Bottom Of The Order Coming Up Big Lately

Ichiro vs CHW

I’m actually going to say something positive about Ichiro. Believe it. Courtesy of Getty Images

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod.  Stats, for once, have been updated to include last night’s game)

Consistent offensive production continues to be a big problem for the Yankees as May winds down.  Carlos Beltran is on the DL, Teix may or may not have to join him because of his wrist stiffness, and Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano have been unable to find their footing to carry the middle of the order.  Despite all of this, the Yankees have won 4 of their last 7 games and 8 of their last 13 over the last 2 weeks.  It’s been the bottom of the order and the rotating cast of characters inhabiting it that have had a lot to do with that.

Look no further than Brian Roberts‘ game-winning hit with the bases loaded in the 12th on Monday as an example.  That was his 3rd hit in 6 extra inning plate appearances this season and he has 5 hits, 4 runs scored, and 2 RBI in his last 4 games.  …

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The Maturation Of Dellin Betances

Betances vs LAA

Courtesy of Getty Images

He toiled away in the Minors for so long that I didn’t even consider him a prospect anymore coming into this season.  If anything, Dellin Betances was still a project at 25 years old and turning 26 before Opening Day.  Despite being in the Yankee system since 2006 and making his Major League debut in 2011, Betances only had 7.2 innings pitched in 8 games in his Major League career.  Once thought of as a potential ace starting pitching prospect, the Yankees finally gave up on that dream early last season and converted Betances to a full-time relief role.

While he did flourish in the role, Betances’ lack of experience in it combined with his wildly inconsistent command and tendency to fall apart when things started going wrong made him far from a sure thing as a reliable Major League reliever.  Joe took him out of camp mostly because he did earn it with a strong performance but partially because this year was the final year for Betances to show something.  …

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Basking In The Good Pitching Afterglow

Phelps vs BOS 2014

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

Quality of opponent being what it was, yesterday’s Wednesday’s doubleheader shutout was still a splendid performance by the Yankee pitching staff.  They got very good to outstanding outings from 2 25-year-old starters and some solid bullpen work from a bunch of mostly young and unheralded pitchers all working in higher-leverage roles thanks to the closer being on the DL.  It was a continuation of what has quickly been established as the norm for this group since the opening week of the season.  These guys can pitch, all of them, and they’ve been the driving force behind the Yankees’ early success.

The Yanks opened a weekend series tonight last night in Tampa with the 2nd best record in the American League, a place atop the AL East, and they’ve done it mainly on the back of their pitching staff while the new lineup continues to work out the kinks and find its way.  …

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Comparing Pineda’s Return To His 2011 Season

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

On Saturday, Michael Pineda finally took to a Major League mound in a Yankees’ uniform. After two years of recovering from a labral tear in his shoulder, expectations for Pineda dropped from a top of the rotation pitcher to the fifth spot in the rotation. Pineda beat out great performances by David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno this March, and on Saturday, against a tough Blue Jays lineup, Pineda gave the Yankees’ their best pitching performance of this short season.

Pineda threw just 83 pitches and gave the Yankees 6.0 innings, with 5 hits, 0 walks, 1 run, and striking out 5 batters. He ultimately took the loss thanks to his poor run support and a controversial call at home plate by umpire Dana DeMuth.

Although Saturday ended in a disappointing loss, it was hard to be negative following the brilliant performance of Pineda. Shoulder injuries often end careers, as very few pitchers return with the same velocity and movement they once had.…

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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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Comparing Yankees’ Opening Day Lineups From 2013 To 2014

After a torturous Spring Training last year, the Yankees opened up the 2013 season with one of their worst opening day lineups in recent history. Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez all hit the disabled list early, and this was after losing Nick Swisher and Russell Martin to free agency. There was a ton of doom and gloom from Yankee fans and the media, but by the end of the season, the Yankees’ record really wasn’t all that terrible. Yet, only Alex Rodriguez returned for long enough to make an impact on the season, while the Yankees’ management proved that they would make the necessary moves to provide a competitive team.

Looking back on the 2013, it’s hard to be too pessimistic about their 85-77 record, despite losing out on the playoffs. They played far better than we expected, but it’s easy to forget just how bad this team looked in April. Here’s the opening day lineup from 2013 compared to the projected opening day lineup for 2014.…

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Finding Cervelli More At Bats

Francisco Cervelli has always been a decent hitter, and for a catcher, decent hitters can go a long way. His injury history hasn’t been as kind to him as his offensive stats, and collisions at the plate have been a culprit in his inconsistency since he was a prospect in the minor leagues. When the catcher performed well in 2013, many thought it was a fluke after hitting .269/.377/.500 in 61 plate appearances. Yet another injury shortened his season, and then even more suspicion surrounded his stats when he was caught up in the Biogenesis investigation.

Cervelli’s little breakout performance was regarded as a product of whatever drugs Anthony Bosch provided to him, but now he’s given us a reason to rethink that. While I’m not a fan of assuming great power performances are necessarily a product of some sort of PED, I can understand the suspicion with Cervelli, as he’s just half a year removed from a drug violation. But after a 50 game suspension and nearly a year off from baseball, it would be hard to imagine that Cervelli is willing to risk a second suspension by staying on banned drugs.…

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So The Yankees Basically Won The Pineda-Montero Trade Yesterday, Right?

Pineda vs BOS ST

The title of this post was a topic that came up on our daily email thread yesterday, mostly jokingly if I interpreted the email correctly.  The now infamous Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade of 2012 has been an easy source of comedy in the baseball world with how poorly the deal has turned out for both sides thus far, but the more I thought about it last night, the more I think the joke is actually true.  Even if he wakes up today, has his right arm fall completely off of his body, and never throws another pitch for the Yankees again, Pineda’s start yesterday guaranteed a W for the Yankees on that deal.

It’s a simple matter of hope.  Pineda’s strong outing yesterday, against an admittedly C-level Red Sox lineup, inspired more hope that he can come back and be an effective Major League starting pitcher, maybe even better than he was in 2011.  Back then Pineda was mostly a thrower, 90% fastballs and sliders, and he got by on the strength of his 4-seamer velocity and sharp slider break.  …

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Thoughts On The Rotation Two Weeks From Opening Day

Masuhiro Tanaka

A little over 2 weeks from right now, the Yankees will be on the road in Houston to open the 2014 regular season.  They’ll be facing the immortal Scott Feldman, and barring anything unforeseen they will send CC Sabathia out for his 6th straight Opening Day start to counter.  That’s one of the few definites in the starting rotation right now, and with 11 spring games left to sort out the rest, the big picture is starting to come into focus.  Some random thoughts on where the rotation stands 2 weeks from Opening Day.

- Unless you’re still hung up on the velocity, there was reason to feel good about Sabathia’s start in Panama.  The level of competition wasn’t the greatest, sure, but it wasn’t world class in his first 2 starts either.  The important takeaway was his command, which was much better than it had been and made life easier for CC by allowing him to work from ahead in the count.  …

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