Thursday, October 29, 2015

Yankees’ choice of Miller leads to top reliever award

The New York Yankees chose to let David Robertson walk last offseason, instead opening their wallets for Andrew Miller. The tall, left-handed Miller did a fantastic job for the Yanks and was named the 2015 Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Wednesday (MLB.com).

Andrew Miller
Photo credit: Arturo Pardavilla III via Flickr
The MLB-sanctioned award is voted on by a panel of eight former MLB relievers including Rivera. The National League award (named for former San Diego Padres great Trevor Hoffman) went to former Yankee Mark Melancon, now the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Kansas City Royals’ reliever Wade Davis, who arguably had a better statistical season than Miller, was second in the voting with the Baltimore Orioles’ Zach Britton placing third.

Miller put up great numbers in his inaugural season with the Yanks. In 61.2 innings across 60 games, Miller converted 36 of 38 save chances. Miller racked up 100 strikeouts (14.6 K/9 ratio) with a 1.90 ERA (2.16 FIP) and batters hit just .149 against him.

At the onset of the signing, the Yankees were not certain as to Miller’s role, other than he would be an option for manager Joe Girardi at the end of games. Even as the Yankees headed north from spring training, Girardi had yet to anoint a closer. There was speculation that Girardi might go so far as to mix and match based on the scenario in front of him on a game to game basis.

The first several save opportunities landed in Miller’s lap and he flat-out dominated the opposition in the process. Finally, after over a month avoiding the question, Girardi said that Miller was the man, preferring to have Dellin Betances available for more outs. The strategy paid off for much of the season, though the extra work seemed to bog down Betances this season as opposed to last. Miller seemed at ease in his new role, and never looked back. Miller was by far the most consistent reliever on the squad, finishing the season extremely strong.

Miller’s workload was more controlled than Betances’ and the southpaw missed one month of the season with a muscle strain in his forearm. After a couple of rusty appearances upon his return from the disabled list, Miller got back into a groove and didn’t slow down. Miller’s first blown save came Aug. 11.

Miller, who will turn 31 next May, more than returned the value in the first season of his four-year, $36 million contract according to FanGraphs’ performance value metric which indicates he was worth $15.9 million in 2015, based off his 2.0 fWAR. Nothing in Miller's body of work suggests an immediate downturn. The Yankees saved $10 million by turning to Miller over Robertson, and he has already rewarded them on the field. At this point, the signing looks to be a sound one for the Yankees.

In my opinion, in order to make Miller’s contract hold up, the Yankees will have to scrutinize his workload going forward. For next season, I would suspect Miller might be further restricted than 2015; only working the ninth inning, with a very occasional four-out save. Miller's use pattern and rest during his injury might have contributed to the high quality of his effectiveness at the end of the season when other relievers on the club seemed to hit a wall.

Let's see if Girardi agrees.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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, October 23, 2015

Has Brian McCann fulfilled Yankees’ expectations?

After the New York Yankees turned to a defense-first offering behind the plate for the 2013 season, they decided it was best to sign an offensive catcher who could still make a difference behind the dish. The Yanks inked Brian McCann, then a longtime backstop for the Atlanta Braves, to a five-year, $85 million contract before the 2014 season.

Brian McCann
Photo Credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
Like many players before him in their first season in the Bronx, McCann took a bit of time to get used to his surroundings. He also found it more difficult to learn a new pitching staff than he expected and his offense seemed to pay the price for it. Until September 2014, McCann was mostly unproductive with a bat in his hands, but over the season’s final month he unleashed an impressive showing (eight home runs and 18 RBIs).

McCann’s final 2014 numbers were decent – .232/.286/.406 with 23 home runs and 75 RBIs. But, mostly the Yankees were pleased with his work behind the plate in 2014 (11.4 runs above average via pitch-framing metrics via StatCorner and 37 percent caught stealing rate), and optimistic that his offensive prowess would return after what he showed at the end of the season. Expectations in 2015 were higher for McCann from an offensive standpoint, while consistency was anticipated while donning the tools of ignorance.

McCann answered the call through the first three months of the season (he owned an .808 OPS through the end of June). McCann endured a mediocre July (.701 OPS) and then exploded in August with seven home runs and 22 RBIs (.878 OPS). But, McCann, like much of the rest of the Yankees offense, crawled into a shell from Sept. 1 through the end of the season (.580 OPS).

McCann’s seasonal slash line was .232/.320/.437 with a career-high 26 home runs and his 94 RBIs tied his career-best. The 2015 season (105 wRC+) was surely better at the plate than 2014 (93 wRC+), but many were left to wonder much better it might have been had it not been for the terrible finish.

Some of the blame for McCann’s faltering could be placed on a bum knee which was forcing him to alter his batting stance. He never seemed to be fully comfortable over the last 30+ games, and with the Yankees in the hunt for a postseason berth, McCann was in the lineup as often as possible.

Behind the plate, McCann fell back dramatically as a pitch-framer from his previous seasons. McCann had always been a top pitch-framer according to StatCorner, but he dropped well behind the pack in 2015. He actually cost the team runs this season versus gaining them as was a certainty in years past. However, McCann outpaced the league's catchers in throwing out potential base-stealers , for the second straight season, stopping 36 percent of attempts (four points better than league average).

Overall, McCann had a better season in 2015, based on WAR metrics provided by FanGraphs. His offensive numbers boosted the diminished defensive side (which was the contrary in 2014) lifting his fWAR to 2.9 from 2.4 a season-ago and his best mark since 2011.

Looking at his performance value (at left), McCann has surpassed his contracted salary in each season.

The Yankees will be grateful for at least a couple of more seasons like the first two with McCann on the books through 2018. What’s at question, is whether he’ll be able to maintain similar production going forward, and moreover whether he can stay at the catcher position through his age-35 season, the last of the guaranteed contract (there is a club option for $15 million in 2019, or a player option which kicks in with certain performance measures).

McCann has been predominantly healthy during his two-year stint with the Yankees (averaging 537 plate appearances and 138 games, 117 as a catcher), but one must wonder if the club will begin to slowly take away more at-bats from him and give backup catcher John Ryan Murphy those reps. Keeping McCann as fresh as possible will provide benefits to the team in the long term and furthermore the Yanks do not lose offensive or defensive production with Murphy behind the dish, especially if he’s facing left-handers a majority of the time.

The problem is, the designated hitter role is clogged with Alex Rodriguez, and the Yanks will try to get Mark Teixeira and maybe even Carlos Beltran some days at DH during the season. Worse, Rodriguez is under contract through the 2017 season, so the chances of McCann halving time as the DH and as catcher do not seem plausible until 2018, and by then who knows what the rest of the roster looks like.

After watching McCann these first two seasons in New York, I’ve come away feeling confident about his overall abilities. I believe if he can continue to get 500+ plate appearances, he’ll remain a solid offensive force in the middle of the Yankees lineup. Further, I would hazard a guess that McCann will continue to hone his skills behind the plate, and likely work hard to find whatever was missing from his pitch-framing abilities going forward.

McCann is one of the more important cogs to the Yankees’ machine and I feel the club should be pleased with his performance to date. When all is said and done, I suspect McCann will have surpassed the lofty expectations brought on by his large contract.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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.



Happy Birthday BYB Hub!

I want to send out birthday wishes to the BYB Hub, a collection of baseball blog sites, of which Yankees Unscripted is a part of, developed by Bleeding Yankee Blue founder Robert Casey.

The main purpose of the BYB Hub is to foster relationships between the individual blog sites and to help cross promote them. We all want to be noticed and Robert had a vision of how to accomplish that.

Many of the sites are focused on the New York Yankees, but all baseball sites are welcome to request membership. If you run your own baseball site and want to be a part of the BYB Hub, you can reach Robert via Twitter @BleednYankeeBlu or me in the comments below.

Finally, I’d like to express my personal thanks to Robert for inviting me to be a part of the BYB Hub at the onset of its formation. It’s been a benefit to the growth of my site and I’ve enjoyed the interactions with the other baseball bloggers in the group.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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, October 21, 2015

Yankees' Tanaka has surgery; no not the dreaded one

Most everyone who follows the New York Yankees waited all season for Masahiro Tanaka to walk off the mound holding his right elbow, the partial tear finally succumbing to the unnatural torque of throwing a baseball. It never happened.

Masahiro Tanaka
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
However, the partial tear was not the only issue with the elbow; Tanaka still had surgery on his most fragile body part, having a long-existing bone spur removed Tuesday. Tanaka will endure a six-week strengthening program and should be ready for spring training. The Yankees hold out hope that this is not the beginning of something more.

According to Dr. Michael Hausman, Chief of Hand and Elbow Surgery at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the spurs can form or grow as an indirect result of having partial tearing of the ulnar collateral ligament (Daniel Barbarisi - The Wall Street Journal). While the tear may hold up, there is a chance of more spurs forming along the way, and with that the potential need to have more cleaning done to the elbow.

Tanaka had a moderately successful second season with New York, never looking like an ace for extended periods. He made 26 starts, accumulating 154 innings. Tanaka missed a bit more than a month in the early part of the season with wrist tendinitis and another start at the end of the season with a slight hamstring strain. According to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, Tanaka never spoke with the club about the bone spur bothering him.

Tanaka's performance during the season (12-7, 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 139 K) didn't show any signs that he was affected by the bone spur. It's entirely possible that the issue was more annoying than hurting his production and Tanaka decided to simply get rid of it now before it became a problem in season. One would hope that if Tanaka had been troubled by the spur to the point that it was affecting his effort he would have said something to the team.

In my view, taking care of it before it affected performance, or another one grew next to it to become more problematic makes sense. We've seen that Tanaka can pitch well with the partial UCL tear, and apparently he can pitch just fine with a bone spur as well.

Maybe, just maybe, Tanaka can fulfill his status as ace on the mound to coincide with his salary, if he stays 100 percent healthy in 2016. Ridding discomfort in the most important baseball part of his body is a good first step. He and the Yankees surely hope this cleanup will be as big a surgery that Tanaka will need on his elbow during their union.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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, October 19, 2015

Another year, another Yankees hitting coach fired

For the second straight offseason, the New York Yankees will be looking to fill the role of hitting coach after firing Jeff Pentland, who served in the role for just one season. The 69-year-old Pentland was reportedly told of his departure last week according to the George King III of The New York Post.

The Yankees also released Gary Tuck from his duties as bullpen coach and catching instructor. King mentions Mike Harkey as a potential replacement for Tuck in the bullpen spot. Harkey, who was recently fired by the Arizona Diamondbacks as their pitching coach, was the Yankees bullpen coach from 2008 to 2013 and is good friend of Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Pentland explained to The Post that he was told that there was a chance that this was a one-season gig from the start, so the firing was not a surprise to him. The lack of shock is especially true considering the massive overall team slump the offense suffered from August through the wild card game.

We’ve seen this over and over again. A hitting coach is only as good as the production of his hitters. The best thing a hitting coach can do at the major league level is find and fix flaws in a batter’s swing before it becomes a full-fledged skid. There were far too many extended slumps for several Yankees this season, and Pentland took the brunt of the responsibility; right or wrong.

For the first four months of the season, the Yankees were receiving great production from a good number of players and NO ONE was talking ill about Pentland’s performance. Had the Yankees finished the year stronger on the offensive side, there is no telling whether this move would have been made or not.

The Yankees could move up assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell to the lead role, or finally hand over the job to longtime minor league hitting instructor Marcus Thames, who was rumored to be considered last season. Raul Ibanez is another option for the Yanks. For what it is worth, Cockrell received a vote of confidence from Pentland.

“I thought Alan did an excellent job,’’ Pentland said. “It was a good pairing.’’

Regardless of who the Yankees put in the spot, the position is a tenuous one with a couple of players looking to bounceback from down seasons and others hoping to remain productive for a full season. The role of a major league hitting coach is one in which the incumbent is excessively complimented when things are going well, and wildly bashed when hitters are failing. There never seems to be a middle-ground for the job, especially where it concerns the Yankees.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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, October 15, 2015

Is Ellsbury’s contract already an albatross for Yankees?

When the New York Yankees made the reactionary deal to sign Jacoby Ellsbury after being shunned by Robinson Cano, they hoped the center fielder’s up-front performance would compensate for the inevitable downturn at the end of the deal. So far, the Yankees have been completely wrong and the chances for a turnaround seem only slightly plausible.

Jacoby Ellsbury
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
Baseball clubs make some assumptions on long-term contracts, and Ellsbury’s is no different. A player in his early 30s, coming off an impressive season, and a track record of production would usually infer a happy beginning to the union. Teams are willing to eat the risk at the backend of the deal for what they feel is a safe bet up front.

Ellsbury’s seven-year, $153 million contract per Cot's Baseball Contracts was immediately met with questions because of his proclivity for injury and the deal would take him through his age-36 season. Many could not see Ellsbury, whose game is predicated on running, being at the top of his game in the final two or three years of the contract.

Where does Ellsbury stand on performance value compared with the actual costs of this contract two years into his deal?

FanGraphs calculates a handy performance value for each player (Ellsbury's is here). It’s based on their WAR formula and basically tells us what the player was worth for the season if he was a free agent (so the value fluctuates). Here is Ellsbury’s performance value compared with his salary over the first two seasons with the Yankees.



Ellsbury performed exactly how the Yankees hoped he would in his first season in the Bronx. His performance based on fWAR surpassed his contract value by a substantial margin. What the Yankees did not expect was the significant drain he became in 2015. I’d venture to bet the Yankees didn’t have that projection anywhere in their analysis.

The question now; can Ellsbury bounce back and will his future production prove to be sufficient to get back on the path the Yankees might have calculated when they signed him? We have to make some assumptions based on past performance and what we know about baseball players and their typical decline due to aging alone.

First, Ellsbury has played six seasons in which he’s accumulated at least 500 plate appearances. In those seasons, he has totaled 26.1 fWAR accounting for $189 million in performance value. For our purposes here, simple division shows 1.0 fWAR is worth $7.24 million for Ellsbury (note this value would be different for each player) based on those six seasons.

Next, we need to derive a schedule of performance value for Ellsbury going forward. Is he the player who racked up 4.0 fWAR in 2014 or the one who was worth much less than replacement value at 0.9 fWAR?

If we’re being gracious, we could begin with an average of Ellsbury’s last three seasons in which he totaled 10.5 fWAR; therefore 3.5 fWAR per season. Next, we could suggest that Ellsbury can reach that metric for two straight seasons before an age decline begins in which his projected fWAR decreases by 0.5 each season.

The chart below displays Ellsbury’s contract under the circumstances described.



Reviewing this, Ellsbury comes up short in producing total contract value by over $10 million, and I again believe this was a generous determination.

What if we averaged his two seasons in the Bronx for the 2016 and 2017 estimates and then trickled down by 0.5 fWAR from there?



This projection turns ugly and quick, showing Ellsbury grossly underperforming compared with his salary.

Now, Ellsbury could certainly put up another 5.6 fWAR in 2016, as he did in 2013. He was well on his way to a very good season before suffering an injury which took 43 games away from him. But, Ellsbury’s production early on wasn’t on par with a huge season, and it might not have been at the same level as 2014. Further, he fell off the map upon his return. In my view, the chances seem minimal for a season of 5.0 fWAR or better going forward for Ellsbury.

Ellsbury surely has the ability to produce the scenario initially put forward, but I’d venture to guess it will end up being somewhere between that and the latter estimate. My reasoning is simple, Ellsbury’s body will not be able to handle getting older, and his game is all about his legs, which are among the first things to go for baseball players. He is too streaky, and the cold streaks will begin to outweigh the hot ones as time goes on.

There is a good deal of time left on Ellsbury’s contract, more than enough to make fans forget about 2015. But, the truth is, this contract was going to be hard to live up to even with above-average performances the Yankees figured to receive. At this time, Ellsbury’s contract turning into an albatross is a distinct reality for the Yankees.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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, October 13, 2015

The Yankees 2015 MVP is…

The New York Yankees reached the 2015 postseason on the backs of several players, but only one name can be labeled the club’s most valuable player. I believe there are six candidates for the honor, but one clear cut winner. Let’s review the players in alphabetical order along with their individual cases, and then my argument for the best choice.

Carlos Beltran


Beltran began the season with a month of baseball that made him look like a washed up player. But, beginning May 1, Beltran was the team’s most consistent hitter.

531 PA, .276/.337/.471, 34 doubles, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 121 OPS+

Beltran showed he can still hit, despite playing an incredibly poor right field.

Dellin Betances


Betances posted superior numbers in his sophomore season, making his mark on 74 games in 2015.

84 IP, 6-4, 9 SV, 4 BS, 14.0 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 266 ERA+

Those numbers would have been even more impressive, if not for a rocky September when Betances looked like a regular relief pitcher and not one who dominated for much of the season.


Brian McCann


McCann’s final line surely shows improvement over his 2014 campaign, but a rocky second half leaves one to wonder how great his season could have been with even middling performance after the All-Star break.

535 PA, .232/.320/.437, 15 doubles, 26 HR, 94 RBI, 107 OPS+

McCann did an OK job behind the plate this season. He threw out 36 percent of runners trying to steal (MLB average was 32 percent) but he recorded a negative value (-2.5 RAA) in pitch-framing according to StatCorner, after many seasons near the top of the league.

Andrew Miller


Miller came to New York with lofty expectations after signing a big four-year deal with the Bombers. He answered the call taking over the closer’s role and making everyone forget about David Robertson.

60 G, 61.2 IP, 3-2, 36 SV, 2 BS, 14.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 196 ERA+

Miller showed plenty of poise in his first season as the Yanks’ closer and provides the club with a good deal of confidence at the back end of the bullpen for the next three seasons.

Alex Rodriguez


No one knew exactly what to expect from Rodriguez after missing 17 months of baseball, but he answered critics with a very productive season at the plate.

620 PA, .250/.356/.486, 22 doubles, 33 HR, 86 RBI, 130 OPS+

Rodriguez’s days as a fielder are numbered, but with the right amount of rest he could prove to remain productive for the remaining two years of his contract despite being in his early 40s.

Mark Teixeira


Teixeira was in need of a bounce-back season after two successive campaigns of mediocre performance. Teixeira was an absolute beast at the plate in 2015, and was stellar in the field.

462 PA, .255/.357/.548, 22 doubles, 31 HR, 79 RBI, 146 OPS+

Unfortunately, Teixeira missed the final 36 games of the season with a broken leg, severely undercutting his chances in the American League MVP race of which he was becoming a part of.

The winner...


An argument can be made for each player, as all of them carried the club at some point or another. All except for two had significant downturns at one point or another.

Beltran was bad for one full month. Betances was nothing special in September and October. McCann couldn’t hit much after the break. Rodriguez slowed down tremendously over the final two months-plus.

But, Miller and Teixeira were on top of their respective games for a majority of their seasons. Miller had a slight hiccup after coming off the disabled list and Teixeira was in an 8-game slump before getting hurt.

In picking between these two, I have to go with Teixeira. Miller was great, but in the end Teixeira’s fingerprints were on more games than Miller’s.

When Teixeira was in the lineup he was once again feared and he was carrying the Yankees not only with his bat but also with glove work at first base. He played like a rejuvenated man until he was done in by a fluke injury.

Take away Teixeira’s production and the Yankees don’t sniff the playoffs this season. Teixeira’s performance was a big part of the Yankees rise early in the season, and it’s no surprise that the offense as a whole went into a tailspin without him in the lineup.

What do you think? Was the Yankees' MVP one of the other five players, or someone I failed to mention? Let me know in the comments below.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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, October 9, 2015

Eovaldi's injury furthered Warren's misuse, aided Yankees’ skid

When the New York Yankees lost their wins leader, Nathan Eovaldi, to a season-ending injury on Sept. 5 it was an immediate blow to the club's rotation. Moreover, it can be argued that Eovaldi's injury provoked furthered misuse of Adam Warren, which then aided in the Yankees season-ending skid.

Adam Warren
Photo credit - Keith Allison via Flickr
Eovaldi’s injury hurt both the rotation and the bullpen. Of course, the Yankees lost their most productive starter at the time in Eovaldi. He had been on a tremendous run after mastering his split-finger fastball going 10-2 across 12 starts (73.2 IP) with a 2.93 ERA and a .584 OPS-against, before slumping in two starts leading to the injury.

With Eovaldi out of the picture, the Yankees transitioned Warren back to the rotation after having moved him to the bullpen in late June in an effort to keep his innings down for the rest of the season. The decision was a smart one considering he had thrown less than 80 innings in each of the last two seasons, and showed they valued Warren's future.

Warren’s stint in the pen should have been better served as the Yankees were relying heavily on Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller and consequently their usage was reaching extremes. Warren gave Yankees manager Joe Girardi another option for mid to high-leverage innings, but the skipper did not always use him in such a manner.


Warren’s move back to the rotation only encompassed 3 ½ weeks of the season, but I believe he could have made a much bigger impact as a reliever during that time than he did as a starter. This is not to say Warren is a poor starter, he’s actually a good one, but the Yankees needed him in the reliever role because no one else was as effective as he compared to the remaining middle-relief options. Wouldn’t Warren have been a better option than many of the players below down the stretch?

Yankees Relievers - Sept./Oct.
Besides, the overuse of the backend of the bullpen, the Yankees might have benefited from not relying on a multitude of the mediocre relievers they did.

Warren was good as a starter, and better as a reliever. He is able to change his style of pitching for both roles and seems to fare well in each circumstance. But, his time as a reliever produced the best results. Had he been used appropriately from the time he entered the bullpen fray in late June and then kept in the bullpen through the end of the season, Wilson, Betances and maybe even Miller might have been used less often, making them more effective in the heat of the season.

Adam Warren - As starter and reliever
When Warren was shifted back to the rotation, Ivan Nova was demoted to the bullpen and was never used in that role. It can be argued that the Yankees didn’t get much length out of Warren’s three September starts (13.1 IP), because he was working his way back into starter status and Nova, despite his inconsistencies, might have been best left in the rotation to finish the season. At the least, Nova might have worked more innings in his starts thus reducing the wear on bullpen arms.

Also, if the Yankees were concerned with Nova’s production in conjunction with Eovaldi’s injury, they could have stretched out Bryan Mitchell just as they decided to do with Warren. Mitchell is a starting pitcher, plain and simple, and had some success this season making spot starts for the club.

The fact is, the bullpen, not the rotation was on the skids in September. None of this becomes an issue if Eovaldi is not hurt, and if the Yankees used Warren appropriately from the beginning of his initial transition. So, the Yankees in my view erred twice; once by misusing Warren and not placing him in higher-leverage situations and second by flipping him back to the rotation for three shortened starts in which he positively impacted just one game.

It's difficult to ascertain whether Warren's use pattern would have made a difference in the standings or not, but it would have been great had the Yankees given him a larger role in the bullpen in order to find out.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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, October 6, 2015

Three keys for Yankees in wild card game

The New York Yankees were not expected to be in the postseason according to many pundits, but here they are in a winner-take-all wild card contest against the upstart Houston Astros. What are the keys for the Yankees to advance to the American League Division Series?

Tanaka matching Keuchel


Masahiro Tanaka was signed to be the pitcher for this exact moment. He is paid an ace’s salary to be successful in the big games. There has not been a bigger MLB game for Tanaka. As far as “biggest game of his career” goes, the same should be said about Dallas Keuchel.

Despite pitching on three days’ rest for the first time in his career, Keuchel is believed to be the exact pitcher the Yankees do not want to deal with Tuesday night. Keuchel has not allowed a run to the Yankees across 16 innings this season, while striking out 21 batters.

If Keuchel is remotely as good as his past performances against the Yankees, it will force Tanaka to be at his best. Tanaka cannot afford to let balls sit in the middle of the plate, especially four-seamers that Astros batters will destroy. If Tanaka gets the feel for his splitter early on and keeps the Astros off balance it will go a long way toward keeping the Yankees close (or dare I say ahead) of Keuchel.


Yankees offense working counts and manufacturing runs


The Yankees used to take pride in taking a lot of pitches. Some of the players still do, but toward the end of the season, there seemed to be an exorbitant amount of first-pitch swinging up and down the lineup. The best thing to assist getting Keuchel out of the game is to raise his pitch count. This is beneficial even if he is keeping the Yankees at bay.

If the Yankees table-setters, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner (or Chris Young if he replaces Gardner) are able to reach base, they must press on the bases and the middle of the order bats, especially Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann (assuming he starts) will need to do their best to at first move runners into scoring position and then follow up with a run-scoring at-bat (a sacrifice fly or RBI-groundout is just fine). Keuchel is not going to allow home runs, so the Yankees cannot go in figuring they’ll utilize that effort in getting runs on the board.

Finally, the bottom of the order has to follow suit. Sometimes a guy like Gregory Bird or Didi Gregorius can make the difference in a win or go home game.

Win battle of the bullpens


I fully expect both pitchers to be competent Tuesday night. I do not believe either will be dominating, but expecting each pitcher to last into the sixth inning and the score to be within one-run is entirely conceivable.

That leaves the matter in the hands of the bullpen where the Yankees are a bit deeper than the Astros in my view. As I mentioned in my full wild card game preview at SNY, the Yankees best relievers – Adam Warren, Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller can go multiple innings if necessary. More importantly, if the Yankees have the lead late, the final three have shown on most nights to be able to close out wins and often times they’ve been dominate in doing so.

For the Yankees to win this game, they’ll need to play solid, mistake-free baseball from the starter to the offense to the bullpen. All facets of the club have to come together and play well in order to beat a very capable Astros team.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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.