About Last Night: Betances and Miller. Holy s%^&!

An extensive number of articles have been written about the construction of the New York Yankees’ bullpen leading into the season and in most of them, they’ve made mention of the appearance of the ternary of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman and how it would mean bad things for opposing batters. Yesterday afternoon against the Seattle Mariners, Yankee fans finally saw what two of the three ternary members are capable of when the Yankees’ starter lasts through the seventh and has handed them a lead going into the eighth inning. To say it was incredible would almost be an Continue reading About Last Night: Betances and Miller. Holy s%^&!

Monday Morning Musings: 4/18/16

Two weeks down, many more to go.  The Yankees snapped their pesky losing streak yesterday with a 1-run win over the Mariners.  They’ve got another off-day today before welcoming the A’s and Rays to town for the rest of this week.  6 games this week, all at home.  That’s a helluva good opportunity to turn this recent offensive slump around and get back over .500.  Here are some thoughts on the happenings over the first 2 weeks:

– It was good to see Alex Rodriguez get off the schneid with his 2-run homer to left to get the scoring started yesterday.  It was even better to see him do it against a fastball, which has given him plenty of problems over the first 10 games.  According to Brooks Baseball, A-Rod has seen 44 4-seam fastballs so far and has swung and missed at over 20% of them.  He’s also swung and missed at over 13% of the 2-seamers he’s seen, so clearly the heat is giving him some trouble.

Last year he surprised a lot of people by showing good bat speed and squaring up a lot of good fastballs.  This year it’s been the exact opposite.  Iwakuma doesn’t exactly throw smoke either, so I’d still like to see A-Rod do some damage against something moving 94, 95, 96 like he did so often last season.  Hopefully he can use yesterday as a springboard to correct whatever’s been causing the early fastball struggles.

– Speaking of fastballs, it was better than good to see the return of Masahiro Tanaka‘s FB velocity yesterday.  He threw 10 4-seamers and averaged 93.2 MPH on those pitches, maxing out at 94.5.  He also hit 93 with his sinker a few times, both of those values far above what he was throwing in his first 2 starts.  We heard Larry Rothschild say recently that Tanaka needs to stop thinking so much on the mound and trust his arm and his stuff.  Perhaps yesterday was the first instance of him taking that advice and letting it go with the heater.  He looked like a much different pitcher yesterday than he did in his first 2 starts, like he wasn’t holding anything back.  If he can consistently stay 92-94 with his fastball, it’s going to make the rest of his offspeed stuff that much more effective.

Carlos Beltran certainly looks like he’s picked up right where he left off last year.  After hitting .292/.364/.513 in the second half, he’s off to a .341/.357/.610 start in his first 11 games.  He’s not going to sustain that line over the whole year or even the rest of this month, but the hot start and the positive eye test is an encouraging sign that he can remain productive in this final year of his deal.  He looks completely relaxed and balanced at the plate, and his at-bats more than anybody else on the team’s seem to end with hard contact.

– On the opposite end of that spectrum, the bench production has been lacking in the early going.  Dustin Ackley doesn’t have a hit in 8 plate appearances, Aaron Hicks only has 1 in 13, and Austin Romine hasn’t made anybody forget that he’s Austin Romine.  The only player swinging a decent bat off the bench is Ronald Torreyes, who is 6-12, and he was expected to be the weakest offensive link of the bench group.  It could just be a matter of adjusting to irregular playing time and I’m sure Joe is going to start working Hicks in more to keep his outfield starters fresh, but it would be nice to see these guys hit a little bit when they’re in the game. Continue reading Monday Morning Musings: 4/18/16

Game 11 Quick recap: Yankees 4, Mariners 3

Your browser does not support iframes. Alex Rodriguez‘s 689th home run not only snapped an 0-19 skid, but it helped the Yankees win today’s game, stave off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners and it helped avoid an overall five-game losing streak. Phew! Other good stuff from today’s much needed win: Masahiro Tanaka became the first Yankees starter this season to pitch through the seventh inning. Coming into today’s game only the Yankees, Reds, and Marlins were among that elite club of ineptitude. Tanaka gave up three runs on six hits in those seven innings and Continue reading Game 11 Quick recap: Yankees 4, Mariners 3

Game 11: Try not to get swept, thanks

Today is a big day in Japan. Five years after they were teammates in Japan Masahiro Tanaka and Hisashi Iwakuma will become the first former teammates from Japan to start against each other in the majors. They were matched up against each other back in 2014, but that game was rained out. Today’s contest will be airing at 2:05 a.m. over in Japan and a big audience is expected to tune in. As for what’s happening here in the states, the Yankees are trying to avoid getting swept by Seattle and also trying to avoid a five-game losing streak overall. Their last win was Continue reading Game 11: Try not to get swept, thanks

Sunday Morning News And Notes: 4/17/16

Sorry I wasn’t around yesterday, gang.  Milwaukee Beer Week started yesterday and there were some festivities in which I had to participate after a long work week.  Let’s catch up on what’s been happening the last few days, shall we?

– The Yankees have lost each of the first 2 games of this Seattle series, both very winnable games that the Mariners seemingly did everything in their power to give away.  The Yanks were done in by their ridiculous run of early-season RISPFail and the dreaded “1 bad inning” from their starters.  But hey, the bullpen still looks great, right??

– The RISPFail has been really, really bad.  The team is 3-46 with runners in scoring position over their last 5 games, and if I’m not mistaken I believe 2 of those 3 hits only advanced a runner to third and did not score him.  That makes it pretty easy to understand how the Yanks have gone 1-4 in those last 5 games and scored 10 total runs.

Alex Rodriguez is 0 for his last 19 after taking an 0-5 with 3 Ks yesterday and is down to .103/.235/.207 on the year.  It looks to me like he’s seeing the ball well enough, his swing is just a little slow.  It’s way too early to start fretting about how bad he’ll be for the rest of this year, but I have to think Joe will bump him down in the order today for Carlos Beltran.  You can’t have your worst hitter batting third while your team is struggling to score runs.

– One good thing the Yankees are doing offensively right now is stealing bases.  They swiped 3 yesterday and come into today’s series finale tied with the Astros for the MLB lead with 11.  Interestingly enough, Chase Headley is tied for the team lead with 3.  He didn’t steal a single base last year.  Something something, you can’t predict baseball.

– Also, the bullpen.  Holy crap it’s been good.  Tops in MLB in fWAR (1.1), FIP (1.78), and K rate (33.1%).  Collectively they’ve faced 136 batters in 32.1 innings pitched and struck out 45 of them.  That’s insane.  Dellin Betances has fanned 12 of the 21 guys he’s faced so far, and Andrew Miller has K’d 9 of the 14 he’s faced.  Admittedly this group is top-heavy, with Betances, Miller, Chasen Shreve, and Johnny Barbato doing the heavy lifting and combining for a 0.00 ERA, but the numbers aren’t any less impressive.

– And how about Barbato?  Another scoreless appearance yesterday, giving him 5 on the young season in 6.0 IP.  He’s struck out 9 to just 2 walks and given up only 2 hits.  His stuff continues to look plenty good to be effective at this level and he pitches with the aggressiveness that some of the Yankees’ other Triple-A shuttle guys lacked last year.  No chance he should even be in consideration for a shuttle trip if he continues to pitch well.

James Kaprielian made his second start of the MiL season yesterday.  He didn’t allow an earned run in 7 innings, but it was his defensive error that led to 3 unearned runs.  He also only gave up 1 hit and struck out 4, so it doesn’t look like his time in Tampa is going to be very long.

We’ll have a game thread later this afternoon and I’ll be back for the recap later tonight, I promise.  Let’s see if the boys can’t break out of this funk today and win one. Continue reading Sunday Morning News And Notes: 4/17/16

Game 10 – CC vs The King

The New York Yankees are in a bit of a slide and can use a win. Facing the ace of the Seattle Mariners’ staff doesn’t seem to help. If the Yankees can make Nathan Karns and Vidal Nuno look like All Stars, how will they compete against Felix Hernandez? The beauty of baseball means anything can happen.

CC Sabathia goes for the Yankees.

The Lineups:

Seattle Mariners:

  1. Nori Aoki – LF
  2. Ketel Marte – SS
  3. Robinson Cano – 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz – DH
  5. Franklin Gutierrez – RF
  6. Chris Iannetta – C
  7. Dae-ho Lee – 1B
  8. Leonys Martin – CF
  9. Luis Sardinas – 3B

Felix Hernandez – SP (0-1, 0.69 ERA)

New York Yankees

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury – CF
  2. Brett Gardner – LF
  3. Alex Rodriguez – DH
  4. Mark Teixeira – 1B
  5. Carlos Beltran – RF
  6. Starlin Castro – 2B
  7. Chase Headley – 3B
  8. Didi Gregorius – SS
  9. Austin Romine – C

CC Sabathia – SP (1-0, 4.50 ERA)

The game starts at 1:05 and can be seen on The YES Network and on The MLB Network. Enjoy the game! Continue reading Game 10 – CC vs The King

Game 9: Karns vs. Severino

It looks like Joe Girardi is shaking things up a bit – and, no, I’m not talking about Alex Rodriguez getting the day off. Chase Headley is batting ninth tonight, and the sweet-swinging middle infield duo is moving on up.

Seattle Mariners New York Yankees
Nori Aoki, LF Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Seth Smith, DH Brett Gardner, LF
Robinson Cano, 2B Mark Teixeira, 1B
Nelson Cruz, RF Brian McCann, C
Kyle Seager, 3B Carlos Beltran, RF
Adam Lind, 1B Dustin Ackley, DH
Chris Iannetta, C Starlin Castro, 2B
Leonys Martin, CF Didi Gregorius, SS
Ketel Marte, SS Chase Headley, 3B
Nate Karns, SP Luis Severino, SP

Continue reading Game 9: Karns vs. Severino

The Underrated Jackie Robinson

[Note: This piece was originally published in 2013, but I felt that it made sense to revisit it today. – Domenic]

Over the past week or so, there has been much ado about Jackie Robinson – and deservedly so, at that. To many, myself included, Robinson towers over the game of baseball a la the Colossus at Rhodes, marking a turning point in not only the game that we all know and love, but in the United States as a whole. The courage and grace that Robinson displayed has become a part of the mythology that is our sport’s history, transmogrifying the man himself into something of a myth. That is not to say, of course, that Robinson is not deserving of the mighty stature that has been affixed to his memory. Rather, that the narrative has markedly obscured one simple fact that seems to be glossed over in discussions and commemorations of the man who broke baseball’s color barrier:

Jackie Robinson was really freaking good at baseball.

I am quite certain that this statement elicited its fair share of groans, duhs, and eye rolls. Of course Jackie Robinson was a great baseball player – he’s in the Hall of Fame, for heaven’s sake! If only it were that simple.

A simple Google search regarding whether Jackie Robinson was overrated, or whether Jackie Robinson belongs in the Hall of Fame will elicit a staggering amount of pooh-poohing over the “politics” of Robinson’s induction. You will find dozens of arguments revolving around his abbreviated career, comparisons of his raw career totals to others that are clear-cut non-Hall of Famers, and so forth. Some of this is certainly argued out of either a quest for attention or a flag in the sand for non-conformity, and yet it is disheartening all the same.

Beyond the meandering discourse that is the Internet as a whole, much of the discussion of Jackie Robinson on the ESPN’s and MLB Network’s of the world has echoed similar sentiment. It was presented much more eloquently, to be sure, but there was nevertheless a concerted effort eschewing Robinson’s resume in favor of his legend. Listening between the lines, you can discern something of an ignorance to Robinson’s greatness on the field – once more, with much of it beginning and ending with his comparatively brief career.

All the blustering aside, I am quite certain that relatively few realize just how great a ballplayer Jackie Robinson was. Consider Robinson’s ranks among second basemen with at least 4000 career plate appearances (to Robinson’s 5802):

  • Fourth in wRC+ (tied with Joe Morgan)
  • Tenth in BB%
  • Sixteenth in FanGraphs WAR (among 205 2B with 4000+ PA)
  • Seventeenth in BsR (base-running runs)

Impressive placement in all categories, to be sure. The latter two categories – WAR and BsR – are made all the more impressive by Robinson’s brief career, as both are counting statistics. And to those who may suggest the contrary for his ranks in wRC+ and BB% (that is, his career was shorter and lacked the standard decline phase), consider that Robinson did not make it to the Majors until he was 28 years old, and past the traditional athletic prime for most players.

At his peak – which, again, came after his athletic prime (spent in the Negro Leagues and in the United States military) – Robinson was even better than the above numbers would suggest. Robinson led the National League in Baseball-Reference WAR in 1949, 1951, and 1952, and finished in the top-ten on four additional occasions. In 1949, Robinson won the NL MVP – the first and only time that he took home the hardware. However, he may well have deserved the award in 1951 and 1952.

In 1951, the award went to fellow Dodger Roy Campanella. It goes without saying that Campanella was great that season, posting 6.7 WAR, and placing in the top-five in the NL in batting average, doubles, home runs, SLG, OPS+, and RBI. Robinson, however, was greater, with 9.7 WAR, and besting Campanella in batting average, runs, SB, and OBP.

In 1952, the NL MVP was given to Chicago Cubs outfielder Hank Sauer, who led the league in home runs and RBI, and placed fifth with 5.7 WAR. Once more, Robinson led the league in WAR, besting Sauer in WAR (by 2.8!), batting average, runs, stolen bases, walks, OBP, and OPS+.

Over the ten years that Robinson played in the Majors, only Stan Musial and Ted Williams produced more FanGraphs WAR. Only fifteen players produced a better wRC+. No player stole more bases. From 1949 to 1953 – Robinson’s peak – only Musial produced more FanGraphs WAR, and only Williams, Musial, and Kiner bested him in wRC+. Again, Jackie Robinson was really freaking good at baseball, comparing favorably to his peers … who just so happened to be some of the very best to play the game.

Inevitably, the legend of Jackie Robinson will continue to cast an inky shadow over his statistical resume. And, handwringing aside, it is difficult to suggest that that should not be the case. Robinson is the most important player in the history of Major League Baseball, and his greatness on the field need not presuppose that fact. Regardless, it is a credit to Jackie Robinson’s memory to take a peak behind the curtain, and realize that one of the greatest men in the history of the game was also one of the finest players to step onto the diamond. Continue reading The Underrated Jackie Robinson

Game 8 Quick Recap: TOR 4 NYY 2

[caption id="attachment_80982" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Eovaldi HR vs TOR Courtesy of the AP[/caption]

Well that got crappy in a hurry.  The Yankees looked like they were on their way to another series victory last night with a couple early runs and a downright dominant Nathan Eovaldi on the mound.  But a few bad pitches in the middle innings and an offensive disappearance flipped the script and the Yankees head back home with a disappointing loss in their pocket.

Eovaldi was a beast in the early going.  His splitter had great late movement, he was snapping curveballs in for called strikes, lighting up the radar gun with his fastball.  He struck out 5 in the first 4 innings, all scoreless, and worked out of a 2 on/2 out jam in the 5th by getting Troy Tulowitzki to pop up on the first pitch and striking out Michael Saunders.

The lineup wasn’t giving him much support against Marcus Stroman, but they did manage to scratch 2 runs across in the top of the 4th.  Stroman hit A-Rod with a pitch with 1 out, Mark Teixeira singled to right, and Brian McCann was credited with an infield single to load the bases.  Carlos Beltran drove in a run on a groundout to the right side of the infield, and after Chase Headley walked to reload the bases, Teix scampered home on a wild pitch.  Take ’em however you can get ’em.

Eovaldi handled the shutdown inning in the bottom half, but got into trouble with a walk to Russell Martin and a 2-out double by Kevin Pillar to give Josh Donaldson an at-bat with runners in scoring position.  Eovaldi hung a 1-0 splitter and Donaldson annihilated it to center field for a go-ahead 3-run home run.  It was brutal.  Eovaldi backed that up by hanging a slider to Tulo in the 6th that he hit for an insurance solo job.  Always nice to help break legit MVP-caliber players out of slumps.

The offense dried up for good after the 4th.  Stroman got through 8 innings with hardly another threat.  Jacoby Ellsbury walked and stole second in the 5th inning and the Yankees never put another man on base after that.  12 up, 12 down over the final 4 frames.  Donaldson homer took the wind out of their sails, tore the sails to shreds, lit those shreds on fire, and sank the boat with a laser-guided missile. Continue reading Game 8 Quick Recap: TOR 4 NYY 2