About Last Night Week: Freefalling

Since their last win, way back on May 16, the Yankees are batting .214/.272/.343/.615 with a .129 ISO and their pitching staff is 0-6 with a 6.92 ERA.

Here’s what that slash line looks like in spray chart form:

Courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info

Courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info

This is what that 6.92 ERA looks like in spray chart form:

Courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info

Courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info

Chase Headley was the Yankees’ “best” hitter over the past week batting .333/.391/.381/.772 while Stephen Drew and Brett Gardner stunk up the joint. Drew batted .136/.136/.136/.273. (My God) and Gardner batted .136/.208/.136/.345. (Almost as ugly as Drew’s numbers)

CC Sabathia was the worst pitcher by far and that even includes poor Esmil Rogers. Six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings is atrocious, but four strike outs to one walk in 2 1/3 innings isn’t bad. In four of the past six games the starting pitcher hasn’t made it through five innings.

Another bad thing? The defense that was supposed to be one of the best in the league committed five errors in the last six games.…

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Checking in on the Yankees’ Defense

Remember when the Yankees were projected as the 3rd best defense in baseball before the season began? Those were the days.

Entering play on May 19th, the Yankees rank 7th-worst in the bigs in UZR. Fangraphs would categorize that as somewhere between “Below Average” and “Poor”.

uzr

UZR through 5/19/15 via Fangraphs

 

While it’s difficult to measure defense with stats, and UZR is far from the perfect defensive metric, you can look just about anywhere and find the Yankees at the bottom of the rankings. They’re 22nd in Fielding Percentage (.981), 6th in Errors (28), and 14th in Defensive Runs Saved (-14).

The additions of Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley were supposed to remedy some of the Yankees’ defensive woes, but it hasn’t quite worked out. Headley (8) and Gregorius (4) have combined to commit 12 errors, with Stephen Drew adding 4. While Gregorius is enjoying the highest UZR of his career (1.3), Headley (-2.9) is far from where he was last year (20.9 with SD & NYY). …

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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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Chase Headley’s Slow Start

Courtesy: Brad Penner/USA Today

Courtesy: Brad Penner/USA Today

When Chase Headley re-signed with the Yankees for a four-year, $52 million contract there seemed to be a very wide range of opinions on the deal. What I noticed was a lot of the mainstream media guys didn’t get it, while the “stat geeks” loved it and thought Headley was undervalued.

As usual for me, I was on the “stat geeks” side. The narrative in the mainstream media was that Headley had not been a productive player since his MVP caliber season of 2011, which was completely false. He has never been nearly as good as he was in 2011, but he had a .330 wOBA and a 114 wRC+ in 2013 and a 4.2 WAR last season. According to Fangraphs’ WAR to dollar based scale, Headley was worth $31.7 million last season.

Through a month and a half of the season Headley has surprisingly stunk. He’s hitting .236/.285/.386/.670 with five home runs, a .294 wOBA and a 83 wRC+.…

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Monday Morning Food For Thought: Offense Living And Dying With The Top Of The Order

Last Tuesday I wrote this post about the Yankees using the simple “get ‘em on, get ‘em in” formula with the top 4 spots in their batting order to fuel their recent hot streak.  They were coming off an 11-5 thumping of the Rays the night before in a game that saw the team hit 5 home runs and the top 4 spots in the order combine for 9 hits, 8 R scored, and 7 RBI.

Since that game, the Yankees have fallen on hard offensive times.  They’ve scored 11 runs in their last 6 games and gone 1-5 in those games.  5 of those 11 runs came in their only win during that stretch on Saturday afternoon, leaving the other 6 to be lightly dusted across the 5 losses.  This level of semi-extended offensive ineptitude is a call back to the last few seasons, something nobody wants to revisit.  While there are plenty of logical explanations for this regression: small sample size bias, bad luck, tired team desperately in need of an off-day, my biggest takeaway from these 6 games and the handful before them is just how top-heavy the Yankee lineup has become and just how little chance they have of winning when those top 4 spots aren’t producing.…

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Jorge Posada Belatedly Declares Jorge Posada the 2003 MVP!

CBS Sports

CBS Sports

Did a steroid-addled pre-redemption Alex Rodriguez steal Jorge Posada‘s 2003 MVP award? Jorge said so, or at least implied it in a rambling tirade:

“The only thing that I can think is 2003. You know, I was close to the MVP. Didn’t happen. Alex won the MVP and, you know, I think second, either Carlos Delgado or David Ortiz, I don’t remember. But you know, I was almost there,” Posada said. “You know what could have happened if, you know it’s tough.”

All respect to Jorge, whom I still like a lot – but there’s no way he was the best in the league in 2003, with or without A-Rod’s pharmaceutical adventures.

Posada had a great 2003, his best year by WAR – 5.9, a level that’s usually not best-in-league, and was fifth among position players, but is as good as that of many MVPs. Posada’s offensive WAR was actually 0.4 better in 2007 than 2003, but the defensive WAR stats comport with what we all remember: by age 35, his defense had declined badly.…

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Sound the Alarm! Relievers Are Overworked!

When it comes to the New York Yankees, there always has to be an alarm bell. Call it a meme or a talking point, a clarion bell, whatever: There always has to be one. Remember a few years ago when the Yankees were hitting too many homers? Yeah, we still yuk it up over that one. The latest seems to be about the Yankees’ bullpen being overworked. Is it really?

Mike Axisa probably had it drilled down a little bit better. He only mentioned Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller the other day. But are even those two overworked? Part of their workload is the success the Yankees have had this season. The Yankees are winning…a lot. Thus there is more need for your setup and closer to finish out games. But again. are they overworked?

How can you tell with Dellin Betances? He pitched 70 times last season and compiled 90 innings. That’s a new breed of animal. Was that abuse?…

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Yankees Using The Simplest Formula In The Book To Drive Their Offensive Success

Teix-A-Rod vs BAL

Bash bros. Courtesy of Getty Images

I made this point on Twitter earlier today, but since not everybody in the world has had the good sense to follow me yet I figured it was worth expounding on here.  The Yankees are the cat’s meow right now.  They’re all that and a bag of chips.  They’re 18-6 in their last 24 games, at 21-12 they now own the best record in the American League, and they’re 4 games clear of Tampa Bay in the division with the chance to put more room in between themselves and the Rays tonight.

With all due respect to Michael Pineda and the ace relief duo of Betances & Miller, this blazing hot run has been driven by the insanely productive top of the batting order.  Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira have been the 4 best position players on the team thus far, and that’s reflected in all 4 of them currently ranking inside the top 25 in the American League in wRC+.  …

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Can CC – or Any Starter – Survive at 1.6 HR/9? A Look at High-K/Low-BB/High-HR Comps

Last month I noted how pitchers usually don’t recover after a CC-like decline from top-of-rotation starter to 80ish ERA+, but the outcomes varied widely: about a third of the comps did recover, half stayed lousy, and a fifth recovered underwhelmingly minimally. Given that range of variation, I wanted to look for comps a different way. Staring at CC Sabathia‘s stats since 2013, you see not just a gradual ERA worsening, but a real consistency in his HR, BB, and K rates – the defense-independent pitching components that may be more telling of true talent level than ERA, the noisy bottom-line stat.

2013: 1.2 HR/9; 2.8 BB/9; 7.5 K/9; 4.78 ERA
2014: 2.0 HR/9; 2.0 BB/9; 9.4 K/9; 5.28 ERA
2015: 1.6 HR/9; 2.0 BB/9; 7.6 K/9; 5.45 ERA

The ERA decline jumps out at you, but you’re actually seeing a guy who’s evolved into a pretty consistent profile: high-control, high-strikeout, high-homer. While the K and BB rates are strong, the big question is: can you remain a major-league starter giving up more than a home run every 5.2 IP?…

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