Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yankees Shuffle Starting Rotation Again

The Yankees management used this off day to shuffle their starting rotation once again before the weekend series with the Rays starts. The Yankees announced that David Phelps will make his regular start on Friday night. Vidal Nuno will make the start on Saturday taking the spot of the injured Andy Pettitte. CC Sabathia will start Sunday after being pushed back for an extra days rest. Phil Hughes will start on Monday and Hiroki Kuroda should start on Tuesday after both of them are also getting pushed back with an extra day. Hiroki and CC can benefit from the off day but I am not so sure about Phil Hughes but I guess only time will tell.

Hiroki Kuroda Expected To Make His Next Start

Hiroki Kuroda left after three innings in last nights loss to the Baltimore Orioles after taking a come backer to the leg off the bat of Manny Machado. I think we all held our breathe last night when we saw Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue come out to the mound to check on Kuroda. They allowed him to stay in the game, hence the collective sigh of relief, only to take him out after the inning was over, cue the holding the breathe thing again. Kuroda was taking out because he was struggling pushing off the mound and could have worked through it but the Yankees wanted to be cautious with their ace, yes I said ace. Kuroda is expected to make his next start so the Yankees, for once, dodged an injury bullet.

Former Yankees Update Jesus Montero

Hey remember that Jesus Montero guy that was going to be the savior to the Yankees offense only to be traded to Seattle about a year and a half ago? Well this disaster of a trade continues to get more and more like a train wreck today when the Seattle Mariners sent down Jesus Montero to their AAA team. Jesus was only batting .208/.264/.327 making him one of the worst offensive catchers in all of baseball. Just as a side not his defense and framing skills were never much to write home about so when the offense struggles you can understand the demotion. It is worth noting that their #1 catcher Mike Zunino is also in AAA so either Montero will have to be a back up to Mike or he will have to learn a new position like first base or be a designated hitter. Either way the Yankees took a small step in "winning" this trade today with Michael Pineda coming back strong, Jose Campos back healthy,and Hector Noesi and Montero struggling.

Pineda Continues To Impress, And Other Injury Updates

The good news regarding the rehab for Michael Pineda continue to be positive. Not only did he throw 5 innings in an extended Spring Training game today, but his fastball was around 93 mph, which is around where Pineda's fastball was prior to his shoulder surgery. The reports on his slider and changeup were also good ones.

An interesting note regarding Pineda, as Cashman said that he does not expect him to be a reliever upon his return to New York. Of course, things can change, but I like that he's still looked at as a starter... even this season.

As for others, Cashman said that he expects Ivan Nova to return "very soon." Sadly, Cashman more or less dimissed the idea of Ivan being sent to AAA, so both Phelps and Nuno could lose starts once Nova and Pettitte are healthy.

Sorry, but I don't have any updates on Andy's return from his trapezius muscle injury.

Mark Teixeira has been getting a number of at bats in simulated games, and Brian Cashman says that Tex could begin a rehab assignment with Trenton as early as Tuesday. So we could have Mark back by the end of the month.

Lastly, and very interesting, is what Cash had to say about Kevin Youkilis. Yesterday it was my understanding that Youk wouldn't be back before June, which is what I had thought for a while. However, Brian now says Youkilis possibly "joins us by next week." And for the record, by "us", Cashman did mean the big league team.

Where I Stand On Vernon Wells Today

"Here I come!"

After Curtis Granderson went 3-for-3 last night, including a double and home run, I figured this would be a good time to re-evaluate something I said almost a month and a half ago.
Yankee fans should enjoy the ride [referring to Vernon Wells hitting] but expect it to be over sooner rather than later, which will make the decision on what to do in the outfield when Granderson returns much easier.
At the time I wrote that the season was only 6 games old, but Wells was hitting .360/.467/.720, and he had many Yankee fans thinking he'd turned the corner. Like what Toronto saw prior to signing Vernon to that 7 year $126 million deal, some Bomber fans thought we had the guy that hit .282/.338/.493 between the 2004 and 2006 seasons, rather than the guy that hit .244/.291/.456 between 2010 and 2012.

While it's true that the numbers have come down, Wells is still hitting pretty well. He's hit .267/.327/.511 over the last two weeks, bringing his total for the season to .287/.341/.506. I wonder if he's changed my mind, and it may be Ichiro that is pushed back to the #4 outfielder instead?

"許" - Japanese for "huh?"

One of the stats I like to look at, and mentioned first in the above linked article, is batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Vernon's was .389 at the time, which was unlikely to continue. Sure enough, his BABIP current stands at .285, which is a number that I can totally see continuing. I got curious about how much contact he's making this season, and I found that his contact percentage of 79.3% is actually a bit lower than his career average of 82.7% (it was 85.6% in 2012). So we could start seeing a few more base hits, assuming he puts the ball in play more than he has been.

When it comes to looking at a players' BABIP, I also take a glance at their line drive percentage (LD%). After all, if a player is not hitting the ball as hard, then it makes sense for his BABIP to be a bit lower. Back on April 12th Wells had a LD% of 30%, which was much higher than his career mark of 19% (it was only 15% between 2010 and 2012), so keeping that up seemed highly unlikely. Sure enough, that number has fallen to 22% today, just a little more than his career mark. It does concern me that Wells' LD% was only 15% over the previous three seasons, but I'm optimistic that it won't drop all the way down to the 12% or 14% it was in 2010 and 2011 (it was 18% in 2012).

Vernon's strikeout rate was pretty close to his career norm, while he was walking a lot more than normal. At the time he was walking in 16.7% of his at bats, as opposed to 6.6% in his career (6% between 2010 and 2012). Today that number sits at 7.8%, and although that's still a bit higher than his average, I think he can keep up that pace.

Lastly, I looked at Vernon Wells' power, which was also out of whack as seen by his Isolated Power (ISO) of .360 at the time. His ISO is currently .219, which is higher than his career ISO of .195, but not so different that it should be of much concern. Breaking Vernon's ISO down, I expect his home run production to slow a bit, as how his home run percentage is currently at 5.6%, as opposed to his career mark of 3.9%. However, his extra-base hit percentage of 8.9% is a bit lower than his career percentage of 9.7% (9.9% between 2010 and 2012).

A few less home runs is not a big problem at all, as Wells should still hit around 25 bombs, which is what he averaged between 2010 and 2012. All that less home runs means is that the guys in front of him will have to get into scoring position more often, so that they can score thanks to Wells hitting more extra-base hits.

To sum things up, you can count me among those that have hopped on the Vernon Wells bandwagon. Not that this particular bandwagon is full of people that think he's going to garner some MVP votes during his time in pinstripes, but he not only has something left in the tank... he's going to show it.

"Now that's more like it."

Off Day Baseball Movie Recommendation

The baseball movie recommendation of the day is "Cobb" so watch the entire movie here on The Greedy Pinstripes. We will be back to work tomorrow when the Yankees travel to play the Rays. Enjoy!

Casey At The Bat By Ernest Thayer

Casey At The Bat

by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, "If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat."

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one!" the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

Surprise Bullpen Arms Getting the Job Done Again

            Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay have gotten the most credit and attention for the Yankees’ 28-18 start and rightfully so. The Yankees would be in serious trouble without those bargain basement pickups. However, the Yankees’ bullpen has been the biggest strength of the team and is probably the biggest reason the Yankees find themselves on top of the AL East. This seems like an every year of occurrence, but Joe Girardi has done an outstanding job of managing the bullpen and he has found some more unexpected contributors.

It was Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada and David Phelps last year and this year it has been Preston Claiborne, Shawn Kelley Vidal Nuno, and Adam Warren. Those four relievers have combined for a 2.68 ERA and a 3.44 FIP. Those numbers could be even better if not for Kelley’s early season struggles. Combine those guys with what may be the best bullpen duo in MLB, in David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, and you have an outstanding bullpen. It will be interesting to see what happens when Joba Chamberlain returns because he was pitching very well before he got hurt, but if he falters the Yankees have solid options in Claiborne and Kelley.

Claiborne allowed his first run of the season last night when he allowed a three-run home run to Matt Weiters, but he has still been outstanding so far, as he has a .82 ERA and a .818 WHIP in 11 innings. Claiborne has done a great job of going after hitters with his fastball that has averaged 93.3 MPH. Throwing strikes and attacking with your fastball is a great quality for a reliever to have. The next step in his development is to better develop his slider and changeup.

Kelley has put his early season struggles behind him and has been absolutely dominant of late. He has only allowed one home run since April 19th and just one walk since April 24th. His 42.9% K rate leads all MLB relievers and he has struck out an incredible 15.91 batters per nine innings. Kelley is not an incredibly hard thrower (91.7 MPH average fastball), but he locates it very well has and has a 30.30% called strike rate with his fastball. His swing and miss pitch is his slider, as Kelley has a 20.38% whiff rate with it this season.

Warren has bounced back after his disastrous Yankees debut last season. It will be interesting to see if he may be more suited to be a reliever than a starter with the success he has had. Warren has taken over Phelps’ role in the bullpen with Phelps in the rotation for Ivan Nova. He has a 1.14 ERA and a 2.91 FIP in 23.3 innings this season. Warren has been very flexible, as he had success in short appearances and multiple innings appearances. He still only has 6.46 K/9 and a .275 BABIP, so there has probably been some of his success has been due to luck. However, he has done a great job of keeping the ball on the ground (57.1 GB%) and has used all four of his pitches well to keep hitters off balance.

The Yankees have been outstanding at protecting leads this year, and with their limitations on offense that has been very important. They are 21-0 when leading after six innings and 24-0 when leading after seven. Also, they are 17-7 in games decided by one or two runs. Obviously, Rivera being perfect in his save opportunities helps, but these middle relievers have been a huge part of the team as well.  These guys can also help the Yankees in their quest to keep their payroll under $189 million because none of them make much money. Rivera and his $10 million will be off the books and they can let  Chamberlain and Boone Logan walk, which would allow them to save $5 million.

In the meantime, the Yankees have an incredible deep bullpen that has and will continue to be the backbone of their success.

Off Day Music Recommendation

The Yankees are off today after playing 16 games in 16 days with a rain out mixed in the middle so the off day could not come at a better time. Since there will be no game tonight we will share a piece of music out of our personal collection like we always do on Yankees off days. Enjoy!

This Day In Yankees History 5/23

On this day in 1948 Joe DiMaggio hit three consecutive home runs off of Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller in a 6-5 Yankees victory.

In 1962 Joe Pepitone hit two home runs in the same inning becoming only the second Yankees player to ever do this, the first being Joe DiMaggio. The Yankees would win 13-7 over the Kansas City Royals on this day.

On this day in 1998 David Wells extended his consecutive outs streak to 38 consecutive outs on the heels of his perfect game. David retired his last 10 batters against the Kansas City Royals before the perfect game and retired the first batter, Darren Lewis, against the Boston Red Sox.