About Last Night: Dellin Betances' 7th inning in pictures

Dellin Betances came into the seventh inning of last night's game with the Yankees hanging on to a 2-1 lead against the Rays and within moments, made us all think that maybe he should have gotten another day off. All Betances had to do was get one out and three walks later, we were wondering if the Yankees were going to end up losing the game in annoying fashion.

As you can see, he was having a little trouble finding the plate (from the catcher's perspective).

betancesseventhinning

Dellin  Betances

Here's the pitch frequency map (from the pitcher's perspective):

trumedia_baseball_grid (28)

Those three walks were issued to Grady Sizemore, Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe which not only loaded the bases but loaded them with James Loney coming to the plate. And what did Betances do next? He struck out Loney on three pitches because that's what we all expected, obviously.

Betances went low-high-low with his velocity in the Loney at bat and when that happens, there isn't much a batter can do. When you see a ball in the 80s followed by one near 100, adjusting can be difficult and Loney didn't. Also, when Betances's curve is working and drops like strike three did last night, it's unhittable.

betancesKloney

And here's how he located his pitches against Loney. (Hint: It was much better than he did against Sizemore, Longoria and Forsythe)

loneyK7thinning

So 19 pitches after he started, Betances got the third out of the inning, and made watching the whole ordeal extremely frightening for everyone at home. Then, of course, he came out to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning and got three outs on five pitches.

He's amazing.

[Graphics courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info, Brooks Baseball and Baseball Savant]

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The Yankee Offense Drives Me Insane

I know. You are tired of me writing about the Yankees' offense. I have railed all year about it and I don't blame you for being sick of it. It's just that misery loves company. If I have to watch this team hit every night and drive myself to distraction, then I might as well take someone with me. Frankly, I hate this offense. As thrilling a win as Monday night was with Slade Heathcott's three-run dinger to win it, the Yankees had just four hits. Last night they had five. Just a random couple of games? Hardly. The Yankees have had five or less hits in a game 29 times. That is tied for sixth most in the Majors. That is also 20% of their games or a fifth of them. Is that a lot? Well...the 2009 Yankees did that only fourteen times all season. Which is also how many times the Blue Jays have done it this season.

So what, exactly, drive me crazy? The approach to hitting drives me crazy. If you face a guy with a good change-up (which describes everyone on the Rays), then the best approach is to think away and then you are still back enough to hit the change up hard. It is my observation that the Yankees give away more outs that most teams and certainly less than their closest opponents. But is that an accurate observation?

I think the numbers back it up. Which team has the lowest BABIP in baseball? You guessed it. The New York Yankees at .284. BABIP is the batting average of balls in play. An average BABIP is considered around .300 and fluctuates a percentage point from year to year.

We have eye evidence that nearly every Yankee batter has a shift employed against him. And, gosh, that makes so much sense. Why? Because the Yankees easily have the highest pull percentage in baseball at 44.8%. At the same time, the team has the lowest opposite field percentage in baseball. Of course the teams are going to shift! Of course, the Yankees are going to keep doing what they are doing and the result is an offense that (outside of homers) drives me crazy.

The Yankees of 2015 also rank tied for seventh for the highest percentage of soft contact. The Yankees have only two batters in the top fifty players (with 300+ at bats) in hard contact percentage. Alex Rodriguez comes in at 37th and Mark Teixeira is 41st. The Yankees' oldest offensive player leads them.

The Yankees have three players in the top fifty with the lowest percentage of hard contact. Jacoby Ellsbury is 16th lowest and leads the team in that dubious statistic. He was supposed to be good, right? See Brad's post yesterday for more on that wayward notion.

Three of the Yankees' homers in the last two games have not been pulled. Heathcott's dramatic homer was to the opposite field. A-Rod's from last night was opposite field and Greg Bird's blast was to center. It's a beautiful thing. Take what the pitcher gives you. Hit it the other way. Make it harder to defense you. Why is this such a difficult concept?

I can see how it would be hard to have much leverage talking to a Mark Teixeira about his 55+% of pulled baseballs and Brian McCann about his 51.5%. But seriously? It's okay with you that Chris Young pulls the ball 60.5% when he makes contact!? A guy that close to the edge of having a job cannot be convinced to try something different?

Yes, this team can bop the homers. They do it more often than all except two teams. That's great. You cannot beat a homer for effectiveness. But what about the rest of the at bats? Wouldn't it be nice to have Ellsbury on base in front of A-Rod's homer? Wouldn't it be great if your two top guys in the lineup could get on base once in a while?

I can't help it, folks, and I apologize. This offense drives me batty. Except for the occasional homers, the team cannot string together hits, it has no desire to fight what the defenses are doing and they just keep thinking they can hit that slow stuff thrown on the outside corner by rolling over on it. It is infuriating. But, gosh, a playoff spot is still well within reach. So I should just shut up.

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About Last Night: Sabathia, Rodriguez and Heathcott, oh my!

[caption id="attachment_78435" align="aligncenter" width="960"]New York Yankees' Slade Heathcott, center, celebrates his three-run home run off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger with Chris Young, left, and Brian McCann, right, during the ninth inning of a baseball game Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla.  (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) New York Yankees' Slade Heathcott, center, celebrates his three-run home run off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger with Chris Young, left, and Brian McCann, right, during the ninth inning of a baseball game Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)[/caption] How about that game by the Yankees last night?

You had a starting pitcher give a performance that was desperately needed both for himself, and for the team, and you had an offense that was stymied all night by the opposing starter, but was woken up late thanks to a clutch run scoring double by the oldest member of the team, and a game-winning, first-pitch three-run home run by one of the younger players with the least amount of MLB service time.

They were seconds away from a disastrous loss and instead, it became pandemonium in mere moments.

CC Sabathia and the much-needed good start

Sabathia came into last night's game with a 5.16 ERA on the season and always had trouble in Tropicana Field in the past, but he picked things up there recently and thanks to last night's start he has now a 1.74 ERA (4 ER - 20.2 IP), .233 BAA (16-73) in his last three starts there. (Those numbers are courtesy of Jeff Quagliata of YES).

So what did CC do? He mixed his pitches well. From Brooks Baseball:

CCPITCHf:x

Because of this, he also had a nice variety of pitch speeds as well:

CCpitchspeed914

He gave up three hits - all singles. Two of them came in the slightly scary second inning when he loaded the bases with only one out. Asdrubal Cabrera hit an 89 mph fastball on the outside for a single to shallow right-center and Steven Souza Jr. singled on an 89 mph cutter on the inside of the plate that Brendan Ryan misplayed allowing Cabrera to advance to third. Sabathia then issued a five-pitch walk to Richie Shaffer which loaded the bases. Luckily, Kevin Kiermaier grounded into a force out and J.P. Arencibia flied out to end the inning.

CC's one bad inning didn't result in any runs!

The only other hit Sabathia surrendered was a single in the fifth to Kiermaier who was erased from the bases by an Arencibia double play to end the inning.

Sabathia was pulled with two outs in the seventh inning after giving up his second walk of the game. All told, Sabathia threw 111 pitches, 68 for strikes, gave up the three hits, walked two and struck out six Rays.

That crazy ninth inning starring A-Rod and Slade!

The Yankees were very close to being no-hit last night. Rays' starter Erasmo Ramirez kept them off the bases for seven innings and things didn't seem like they were going to get much better heading into the top of the eighth inning. That's not to say that they were flailing at the plate. They had hit the ball hard a few times but at people or outfielders were making crazy catches. Like the one right field Mikie Mahtook made on a long fly ball off the bat of Brian McCann that doubled off Brett Gardner and prevented the Yankees from scoring in the seventh.

It's plays like that which make you think that maybe it isn't your team's night.

Thank goodness for Carlos Beltran who apparently doesn't believe in that hooey and hit the fourth pitch of his leadoff at bat, a 90 mph fastball, off Shaffer's shoulder at first. It ricocheted into right for a single and the no-hit bid was over.

The Yankees had something cooking in the eighth but blew it in frustrating fashion: Greg Bird popped out to foul territory, Chase Headley lined out to right and Didi Gregorius struck out.

Sigh.

Then, the Rays scored in the bottom of the eighth to make it 1-0 and most of the people watching the game were resigned into thinking that the Yankees were going to lose a heartbreaker and that poor CC had a great pitching performance wasted.

To start the ninth, Joe Girardi pinch hit Dustin Ackley who hit a 93 mph fastball from Brad Boxberger into center for a single. Could things be cooking? Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been three kinds of awful since returning from the DL, promptly grounded into a double play to send everyone at home into a complete tizzy. Gardner came up two outs and walked on four pitches. Next, the old man came to bat. During his at bat, Gardner stole his 19th base of the season to put himself into scoring position. And just as everyone at home was willing him to do something big, Alex Rodriguez did just that by hitting a 93 mph fastball on the outside of the plate into center for a double which scored Gardner easily, tying the game and firing up the Yankees bench.

aroddouble91415

They weren't done.

Chris Young came into pinch run for Rodriguez at second, Boxberger intentionally walked McCann and Slade Heathcott stepped into the box. Heathcott came into replace pinch runner Rico Noel who replaced Beltran when he hit his eighth inning single.

Heathcott didn't waste any time. He hit the first pitch he saw from Boxberger thanks to some advice given to him by John Ryan Murphy who told him Boxberger liked throwing first pitch fastballs. Even Boxberger admitted after the game that he didn't think Heathcott would swing at the first pitch. It wasn't as if the pitch was a total cookie over the plate. It was high, near the outside corner, and Heathcott was still able to reach out, hit it and get it over the fence.

heathcottHR91415

The Yankees' bench understandably went apeshit after the home run. Talk about a big swing both literally and figuratively. The team was an out away from a deflating loss and instead were looking at a 4-1 lead with two outs in the ninth.

That's all the Yankees would need. Andrew Miller came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth and struck out the side in 14 pitches. Ho hum.

After the game, Rodriguez was asked about Heathcott's big ninth inning home run. "Just tremendous," Rodriguez said. "You get caught up and I become a fan when you're watching a young kid with so much talent. Big, signature Yankee moment. It's a moment he'll never forget."

Yes, Alex used the phrase "signature Yankee moment."

Brad mentioned in his recap this morning that if last night's win wasn't the biggest of this season, it was definitely in the top three. I'm not sure I agree. Given how many games are left and given what's at stake, I think it was the biggest win of the season, so far. And who knows? Maybe the Yankees could have a couple more of those "biggest wins" down the stretch. Wouldn't that be nice?

Happy Tuesday!

[Numbers, heat maps and charts courtesy of Brooks Baseball and ESPN Stats and Info]

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About Yesterday Afternoon: #TANAK

Tanaka vs BAL III The Yankees needed to win yesterday's game to avoid falling 5 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the division race and to avoid an embarrassingly awful four-game sweep at home. Luckily they had Masahiro Tanaka on the mound, and while he didn't last as long as he did in his last start against Toronto , he was just as great. Tanaka kept most of the power hitters off balance, and helped shut out the Blue Jays lineup for the first time since the All-Star Break.

In his last two starts against Toronto (16 innings pitched), Tanaka is 2-0. He has walked three batters, struck out 15, has held the potent Blue Jays lineup to a paltry .164 BA and he has not allowed a home run. That last one is important because that team likes the long ball and hits it often.

So how do you shut down a team with such a potent offense? You don't allow them to feast on fastballs. You pitch to your strength which is your splitter and Tanaka's splitter was on yesterday.

Here's the breakdown of all of his pitches courtesy of Brooks Baseball (as of late last night):

  • 12 four seamers: 93.3 mph (95.3 max), 9 strikes, 5 swings, 4 of them were a first pitches
  • 11 sinkers: 91.6 mph (93.2 max), 7 strikes, 4 swings, 2 of them were first pitches
  • 19 sliders: 83.6 mph (87.5 max), 11 strikes, 9 swings, 6 of them were first pitches
  • 11 curveballs: 78.2 mph (81.7 max), 7 strikes, 4 swings, 4 of them were first pitches
  • 11 cutters: 88.6 mpg (90.1 max), 9 strikes, 7 swings, 1 was a first pitch
  • 44 splitters: 88.1 mph (90.2 max), 33 strikes, 26 swings, 7 were first pitches

Here's the results breakdown (hits, foul balls, balls in play, etc.) courtesy of Baseball Savant:

chart (9)

Tanaka gave up four hits. Three of them were doubles that obviously didn't amount to anything because Toronto never scored. And all three doubles were hit by righty batters. He also gave up a single to lefty Josh Thole on an 89 mph splitter. That was the only splitter that didn't quite work for Tanaka yesterday.

Here's how that pitch looked most of the day:

tanakapitchfrequencysplitter

Here's the splitter that didn't quite work:

tholessingle

According to Brooks Baseball (again as of late last night when this post was written), Tanaka threw the splitter 19 times to lefty batters - 15 of them were strikes (10 were strikes not in play) and he generated 13 swings. Five balls were in play and one, the Thole single, fell for a hit. He threw the splitter 28 times to righty batters - 20 of them were strikes (18 were strikes not in play) and he generated 13 swings.

Here's how Toronto's four hits looked in heat map form. The 1-1 at the low end of the zone is Thole's single and the 1-2 just below the 2-2 in red is Bautista's double:

trumedia_baseball_grid (27)

Here's a spray chart of all of the balls in play (outs in included): Masahiro Tanaka (4)

It was another ace-like performance from the staff ace when the team needed it.

Tanaka mentioned to Meredith Marakovits in his postgame interview on YES that he felt he had the right mindset going into the game. He told her that he said to himself he wasn't going to let Toronto sweep the Yankees. Maybe Tanaka should talk to the other members of the starting rotation and even some guys in the bullpen and help them with their confidence against Toronto.

Happy Monday!

[Heat maps courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info. Pie chart and spray chart courtesy of Baseball Savant. Other numbers courtesy of Brooks Baseball]

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About Last Night: Breaking down Sabathia vs Machado

So that was one hell of a face-off between CC Sabathia and Manny Machado in the fifth inning last night. And I know, I know, Sabathia hit the next batter, had to be taken out, and the bullpen and defense blew the game, but that at bat against Machado was one of CC's best of the season and I thought it was worth taking a second look.

Shall we get started?

Let's set the scene. The Yankees are up 3-1, the Orioles have runners on second and third with only one out, and Sabathia is trying to avoid one of his "one bad innings" that he's been infamous for this season.

CC started the at bat throwing a 79 mph slider that Machado laid off for a ball outside. He then followed that up with a 90 mph sinker that was also off the plate for ball two.

2-0 on Machado was not a good start.

Pitch #3 of the at bat was a 91.6 mph four seam fastball on the outer corner for called strike one. Pitch #4 was another four seamer at 91.5 mph that Machado swung through.

Pitch #5 was yet another four seamer that was high and would have more than likely been called ball 3 but Machado fouled it off. For pitch #6, Sabathia broke out the changeup on the outside and Machado fouled that one off as well.

And for the final pitch of the at bat, Sabathia decided to (or McCann told him to) go with the changeup again, and this time Machado swung through it for strike three.

Here's how the change in velocity looked in graph form.

CCpitchspeedMachadoAB

Note that the sinker and four seamers were close in velocity and that both changeups were nearly identical in velocity but, as you will see in the strike zone plot, not in location. Similar though.

Here's how the pitches look from Brian McCann's point of view. Note how much better the changeup in pitch #7 dropped. Machado had no chance.

strikezoneplotCCvsMachado

And here's how the at bat looked from Sabathia's point of view.

machadostrikeout

I realize that looking back at this at bat isn't as exciting this morning with the final result of the game being what it was, but it was still a good job by CC to get a tough hitter out in a key spot. Too bad it was all shot to hell when he hit Chris Davis in the next at bat.

[Numbers and graphs courtesy of Brooks Baseball, heat map courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info]

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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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A Sweet Golden Sombrero

david_ortizstrikeout This post is not going to be an analytical gem. It is not going to be some biting analysis about what happened in a game. It is certainly not a journalistic endeavor. Okay, you might be saying, "So what else is new?" Yes, I know. I've been writing about baseball on the Internet for twelve years. Let's be real. Nobody has ever called me a journalist or an analyst. After all, my Twitter handle has always been, "@FlagrantFan." No, this post is none of those things you can hang a shingle on. This is a post of a one-man celebration of an event that has never happened before. The Yankees struck out David Ortiz swinging four times in four at bats. That, friends, was a sweet Golden Sombrero.

Oh, the Yankees have struck out David Ortiz four times in a game before. It happened twice before it happened last night. The first time was on May 24, 2006. Randy Johnson started the game for the Yankees and got Ortiz swinging in the first. Johnson then got Ortiz to ground out before striking Ortiz out looking. Later in the game (which the Yankees won), Mike Myers struck Ortiz out swinging and Kyle Farnsworth struck Ortiz out looking.

The other game took place on April 24, 2009. Joba Chamberlain started for the Yankees and in three plate appearances against Chamberlain, Ortiz struck out swinging once, struck out looking the second time and singled his third try. Ortiz then flew out when facing Phil Coke. This was a game where Mariano Rivera blew a save on a ninth inning, two-run homer to Jason Bay. Damaso Marte then gave up a walk off homer to Kevin Youkilis in the eleventh. Rivera had struck out Oriz swinging in the ninth and Marte had struck Ortiz out swinging in the eleventh...just before the walk off homer.

Both of those games occurred in Fenway Park in Boston and in each game, Ortiz had put at least one ball in play and at least one of the strikeouts were looking. Last night also occurred at Fenway, but the difference was that Ortiz never put a ball in play and struck out swinging all four times.

Why is this such a moment of celebration for me? Well, there are myriad reasons. Here are just a few:

I don't like him.

While I respect David Ortiz greatly, I really can't stand the guy. Why? Because of his arrogant body language, his "there are two I's in Team" attitude, his big moment in lifting up Boston after the bombing with a king-sized swear word...that's just a few. And because he is the visible face of the Yankees - Red Sox rivalry.

He has killed the Yankees for years.

Last night was the 221st game David Ortiz has played against the Yankees. Before last night, the Yankees have seen him come to the plate 964 times, good for 818 at bats. In those 221 games, Ortiz has compiled 250 hits, 117 of them were for extra bases including 47 homers. Ortiz's triple-slash line against the Yankees is .306/395/.565. Ouch. The Yankees have walked him 13.3% of the time. The Yankees have struck him out in 19% of his at bats.

It broke the Yankees' usual approach to facing Ortiz.

I have seen probably 75% of Ortiz's plate appearances against the Yankees. Too many of them are similar. The Yankees get ahead in the count and then start nibbling. The next thing you know, the count is 3-2 and the end results are either a walk, a big hit or a strikeout. Very few Yankee pitchers have had the temerity to get ahead of him and keep going after him. Michael Pineda did it three times and Dellin Betances did it the fourth time.

It is fun to watch him skulk back to the dugout.

Well...call it petty and small-minded. But it is! And he did it four times!

When it is all said and done, I will probably support David Ortiz for the Hall of Fame. I don't care about steroids or PEDs. Was he a force in his generation? For sure. Was he amazing in his three World Series appearances, Yes, he was. Has he had a ton of big moments in big games, many of them against the Yankees? Yup. But for one sweet night, the Yankees, for the first time ever, did not let David Ortiz put a ball in play for four out of four appearances and gave him a swinging Golden Sombrero. I'll take that moment with me for a long time.

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About Last Night: A brief rant

I went into last night's game against the Red Sox figuring the Yankees would lose because I didn't have much faith in Ivan Nova and because the Red Sox have been good lately so that seemed like a lethal combination which would result in a frustratingly annoying loss. But much to my surprise, as much as watching Nova pitch makes me want to punch things, my own face included, I was most angry with the Yankees' offense after last night's debacle ended. And yes, it was a debacle.

Hey Yankees, here's a tip: When you squander that many scoring chances, you're going to lose the game. And while I appreciate the effort you made in the ninth inning, things would have been a lot better if you actually did something the other times you had the bases loaded during the game.

My goodness.

And even more annoying is the fact that Toronto actually lost a game to the Indians. I know, I can't believe it either. I figured they would score seven runs late like they always seem to do and they actually didn't. So while in the grand scheme of things last night's loss is a big disappointment, it wasn't exactly catastrophic. At least not yet.

If we make it to the end of the season and one game decides the Yankees' fate then we can look back at this one as a giant missed opportunity. But in reality, the Yankees still have seven games left against the Blue Jays and the division, and their playoff status, will be decided then.

In conclusion, last night's game felt like the whole month of August did: It was annoying, frustrating and tiresome to sit through. Now it's September, we're in the homestretch, and we will find if this Yankees team is capable of playing good baseball in the remaining 32 games.

Here's to hoping they can!

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The Yankees' One-Dimensional Offense

The game last night between the now-second place New York Yankees and the Houston Astros was a glaring look at the flaws of this 2015 team. I am not really talking about the pitching because every team's pitching staff will get blown out like that occasionally (although the Yankees' love affair with Chris Capuano is stunning). The real weakness of the 2015 Yankees is the one-dimentional offense. If they do not homer, they do not score. The Yankees have now played 34 games in which the team did not hit a home run. The team is 10-24 in those games. In those games, the Yankees have averaged 2.184 runs scored a game. In one of those games, they managed to score ten runs. If you throw that game out, the average goes down to 1.94 runs per game. Just imagine the standings if the Yankees could have managed to be five or six wins better in those games.

To be fair, the Blue Jays, who never seem to lose these days, are even worse with a record of 6-25 when that team does not hit a homer. But the Blue Jays' run scoring average is better in those games than the Yankees and for the Blue Jays, the pitching (before this streak) wasn't that good.

The difference between the two teams this month is that the Blue Jays have hardly gone a game or two without hitting a homer. The last two times were the two games the Yankees beat them in Toronto. Those were the only two games the Blue Jays have gone without a homer this month. The Yankees have gone without a homer six times this month and are 1-5 in those games.

I have several observations concerning the inability to score unless there is a homer in the game. The first is that before Jacoby Ellsbury got hurt, he and Brett Gardner were creating havoc at the top of the order. Since Ellsbury's return, that is no longer the case.

Secondly, after Ellsbury and Gardner, the Yankees have four of the slowest quartet of base runners in baseball with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. You have to string together a lot of hits to get those turtles around the bases.

Thirdly, the bottom of the order is a wasteland. If you do manage to get some of the turtles on base, the odds of them getting batted in by Didi Gregorius, Stephen Drew, Brendan Ryan, et al, are slim. The non-pitcher batters in the 7-9 positions in the Yankee batting order have combined for this glowing triple slash line: .236/.284/.368 with only 132 runs driven in. When a full third of your lineup is nonexistent, it is tough to manufacture runs.

Lastly, the Yankees continue to be pull happy no matter the situation and what the fielders are giving them.

I have seen very few instances of people putting numbers behind the pull tendency other than listing the number of shifts employed against their batters. Here is a right-handed and left-handed breakdown of batted ball trajectories for the Yankees this year. We will start with the left-hand batters which we know are a pull happy bunch:

Yankees (league average) Left-handed batters:

  • Pull percentage - 36% (34%)
  • Up the middle - 49.4% (50.12%)
  • Opposite Field - 14.9% (15.9%)

Yankees (league average) Right-handed batters

  • Pull percentage - 31.2% (24.5%)
  • Up the middle - 53.1% (54.6%)
  • Opposite Field - 15.7% (20.8%)

I can somewhat understand the mindset of the left-handed batters where Yankee Stadium has a short porch in right field and that will make you want to pull the ball. But what is the deal with right-handed batters when left field in Yankee Stadium is death valley?

I admit that I am old-fashioned. I believe in the old "hit-em-where-they-ain't" philosophy. I can understand trying to jack the ball when it is middle in. But if the pitch is outside and the situation can benefit from it, hit it where it's pitched and pick up the run. I admit to getting very jealous of teams that do this regularly. I miss Hideki Matsui who would do it regularly. Of today's Yankees, only Beltran and A-Rod make an effort to use what the pitcher and the fielders are giving them.

The predictability of the batted ball trajectory has its consequences with today's shifts. When Yankee RHB hit the ball up the middle, their BABIP is .267, ten points lower than the league average (and the Blue Jays' average). When LHB hit the ball up the middle for the Yankees, the BABIP is .277 compared to the league average of .296.

It also explains why the Yankees are terrible against ground ball pitchers. Against such pitchers, the Yankees have a .280 total BABIP and a .665 OPS. The league average is a .300 BABIP and a .718 OPS.

My last observation is harder to measure (at least for me). My observation is that the Yankees--particularly Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew and ,Chris Young--like to get themselves 0-1 and many times 0-2 and thus put themselves at the mercy of the pitcher because they refuse to swing at two middle-of-the-plate strikes earlier in the count.

Brett Gardner has put the first pitch in play only 21 times this season with over 500 plate appearances. But when he does (SSS), he has an OPS of 1.145. Stephen Drew has done it only 35 times and has a .286 average when he does. Chris Young has a .178 BABIP after getting into an 0-1 count this season.

The New York Yankees are too predictable, too intractable and that is fine as long as the homers are flying. But when they are not, the offense gets very ugly. I will leave you with one more observation. When the Yankees hit only one homer in the game, they are 23-22, a mediocre team. Combine them and when the team hits one homer or less, the team is 33.46. When the team hits more than one homer in a game, the team is 36-10. Can you tell which one happens more often?

The Yankee offense seriously needs to diversify when old habits are hard to break. That's not to say it cannot happen with stressing and concentrating on making the offense more dynamic. I doubt that happens and if/when the Yankees make the playoffs, they will have an offense that can be handled by big-time pitchers that can keep the ball in the park..

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About Last Night: What a weird game

(This is going to be slightly random but about last night's game. I was there and I'm still tired.) I have only been to three games this season. And I know some people reading this will think to themselves, "You're lucky! I don't even live in New York so I never get to go!" but for me, this is very strange because I had partial season tickets for 15 years and would regularly go to 20-25, sometimes 30 games a year.

I attended games on April 29, June 20 and last night, and I'm 2-1 - 1-1 in extra inning games.

To be honest, I wasn't very happy about the Yankees playing into extras last night because of their record going into last night's game. Before last night's very strange win, the Yanks were 2-7 in extra inning games and had lost their last three in a row. I also wasn't happy about it because I was hot, sweaty and tired.

It was unbearably hot at last night's game. And where I was sitting, in the upper part of section 105, didn't have a breeze at all. I actually had a Chinese hand fan with me and I was fanning myself for most of the game. I also fanned my brother from time to time.

And it was a weird game. So many odd (not-so-great) things happened - Bryan Mitchell getting nailed in the face with a comebacker wasn't fun to watch - nor was watching poor Tex foul balls off his body one right after the other. And the Twins were hitting batting practice against our bullpen which is never fun to watch. Even more frustrating was how many of those hits occurred with two outs. It felt like that happened nearly every inning.

We were sitting near a group of young guys who were taunting Torii Hunter and they were finally removed from the section in the 7th or 8th inning. They were really charming.

I also witnessed the infamous Zack Hample take a ball away from someone as Carlos Beltran tried to throw it over his head. What a dink that guy is. And he's pretty skinny in person. I was a section away from him and was surprised at how slight he looked. Why haven't more people kicked his ass by now?

The heat was so bad for me last night that I feel hungover this morning. I also woke up late and missed my 10 a.m. posting slot. Whoops. Stupid Yankees playing a long-ass game.

I honestly thought we were going to be stuck there until 2 a.m. with the way that game was going. There were so many lead changes and ties that I was convinced the Twins would score two in the top of the 10th.

Thank goodness they didn't.

Some good things about last night:

  • Brian McCann's performance both behind the plate and at the plate.
  • #GREGBIRD nearly had a walk off home run in the bottom of the 10th.
  • Andrew Miller looked pretty good from where I was sitting.
  • Dellin Betances is just ridiculously unfair. I feel bad for guys when they step up to bat against him. Okay, no I don't.

The thing about Betances was that I was out in right field and could hear McCann's glove popping like I was right next to him. It was pretty cool.

I am definitely worried about Tex though. He hit himself in two pretty bad places and the shot to knee looked like it really hurt. I've bashed in the knee before - with a bat, it was an accident, it wasn't like Jeff Gillooly hired someone to do it - and I know how painful it is.

Oh! How could I forget. I love HOPE week. I really do. I look forward to it every year and this year started off really great with the Yankees honoring Chris Singleton.

And here's Singleton and his siblings throwing out the ceremonial first pitches:

Oh and if you didn't know, Kenny Ducey, who writes for us here from time to time at IIATMS, started a site called Hashtag Important where he takes a look at numbers, streaks and performances by teams and individuals. Some examples: "J.R. Smith plays better after his favorite rapper releases an album" or "The Mariners are unreal after Sharknado comes out."

Yesterday, he examined how well the Yankees do during HOPE Week. They have pretty good numbers and thanks to last night's win, they now have three walk-off wins during HOPE Week. You can follow the site at @hashtagimprt on Twitter.

Have a good afternoon!

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