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.  …

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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.  …

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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.  …

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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.  …

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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.  …

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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.  …

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How Well Will Joe Manage The New Replay Challenge System?

Joe Fair-Foul

On the second of his 2 groundouts in yesterday’s game, Derek Jeter ran hard down the first base line and turned a relatively routine play into a very close play at first base.  To those who saw it, the image of Jeter running hard and without any noticeable hitch in his stride was the highlight of Spring Training thus far and the only storyline that mattered after the game.  But another part of that play that didn’t get talked about much may prove to be a more important talking point long-term.

Speaking to reporters post-game, Joe said that when he watched the play at first base and saw how close the play was, he immediately thought about how he would have handled challenging the call under MLB’s new instant replay rules.  He couldn’t actually do it in the game because yesterday’s game was not using the new replay system, but the addition of these replay rules gives managers another wrinkle to consider in their in-game strategy and Joe is going through the mental motions, just like his players are on the field, to prepare himself for the situation when the games start to count.…

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Getting Stoked For Tanaka’s Spring Training Outings

Masahiro Tanaka

Later today, the Yankees will take the field for their Spring Training opener against Florida State.  Vidal Nuno will get the ball to start and he’ll be followed up by Ivan Nova, David Phelps, and Adam Warren over the next 3 games. The competition for the 5th starter spot will be the leading storyline for the early ST games, and that’s to be expected with that group of pitchers being further along than their veteran counterparts and with the other 4 rotation spots setting in stone.

While he hasn’t has his name penciled into a date for his ST debut yet, Masahiro Tanaka took another step towards that debut when he threw his second batting practice session yesterday morning.  As he did after the first session on Friday, Tanaka drew praise from the coaches who watched him and the batters who faced him.  His splitter is already creating a lot of buzz in camp for its sharp movement and how difficult it is to identify coming out of his hand, and each time he throws, more excitement builds for his first outing.  …

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No Shortage Of Questions About The Batting Order Right Now

Joe Girardi

As the focus shifts from the hot stove season to the start of spring training, the talking points are shifting along with it.  Case in point, Buster Olney’s ESPN article yesterday about the toughest lineup decisions facing teams as they prepare for the 2014 season.  The article is Insider only, but the important part for the purposes of this blog was the one on the Yankees and their slight dilemma of where to bat Brett Gardner.  Olney’s case for hitting Gardner 2nd is a sound one.  Gardner’s speed and patience are a great fit at the top of the lineup where they can be used to wreak havoc on the basepaths with Jacoby Ellsbury, and he has shown a knack for getting on base (.352 career OBP).  The Yankees best bet to set the table for the middle of their lineup would probably be to use Ellsbury and Gardner as a 2-headed leadoff monster.

Of course, no discussion about the top of the Yankee batting order would be complete without mentioning Derek Jeter, and Olney correctly points out that Jeter’s legend and resume will factor heavily into Joe’s decision on where to bat him.  …

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