Game 32 Quick Recap: KC 7 NYY 3

For all intents and purposes, this one was over after the top of the 1st inning.  Another Michael Pineda misfire at the start of the game put the Yankees in a hole they could never climb out of as they dropped the third game of this 4-game series. I don't know what it is with Pineda and the 1st inning this season.  This isn't the first time he's done this.  He couldn't locate his fastball, he was leaving slider after slider too far up in the zone, and yeah, he did get burned by the hotshot grounder that Mark Teixeira probably snares to start a double play but Dustin Ackley didn't even touch.  But Pineda was all-around terrible in the top of the 1st and the dead center slider he threw to Salvador Perez for a 3-run home run was one of the worst pitches you'll ever see.

And of course Pineda "rebounded" after that and pitched the next 4 innings scoreless with 6 strikeouts.  This gave the Yankees the chance to chip away at the early KC lead.  They did that on a Carlos Beltran solo home run and Chase Headley bloop RBI single in the 2nd and a Brian McCann RBI groundout in the 5th.  They had a great chance for another run when Aaron Hicks singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch to lead off the 4th, but the next 3 batters failed to get the ball out of the infield.

Pineda tired and put 2 on with 2 outs in the 6th, and Joe went to Nick Goody to escape the jam and keep the game close.  Probably not the right move, at the time or in hindsight.  Goody hit Alcides Escobar with a pitch to load the bases, then gave up a 2-run single to Lorenzo Cain to push the Royal lead back to 3.  The offense went to sleep after that and Joe burned through Phil Coke to get through the rest of the game.  Got a loaded relief deck to win the series today.

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Game 31 Recap: Yankees 10 Royals 7

Last night I posed the question on the IIATMS email chain about how good Masahiro Tanaka would have to be for the Yankees to win last night.  They were without yet another key bat in the middle of the order in Mark Teixeira, they had Dustin Ackley hitting in the 5-spot, and they still have Chase Headley toiling around in the bottom third of the order.  Well as the old saying goes, you just can't predict baseball, Suzyn.  The Yankee bats made up for an off night from Tanak and the usually reliable Andrew Miller, slugging their way to a 10-7 victory. Tanaka has done a great job keeping the ball in the yard so far this season, but he got bit hard by the long ball last night.  His slider command wasn't up to par and the Royals teed off on it twice for multi-run home runs.  Chester Cuthbert hit a 2-run home run off it in the 2nd and Lorenzo Cain smashed one for a deflating 3-run shot in the 5th.  Cain also hit a YS3 cheapie in the 3rd, totaling up the 3 homers and 6 earned runs Tanaka served up.  He did complete 7 innings and he didn't walk a batter, so it wasn't a total garbage start.  Just a night where Tanaka wasn't as sharp as we've seen him in previous starts and got hit by the defending World Series champions.

And he picked a good night to have an off-night because the Yankee B-squad lineup was feeling it last night.  They battered KC starter Kris Medlen for 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 2+ innings and made sure this was going to be a long night for the Royal 'pen.  Didi Gregorius was in on a lot of the early action, hitting a leadoff double and coming around to score in the bottom of the 2nd and clearing the bases with another double to put the Yankees ahead 5-3 in the 3rd.

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Early Returns on Some Former Yankees

Delving into the production of ex-Yankees is something of a tradition - both for fans of the team, and for myself in my time with The Yankee Analysts and It's About the Money. We cannot help but wonder what the departed players are doing; not in a creepy ex-significant other sort of way (I hope). Rather, we use it a form of hope. Generally speaking, it is hope that the Yankees made the right move by letting the player walk or, alternatively, sending the guy back. Although, to be fair, sometimes it's fun to play the hindsight game from the other perspective, as well ... I still miss Never Nervous Yangervis. With that in mind, I figured I would look into a dozen players that have headed elsewhere over the last two seasons, focusing on those that had some semblance of a role with the Yankees.

Chris Capuano, Milwaukee Brewers 17.0 IP, 17 H, 13 BB, 17 K, 3.71 ERA, 6.42 FIP, -0.3 fWAR

Capuano was something of a punching bag last year - both on the field, and among fans (particularly here). He has been less awful this year, based solely on run prevention, but his peripherals suggest that he's a strong breeze away from being just as bad in 2016. He's a serviceable mop-up pitcher (a role that most any pitcher in Triple-A or the Majors could fill) ... so ... there's that.

Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates .296/.408/.347, 11 R, 0 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB, 114 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR (120 PA)

Cervelli has been the second-best catcher in baseball since the beginning of 2016 by both wRC+ and fWAR (behind only Buster Posey in both categories). He showed flashes of this when he was with the Yankees (he hit .278/.348/.381 in pinstripes, after all), but he never put it all together. The most important aspect of his rise may be the simple fact that he has been able to stay healthy since heading to Pittsburgh.

Stephen Drew, Washington Nationals .143/.167/.257, 3 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, 9 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR (36 PA)

We were angry last season when Drew blocked Rob Refsnyder. Imagine the vitriol that he is facing in Nationals fans circles, as he (and the similarly inept Danny Espinosa) block Trea Turner - a legitimate top-20 prospect.

Ramon Flores, Milwaukee Brewers .188/.288/.219, 5 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, 39 wRC+, -0.1 (73 PA)

Flores may have never earned a real shot in pinstripes, much to the chagrin of our very own Brad Vietrogoski, but he's still just 23. The rebuilding Brewers are allowing him to play in some capacity nearly every day, so it bears watching to see if he can earn his keep.

Garrett Jones, Yomiuri Giants (NPB) .217/.329/.400, 12 R, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 0 SB (140 PA)

Jones seemed poised to contribute as a back-up option at 1B, LF, RF, and DH last season, but the opportunity never really came to pass. Perhaps the Yankees saw something, though, as Jones didn't earn another shot in the Majors after the team initially cut him loose. His base salary this year is $2.8 MM, so I'm guessing that he's not complaining.

John Ryan Murphy, Minnesota Twins .075/.119/.100, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, -52 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR (44 PA)

As Aaron Hicks shows flashes of turning it around, Murphy finds himself in Triple-A trying to figure things out (he's batting .111/.182/.111 in three games since the demotion). He's a few days shy of his 25th birthday, and he was quite good in 2014 and 2015, so this feels like a prolonged slump. I still think that he can be a solid-average big league catcher.

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox 14.2 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 17 K, 1.23 ERA, 1.98 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

By bWAR, 2015 was Robertson's worst full season. His 3.41 ERA and 115 ERA+ were his highest since 2010, even as he posted career-best marks in BB/9 and K/BB, without becoming much more hittable. Sometimes that's just the way it goes. Robertson was still very effective, though, and he's been quite good thus far in 2016. Fun fact: he's tied for 3rd among all relievers in fWAR since coming up for good in 2009.

Brendan Ryan, Syracuse Chiefs (Triple-A) .263/.305/.382, 7 R, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB, 99 wRC+ (83 PA)

If Ryan could hit like this in the Majors, he might be an everyday player, even with his defense regressing to the slightly above-average range. Unfortunately, he can't.

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Game 30 Quick Recap: NYY 6 KC 3

Too many damn home runs.  That's what the Yankees hit last night on their way to a series-opening victory over the defending champs, and I was tickled pink to see it.  This team could use a few more dingers with A-Rod on the mend.  Hell, it could use more runs however it can get them. The homer parade started early when Brian McCann cracked a solo shot to right-center off Kansas City starter Chris Young in the 1st to put the Yanks up 1-0.  After Alex Gordon tied the game in the the 2nd with a solo shot, the Bombers came right back with one of their own in the bottom half off the bat of Carlos Beltran.

Things really got nuts in the bottom of the 3rd.  Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks went back yard job to start off the inning to make it 4-1 Yanks, and Beltran came through with his second shot of the night with 2 outs to make it 5-1.  5 runs on 6 hits, 5 of them homers, in 2.2 innings against Young.  The last one put the pin in his night and gave the pitching staff plenty of lead to work with.

I say "pitching staff" because it was a lot of hands on deck last night in Ivan Nova's first start in place of CC.  He was scheduled for about 75 pitches and he needed 81 to record 14 outs.  The Royals put plenty of men on base against Nova but could never come up with the big one to plate anybody.  He left with only the Gordon home run against him, and the tandem of Phil Coke and Kirby Yates did a very nice job of getting the game through 7 without letting any more across.

That was the job of Chasen Shreve, who gave up another home run in the 8th, and Aroldis Chapman, who gave up a double and got burned by some shaky infield defense to get charged with a run in the 9th.  He also flashed the stuff that's made him the best reliever in baseball over the past few years, striking out the first 2 batters he faced in pinstripes on 97 and 101 MPH fastballs.  That'll work.

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Monday Afternoon Links: 5/9/16

Got a little extra time today.  Let's catch up on what else is moving and shaking around the Yankosphere. - On Wednesday, Jason Cohen of Pinstripe Alley explained why the Yankees don't have many options to "shake things up" despite so many calls from the fanbase for them to do so.

- On Thursday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog looked at some early season performance trends for the Yankees and the rest of MLB.

- On Friday, Evan Davis of BP Bronx made the case for keeping faith in Luis Severino and keeping him up in the big league rotation to work on things.  I think last night's performance speaks perfectly to this argument.

- On Saturday, el duque of It Is High... celebrated David Ortiz's freakout on Friday night and the Yankees coming out on the winning side of it.  Even if everything else falls apart, it's good to know we can still share in our enjoyment of David Ortiz's unhappiness.

- On Sunday, Matt Imbrogno of RAB pinpointed the connection between Nathan Eovaldi's splitter and high HR rate early this season, and gave reasons why we should expect that rate to go down moving forward.

- On Monday, Marly Rivera of ESPN had Aroldis Chapman's thoughts on returning from his suspension.

From the IIATMS team:

- Last Monday, William discussed the difficulties in accepting the new way of doing things in Yankeeland and the resulting changes in Yankee team building and recent performance.

- On Tuesday, Dom broke down the Yankees' putrid stretch of play through various statistical lenses.

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Game 29 Quick Recap: BOS 5 NYY 1

(Editor's Note- I'm sure everybody has noticed the lack of game threads and comment access over the last few days.  We've deactivated the comment section plugin on the blog because we believed it to be the source of some of the recent spam/site access problems that we've had lately.  We're working on making the fixes to eliminate that problem, but for now we're going to keep everything off until we can be sure that the bugs have been fixed.  The site is still active and there will still be new posts.  Just stick with us while we figure out the tech stuff.  Thanks.) Just when you think the Yankees are maybe getting over these early-season blues, they drop a game like last night's in your face.  This game was everything that's wrong with the Yankees on display: inconsistent starting pitching, complete lack of offense, depth issues, and a shaky front end of the bullpen.  Oh well, still a series victory.

Luis Severino really wasn't bad last night.  His outing really did come down to 3 or 4 bad pitches.  Eliminate those pitches and he threw almost 7 innings of 1-hit ball.  His fastball location was much better than it has been both down in the strike zone and on the corners.  His slider continues to make its way down and out of the strike zone where it can be more often swung and missed at.  Severino retired 10 straight from the 1st to the 4th innings and struck out 4 in a row during the run.  In that sample, he was brilliant.

But those 3-4 bad pitches led to the 4 Boston runs that would make the difference in the game.  One was a Yankee Stadium Special home run off the bat of Dustin Pedroia in the top of the 1st.  The luck on the home run location was bad, but Severino gave Pedroia that chance by throwing a fastball up and down the middle with 2 strikes.  He did the same thing to David Ortiz in the 3rd and Ortiz hit it into the right field bleachers.  And just for good measure, Severino grooved another heater for Ortiz to lead off the 7th and watched that one go sailing over the bullpen too.

Any combination of those home runs was enough to best the weak Yankee lineup.  They can never hit knuckleballers and Steven Wright had his working last night.  He threw a complete game on 101 pitches, allowing only 3 hits and striking out 7.  Brett Gardner got him for a meaningless solo home run in the 9th.  Other than that, Wright put the Yankee hitters in a diaper and left them there all night.  Now we get to hear about how much facing this guy threw them off their game when they score 6 runs combined in the next 4 games.

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Game 27 Quick Recap: NYY 3 BOS 2

It wasn't pretty or easy, but the Yankees squeaked one out last night to join the ranks of the double-digit win teams.  And on Sauv Blanc Day at The Stadium no less!  Congratulations, boys. The Michael Pineda Experience was in full effect to start the game last night.  He got 2 quick outs in the top of the 1st and then gave up a double down the line and a 2-run home run to David Ortiz on a 2-strike slider that hung right in the kill zone.  It looked like we were going to be in for another long night, but to his credit Pineda got it together and pitched 5 more innings without allowing another run.  He had to work out of trouble at times, but he managed to do so without giving up any more back-breaking 2-out, 2-strike hits.  That's a step in the right direction for him.

The offensive output came in 3 short bursts.  Brian McCann doubled in Jacoby Ellsbury to cut the Boston lead in half in the bottom of the 1st and Dustin Ackley singled in Starlin Castro to tie the game in the 2nd.  We stayed knotted up into the late innings when Aaron Hicks finally came through with a big hit.  Rick Porcello threw him a first pitch changeup to start the bottom of the 7th and Hicks was on it all the way, driving it out into the right field bleachers for a go-ahead home run.  It was left up just enough to square up and it sure looked like Hicks was waiting for it.

The finish was not without drama.  Dellin Betances got into some trouble with 2 outs in the 8th and Joe went to Andrew Miller for the 4-out save.  Miller himself got into big trouble by loading the bases with 1 out in the 9th, but he got some help from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa during David Ortiz's at-bat.  Say what you want about the 3-1 pitch, and it looked like it was a strike, but the 3-2 pitch was low.  Kulpa gave Miller the call, punched out Ortiz, and Miller got Hanley Ramirez swinging to end the game.  I'll take it.

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Game 26 Quick Recap: BAL 1 NYY 0 (10 Inn)

Well I hope you didn't miss the big offensive breakout on Wednesday night, because it might have been a one-time show.  The Yankees fell back into their bat coma last night, dropping the final game of the road trip 1-0 in extra innings to the Orioles. Masahiro Tanaka threw his best start in a long time.  He carved the Orioles up with a sick mix of sinkers, splitters, and sliders, and gave his team ample opportunity to dumb luck their way into a run and win the game.  He was hardly ever in any situation resembling trouble, his command was spot on, he generated a ton of weak ground balls, and he looked every bit the stud he was in 2014 before the injury problems started.  Fantastic outing.  Bravo, sir.

The offense?  Booooo, BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!  They did what they do.  They couldn't execute a bunt to move a runner over in the 3rd and it stalled a rally before it could start.  They wasted a Starlin Castro leadoff double in the 4th.  They grounded into a double play to end the inning the instant they got another baserunner on in the 7th.  It was a collection of all the 2016 greatest hits and then some.  Maybe this is a really bad string of luck and things are going to even out eventually and maybe these guys really are better hitters than they're showing.  But they don't hit.  Period.  That's all that matters.

The game went into the 10th inning after Tanaka finished 8 and Dellin Betances handled the 9th, and Joe's brain went in the toilet.  Instead of using a well-rested Andrew Miller to keep the game tied and make sure his team had another chance to hit and score the winning run, Joe elected to use Johnny Barbato and give the home-hitting Orioles the much better chance of scoring that winning run first.  The Orioles singled twice off Barbato and Joe finally went to Miller, who gave up the game-losing sac fly to Pedro Alvarez.  Nothing like having literally no margin for error.  Fitting end to a very bad road trip.

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About Last Night: CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia did something that a Yankee starter hadn't been able to accomplish all season. He kept the opposition from crossing home plate. This may seem like a silly thing to say because most people with a brain know it to be true, but when your starting pitcher can keep the other team from scoring early, it helps your offense immensely. Especially the Yankees' offense which only seems to come alive later in games. Another thing that helps? Shutdown innings. After the Yankees scored three in the sixth inning, Sabathia came out and first got Adam Jones swinging on a gorgeous changeup outside and down, walked Chris Davis, then erased the walk by inducing a ground ball double play off the bat of Mark Trumbo.

For this piece, I want to focus on CC's strikeouts. He struck out six last night: five swinging and one looking. In fact, the Orioles were swinging at a lot of his pitches.


And they were whiffing on a balls out of the strike zone, especially righty batters like Jones.


Here are their whiffs against CC's changeup which was really working last night:


And now my favorite strikeout of the night, the aforementioned Adam Jones at bat in the sixth:


The best pitch of the at bat was the last one, pitch number five. Jones made a feeble attempt to make contact with an 85.4 mph changeup that tailed away from the plate and stuck out for out number one of the inning.

In this chart, you will notice that four out of CC's six strikeouts were on balls out of the zone:


And these are the pitches he used to finish his at bats. Notice the whiffs on the changeups. Also notice the highest velocity is 91.2 mph:

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

This is the CC Sabathia we all wanted to see. The one whose velocity isn't as high as it used to be, but whose movement tricks batters into weak swings at pitches out of the zone. The crafty lefty. And while it's great that Sabathia stopped the losing streak and contributed in large part to the first shut out of the season for the pitching staff, it's more important that he returned to Baltimore for the first time since one of the darkest points in his life, and he was able to pitch his best game of the season.

[Courtesy of Brooks Baseball]