Bad Defense Continues To Hamper The Yankees

Gardner-Jones Drop vs HOU

The look of surprise on Jones’ face is actually pretty funny. Courtesy of Getty Images

The Yankees dropped the series finale in Houston yesterday, and while there’s nothing wrong with splitting a 4-game road series against a division leader, yesterday’s game was another one of those frustrating “coulda, shoulda, woulda” losses that the Yanks seem to have a little too often.

They wasted a very good start by Michael Pineda (2 runs in 8 innings), didn’t muster but 2 hits against what has been a very hittable Colin McHugh this season, and they even committed a defensive error that was worse than anything you could see in the Little League World Series.  In the bottom of the 4th, Carlos Correa lofted a lazy fly ball to left-center field.  Brett Gardner had a bead on it, called for it, and then at the last second pulled back as Garrett Jones did the exact same thing coming for the other direction.  The ball dropped between them for what was scored a double, but then Gardner made things worse by kicking the ball to the wall in his attempt to pick it up.  …

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Short Analysis: How Many Players of Tony Renda’s Height (5’8″) Make It?

[Note: I’m just under Renda’s height, so I have in-group privilege to make all the short jokes in this post.] Tony Renda seems mildly promising, from what I’m reading: a second-round pick who’s a solid contact hitter with a great eye; defense that’s not only solid, but improving, at a position of need; and someone who could earn promotion in short order, as a 24 year-old playing pretty well at AA. Conceivably he’ll grow into a AAA job when Refsnyder is promoted, and then who knows, he could be a utilityman after Ryan and Drew leave, or even a potential full-time 2B if Refsnyder stagnates. But Renda is 5’8″, so you fear his utter lack of power (4 HR in 1640 PA in A-AA) is a real sign, not something he’ll grow out of with better contact.

Yesterday I happened to be reading opinions about whether women will ever play in MLB, and I take this side: (1) yes; (2) the biggest barrier is how softball diverts girls away, but some girls do play little league through high school baseball; (3) fewer women are 6′ or musclebound, but some are, and you see plenty below 6′ in positions where agility and talent can thrive without raw strength and size – 2B, SS, LF, CF, and to an extent P.…

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Attempting To Talk Fairly About Joe And The Bullpen Situation

Girardi vs BAL

Courtesy of Getty Images

It’s been a rough few days for Joe Girardi and his bullpen.  He used his 2 best relievers in a 5-run game on Tuesday night, didn’t have the one healthy one left available yesterday as a result, went with one of his younger, inexperienced middle relievers for the 8th inning, and watched that reliever cough up the 2-run lead that the offense had provided in the previous half-inning.  This comes on the heels of Friday night’s 9th inning near-meltdown by an even lower-leverage reliever and a few questionable instances of using David Carpenter in close games with men on before he was future endeavored.

There’s been a lot to not like from the ‘pen over the past month or so, from the injuries to the inconsistency to the decision making to the performance at times.  The one part of the roster that was thought to be solid and the least cause for concern has become arguably the most inconsistent, and yesterday it seemed like that came to head for many fans and bloggers around the Yankosphere.  …

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Thursday morning reflections after a sweep in Seattle

I said this other day after the Yankees were able to beat Felix Hernandez: This team is confounding.

They will sweep the best team in the league (in the AL and at the time the series began), lose three out of four to a terrible team in Oakland and then sweep the Mariners in Seattle while facing the aforementioned Hernandez.

And guess what? The Yankees are in first place and four games above .500! They’re 7-3 in their last 10 games, not that you’d know that with the way some people are reacting to how they’re playing.

Are they a great team? No, but in the AL Least – no, I did not spell that wrong – being just good enough will probably be more than adequate to win the division.

Were these three games against Seattle good? Yes and no.

Beating King Felix was fun but barely beating a rookie in Mike Montgomery – well, they actually didn’t beat him, they had to wait until Fernando Rodney entered the game to make some noise – and being nearly shut down by Taijuan Walker wasn’t that great.…

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This Year’s Yankees Already Mastering The Art of Being Consistently Inconsistent

It’s only the last week of May and already this has been quite the season for the New York Yankees.  Barely a step or 2 past the quarter pole and it already feels like we’ve experienced multiple seasons in one.  The Yankees started off 3-6 in their first few weeks, then rattled off a white hot 18-6 stretch into early May to ascend to the top of the American League, and followed that up with an ongoing 2-10 run that has dropped them back to .500 and started many fans and writers scrambling for the towers to wave the white flags.

More important than the streakiness itself has been the way the Yankees have looked like completely different teams during the respective streaks.  They looked sluggish and old to start the year 3-6, showing little on offense and getting inconsistent starting pitching at best.  When they were 18-6 they were a lethal combination of speed at the top of the order and power in the middle with a lockdown bullpen preserving a lot of close wins.  …

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Adam Warren v. Dave LaPoint (and Starter v. Reliever Velocity)

Warren vs BAL II

Courtesy of Getty Images

Ever have a job you were performing decently, but that still left you wondering every day if a demotion is coming? Adam Warren does. While he’s not killing it, or pitching deep into games, his average of just under 5.5 IP/start isn’t awful, and not many teams have both 4th and 5th starters beating Warren’s 4.50 ERA / 4.15 FIP. But Chris Capuano‘s return was sure to cost the rotation spot of one guy a decade younger – either Warren or, it turned out, TJ patient Chase Whitley.

Old Man Capuano versus The Kids reminds me of my favorite obscure baseball quote: rookie Sterling Hitchcock‘s too-bold yet dead-on blasting of the Yankees’ impatience with trusting young starters over crappy vets. Hitchcock is a Yankee immortal to me, but for this quote, not his forgettable pitching:

You hear a lot about our young guys, but then there’s no slot for us … It’s, “Go back to [AAA] and have a great year, and thanks for coming.” It’s frustrating because you look at other teams … and you see you pitched against them in the minors.

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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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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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