Quick Hit: The Rebirth Of ManBan

Way back after the end of last season, I wrote a post hypothesizing and somewhat advocating for the idea of Manny Banuelos being a contender for a Major League rotation spot this year.  I knew the team was going to play it extra safe with him and they have, but I also knew that there was going to be a need for starting pitching at some point.  My rationale was that if Banuelos was healthy and stretched out, he was just as good a fill-in candidate as anybody else.

For the better part of this season, his first back from TJS, ManBan has been neither stretched out, healthy, nor very good.  Many of his early-season starts were limited to no more than 3 innings and he missed chunks of time in May and late June with blister problems and shoulder fatigue.  He went through a 4-game stretch in which he gave up 12 ER and walked 6 in 8.2 innings pitched after coming back from the shoulder-related time off.  …

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A Final Word On The Solarte Era

Solarte vs PIT

Courtesy of Getty Images

When the Yankees announced that they had signed Yangervis Solarte to a MiL deal and extended him an invitation to spring camp, I’m sure a lot of us had the same reaction.  “Who??”  We quickly found out who when Solarte impressed in ST and earned himself a spot on the Opening Day roster, then watched in various levels of amazement as he proceeded to be the team’s best hitter through the first 2 months.  At one point in mid-May he was leading the AL in batting average and he finished the month with a .299/.369/.466 slash line.

Whether it was opposing pitchers figuring him out and adjusting to him, him changing his approach in a way that negatively impacted his effectiveness, a natural regression back to his true talent level, or a combination of all 3, Solarte’s production fell off big time in June.  He was slowly being phased out of the everyday lineup before being included as part of the trade package for Chase Headley yesterday.  …

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Patchwork Rotation Holding Together Pretty Well

We probably would have talked about this already had the All Star-break not happened right in the middle of it, but have people noticed how well the Yankee rotation has been pitching?  I came across a tweet earlier this morning pointing it out to me and I actually did a double take at my desk.  If you were as blind to it as I was, here’s how the last 8 Yankee starts have gone:

  • 7/9, McCarthy- 6.2 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
  • 7/10, Phelps- 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K
  • 7/11, Kuroda- 7 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
  • 7/12, Greene- 7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
  • 7/13, Whitley- 3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
  • 7/18, Phelps- 6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
  • 7/19, McCarthy- 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K
  • 7/20, Kuroda- 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

That breaks down to a 1.99 ERA, 3.06 FIP, less than 1 hit per inning, 8.34 K/9, and 1.99 BB/9 in 49.2 innings pitched.  …

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Inside Ellsbury’s Hitting Streak

(Originally published at An A-Blog for A-Rod.  Stats have been updated to include last night’s game)

Jacoby Ellsbury went 2-4 last night, the 1 hit being the eventual game-winning one, and in the process extended his current hitting streak to 15 games.  To my knowledge, that’s the longest hitting streak of the season for the Yankees and it’s been a very reassuring stretch for Ellsbury after a lackluster month of May.  He’s racked up 23 hits in 60 at-bats over the last 15 games (.383 BA), boosting his slash line back up to .290/.356/.408 from the season-low level of .258/.330/.379 before the start of the streak.  After looking like he had something wrong with his swing for all of last month, Ellsbury now looks like he’s back to where he was at the start of the year and back to being the player the Yanks hoped they were getting.

There’s Ellsbury’s BIP plot over the course of the streak, and you’ll notice that it’s much more balanced than what we saw in May.  

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Kelley’s Return To The ‘Pen A Very Welcome One

Kelley vs CHC

Courtesy of Getty Images

It’s been exactly 5 weeks since Shawn Kelley was put on the disabled list with back stiffness and 5 weeks and a day since he last pitched in a Major League game.  Before he hit the DL, Kelley had been a critical part of what, at the time, was an overachieving bullpen.  He had a 3.52/2.36/3.83 line and 16 strikeouts in 15.1 IP, all of them worked as either the setup man or closer.  The Yankee ‘pen has stayed afloat and even flourished in parts without Kelley for the past month, primarily because Dellin Betances and Adam Warren have proven that their strong April starts were no fluke.  They’ve teamed up to build a very sturdy bridge to D-Rob, but the return of Kelley to the late-inning mix tonight should help reset the workload arrangement for the group and make the Yankee ‘pen even deeper and better.

Based on his preference for defined roles and the fact that Kelley was his handpicked setup man at the start of the season, I don’t see Joe keeping Betances and Warren where they are and having Kelley work middle relief.  …

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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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