Quick Hit: Severino's Changing Approach?

In the recap this morning, I hinted at a potential change in Luis Severino's approach over his last few starts.  He's been much lower on strikeouts and higher on GB contact, and he made a comment about being more of a pitcher than a thrower before his last outing against Toronto in reference to that one bad outing earlier in the month.  It all adds up to a guy who's starting to realize the differences between what does and doesn't work when you go from Triple-A to the Majors and adjusting his approach accordingly. A quick look at the differences in pitch usage provide some supporting evidence to this theory.  Here's the breakdown of pitches over Severino's first 8 Major League starts, courtesy of Texas Leaguers (Brooks hasn't added their pitch data from yesterday's start):

Severino Pitch Breakdown 8-9-15

TL reads more cutters and 2-seamers than Brooks, but it's a real heavy dose of fastball-slider with a small side salad of changeups.  Compare that to his pitch usage in his last 2 starts:

Severino Pitch Breakdown Last 2 Starts 15

That's a little more balanced.  About 10% fewer fastballs, a few more sliders, and an over 7% increase in changeups.  That certainly fits the narrative of a pitcher who is becoming more mindful of navigating lineups multiple times and mixing things up to keep hitters honest and off-balance, and I could see the on-field results fitting in with this change in approach as well.  The changeup is the weakest of Severino's 3 pitches, but more of them mixed in and fewer fastballs to hit would explain the increase in weaker contact and could explain the decrease in strikeouts.  Severino's fastball is a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch when he locates it well.

Of course, all of this could be nothing more than overreading a small sample size.  Part of what inspired me to look this up is the fact that Severino threw 6 shutout innings yesterday.  But let's be honest, he's probably not going to get 4 double plays in 1 start again this season, maybe never again in his career.  If one or 2 of those plays don't happen yesterday and the White Sox put a few more hits together and multiple runs on the board, suddenly Severino's performance and related potential changes aren't as big of a talking point.

What we know based on these numbers is that it appears as though he is starting to make some meaningful changes to how he pitches to Major League lineups and that's a good thing.  What we need to see is him sustain this approach and find a way to bring back that swing-and-miss strikeout ability that he showed over his first 8 starts.

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On Yesterday's Decision To Go To Millances

Ultimately the only thing that mattered was winning the ballgame, but a big wave of emotion rolled across Twitter yesterday afternoon when the Yankees' C-level relievers couldn't keep runs off the board or put outs on it and Joe made the decision to go to Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.  The line was drawn and people took to their sides immediately to either call Joe stupid for using his best relievers in what was a blowout game or smart for not letting the C-level spiral get out of hand and turn the blowout into something closer.  Matt and I went back and forth with William from The Captain's Blog on the issue. Seeing how quickly and passionately people took their stances on the move, I figured it was worth discussing in greater detail on the blog.  It's always a little bit fun to play Monday morning QB on stuff like this, and I was honestly surprised that there wasn't a more unanimous feeling of positivity about the decision.  It was actually a really smart move.

People's first thought is to run to the workload argument in cases like this with Betances and that's what a lot of people who were against the move were doing.  "He's thrown too many innings, he's thrown a ton of pitches, what if he can't pitch in a game down the road?"  It's not completely baseless because Betances has thrown a lot of innings this year and last, but it is something you can't accurately frame your argument around based on season-long numbers.  Workload and overwork is more about smaller sample sizes and in that context there was nothing to worry about with Betances yesterday.

Coming into the game, Betances had pitched 5 times in the last 2 weeks and 8 times in the last 3.  At the start of the Boston series he had pitched once in the previous 8 days, on Saturday August 29th.  Betances was on the border of not getting enough work at the start of this week, and that's something we've seen be a problem for him before.  He's admitted that he likes to work regularly to help keep his mechanics right.  So he was coming in on plenty of rest and had only thrown 16 pitches the night before.  Why wouldn't you go to him in that situation?

Same deal with Miller.  He had also pitched in only 5 games over the last 2 weeks coming into yesterday's game, and similar Betances he had not worked much in the last calendar week coming into the start of the Boston series.  Last pitched on August 29th, before then Monday the 24th.  Miller didn't have to work too hard the previous night - 19 pitches - so he was plenty rested and available should the situation call for it.  Once Joe had set the precedent by bringing Betances into the game, he had to at least get Miller up to cover for Cotham in the 9th.  And as friend of the blog David Cone said on the broadcast, if you're going to get him up you might as well use him.

Remember the key numbers from last night's recap.  2 and 12.  The first is the number of outs that Cotham, Mitchell, and Baily recorded and the second is the number of batters they faced.  They weren't any good yesterday, plain and simple.  Cotham probably shouldn't even be pitching to Major League hitters.  The situation at 11-1 certainly called for the use of those type of pitchers, but the situation at 13-7 was a little more serious and that's a game Joe can't afford to let get away.  He knew that, he knew he had his studs available and at the ready, he knew he had an off-day coming up today to rest them after each working 2 days in a row, and so he made the decision to end the silliness, shut the game down, and secure the win.  I don't see how anybody could find fault in any of that.

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Why is Garrett Jones on this Roster? The Yankees Need a Left-Handed Bench Bat

You probably watched the game on Friday night: tied in the 9th inning with one out, Carlos Beltran hits a single off LHP Brett Cecil. Chase Headley is about to come up to bat. Chris Young, probably the best lefty-masher on any MLB bench, is available to pinch hit. I'm at the game, waiting for Joe Girardi to make the no-brainer move. And then... Chris Young pinch runs for Carlos Beltran. What the hell happened? Why did Girardi, who plays the percentages as well as any manager, not make the switch to his best hitter? I react:

Pinch-running Young, who hardly steals bases these days, felt like a tremendous waste that took me a little bit to process. Even if you want to let Chase Headley bat, Young can hit for Didi or Stephen Drew if Headley hits a single or takes a walk. And then, I realized: if Girardi brings in Young, the Blue Jays can go to Osuna, a righty, out of the bullpen. Girardi would then be forced to either let Young turn into a pumpkin without the platoon advantage, or go to his lefty bench bat: Garrett Jones.

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Quick Hit: Why Joe Yanked Eovaldi

There's been a lot of debate in the game recap comment section about the decision to pull Nathan Eovaldi in last night's game, and justifiably so.  It turned out to be a decision that negatively impacted the Yankees' chances to win the game in a major way. Obviously we're all looking at this with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and some form of pre-existing biases against both Eovaldi and Joe Girardi.  But there are numbers to support Joe's decision, numbers that a few commenters brought up.  Just food for thought, but here is how Eovaldi's slash line against trends through his pitch count:

- Pitches 1-25: .349/.355/.509 - Pitches 26-50: .218/.282/.277 - Pitches 51-75: .295/.327/.442 - Pitches 76-100: .391/.476/.464

At 86 pitches, Eovaldi was right in the middle of the stretch where he tends to give up the most damage.  Opposing hitters go for the highest average, highest on-base, and second highest power output against him in that pitch range.  Add to that the .365/.450/.424 slash line against him when batters are facing him for the third time in a game and the .353/.411/.480 line that lefties have against him, and it becomes clear why Joe made the move he made.

Josh Reddick was a very dangerous batter at that point in the game, and Joe knew that because he's got access to all the same numbers we do.  In a 1-run game with a well-rested bullpen, he made the move that was strategically correct based on what Eovaldi has shown in previous starts.  It didn't work out when the next batter came to the plate, but that's baseball.  Chasen Shreve wasn't going to go scoreless for the rest of his career, and he's a better option against righties than Eovaldi is against lefties.

The argument for giving Eovaldi a chance to keep going and teaching him how to work through those late-game hurdles is a valid one, for the future.  The Yankees do need Eovaldi to improve the third time through the order and be more economical with his pitches to pitch deeper into game.  But a 1-run situation like last night's was not the ideal scenario for those lessons, and I guarantee there would be plenty of us who would be cursing Eovaldi and Joe today if he would have left him out there and Eovaldi would have given up more hits and runs.  It sucks that things worked out the way they did, but when you consider everything, I still think Joe made the right call because he made the call that gave his team a better chance to win.

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On Yesterday's Sneak Peek At The New Bullpen Hierarchy

[caption id="attachment_75898" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Betances vs BAL Dellin Betances shakes hands with a small child in a John Ryan Murphy jersey at the conclusion of yesterday's game. Courtesy of the AP[/caption] The Yankees salvaged a little something from the weekend series in Baltimore yesterday with a hard fought 5-3 victory.  The big offensive inning in the top of the 5th is what got them the lead, but the real reason they held on to win was the outstanding relief work by the last 3 reliable men standing in the bullpen.

Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson, and Dellin Betances.  Only 1 of them was expected to be a critical part of the bullpen's success this year, but yesterday all 3 of them shined in their new roles.  Shreve came on in relief of starter Adam Warren in the bottom of the 5th to hold the lead the offense had just given them, and did so by getting Travis Snider to fly out to end the inning.  He then returned to the mound for the start of the 6th inning and retired the Orioles 1-2-3 on a pair of groundouts and a foul tip strikeout.

Shreve handed the ball off to Wilson after walking Manny Machado to lead off the 7th, and in one of the more impressive Yankee relief performances of the season, Wilson proceeded to rattle off 6 straight outs to preserve the lead through the 8th.  And it wasn't a bunch of good BIP luck.  Wilson won a 7-pitch battle with Nolan Reimold on a swing-and-miss curveball to open the 8th and froze JJ Hardy with 3 straight fastballs to end it.

Betances came on from there and corrected a 2-out walk by striking out Matt Wieters on a nasty curveball for his third save of the year.  4.1 innings, no hits, no runs, 5 strikeouts.  Shreve got the win, Wilson got the hold, Betances got the save.  Ladies and gentlemen, your new Joe Girardi Bullpen Inner Circle.

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Attempting To Talk Fairly About Joe And The Bullpen Situation

[caption id="attachment_75774" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Girardi vs BAL Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption] It's been a rough few days for Joe Girardi and his bullpen.  He used his 2 best relievers in a 5-run game on Tuesday night, didn't have the one healthy one left available yesterday as a result, went with one of his younger, inexperienced middle relievers for the 8th inning, and watched that reliever cough up the 2-run lead that the offense had provided in the previous half-inning.  This comes on the heels of Friday night's 9th inning near-meltdown by an even lower-leverage reliever and a few questionable instances of using David Carpenter in close games with men on before he was future endeavored.

There's been a lot to not like from the 'pen over the past month or so, from the injuries to the inconsistency to the decision making to the performance at times.  The one part of the roster that was thought to be solid and the least cause for concern has become arguably the most inconsistent, and yesterday it seemed like that came to head for many fans and bloggers around the Yankosphere.  I noticed a ton of complaining about Girardi and his decision-making after Jacob Lindgren gave up the game-tying home run in the 8th, and to a certain extent I think the criticism is warranted.  I didn't like the call to use Betances on Tuesday, I didn't like the quick hook on Chasen Shreve, and I hated some of the earlier Carpenter decisions.  But when you look at what he has to work with right now and the position he's in with respect to his bullpen makeup, how much can we really put on Joe?

Let's set the current standing for the bullpen, and for the sake of the discussion we'll include Andrew Miller since he's only been unavailable for 1 day.  There is/was a dominant late-game tandem that has been reliable and worked hard at times this season.  There is a continually evolving middle relief corps that is currently occupied by 3 lefties, 2 of whom have very little MLB experience.  And there's the crappy back end pair of innings eaters in Esmil Rogers and Chris Capuano, who we already know should never be used in close games but sometimes have to be when the aforementioned overworked guys are unavailable.

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Thursday morning reflections after a sweep in Seattle

I said this other day after the Yankees were able to beat Felix Hernandez: This team is confounding. They will sweep the best team in the league (in the AL and at the time the series began), lose three out of four to a terrible team in Oakland and then sweep the Mariners in Seattle while facing the aforementioned Hernandez.

And guess what? The Yankees are in first place and four games above .500! They're 7-3 in their last 10 games, not that you'd know that with the way some people are reacting to how they're playing.

Are they a great team? No, but in the AL Least - no, I did not spell that wrong - being just good enough will probably be more than adequate to win the division.

Were these three games against Seattle good? Yes and no.

Beating King Felix was fun but barely beating a rookie in Mike Montgomery - well, they actually didn't beat him, they had to wait until Fernando Rodney entered the game to make some noise - and being nearly shut down by Taijuan Walker wasn't that great. Aside from Mark Teixeira's solo shot and Garrett Jones' two-run jack, the Yankees' offense didn't do much yesterday.

Thank goodness for TANAK who pitched well for a guy just coming back from a somewhat extended DL trip. Oh, who am I kidding? He pitched well for anyone. Don't let the naysayers make you think differently. He made more than a few guys on the Mariners look silly at the plate. He also hit 96.5 m.p.h. on the gun.

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Quick Hit: Preparing For Tanaka's Return

After spending over a month on the disabled list with right wrist tendinitis and a forearm strain, Masahiro Tanaka will rejoin the active roster and the rotation later this afternoon in the series finale against the Mariners.  It's been a while since we've seen him in action, so I thought it would be prudent to quickly recap his whole situation and how it relates to the rest of the team's current situation. As of right now, we do not know what the corresponding roster move will be to open up a 25-man spot for Tanaka, but there are plenty of simple options.  The Yankees could send one of their multiple young bullpen lefties back to Triple-A, they could DFA one of their under-performing bullpen righties (Carpenter or Rogers), or they could decide to DFA Chris Capuano, who has been far from good since he came off the DL and rejoined the rotation recently.

Whatever the Yankees choose to do, they will be upgrading their pitching staff by giving it its best starter back.  If you'll recall, Tanaka pitched like he was starting to figure things out in his last 2 April starts before hitting the DL.  He threw 7 shutout innings with 8 Ks and no walks against Tampa Bay on April 18th and followed that up with 6.1 innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball against the Tigers on April 23rd.  His stuff was starting to look livelier, his command was sharpening, and he was using his 4-seam fastball more after favoring his sinker in his first 2 starts.

Based on the results from his MiL rehab outings, it appears as though the stuff and command need to have a little more rust shaken off.  That said, you can never put too much faith in MiL rehab numbers.  Tanaka could very well have been using those outings to work on throwing everything and making sure his arm felt good and mechanics felt smooth.  I don't have much concern about his on-field results tonight, nor do I have any concern about the health of his arm.  Once again, he followed the recommendations of multiple doctors on how to treat this issue and he came through his time off and rehab work with no additional physical problems.

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Game 40 Recap: Nationals 8 Yankees 6 (10 Innings)

[caption id="attachment_75053" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Nathan Eovaldi Be creepier, bro. Courtesy of the AP[/caption] The Yankees reached the quarter pole of the regular season last night, and they did in the same fashion as they did heading into Monday's off-day by losing on the road.

It was as bad a 1st inning as you could have if you were Nathan Eovaldi.  He gave up solo home runs to Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper to immediately put the Yankees in a hole.  It felt like it was going to be a long night, but Eovaldi managed to get past it and work through the next 3 innings scoreless.  He needed a big double play to help him out in the 4th, but he didn't unravel and gave the offense a chance to get into the game.

And they did that in a big way in the top of the 4th.  Jacoby Ellsbury (more on him later) started the inning off with a walk, moved to second on a groundout, and scored on a Chris Young single to get the Yankees on the board.  With 2 outs and runners on the corners, Chase Headley and Stephen Drew came through with big hits.  Seriously.  Headley doubled Young home and Drew drove in 2 after a Jose Pirela single.  Suddenly it was 4-2 Yankees.  Mark Teixeira pops a 2-out, 2-run homer in the top of the 5th to make it 6-2 and things started looking pretty good.

Which meant it was time for that Eovaldi unraveling to happen.  He walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the 5th and then gave up a double and 3 straight singles on 10 pitches to plate 3 Washington runs and get the Nats back in the game.  He couldn't even finish the inning, needing Justin Wilson to induce a Harper GIDP to preserve the lead and prevent further damage.

The 'pen coming in that early meant Joe was going to have to get something from his B and C guys.  He didn't.  David Carpenter came on for the 6th and gave up a solo home run to Wilson Ramos to tie the game.  Once it got to the A guys in both 'pens, the teams traded zeros through the regulation 9 and headed into extra innings.

The Yankees did nothing with a 2-out walk in the top half of the 10th, and after 2 stellar innings from Dellin Betances, it was Andrew Miller's turn to hold the opposition at bay, and for the first time this season he failed to do that.  He sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a walk to almost escape the inning and give the lineup another chance, but Ryan Zimmerman gave an outside fastball a ride to right on a 3-1 pitch and lined it off the foul pole for the walk-off home run.  Tip your cap.  Miller wasn't going to go scoreless forever.

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