Can A-Rod handle the heater?

As it happens, I was just thinking about this the other day when someone who was at the game Monday night observed to me that A-Rod was looking quite old these days. I confess, my first reaction was to nod and sigh, but after the initial response, it quickly occurred to me that this supposed dip in bat speed certainly doesn’t really square with the fact that A-Rod is hitting quite well at the moment. At the moment, Alex’s batting average is a solid .286, while his OBP is a robust .387. What’s missing is his power, but the most likely cause for that continues to be his elevated ground ball rate (or, more specifically, his sudden struggles with getting the ball in the air). That’s certainly consistent with Eder’s observation about the number of sinkers A-Rod has seen, as that’s a pitched designed to get batters to beat it into the ground.

Beyond that, there’s not very much in A-Rod’s peripherals that would obviously seem to support the idea that he can’t catch up to the heater these days.… Click here to read the rest

Who is Cody Eppley anyway?

The news of the day yesterday was that Yankees interim closer David Robertson had been place on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle. The 27-year-old had made four appearances in the ninth inning since Mariano Rivera went down on May 3rd, and with the exception of his May 9th implosion, Robertson has held opponent scoreless on the season.

Interestingly enough, though, the man called up to replace Robertson was not DJ Mitchell or one of the Yankees more accomplished high minor league arms, but Cody Eppley. Eppley, 26, was largely an unknown heading into the 2012 season. First mentioned on this site back in April as just a name on a 40-man roster, half of Eppley’s Wikipedia page details his time with the Yankees. That time has been brief, as Eppley spent the first four years of his professional career in the Texas Rangers system.

A 43rd round pick back in 2008, Eppley was a reliever at Virginia Commonwealth University who had been undrafted out of high school.… Click here to read the rest

What is Cory Wade’s magic?

Perhaps magic is a poor word choice and I am already regretting using it. “Stuff” is closer to what I am looking for and why Wade has been so successful. Part of the answer is fairly simple: Control. During Wade’s Triple-A career, he walked only 1.8 batters per nine innings. That pattern has definitely been evident in his time with the Yankees as he finished with a 1.8 walks per nine innings last year and is only sitting at 1.1 per nine this season. As Rivera proved, the less  fewer base runners you put on with freebies, the easier it was to get the other team out. But what is more perplexing is the strikeouts.

Cory Wade was never a big strikeout guy in the minors. His career Triple-A strikeout rate was 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings. While that isn’t overly dominant, combined with his walk rate, the rate gave him a really nice strikeout to walk ratio. Suddenly, in 2012, Wade has become a bit of a strikeout machine as he has struck out 20 batters in just 17 innings pitched.… Click here to read the rest

Is Arod’s Bat Speed Really Declining?

It seems like just yesterday that we discussed how Derek Jeter was too old to hit fastballs, and I don’t think that premature assessment could have been any more inaccurate. While the Captain has gone about dismissing these rumors with some unthinkable numbers over the last year, the pessimists have turned their eye to the elderly Alex Rodriguez. According to more sources than I care to mention, the youthful velocity of today’s budding pitchers is too fast for Rodriguez’ hulking yet sluggish bat. Like Derek Jeter was too old for a young man’s game last year, the spotlight of ageism is now on Alex Rodriguez and a lack of bat speed. My eyes are far less trained than that of your professional scout, but when I hear or see on-field behavior, I usually turn to the numbers. In the case of Alex Rodriguez v. The Fastball, the data is certainly available to rule on these cynical assumptions.

For one, we can find the whiff rate on four-seam fastballs from the beginning of the PITCHf/x era (2007) to 2010, and his 2011 season, where this myth began, until today.… Click here to read the rest

On Kuroda’s funky peripherals

Unsurprisingly, Kuroda’s peripherals are all over the place. His K% has plummeted to just 13.2% so far this year (he finished 2011 with a 19.2% strikeout rate), and his BB/9 is up by nearly a full additional walk at 3.14. More worrying, his HR/9 is up to 1.26, which would be a career worst, and his HR/FB rate is also at a career worst 14.6%. On the other hand, Kuroda is currently allowing fewer flyballs than he usually does, and getting more ground balls than he did last year.

His “pitcher slash” numbers are all over the mark as well. His ERA is a nice, shiny, 3.56 (though that’s helped by the fact that three of the twenty runs he’s allowed this year have been unearned), while his FIP is a very unsightly 4.77. The latter isn’t exactly shocking, as more home runs and walks allowed with fewer strikeouts is hardly a recipe for success, especially in the American League, but xFIP is slightly more bullish on Kuroda at 4.25.… Click here to read the rest

Short Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

The Yanks are north of the border today and tomorrow, playing the Blue Jays in Toronto for the first time this year. The Blue Jays are a bit different than they’ve been the last few years, at least coming into this series. The last few years, we’ve seen the Blue Jays rake, but not necessarily match that on the pitching side. This year, they’re sort of all over the place on both sides of the ball (all numbers accurate as of Tuesday night).

The Jays rank a respectable 8th in runs in the AL, with 165 despite being 11th/10th/7th respectively in BA/OBP/SLG respectively (.238/.311/.394) and 9th in wOBA (.309). They’re helped out being 5th in the AL in homers (44) Their team leaders in those categories are:

BA: Brett Lawrie, .288
OBP: Kelly Johnson, .363
SLG: Edwin Encarnacion, .577
wOBA: Encarnacion, .387
HR: Encarnacion, 11

Encarnacion also leads the team in wRC+ with a 147 mark. He, Johnson (125), and Jose Bautista (102) are the only Jays with wRC+ marks over 100.… Click here to read the rest

Robertson injury an opportunity for Soriano

Soriano’s tenure in pinstripes has, of course, been a rocky one straight from the get go. General manager Brian Cashman never had any intention of signing a reliever to the sort of contract Soriano and his agent, Scott Boras, were seeking, and made that abundantly clear to everyone even after his bosses, weary from losing out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes and nervous about a winter devoid of any major moves, went over his head to sign the closer with the stoic disposition to be their new setup man. That plan was quickly derailed, however, as Soriano battled ineffectiveness early in the season before being placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury. In between, he didn’t endear himself to New Yorkers very well, especially to the media.

Soriano performed well, if not spectacularly, upon his return, but by that point had already lost his role as The Eighth Inning Guy to Robertson, who was in the midst of putting up perhaps the best season of any A.L.… Click here to read the rest

Sabathia gets little support, suffers first loss of season

Sabathia started strong by retiring the side in order in the first inning, but got off to an inauspicious in the second when Adam Jones hit a 1-0 fastball into the left field seats to give the Orioles the lead. Sabathia worked himself into trouble again in the third by allowing a lead off double by Steve Tolleson and a bunt single by Xavier Nady, after which he ran a fastball too far inside on Robert Andino to load the bases with no outs. J.J. Hardy would give him some breathing room by hitting into a 6-4-3 double play, but Tolleson would come home to score to stretch the O’s lead to 2-0. Hardy would add an RBI double in the fifth and an RBI single in the sixth to spot Baltimore to a 4-0 lead with just three innings remaining.

On the other side of the ledger, the Yankees’ offense was downright anemic against Chen, who allowed just four hits and two walks in seven innings of work.… Click here to read the rest