Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Forearm strain, wrist tendinitis lands Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka on DL

The New York Yankees announced starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right wrist and a “very mild” forearm strain after taking an MRI this evening. Tanaka is "conservatively" out for one month according to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman via multiple reporters including Newsday's Brian Heyman.

Masahiro Tanaka
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
Cashman met with the media during Tuesday’s game and then was interviewed live on the YES Network. Cashman said the issue is minor, but the club with take it slow with their prized pitcher considering his partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Cashman did say that there was no change in Tanaka’s elbow.

Tanaka said he felt the pain Monday morning after Sunday’s bullpen session according to YES Network reporter Meredith Marakovits. He felt it again during his session today and told trainer Steve Donahue which led to the tests. Marakovits noted that Tanaka felt as though he would be fine once the time passes and did not think this was related to his elbow. She also mentioned that Tanaka was reserved with his words when describing the injury.

Tuesday night’s starter Chase Whitley will stay up with the club, and Gregorio Petit, who was optioned earlier in the day to make room for Whitley will be brought back up tomorrow.
This is obviously a big blow for the Yankees rotation. Earlier today, I suggested that the rotation as a whole would need to begin to last longer in games and Tanaka was one of the keys to making that happen.

The good news is that Whitley has plenty of experience after spending most of the first part of last season with the Yankees and Chris Capuano is beginning his rehab assignment soon so if Whitley cannot give the team the performance required to stay in the rotation, the lefty veteran could step in. Ivan Nova is also due back in June as he continues to rehab from his Tommy John surgery. The Yankees also have Bryan Mitchell in the minors if all else fails or if there is another injury in the meantime.

Hopefully this injury is not a precursor to more issues with Tanaka and his elbow. It is too hard to tell at this time and to speculate beyond what we’ve been told is not prudent. Everyone will have to take a wait and see approach as Tanaka hits the shelf. The Yankees will have to buckle down and survive at least one month without their star pitcher.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Time for Yankees’ rotation to help bullpen

The New York Yankees are 20 games into the season and find themselves in first place in the American League East for the first time since May 2014. With a 12-8 record, the Yankees have put aside a 1-4 start and a big reason for their success is an extremely talented bullpen.

Dellin Betances
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
Yes, the Yankees have received some nice starts from their rotation, and sure they have been better on offense than some expected. But, it is the bullpen that has shined from the outset and carried the rotation. It is time for a shift in balance.

Yankees' catcher Brian McCann summed up the bullpen’s performance.

“I’ll put our guys up against anybody,” McCann said according to Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog. “The stuff that’s coming out of the bullpen is incredible.”

The relief crew is led by a two-headed monster that measures up with any other one-two punch a team can provide at the end of ballgames. Andrew Miller has eight saves in as many chances and while he has not been dubbed the closer by manager Joe Girardi, he knows his role right now includes finishing games. In a few weeks Miller might be asked to nail down some outs in the eighth inning when a slew of left-handed hitters come to the plate. And that’s totally fine with Miller.

Miller’s partner Dellin Betances has flat-out dominated the last several games and said he found his curveball in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago which started his transformation back to what we saw in 2014. Betances has retired 21 straight batters without allowing a hit, striking out 12 hitters and walking just one in that span.

The setup men (Justin Wilson and David Carpenter) have done a very good job of getting big outs and bridging the gap to Betances. Middle relievers, Chris Martin and Chasen Shreve, have shown to be quite reliable in their roles. Esmil Rogers has provided quality innings when needed.

Despite the success of the relief crew (71 IP, 1.71 ERA, .167 BAA, 0.97 WHIP, 9.9 K/9), now is the time the rotation needs to step up their game and create a bit more balance between the number of innings between starters and relievers. The relievers have tossed an average of 3.73 innings per game, which is second in the majors. The Yankees cannot expect such positive results with that kind of workload for an entire season.

It begins with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Both starters have shown the ability to be economical with their pitches and Tanaka regularly pitched into and beyond the seventh inning last season. Right now Tanaka and Pineda are averaging 5.6 and 6.4 innings per start respectively. Tanaka has been better his last two starts after throwing nine total innings in his first two appearances. Pineda lasted seven and two-thirds in his last start.

CC Sabathia (6.4 IP per start), Nathan Eovaldi (5.4 IP per start) and Adam Warren (5.2 IP per start) need to do their part as well. While Tanaka and Pineda have shown the ability to last through the seventh inning, these guys are more likely to be able to provide six innings-plus which would be better than what they are producing now.

Basically, if the rotation could push another inning on average to their side of the ledger it would permit Girardi to truly utilize his relief crew to his advantage. Intermittent rest would allow for stretches when a consecutive handful of games require the best relievers to supply innings. At this time, it is almost a certainty that a few relievers will be used in each game, regardless of the score.

Each starter is fully stretched out at this point, so now it is up to the rotation members to dig deeper and provide some length or by the dog days of summer the relief crew will be dragging their arms.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Monday, April 27, 2015

Why Yankees refuse to market Alex Rodriguez's home run milestones

The New York Yankees took the rubber game of their weekend series against the crosstown New York Mets Sunday night by a score of 6-4. Alex Rodriguez was a key contributor to the victory, hammering career home run no. 659. Rodriguez is now one homer shy of tying Hall of Famer Willie Mays on the all-time home run list.

Alex Rodriguez
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison
via Flickr.
Major League Baseball decided long ago not to expunge statistics for players who have been caught taking performance-enhancing drugs, or who have been undeniably linked to them as Rodriguez was in the Biogenesis scandal. And because of that, there is little arguing that he is on the brink of tying Mays for fourth on the home run list. It’s a fact. How he got there can be debated from now until our grandchildren watch the game and consume its history, but once he hits his next home run it will be no. 660.

What’s at question for Rodriguez and the Yankees is a milestone rider to his contract he signed with the club when he re-upped for 10 years, $275 million back in 2007. That addendum states Rodriguez is due performance bonuses of $6 million each for tying Mays, Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762), and then for passing Bonds (763) on MLB's all-time home run list. The Yankees believed they had a "clean" player who could be celebrated for reaching such measures. They no longer feel the same way.

The Yankees have commented through back channels that they will not be paying Rodriguez these bonuses because he is no longer a marketable player. Their contention is that when Rodriguez signed his deal they were under the impression that he had never taken PEDs (he’s since admitted to such) and then further tarnished his name by being an integral participant in the Biogenesis operation.

The Yankees claim that regardless of Rodriguez’s passing the milestones, they can no longer tie promotions or marketing campaigns to it because they become immediately intertwined with his PED use. There is nothing to celebrate here according to the Yankees.

A clause in the milestone agreement seems to aid the Yankees.

"The Yankees are under no obligation to exercise its right to designate a historical accomplishment as a milestone provided that its decision is made in good faith and in accordance with the intent of the parties in the covenant." – via CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

The Yankees obviously stand to gain from Rodriguez’s homers from here until he hangs up his cleats, or is traded elsewhere, but they pay him a playing contract for his on-field performance and to them that’s enough. The Yankees felt when the Biogenesis scandal broke and Rodriguez was proven to be a part of it – resulting in a one-year suspension from the game – they should have been able to disavow themselves of his playing contract. They were not going to win that battle, so it never gained traction. This milestone contract however is one in which they feel they have legal standing.

From Rodriguez’s perspective, he’s just happy to be playing. He seems to be enjoying every waking moment he is on the field. Putting aside his indiscretions, Rodriguez has always shown a kid-like emotion toward the game.

“I’m excited about the win today, I’m excited about the home run," Rodriguez said according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. "I’m having fun.”

Rodriguez has been at his best behavior thus far this season. From the moment he arrived at Spring Training in February, Rodriguez talked baseball and baseball only. He said he was fighting for a job, and truly he was. After 17 months away from the game, what was the team to expect?

He won the designated hitter job, and has been one of the most productive hitters in the lineup from day one of the regular season. He currently owns a .267/.405/.583 slash line with five home runs, four doubles and 13 RBI in 74 plate appearances.

Many in the game, including the Yankees are certainly surprised with what Rodriguez has offered early on this season. He probably is as well. The club might have hoped in some ways that he would fail and have to move on. Instead he looks better than he did before he last played in 2013.

But, the important question here is can the Yankees get away with saying he is not marketable? How much of a backlash would they truly receive if they celebrated Rodriguez’s home run milestones? Why not just pay it and move on; considering this might be the only one he reaches.

Catching the iconic Ruth would require another 54 home runs before 2017. If he stays healthy and maintains his current production, tying Ruth could come sometime next season. Rodriguez has proven to have plenty of power, so now it’s a matter of staying on the field. That won’t be easy for a soon-to-be 40-year-old man.

But, in the Yankees view, if they celebrate Rodriguez passing Mays, they’d have to continue on if he passed Ruth. Can you imagine the Yankees celebrating a disgraced player like Rodriguez for passing the most famous baseball player of all time, let alone the greatest Yankee of all-time? There would be a great divide among fans, one which the Yankees don’t want any part of.

A good number of fans never left Rodriguez’s side. They backed him throughout the scandal and suspension; many of that faction believing Rodriguez was part of a witch hunt and further felt MLB was out to get him. Some fans straddled the fence, and have come around on Rodriguez because he is hitting. It would be interesting to see if he would have as much support if he was hitting like Carlos Beltran is right now. Other fans flat out despise him regardless of his current production.

This is where the Yankees have an argument. There is enough of a percentage of fans across the country (and world I suppose) that believe Rodriguez should not even be a part of the game. They believe this about all performance-enhancing users no matter if the player has paid the price the league doled out or not. They believe celebrating a cheater’s milestones disrespects the players (Mays in this case) who first reached the mark. The Yankees want to avoid this at all costs.

Is there any tangible proof that fans are embracing Rodriguez? There are plenty of fans on social media who truly love him; but seemingly as many who cannot stand him. As for concrete numbers – T-shirt and jersey sales for example – there is nothing being reported from reputable firms which detail such measures at this time.

The Yankees are a multibillion dollar business. Their marketing team surely crunched the numbers and deemed printing special items surrounding Rodriguez’s home runs would not bring in the revenue (or profits) they expected when agreeing to the milestone addendum. If the Yankees believed they could still profit from Rodriguez in some way, they would. The reality is that the Yankees do not and it is easier to suggest they are correct, than to imply they are missing the boat.

Yes, Rodriguez is helping the team win games right now. And he is being paid to do just that. He will receive every penny of the remaining $61 million on his contract through the 2017 season. But, home runs 660, 714, 755, 762 and 763 mean nothing more to the club now except for how many runs he drives in with them. How those home runs impact the specific game is all the Yankees believe they are worth at the moment.

Placing Rodriguez on a mantel above Mays, Ruth, Aaron and even Bonds (who has only been suspected of PED use, none of which have been proven or admitted to by the slugger) is not going to net the club extra profits and they feel that celebrating Rodriguez makes them look as though they support how he got there.

The Yankees will pay Rodriguez for his performance as they are obligated to, but will fight to have to pay more for home runs they believe mean little to the bottom line and would put the club’s integrity at risk. It is hard to argue with that stance.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Friday, April 24, 2015

Hot Yankees host scalding-hot Mets

When was the last time the New York Mets came into Yankee Stadium riding an franchise-record-tying 11-game winning streak? Never, until now. Yes, the boys from Queens are red-hot and will face a slightly-less-hot New York Yankees club that has won six of their last seven games (seven of 10 on the road trip) to move two games above .500 and into a three-way tied for first place in the American League East.

The Mets’ 13-3 start is tied for the best in club history with the 1986 World Series championship team and the 10-0 homestand they just completed was the first ever such domination. It was a stark contrast to the Yankees last homestand which saw them lose four of six games.

The Mets have one of the better rotations in the game and will send out Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Jon Niese in succession to the hill in the series. The Yankees have been getting solid pitching as well and will counter with Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi respectively.

The Mets bullpen is depleted due to injury, but if they've rallied around each other and once they get the game to Jeurys Familia it’s been a done deal. The Yankees bullpen is certainly a strength this season; having one of the best one-two tandems in the game with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.

On offense, the Mets lost David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud to injury, but Lucas Duda and the rest of the Mets have contributed to the run-scoring efforts and come into Friday’s action ninth in MLB in runs scored (73). The Yankees lead MLB in home runs (21) and rank tied for second in runs scored (85).

The Mets began the season with plenty of promise in part to getting Harvey back and having deGrom with a Rookie of the Year season under his belt. The team has young talent mixed with veteran leadership. The addition of Michael Cuddyer to the offense led by Wright, Duda and Curtis Granderson also had some believing the Mets could be knocking on the postseason door come October. So far the Mets have been able to withstand the injuries and that too shows they’ve built enough depth for this early success to last through the season.

Alex Rodriguez
Courtesy of Keith Allison
The Yankees on the other hand had been deemed old, injury-prone, uninspired and even boring, but have shown to be quite the opposite. The rotation has remained healthy and has begun to string together strong starts as a group. The offense has been getting contributions throughout much of the lineup. The Yankees have won blowouts and close games. They’ve put aside a rough first five games and even their recent losses could have been victories with a different bounce here or there.

The Yankees and Mets split last season’s shortened Subway Series winning two games apiece. The Yanks hold a 56-42 edge in the interleague series, but the Mets have won four straight in the Bronx. So there are two streaks the Yankees will try to end Friday night.

It will not be easy as deGrom has been stellar this season (2-1, 0.93 ERA, 17 K in 19.1 IP). Pineda has a 2-0 record, but a 5.00 ERA. His best start was the first one of the season, so he’ll be looking to right his personal ship.

On Saturday, Harvey takes center stage against Sabathia in a battle of present/future versus the past. Harvey is 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA. He has struck out 24 batters and walked just one in his 18 innings of work. Sabathia, in the midst of a reclamation project of sorts has lost all three of his starts, but has gotten progressively better each time out.

In the finale the left-handed and typically solid Niese (2-0, 1.50 ERA in 18 innings) meets the newest Yankee starter Eovaldi (1-0, 3.12 ERA in 17.1 innings) who is still trying to limit the number of hits he allows per game (currently 12.7 per nine).

There are some good storylines besides the pitching.

Curtis Granderson returns to the Bronx as does former Yanks hitting coach Kevin Long. Granderson has had a tough start to the season (.200/.375/.220) but leads the team in walks with 14 suggesting he is seeing the ball well and it is just a matter of time before the hits start to drop. Granderson enjoyed his best seasons from a power perspective in the Bronx, so the short porch in right field remains inviting for the left-handed slugger who is homerless so far this season.

Duda leads the Mets’ regulars in hits, doubles, AVG, OBP and OPS. The first baseman’s lefty swing plays very well at Yankee Stadium.

Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores is hitting .421/.421/727 with two homers and four RBI in his last five games. Mets prospect Kevin Plawecki, who is now catching with d'Arnaud on the shelf, recorded two hits in his major league debut Tuesday. How he handles the pitching staff could be a key to the series.

Chris Young
Courtesy of Keith Allison
For the home team, Chris Young, a former Met who performed miserably in Queens, has been great with the Yankees since they signed him off the scrapheap at the end of last season. He’s been hitting so well early on (.357/.426/.762 with four home runs and nine RBI in 46 plate appearances) that the Yankees have been forced to find the outfielder hired as a reserve time as a starter.

After a quick start to the season, Alex Rodriguez slowed down a bit in the series with the Detroit Tigers, but still owns a .991 OPS with four home runs and 11 RBI. A-Rod is two homers shy of tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list with 660. The Yankees have an agreement with Rodriguez to pay him $6 million when he ties Mays, but it has been reported the club will fight the payment, claiming that they can no longer market the milestone due to Rodriguez’s performance-enhancing drug history which includes a yearlong suspension.

Despite hitting just .196 on the season, Mark Teixeira leads the club in homers and RBI with five and 13 respectively. Teixeira will continue to hit for a low average because he refuses to battle the shift, but if he approaches the 30/100 mark in homers and RBI (he’s on pace for 51/132), the Yankees will take it.

In all the series shapes up to be a hard fought one. There is pride on the line, but that’s more for the fans. These clubs want wins to further their respective positions in the standings. They’ll take the pride that comes with winning a championship before a three-game series in April.

One of the teams is going to come up on the short end of the series. Both teams are riding highs and playing very good baseball. It would seem the team that plays the most complete series will come out on top.

Statistics via Baseball-Reference.

New York Yankees logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Thursday, April 23, 2015

What happens when injured Yankees return?

As the New York Yankees raised themselves over the .500 mark with Wednesday’s 13-4 drubbing of the Detroit Tigers, we received some injury updates which could soon impact the current roster. How will these returning players change the landscape of the Yankees?

For the sake of this thought process, let’s assume that the Yankees remain otherwise healthy once the players return. Sure, there is a chance that someone will go down, thus making room for an injured player to return without a big change in the roster, but it’s entirely too difficult to try and factor that in for this exercise.

Jose Pirela is finally getting into game action after sustaining a concussion a few weeks ago during a Spring Training game. He went one-for-three in an extended Spring Training game Monday in which he played third base. He played second base Wednesday. Pirela would be the fans choice to immediately be called back to the Bronx. But where would he play?

There is no starting position for him. He would be a bench player at this point. The Yankees are sticking with Stephen Drew at second base and Didi Gregorius at shortstop for the time being despite the immense struggles of the latter. Yes, Pirela could play the role that Gregorio Petit is doing right now, occasionally spell Drew or Gregorius, but I believe the Yankees would prefer to have Pirela starting on a daily basis at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Part of the reason that is the case is because another injured player, Brendan Ryan, is also on the mend. Once he is ready to be activated, the Yankees will likely designate Petit for assignment and the backup infield role will be Ryan’s. He can play third, short and second and the Yankees would prefer to have his glove (regardless of the weak bat) for random fill-in days.

On the mound, Chris Capuano will throw two innings in an extended spring game today. He is expected back in mid-May. It’s hard to suggest that Adam Warren has done enough to eliminate the chance that he will be replaced by Capuano when the veteran returns.

In 15 innings, spanning three starts, Warren is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. He has two more walks than strikeouts (eight and six respectively) and has allowed 16 hits, including two home runs. He’ll get at least a few more starts to change manager Joe Girardi’s mind, but it looks like Warren would at least be pushed back to the bullpen as the long man.

It would seem that leaves lefty Chasen Shreve or righty Esmil Rogers as the odd men. Shreve could be optioned back to Triple-A, but Rogers would need to be designated for assignment. If for some reason Warren sticks in the rotation, Shreve would certainly be sent down as the Yankees would not want four lefties in the bullpen.

Finally, Ivan Nova, who is recuperating from Tommy John surgery, threw 35 pitches in live batting practice Tuesday. He will pitch in a simulated game Friday. He remains on track for a return in June.

Nova would surely be placed into the rotation upon his return which would have a further ripple effect if Capuano is also back in the mix as planned, and there are no other injuries. Stay tuned as that type of scenario would lead to some interesting roster decisions.

The Yankees have remained relatively healthy, but there are plenty of concerns with guys like Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia so having the bulge of starter options is a good problem for the club to have.

For now, the Yankees will hope to stay off the disabled list, and let the decisions to be made when players return, be about performance. In the end, the club wants the best players on the field.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Yankees checking all the boxes

The New York Yankees defeated the Detroit Tigers 5-2 Tuesday night behind a complete team effort. It marks the club's fourth win in five games and for the most part they are winning with efforts that check all the boxes of a complete win.

The Yanks have been getting solid pitching, good offensive production, excellent defense and even some quality base running. Remember the four facets Alex Rodriguez mentioned and discussed here? The Yankees are beginning to find some consistency among them, allowing for the opportunity to win ballgames.

Tuesday night exemplified what teams strive for each contest; high-quality efforts from all parts of the game. Nathan Eovaldi tossed seven innings of one-run ball. Dellin Betances looked the best he has all season and Andrew Miller locked down his fifth save in as many chances.

The Bombers received home runs from Chris Young and Stephen Drew (they lead the majors with 20), scoring five runs in all. The Yankees turned four double plays and once again did not make any errors (six straight games now). Finally, the Yanks received two stolen bases, one each from Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner (they have three and five respectively on the season).

Eovaldi showed great poise when he allowed runners on base. He gave up a league-high 223 hits in 2014, so he still needs to work on the number of base runners he’s allowing (nine Tuesday via eight hits and one walk), but he never got worked up when the Tigers had men on the bags. That’s saying something against a team that came into the series averaging 5.7 runs per game. The Tigers have scored just four runs in the first two games of the series.

Betances has slowly been finding his form and Tuesday night marked his best effort of the season. His fastball reached 96 mph and his curveball was excellent dropping from 12-to-6 just like last season when he dominated hitters. With Betances and Miller throwing well, the Yankees will be difficult to overcome with leads in the eighth inning.

Young is absolutely on fire. He leads the team, or is tied for the team lead, in six standard offensive categories (doubles, homers, AVG, OBP, SLG and OPS). Young had been getting playing time with Gardner's wrist injury and then with Carlos Beltran missing time due to illness. Tuesday, he simply got the start because he is a better option right now than Beltran.

Drew has eight hits this season, but four of them have left the yard. He is slashing .190/.286/.500. While it would be nice if he got on base a bit more often, if he is going supply power and drive in runs (he has eight RBI, fourth best on the team as the #8 hitter) combined with playing above-average defense (which he is at two positions), the Yankees will not be moving him anytime soon.

Seeing Ellsbury and Gardner begin to wreck havoc on the bases is a great sign. While the Yankees will take all the homers, it’s nice to put pressure on pitchers when possible. Often, when pitchers are worried about base runners, they make mistakes to the middle of the lineup hitters. The Yankees can take advantage of those situations with Ellsbury and Gardner.

Tuesday’s win had it all; just like a couple others in the past few days. Once the Yankees begin to string strong play together on a daily basis the series wins will come as well. Complete efforts and series wins are the focus as the Yankees continue to shake off their 1-4 start.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Yankees encouraged by winless Sabathia

The New York Yankees have not won a game in which CC Sabathia has pitched this season, yet the team is probably as excited about three losses as they could be considering what Sabathia has done on the mound thus far.

Of course, it is just three games and we cannot assume that Sabathia’s knee will hold up, but we also cannot ignore the underlying components of Sabathia’s work in his first few turns through the rotation.


He is stronger. He is showing much better control. His velocity, while not at 2009 rates, has been sustained through the game. He has not allowed a ton of hard hit balls. He’s producing many groundballs. He’s getting swing and misses. He is not walking many batters.

On the flip side, Sabathia is having a hard time stranding runners. He’s experiencing a little bit of bad luck. He’s getting very little run support (2.3 per game).

Monday night’s 2-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers was the third straight step in the right direction where it concerned Sabathia’s performance. As River Ave. Blues’ Mike Axisa describes here, Sabathia was still throwing with the same velocity in his final inning of work as he began the game with. That’s a great sign.

Further, Sabathia held down a Tigers offense that came into the game averaging 5.7 runs per game. He kept the Yankees in a tight game until the seventh inning when a single off the glove of Didi Gregorius and another single into center field drove in the tying and go-ahead runs respectively.

Fans want wins and so does Sabathia. He’s encouraged by the way he has pitched, but he’s discouraged that he doesn’t have a win to show for it.

“I’ve been getting better every time out,” Sabathia said via Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog. “Obviously that’s not equating to wins or helping us.”

For now, fans (and Sabathia) might want to look at the underlying elements of his performance and be happy he’s not the same pitcher who graced the mound from 2013-14. He is looking to be a very capable middle of the rotation arm.

He cannot be expected to regain his 2009 form, but if he can maintain the stamina and control he’s exhibited to this point, he might be more than serviceable. And that is something many believed was impossible when the season began.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Monday, April 20, 2015

Yankees decline to name Miller closer and that’s OK

Despite the fact that all four of the New York Yankees save opportunities this season have gone to Andrew Miller, the club has yet to officially anoint him the closer. And there is nothing wrong with that.

It goes a long way that Miller is completely uncaring about the role being bestowed upon him, plus the fact that he acknowledged that Dellin Betances had the more difficult task Sunday against the Rays in the Yankees' 5-3 victory.

“I’ve got the saves this year, but (Betances) went through the meat of the lineup today,” Miller said via Chad Jennings. “If you look at who had the heavier burden today, it was probably him. He came into a much tougher situation, got more outs and had to face the middle of that lineup.”

With one out in the seventh inning and a runner on second, Betances came into the game needing to get out of the seventh and potentially complete the eighth inning. The Yankees faced the heart of the Rays’ order during Betances’ time on the mound and pitched some of his best baseball so far this season. He recorded five outs on 23 pitches, allowing no hits and a walk while striking out two batters.

Miller came on in the ninth and after surrendering a leadoff double, struck out the side to give the Yankees the three-game sweep. Miller has yet to allow a run in six innings of work this season, and has racked up 12 strikeouts.

Miller has been touting the company line since Spring Training, suggesting he is fine pitching any inning the Yankees ask. As of now, they’ve been able to use him to close out games because the batters due up in the seventh or eighth innings have been right-handed for the most part, which necessitated the use of Betances.

Things could change when the Yankees face a predominantly lefty hitting lineup and those players come to the plate in the eighth inning. Manager Joe Girardi would then summon Miller and use Betances to close out the ninth. That scenario has yet to take shape this season.

“I have (done it that way), the last couple of series,” Girardi said according to Jennings. “We’re seeing a ton of right-handed hitters, and we’re going to see a bunch again (in Detroit). It’s kind of worked out that way. I’ve asked (Betances) to get some multiple innings, some multiple outs for us. Andrew has done a good job in the ninth so I’ve just kind of stuck with it right now. I’m not saying that I’ve named to anyone, but it’s just kind of the way it has worked out with the lineup we have (been facing).”

Regardless of the situation, both Miller and Betances have the ability to get hitters out from each side of the plate, so not naming a set closer also works when one of the pitchers is not in a groove. Early on this season Betances seemed to still be reigning in his mechanics and it simply worked out that Miller was in the better position to get hitters out.

Likewise, if Miller endures a stretch when he is having difficulties, Girardi will not be overly concerned, if at all, to use Betances to shut the door on a ballgame.

Having Betances and Miller buy in to being flexible concerning their roles is important, and thus far it has paid off for the Yankees. Miller has the saves now, but it shouldn’t be surprising if the tallies even out as the season progresses. And if one player does record an abundance of the saves, the other will still likely succeed and be an important piece of the puzzle in the innings prior.

Right now, all that matters to the Yankees is that the final six or more outs are being nailed down by a two-headed monster, of which neither head requires knowing he's the man who will get the save.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Friday, April 17, 2015

Yankees looking to get on track against Rays

The New York Yankees begin a three-game set Friday against division rival Tampa Bay (6-4, second place in AL East) with the hopes of winning their first series of the season. Adam Warren, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda are the scheduled starters for the Yankees versus the Rays.

Adam Warren gets the start Friday.
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison
via Flickr.
The Yankees are 3-6 on the season, good for last place in the American League East. The first nine games of the season have seen plenty of ups and downs for the club. The rotation has been OK, but big innings and bad defense have suffocated the Yankees.

Warren pitched very well in his debut (5.1 IP, 2 R, 1 ER) against the Boston Red Sox, but took the loss. Tanaka will be making his third start of the season. He was undone by a poor inning in the Yankees' opener, but was a bit better in his victory over the Red Sox. Pineda is also set for his third start after picking up his first win despite allowing four runs against the Baltimore Orioles.

Not all of the opposition scoring is the fault of the pitchers. The defense has been letting the team down with several miscues, each of which seems to open the flood gates for their opponent.

On the offensive side, the Yankees best players with the bat are Chris Young (.318/.375/.727 with 3 doubles, 2 HR & 4 RBI in 23 plate appearances) and Alex Rodriguez (.286/.394/.571 with 2 doubles, 2 HR, 7 RBI in 33 PA). That’s right, a bench player and the 39-year-old designated hitter that missed the 2014 season have shown the most consistency at the plate.

Mark Teixeira could also be placed in the group of players doing well overall (.241/.361/.655 with 3 doubles, 3 HR and 5 RBI). If Teixeira can keep up this kind of power the Yankees will deal with a low batting average.

Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius are still trying to find some consistency to their plate appearances. Beltran (.171/.211/.286) looked the best he has all season in the finale against Baltimore Wednesday night with a two-run double off the top of the wall and a long drive to the warning track. Drew has two home runs (one a go-ahead grand slam) but just two other hits leaving his slash line at .148/.200/.370. Gregorius, one of the main defensive culprits has also been pitiful at the plate  .172/.219/.172.

Brett Gardner, who missed the last two games of the Orioles series after getting hit in the wrist with a fastball, is expected to play Friday after an MRI confirmed he simply had a bone bruise.

The Yankees will face Nathan Karns Friday, Jake Odorizzi Saturday afternoon and Sunday’s Rays' pitcher has yet to be determined.

Karns, a rookie, will be making his third start of the season. He was knocked around by the Orioles in his first start of the season, but bounced back to notch the win against the Miami Marlins, racking up six strikeouts in the process of allowing just one run in seven innings.

Odorizzi is off to a great start for the Rays. He is 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA, 0.48 WHIP and 10 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. His wins came against the Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays, at home and on the road respectively. Odorizzi pitches well at Tropicana Field – 2.89 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .206 BAA and 123 strikeouts in 127.2 innings.

As for the Rays offense, they are still led by star third baseman, Evan Longoria, who is off to a bit of a slow start, and whose presence in Friday's lineup is in doubt after being hit by a pitch Thursday.

Along with Longoria, the Rays are seeing the emergence of Kevin Kiermaier continue (.344/.382/.750 with 5 doubles, 2 HR and 4 RBI) and newcomer Steven Souza has two homers, seven RBI and three stolen bases on the young season. The Yanks will miss having to face James Loney, who destroys Yankees pitching, as he is on the disabled list with an oblique strain.

Playing in Tampa has not been easy for the Yankees in recent seasons, as the Rays have won 14 of their last 22 against the Yanks at The Trop. Further, the Rays are 4-0-1 in the last five series between the clubs in Tampa since 2010.

So it seems the Yankees will need to buck a couple of trends in order to get their season headed in the right direction.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Yankees: A-Rod’s “four facets” talk rings true

The New York Yankees are 3-6, and have lost their first three series to teams in the American League East. They have a day off Thursday and face the final team in their division in a three-game set in Tampa beginning Friday.

Alex Rodriguez put the Yankees' predicament perfectly after Thursday night’s 7-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

“We’re going to be seeing these guys (the entire AL East) all year for a long time,” Rodriguez said per Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog. “We know the score. It’s important to play well. More than who we’re playing against, it’s more important to control what we can do. The four facets is what we have to go back to, focus on the fundamentals and let the big things happen when they happen.”

Say what you will about A-Rod, but he has always been a student of the game. He has been known to love chatting about baseball and is considered by many to be incredibly astute concerning the ins and outs of the game.

Rodriguez’s notion of baseball's four facets are offense, defense, pitching and base running. The Yankees have failed to provide any consistency in these areas and have yet to put together a single game in which they excelled in all four.

Rectifying the easier aspects of the four would in turn aid the success of the others.

Base running seems to be the one facet that player’s have the most control over, or at least requires the least bit of tweaking and does not relate to muscle memory as much as the other areas. It’s about knowing the situation and being wise on how to handle your role in the circumstances.

Players need to know when they can steal third base, when should they be ready to tag up on fly ball, when to try to stretch a single into a double, how big of a lead can they take without getting picked off, etc. Baseball is a mental game; in fact the mind also plays a part in the other fundamental areas of the game.

Besides, mental preparedness, the other three areas Rodriguez mentioned are much more in tune with the physical elements of the game. For example, without completely refined mechanics a pitcher will be way off the mark with his pitch location, a hitter might take too big of a stride throwing his swing off balance or a fielder could be hurrying the process of catching and throwing leading to errors. Those are just a few of many different issues that could arise which begin with a mental process, but require a physical movement (or many) to complete the play.

Because of the variety of variables that can pop up and disrupt any facet of the game for one or several players, it is nearly impossible for all four of the aspects to be completely in sync at the same time.

Teams that are successful are able to meld as many of the four facets together with the highest number of players possible for extended periods of time. Teams which display inconsistencies in two or more of the areas of the game at the same time, and worse with multitudes of players, will surely not win many games. Right now, the Yankees are mired in the latter.

The Yankees have experienced very little in terms of luck thus far, which ultimately makes poor fundamentals stand out even more. Every piece of the Yankees game is lacking something – starters are allowing big innings and not providing length in their outings, some relievers are turning in uneven appearances (mostly referring to the major meltdown Wednesday night), the offense has been completely hit or miss (pun intended), the defense as a whole has been terrible and the base running has been incredibly poor.

So, Rodriguez is right. The Yankees have to figure out a way to slow things down and get through the basics first. That’s not making bone-headed base running errors which keeps the offense at the plate providing more reps, aids in reinforcing timing and generates more scoring opportunities. It's also receiving cleaner play from the defense which aids the pitching staff by not forcing them to throw more pitches to erase the errors.

The Yankees hope the synergy begins Friday night in Tampa. It has to or else they’ll be climbing up a hill all season long.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Yankees will be patient with Stephen Drew

Whether fans like it or not, the New York Yankees will be patient with Stephen Drew. He gave everyone a reason to exhale and deliberate on his status with the club after a pinch-hit grand slam in Monday night’s 6-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Stephen Drew
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.
Drew is much maligned after putting together what was one of the worst seasons in Major League Baseball history in 2014. He held out for a better contract last offseason after being slapped with a qualifying offer from the Boston Red Sox. Suitors bypassed Drew and eventually he re-signed with Boston and began playing in June. Missing Spring Training was a certain detriment to his offensive skill set and he began losing playing time.

Drew was eventually traded to the Yankees and was not given much of a chance to play consistently as his struggles simply moved down the coast. Besides the offensive downturn, Drew was also being asked to play an entirely new position, second base. Drew ended the season with a slash line that could drive a player out of baseball – .162/.267/.299 in 300 plate appearances.

But, Drew has a track record, one which does not spell out superstar, but rather maintains respectable offensive numbers for a middle infielder. After the 2013 season, in which Drew was an important component to the Red Sox World Series championship team, the 32-year-old carried a .264/.329/.435 line in just under 4,000 plate appearances. He owned 162-game averages of 17 home runs and 72 RBI. He hit .253/.333/.433 for the Red Sox with 13 homers and 67 RBI in 2013 which is darn close to those averages.

Again, these are not spectacular figures but it placed Drew in a small category of shortstops with above-average defensive abilities and a competent bat. With prospect Rob Refsnyder requiring more seasoning at the keystone, the Yankees took a chance and signed Drew to a one-year, $5 million deal this winter. This is a drop in the bucket at this stage where it concerns MLB salaries; requiring the player to contribute less than 1.0 WAR to break even.

The Yankees figured that if Drew could get a full preseason to both find his stroke and solidify his skills at second base, he might end up being serviceable. And better, if Drew could finish with a .250/.320/.420 line with 15 or more home runs from the eighth spot in the order, they would be well ahead of anything they received in 2014.

Now, Drew detractors will note that Refsnyder might be a .800 OPS type of player, and it may well be true. But even the brightest young players who excel in Triple-A deal with a learning curve at the big league level. The Yankees want Refsnyder to feel completely at ease fielding his position, especially with a slew of groundball producing pitchers on the roster.

By demonstrating he can field his position well, Refsnyder can gain confidence in his overall abilities and will not be learning on the job. The learning process should be handled in the minors; that’s what the lower levels of professional ball are about. So long as Drew handles his role, and there are no significant injuries around the infield causing movement of players, the Yankees will likely keep Refsnyder in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre until September.



As Drew hit the go-ahead grand slam, his second home run of the season, he might have gained a better grip on his roster spot. The Yankees see he has the potential to be the player he was as recently as 2013, and fans, at least for a day or two, can cut him some slack.

The fans desire to see Refsnyder play over Drew is completely understandable. While it is only seven games into the season, when a player begins the year in a slump, following a disaster performance the season prior, it is hard not to think, ‘Here we go again.’

But a patient stance by the Yankees is logical as well. Beyond Drew receiving the right number of reps during Spring Training, he has proven to be a better hitter as the season wears on. His career splits, including his atrocious 2014 season, show a player who hits his stride in the second half of the season.

Original Link here.
At 32, Drew has passed his prime. To expect the exact results is not fair. However, to believe that he can produce a .740 OPS across 600+ plate appearances with better than average defense makes him a valuable holdover until Refsnyder proves he can handle the position.

The Yankees can be patient, but must be ready to take action if the plan is faltering. I’ve argued that Drew cannot be given much more than 200 plate appearances where he is producing a sub .600 OPS. If that comes to fruition, the Yanks will have to take a step back and ponder whether Drew might in fact be in a full throttle decline. At that point looking to Refsnyder, Jose Pirela or someone else via trade might be a necessity.

But, Drew has just 23 plate appearances under his belt and a .190/.217/.476 line to show for it. Expect the average and on-base percentage to climb gradually and the slugging percentage to drop slightly. Maybe he sits with a .700 OPS for the first month or two and then pushes it to a .740 OPS overall by October is not out of the question based on his historical trends.

The bottom line is that this is a different year for Stephen Drew. One in which he was able to get his swings in and get more comfortable playing a relatively new position during the spring. It’s a season in which a club committed to him early and named him the starter from the outset of the spring to remove the factor of, ‘How long can I keep my job?’

Pinch-hit grand slams go a long way toward building confidence and extending a team's proverbial rope. Drew should feel secure in his abilities, and the Yankees will certainly remain patient believing in a rebound of them.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Yankees remain a mystery one week into season

The New York Yankees have completed their first week of the regular season and the results have been inconsistent to say the least. Their 2-4 record puts them in last place in the American League East as they begin a 10-game road trip Monday.

There is just as much evidence pointing to that being a good reflection of the club’s future as there is that the record is an aberration.

The Yankees began the season with several question marks, none of which could be answered in a week, but we can investigate where they are heading at the present time.

Rotation


Certainly there have been some ups and downs as expected in the rotation. Masahiro Tanaka looked better in Sunday night’s win over the Boston Red Sox, but much like Opening Day he suffered an inning in which the wheels fell off. Fortunately, the Yankees held a seven-run lead in his second start so Tanaka’s three-run (two-earned) lapse was not detrimental.

Much of the concern surrounding Tanaka has been whether or not he is healthy and the overstated “issues” with his velocity. He looked a bit more crisp in Sunday’s performance and was regularly hitting 91-92 on the radar gun, exactly where is sat much of last season. The concerns over Tanaka will continue to linger until he gets more swing and misses and resembles the pitcher that was more or less lights out last season.

Michael Pineda was very good in his start, but did not factor into the decision. He was completely on his game, and could be the Yankees best pitcher this season if he can avoid injury.

CC Sabathia suffered a poor inning in his outing, but showed signs he can still get the job done with eight strikeouts in his 5.2 innings. His velocity it was it is (88-90 mph fastball), but his placement and movement looked better than any of his Spring Training starts. He scattered eight singles in the performance of which just a few were hard hit balls.

Nathan Eovaldi allowed three earned runs and eight hits with just one strikeout in 5.1 innings against the Red Sox and unfortunately those stats reflect much of what he looked like last season. The Yankees have been working with Eovaldi to bump his strikeout totals due to his big-time fastball, but it did not come to fruition in his first start.

Adam Warren pitched well in his first start of the season allowing two runs (one earned) in 5.1 innings. He struck out just one batter, walked two and gave up five hits. Warren is trying to pitch himself into a situation where he remains the fifth starter when Chris Capuano returns. He's on his way to doing so.

Bullpen


Simply stated, this has been the highlight of the club’s first week. As a whole the group has done its job and excelled in spots. The relief crew has pitched to a 1.93 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a .178 BAA in 32.2 innings. The number of innings is inflated due to the 19-inning marathon Friday night into Saturday morning.


Offense


After the first five games, the Yankees were slashing .193/.280/.342 but they raised that to .233/.318/.404 with their 14-run, 16-hit outburst Sunday night. Alex Rodriguez continues to show he can be productive if healthy. The 39-year-old designated hitter is slashing .300/.417./550 with two doubles and a home run. He leads the team with six RBI.

Brian McCann and Brett Gardner own OPS of .833 and .839 respectively. Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira are each hitting .222, but have a couple of homers apiece.

On the flip side, Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius are all hitting under the Mendoza line and none of them owns an OPS over .500.

Base-running


Ugly is about the best term to describe the Yanks on the base paths thus far. They have been picked off three times and are just 2-for-6 in stolen base attempts. They’ve made poor decisions on the bases as well with Gregorius playing the Yankees out of rallies on two separate occasions with his blunders.

Defense


What was expected to be a strength for the club has been one of its bigger detriments early on. The Yankees have been flat out messy in the field and it is mostly the infielders causing the problems. The Yanks have committed nine errors already this season with Drew and Headley picking up two each.

Behind the plate, McCann has four wild pitches against him (at least two of which he could have stopped), while backup John Ryan Murphy has two passed balls in just 19 innings.

The Yankees pitchers have been victimized by the defensive efforts to the tune of eight unearned runs (out of 32 total runs allowed).

In all, the Yankees could be 4-2 as easily as they are 2-4. The extra-inning affair could have gone their way with a couple of breaks. If Tanaka or Sabathia don't have meltdowns in their first starts they might have had a chance to win one of those games as well.

The rotation needs to go deeper into games soon or the bullpen is going to get worn-out quickly. The offense must find some consistency as a unit and some players need to find their stroke before long. Finally, the mess on the bases and in the field has to be reversed. This club cannot afford to waste run-scoring opportunities and it certainly cannot give runs away.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Yankees logo provided by SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.