Going to the Headley

How bad have things become with Chase Headley? Men have a rather impolite saying when going to the men’s room. Perhaps you have heard of, “Going to the Head.” Lately, I have been saying that I am going to the Headley. And there is much about his first month of the season that sings the Ty-D-Bol theme song. His stats are clean, man, clean as a whistle. Looking for doubles? Nope. Triples? Nope. Homers? Nope. Hits with two outs with runners in scoring position? Hits with men on first and second? Hits with men on first and third? Hits with men on second and third? Nope, nope, nope and nope.

Chase Headley has gotten off to bad starts in his career. But never this bad. And, it would not be too much of a concern if it did not bookend how he finished 2015. September of last season was nearly as bad. That month, Headley played in 31 games and had twenty hits with only three extra base hits. Mind you, that is three more than this April. But even so, his triple slash line last September was, .179/.252/..223. That only looks good against this April’s .148/.277/.148.

I was really bullish on the Yankees getting this guy. I bought into that outlier of a season he had in 2012. To my embarrassment, in our IIATMS previews in 2015, I selected Headley as my biggest surprise to be in 2015. It did not exactly happen that way. I always loved his glove. And then last year happened and I cringed every time he threw the ball (as did Mark Teixeira). I was so wrong. According to Fangraphs.com, Headley was the seventeenth best third baseman in baseball last year. Even Yangervis Solarte was better. At least his fielding has been solid to great this season.

So what has happened to Chase Headley? His line drive percentage is comparable to seasons past. His strikeout rate has been stable with his history. There are two major differences. First–and I know everyone is sick of hearing about this stat–the velocity of balls off his bat are down. Second, he is taking many more pitches and swinging less often.

Let’s start with the second one because it sounds counter intuitive. It is good to be patient, right? Maybe. His overall swing percentage this season is at a career low of 35.5%. Compare that to his lifetime rate of 43.8%. There is a dramatic difference in the amount of pitches he swings at out of the strike zone. This year, that percentage is 18.2% compared to a career norm of 25.6%. That all sounds good, right? So far, yes. But then we come to the percentage of strikes.

In that latter category, Headley is swinging at 58.3% of pitches in the strike zone compared to a career average of 67.7%. In his monster year of 2012, Headley swung at 70% of strikes. My theory on this is that he is not as aggressive as he used to be and I believe I have observed this watching every game thus far. He should be mashing balls in the middle zone of the plate and too many pass by unchallenged. Then he is forced to swing at a pitcher’s pitch. He seems far too passive at the plate. This is my theory. Debunk at will. I fully admit that I am not as good a stat guy as my colleagues.

I also believe the above information bleeds into his amount of hard hit balls. Starting with his season in 2012 and covering the two following seasons, the percentage of balls he hit hard were near 35% or higher. Then last season, it went down to 28% and this year is at 23.8%. His home run to fly ball percentage took a big dip last season and, of course, is nonexistent so far this season.

Can Chase Headley recover? Sure, anything is possible. He won’t be THIS bad all season. That said, I am not sure he will become a productive hitter again for the Yankees. His offense had a negative value last year and we are now talking a season and a month of not being productive. His last two full months of play have been alarming. How patient the Yankees are will be interesting to see. The organization will probably be a lot more patient than I. Continue reading Going to the Headley

Friday Morning Links: 4/29/16

Playing catchup here.  It’s been over a week since the last linkaround, but we’ve got a real good batch to get you ready for Yanks-Sawx this weekend after yesterday’s off-day.  Here we go.

– Last Wednesday, Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes weighed the option of trading one of the Betances/Miller/Chapman relief trio once all 3 are active.  I think it’s too early to think about that, but it’s definitely something the Yanks should do at the deadline if they’re out of contention.

– Last Thursday, Stacey looked at the slow starts for three important hitters over at BP Bronx.

– On Monday, el duque of It Is High… dished his first really good “the sky is falling” rant of the season.  Understandable considering it came right after the Pineda BP game.

– On Tuesday, Marly Rivera of ESPN got Luis Severino’s thoughts on his early-season struggles and what he’s doing to try and fix them.

– On Wednesday, Tanya Bondurant of Pinstripe Alley revisited the idea of extending Nathan Eovaldi this season.  More outings like his last one and that becomes a real possibility.

– Chris Carelli broke down how Masahiro Tanaka has lived up to his contract so far for SNY.

– Yesterday, Mike Axisa dug deep into Michael Pineda and Eovaldi’s problems giving up too much contact.  Check it out for the FIP/BABIP plot graphic alone. Continue reading Friday Morning Links: 4/29/16

Random Stats for the Night Off

In these early days of the season, it is difficult to offer in-depth analysis without putting a great deal of weight into small sample sizes. Strikeout rates are just about the only statistic that has begun to stabilize at this point, and even something as straightforward as velocity may not be wholly indicative of what’s to come. And so this is not a post wherein I will strongly offer praise, nor will I condemn any performances; instead, I will attempt to let some numbers speak for themselves. There will be the good, the bad, and the ugly … and at least a bit of funny. After all, these are the Yankees that we’re talking about.

Jacoby Ellsbury is batting .243/.296/.342 (75 wRC+) since September 1, 2014. Yes, that is a selective endpoint – but it also represents a stretch of 660 PA. In that time he has 10 HR and 28 SB (11 CS), with a 6.1 BB% and 16.5 K%. He has also cost the team about 5 runs on defense in that span, as per UZR.

Starlin Castro currently has the best BB% and ISO of his career, while also swinging at fewer pitches outside of the zone than ever before (29.4%, which is well-below his career average of 33.3%). And his .306 BABIP is about 15 points below his xBABIP, based upon his batted ball profile. He’s only 26, folks.

Only Colby Rasmus is pulling the ball more often than Mark Teixeira (60.0% to 58.5%). The Yankees first baseman is also making ‘soft’ contact in 26.4% of balls in play; that’s in the bottom 20 of all hitters. He’s 13th in the Majors in BB%, though, and is still an above-average overall hitter, with a strong 121 wRC+.

There are currently 195 players that qualify for the batting title. Among those, Chase Headley ranks 190th in wRC+ (28), and dead last in ISO (.000). He’s the only qualified player without an extra base hit.

Dellin Betances has more strikeouts (23) than Yordano Ventura (21), Matt Harvey (21), Gerrit Cole (19), Marcus Stroman (19), and Jordan Zimmermann (16). Only 52 pitchers have more strikeouts than Betances, all of which have thrown at least 20.1 IP. Betances has 10 IP thus far. He also leads all relievers in K%, K-BB%, and xFIP (-0.28; yes, that’s a negative xFIP).

Luis Severino has the second largest gap between his ERA (6.86) and FIP (3.67) among all starting pitchers (David Price is first). He also has the second highest BABIP, at .417 (behind Chris Archer).

The Yankees bullpen ranks 1st in the Majors in K/9 (11.27) and xFIP (2.64). The unit ranks 4th in total strikeouts, with 81, despite sitting 19th in IP (64.2).

The Yankees rotation is in the top ten in K/9 (8.41), BB/9 (2.40), GB% (49.1), xFIP (3.52), SIERA (3.60), and K-BB% (15.4). It also ranks 25th in the Majors in ERA, with a 5.13 mark.

The Yankees offense ranks 25th in ISO (.131) – every team behind them is either the Braves, or plays in a pitcher’s park. The team’s .273 BABIP ranks 26th, as does its 26.9% hard-hit percentage.

The Yankees have stolen 17 bases – that’s third in baseball. Only the Cubs, Padres, and Indians have added more value on the basepaths in 2016.

Most importantly: the Yankees have 142 games left in their season. Continue reading Random Stats for the Night Off

Game 20: Sorry!

We were having issues with the site. Here’s the game thread, finally. New York Yankees Texas Rangers Jacoby Ellsbury, CF Delino DeShields, CF Brett Gardner, LF Nomar Mazara, RF Carlos Beltran, RF Adrian Beltre, 3B Mark Teixeira, 1B Ian Desmond, LF Alex Rodriguez, DH Ryan Rua, DH Brian McCann, C Rougned Odor, 2B Starlin Castro, 2B Elvis Andrus, SS Chase Headley, 3B Hanser Alberto, 1B Ronald Torreyes, SS Bryan Holaday, C CC Sabathia, SP Martin Perez, SP

Game 19 Recap: Rangers 10 Yankees 1

[caption id="attachment_81129" align="aligncenter" width="388"]Teix K vs TEX Mark Teixeira sings his at-bat music during last night’s game. Courtesy of the AP[/caption]

This one wasn’t good for the old run differential.  Facing possible thunderstorms and tornado delays in the forecast, the Yankee instead fell victim to the Ranger bats.  They beat up a scuffling Luis Severino pretty bad early and cruised out to a big lead that the Yankee offense was incapable of even denting.

So yeah, Severino.  He looked pretty good through the first 2 innings.  I thought he was settling in after a quick 2nd.  But it unraveled for him pretty quickly with 2 outs in the bottom of the 3rd.  The key play might have actually been a non-play.  After Nomar Mazara singled and Adrian Beltre doubled to put runners on second and third, Joe Girardi called for an intentional walk of Prince Fielder to load the bases and face Ian Desmond.  Severino did that and then unintentionally walked Desmond to force in a run.  From there he proceeded to allow 4 more runs on 3 singles and a wild pitch in what ended up being a 43-pitch inning.  Severino did not come out for the 4th.

That job went to Ivan Nova, and he proceeded to seal the win for the Rangers with 4 innings of 3-run ball.  He didn’t walk anybody, but he suffered from the same lack of command inside the strike zone that has hampered Severino and Michael Pineda in this first month of the season.  Nova did allow Joe to save most of the rest of the ‘pen from having to work in this one, but by the time he was out of the game it was 9-1 Rangers.

That 1 run came in the top of the 7th when the Yankees were able to string a walk and 2 singles together off of a tiring A.J. Griffin.  That left them with 2 on and nobody out and they did not score another run in the inning, so at least the anomaly of the Yankees being an even remotely competent offensive baseball team didn’t last long.  They made Griffin look real good over the first 6 innings, hitting a lot of lazy fly balls and infield pop ups for easy outs.  The one positive contributor was Ronald Torreyes, who had exactly 100% of the team’s hits through 6 innings.  The rest of the lineup hardly did anything.

This one was a stinker for sure, but the Yankees can still take the series with a win tonight.  CC Sabathia will get the start against Martin Perez and Joe will have his bullpen horses ready at the end if CC can do enough to bridge them a lead. Continue reading Game 19 Recap: Rangers 10 Yankees 1

Game 19: Severino vs. Griffin

Here’s your game thread. RANGERS Rougned Odor 2B Nomar Mazara RF Adrian Beltre 3B Prince Fielder DH Ian Desmond LF Mitch Moreland 1B Elvis Andrus SS Brett Nicholas C Delino DeShields CF A.J. Griffin P YANKEES Jacoby Ellsbury CF Brett Gardner LF Carlos Beltran RF Mark Teixeira DH Brian McCann C Starlin Castro 2B Dustin Ackley 1B Didi Gregorius SS Ronald Torreyes 3B Luis Severino P Enjoy the game!

Quick Hit: SI Yankees Sabermetrics Day Event

Less than an hour ago, Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs posted information about the Staten Island Yankees ‘Sabermetrics Day,’ which will be held on June 19th. Here is the team’s press release:

Say hello to a new season of Baby Bombers baseball and to the leaders of the new school of baseball analysis! On Sunday, June 19, the Staten Island Yankees welcome stat geeks and avid prospect followers to Sabermetrics Day at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George as the Staten Island Yankees take on the Aberdeen IronBirds (Baltimore Orioles affiliate). Don’t miss the chance to ask questions and meet some of the most notable names in sabermetrics research and analysis as the afternoon will be highlighted by writers and analysts from FanGraphs, ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, and more!

Access to the programmed portion of the event will be limited to fans who purchase one of two limited ticket packages. The first package (limited to 50 fans) grants access to all programming and perks, while the second package (limited to 150 fans) grants access only to the Statgeek Picnic.

In addition to the FangGraphs team, ESPN’s Dan Szymborski, FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Lindbergh, and friend of the blog Jonah Keri will also be in attendance. And, perhaps most importantly, I will be there.

If interested, you may purchase tickets here. Use the promo code ‘STATS.’ Continue reading Quick Hit: SI Yankees Sabermetrics Day Event

Tuesday Morning News And Notes: 4/26/16

There were a lot of little stories coming out yesterday, zero of which we touched on here.  Let’s catch up on them in a little rapid fire notes blog.

– A-Rod’s MRI on his oblique came back negative, so the Yankees elected to not make a roster move for either him or Aaron Hicks.  They played last night with a 23-man roster.  I’m actually a little surprised they haven’t just put Hicks on the DL retroactive to the date he got hurt and called somebody up, but it sounds like A-Rod might be available again soon.  He did take BP yesterday.

– I don’t remember where I saw it, but apparently Hicks played catch yesterday before the game.  He hadn’t been doing much of anything before then, so I guess the advancement to “baseball activities” is a good thing.

Branden Pinder has decided to have Tommy John Surgery to repair his UCL tear.  He’ll be out for the next 12-14 months, which is a major bummer for him and the SWB Shuttle.

– With Pinder and Rumbelow out and Jacob Lindgren going back on the DL with an elbow injury in High-A, the Yankees made a move to bring back lefty reliever Phil Coke.  He had been pitching in the Independent Atlantic League and was mostly bad last year at multiple levels for multiple teams, but he is a former True Yankee and that’s something that can’t be measured.  Being left-handed is so awesome if you’re a baseball player.

– The worst news of the day yesterday might have been the James Kaprielian elbow injury.  He was placed on the DL with “elbow inflammation” and there is no timetable for his return.  The Yankees confirmed that an MRI showed no structural damage in his elbow, so there is no surgery planned for him.  The plan is to treat Kaprielian “conservatively” with rest and throwing, so at the bare minimum we can stop dreaming of him making it to the big leagues this season. Continue reading Tuesday Morning News And Notes: 4/26/16

Game 18 Recap: Yankees 3 Rangers 1

[caption id="attachment_81113" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Eovaldi vs TEX 16 The nastiest of Nates. Courtesy of the AP[/caption]

It’s always nice to win a low-scoring game for a change.  The short-handed offense wasn’t clicking on all cylinders as usual, but it didn’t matter because the pitching was fantastic last night.  Nathan Eovaldi tossed 7 scoreless innings to hold the Rangers at bay and handed a lead over to the Yankees’ dominant late-inning pair.  That’s always a recipe for success and the it was again last night as the Yankees picked up a much needed win to open the 3-gamer in Texas.

Eovaldi came out of the gate hot last night, facing the minimum number of batters through 3 innings.  A runner did reach on an error to lead off the bottom of the 2nd, but error culprit Didi Gregorius made up for it by starting a 6-4-3 double play to erase the baserunner on the very next pitch.  Eovaldi actually didn’t allow a hit until the 7th inning, mixing pitches well, moving his fastball around, and throwing a ton of offspeed pitches for strikes.  This was arguably the best Eovaldi has looked as an all-around pitcher in his career.

The lineup sans A-Rod and Big Mac didn’t give Eovaldi a lot of support but even a couple runs were plenty with the way he was pitching.  Those couple of runs came in the top of the 3rd on a Jacoby Ellsbury solo home run and a Mark Teixeira RBI double, and they were critical at the time because the Yanks had just gone scoreless in a bases loaded, 1 out situation in the 2nd inning.  They didn’t generate much in the way of meaningful opportunities after those 2 innings, but a Starlin Castro solo shot to lead off the 6th provided an important insurance run.

Joe let Eovaldi come out to start the 8th inning, which I believe gave him the new deepest start of the year for the Yankee rotation.  He walked the leadoff batter and that was all for him.  Dellin Betances came on and got another double play grounder to erase the walk, but then hung a curveball to somebody named Brett Nicholas and watched it go for Nicholas’ first career MLB home run.  That ruined Dellin’s hope for a scoreless season, but he didn’t allow any further damage and Andrew Miller made quick work of the heart of the Ranger order in the 9th.  Ballgame over, Yankees win. Continue reading Game 18 Recap: Yankees 3 Rangers 1