Author Archives: Matthew B

Yankees Fans Unite Merging With Greedy Pinstripes

Hello everybody. Unfortunately, due to some people being busy with their personal lives we will no longer be posting on this site. Fortunately, we will be merging with Greedy Pinstripes to continue to give you great Yankees coverage. We hope to see all of our readers over there. Thank you for all your support over the last few years we could not have done it without you guys. It’s too bad that we could not keep up the momentum last year when we were doing so well and we apologize for that. However, this is a new beginning and I can’t wait to see you guys over at Greedy Pinstripes.

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Game 144 Lineup: Yankees vs. Orioles

1. Brett Gardner CF

2. Alex Rodriguez 3B

3. Robinson Cano 2B

4. Alfonso Soriano LF

5. Curtis Granderson DH

6. Eduardo Nunez SS

7. Lyle Overbay 1B

8. Ichiro Suzuki RF

9. Austin Romine C

P- CC Sabathia

- A-Rod batting second is a great move by Girardi

 

Game 142 Lineup: Yankees vs. Red Sox

1. Brett Gardner CF

2. Derek Jeter SS

3. Robinson Cano 2B

4. Alfonso Soriano LF

5. Curtis Granderson DH

6. Eduardo Nunez 3B

7. Lyle Overbay 1B

8. Ichiro Suzuki RF

9. Austin Romine C

David Huff P

- Relief pitcher Jim Miller has been called up to the Bronx.

Bullpen Injuries Piling Up

David Robertson will be shut down 5-6 days with shoulder tendinitis and Boone Logan will be having an MRI on his biceps.

Shawn Kelley is throwing a bullpen today after being unavailable the last couple of days with a triceps issue. If all goes well he could be available tomorrow.

These injuries can be absolutely deadly for the Yankees as you saw in last night’s game. 5 or 6 days is a very long time to be without Robertson with all of these important September games. It seems odd that his shoulder is fatigued, as he is only 55th among MLB relievers with 58.1 innings and 37th in appearances with 61.

Hopefully, Kelley can return tomorrow so the Yankees can have some semblance of a setup man. If he had been available the last two nights things might have turned out differently. These injuries have really hit the Yankees at the worst possible time.

Romine and Murphy Working Themselves Into 2014 Plans

The New York Yankees catching situation has been a travesty for the majority of the season.

It started out wrong last winter when Brian Cashman wanted to match the measly two-year, $17 million offer Martin got from Pittsburgh, but ownership did not want to give out multi-year deals last offseason. Martin has had a solid season with the Pirates with a slash line of .240/.342/.398/.740 with 13 home runs and has been one of the catalysts for their great season.

The Yankees neglected to sign a real MLB caliber catcher and went into the season with Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. Cervelli had a great month of April (probably HGH induced) before he got injured and has not seen the field since. Stewart took over as the everyday catcher with Austin Romine as the backup.

It has been clear all season that Stewart is not a starting caliber catcher. However, Romine got off to such a terrible start (.158/.179/.211/.390 in the first half) that Stewart was playing every day.

Now the tables have completely turned, as Romine has taken off, and Stewart has hit the wall. Stewart has been egregious in the second half of the season with a slash line of .169/.237.236/.473. Meanwhile, Romine has been absolutely stellar in the second half hitting .340/.418/.511/.929.

Joe Girardi has done an awesome job managing the Yankees this year, but one thing that he has dropped the ball on is not making Romine the everyday catcher earlier and he still hasn’t really done it. He probably does not entirely trust the young catcher, but at 24 years old and playing really well he should be getting the majority of the playing time. Stewart has 99 second half at-bats compared to Romine’s 56, which is really unacceptable.

It will be very interesting to see if Romine will be able to continue his hot hitting in September. If he does the Yankees will have a very interesting decision to make at catcher in the offseason.

If Alex Rodriguez’s suspension holds up, the Yankees would have more money to spend this offseason and a free agency run at Brian McCann makes sense. McCann has had a great season for the Braves with 133 wRC+, a .364 wOBA, a .843 OPS and 19 home runs in a pitchers home park and is still in his prime. However, if Romine and J.R. Murphy continue to develop then the Yankees may feel a lot better about their catching situation than they did before.

Murphy got his name in the Yankees record book yesterday by becoming the 52nd player used this year, which is the most ever for the Yankees. He did a nice job of working the count to 3-1 before hitting a rocket down the third base line for a single. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets down the stretch.

Murphy has had a great season in the minors that has gotten him to the Bronx for September. Between Double-A and Triple-A this season Murphy has a .269/.347/.426/.773 slash line with 12 home runs and 29 doubles. These are very good numbers for a 22 year old catcher. Murphy has also performed behind the dish with a 37% CS rate.

Murphy is not one of the more hyped prospects in the Yankees system, but a 22-year old catcher posting these kind of hitting numbers should be getting more attention. If the Yankees do sign McCann, or Romine continues to take off, Murphy could be trade bait, because the Yankees’ best prospect is also a catcher in Gary Sanchez. Either way, Murphy is working his way into the plans for next year as a cheap and talented catching option.

Obviously, the number one goal for the Yankees this September would be to finish off what would be one of their most miraculous comebacks ever to make the postseason. However, how Romine and Murphy perform down the stretch will have a big impact on the plans for next year, which is very important as well.

Starting Pitching Needs to Step Up

The New York Yankees have completely turned their offense around during the month of August behind Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.

The Yankees are third in the AL in homers in August (29), fifth in wOBA (.330) and sixth in OPS (.751)  The Yankees have averaged nearly 4.5 runs per game in Soriano’s 30 games as a Yankees and he trails only Miguel Cabrera in home runs after the all-star break.

Rodriguez (.284/.369/.473/.842 with a 133 wRC+) and Granderson (.291/.412/.456/.868 with a 140 wRC+) have both been terrific since they returned from the DL. Assuming that this continues, the Yankees should have plenty of offense for them to make a run at the second wild car in September. The question will be whether the starting pitching can be good enough.

There have been some good signs and some bad signs out of the starting pitchers lately. Andy Pettitte turning it around and Ivan Nova maintaining his performance have been good ones.

Over his last three starts, Pettitte has allowed just two runs on 15 hits over 19.2 innings. The first of those three starts was the biggest, as Pettitte delivered a huge performance in the opening game of the series in Boston. He allowed three unearned runs over 6.2 innings and gave up six hits, one walk and struck out five. He was given a huge first inning lead to work with, but big leads can evaporate quickly at Fenway Park.

Pettitte’s last two outing came against the Blue Jays and he allowed only one run over 13 innings. Toronto is not a great team but the starts were still very encouraging. When the stakes get raised Pettitte raises his game, which is why I have a lot of confidence in him pitching big games down the stretch in September. You know he is going to battle and not be afraid of any moment. Pettitte’s ERA is now down to a respectable 4.05 for the season.

Nova has not been as dominant in his last three starts, but he has still battled and managed to have good results. That is big for a pitcher who has had the physical tools, but lacked knowledge in just how to pitch. Nova has allowed 27 hits to only 11 strikeouts over those last three starts, but the most amount of runs that he allowed was four over 6.1 innings on August 20th against Toronto. In his previous start, he allowed three runs over 7.1 innings against the Angels and came up with a big performance in a game the Yankees had to have Sunday in Tampa.

The problems in the Yankees rotation are CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. Hiroki Kuroda has struggled as well over his last two outings, but I will chalk that up to just a blip on the radar for him.

Sabathia has shown signs of improvement but has still been unable to put it all back together. His fastball velocity has improved lately, as he has averaged 93.24 MPH on his fastball in August, including averaging 93.88 MPH and 94.07 MPH over his last two starts. However, as Sabathia has added velocity his control has vanished. He has allowed an abysmal 4.70 walks per nine innings in August.

Sabathia has thrown quality starts in three out of his last four outings, but he still has not been the dominant Sabathia we have come to know over the last few years. He had an egregious performance in the rubber match of the Boston series but got bailed out by his offense.

Then, on Saturday, Sabathia blew a 2-0 lead when he imploded in the sixth inning. He was absolutely dominant over the first five innings with his fastball humming at over 94 MPH and his slider breaking as sharply as it had all season. It all fell apart when Sam Fuld hit a bloop single to lead off the sixth inning and Sabathia could not find the plate out of the stretch. That game is the type of game that the Yankees will need Sabathia to finish down the stretch of the season if they want to make the playoffs.

There seems to be little hope for Hughes to be an effective pitcher at all this season. Hughes has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season with an ERA of 4.91, which ranks 80th out of 85 qualified starting pitchers.

With only 30 games remaining in the season the Yankees cannot afford to give any games away, which is essentially what they have been doing by running Hughes out there every five days.

Unfortunately, the options that the Yankees have to replace Hughes are not very appealing. David Huff and Adam Warren are the only in-house options with David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno all injured.

Huff has thrown 8.1 innings of shutout baseball over his last two relief appearances against Toronto and has only allowed one hit. However, Huff’s 5.25 ERA and 4.74 FIP in almost 300 career innings inspires little confidence. Warren has been o.k. this season, but I still do not believe that he has the stuff to be a good MLB starting pitcher. At the very least the Yankees need to skip Hughes’ start this weekend in Baltimore.

The Yankees are currently five games behind Oakland in the chase for the second wild card. They will have to play close to flawless baseball in September to catch them and they cannot do it without great starting pitching. They have not gotten that consistently since the beginning of the season and it needs to reappear right now for the Yankees to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.

A-Rod Helping the Yankees Turn it Around

You can say what you want about Alex Rodriguez, but there is no denying the impact his return has had on the Yankees.

The Yankees are 9-5 since Rodriguez has returned and that includes winning nine of their last 11 games. The Yankees have averaged 5.6 runs per game in those 13 games compared to just the 3.96 runs per game they are averaging over the full season.

Obviously, Rodrirguez is not doing everything for the Yankees alone. Alfonso Soriano went on one of the greatest streaks you will ever see an MLB player go on and Curtis Granderson has hit .288/.422/.462/.883 since his return from the DL. Also, Robinson Cano has caught fire, as he is finally seeing pitches to hit with Soriano and Rodriguez hitting behind him.

What Rodriguez has really done is make this season relevant again for the Yankees. Forget about all the off the field nonsense, Rodriguez has finally made the Yankees worth watching on it. He has hit .308/.400/.462/.862 with two home runs since returning to the Yankees. The aura around the team seems different and a ton of that has to do with A-Rod’s presence. Even when he is not hitting well Rodriguez’s presence alone usually has a positive affect on the lineup.

The narrative was that Rodriguez’s return was supposed to divide the team and his distraction was supposed to be too much to handle. As is the case with most media narratives, that turned out to be just a total fabrication.

If anything, the Yankees have rallied around Rodriguez, as was evident Sunday night in Boston. After Ryan Dempster purposely threw at Rodriguez three times before finally hitting him, Joe Girardi came out and cursed out home plate umpire Brian O’Nora and Dempster in a big rage.

Fortunately, Dempster was not thrown out of the game and the Yankees crushed the gutless, cowardly and mediocre pitcher to the tune of 7 runs in 5.1 innings. This included an absolute bomb from Rodriguez that went almost 450 feet out to dead center and started the Yankees rally from down 6-3. He hilariously imitated David Ortiz’ home run celebration for good measure. His teammates played with much more energy after the incident, and Dempster might have woken up a sleeping giant.

With all the attention being placed upon Rodriguez, other players seem more free to just go about their business without being bothered. Rodriguez, who is no stranger to all the attention and criticism, has absolutely thrived off of it. His focus to go out there and perform the way he has with everything that is going on off the field is incredible.

With the recent additions of Rodriguez, Soriano, Granderson and Mark Reynolds the Yankees now have a playoff caliber offense. Reynolds was a solid pickup so that Lyle Overbay no longer has to embarrass himself against lefties. The question will be can CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes pitch better?

Hughes pitched very well last night, as he went six innings, allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out six. However, it came against a very mediocre Toronto lineup with Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista. I do trust that in big games down the stretch that Pettitte can come up big like he always does. However, Sabathia has not shown many signs that he will be able to turn it around this season. He has just allowed far too much hard contact on his fastball and changeup and has completely lost the strike zone in his last two outings. It may take a whole offseason of changes to fix his problems.

Before Rodriguez came back the Yankees were dead in the water and just a boring team to watch. Now they’re back in the race for a playoff spot, albeit still a long shot at six games behind a playoff spot. Even if they fall short of a playoff spot, at least they will be entertaining to watch the rest of the season. Love him or hate him, but in your heart of hearts you know you have enjoyed the Yankees so much more with the return of Rodriguez.

Yankees Sign Mark Reynolds

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Yankees have reached an agreement with corner infielder Mark Reynolds on a contract.

Reynolds hit .205/.307/.373 with 15 home runs before being released by Cleveland. Reynolds was hot early in the season, as he hit .291/.367/.645 through May 9th, but has only hit .177/.277/.240 since.

Reynolds was probably signed to play first base against lefties, as the Yankees have been forced to use Lyle Overbay against most lefties because they have not had a platoon partner for him. Reynolds has a 111 wRC+ and a .330 wOBA againt lefties this year, which are solid numbers and a big upgrade over Overbay’s 50 wRC+ and .250 wOBA against lefties this season.

Robertson Will Be a Fine Closer

On Monday, David Robertson converted his first save for the New York Yankees this season.

Mariano Rivera was unavailable, so Robertson came in after Boone Logan gave up a leadoff single to open the ninth inning. He walked Mike Trout, and then proceeded to give up a bloop RBI double to Josh Hamilton to put runners on second and third with one out.

After intentionally walking Eric Aybar, Robertson struck out Mark Trumbo on just three pitches. Then, he struck out Yankee castoff Chris Nelson on a 3-2 fastball up near his face, and the Yankees hung on to win 2-1.

Robertson has been one of the best relievers in MLB over the course of his five year career. This year has been par for the course for Robertson, as he has a 1.81 ERA and has struck out 10.9 K/9. That strikeout rate is slightly down from his 11.8 K/9 career rate, but he has compensated for that with a career high 47.4% GB rate. Despite all of this there is a sentiment among Yankee fans that Robertson would struggle as a closer. I just don’t get it.

This started last year when Robertson struggled to replace Mariano Rivera after his injury and got replaced by Rafael Soriano. He blew three saves in five chances last year, but that is way too small of a sample size to be conclusive of anything.

The main argument against Robertson is that he throws too many pitches and puts too many batters on base to be a successful closer.While that was true earlier in his career, it is no longer the case anymore. Robertson has a .99 WHIP and has averaged 15.88 pitches per inning this year. He has cut down on his walks dramatically from earlier in his career. From 2009-2011, Robertson averaged 4.76 BB/9 and in the almost two years since he has averaged 2.77 BB/9.

So, Robertson has greatly cut down on his walks and is much more economical than he used to be. He generates more ground balls than ever with his cutter, while maintaining a very high strikeout rate. His cutter and curve are both devastating pitches. What’s not to like?

Robertson has all the physical tools to be the next closer and the mental toughness. He has retired an unfathomable 25 straight batters with the bases loaded, earning him his “Houdini” nickname. Since 2011, Robertson has stranded 87.2% of base runners . He has shown that he will not get flustered in any situation. The ninth inning as opposed to the eighth inning should not change that.

Nobody will ever be what Mariano Rivera is for the Yankees, so if that is what the expectations for Robertson are then he will fail. However, if you’re expectations are that Robertson will be a very good closer, I think he will be just that. There have been no signs that say otherwise, despite what many seem to think.

An Underrated Era of Yankees Baseball

As a Yankees fan who grew up in the Yankees’ dynasty and early 2000 years this is the first bad Yankees team that I have experienced in my lifetime. Watching the team this year has been very painful at times and certainly not as fun as it was during those years. I would look forward to the Yankee game that night all day back then when I was in school. That has certainly not been the case this year. I have always said to spoiled Yankees fans how we should appreciate the Yankees teams from 2001-2012, and this year has cemented that.

Andrew Mearns of Pinstriped Bible, wrote an excellent piece on this topic that inspired me to write about this subject. The Yankees dynasty years from 1996-2000 put unreasonable expectations into the heads of many Yankees fans. Win the World Series or the season was a failure. That is just not the case.

This 2013 Yankees season is what you would call an utter failure, assuming it ends the way it looks like it’s going to. The Yankees are 25th in MLB in home runs, 27th in runs, 29th in wOBA and 29th in wRC+. That is an utter disaster. A Yankees team that wins over 95 games and the AL East, but loses in the ALDS or ALCS is not.

For any other franchise making the playoffs 10 out of 11 seasons, with nine division championships, a World Series championship and two other World Series appearances would be considered one of the greatest decades in franchise history. Yet, somehow with the Yankees it is looked upon as a failure. The Yankees won over 95 games an incredible 10 times over that span and over 100 games four times. Those were some really fun teams to watch.

The 2002 Yankees are a great example of this. That team had one of the most dominant regular seasons in Yankees history. They scored almost 900 runs and hit 223 home runs.

They were lead by a near 40-40 season from Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi, who had an incredible 1.034 OPS that season. Nick Johnson and Rondell White, who were probably the two worst regular hitters that season, would be two of the better hitters on the 2013 Yankees for most of the year.

The starting pitching was also stellar, led by Mike Mussina, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez. Despite all of this, they are remembered as chokers because they lost the ALDS to the eventual World Series champion Angels. Four games overruled 162. 

The 2003 season is remembered a little more fondly because of the epic Aaron Boone game winning home run in Game 7 of the ALCS vs. Boston. However, there are some fans who remember that year more for blowing the 2-1 World Series lead to the heavily underdog Marlins.

2004-2007 featured more really awesome teams that did not reach the ultimate goal of a championship. Those teams won three division titles and had some incredible moments and performances. They averaged 904 runs a year over those years, including approaching 1,000 in 2007, with an incredible 968 runs.

We witnessed two of the greatest seasons in Yankees history from Alex Rodriguez in 2005 (.321/.421/.610/1.031 with 48 home runs and 130 RBI) and 2007 (.314/.422/.645/ 1.067 with 54 home runs and 156 RBI. I remember being just mesmerized watching A-Rod in those years. We may never witness seasons like that from a player in a Yankees uniform ever again. Yet, they are just glossed over because A-Rod’s Yankees did not win championships.

In the 2005 season the Yankees made an incredible comeback from eight games under .500 to 29 over by season’s end. They had an incredible murderers row of Rodriguez (1.031 OPS), Giambi (.975 OPS), Gary Sheffield (.891 OPS) and Hideki Matsui (.863 OPS). Cano’s OPS of .860 this year would be fifth on that team! But, hey who cares right they lost in the ALDS.

The 2006 team won 97 games, had four hitters with an OPS over .890 (Jeter, Cano, Rodriguez and Giambi). Melky Cabrera, who had the lowest .OPS among regulars with a .752 OPS, would rank 2nd on the 2013 Yankees! Of course they are only remembered for the disaster against Detroit in the ALDS when Joe Torre hit Rodriguez 8th.

That dominant 2007 team that I mentioned is only remembered for Joba Chamberlain and the midges in the ALDS against Cleveland. Who cares that it was one of the greatest offenses in Yankees history and that it was eight games under .500 in late May and came back to win 97 games. Again, Cabrera was the least productive Yankee regular (.273/.327/.391.718), but his numbers would make him the third best hitter for the Yankees this year.

A playoff less 2008 season should have humbled fans, although an 89 win season with a mountain of injuries was not even a terrible season. Then, the championship in 2009 made everybody cocky again that nothing less would be expected.

2010-2012 was very similar to 2004-2007. They won 95 games all three years, won the AL East twice and advanced to the ALCS twice. Yet, it just wasn’t enough for some people.

Now, here we are in 2013 with a team that is an egregious offensive team, has only two starting pitchers performing well and they might not even finish above .500. There have been very few fun games and exciting moments, very few individual performances that wowed you and very few players that you have looked forward to watching. This team pales in comparison to those teams, yet those teams are somehow looked upon in a negative light?

Obviously, it sucked watching the Yankees lose in the playoffs all those times. That does not change the fact that those were excellent baseball teams, with some outstanding players, and they were an absolute joy to watch. They should be remembered upon as a great time in franchise history and not a time of disappointment.

Hopefully, this season will make those spoiled fans remember just how good those years were. With the current state of the franchise who knows how long it will take for them to get back to that level. I know that I am longing for those days right now.

Romine Improving

When Austin Romine first came up to the Yankees after Francisco Cervelli’s injury it was thought that he would split time with Chris Stewart and be given an opportunity to supplant him.

However, Romine did absolutely nothing to warrant playing time, and Stewart ended up taking the full time job. At the end of June, Romine’s slash line was .145/.159/.194/.352. Now the tide has turned, and Romine should be getting more playing time than Stewart. Stewart just seems to have completely worn down, as he hit .148 with a .416 OPS in July.

Meanwhile, over his last 28 plate appearances, Romine’s is hitting .416 with 4 doubles and a home run. His approach has looked great and Romine is hitting a lot of balls back up the middle where they came from. Very few of his hits have been cheap, so he is making some hard contact. He has looked very good behind the plate as well, as he has thrown out 30% of runners trying to steal this season.

Obviously, this is a small sample size, but with the fact that the Yankees chances of making the playoffs are slim to none, and Stewart is terrible, the Yankees should see what Romine can do as the starting catcher over the last two months.

 

All that’s really left for this season is to evaluate for next season, and the starting catchers spot is wide open. It would be ideal if the Yankees signed Brian McCann in the offseason, but if that does not happen Romine could be considered a cheap option if he does well through the end of the season. The Yankees need to see what they have in him.

Romine’s career minor league slash line of .280/.334/.414/.748 indicate that he probably does not have a good enough bat to be considered a good starting catcher. However, at this point the Yankees really have nothing to lose and stranger things have happened.

With Joe Girardi giving Romine a second consecutive start tonight he might agree that it is time to give Romine a shot for the rest of the season. If that is the case, he will definitely be a player to watch to see if his success is just a flash in the pan or if it’s sustainable.

Kuroda the Unappreciated Ace

When people talk about the best pitchers in baseball Hiroki Kuroda’s name does not come up often and it probably should.

Somehow,  Kuroda did not make the All-Star team this season, yet he could end up winning the Cy Young Award as a consolation. Obviously, with two months remaining in the season, it is to early to determine Kuroda’s Cy Young chances. However, what we do know is that Kuroda just pitched one of the best months of baseball in Yankees history and he has kept the Yankees in playoff contention.

Kuroda ended his stellar month of July by going head to head with the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw. He matched Kershaw by putting up zeroes for seven straight innings before the Yankees scored three runs in the ninth to secure the victory. It was the eighth time Kuroda held the opposition scoreless this season, which is the most of any pitcher in baseball. He had similar type performances in July against top pitchers John Lackey and Derek Holland when the Yankees had trouble scoring as usual.

Kuroda was 3-0 in July with a minuscule .55 ERA, and the Yankees needed every ounce of that to stay in contention. The Yankees were 4-1 in games started by Kuroda in July and were only 10-11 in all other games in the month. Six of those wins came on the first six days of the month. Kuroda pitched huge games in Boston, Texas and Los Angeles towards the end of the month when the Yankees were really struggling. All three teams have very powerful lineups, and Kuroda allowed only two runs over 21 innings against them with 15 strikeouts and only three walks.

Not only is Kuroda easily the best starter on the Yankees now, he might be the best starter in the AL this season. Kuroda is 2nd in the AL in ERA (2.38) behind Felix Hernandez and leads the AL in ERA + (169). His low win total (10) might hold him back in the eyes of some old-school  Cy Young voters who still believe that starting pitcher wins are a meaningful stat. What Kuroda has done with this pathetic offense has been even more impressive than if he was racking up a ton of wins. He has had to be almost perfect every time out to win games and he has almost lived up to that. He has not let the Yankees’ awful offense discourage him at all. Pitching under that kind of pressure makes it so much harder with so much riding on every pitch. One mistake could mean the ballgame. This makes Kuroda’s numbers seem even more insane.

Besides not having a ton of wins, another reason that Kuroda has flown under the radar is that he does not have the power stuff or the strikeout numbers (6.38 K/9) that some other top pitchers have. With Kuroda’s 2.55 BABIP you might say that he is getting a little bit lucky, but if you watch Kuroda pitch batters have a very tough time of squaring the ball up against him, and he does not allow a lot of hard contact (8.9% HR/FB%).

Keeping the ball on the ground has always been a key for Kuroda throughout his career and this year is no different (46.6% GB%). Batters have a tough time differentiating Kuroda’s sinker, splitter and slider. They have been unable to tell what pitch is coming out of Kuroda’s hand, thus all the weak contact. Combine that with Kuroda’s excellent control and you get the kind of season that he is having. Batters have only hit .171 this season against Kuroda’s slider and .153 against his splitter with a 9.51% Whiff %.He is not blowing his fastball by everybody like some pitchers can, but he is just as effective with his style of trying to generate weak contact on the ground with the majority of his pitches moving downward.

Kuroda has been one of the few positives for the Yankees this season. If the Yankees do make the playoffs, it would most likely be as a wild card and Kuroda would be the pitcher that they would turn to in the one game playoff. The Yankees would have to feel pretty good about their chances in that game. For a pitcher who was not supposed to be able to handle the AL East, Kuroda has become one of the best free agent signings in Yankees history. That is a pretty select group.

The Yankees had better hope that they can convince Kuroda to come back for another season next year, as he has always talked about going back to Japan for his last season. Losing Kuroda would be a void that they would be unlikely able to fill. Maybe, he will be appreciated more if he leaves.

Jeter Gives the Yankees a Desperate Spark

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There are some things in sports that you just cannot explain. I usually try to back up any opinion I have with facts, stats and reasons. I very much try to stay away from overblown narratives and clichés. However, Derek Jeter is just a different case. There are intangibles that he brings to the table that just cannot be quantified in numbers and he proved it again on Sunday.

“He’s a movie, is what he is,” Joe Girardi told John Harper of the New York Daily News. “When you think about his 3,000th hit, how he did that, and what he did today:
“We hadn’t hit a home run since the All-Star break, we hadn’t hit a right-handed home run in months. For him to come out and do that in his first AB… he’s a movie.”

Girardi captured the moment perfectly in that quote. We have seen this many times from Jeter before, as his list of dramatic moments runs very deep. His 2000 World Series MVP vs. the Mets, his amazing backhanded flip to nail Jeremy Giambi at the plate in the 2001 ALDS, his dramatic game-winning home run of Byung-Hyun Kim in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, his amazing dive into the stands in 2004 against Boston and his 3,000th hit being a home run against David Price top the list. Sunday’s first inning home run against Matt Moore can now be added to that impressive list.

The Yankees have been desperate for any kind of spark all season. This season has been as listless as any season in recent memory. There has been no buzz around Yankee Stadium or the Yankees all season.

Jeter changed all of that Sunday. In front of a packed house to honor another great Yankee Hideki Matsui, he hit the first pitch he saw over the right field fence with his patented Jeterian swing. It was more than just a first inning solo home run. It was the first time all season that I felt like I was watching the Yankees again. Even when the Yankees were doing well with a bunch of no-name players it still didn’t feel right. Something was missing.

After Jeter broke his ankle in the playoffs vs. Detroit, re-aggravated that injury in spring training, and hurt his quad in just his first game back, obviously one had to wonder whether we would see these moments again from Jeter. Of course, this is not the first time Jeter has been counted out in his career, and he has always had an answer.

Jeter and Alfonso Soriano could have sparked a season altering win on Sunday. If the Yankees miraculously make the playoffs this year everybody will be looking back on Sunday as the turning point. Unfortunately, it was just one game, and the Yankees still have many issues.

Obviously, the horrid Yankees offense has been a problem all year. The Yankees will be counting on Jeter, Soriano, Curtis Granderson and maybe another trade deadline acquisition to change that. If those potential four new additions can stay in the lineup and be productive the Yankees might actually have a decent offense. However, the starting pitching that was always supposed to be a given is not that anymore.

CC Sabathia is stuck in the worst stretch in his career, as he had a 5.11 ERA in June and a 6.60 ERA in July. If that doesn’t change the Yankees aren’t going anywhere. Phil Hughes cannot pitch at Yankees Stadium (6.02 home ERA). Also, Andy Pettitte has started to show his age this year. So, that leaves Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova as the only two reliable starters right now. That isn’t enough with this offense.

There is no reason that the Yankees should make the playoffs this year. If Jeter can lead the charge and take this team to the postseason it would be one of the greatest accomplishments of his illustrious career. The odds are stacked against him, but that is just the way Jeter likes it. With Jeter back in the fold, a movie that started out as bleak as the 2013 Yankees season now has a glimmer of hope for a happy ending.

What Would Soriano Bring to the Yankees?

Various reports over the last couple of days have indicated that the Yankees and Cubs have been engaged in talks about outfielder Alfonso Soriano. The latest report from Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago said that Soriano is willing to waive his no trade clause if he is dealt to the Yankees. The Cubs will reportedly pickup a huge chunk of the $36 million remaining on Soriano’s deal over the next two years and are only seeking a mid-level prospect. So, picking up Soriano does not appear like it will cost a ton, and he would instantly be the best right handed hitter on the Yankees.

Soriano has hit .254, with 17 home runs, 51 RBI, a .754 OPS and 100 wRC+. Those are not earth shattering numbers, but would represent a clear upgrade over what the Yankees are throwing out there. He would likely play a lot of DH and Travis Hafner’s roster spot could be in jeopardy in Soriano comes on board.

Yankees right-handed hitters had an absolutely egregious .589 OPS going into Tuesday’s game in Texas. Against, lefties that OPS falls to .564. Soriano has hit lefties very well this season with a .273/.310/.496/.806. The Yankees have not had a home run from a right-handed batter since Jayson Nix on June 25th. That is 331 at-bats. These awful numbers are why Soriano would represent such an upgrade.

Soriano has had a hot July with eight home runs and a .927 OPS. Going back to where he started his career with the Yankees could rejuvenate him for the stretch run of the season. His biggest problem is that he does not walk much at all, as his .287 OBP this season suggests. If he got fewer pitches to hit with little protection in this Yankees lineup than he might expand his strike zone and swing at poor pitches.

With the Yankees’ pursuit of Soriano it is clear that the Yankees consider themselves buyers. With them being only 3.5 games out of the second wild card spot that comes as no surprise. Selling could be considered an option with the current state of the Yankees, but unfortunately it is not something they will do unless they are hopelessly out of the race.

Soriano alone will certainly not be enough to make the Yankees a championship contending team. However, if they can add Soriano, another solid bat in the trade market, and Curtis Granderson that would be three good bats to go along with Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner. Anything that the Yankees get out of Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez would have to be considered a bonus, but it is realistic to expect the offense to improve a good deal if they can add Soriano, Granderson and another bat.

While the deal is fine for this year, next year the Yankees would have Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Gardner and Soriano under contract. It would be better of the Yankees had more flexibility to improve their outfield. However, they could always just pay Wells off and cut him next year and use Soriano mostly at DH, so they could add another outfielder if they did those things.

Adding Soriano does not present much risk for the Yankees at all. However, if Soriano is the only player they add it will not matter much. They will need to acquire another quality bat to go with him and then maybe the Yankees would have a chance to be playing playoff baseball in October this season.

A-Rod’s Doctor Denies Quad Injury

Dr. Michael Gross, the personal doctor for Alex Rodriguez, went on with Mike Francesa of WFAN 660 and said that he saw nothing wrong with Rodriguez’s quad on the MRI.

Rodriguez clearly tried to force the Yankees’ hand because he believes that they are doing everything in their power to keep him from playing. He went against the wishes of the Yankees to get a second opinion from Dr. Gross against their wishes to put the ball back in their court.  Rodriguez is trying to prove that he wants to play and any reports of him wanting to retire before MLB can suspend him ans cash out are false.

Right now the Yankees are looking very bad in this. Their reaction to Rodriguez being ready to play should be joy considering the trash they have had playing third base this year. However, their have been reports that the Yankees are looking to discipline him for getting a second opinion against their wishes. It should be about putting the best players on the field, but right now that does not seem to be the first priority.

Here is the audio of Dr. Gross with Francesa courtesy of @WFANAUDIO. This seems to be only the beginning of this.

http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otKj7tH1JCY&feature=youtu.be

 

Five Yankees Questions For the Second Half

We will find out a lot about the Yankees very quickly as they begin the second half of the season tonight in Boston.

They currently sit six games back of Boston in the AL East and three back in the AL wild card race. The first 10 games for the Yankees after the All-Star break have the potential to be a disaster. They play three at the first place Red Sox, four in Arlington against a very talented Texas team and three at home against red hot Tampa Bay.

If I were Brian Cashman I would have desperately been working the phones trying to get an impact bat over the All-Star break because if he waits until after this 10 game stretch it might be too late.

Here are five things to watch over the Yankees second half of the season:

1. What happens at the trade deadline?

The Yankees have recently been linked to Chase Headley and Asrdubal Cabrera and both would be huge gets for the Yankees. Unfortunately, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com wrote that Padres have little interest in dealing Headley despite his down year.

Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will be continued to be shopped by the Yankees, and it will be interesting to see what happens with them. I do believe that Hughes will be moved because the starting pitching market is very thin, and the Yankees can sell teams on his home/road splits this year. Although, Joel Sherman of the New York Post, wrote that the Yankees would be o.k. with keeping Hughes and offering him a qualifying offer this winter.

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that the time for Cashman to try to strike is right now with this brutal 10 game stretch upcoming. I would be looking for players who are under team control for a few years. I would not be giving up big prospects for rentals this year, since I believe that the Yankees are more than one bat away from being championship contenders this season.

2. Will Ivan Nova’s progression continue?

Nova’s development will probably be the number one thing I will be watching for over the second half. He has looked terrific over his last two starts, as he has 17 strikeouts to only three walks. Nova has always had the talent and if he can finally put it together it will be huge for the future for the Yankees, who have had a tough time developing their own starting pitchers.

What is fascinating about Nova is how he has completely transformed himself as a pitcher from his solid rookie season in which he went 16-4. He only averaged 92.6 MPH and he only was not a strikeout pitcher (5.33 K/9) in that rookie season. He had success because he was able to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker (52.7 GB%), but most thought that he would not have long term success unless he was able to get more strikeouts.

Nova added a slider to his repertoire in 2012 to try to remedy this issue. He threw it 14% of the time and he raised his K/9 to 8.08, but he also allowed a lot of hard contact (16.6% HR/FB%) because he missed location to often with his fastball and that new slider. Also, Nova’s GB% went down to 45.2%.

This year, Nova has mostly scrapped the slider, as he has only thrown it 3.4% of the time compared to 33.5% for his curve ball. Over his last two starts, Nova has thrown 66 curves, 43 of them have been for strikes and 17 of them have induced whiffs. When you combine that dominant curve with a fastball that has been in the 94-97 MPH range, you have a pitcher that has the potential for greatness. His  GB% is back up to 51.4% this year, so hitters are really having a hard time getting good contact on his hard sinker.

3. How much will Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez contribute?

The first question with them is how much will they play? Rodriguez hit a home run for Triple-A Scranton last night and appears set to rejoin the Yankees in Texas on Monday. We should find out more about Jeter’s status today. If Jeter and Rodriguez can stay on the field it will be pretty much impossible for them to not be upgrades, as Yankee shortstops have a slash line of .214/.271/.268/.539 with a 46 wRC+ and Yankee third basemen have a slash line of .218/.281/.293/.574 with a 57 wRC+. They should also add some much needed excitement and buzz to the team as well.

4. What is the plan for Michael Pineda?

At Triple-A Scranton last night, Pineda threw 4.2 scoreless innings and struck out eight. He was dominant in the first three innings before throwing a lot of pitches over the fourth and fifth innings. Right now, with Nova pitching well and Hughes still in New York, the Yankees do not have room for Pineda in their rotation. If there is an injury, or Hughes is traded, than Pineda can slide right in. The Yankees should try to get Pineda to New York as quickly as possible to get more information on what they can expect out of him next year.

If the Yankees continue with their $189 million plan they will need cheap starting pitchers, and Pineda can be one of them. It would be good for him to get as much experience as he can this year and it will be very interesting to see what he looks like if he does come up to the big league club.

5. Can CC Sabathia turn it around?

Sabathia had an uncharacteristically average first half, as he was only 9-8 with a 4.07 ERA. His average fastball velocity has only been 90.6 MPH, although it has been better later in the season. Sabathia has not fully adjusted to pitching with his loss of velocity yet and when he has missed location with his fastball he has gotten hit hard. Sabathia has also had a bit of hard luck this season, as his 3.53 xFIP is very solid. His slider and changeup are still great pitches, and Sabathia has still been an innings eating machine, which is still an under appreciated aspect of his game. I still believe that he is capable of pitching like the Sabathia of old and hopefully we see that in the second half of the season.

 

 

 

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