Monday Mid-Morning Food For Thought: The One Positive From The Weekend Series

That was a rather sour finish to the homestand.  To go from taking 3 of 4 from the Tigers and outpitching their rotation of studs in the process to dropping 2 of 3 to the Indians and scoring 1 run in the final 18 innings of the series was the highest highs right back to the lowest lows, another example of this team’s maddening inconsistency.  The Yankees lost ground in the postseason races this past weekend and head into Baltimore for a crucial series needing at least a 2-1 series win to seriously stay in AL East title contention.

If there’s one positive thing to take away from the last 2 days, it’s this.  The Yankees are heading into Baltimore tonight with the big guns in their bullpen well rested.  The way the Cleveland series went down gave Joe the option of scaling back the usage of guys like David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Adam Warren and it was an option he took.  …

Read more

McCarthy Mixes Fastballs Brilliantly To Tame The Tigers

Last Tuesday was Brandon McCarthy‘s worst start as a Yankee.  Against a weak Texas lineup he didn’t have good command of his stuff and got hit around for 9 hits and 4 ER in 6 innings.  The Yankees eventually won that game, as they’ve won all 5 games he’s started since being acquired.  The 5th win came last night, when McCarthy was back on the hill and back in full command of his entire fastball arsenal.  He featured all 3 in different situations against different hitters and completely held the Detroit Tiger lineup at bay with the way used them.

Before we get to that, just a quick counting stats recap for those who either missed the game or didn’t fully appreciate how good McCarthy was last night.  He threw 116 pitches, his highest pitch count of the year and the 3rd straight start in which he threw 108 or more, and pumped in 81 strikes (69.8%).  He threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 25 batters he faced and had 11 swinging strikes (13.6%).  …

Read more

Joe’s Bad Bullpen Decisions Doomed That Series

Joe vs BOS

“What do you think here? Gotta be Huffy, right?” Courtesy of the AP

I’ve been a slow convert to the Joe Girardi management method.  At first I really didn’t like how he did things, and it was only in the last 2 or 3 years that I fully got on board Team Joe when it came to evaluating how he went about his job.  If I’m being honest, and also a bit of a homer, I think the job he’s done since the start of last season, with the teams he’s been given and the injuries he’s had to deal with, has been the best work of his career and arguably the best managing job in all of MLB.  So now that I’ve prefaced this post with that setting of context, let me say that I have absolutely no clue what the hell Joe was doing with his bullpen this weekend.

Saturday night, out for a late dinner with the girlfriend.  …

Read more

Joe Needs To Keep Lengthening The Leash On His Young Starters

Joe-Nuno vs CHW

Courtesy of Getty Images

A funny thing happened this last turn through the rotation.  Joe showed a little more faith in his trio of young replacement starters, allowing all of them to work deeper into the game than they have since taking spots in the rotation, and the world didn’t collapse in on itself.  In fact, the Yankees won 2 of the 3 games pitched by David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Chase Whitley, and may have snuck out a win in the other game if Joe had put a competitive lineup on the field.

The Yankees have had a ton of problems in their rotation already this year, almost all of them due to injury.  The latest issue has been not getting enough length from the starters and it was an issue partially perpetuated by Joe and his quick hook with these 3.  He knows who his bullpen aces are and he’s leaned heavily on them to carry the burden of holding leads rather than leave it in the hands of pitchers in which he doesn’t have as much confidence.  …

Read more

Why No Gardner?

Joe Dugout

Really shouldn’t take that much thought. Courtesy of Getty Images

I’ve written this post before, but if you’re not familiar with it, here’s the updated version.

Joe decided to give Brian McCann and Brett Gardner a night off last night and Derek Jeter a half-night off by DHing him against lefty Chris Sale.  That left the middle of his lineup pretty thin and the bottom half of his lineup almost non-existent.  A 6-9 of Brian Roberts, John Ryan Murphy, Brendan Ryan, and Zoilo Almonte wouldn’t be ideal against Chris Hammond let alone the best left-handed pitcher in the American League, but that’s what Joe went with.

Sale predictably shut down that weak lineup over his 6 innings of work.  Made them look terrible.  Took them out back and slapped them around like children.  The only thing that stopped the madness was the pregame pitch count limit Robin Ventura had put on Sale.  Now resting McCann I get.  …

Read more

Maintaining Kuroda’s Workload Restriction In The Face Of A Rotation Depletion

Kuroda vs PIT

Courtesy of the AP

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

It’s Pitcher Workload Monday Week around here, huh?  That’ll happen when 60% of your Opening Day rotation is on the DL and replaced with 3 guys who struggle to complete 6 innings.  Further complicating matters is the fact that one of the remaining 2 healthy starters, Hiroki Kuroda, entered this season with a workload restriction attached to him.  Similarly to how Joe handled Andy Pettitte last season, the plan for Kuroda was to be a 6-inning/100-pitch pitcher for the most part.  The thought was that by limiting him to those thresholds early, it would help prevent the late-season decline in performance he experienced in 2013.  It’s also a smart “better safe than sorry” strategy to take with a pitcher in his late 30s.

The problem with that strategy is that the substitution of Nuno-Phelps-Whitley for Nova-Pineda-Sabathia has put an extra strain on the bullpen.  One way to help alleviate that strain would be to let Kuroda pitch a little deeper in his outings, something Joe had the opportunity to do that in yesterday’s Sunday’s opening doubleheader game.  …

Read more

Joe’s Lineup Decisions Suggest Lessons Learned From Last Year

Joe vs HOU II

When you’re coming off 2 straight losses to what was the worst team in MLB by a wide margin last year and you decide to sit your leadoff hitter, cleanup hitter, and starting third baseman in the 3rd game of the season, that’s normally a decision that will draw some questions.  I certainly had a few in my head when I got a look at the lineup before last night’s game.  I didn’t understand why Joe would want to rest Brian McCann already when he’s got a Friday night/Saturday afternoon setup this weekend in Toronto, and I really didn’t understand why he felt the need to play the platoon matchup game with Kelly Johnson and a guy making his MLB debut in Yangervis Solarte when Johnson has a higher career OPS against lefties than righties.

As it turns out, Joe knew exactly what he was doing.  Solarate and Ichiro Suzuki combined for 5 hits and 4 runs scored from the bottom of the order subbing for Johnson and Jacoby Ellsbury, leading the offensive charge in the team’s first win.  …

Read more

A Quick Word On The Shift

Kelly Johnson ST 2014

Just one more thing for Johnson to learn at third. Courtesy of Getty Images

Yesterday, Pete Caldera wrote an interesting little article about the Yankees’ plans to employ infield shifts more this year as part of their in-game defensive strategy.  They’re one of the teams that hasn’t been as quick to jump on the shift bandwagon as a team like the Rays, and with a very old and very range-limited starting infield this season it makes sense to try to cover some of those infield range holes with a shift in situations that call for it.

What remains to be seen is how successful this strategy will play out with the infielders the Yankees have.  Kelly Johnson is the only one with any experience playing in shifts as a former Ray, and he’s spending the bulk of his time learning what is essentially a new position for him at third base.  That learning curve hasn’t been a smooth or steady so far for Johnson.  …

Read more

Spring Rotation Order Could Be Coming With A Dose Of Strategy

Sabathia-Tanaka ST 2014

After playing to a 3-3 tie in yesterday’s game, the Yankees will get their first true off day of the spring today.  No games, no scheduled workouts at the complex, nothing.  Now 3 weeks into Spring Training and with 3 weeks remaining until Opening Day, they’ve reached the point where the focus starts to change and everything starts to matter a little more.  One thing Joe did over the weekend before today’s off day was announce the rotation order for the next week.  If you happened to miss it in the course of your regular weekend activities, it looks like this:

Tuesday- CC Sabathia & Masahiro Tanaka (sim game)
Wednesday- Hiroki Kuroda
Thursday- Michael Pineda & Ivan Nova (split squad)
Friday- David Phelps
Saturday- Vidal Nuno & Adam Warren (split squad)
Sunday- Sabathia & Tanaka (split squad)

This coming weekend’s games will be played in Panama, which is why the Yanks will have 2 starters and why they’ve yet to announce the first round of spring roster cuts.  …

Read more