect more days to be mixed in as the team will have just two off days from now until the All-Star Break.
  • David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley getting this many starts was not on the agenda. Can the rotation continue to hold tight until CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda return?
  • The Yankees should keep John Ryan Murphy up for the rest of the season in my opinion. Find a spot somewhere for Francisco Cervelli. Murphy has proven capable of handling the backup duties. Maybe someone needs Cervelli and the Yanks can deal him? Problem is everyone will want Murphy...
  • Peter O’Brien continues to rake in the minors. He’s hit 19 homers this season between Tampa and Trenton. The power is great, but he’s only notched six walks in 194 plate appearances and has struck out 45 times. Those ratios will need to improve over time.
  • Former Yankee Phil Hughes will get the call for the Twins in Sunday's game. Hughes is 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 5.6 K/BB ratio this season.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Sunday, May 25, 2014

Can the New York Yankees build on character win?

It was one of those games that showed the character of this New York Yankees squad.

Just one day after the New York Yankees lost in a punch-in-the-gut walk-off fashion, they staged an impressive and much needed rally in the ninth inning to tie a game they had no business winning up to that point. They eventually scored the go-ahead run on a Jacoby Ellsbury solo homer in the 10th inning and David Robertson rinsed the bad taste from his mouth after blowing the save in Friday’s matchup.

The Yankees have been the model of inconsistency in recent weeks. They have been unable to get on a roll and have had a tough time putting a full game together; one with solid starting pitching, a clicking offense and stability from the relief corps. And when they do, the next day makes one forget very quickly.

So, will Saturday’s comeback be the win that gets this team back into a groove? This is not a squad that has been lackadaisical. The Yankees have hit rough patches and suffered some injuries which have forced a look much deeper into their system than they hoped for when the calendar changed to April.

The players who played a part in yesterday’s rally each had something hanging over them. Ellsbury, who sparked the ninth inning rally with a single, saw his average shrink to .254 before the at-bat. He’d been sitting at .346 as of May 3. The homer was his first since May 1.



Alfonso Soriano, who had just six extra-base hits in May before his turn at the plate, stroked a two-out RBI-double. Yangervis Solarte continued to show his season is not a mirage and tied Mark Teixeira for the team lead in RBIs (25) with a single. Brian McCann, who many thought (me included) would destroy baseballs this season, capped off the rally with the bloop single.

And finally, Robertson erased his first blown save from the memory banks with a kick-it-up-a-notch save effort. Robertson had said all the right things after allowing Adam Dunn’s walk-off homer in Friday’s loss, and backed it up the very next day.

Sometimes it takes a team meeting as a friend and former colleague mentioned to me during the game. The message being to stop pressing and trying to do everything on their own. It is a reminder that this is a team sport. Some players might be held to a higher standard and have more expectations, but winning is a result of the collective roster.

Maybe the Yankees had a meeting, maybe they didn’t. But if they sat back together and looked at what they accomplished Saturday they may have received some answers and assurance that this can be a quality baseball team. They have as good a shot at reaching the postseason and going on a run as any other team in an American League where each club has its issues.

Saturday’s victory was a collective one; a character builder. Could it be the first brick in the foundation of a lengthy run? Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound Sunday and I can’t think of a better person to lay the second brick. But he'll need the offense and relief corps by his side with the mortar to keep the building stable.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Friday, May 23, 2014

New York Yankees: A (Kevin) Long night

The New York Yankees are having some issues at the plate and its all Kevin Long’s fault! That was the word in social media hell Thursday night as the Yankees were man-handled by Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale. The Yankees batting coach is going out of his way to prevent his players from getting hits.

Being a batting coach is a thankless job. Often times, like right now for Long, the batting coach takes a beating for offensive funks. Seldom do they receive credit for their work by the fans. The players typically know better.

How often, even after parting ways do you hear players bashing a former batting coach? Also, it’s fairly infrequent that a batting coach is completely reconstructing a player’s swing. Yes it happens, but usually there are little tweaks that the coach and the player agree to try. It is Long’s responsibility to work with the players to find flaws, point them out and help eradicate them. What’s to say he’s not doing that daily with players in a rut?

Keep in mind; the Yankees are a mostly veteran team, so how much are any of those guys changing their swings at this point in their careers? Long’s job is to key in on mechanical flaws in hitters’ swings and/or provide assistance to the player via video playback of their at-bats. They’ll also go over pitcher tendencies as well in an effort to gain any slight advantage while they’re at the plate.

Was anyone giving Long credit when Jacoby Ellsbury couldn’t miss a ball? So, why now that Ellsbury is having trouble hitting his way out of a paper bag, is Long the culprit?

Alfonso Soriano has always been a free-swinger? Is Long going to change that? Would Soriano even let him try?

What about Yangervis Solarte? Anyone wonder why all of the sudden this guy is hitting so well? He’s a career minor leaguer without eye-popping success in the lower levels. How do you know Solarte has not had extensive work with Long and figured something out? It’s possible, isn’t it?

How about Mark Teixeira? This guy was considered dead weight by many at the beginning of the season. Has his power come back because of Long? Nope, the power is all Teixeira’s. Did Long help Teixeira along the way to make his swing more compact and work on keeping his hands on the bat longer through the swing? Probably yes.

Further, the Yankees currently own the fifth-best batting average among all MLB teams and rank 10th in team OPS. Is this Long’s doing?

Whichever way you look at it, Long does not hit for the players. He can only do so much when a guy like Sale is on the mound. The best hitters in baseball have issues with Sale. Is there a hitter on the Yankees you’d consider to be among the BEST in the league? You’re fooling yourself if you believe the answer is yes.

Likewise, Long should not get all the credit for the actual hot streaks players get on. While he might have had a hand in correcting a swing issue, ultimately it is on the player to translate the swing path from batting practice and their work in the cage to game situations.

In the end a player’s hitting performance, good or bad, is not simply because of Long. So if the Yankees continue to look weak at the plate and you bash Long that's your prerogative. But, at least give him some credit when they begin to smack the cover off the ball too. It should work both ways.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka shines every fifth game

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka arrived from Japan with colossal expectations and a lengthy unbeaten streak many thought would not take long to break against Major League teams.

He’s surpassed those expectations and extended the streak. In a season where consistency has been a team issue, there is no such unpredictability when Tanaka takes the mound every fifth game.

Tanaka moved to 6-0 (eight starts) Wednesday night hurling his first MLB shutout against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Tanaka has a sparkling 2.17 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and has held batters to a measly .214 batting average. He has 66 strikeouts in 58 innings and has walked just seven batters.

The Yankees have found their stopper, their ace and the arm they hope to lean on for years to come. They needed a big performance Wednesday after being beat down by the Mets in the two games at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka delivered.

What’s been most impressive to me is Tanaka’s demeanor on the mound. We knew of the talent, the splitter, the 34-game streak without a loss in Japan, but we had not witnessed his work ethic or conduct firsthand.

It is difficult to know when Tanaka is struggling or cruising. He displays the same expression, the same piercing eyes and the same look of sheer determination to get the job done.

More than the determination, we see that Tanaka is a humble man. He has described some of his outings as not so good, when in fact they were very good. He’s not satisfied with simply winning and won’t allow himself to be complacent. He wants to be impressive and so far, he’s been more than that.

Yes, he’ll lose a game. He might even turn in a few stinkers along the way. But, Masahiro Tanaka is grounded. He’s shown the willpower to be the best, paired with his immense talent allowing him to be extremely productive on the field. Very few players possess such a combination of traits.

The Yankees took a big leap signing him to a seven-year, $155 million contract. To this point he’s been worth every penny, and looks like an investment which could pay great dividends.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New York Yankees: “He’s hurt too”

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi sat at the table after the game with a dejected look. His pitching staff (yes, everyone who touched the ball Monday, not just the bullpen) couldn't hold two separate three-run leads and wound up losing to the New York Mets 9-7 in the latest inception of the Subway Series.

While scratching his head trying to work through the questions about the poor pitching display, his news conference turned into a barrage of injury updates, some old, some new and mostly unsurprising.

As has been the case for several years now, the Yankees have fielded one of Major League Baseball's oldest teams. With that brings the assumption, and in some eyes the expectation that there will be some injuries along the way.

With CC Sabathia being the most recent player, the Yankees have now placed eight men on the disabled list this season, and it could grow quickly to a level difficult to maintain based on Girardi’s statements.


Carlos Beltran was removed from Monday’s tilt after swinging a bat in the cage and hyper-extending his right elbow. Mark Teixeira’s legs are filled with cement. Shawn Kelley, who was thought to be better, is suffering from a nagging back problem. Finally we learned last night that Ichiro Suzuki was unavailable because of back pain as well, prompting Girardi to utter words with an I can’t believe this is happening tone in his voice.

"He's hurt too."

Believe it Joe. This occurs when the team is filled with older players and those who have a history of missing time. Sure some of the injuries are just bad luck (Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova for example), but much of the problems the Yankees have endured thus far with hurt players can be related to age, previous injury history or both.

What’s most interesting about the list of players befell by injury is that it has not included Derek Jeter (39), Hiroki Kuroda (39), Jacoby Ellsbury (an injury specialist) and Brian Roberts (a DL expert). But considering their age and/or history plus the trends, they are sure to suffer their own short-term maladies or find their way on to the DL at some point. It actually seems inevitable considering the Yankees poor luck in recent seasons.

Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman will have their work cut out for them filling the gaps. The depth of the farm system, continually a question mark, could be tested very soon and very often for the remainder of the season. Can it handle the burden?

“He’s hurt too,” is a tagline no team wants and the Yankees can ill-afford.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Saturday, May 10, 2014

SportsHi5: Powerful sports community micro-blogging mobile app

I'm going off the baseball path today to let you know about a sports micro-blogging mobile app that I had a large part in creating. It's called SportsHi5 and it's built for sports enthusiasts looking for a place to share their sports knowledge and gain exposure while eliminating the noise present in other social media networks.

SportsHi5, available in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store, is marketed to three distinct groups within the sports industry – fans, inexperienced sports bloggers and established sports bloggers/writers/websites.

SportsHi5 is fast, free (though we provide an in-app upgrade) and simple to use. For those who want to track their favorite sports, SportsHi5 eliminates the noise present in other social media networks. For others that enjoy the banter with other fans, SportsHi5 embodies it. And for those who aspire to be or who are already established sports bloggers/writers/website owners, SportsHi5 can help expand their audience.

Among the many features SportsHi5 provides its users:

Fast and Powerful:
  • Quickly create written content -  add photos, videos and links
  • Track your favorite sports based on your account selections
  • Schedule blog posts for advanced date/time
  • Manage multiple authors to write for your blog
  • Write for other blogs
  • Private messages
  • Group only posts
  • Give and receive comments for posts
Connect with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ Audiences:
  • Automatically push your SportsHi5 posts to Facebook and Twitter (also Google+ on iOS)
  • Share information published by other users to your social networks
  • Finish a tweet with #SportsHi5 or #Sportsideo and it will push to your account stream
Special Features:
  • “My Locker” - View content streams of your favorite sports
  • “At the Game” – Interact with others at your current location – in the arena or at the ballpark
  • Search for content by sport, sport subject, account name and writer’s name
  • Receive notifications when outside of SportsHi5
  • Climb the SportsHi5 rankings by gaining Fans and receiving Hi5’s for your work
Upgrade to SportsHi5 ProWriter for just $1.99:
  • Manage 5 different blog accounts with multiple writers
  • Eliminate in-app advertising
  • Dictate your posts (Android only)
If you have any questions about the app, or issues/concerns after downloading it, feel free to contact me by email at ccarelli@sportsideo.com.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

MLB: THIS is why replay is vital to baseball’s success

If there was any question as to whether instant replay in Major League Baseball was essential to the growth and integrity of the sport, it was answered Tuesday night in Pittsburgh where the Pirates edged the San Francisco Giants 2-1 in dramatic fashion.

Pirates’ outfielder Starling Marte drove a ball to the right field wall and scampered around the bases sliding into third base with a triple. The throw got by Giants’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval and Marte hustled for home.

Here’s the play.


There have been a multitude of replays so far this season but none as compelling and decisive as this one. THIS is the reason baseball needs replay.

Say what you want about the tradition of the game being altered with instant replay, but the history of the game should no longer be swayed by incorrect calls. Getting the call right and awarding a victory without reservation is much better than keeping to a custom ripe with the potential for human error.

The replay from Tuesday, and those preceding it, demonstrates why it is an essential component to the continued success of Major League Baseball.

If the Pirates reach the playoffs by one game, this one will be remembered as a day the call was right, not wrong.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New York Yankees: Will Derek Jeter benefit from Brendan Ryan's Return?

When New York Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter announced during spring training that he would retire after this season there was plenty of speculation about how he would be handled in terms of appearances. How often would he sit? When would he slot in as the designated hitter? The plan was never fully executed due to the injury of Brendan Ryan.

Ryan, the sure-handed and slick fielding shortstop, has been on the disabled list since the end of spring training recuperating from a back injury. Ryan is set to be activated Tuesday according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, and it might come at the perfect time for Jeter and the Yankees.

The narrative over the last several games was how Jeter looks “old” at the plate. After suffering through a 0-for-14 slump, Jeter rapped two hits in Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels, to break the skid. Prior to the longer 3-for-28 slide, Jeter “looked young” his average sitting at .294 (April 25).

So which is it?

There is no doubt that Jeter could use more rest. He’s got to be able to spend at least two full days off the field in my view; one completely on the bench and the other as the DH. With the roster being short a player due to Michael Pineda’s suspension that Yankees have not had this luxury.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has a difficult task ahead of him for the rest of the season. He surely wants to accommodate Jeter and get him in as many games as possible. But he also has to steer this team into winning games. If resting Jeter twice every seven games helps him be that much more productive in the other five, I think it’s a no-brainer.

With Ryan back in the fold, Girardi has the chance to do this. He can completely rest Jeter on days against a tough right-hander (Jeter is hitting .211 against righties and .302 versus lefties) and DH Jeter in day after night games. There are other players in the mix for DH time, so there is even the potential of Jeter fully sitting two out of seven games if tough matchups exist.

Further, when the Yankees are ahead by a bunch of runs or behind in the same fashion, Ryan can soak up a couple of innings on the field. Jeter still gets three/four at-bats and resting those couple innings every so often will provide some relief.

Additionally, Ryan provides a major step up in the field. Jeter currently holds a -3.6 UZR-150 rating. Ryan owns a career 11.7 UZR-150 mark in the metric at shortstop. This could benefit the Yankees when a groundball pitcher is on the mound; CC Sabathia has a 1.97 GB/FB ratio this season and Masahiro Tanaka sits at 1.67. Ryan could also spell Jeter in crucial late-inning situations which could give the captain even more rest. Ryan’s bat is nothing to write home about, but he is adequate enough and his defense makes up the difference.

Look, Jeter is not going to ask for this. He’ll play as hard as possible right through Game-162 and potentially into the playoffs. He’ll continue to tell everyone, including Girardi, he’s 'good to go' even when he’s a bit sluggish. But, the reality is as Jeter turns 40 there’s only so much he can endure and the more he tries to brush it aside the more it could hurt the club. Jeter will be better off with more rest and in the end so will the Yankees.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Saturday, May 3, 2014

New York Yankees: Extra-inning loss has it all

The New York Yankees are going through a rough stretch. The frustrations peaked Friday night, into Saturday morning as they lost a 14-inning, five-hour and 49-minute heartbreaker to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The game had all sorts of interesting and weird occurrences, as well as ramifications for Saturday’s matinee.

The Good
  • Jacoby Ellsbury continues to be a sparkplug going 4-for-6 with a walk and a stolen base.
  • Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano all homered.
  • Teixeira’s and Soriano’s homers were back-to-back and tied the game in the eighth inning.
  • Brian Roberts stroked three important hits from the ninth inning on.
  • The Yankees rapped out 18 hits.
  • The bullpen allowed just one run from the fifth inning (one out recorded) through the 13th inning.
  • The Yankees showed some never-say-die attitude tying the game in the eighth and ninth innings.
  • The Yankees turned five double-plays.
The Bad
  • Derek Jeter went 0-for-7 for the first time in this career, leaving six runners on base in the process.
  • Jeter’s average dropped from .271 to .250.
  • The Yankees went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
  • Starting pitcher Vidal Nuno only lasted 4 2/3 innings.
  • David Robertson allowed his first run of the season.
  • Reliever Chris Leroux was completely ineffective allowing five runs on five hits and two walks.
The Wild and Wacky
  • The Yankees used every player at their disposal
  • There were two challenge calls overturning plays at first base.
  • Rays manager Joe Maddon was tossed after arguing a challenge call.
  • There were two run down plays.
  • The Rays turned a 4-3-3-6-3-4-3-4-5-2 double play.
  • Leroux struck out arguably the Rays two best players, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist while getting torched by everyone else.
The Ramifications

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was candid when asked about the bullpen situation.

“Our bullpen’s a mess, no doubt about it,” said Girardi via Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog.

The Yankees will likely make at least one roster move for the day, getting rid of Leroux. I’d guess Alfredo Aceves is a top choice because he can go long and last pitched on April 28. Today is his start day for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Chase Whitley, another SWB starter last pitched April 29, so he could be an choice as well. If the Yankees want to go the reliever route there are a multitude of options at their disposal.

The best case scenario is that Saturday’s starter Masahiro Tanaka will be lights out and efficient with his pitches allowing for a full day of rest for the bullpen. I’d guess that even if Tanaka is having a tough time, Girardi will have him out there for 110-120 pitches in a 'take one for the team' instance. If there is a starter to have on the mound in this situation, it is Tanaka.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



Friday, May 2, 2014

Bronx Bummers: Yankees’ offensive funk continues

There were few positives for the New York Yankees to point after the two-game series loss to the Seattle Mariners. One negative trend has manifested into a complete issue. This offense is weak and dragging the team down.

The Yankees have scored 13 runs over their last five games. Their pathetic offensive display was magnified by a bargain basement starter and an unheralded rookie.

The Yankees were held in check by Chris Young, who hadn’t won a MLB game since 2012 and rookie pitcher Roenis Elias. Young stymied the Yankees allowing just one earned run on three hits across 5 2/3 innings, while Elias was even better allowing one run over seven innings and striking out 10 batters.

The Yankees offense has a combined .261/.326/.404 line ranking 10th in team OPS in MLB. This was supposed to be a bounce back season for the club in terms of offense after signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. Only Ellsbury has performed consistently well since the onset of the season.

Here’s a look at some Yankees hitting stats from players with more than 40 plate appearances.



There isn’t much to say other than the offense has been mostly feeble. The team has yet to put together a stretch where calling them the Bombers applies. The club has a negative run differential (-13) and while the pitching rotation is suspect, the issues some Yankees’ hurlers are enduring are not exactly surprising.

But what has been unexpected is that Beltran and McCann are flailing right now. McCann has yet to put together a run of more than a couple games in which he’s looked comfortable at the plate.

The issues do not stem from just the newcomers with loads of cash dumped in their laps. Other free agent signings like Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson have failed to show much promise.

While Yangervis Solarte had a solid first couple of weeks, he has slowed immensely going 5-for-34 over his last eight games.

The outfield holdovers from last season are not exactly lighting a fire thus far. Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano are treading on mediocre performances thus far. Ichiro Suzuki should be commended for his performance, but he’s been riding the pine for much of the season.

The book on Mark Teixeira is still too young to judge though he looks to be swinging the bat harder, showing the wrist might be getting stronger. Derek Jeter has been fairly consistent, but he’s not much more than a singles hitter right now (three extra-base hits).

The Yankees do not have a feared hitter (except maybe Ellsbury right now), which necessitates consistent positive production throughout the lineup. One player can't do it alone for this squad. It's going to take an immediate and collective turnaround or else the Yankees will find themselves slipping in the standings.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.