The Yankees had another successful week going 5-3 against Kansas City, Cleveland, Seattle and Toronto. The week started out on the road as the Yankees completed a sweep against Kansas City on Sunday behind home runs from Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells and a solid outing from Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees went on to split a doubleheader in Clevealnd after getting shutout but turned the table in the second game by shutting out Cleveand in Vidal Nuno’s first MLB start. On Tuesday, the Yankees had a huge come from behind win after training Seattle 3-0. In the seventh inning, Cano hit an RBI double that tied the game at and the Yankees went ahead on Lyle Overbay’s sac fly. However, the Yankees lost the next two against Seattle, including an embarrassing 12-2 loss on Wedesday, in which Phil Hughes allowed seven runs and did not make it out of the first inning. Fortunately, the Yankees got to beat up on Toronto two more times this year. Kuroda pitched a gem on Friday when he went eight inning without allowing a run in a 5-0 win. Yesterday, Cano pounded Brandon Morrow with two home runs in a 7-2 rout. This week’s nominees for Yankees Player of the Week are Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Vernon Wells.
Robinson Cano- Cano hit .250 for the week with 3 HR’s and 10 RBI. His game tying RBI double in the seventh inning on Wednesday was one of the biggest hits for the Yankees this season. Also, Cano’s two home runs yesterday were obviously huge in the Yankees winning that game as well.
Hiroki Kuroda- Kuroda was absolutely fantastic in his two starts this week. On Sunday, he pitched 7.2 innings, allowed two runs on six hits and struck out one in Kansas City. He was even better yesterday, as he pitched eight shutout innings and allowed only two hits. Kuroda lowered his ERA to 1.99 for the season.
Vernon Wells- Wells hit .308 on the week with 2 HR’s and 5 RBI. His best game was on Sunday in Kansas City when he had three hits, including a two-run home run.
With his two outstanding starts Hiroki Kuroda is your Week 7 Yankees Player of the Week. With today’s rain out, discuss the solid week that the Yankees had in the comments. It was a fun week because we got to see a lot of new young players come up and perform as well as the regulars.
Yesterday was basically the whole season for the New York Yankees in a nutshell. They finally got Curtis Granderson back from the disabled list, but lost Travis Hafner due to a sore shoulder. So, they did not gain a whole lot there. Then, they were down 3-0 to King Felix and the Mariners, before clutch hits by Robinsonn Cano and Travsi Hafner got them a 4-3 lead that Mariano Rivera saved in the ninth inning. This formula has gotten them the most wins (25) in MLB and the best overall record (25-14) in the AL. They have never gotten healthy this year, but their pitching has been outstanding, and they have managed to hit just enough.
There was great anticipation yesterday as to where Granderson would bat in the lineup and who among Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells would sit. With Hafner hurt that got delayed a few days, but it is still definitely worth pondering.
It seems pretty obvious that with Granderson returning Suzuki’s playing time should be cut dramatically. Wells has earned the right to play every day and Gardner’s defense is very valuable in centerfield, although I am still not a big fan of his at the plate. Suzuki has been terrible at the plate this year, as he has hit .246/.289/.341/.630 (63 wRC+) in 137 at bats. For comparisons sake, Chris Stewart had a 65 wRC+ last season, so Suzuki is hitting at a backup catcher’s level in right field this season.
This is not terribly surprising, as Suzuki has been in a steep decline for many years now. Even in his prime Suzuki never took walks for hit for power, so if he is not hitting at least .280 he provides little offensive value. The Yankee’s upper hierarchy signed him to a two-year contract most likely because they wanted the added revenue if Suzuki reached 3,000 hits in a Yankees uniform. Hopefully, nonsense like that, and Suzuki’s stature as a Hall of Fame player, does not stop Joe Girardi from putting him in his rightful place on the bench and as the team’s fourth outfielder.
Last night, Girardi chose to leave Cano 2nd and bat Granderson 4th. It is unconventional to hit your best player second, but lone behold Cano was up with the game on the line in the seventh inning. Now, that you could obviously write that off as just a coincidence, but getting Cano the most plate appearances possible is not the worst thing in the world. Ideally I would like Granderson 2nd and Cano 3rd because Granderson is a great fastball hitter and he would see tons of them hitting in front of Cano. However, the problem with that is with Gardner leading off you have three lefties in a row at the top of the lineup, so you can see why this is a very tough lineup to juggle.
With David Adams potentially coming up today you have three guys for two spots in Adams, Chris Nelson and Jayson Nix if Ben Francisco gets cut rather than Nelson. With the way Adams is hitting at Triple A (.316/.407/.490/.897) he deserves a chance to start at third base everyday, which leaves Nelson and Nix to battle it out at shortstop. There really is not big difference between the two. but I think Nelson brings a little more to the table than Nix. Nelson is hitting .296 over his last seven games for the Yankees and adds a lot more speed than Nix. Nix has struck out way to many times for a non-power hitter and only has .626 OPS this season. I am not saying Nelson is a whole lot better, but I would rather see him play
So, here are what my lineups would be, assuming Hafner is healthy.
1. Gardner CF
2. Granderson RF
3. Cano 2B
4. Wells LF
5. Hafner DH
6. Adams 3B
7. Overbay 1B
8. Nelson SS
9. Stewart C
1. Gardner CF
2. Wells DH
3. Granderson RF
4. Cano 2B
5. Adams 3B
6. Suzuki LF
7. Nelson SS
8. Overbay 1B
9. Stewart C
I put Ichiro in against lefties because his platoon splits are actually a lot better vs. lefties this season and more because the Yankees really don’t have anybody else. Getting Youkilis back against lefties would be a big helps. What would your Yankees lineup be? Discuss it in the comments.
Nothing much has been normal for the Yankees this year and yesterday in Colorado epitomized their whole season to date. It was so crazy that Joe Girardi batting David Phelps eighth was not the strangest thing that happened. After Chris Nelson got pinched hit for in the top of the ninth, Girardi had nobody else to turn to play third base other than Vernon Wells. It was the first time in his 15 major league seasons that he had played even an inning at third base.
“I got hit in the mouth at second base when I was 12 and immediately moved to the outfield,” Wells told Wally Matthews. “So you can imagine how it felt when, in the ninth inning, Wells looked at the Yankees’ dugout and saw infield coach Mick Kelleher waving him closer to the hitter. “I was like, ‘What? I’ve got to play in? I’m [playing in] already!”‘ he said. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me, that’s for sure.”
Wells was a huge part of the reason that the Yankees were even in the game to begin with. He already had three hits, including a two-run home run that had accounted for their only runs through eight innings and an infield single that started the Yankees’ rally in the ninth. However, Wells’ fun had only just started. The Yankees took the lead in the ninth inning with one of the softest rallies you will ever see.
Wells opened the inning with an infield single and stole second in front of Lyle Overbay walking. Ichiro Suzuki bunted the runners over and Jayson Nix was intentionally walked after a 3-0 count to load the bases. This is when things got interesting. With no backup infielders available, Girardi pinch hit Travis Hafner for Chris Nelson because the Yankees needed to take the lead right there. Hafner struck out, but Brennan Boesch got the run home on an infield single to give the Yankees a 3-2 when Nolan Arenado’s throw after a great diving effort was just a little late.
However, the Yankees still had three outs to get, and Wells had to go out to third base to replace Nelson. You knew that the baseball Gods were not going to let Wells off the hook without having to field a ball. Carlos Gonzalez hit a one-hopper that Wells had to take two steps to his left to get to. He fielded it and fired a perfect strike to Overbay at first. Wells looked like a natural on that play and you would have never realized that he had never played an inning of third base in his life.
The trade to acquire Wells was ridiculed and laughed at by just about everybody. However, Wells has been a consummate team player for the Yankees and one of the most productive players in the lineup. Even though Wells has struggled so far in May, (.240/.240/.360/.600) he proved yesterday that he does not plan on returning to playing like he did in Los Angeles any time soon.
That game last night epitomized what the 2013 Yankees have been. You really have no idea how they do it, yet they just keep on winning. With a lineup filled of mostly formerly washed up players and “AAAA” players, the Yankees find themselves at 19-13 and only one game behind the Orioles and Red Sox for first place in the AL East. It has been done with mostly guts and guile, things you do not normally associate with a team with about a $230 million payroll. With Curtis Granderson and Kevin Youkilis possible coming back next week, things can start to get even more fun soon.
Phil Hughes takes a lot of grief from Yankees fans for not living up to the ace that he was hyped up to be. Most of this grief has been unearned because just because Hughes is not Matt Harvey or Stephen Strasburg does not mean he is not a solid pitcher. The calls for him to be taken out of the rotation whenever he struggles are mind boggling. Right now, only Hiroki Kuroda is pitching better than him on the Yankees, and Hughes has demonstrated the best stuff on the team.
In his past four starts, Hughes has pitched 28 innings, allowed six earned runs for a 1.93 ERA, 23 hits, five walks and 30 strikeouts. This has lowered his ERA for the season from 4.67 to 3.60.
Hughes was the reason the Yankees didn’t get swept this weekend, as he turned in a masterful eight innings against Oakland and allowed only one run. The Yankees needed all eight innings out of Hughes as well because the bullpen would have likely blown the lead without Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson. His fastball was absolutely dominant, as he seemingly got ahead 0-1 to every Oakland hitter. Out of Hughes’ 118 pitches, 79 of them were fastballs, 60 of them were thrown for strikes and he got 12 swings and misses out of his fastball. Also, his fastball had the velocity on it that we had not seen from Hughes for awhile now, as he topped out at 95 MPH without losing control. With Hughes’ short arm delivery, his fastball gets on hitters very quickly, so it appears even faster than that.
Hughes’ two main problems over his career have been his inability to put batters away and allowing too many home runs. His HR/FB rate is 9.6% this season compared to 12.4% last season, so he has improved there. For the season, Hughes’ foul ball rate on his fastball is still 26.17%, which is still too high. However, with 18 strikeouts over his last two outings, he is starting to show improvement there as well.
Part of the reason for the added strikeouts has been the development of Hughes’ slider. He implemented it around the middle of last season when he started to have success and it has really taken off this season. Hughes has thrown his slider 20.7& of the time this season compared to just 4.2% last season. His slider has a whiff percentage of 14.75% this season. It has replaced his curveball as his number one off speed pitch, which is good because Hughes’ curveball just was not effective enough to be an out pitch, but it is much better served to be his third pitch. Also, he has completely scrapped his cutter, which was an awful pitch for him, as it had a higher line drive percentage (6.67%) than whiff percentage (5%) last season. He has four solid pitches to get people out and he can control of all of them, as his outstanding 8.74 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9 this season.
Hughes is in a contract season and if he keeps this up he will be in line for a very big deal. He should get around the five-year deal worth $77.5 million that Anibal Sanchez received from the Tigers. Hughes would be even more valuable to a team with a big ballpark, as more of his fly balls would not turn into home runs. It has been assumed that Hughes will be out of the Yankees’ price range due to the $189 million budget. However, with CC Sabathia being the only pitcher you can count on being under contract next season, the Yankees will have a big hole in the rotation. With talk of the Yankees maybe going away from that budget, perhaps there is more of a chance Hughes returns. If Hughes does leave as a free agent, fans will miss him more than they think, and maybe they will finally appreciate him.
Going into the season, the goal for the Yankees in April was to just tread water and not fall completely out of the race with all the injuries they had. The Yankees not only survived April, but they thrived in April. After yesterdays 7-4 win over Houston, the Yankees ended April at 16-10 and only two games behind Boston in the AL East. That 16-10 record incredibly puts the Yankees on a pace to win over 100 games this season. The Yankees had many unexpected players step up for them in the month.
The Yankees are tied for first in the AL with 36 home runs on the season, when nobody expected them to hit as many home runs as they did last year. However, the Yankees are not only scoring most of their runs off of home runs this year like they did last year. The Yankees have a more diverse offense so far this season and have made many comebacks that they did not seem to make last season. In seven of their last 10 wins the Yankees had been trailing at some point in the game. All four of their wins in a four game sweep of Toronto were come from behind wins. Also, they had an exciting comeback against David Price and Fernando Rodney in Tampa and in their two wins over Arizona.
Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and the pitching staff have helped carry the Yankees to this 16-10 record. Cano was going to have to be one of the players to carry the Yankees and he has performed at an MVP level. Without much protection in the lineup, Cano has hit .327, with 7 HR’s, 17 RBI and a .977 OPS. Also, he has .413 w/OBA and a 161 wRC+ that would both be career highs for him. Hafner has been incredible and seems to get a big hit whenever he has a chance too. Especially lately, he had three hits and three RBI in yesterdays win and on Saturday Hafner hit a huge game tying home run. For the season, Hafner is hitting .318 with 6 HR’s, 17 RBI, a 1.104 OPS, a .460 wOBA and a 192 wRC+. Wells has been on of the few consistent Yankees right handed hitters, and who knows where they would be without him either. His approach at the plate has been excellent, as he has been using the opposite field more and taking a lot of walks.
The big three of the Yankees rotation has been about what you would expect it to be and winning when Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte were pitching was essential in April. Kuroda has been the best of the three, as he is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. Opposing hitters are only hitting .206 off of him and Kuroda’s 52.4% GB percentage has been the key to his success. He is one of Brian Cashman’s best free agent signings ever. All the talk about Sabathia has been how his fastball is only averaging 89.8 MPH, but you can hardly tell that by looking at his results. He is 4-2 with a 3.35 ERA and he has been giving the Yankees great length no matter what his stuff is. His changeup (21.90% whiff %) and slider (14.20% whiff %) have been outstanding. Pettitte’s numbers are skewed by his disastrous start on Monday, but he has thrown quality starts in four of his five outings and has been just as good as he was last year for the Yankees.
Incredibly, the Yankees did not get any healthier in April and in fact they had to endure even more injuries. Youkilis had to leave the game on April 20th at Toronto with a back injury and has only played one game since and is now on the DL. Francisco Cervelli broke his hand after filling in so well for Russell Martin and is expected to miss six weeks. So, without those two players, the lineup is even shorter these days. Jayson Nix, who is awful, had to bat sixth yesterday. The Yankees will have to survive about two more weeks before Youkilis and Curtis Granderson may return. The teams coming up on the schedule over the next two weeks are Oakland, Colorado, Kansas City, Cleveland Seattle, and Toronto, which is certainly not a murders row of teams. The Yankees made it through April and now they have to make it just a few more weeks before the reinforcements should be ready.
Despite their anemic offensive output against left handed pitching this season, the New York Yankees are 4-3 against left handed starters this season. A lot like last night, the Yankees have been able to scratch and claw their way to victories against lefties when it looked like they were completely out of the game.
The Yankees did the little things to score enough runs to win last night against Tampa’s lefty ace David Price. Combine that with Phil Hughes’ strong performance, and that is how the Yankees will have to beat lefties until the reinforcements come. Eduardo Nunez went first to third that lead to a run in the fourth inning. Then,in the eighth inning, Ichiro went first to third on a hit-and-run single by Jayson Nix, which led to the Yankees tying the score at two. The Yankees had a similar win against tough Arizona lefty Wade Miley when Brett Gardner got a clutch two out hit to tie the game at three in the seventh inning. Manufacturing runs like that is how the Yankees are going to have to score against lefties.
The Yankees’ slash line against lefties this year is a paltry .190/.262/.299/.561 and against righties it is .301/.368/.533/.901. They have performed by far the best against righties in MLB and about the worst against lefties. This is a stark difference from Yankees teams of the past, as the Yankees have always had a balanced lineup that could hit lefties and righties equally. The Yankees always had a few switch hitters in their lineup and they have not had an at bat from a switch hitter all season. The last two days the lineup has looked exceptionally brutal with the likes of Ben Francisco batting second and fifth and fifth Francico Cervelli batting fifth on Monday. Obviously the loss of Kevin Youkilis the last few days has hurt, even though he has not hit lefties this year. There is really not much Joe Girardi can do, as he has a very sorry hand to deal with against lefties.
The Yankees probably will not continue to perform this bad against lefties the whole season because it would be historic if they did, but this will be a problem the whole season that needs to be addressed. Vernon Wells (.333/.375/.600.975) and Brett Gardner (.250/.306/.438/.743) and 7 RBI have been the only players performing against lefties this season. Mark Teixeira has performed very well against lefties the last few years, so he will provide a boost when he comes back. However, he will not be able to turn this around by himself.
Youkilis and Robinson Cano need to perform much better against lefties then they have been. Youkilis has been abysmal against them this year, as he has 1 hit in 19 Abs against them this year with a .142 wOBA. That is a very small sample size, and Youkilis does have a great .918 career OPS against lefties, so he should be able to turn it around. Cano had issues against lefties last season and they have carried over into this season. He did hit a home run against Matt Moore on Monday, so maybe that is a positive sign, but the Yankees really need him to get back being to the balanced hitter that he used to be.
This is an issue that could have been seen a mile away this offseason. It started when the Yankees signed Ichiro to create and all lefty starting outfield of Ichiro, Granderson and Gardner. Ichiro was abysmal against lefties in 2012, Gardner has never hit them consistently in his career and Granderson also struggled mightily against them in 2012. I believe that the Ichiro signing was an ownership move and not a Brian Cashman move, but either way it was a terrible one. What Cashman could have done is find a much better utility option than Jayson Nix and a much better righty DH than Ben Francisco. Obviously, Cashman did not expect to be without Derek Jeter for so long, but still Nix should have been upgraded on. Francisco provides no value at all and they should really cut bait with him now.
Right now there is really nobody Cashman can get outside of the organization, as nobody is willing to give away pieces yet, although he will have to by the trade deadline. Zolio Almonte (.263/.411/.404/.814) and David Adams (.317/.417/.463/.880) are both off to very good starts at Triple A and should be brought up to replace Nix and Francisco. Ronnier Mustelier is another option, but he has not played yet this year due to injury. Adams could play third and Almonte can DH or play the outfield. Nix has struck out an incredible 16 out of 43 at bats already, which is just dreadful for a non power hitter and obviously Francisco has done nothing.
It is a miracle that the Yankees have a 4-3 record this year against lefties with the lineup they are throwing out there, which is a testament to the grit and toughness they have shown this year. However, it will be hard to keep up that pace with the current hitters they have in the lineup, so either they will need to improve, which is doubtful, or go in a different direction and call up some reinforcements.
The Yankees had their second consecutive week of very solid baseball. They went 5-1 against Baltimore, Arizona and at Toronto. Hiroki Kuroda was dominant to begin the week, pitching a complete game shutout Sunday against Baltimore. He was spectacular again yesterday, pitching shutout into the 8th inning until David Robertson came in and blew his 3-0 lead. However, the Yankees did win 5-3 in 11 innings, so his effort was not totally wasted. The Yankees won two tightly contested contests with Arizona with clutch home runs from Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner. On Tuesday, Cano’s three-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish. On Wednesday, Hafner’s pinch hit home run in the eighth inning gave the a 4-3 win. Francisco Cervelli hit a game tying home run in the ninth inning in the series finale, but the Diamondbacks won in extra innings 6-2. The nominees for Week 3 Yankees Player of the Week are Travis Hafner, Hiroki Kuroda, Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells.
Travis Hafner: Hafner hit .500 on the week with 2 HR’s and 3 RBI. Hafner only started two of the six games this week due to the Yankees facing many lefties, but he still had a huge impact. His pinch hit home run on Wednesday won the game and he also had a home run on Friday in Toronto that gave the Yankees an early lead.
Robinson Cano: Cano was blistering hot for a second consecutive week, as he hit .294 with 2 HR’s and 5 RBI. He still showed weaknesses against lefties this week, but was still solid overall. His three-run home run in Tuesday was huge and he had three hits on Friday in Toronto.
Hiroki Kuroda: Kuroda was dominant in two starts. On Sunday, he pitched a complete game shutout agaisnt the Orioles and allowed only five hits. An incredible 21 of his 27 outs were recorded on the ground. Yesterday. Kuroda pitched 7.1 innings, allowed only one run on three hits and struck out seven.
Vernon Wells: Wells hit .280 on the week with 2 HR’s and 3 RBI. He burned his old team Toronto in the first two games, as he had five hits in 10 AB’s and two home runs. This is the third consecutive week Wells has been nominated.
This was the most competitive week yet, as you can make strong case for all four guys. I will give it to Kuroda, since he was dominant twice, but it should be a very close vote.
On a night where his idol Jackie Robinson was honored Robinson Cano proved yet again why players will eventually be looking up to him. Cano hit a three- run home run in the fourth inning off Brandon McCarthy that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish.
That at-bat proved that not only does Cano have all the physical tools in the world, but he has it mentally as well. With Cano on-deck, McCarthy struck out Brett Gardner on a 3-2 changeup and the same situation arose with Cano. He was looking changeup, McCarthy threw a terrible one that got the middle of the plate, and Cano hit an absolute rocket deep into the right-center bleachers. The 3-2 changeup that Cano hit out was the fourth consecutive changeup of the at-bat and he knew from Gardner’s at-bat to look for it again on 3-2.
With the injuries to Mark Texeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, Cano was going to have to lead the Yankees through April and so far he has. Obviously, he has had help in the lineup from Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner among others, but the Yankees did not start winning until Cano got going. Youkilis, Wells and Hafner hit well when the Yankees were losing, but they are not capable of carrying a team like Cano is.
“When Robbie got going, we got it going as a team, manager Joe Girardi told George A. King III. “When he got hot our offense took off.”
Cano is now hitting .327 with 4 home runs, 9 RBI and a 1.042 OPS. His wOBA (.438) and his wRC+ (181) are also outstanding. The Yankees are 6-1 since Cano turned his season around in April and it is no coincidence. He has overcome his struggles from last postseason and early in the season to become the player we know him to be.
Why was he struggling? Well, ESPN’s Mark Simon wrote about how teams were pitching him. It was written back on April 5th, but it is still relevant today. At that point in the season Cano was 2-for-15, and teams were having success pitching him away. Of the 59 pitches he had seen to that point, 43 of them were either on the outer-third of the plate or off the plate away. That is a total of 73 percen,t and in the playoffs last season, Cano saw those pitches 66 percent of the time. Cano was 3-for-40 in the playoffs and 28 of those outs came off of pitches to that area.
Cano was getting to anxious trying to pull these outside pitches. The Red Sox even shifted him like they would for Mark Teixeira during the opening series off the season, which we had never seen before with Cano. He turned it around on April 8th in Cleveland, as he hit an opposite field homer and double and he has not looked back ever since. I cannot upload it here, but his heat map on ESPN shows that he is now handling the outside pitch better. Also, Cano’s spray chart for this season clearly shows that he has hit the ball to all fields and he is going the other way at least just as much as he is pulling the ball.
The double edged sword of all of this is of course Cano is an impending free agent and the more he continues to hit like this the more his cost goes up. Hopefully with Cano leaving Scott Boras for Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports the Yankees can work out an extension before the year is over. With Mariano Rivera retiring and Derek Jeter’s time dwindling down the Yankees will need a new face of the franchise and it appears Cano will be headed that way if he stays.
The Yankees had a very nice bounce back week, as they went 4-1 with two rain outs. It all started on Sunday, as Jayson Nix’ huge home run off of Justin Verlander put the Yankees up 2-0 and it really got them going. Sabathia turned in a huge performance against Verlander and the Yankees went on to win 7-0, which really seemed to give them a lot of confidence. The Yankees went on to absolutely pound Cleveland, scoring 11 and 14 runs in the first two games, before having the next two rained out. Robinson Cano hit two home runs in the first game and Travis Hafner burned his old team with a three-run home run to put the Yankee out ahead 3-0. In the second game, the Yankees hit an incredible five home runs and 18 hits. After the rain outs, the Yankees came back to the Bronx and got a 5-2 win over the Orioles thanks to a dropped fly ball by Adam Jones that gave the Yankees three runs and broke a 2-2 tie. Yesterday, Phil Hughes was terrible and allowed three home runs in a 5-3 loss to Baltimore. The Week 2 Yankees Player of the Week Nominees are CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells.
CC Sabathia: Sabathia had two brilliant outings after his normal opening day disaster. On Sunday, he pitched seven shut out innings at Detroit without his best stuff. The Yankees needed that game desperately and came through like an ace should against perhaps the best pitcher in baseball. On Friday against Baltimore Sabathia was absolutely dominant. He pitched eight innings, allowed one earned run on eight hits and struck out nine. On a night when Buck Showalter said Miguel Gonzalez could not throw his breaking ball because of the frigid conditions, Sabathia dominated the Orioles with his slider and changeup. Sabathia’s fastball still sat in the low 90s this week, but if he locates with his off speed pitches like he did this week it will not matter. I’m sure once the weather heats up the velocity will as well.
Robinson Cano: Cano was an absolute beast this week. He hit .500, with 3 HR’s, 8 RBI and a 1.021 OPS. Cano hit two home runs in Cleveland on Monday to finally get his season rolling. He followed that up the next day with four hits, a home run and 5 RBI. Also, Cano has multi-hit games in each of the two games against Baltimore.
Kevin Youkilis- Youkilis is a nominee for a second week in a row, as he hit .350 on the week with 1 HR, 5 RBI and a 1.073 OPS. Youkilis had a hit in every game this week until yesterday’s 0-5 effort. He had 2 RBI in Sunday’s win at Detroit and had one of the five home runs in Tuesday’s win at Cleveland.
Vernon Wells- Wells is also a nominee for the second week in a row and he hit .368, with 1 home run, 1 RBI and a 1.118 OPS. Wells is still hitting the ball with great authority, as even his outs were loud. He went o-4 on Friday against Baltimore, but 3 of the outs were rockets and one of them was a rocket that Jones dropped. Wells had two hits yesterday, including a homer, and three hits on Monday in Cleveland.
Not much doubt this week as Robinson Cano takes home the honors as Yankees Player of the Week for week 2. On a nother week, Sabathia would have a great shot at winning but not with Cano this week. Discuss the week that was in the comments and vote for your player of the week in the poll.
You can’t predict baseball right? After a sluggish 1-4 start to the season wit little going right, the Yankee bats have caught fire to even their record at 4-4. It all started with a big unexpected home run by Jayson Nix off Justin Verlander, and now the Yankees have averaged 10.6 runs over their last three games. Brian Cashman has appeared to yet again catch lightning in a bottle with Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Brennan Boesch off to really good starts. Combine them with Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner getting hot, and the Yankees really have something going.
What has been so great about the last three games is the versatility the Yankees have shown with their bats. With the injures and free agency losses, it was thought that the Yankees would lack power, which has not been the case as they are second in the AL in home runs with 15. However, unlike last year, the Yankees are not scoring most of their runs just because of home runs. They are also second in the AL in team batting average at .281, and they have been going first to third on hits a lot more this year. The Yankees have also been getting the job done with RISP and with 2-out hits. They have scored 44.9% of their runs this season on hits with two outs and RISP, and they are hitting .361 as a team in those situations. The Yankees are hitting .319 as a team with RISP overall.
A strange lineup move has paid off for the Yankees thus far. With Cano struggling, Joe Girardi moved him from the third spot in the order to second between Gardner and Youkilis. The second place in the order is usually a high on-base percentage player, and Cano does not take a lot of walks. Also, obviously Cano is the best hitter on the Yankees, and the best hitter usually hits third or fourth. The idea behind this was for Gardner to get on base, have the hole open between first and second base for Cano, and he would see more fastballs since Gardner is a threat to run. As soon a Gardner got hot Cano did as well, although two of his three home runs were hit the other way. Pitchers started pitching him outside more last postseason and the beginning of this season, and it looks like he has finally adjusted. It will be interesting to see how long Cano stays in the two hole. I think it might be a good spot for Wells right now, as he has five walks this season and a .467 OBP.
Wells, Youkilis and Hafner have combined to hit .354 with six home runs in the first eight games. Who knows how long they can keep it up, but they are making Cashman look really smart right now. Wells’ bat speed looks vastly improved and he has used the whole field this year, as he had three hits to the opposite field on Monday, which is the same number of opposite field that he had all of last year. Youkilis has done a great job of using the whole field as well, and if he can stay healthy, he should be able to produce very well. It looks very clear that injuries were the main reason for his struggles last season. Much like Raul Ibanez last spring, scouts were worried about Hafner, and they were saying that he could not get around on a fastball anymore. That appears to be false, as he has hit .333/.419/.556/.975 and two home runs this season.
All of this gives the Yankees hope that they can at least tread water in April until the reinforcements come. Also, it is fun to imagine the lineup with Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson back with Youkilis, Wells and Hafner all still hitting well. Teixeira will be welcomed back, as LyleOverbay is the one new player who has not been very impressive. He has hit very few balls with force and his defense has been awful.
Granderson coming back will be more interesting because it will create a log jam in the outfield. If Wells continues his pace and Ichiro continues to struggle than Wells may take Ichiro’s playing time. This is coming on the heels of Joel Sherman writing that “the top of the Yankee hierarchy” demanded that Ichiro be brought back after his solid end to last season. This is what I feared when it happened; the Yankees only brought him back because they have a chance to make marketing money if he gets to 3,000 hits. It appears that this might have been another Cashman vs. ownership battle. So, it will be very interesting to see if Girardi takes away Ichiro’s playing time, if that is necessary.
Obviously, the Yankees will not continue to score 10 runs a game, but it has certainly been fun to watch. How long can they keep this up? Time will tell.
The Yankees bullpen was supposed to be a strength this year, just like it has been throughout the Joe Girardi era. One of Girardi’s biggest strengths as a manager has been his bullpen management, as he usually never overworks anybody. Bad starting pitching has forced his hand this year, and other than David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, the bullpen has been terrible.
The Yankees bullpen has allowed 21 runs and 52 base runners over 25.2 innings this season. Yesterday, they turned a painless game into an annoying one, as they made closing out a 11-3 game a lot harder than it should have been. Shawn Kelley was awful, as he allowed three runs, three hits and a walk, over 1.1 innings. Kelley was selected to be on the roster over David Aardsma for his ability to pitch multiple innings, but in the second inning of his last two appearances he has allowed two and three runs respectively. His career fly ball percentage of 51.3% may not play well in Yankee Stadium, and his fastball has been down two MPH this year (90.4).
Also, contributing to yesterdays and this season’s poor bullpen performance was Joba Chamberlain. He did not allow a run yesterday, but he did walk two batters in the ninth inning of a 11-6 game, which is brutal. Chamberlain was throwing full count sliders with that 11-6 lead, which just made no sense. This is when he gets into trouble. He over thinks things and does not attack hitters enough. He has great stuff, yet is still always nibbling at the corners, as he has six walks already this year in only 2.2 innings. The Yankees desperately need Chamberlain to get consistent and become a reliable pitcher in the seventh inning.
Boone Logan has not looked good for the Yankees either, which is a big problem since he is their only lefty. Clay Rapada got released because he was injured and the Yankees had a tight squeeze on the 40 man roster. Logan allowed a big three-run home run to Prince Fielder on Friday that blew the game open and could not retire him again on Saturday either, allowing a single. He threw 80 innings last year, which you might think could be the reason for his struggles now, but his velocity is essentially the same as last year, so it might just be a slow start. Logan was very good last year, as lefties only hit .231/.293/.372/.665 against him, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt. If he continues to struggle the Yankees could call up Vidal Nuno, who lit it up spring training, but he is not on the 40 man roster.
Chamberlain and Logan are the two most important players that have to get going because they are the most proven and have the talent. The Yankees have often gotten in-season reinforcements in the bullpen that nobody saw coming, so that is always possible. David Phelps, who has also been bad, Adam Warren and Kelley all have minor league options available. The Yankees might want to consider sending Phelps or Warren down to be stretched out as a sixth starter if one of the starters gets injured.
Obviously, we are dealing with a small sample size, so this is nothing to go crazy over yet, but it is something to keep a close eye on. On some level everybody team’s middle relief is bad, since they are always the worst pitchers on a baseball team. Also, the starting pitchers pitching at least six innings is a good way to improve your middle relief, which has not been happening for the Yankees. This is a much better problem to have than having late inning issues or starting rotation issues because it is less important. However, if Rivera or Robertson were ever to get hurt than it would become a huge problem. The bullpen was supposed the be the biggest strength on the team and it needs to get turned around.
The Yankees started off the season terribly, going 1-4 against Boston and at Detroit. They did it in embarrassing fashion, never scoring more than four runs in a game, allowing at least seven runs in four out of five games and playing underwhelming defense. The offense has been pretty much what you would expect, but newcomers Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Brennan Boesch have all swung the bats very well. Brians Cashman’s offseason acquisitions Youkilis, Wells, Hafner, Boesch Ben Francisco and Lyle Overbay hit a combined .293 this week (22-for-75). It is the remaining players from last year that have been killing the Yankees like Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki. If those guys can pick it up and the new guys can keep it up, the Yankees might be able to survive April. However, they can only survive April if their pitching staff picks it up in a major way. Every pitcher other than David Robertson allowed a run for the Yankees this week. Yesterday, after the Yankees battled back to within 5-4 and David Phelps immediately gave two runs back. The Yankees could have easily won if they pitched well and had more luck, as they should have scored more than the four runs that they did.
The Yankees as a team had a 6.49 ERA this week, the bullpen had a 7.65 ERA, and if you take out Andy Pettitte, the starters went 0-4 with a 7.80 ERA. Those are truly egregious numbers, especially when you have a limited offense. The middle relief pitchers for the Yankees have been abysmal, as Joba Chamberlain, Phelps and Boone Logan all stunk miserably. Chamberlain and Phelps should improve, but the Yankees have a big problem if Logan does not, as he is their only lefty. His arm appears shot from all the innings last year and the Yankees might want to think about bringing up Vidal Nuno or picking Clay Rapada back up.
The only silver lining I have about these games is that the guys who you would expect to be good haven’t been, like Cano, Gardner, Ichiro, Phelps, Chamberlain, Logan, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes. So, if they pick it up like their track records say they will, and you still get production out of Youkilis, Wells, Bosech and Hafner, the Yankees should be able to tread water in April. Now, here are the nominees for Yankees Week 1 Player of the Week.
Kevin Youkilis: Youkilis hit .389, with 1 HR, 2 RBI and a 1.172 OPS this week. He was one of the few consistently good hitters this week, as he had a hit in all five games this week. He had a big home run on Friday that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead, which unfortunately they were not able to hold it or expand it. Four out of Youk’s seven hits this week went for extra bases.
Vernon Wells: Wells hit .286 on the week, with 2 HR’s, 4 RBI and a 1.089 OPS. Wells had three hits in Wednesday’s 7-4 loss against Boston, including a three-run home run that made the the game respectable. Also, he had a rocket home run yesterday that evened the score at one. Both home runs were line drives, which shows that Wells’ approach at he plate is really sound right now.
Travis Hafner: Hafter hit .313, with 1 HR, 2RBI and a .889 ops. The Yankees saw a lot of righties this week, which benefited Hafner. He had exactly one hit in all five games this week, including a solo home run in Wednesday’s game.
Andy Pettitte: Pettitte was absolutely outstanding in Thursday’s win over Boston. He pitched eight inning, allowed one run on eight hits and struck out three. He looked like the Pettitte of old, constantly pitching out of trouble and throwing strikes. He played his stopper role well again, as the Yankees desperately needed a win and he delivered.
The Week 1 Yankees Player of the Week is Andy Pettitte. He was really the only Yankees pitcher who pitched well and was the reason for the only Yankees win. Vote for your player of the week in the poll and discuss the week that was in the comments.
Just seven months before hitting free agency with the potential to sign a mega contract, Robinson Cano has fired agent Scott Boras to sign with the Jaz Z’s Roc Nation . Buster Olney of ESPN, had it first in a tweet.
Roc Nation announced Tuesday that it will be teaming up with Creative Arts Agency (CAA) and that Cano will be the agencies first client.
“At this point in my career, I am ready to take a more active role in my endeavors on and off the field,” Cano said in a statement. “I am confident that the pairing of Roc Nation Sports and CAA Sports will be essential in helping me accomplish my short- and long-term goals. I am making this important decision now so I can keep my focus on helping the Yankees succeed in 2013, while minimizing any distractions for me and my teammates.”
This is outstanding news for the Yankees, as the likelihood of Cano signing an extension with the Yankees just went up greatly. Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but it was very clear that Boras wanted Cano to go to free agency to the highest bidder. It doesn’t hurt that Jay-Z is a New York icon and a huge Yankees fan himself. He even coined the phrase in “Empire State of Mind” that he could “make the Yankee hat more famous than any Yankee can”.
According to George A. King III of the New York Post, a friend close to Cano told him that Alex Rodriguez and LeBron James were in Cano’s ear about switching to Jay-Z and that Cano wants to remain a Yankee.
“It’s not a coincidence Jay Z is involved because Alex and him are friends and Alex is a guy Robbie has a lot of respect for,” the friend said. “He didn’t want the same situation as Albert Pujols. Robbie wants to be a Yankee.”
CAA baseball starts like Matt Cain, Ryan Braun, Buster Posey and Ryan Zimmerman have all signed extensions with their clubs before hitting free agency, which is more good news for the Yankees. Signing Cano would be a very good PR move for the Yankees, who at this point could really use one. It is doubtful that Cano will take any discount to sign with the Yankees, but the fact that it appears that he wants to stay with the Yankees and that the Yankees appear to want him back is huge.
The overwhelming reaction to the Yankees’ acquisition of Vernon Wells was highly negative and with very good reason. When I first heard the reports that the Yankees were acquiring Wells, and were paying him $13 million over two seasons, I was floored. I thought that either the salary number was wrong or that the Yankees would be getting an useful piece in return. Alas, that was obviously not the case, but who knows there is a chance that Wells could work out for the Yankees.
The part of the trade that I was the most confused about was why would the Yankees sacrifice space on the 2014 $189 million budget for a guy that has been completely useless the last two seasons? However, that appears not to be the case, as the Yankees are paying the majority of the $13 million to Wells this year and may actually get a luxury tax credit worth as much as $2 million for 2014.
Part of the reason the Yankees say they were willing to pay Wells this much is because the WBC will be picking up a portion of Mark Teixeira’s contract this season due to his injury on Team USA. Now, I think they could have put those extra savings to better use, but we will see on that. What paying Wells this money does now is it brings up issues about why they didn’t pay certain players this offseason. There were tons of much better players than Wells that they could have given that money to this offseason, and using the Teixeira savings as an excuse as to why they didn’t is really insulting to everyone’s intelligence. The whole trade completely reeks of desperation.
However, Wells is here and the offseason is over, so there really is no point in looking back anymore. Despite me and the majority of Yankees fans hating this trade; could it possibly work out? Maybe. Like I said, the money effecting the 2014 budget doesn’t seem to be the issue that it looked like it was originally, so it will come down to what Wells does on the field.
Yankees scouts clearly saw something they liked about Wells this spring. Wells has changed his swing this spring, and has hit .333/.364.667/1.030 with four home runs in spring training. Mike Eder over at It’s About The Money, has a good piece on Wells’ swing changes, noting that he is standing farther off the plate this spring. Watching Wells last night, it seems like his bat speed was still there, as he hit two rockets that he got unlucky on and they were turned into outs.
While Wells has been brutal the last two seasons, he did have a solid year in 2010 (.273/.331/.515/.847). What happened in 2011 and 2012 is anybody’s guess. Wells was so miserable that his on-base percentage’s those years of .248 and .279 were actually lower than Chris Stewart’s, which is what makes the deal seems so puzzling. Wells didn’t even have good platoon splits last season, as he had a slash line of 227/.298/.373/.671 vs. lefties.
The Yankees have had great success recently at taking players off the scrap heap and having them perform well. Some recent examples include Ichiro, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones for a season, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Cory Wade, Derek Lowe for a short time last year, Eric Chavez, Kerry Wood, and Marcus Thames.
Wells could surprise a lot of people and join that list this season. This trade will either make Cashman and his scouts look like geniuses or dopes. While, I for one would have never made this deal, it certainly is not impossible that Wells turns out to be an asset to the Yankees this season.
With less than two weeks until Opening Day, the Yankees have a little bit more clarity on who will be playing where when the season begins. Injuries to Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson have opened up more spots and competition than there has been in a Yankees camp in a long time. Obviously, there is still time for things to change due to injuries or play on the field, but it looks like some favorites have emerged for the open positional spots on the Yankees.
Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart will be the two catchers on the roster ahead of Austin Romine. Cervelli probably has an edge to start over Stewart, due to his much improved defensive play in the spring, and because he probably has a slightly better bat. I have been a skeptic of Cervelli, but if he can keep up this improved defensive play, letting go of Russell Martin might not be the awful decision that I and many others thought it was. However, given regular AB’s, I still think Cervelli will hit closer to .220 rather than his .271 career average.
Brennan Boesch was a solid low risk pickup by the Yankees and he is the favorite to start in one of the corner outfield spots. I think Boesch will be in right field and the stronger defender Ichiro will be in left field.
Boesch is another lefty, but he actually hits lefties better in his career (.286/.348/.420/.767) than righties (.250/.305/.412/.717), so he has no real platoon split. He is only 27 years old, so he is still in the prime in his career. Boesch has averaged 14 home runs per season in his three seasons at spacious Comerica Park, so at Yankee Stadium he might be able to hit 20 home runs this season.
Boesch had an awful 2012 season by hitting only 12 home runs and having a slash line of .240/.286/.373/.659. However, Boesch had surgery in the 2011 offseason to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. This may have had a negative effect on his season, as hand and wrist injuries are tough to deal with for a hitter. If Boesch can repeat his 2011 season of 16 home runs and a slash line of .283/.341/.458/.799 the Yankees would be thrilled.
Matt Diaz has been released, and Zolio Almonte and Slade Heathcott have been sent to the minor league camp, so that leaves Boesch, Ben Francisco, Melky Mesa and Thomas Neal in the competition for the outfield spots. You can probably rule out Neal, although he has had a nice spring. With Boesch starting in right, that leaves Francisco and Mesa to battle it out for right-handed outfield/DH role. The Yankees always seem to lean toward the veteran in these situations and Francisco (.345/.441/.586/1.027) has greatly outperformed Mesa (.186/.239/.395/.634) at the plate this spring. By keeping Francisco on the major league team and sending Mesa down the Yankees can afford to keep both players, since Francisco does not have any options remaining and Mesa does. This is good for depth purposes.
In the infield it appears as though Juan Rivera and Kevin Youkilis will be starting at the corners at this point. Dan Johnson has been egregious this spring (.069/.270.069/.339) and Ronnie Mustelier’s injury might have cost him a chance to start at third base if the Yankees wanted to move Youkilis to first. Rivera has hit for a decent average this spring (.286), but he has hit for no power. It is unknown at this point whether Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez will be the utility infielder or maybe both make the roster.
The corner infield is the place that the Yankees really should look to upgrade before the season begins. The Yankees can get by with Boesch and Francisco replacing Granderson for a month, but Rivera starting at first base is really not acceptable. This is why the Texiera injury hurts so much. Losing a guy who you can pencil in for 35 home runs, over 100 RBI and gold glove defense and replacing him with Rivera is really going to hurt your team.
The Yankees should look for an upgrade at first or at third and move Youkilis over to first because it sounds like the Teixeira injury might be a long term thing, so you cannot worry about having a surplus once he gets back because you have no idea when that will be at this point. These are certainly some different and unusual players who will be in the Yankees starting lineup on Opening Day, but this is what we have to live with at this point.
While everybody in Yankees camp has focused on what the Opening Day lineup will be with the injuries to Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, a nice battle has been brewing for the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation. Ivan Nova and David Phelps have both been outstanding this spring. Nova threw four shutout innings yesterday against Tampa and has an ERA of 1.00 this spring. Meanwhile, Phelps has a minuscule ERA of .64 in 14 innings this spring.
If things continue to stay this way with both guys pitching well, Nova should and probably will get the job. Nova has more natural talent and potential than Phelps, so that should give him the edge if all things are equal like this. Especially, since Phelps has experience in the bullpen and Nova does not.
Last season, Phelps was the better pitcher, but that certainly does not mean that will happen again. Phelps pitched to a 3.34 ERA and a 4.32 FIP over 99.2 innings last season, while Nova pitched to a 5.02 ERA and a 4.60 FIP over 170 innings.
Phelps certainly performed better than Nova last season, but he may have had a little bit of luck on his side as well. Phelps got more strikeouts (8.67 K/9) then you would predict given his stuff last season. He got a lot of those strikeouts with good late movement with his fastball (27.06% called strike %) and his sinker (25.51 called strike %). It will probably be in the scouting report this year to look for that.
Also, Phelps was a fly ball pitcher in Yankee Stadium last season, as he had a 38.4 % FB% compared to a 42.9 GB%. That is a dangerous way to live at Yankee Stadium and you would have to think more of those fly balls will turn into home runs this season.
An advantage Phelps does have over Nova is his mental makeup. Phelps just seemed to have a great idea of what he was doing on the mound and he was not phased by anything. That is half the battle. Meanwhile, Nova got a little cocky last season, which might have affected his performance.
Meanwhile, Nova was probably a little unlucky in 2012. His FB% was 32.4%, but his HR/FB ratio was 16.6%, while Phelps’ was 13.6%. So, Nova was allowing a less percentage of fly balls, but a higher percentage of home runs, which is unlikely to repeat itself.
Nova gave up more home runs because he changed the style of pitching that made him successful in 2011. He went from a ground ball pitcher in 2011 to a strikeout pitcher last season. Nova went from 5.33 K/9 and 3.10 BB/9 in 2011 to 8.08 K/9 and 2.96 BB/9.
Normally, going from averaging about two more strikeouts than walks per nine innings to averaging about six more would lead to great improvement. However, it did not, because Nova started to pitch for those strikeouts instead of for the ground balls that he was successful with in 2011. While he did not walk many people last season, Nova was too wild in the zone, leading to a lot of the home runs that he gave up. He went from a 52.7% GB% in 2011 to a 45.2 GB% last season.
This is not meant to knock Phelps in anyway. I like his mental makeup and I think he can be a solid back end to middle of the rotation pitcher. I just think Nova has a bit more upside and that Phelps got a tad lucky last year. This is why self scouting is so important. With the Yankees in need of a bat, Phelps and Nova could be trade pieces. Which one do the Yankees believe has a brighter future? Is it smart to sell high on Phelps right now, or do they believe that he can keep this level of performance up? Those are two important questions that will need to be answered.