Chris Stewart and Brett Gardner help Yankees squeak past M’s, 2-1

Felix Hernandez showed up today in a big way for Mariners. Lucky for the Yankees, David Phelps also brought his A game. The King did precisely what he’s paid to do. He gave the Mariners seven innings of one run baseball, allowing just one run on five hits with two walks while striking out seven. Felix looked a little shaky in the beginning of the game. His pitch count was in the forties after just two innings. But he settled down and dominated the Yankees, as he always does. David Phelps matched Hernandez almost pitch for pitch. He gave the Yankees six innings of one run baseball, allowing three hits and three walks with six strikeouts. Continue reading Chris Stewart and Brett Gardner help Yankees squeak past M’s, 2-1

Game Thread, Sunday June 9th, Yankees at Mariners

After their recent stretch of miserable play at the hands of the Mets and the Red Sox, the Yankees have turned things around. They’re 6-4 over their last 10 games and back in second place in the AL East. Unfortunately, today’s game has loss written all over it. David Phelps toes the rubber for the Bombers. Phelps has been erratic as a starter and struggles to give the Yankees depth. He’s not the problem, though. The problem is that the Mariners will send none other than Felix Hernandez to the mound. Hernandez has been vintage this season. His numbers are what you’d expect from one of the game’s best pitchers. To my eyes his WHIP of 1.05 stands out the most. That’s tough to do for a starter. The Yankees will need to seize their opportunities quickly. King Felix won’t make many mistakes. Continue reading Game Thread, Sunday June 9th, Yankees at Mariners

Phelps’ Early Results Solidifying His Rotation Legitimacy

Phelps vs TOR

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

It’s been just short of 3 weeks since David Phelps re-entered the starting rotation as Ivan Nova‘s replacement.  He’s pitched better in each of the 4 starts he’s made in that time period, the best outing coming this past Saturday in the form of a 7-inning, 1-run, 8-K shutdown of the hapless Blue Jays.  That start marked Phelps’ 15th of his professional career, by no means enough to definitively predict what he’ll do going forward but enough to make some reasonable observations.  Phelps is the latest homegrown pitcher to break into the rotation semi-full time, after Ivan Nova in 2010/2011 and Phil Hughes in 2007/2008, and he’s all but earned the right to stay there with the way he’s pitched.  Without getting back into the “the Yankees suck at developing starting pitching” argument, let’s just see how Phelps’ first 15 career starts stack up against Nova’s and Phil’s.

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When Do You Have Too Much Starting Pitching?

There’s a saying in baseball that you can never have too much starting pitching. It’s hard to disagree with that statement. Pitchers are highly volatile players when it comes to both performance and health. Ballparks, defense, opponents, and a number of small sample size factors can easily trick the most attentive analyst into thinking a pitcher is more or less effective than they actually are. The rate of injury for pitchers also far outweighs that of position players, and this season pitchers are clocking in around 50% more days on the DL.

startersIn general, it’s good to have excess pitching, but the Yankees are in a circumstance that puts even more emphasis on their young arms. As the rotation stands, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte have been their two most reliable pitchers after CC Sabathia. Kuroda, 38 years old, and Pettitte, 41 years old, just happen to be two of the oldest pitchers in baseball, meanwhile the team’s ace, Sabathia, is fresh off elbow surgery. Though he’s producing with the same consistency after 9 starts, he’s showing a significant drop in velocity. That’s not to say their starting pitching has been anywhere near bad or inconsistent, their team pitching WAR currently ranks 5th in baseball, but if anyone needs a “plan B”, it’s this team.

The Yankees have had some unfortunate luck when it comes to injuries, but the bulk of time missed has come from position players. Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova are the only two starters sitting on the DL, and in comparison to the rest of the league, their days on the disabled list for pitchers ranks only slightly above average. With these two guys missing time, the Yankees have finally allowed their second string starters to see some starts, and we’ve witnessed some very strong performances from unexpected places.

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What Phelps Needs To Work On

Phelps vs COL

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

Yesterday, in anticipation of Ivan Nova‘s likely return (temporary at least) to the rotation, I looked at what he needed to change and improve to stick in the rotation should he get his spot back.  I honestly just assumed that if he was healthy he would be given the spot back upon his return based on the “you shouldn’t lose your job for getting hurt” rule, but yesterday’s Wednesday’s results may have muddied the waters a bit. Nova struggled mightily with his command in his ExST outing, walking 4 batters in 5 IP, while David Phelps looked very good tossing 6 innings of 2-run ball against the Rockies, both runs coming on one mistake pitch. Phelps has performed admirably in his 2 spot starts, better than Nova was, and if there are questions about Nova’s command, that could be enough to keep the door open for Phelps.  If the 5th starter competition is unofficially back on, here’s what Phelps needs to do to lock it down.

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Thoughts On Nova’s Injury

Nova Injury

Despite coming away with a 4-game sweep of the Blue Jays, this past weekend was another costly one for the Yankees.  In the span of just a few innings and probably less than an hour of real time, they lost both halves of their starting battery on Friday night, losing Francisco Cervelli to a fractured right hand and Ivan Nova to what was officially diagnosed as right triceps inflammation.  I already spent some time on Saturday discussing Cervelli’s injury and its implications, and I do believe that will be the greater loss for the Yankees , but there’s plenty to consider with respect to Nova’s injury as well.  Now that we know exactly what the injury is and that he won’t be spending any time under a knife to deal with it, this seems like a good time to discuss.

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Blue Jays hand Yankees a victory that Yankee bullpen hands right back

Josh Johnson and the Blue Jays handed this game to the Yankees in the fifth inning. With the Blue Jays leading 2-1, the Yankees loaded the bases on three hits by Chris Stewart, Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells. Johnson managed to get Travis Haffner out, but after that he completely lost the strike zone. Johnson issued bases loaded walks to Lyle Overbay and Eduardo Nunez, handing the Yankees a 3-2 lead. The Yankees expanded that lead the next inning when Brett Gardner scored Jayson Nix on a sacrifice fly. Suddenly the Yankees were up by two heading into the final innings with a possible sweep on their hands.

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Rotation Issues Creating An Extra Need For Middle Relief, An Opportunity For Young Pitchers

Phelps vs BAL

Last Tuesday, in light of the middle relief corps’ poor start, I questioned the decision making in letting pitchers like David Aardsma and the still injured at the time Clay Rapada go in favor of guys like Shawn Kelley and Cody Eppley.  I also quickly questioned the logic in keeping the team’s top two spot starters, David Phelps and Adam Warren, together in the bullpen as long relievers rather than sending one of them down to stay stretched out in case the Yankees needed a spot start or two.  The middle relief issue has faded to the background a bit as the Yankees have gone on a nice little 6-1 run since their rough start, and Eppley has been banished to Triple-A thanks to the return of Phil Hughes to the rotation.  But as that rotation has come together and everybody has gone through at least twice, the need for strong middle relief, particularly long relief, has continued to be put on display.

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How Young Yankee Pitchers Have Altered Their Mechanics (GIF’s Included)

Ivan Nova

There’s been a lot of talk about the slider that Nova added in the middle of the 2011 season, but few talk about his changed mechanics. His hand position is the biggest difference.

In 2011, Nova brought his hands above his head during the windup. Sometime in 2012, he changed this by keeping his hands level to his chest. This does a number of things, but most importantly it allows him to keep his head steady and maintain eye contact with the catcher. When he had his hands over his head, Nova was forced to drop his head, thus causing him to lose focus of home plate and slouch prior to his stride.

Since 2010, Nova’s BB% has dropped from 9.2%, to 8.1%, to 7.5%. Keeping his hands to his chest may be one factor in his improved walk rates.

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