The Yankees can’t quit Stephen Drew

Drew vs BOS

Stephen Drew is a hot button topic among Yankee fans (and blogs) these days and with good reason. Most people want him designated for assignment because he’s taking up valuable real estate in the field and in the lineup when there are seemingly better and more attractive players waiting in the wings at second base.

Right now, Drew is the worst second baseman in the American League and if it weren’t for poor Chase Utley stinking up the joint in Philadelphia (.138/.214/.241/.455), Drew would be the worst second baseman in all of baseball.

In Drew’s last “full” season (I say full even though it was only 124 games) he batted .253/.333/.443/.777 with 13 home runs and 67 RBI. Last year, through 32 games, Drew was batting .178/.254/.346/.600 with a .168 ISO and this year, through 35 games, Drew is batting .177/.264/.345/.609 with a .168 ISO which is uncanny because the numbers are almost identical.

He’s hitting .213/.291/.362/.653 in 15 games at Yankee Stadium, .152/.243/.333/.577 in 20 games on the road and has one home run at home and three on the road.…

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Monday Morning Food For Thought: Offense Living And Dying With The Top Of The Order

Last Tuesday I wrote this post about the Yankees using the simple “get ‘em on, get ‘em in” formula with the top 4 spots in their batting order to fuel their recent hot streak.  They were coming off an 11-5 thumping of the Rays the night before in a game that saw the team hit 5 home runs and the top 4 spots in the order combine for 9 hits, 8 R scored, and 7 RBI.

Since that game, the Yankees have fallen on hard offensive times.  They’ve scored 11 runs in their last 6 games and gone 1-5 in those games.  5 of those 11 runs came in their only win during that stretch on Saturday afternoon, leaving the other 6 to be lightly dusted across the 5 losses.  This level of semi-extended offensive ineptitude is a call back to the last few seasons, something nobody wants to revisit.  While there are plenty of logical explanations for this regression: small sample size bias, bad luck, tired team desperately in need of an off-day, my biggest takeaway from these 6 games and the handful before them is just how top-heavy the Yankee lineup has become and just how little chance they have of winning when those top 4 spots aren’t producing.…

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Thursday Morning Food For Thought: CC’s Struggles With The Batting Order Are Mind Bottling

Sabathia vs TOR 2015

Courtesy of the AP

Besides the loss and the continued command struggles, the 2 stories to come out of CC Sabathia‘s latest start were the glaring lack of run support he’s received and the incredibly difficult time he had dealing with the bottom of the Toronto order.  The run support isn’t something CC has control over, so I’m not going to waste time and keystrokes discussing that.  How opposing hitters do against him is something he can control, to a degree, and last night was bizarro world in terms of effectiveness.

Against the top 4 spots in the lineup last night, 4 spots inhabited by 2 guys hitting at or around .300 and 2 of the most dangerous right-handed power hitters in the American League, Sabathia fared very well.  Those spots went a combined 1-12 against him with 2 walks and 2 strikeouts.  Against the bottom 5, however, it was a different story.  That group went a combined 8-15 with 2 XBH and 2 K, including a 3-3 showing by someone named Chris Colabello and the Russell Martin home run.…

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New Lefty Specialist Reliever CC Sabathia?

I’ll start with the Cliff Notes version of my argument. (1) CC Sabathia is no longer a big-league starter. (2) The Yankees have three southpaw relievers, but no true lefty specialist. (3) CC’s decline has been entirely against righties, so he still has use as a lefty specialist reliver. (4) This isn’t as weird as it sounds: other declining lefty starters have had second lives in their 30s as relievers.

I’ll skip the Nth discussion of how CC has been horrible for about 300 innings spanning 2013-2015, except to add that CC has zero value to the club even if he could run a 4.5ish ERA (which he can’t), because the team has too many alternatives ranging from replacement-level at worst (still better than CC) to mid-rotation-level. After Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi: (a) Chase Whitley and Adam Warren look like equally serviceable back-end starters; (b) another similar back-end starter is on the way in Chris Capuano, (c) Bryan Mitchell, who’s looked strong in AAA, is a wild card who could be awful but could be very good; and (d) Ivan Nova should return next month, and if healthy (which he seems to be) is a solid 3rd starter or better.…

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A Look to the Past for CC’s Future: Do Starters with “CC-Like” Declines Recover?

It’s about time to stop defending guys with, “it’s too early to conclude….” Bad performance for almost a month is worrisome – especially if the badness just continues from prior years. I already wrote that about Carlos Beltran, so now it’s CC Sabathia’s turn. The problem it isn’t his four 2015 starts; it’s his almost 300 IP of an 80 ERA+ (4.97 ERA) spanning 2013-15.

This is one of those times you can predict baseball: falling as far and as fast as CC is uncommon, but not unprecedented; he isn’t the first once-talented 30something to suffer a substantial, sudden decline – which I confirmed by searching the Baseball Reference “Play Index” tool for pitchers with a decline like CC’s. I generated a list of all 30something starters, in the past 50 years, with a career ERA+ of over 95 (i.e., average-ish or better) who, after at least six full seasons (i.e., a track record of success), suddenly had an ERA+ under 85 (in at least 150 IP).…

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Bad outcomes do not always result from bad decisions

tanakaThis may seem like a basic statement, but sometimes the right decision made with every piece of data and insight available at the time can result in a bad outcome. The converse is also true. Some call this luck, either good luck or bad luck.

When Ned Yost calls for another bunt that works out in his team’s favor, it doesn’t automatically mean it was the right decision. It just happened to work out. Happens all the time all over sport and clearly beyond it, as well.

On Monday, our favorite Masahiro Tanaka went on the DL for at least a month. Could be longer, but we hope not. It’s a blow to the team, no question.

Let’s remember back to last year, when Tanaka initially got hurt. MRIs, doctors, lots of doctors. The best elbow/arm specialists on the planet. And their unanimous conclusion was rest, treatment, and rehab. These are medical wizards, not a bunch of mopes gathered outside around a food truck (no slight on food trucks; I love them).…

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What’s the Half-Life of a Decaying Beltran? Or: Who’s Next for Right?

This is one of those pessimistic posts I’d be happy to laugh at myself for writing, ideally after Carlos Beltran heats up. Last season, he clearly played through pain, and not for a payday — he was just starting the three-year, $45 million deal that’s very likely his last major contract — but to help the team’s faint playoff hopes. And from interviews, he seems like a good guy who cares about his quality of play. But that quality of play sure has gotten poor.

Granted, 2015 Beltran has only 30 bad plate appearances of a .143/.167/.214 line that leaves him an OPS (.381) barely higher than Alex Rodriguez‘s OBP – but Beltran has been aging ungracefully for longer than April 2015. The 2015 bad start follows a bad 2015 spring, which follows a sub-replacement 2014 (-0.2 WAR), which follows a generally injury-prone 30s. So it’s not early-season gun-jumping to be pessimistic about a guy with that record of decline and brittleness who’s just days away from turning 38.…

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Tanaka looks to rebound against the Red Sox

Tanaka vs TOR 2015

Courtesy of the AP

This early in the season, you want to find positives about the Yankees.

Yet this team has made it difficult with its blunders on defense, mistakes on the base paths and the poor hitting thus far. However, even after all that, one of the biggest topics that New York is going to face this year is the effectiveness of Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees signed Tanaka for $155 million for seven years. Last season, he suffered a partial tear of the UCL of his right elbow, and after his terrible first start of 2015 many have wondered why Tanaka didn’t just get Tommy John surgery since all the cool kids are doing it.

The Yankees have said that Tanaka is still working back and haven’t sounded the alarms just yet.

“This is not totally shocking,” Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild told reporters. “I think he’s still in the process of building arm strength and everything. His arm strength is not far off.…

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Disaster Scenario Fun!

Every team starts the season thinking, “we’re world-beaters if only youngsters A & B develop like we hope, injured-last-year folks C & D stay healthy, and aging vets E & F return to form!” But life doesn’t work that way. If possibilities A-F all are coin tosses, you never flip six straight “heads” — or, at least, the odds are only 1 in 64 of doing so, in which case, congrats, you’re the 2014 Royals. So it’s unrealistic to muse, “how great will we be if everyone stays healthy and plays to max potential?”

The more realistic and interesting question is, “what if the most likely problems happen?” What if youngster A (Didi Gregorious?) doesn’t develop, injured guy B (Carlos Beltran) doesn’t recover, or aging vets C-F (Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Stephen Drew, Alex Rodriguez) don’t bounce back? With pitching, the answer is obvious: losing a #1-2 starter means you’re screwed to the tune of 3-5 wins each; you’re replacing a good-to-great pitcher with someone too scrubby to be one of your top five starters – Esmil Rogers replacing Masahiro Tanaka or Michael Pineda.…

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