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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.

Mark Reynolds vs. Lyle Overbay: Take Your Pick

Coming into the stretch, would you put Mark Reynolds (pictured above) in the lineup, or Lyle Overbay?

Coming into the stretch, would you put Mark Reynolds (pictured above) in the lineup, or Lyle Overbay?

There’s no denying two things:

1) Mark Reynolds is carrying a hot bat into this Baltimore Orioles series, having three hits last night and simply demolished the Toronto Blue Jays;  going 5-for-8 in his two games.

2) Lyle Overbay is seriously struggling coming into this series He hasn’t had a hit since August 18 vs. the Boston Red Sox.

The way that it was designed since the New York Yankees had picked up Mark Reynolds was simple; Reynolds will hit vs. LHP and Lyle Overbay will hit vs. RHP. However, the stakes are high and the times have changed. The Yankees are fighting for the final WC spot (along with the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics). They need the hottest bats in the lineup. They need Mark Reynolds. Reynolds is slowly forming back into his April form, hitting .319 in August. after having a sluggish May-July which ultimately caused him to lose his job with the Indians. Lyle Overbay however is hitting .231 in August and is 0-for his last-15.

If I’m the manager of the Yankees, Reynolds would be in the lineup today over Overbay. I like Lyle Overbay, I do–but this is a time where people’s feelings can’t get hurt. If you’re not producing whether on the mound or at the plate, you’re either getting pulled early or you’re not getting the start. It’s as simple as that. Right now, Overbay wouldn’t get the start; Reynolds would. It sounds mean and sounds cruel but looking at numbers, that’s how it would have to be done if the Yankees want to keep their playoff hopes alive. So take your pick, would you take Mark Reynolds…or Lyle Overbay going forward in this stretch?

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.

Game 116 Lineup: Tigers vs. Yankees

It’s the final game of a three game set and here is your starting lineup!

Brett Gardner CF
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Lyle Overbay 1B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Curtis Granderson DH
Eduardo Nunez SS
Chris Stewart C
LHP Andy Pettitte

Some Notes:David Adams was Optioned to Triple-AAA today and the Yankees called up Dellin Betances as bullpen help.

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.

Yanks hit lowpoint of season after back-breaking loss

Joe made some questionable moves last night

Joe made some questionable moves last night

The Yankees season-killing road trip came to a merciful end last night in Chicago as the lowly White Sox finished off their 3-game sweep with a 6-5 win highlighted by 2 come from behind rallies in the 9th and 12th innings, when down to their final out both times.  The loss leaves them 6.5 games out of the 2nd Wild Card with 4 teams in front of them including KC and Cleveland as the Yanks dropped to 57-56.  At just 1 game over .500, it is their lowest point since April 14th when they were 6-5.

This game was especially frustrating because in some ways there were a lot of bright spots but the team floundered opportunities and Girardi made some puzzling decisions.  The offense has been brutal all year and coming into the game had gone 7 straight games without scoring more than 3 runs.  So when they erupted for 4 runs in the first 4 innings, things looked great with a 4-0 lead.  For the game they scored 5 runs on 3 HRs, 11 Hits and 8 Walks….a veritable offensive explosion for this team.  Eduardo Nunez had his best game of the season with his first HR, a Double to deep left-center, a line drive single to right, 2 Walks and a Stolen Base.  Now that he’s healthy and Jeter is shelved again, Nunez has a chance to show if he’s good enough to be in the team’s future plans at SS and games like last night’s showcase the potential he has.  Still just 26, his defense is vastly improved this year but he has to show some offensive consistency now.

Another bright spot was the rebound of CC Sabathia.  Everyone knows how bad CC has been lately with the team losing all of his last 4 starts while he’s allowed 22 Earned Runs in 19.2 IP  The big Ace finally pitched like one for the first 6 innings and despite giving up 2 runs in the 7th, left the game after 7.1 with a 4-3 lead – so all told, a positive outing for CC.  Hopefully it is something he can build upon although he had just 1 strikeout and the Sox hitters seemed to have good swings at his once dominating Changeup.  Many commentators have suggested that CC isn’t getting enough of a difference between his FB and Change as there’s only been a 5-6 MPH difference in velocity his last few starts.  There may be something to this……CC has always thrown a harder Change – more like a BP Fastball but over the last few yrs the difference from his FB has gotten less and less. In his early years with CLE there was a 8-10 MPH difference and in his first year in NY it was a 7.7 MPH difference.  Last yr it diminished to 6.3 and has been about the same this year.  As CC loses more velocity on his FB, a wider gap between his FB and Change would be advisable rather than the smaller gap we’ve seen.  There is little deception in the pitch right now and with batters not having to respect his diminished FB, it’s a recipe for danger.  Hopefully CC cn make the necessary adjustment.

Say it Ain’t So Joe

I’ve often scratched my head at some of Joe Girardi’s in-game decisions over the years but by-in-large, he’s done a solid job this year keeping the team in the race as long as it was with their pathetic lineup.  But last night, I constantly found myself disagreeing with Joe’s strategy and decision-making.  Here are the 2 things that got me yelling at the TV set:

1) Clinging to a 4-3 lead, the Yanks had 1st and 2nd with 0 Outs in the top of the 8th inning and Lyle Overbay At Bat vs LHP David Purcey.  We all know Overbay has been anemic vs LHP hitting .202/.245/.309, 46 RC+.  This was a CLEAR bunting situation and Girardi had several options on who he wanted to bunt.  He could have left Overbay in who hasn’t had a Sac Bunt in 2 years. He could have used RH hitters Nix, Adams or Chris Stewart or lefty hitter Ichiro.  Those 4 are perhaps the teams best bunters.  If for some reason, Joe didn’t want to bunt then he should have used any of the aforementioned 4 players to Pinch Hit.  Any of those options would be better than what he elected to do, which was let Overbay swing away.  What followed was a weak grounder to 3rd for a tailor-made 5-5-3 Double Play and end of rally.  Brutal managing!

2) Going into the bottom of the 11th, with short-relievers Preston Claiborne, Shawn Kelley & Boone Logan all still available, Girardi elected to go with long-man Adam Warren. A questionable decision in my eyes with his trio of short relievers all available, why go to Warren there.  It worked out in the beginning as Warren threw a scoreless 11th and Cano led of the 12th with a HR to give the Yanks a 1-run lead.  At that point, I figured Joe would surely go to Claiborne or Kelley to close the game.  After all, Claiborne has allowed just 1 run in his last 10.1 IP and has a sterling 2.13 ERA on the season.  Instead, Warren pitched the 12th and after getting 2 outs, allowed 3 straight hits to win it for CHI including a 2-out triple to DeAza. With 2 on and 2 out, perhaps Logan could have been used against the lefty DeAza. Oh well.

There were a lot of other frustrating parts of the game….all of the missed opportunities to add on to the lead and the poor baserunning by Nix who was used as a pinch runner in the 11th for Romine.  With no outs and Gardner up, Joe finalyy called for a hit-and-run.  Gardner popped uo to very shallow RF and since the 2B Beckham was near the bag for the steal, he couldn’t get back to make the catch.  However, Nix was caught in no-man’s land and was sprinting back towards first when the ball landed.  he reversed direction when he saw Beckham fall down and the ball drop, but Nix fell flat on his face (literally) and couldn’t get up in time to run to 2nd base and was forced out.  Instead of 2 on and no outs for Ichiro, ARod and Cano, the rally was stunted.  Just  frustrating loss to  sum up a frustrating season.

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.

ARod suspension is the key to offseason Reload

Brian McCann is the type of player the yanks could look to sign if ARod is suspended in 2014

Brian McCann is the type of player the yanks could look to sign if ARod is suspended in 2014

In 2012 the Boston RedSox were a last place team with a mountain of problems and a slew of bad contracts on their ledger that left them with few options to improve the talent of the team.   Miraculously, the Los Angeles Dodgers foolishly took 3 of the worst bad contracts off Boston’s hands and sent some talented young players back.  In one fell swoop, the Red Sox cleared over $250 Million which changed the entire outlook of the organization and allowed them to go out and sign 8-9 Free Agents and later trade for 2 high-priced pitchers who have led the team to the best record in the American Lg this yr after losing 90+ games a year ago.

This year’s Yankees team has a lot of parallels to the 2012 Red Sox – namely an old roster that is short on talent and a payroll with several bad long-term commitments that limit the club’s ability to improve moving forward.  Unfortunately, there is no delusional team that is going to come along and trade the Yankees a group of talented young players in exchange for the contracts of ARod, Teixeira and CC. However, the impending PED suspension that is about to be levied on ARod could have a similar effect on the Yankees future and their ability to spend money and bring in much-needed fresh talent.

Best case scenario would be a lifetime ban that would net the Yankees around $100 Million in contract savings and even more in potential Luxury Tax savings.  But I believe a lifetime ban is unlikely, however a suspension for this season and the 2014 is a very real possibility and would be enough to help the franchise in a big way. They would save nearly $34 Million in salary but more important is WHEN that savings would take place.  A suspension for all of 2014 would allow the Yankees to reach their stated goal of getting under the $189M Luxury Tax threshold and still leave enough for them to add a handful of sizable contracts to the team similar to how Boston quickly rebuilt their lineup.  ARod’s suspension would result in a $27.5 Million savings against the Tax in 2014 which could allow the team to sign 2 players in the $12-15 Million range.

Some quick math shows the team has roughly $140 Million in commitments next year when you add in salaries for the 40-man roster and benefit payments.  However remove ARod’s $27.5M AAV and the team has roughly $76.5 Million under the Tax to spend.  That doesn’t include re-signing Robinson Cano so if you allocate $22-25M per yr on him you are still left with some $51-55M to spend on the following 6 key positions: C, 3B, OF, SP, SP, RP.  Looking at what is available at those slots, here are some of the potential Free Agent options for the team to use that $ on:

C – Brian McCann, AJ Pierzynski, Jarrod Saltamalachia, Carlos Ruiz

3B – Michael Young, Eric Chavez, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, Johnny Peralta

OF/DH – Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Granderson, Corey Hart, Mike Morse, Nate McLouth, Hunter Pence, DH – Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli, Morneau, Konerko

2 SPs – Kuroda, Aroyyo, Garza, Feldman, Hammel, Hudson, Maholm, Lincecum, Nolasco, Vargas, Volquez

CL/RP – Balfour, Rodney, Gregg, Uehera, Mujica, Benoit

Offseason Plan

First priority is to re-sign Cano and for the sake of this exercise, I’m assuming it happens.  After that, the net most important move is to re-sign Kuroda.  He has not only overtaken CC as the team’s best pitcher, he has become one of MLB’s best starters andwith CC having his worst season ever, the team can’t afford to lose Kuroda.  If he comes back for $15-16M the Yanks will be estatic because there aren’t many pitchers on the market near his level.  Someone like Matt Garza could be an option but would require a massive 4-5 year commitment. Yanks  have to hope Hiro wants to return. If he does, he and CC will lead a rotation that would have Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno fighting for spots.  They would likely need to bring in another mid-priced veteran on a 1-yr deal like Scott Feldman, Jason Vargas or Tim Hudson to play the Andy Pettite role, assuming Andy elects to retire.

In the bullpen, they’ll have a massive hole left by Mariano.  They could promote Robertson to the closer role but would then need to fill his tremendous the inning performance.  It may be easier for the Yanks to sign a closer among the Rodney, Balfour, Gregg, Mujica class. They have enough in the system to fill the rest of the pen with the possible exception of a lefty specilist.  Boone Logan is a FA and may or may not be brought back….I’d say let him walk.

Then the attention turns to the lineup with C, 3B and  1 OF or DH spot open depending what is gettable.  Brian McCann is a perfect target for the Yankees.  An excellent leader and left-handed hitting Catcher who will still have  lot left turning 30 next February. McCann will command $13-14M per yr for about 4 yrs.  Saltalamachia is a poor-man’s version of McCann who is still improving at 28 but is not great defensively which the Yankee brass won’t like. If they miss on McCann a 1-yr deal for veteran Pierzynski or Ruiz would make sense to pair with and mentor JR Murphy or Romine.

In the OF, Ellsbury or Choo would be the top options as players still in their prime who hit LH and would be good fits at Yankee Stadium.  They’d command deals similar to what Swisher received last yr, at minimum a 4-yr deal at $13M plus.   Bringing back Granderson is also an option although I think the Yanks will only make the 1-yr qualifying offer of about $13-14M to ensure they receive a 1st round pick if he walks and Curtis will refuse to seek a multi-yr deal elsewhere.  They already have Gardner in CF, Ichiro in one corner and Soriano at DH or the other corner.  Wells will be the 4th OF.  Carlos Beltran would be a great fit as a switch-hitter who could split time between DH and LF with Soriano to keep both players fresh.  They could also go with a 1B who could be the everyday DH and also provide insurance in case Tex doesn’t fully return from his wrist surgery.  Kendry Morales, Morneau or Napoli could fill that role.  Morales would be one of my top choices if they don’t sign a big OF like Choo, Ellsbury or Beltran.  I think Morales will get better with another year of health and I love that he is a switch-hitter.  He may also be reasonably priced for the production he’d supply although signing an everyday DH isn’t the best move considering Jeter, Soriano and possibly McCann would need time there.

The last big hole is at 3B and the pickings are very slim. Michael Young, Johnny Peralta and Eric Chavez are about all the FA market has to offer.  This is the position the team should be focusing its trade chips on. Chase Headley’s name is always mentioned and SD may finally look to pull the trigger though I’d like to see Cashman get creative and find a young 3B….easier said than done.  I’d also like to see David Adams get to play everyday this yr as soon as the Yanks are out of contention.  Most players struggle in their first taste of the Majors and I think Adams has some talent and was just getting comfortable when foolishly replaced with Luis Cruz.  I’d like to give him a long look to see what we have,

Hypothetically, if all went perfect the Yanks could sign McCann (14M), Choo (14M) & Kuroda (15M) and use the remaining $9-12 Million to bring in a #4-type starter, a 8th or 9th inning RP and a 3B.  Ideally they’d have another $5-10 Million to spend on those spots so they could get say Vargas, Rodney or Benoit and M.Young.  But the team tied up $14.5 Million by giving Ichiro 2 yrs (6.5), and trading for Wells (2.4) and Soriano (5.5).  What they are paying them would cover McCann or Choo although this would all be posible only if ARod is suspended for all of 2014.  His $27.5M savings would basically cover the cost of McCann and Choo alone. The hypothetical lineup below with a rotation of Kuroda, CC, Nova, Vargas, Pineda/Phelps would have the team in contention again and pump some hope and excitement back into the fanbase……..but it’s all contingent on MLB liting the albatross off their books in 2014……stay tuned.  How would you spend the potential $50-55M the Yanks may have?

CF – Gardner

SS- Jeter

2B – Cano

LF – Choo

1B – Teixeira

C – McCann

DH – Soriano

RF- Ichiro

3B – Nix/Adams/M.Young?

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