Has The Solarte Party Come To An End?

After a hot start in Tampa this March, I was one of Yangervis Solarte‘s biggest doubters. A career minor leaguer rarely starts hitting major league pitching out of no where, and the small sample size of spring training wasn’t enough to disprove over 2,800 plate appearances in the minor leagues. But the infielder kept hitting, and by the second week of the regular season, I stopped doubting him and enjoyed the show. Solarte showcased bat speed, contact, an eye at the plate, and he was extremely versatile with his ability to switch-hit and play nearly anywhere on the infield.

None of this has changed. Solarte still has the same ability he did in April, but my fear was that we’d quickly learn something about Solarte that would finally expose a weakness. Either that didn’t happen or he made adjustments quicker than it could catch up to his statistics, because Solarte kept up his hot bat for two and half months between March, April, and mid-May.…

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What Makes Betances So Good?

Bill Kostroun

Bill Kostroun

There are many ways to get a batter out, and while some pitchers rely on sheer stuff to blow away a batter, most other pitchers rely on a combination of their pitch movements, velocities, and location to methodically confuse hitters. A pitcher like Mariano Rivera didn’t rely on a repertoire of disorienting pitches, he simply threw a cutter with incredible late horizontal break over and over again. Meanwhile, when a pitcher like Andy Pettitte lost velocity, he learned to throw with different movements and speeds to play up some of his declining pitches. Today, Masahiro Tanaka uses both styles, throwing a high-rising four-seamer, a hard breaking sinker, and a brutal splitter that make each subsequent pitch look like they’re moving even more than they really are.

Unlike Rivera, and much more like David Robertson, Dellin Betances uses more than one pitch. When a reliever, the right-hander used to throw a sinker and a changeup, but as a reliever he’s stuck with his two strongest pitches in his four-seamer and slurve.…

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Why Kendrys Morales Makes Sense

Kendrys-Morales-Seattle-Mariners1

The Yankees need reinforcements right now both offensively and in their starting rotation. There is probably nothing they can do about their pitching this far in advance of the trade deadline with nobody ready to sell yet. However, Kendrys Morales is sitting out there and will not cost prospects or a draft pick after the MLB Draft is done on June 7th.

The Yankees should hold off on signing Morales until after the draft so it does not cost them a pick. Afterwards, all it will cost them is money, and Hal Steinbrenner recently said that he is willing to spend to upgrade the team.

“Always willing to look at options come July, come the trade deadline,” Steinbrenner told ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand. “And I think we’ve shown that. Some years we’ve done stuff like last year with [Alfonso] Soriano. Some years we haven’t. But we’re not going to ever lay down and die. We’re going to do what we need to do to stay in.”

The Yankees offense has been pretty good so far this season.…

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Yangervis Solarte and the Chamber of Secrets

Solarte HR vs MIL

While Mark Teixeira rehabbed his wrist, Derek Jeter prepared to be on the receiving end of gift baskets, and Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Masahiro Tanaka were being fitted for pinstripes, Yangervis Solarte was learning the secrets of baseball at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There is simply no other reasonable explanation for a 26-year-old with a career minor league slashline of .286/.336/.397 (over 2800+ PA) to be not only the best hitter on the Yankees, but one of the best hitters in baseball. As of this morning, Solarte is 18th in Major League Baseball with a 145 wRC+, just ahead of Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mike Trout. And, while we hem and haw about the other shoe dropping, he has shown no real signs of slowing down.

Of course, some of the folk ahead of Solarte in wRC+ demonstrate just how early it is in the season. It’s safe to assume that Seth Smith, Brandon Moss, and Michael Brantley will not remain among the fifteen best hitters in the game through October.…

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Jacoby’s Rotten Month Of May

Ellsbury K vs SEA

Courtesy of Getty Images

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod.  Stats have not been updated to reflect yesterday’s game)

It’s been the best of times and the worst of times for Jacoby Ellsbury in his first 2 months as a New York Yankee.  In April, he hit .312/.369/.452 in 103 plate appearances divided between the leadoff and #3 lineup spots, played a solid center field, and made a very good first impression on Yankee fans.  He was among the team and American League leaders in hits (29), runs scored (14), and stolen bases (8).

May has been far less kind to Ellsbury.  His production has dropped off dramatically, he’s been a negative fWAR player, and the whispers about the Yankees overpaying have started popping up as they usually do when a player signs the kind of contract Jacoby did to come to new York.  After last Tuesday night’s 0-fer, Ellsbury’s May slash line is down to .206/.315/.302.  He’s scored 1 run in his last 5 games, has 1 hit in his last 7, 1 stolen base in his last 14, and 1 RBI in his last 15.  …

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About Last Night: Masahiro Tanaka

Last night, Masahiro Tanaka lost his first regular season decision since 2012. It’s not necessarily surprising that Tanaka lost a game because I don’t think anyone was actually expecting him to be undefeated this entire season. But what is a little surprising is which team was the one to “breakthrough” against Tanaka and hand him his first loss: The Chicago Cubs.

Here’s where all of the Cubs’ hits landed:

hit-chart (26)

He set the Cubs down in order until Luis Valbuena connected on a first pitch fastball in the second inning:

atbat-summary (2)

The batter before him, Starlin Castro, actually hit a sharp liner to Jeter (also on a fastball):

atbat-summary (3)

But nothing came out of it because Tanaka retired the next two batters, Nate Schierholtz and Mike Olt to end the inning.

The third inning when the Cubs were able to score on Tanaka and it all started when catcher John Baker, who entered last night’s game batting .063, hit a first pitch fastball for a single:

atbat-summary (4)

It was similar to the ball Valbuena hit for a double in the previous inning.…

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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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Can Chase Whitley Save The Rotation?

Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America

Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America

With CC Sabathia out until July and Ivan Nova recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees have two of their projected five starting pitchers out for the foreseeable future. Michael Pineda could be back in two weeks, but despite a hot month of April, questions still linger about the state of his shoulder, velocity, control, and now his teres major.

The rotation is left in the hands of a dominating Masahiro Tanaka and scuffling Hiroki Kuroda. David Phelps and Vidal Nuno have each had their good and bad starts, and it looks like Phelps might be able to contribute something above average. Chase Whitley is the final piece to the puzzle, and as the season goes on, he could prove to be the most important.

Susan covered Whitley’s interesting amateur and minor league history last week, and the biggest takeaway from Whitley’s minor league numbers is that they’re very good. He owns a low 2.64 ERA, an 8.6 K/9, and a low 2.9 BB/9, both of which have improved in 2014.…

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Gardner Thriving In The Leadoff Spot

Brett Gardner, Travis d'Arnaud

Courtesy of the AP

The Yankees brought Jacoby Ellsbury in to be their leadoff hitter.  They knew that, he knew that, and Brett Gardner knew that.  With Ellsbury hitting first and Derek Jeter holding down the #2 spot based more on reputation and tribute rather than merit, Gardner was left without a clearly defined role or spot in the batting order heading into the season.  Best suited to hit in the 1 or 2 spot, Gardner was relegated to the bottom third of the order as a pseudo-sorta second leadoff hitter.

At least he was until the injury problems started.  Between Mark Teixeira‘s strained hammy and now Carlos Beltran‘s elbow bone spur, the Yankees have had to use Ellsbury to lengthen the middle of their lineup a lot in the first 40+ games.  When Joe has had to bump him down to the 3-hole, it’s been Gardner who’s gotten the call to replace him atop the order.  While Gardner’s first go-round in the leadoff spot in early April wasn’t bad by any means (15-48, 4 R, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 SB in 10 G), his second effort over the last week and change has been much better.…

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