Is Jeremy Hellickson breaking the mold?

It’s no secret that Andrew Friedman, Gerry Hunsicker, and the rest of the Rays’ front office is developing one of the best young starting rotations in baseball down in Tampa. Led by top-pick David Price, 26, a Cy Young candidate two years back with a 5-1 record and a 2.35 ERA on the season, Tampa’s rotation has been the league’s second best this year. The Rays are 19-9 on the season and their starting rotation 16-6 in those games with a 3.51 ERA.

Price has a 2.49 FIP, a career best. James Shields has a 2.94 xFIP, also a career best. Jeff Niemann is one of the best back of the rotation starters in baseball – he has a 3.61 xFIP this season, a 3.73 last year – and while Matt Moore has struggled with a 5.71 ERA on the season, no one is seriously worried about baseball’s top prospect. The Rays’ are taking the AL East by storm, and their rotation is a big part of that success.… Click here to read the rest

Why Banuelos Should Be In the Majors If Command Success Continues

The Yankees top prospect, Manny Banuelos, saw mixed results in the early months of this season. The left handed pitcher emerged out of the early spring throwing an improved curveball and a new cutter to compliment his already plus fastball and changeup. For the 21 year old pitcher entering the 2012 season in Triple-A, his success was never questioned by the quality of his pitches, but instead contingent upon his command.

In three spring training outings, Banuelos inconsistently pushed across 4 walks in his 5.0 innings, and through his first two starts with Scranton, he went an atrocious 5.1 innings, giving up, 14 hits, 6 earned runs, 7 walks, and only 2 strikeouts. He threw an uninspiring 82 strikes out of 155 pitches, a 53% strike rate. Perhaps just as we thought he was heading down the Andrew Brackman nightmarish career path that culminated with the Yankees last year, Banuelos was sent to the disable list with back problems.

Scouting reports from before 2011 largely suggested that the youngster appeared to be a quick mover, and his success would rely on his ability to develop his third pitch, the curveball.… Click here to read the rest

Learning to live with Raul Ibanez

Now here is a bit of a confession. I hated the Raul Ibanez deal. Absolutely hated it. And then he went like two for Spring Training and diatribes spewed regularly from my mouth. But here he was in the fourth inning and I sat there totally dejected in my beat up recliner. And he hit a homer. He hit a two-run homer! Okay, some will call it a “Yankee porch” homer. At least it wasn’t in the front row. Carlos Pena denigrated it in a post game interview. But Pena would have taken it, right? In a huge series…oh wait…I said we couldn’t call it that…oh what the heck…In a huge series, the Yankees had a two to zip lead thanks to Raul Ibanez.

Ibanez would hit a second shot in the bottom of the seventh off of Badenhop. That homer was big too because the Bay Rays had hit two solo homers off of Ivan Nova to cut the lead to one run.… Click here to read the rest

Nova’s homers

Yesterday in my article about Ivan Nova and his problem with hard contact, I intimated that Nova’s high HR/FB% was a bit unlucky. He didn’t do me any favors by giving up two more homers, one to Jose Molina and one to Luke Scott, during his start last night. The one to Scott, though, was definitely a Yankee Stadium Special, so I went to Nova’s page on Hit Tracker to see if Nova was actually getting unlucky with the long ball, or if I was just being a bit of a Pollyanna.

He has now given up eight home runs on the year, leading to an 18.2 HR/FB%. If we go by the classifications on HTO, Nova’s given up one no doubt homer, the one to Nick Markakis in Yankee Stadium lat week. Three homers have been classified as “plenty” while the remaining four have been dubbed “just enough” to get out. What might matter more, though, is how many of those homers would’ve gotten out in xx number of parks.… Click here to read the rest

Of course the new closer was nervous!

“A little nerve-wracking,” Robertson said of his first save since becoming the man who would replace Mariano Rivera as the Yankees closer. “I didn’t mean to put so many guys on.”

and:

“I had some nerves out there,” Robertson admitted. “I knew it was the first time without Mo and I wanted to get the job done quickly. But it didn’t work out that way.”

and:

“I was thinking, ‘Don’t blow your first opportunity,’ ” Robertson said. “I was afraid Mo might come back in here and slap me around.”

Whenever your mind is playing those kinds of tricks on you, succeeding becomes doubly difficult. David Robertson was fortunate. He squeaked by his first save opportunity and that should help settle him down in future efforts. There is some good news here. Robertson struck out two more batters, giving him 23 in just 13 innings of work. How does 15.9 strikeouts per nine innings grab you?

Here is Robertson’s Pitch/FX for the outing.… Click here to read the rest

Yankees play with fire, emerge unscathed in victory

For the Yankees, Ivan Nova faced the minimum number of batters through four innings after a Ben Zobrist was erased on a strike-em-out-throw-em-out in the first inning, while Raul Ibanez got the Bombers on the board with a two run home run off of James Shields in the bottom of the inning. Curtis Granderson added a solo home run in the 5th, his 10th of the season, and for a while it looked like the Yankees might have a relatively easy go of things, but the Rays refused to lay down, and the Yankee pitchers gave them every opportunity to get back into the game.

For his part, Nova allowed a solo home run on an 0-2 pitch to Jose Molina, of all people, to lead off the sixth inning, then walked lead offf man Zobrist on four straight pitches. Back to back ground balls by Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton would get Nova out of the inning with the 3-1 lead, but Luke Scott hit a solo home run to cut the lead to 3-2 with one out in the seventh.… Click here to read the rest

Ibanez’s two homers power Yanks over Rays

The Yankees beat the Rays 5-3 tonight, behind the power of three home runs, two by DH Raul Ibanez and one by Curtis Granderson, and a (mostly) strong start by Ivan Nova. Tonight’s game also featured a save by David Robertson, the first Yankee save since Mariano Rivera‘s knee injury. Let’s start with that story, shall we?

Robertson started the 9th inning easily enough, getting a grounder off of Jeff Keppinger‘s bat. Will Rhymes followed with a walk and Sean Rodriguez subsequently singled. The Rays sent up Brandon Allen to pinch hit aN. Robertson punched him out before issuing a walk to Ben Zobrist to load the bases for the powerful Yankee killer Carlos Pena. Robertson ended the game by striking Pena out on a 2-2 fastball on the outside corner. Much will be made of the fact that Robertson loaded the bases here due to the pressure of the 9th inning, but let’s be real here, people: David Robertson just tends to put people on base.… Click here to read the rest

The Farm Report: 5/8/12

Empire State beat Columbus 4-3 in Game 2:
The Clippers got the game started with a single from Cord Phelps and a RBI double by Chad Huffman.  Matt LaPorta doubled in Huffman and Columbus held a 2-0 lead.  Kevin Russo singled for the Yankees and stole second. He scored on a single from Jack Cust.  With two outs in the second, Raymond Kruml singled to center and stole second.  Russo doubled him in, tying the game.  Cust doubled in the third and Ronnier Mustelier continued his hot hitting, driving a homer to left for a 4-2 lead.  Columbus got back one run, but that was all they could manage as the Yankees held on for a 4-3 victory and a doubleheader split.  Russo went 3-3 with a run scored, two doubles and a RBI.  Cust went 2-3 with a run scored, a double and a RBI.  Adam Warren went 4.2 innings and allowed three runs on eleven hits.  He did not walk anyone and struck out four.… Click here to read the rest