Could The Yankees’ Outfield Defense Actually Be A Detriment?

AP/Nathan Denette

AP/Nathan Denette

There was little question about just how good the Yankees’ outfield defense could be after the previous offseason. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are two of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, and although Alfonso Soriano has a bad reputation in the corner, his range over the last few years has gone from passable to above average. With Gardner headed back to left field, Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki switched to the smaller right field, and Ellsbury in center, the Yankees should have elite defense in the outfield. The bigger question surrounded the infield defense, which has been a major topic of discussion since the beginning of the season.

Starting 2014, the Yankees’ pitching staff looked extremely ground ball friendly. Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Masahiro Tanaka each throw a heavy sinker to induce soft ground balls, and Michael Pineda was the only fly ball pitcher in the rotation. Since then, the Yankees have also brought Chase Whitley, David Phelps, and Vidal Nuno into the mix, and each of these three feature two-seamers and sinkers.…

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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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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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Matt Thornton: Ineffective Or Unlucky?

Thornton vs LAA

Courtesy of Getty Images

There have been plenty of problems in the Yankee bullpen in the first 6 weeks.  One that isn’t getting a lot of attention is the performance of Matt Thornton.  Brought in as the lone free agent reliever to replace Boone Logan, Thornton didn’t inspire confidence that he had a lot left with his ST effort (7 H, 3 ER, 2 K in 4.0 IP), and so far in the regular season he’s been pretty meh.  In 6.2 innings pitched spread over 16 appearances, Thornton owns a 5.40/3.85/5.02 tripleslash with only 5 strikeouts and 3 walks.  He’s been perfectly mediocre despite mostly being used correctly in short outings by Joe, but has it really been all his fault?

Looking at his performance against left-handed hitters, it seems like he should have a better line.  Lefties are hitting .263/.333/.263 in 21 plate appearances against him (.280 wOBA) with 0 XBH and 4 K.  Thornton was brought in to be the lefty specialist and for the most part he’s gotten lefties out and prevented them from doing any real damage.  …

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Designated hitter again a problem for the Yankees

A writer often comes up with random ideas and then says, “Yeah, let’s go with that one.” For me, today’s idea was about the Yankees and the designated hitter position. The silly part was realizing that the Yankees are in Milwaukee for a weekend series against the Brewers and will not have a designated hitter in the National League park. Oops. Well, hold on to these thoughts for later, okay? The bottom line here is that the Yankees are not getting much from the DH position thus far this season.

The good news, at least, is the DH has been better than last year. Last year was awful as the Yankees had an OPS of just .583 out of the DH position compared to the average OPS in Major League Baseball (all positions) of .706. In theory, if you designate a player to hit for you as a bonus in the lineup, you would like that player to actually hit.

With that little bit of good news out of the way, the 2014 Yankees are still below average from the designated hitter position.…

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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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Is Carlos Beltran Slumping Or Not?

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod.  Stats have not been updated to include last night’s game, but it’s all good because Beltran didn’t play last night)

The recent dearth of offense from the revamped lineup has been driven primarily by the lack of production from the middle of the lineup.  Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Alfonso Soriano have been swinging cold bats for the better part of the last 2 weeks, and there simply hasn’t been enough production from the other 6 spots in the batting order to make up for that.  McCann and Soriano have never really found their stride since Opening Day, even with a few big power days mixed in, but Beltran was arguably the best hitter in the lineup for the first few weeks.  He’s cooled down to the point of being frigid at the plate, and with him being older and having a history of leg problems, I thought it was worth investigating the legitimacy of his downtrend in production similar to how I looked at Derek Jeter over the weekend.…

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Yankee bats are cold…literally

My overwhelming impression of the Yankees’ season thus far has been players with red noses blowing on their hands…or putting pine tar on their persons to get a grip. Ahem. This is not to say that the Yankees are the only team dealing with the elements. The entire country east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon Line has been well below normal in temperatures. I wanted to see if I could see any correlation with the cold weather and the way the Yankees have hit so far this season. I believe I have discovered anecdotal evidence of the weather hurting the Yankees at the plate.

In my thinking, ideal baseball weather is higher than seventy degrees. The Yankees have played one non-dome game where the temperature was over seventy at game time. They have had three home games where the start-time temperature was over 60, the highest being 66 degrees. All the other games over seventy degrees have been in domes or parks that can be at least partially covered.…

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