Yankees Report Card: Relief Pitchers

Yesterday, we took a look at the New York Yankees‘ starting rotation and their individual performances for the first two-plus months of 2017. In the final installment of Yankees Report Card, we will examine the work the relief corps have done.

As of today’s date (June 9, 2017), Yankees relievers have collectively pitched to a 2.93 ERA and a record of 8-6. Let’s dig in.

Aroldis Chapman – (1-0, 3.55 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) Chapman is currently on the disabled list due to shoulder soreness. His ERA and WHIP are misleading, as his final two appearances (before going on the shelf inflated the numbers. Prior to those two games, Chapman’s ERA was 0.79 and he converted all seven save opportunities, mowing down hitters as only he can. Upon being shut-down, he pointed to a 33 pitch appearance in Boston on April 26 where he earned the save, but it was rainy and cold and that is where the pain began. Thankfully, Aroldis is on track to return to the Yankee bullpen in Oakland on June 16. Let’s hope there are no residual effects.

Grade: A-

Dellin Betances – (3-1, 0.48 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) Betances allowed an earned run in his second appearance of the season (April 8) and hasn’t allowed one since, a span of over two months. I believe there is no doubt he took Yankees President Randy Levine’s harsh words to heart after the team defeated him in arbitration. The irony here is Betances stepped right in to the closer’s role after Aroldis Chapman went on the DL and converted all five save opportunities. His hits/9IP rate is at a career low 3.9. Betances still walks too many hitters (12 in 18.2 innings), but his ability to strike-out anyone usually negates the issue of occasional wildness. Someone needs to get Randy Levine measured for his astronaut costume.

Grade: A

Tyler Clippard – (0-3, 1.88 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) The “Yankee Clippard” made his return to the Bronx just before last year’s trade deadline. If you are following along on “Yankees Twitter” during the games, it seems whenever he is shown warming up or entering a game, he seems as welcome as an IRS audit. I acknowledge being part of the guilty party at times. I admit surprise at how good Clippard’s numbers are, if you look past his 0-3 record. His hits per 9 are 4.9, well below his career 6.2 His walks per nine is 3.4 (career 3.7) and his K/9 is 11.6 (career 9.9). Lastly, his FIP in ’17 is 3.36 — WAY below his numbers from 2015 and 2016. Maybe now is a great time to climb off his back and appreciate the nice numbers Clip has shown us this year.

Grade: A

Adam Warren – (1-1, 2.43 ERA, WHIP 0.81) Another Yankees reliever who is quietly having a decent season. Warren has done his job, giving the team multiple innings in games when needed. This season, Yankees starters have been giving more innings, which leads to less work in that capacity. The nice thing about Warren is he can be plugged into any part of the game and do well. Long relief? No problem. 7th or 8th inning set-up? Give me the ball. Need a save? He’s done that, too! A rough stretch of 5 appearances from May 14-May 23 (7 ER over 5.1 innings) inflated his ERA. If you throw that out, his ERA is 0.36 (one earned run over 24.1 innings). Warren doesn’t have the flashy arsenals possessed by Chapman and Betances, but he is pretty darn good!

Grade: B+

Jonathan Holder – (1-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) What a great surname for a relief pitcher, eh? Maybe someday he will advance his career into securing holds, but for now manager Joe Girardi seems more comfy using him in the middle of games and less in situations with the game on the line. Of Holder’s 25 appearances in 2017, 15 of them were in games the Yankees were behind and eventually lost. His stuff is legit, a fastball he touches 95 and an excellent swing and miss curve (76-79 mph) he throws as often as his heat. His results in 2017 have been uneven, but with more time, experience and hopefully good health, one would think he will only get better. I like his chances.

Grade: C+

Chad Green – (0-0, 1.62 ERA, WHIP 0.60) Green was recalled from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre in early May and has delivered good results in long relief, lights out in a few games in mop-up duty. In some outings, he can look great and others look shaky. His results with the big club in 2016 were mixed, and his stats in Scranton this season were sketchy (2-1, 4.72 ERA, 1.61 WHIP). For those drooling over Green’s numbers in New York for the past month, take it as fair warning. His stuff is good enough to pitch in the big-leagues, but he’s just been inconsistent. At most levels.

Grade: B

Bryan Mitchell – (1-1, 5.54 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) I have no idea what is happening with this guy. Until an injury late in Spring training last year, Mitchell seemed to be in line for a spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation. He finished 2016 with a handful of decent starts and began 2017 with seven good appearances (1-0, 1.04 ERA). Two rocky outings back to back at the end of April got him a ticket to Scranton. He ping-ponged back and forth again in May, making a total of five uninspiring outings between Triple-A and the Yankees for the entire month, at one point sitting for almost two weeks between appearances. To this writer, it makes me wonder if Mitchell has fallen out of favor with Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman. What happens from here remains to be seen.

Grade: C-

Chasen Shreve – (1-0, 0.57 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) In limited work, Shreve has shown flashes of brilliance reminiscent of his first season (2015) in Pinstripes. He’s been used in low-leverage situations most of the time, unlike in 2015. If he continues pitching well, it could force Girardi to keep him over Tommy Layne, since it’s doubtful the team will carry 13 pitchers long-term.

Grade: B+

Tommy Layne (0-0, 7.50 ERA, 1.83 WHIP) Sometimes the less said the better.

Grade: D-

 

Some time between the All-Star break and the trade deadline, we’ll re-examine Yankees players and issue another report card.

Thanks for reading, see ya next time!

Charlie

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Yankees Report Card: Starting Pitchers (Updated)

A few days ago, we took a look at the first two months of the Yankees season, grading the team’s hitting and defense, position by position. Today, we are going to focus on starting pitchers.

While the hitters have supplied lots of muscle, Yankees pitchers have fared quite well, for the most part. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia each have six wins. However, if you watched Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox, you’ll see why everything isn’t completely well in the rotation. Let’s dig in.

Starting Pitching:

Masahiro Tanaka – (5-6, 6.55 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) After three seasons of dependable starts and a career record of 39-16, the sky is falling. Or are those just all the home runs balls landing around us? In seven of Tanaka’s 12 starts, he has allowed a minimum of four runs. In 66 innings, he’s allowed 17 home runs (!), which would translate to 51 over a 200 inning season. Tanaka insists he is healthy, which has been debated since July 2014, Tanaka’s rookie season. His velocity is not down, in a start against Baltimore on April 8, he was 96 mph or above three straight pitches. His BB/9 innings is 2.5, a career high. His first three seasons were between 1.4 and 1.6, a telling sign pointing to lack of command. Tanaka has shown signs of his dominating self in three separate starts against the White Sox, Red Sox and A’s, allowing 2 runs and 14 hits over 23.1 innings, proving his stuff and ability are there. The Yankees will need “the good Tanaka” if they want to contend long-term in 2017.

Grade: D

CC Sabathia – (7-2, 3.66 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) Sabathia has provided strings of dependable in 2017. Since he started wearing the knee brace on his right knee at the tail end of 2015, he’s pitched better and shown a more velocity. He’s made the transformation from an all power guy to more of a finesse pitcher. But he can still reach back for a little extra when he needs it, touching 93-94 when needed.

CC can be a bit streaky. He allowed three earned runs total in his first three starts, while allowing 22 earned runs in the following four. Sabathia has pitched to the tune of a 1.11 ERA since May 16, winning all five starts, including a masterful performance against Boston on June 7 (0 runs in 8 innings). With Tanaka having his problems, the Yankees need this to continue.

Grade: B++

Michael Piñeda – Updated stats: (7-3, 3.39 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) Piñeda has as many wins right now as he had all last season, which says quite a lot about how poorly 2016 went for him. He still gives up lots of home-runs (13) and still strikes out a lot of batters, but a big difference is in his WHIP, which is lower than the last two seasons. His walk rate is down from 2.7/9 IP in ’16 to 2.1, and his hits per 9 IP is down from 9.4 to 8.4. He’s doing much better at locating and keeping away from the big inning. He’s still prone to getting rattled out there, so it’s something to monitor, but bottom-line Piñeda is giving the team a chance to win.

**UPDATE**

Pineda pitched a strong outing tonight vs. Boston, his updated stats after beating the Red Sox stand at: 7-3, 3.39 ERA, WHIP 1.13. As a result, I also upgraded his report card grade from C-plus to B-minus.

 

Grade: B-

Luis Severino – (4-2, 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) What a difference from last year. In 2016, Severino was tattooed early and often as a member of the starting rotation, to the point where he was sent back to Triple-A Scranton in mid-May. He ping-ponged back and forth between New York and Scranton, but never seemed settled. Luis spent a lot of time over the winter with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who worked with him with on several facets of the game and are paying dividends. He has struck out 76 over 68.1 innings and lowered his walk rate from 3.2 per 9 IP to 2.1. Severino has provided length as well, giving seven innings or more in six of his 11 starts. Sevy seems to have come of age.

Grade: A-

Jordan Montgomery – (3-4, 3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) Rookie starter Montgomery has done a very nice job as the 5th starter in the rotation. In his ten starts, Monty has gone at least six innings and has limited any damage when things haven’t gone well. In his last start, Montgomery shut down a hot Blue Jays lineup that scored 37 runs in their previous five games. It’s easy to see why the Yankees are very high on him.

Grade: C+

In our final installment of  Yankees Report-Card, we’ll tackle the bullpen.

See ya next time!

Charlie

 

Yankees Report Card – Position Players

We are two months into the 2017 season, and the New York Yankees are sitting atop the A.L. East with a 32-22 record. As the season began, many fans (including this writer) had tempered optimism, figuring this season as a likely season of transition as the team gradually becomes younger.

Only someone forgot to tell the players this. After a 1-4 start, the “Baby Bombers” proceeded to set the league ablaze. The team scored 11 runs or more in the span of a week, including a thrilling comeback against the Baltimore Orioles on April 28 when Matt Holliday hit a walk-off 3-run homer to beat the O’s, 14-11.

 

 

Periodically, I’ll be evaluating the team and giving readers a report-card, of sorts. I’ll give a summary of their stats, and break down what has went right, as well as what may have gone wrong. The objective is to give a fair assessment. This time, we will cover the position-players. Next time, we’ll cover pitching.

Catchers:

Gary Sanchez – (.267, 6 HR, 15 RBI) “El Gary” missed time from mid-late April into early May with a right biceps strain, but has begun to get his home-run stroke back in shape. He hit two homers on June 1 in Toronto, of which both were his trademark line-drive bullets. Sanchez has only thrown-out 3 of 13 would-be base-stealers, but the majority of steals came with pitchers with slower deliveries. Gary is very good at calling a game and handling his pitchers. To me, that’s the most important part of his game.

Grade: B

Austin Romine – (.230, 2 HR, 10 RBI) Every team needs an Austin Romine on their roster. Romine has always been a catcher you can plug-in and play and not have to worry. While he won’t provide the power Sanchez has, Romine is still a serviceable hitter. Most importantly, he will give excellent defense behind the plate and handle his pitchers. Austin calls a good game and can step into the lineup and play well, as he did when Sanchez missed a couple weeks with injury.

Grade: C+

Infield:

Greg Bird – (.100, 1 HR, 3 RBI) Greg Bird bruised his right ankle in spring training and it never seemed to improve through the month of April. The injury obviously hampered him, especially at the plate. Mercifully, Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman shut him down and DL’ed him to let Bird’s ankle heal. He should be returning in the next couple weeks.

Grade: Incomplete

Chris Carter – (.180, 4 HR, 14 RBI) Carter may be the most vilified Yankees player since Stephen Drew, if you follow along on Twitter during the games. As many expected, when Carter is at bat, the breezes created by all his swings and misses could rival Carrier as a leader in air-conditioner manufacturing. He strikes out 43% of the time (48 K’s in 111 AB) and is adept at killing rallies. Thankfully, the team can afford to bat him eighth or ninth while Bird finishes rehab. In fairness, Carter is quite good at scooping bad throws out of the dirt, saving errors and potential runs.

Grade: D

Starlin Castro – (.315, 9 HR, 31 RBI) – Castro started hot right out of the gate in ’17, hitting .352 for the month of April. He had 10 games of two or more hits in April and 11 more in May. His emergence has been reason for Yankees brass to have top prospect Gleyber Torres playing third base in AA Trenton and now AAA Scranton. From time to time, Castro will boot a ball at his second-base post, but his defense is worlds better than his early days with the Chicago Cubs.

Grade: A-

Didi Gregorius (.308, 4 HR, 20 RBI) Didi missed the first twenty games of the season while recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the World Baseball Classic. Upon his return, Gregorius started off hot, with seven hits in his first 15 at bats over three games. As of this writing, he has only one error in 32 games, which is a far cry from his early days in Pinstripes. Gregorius has displayed his cannon of an arm, easing any worries whether his shoulder is healthy.

Grade: A-

Chase Headley – (.228, 3 HR, 23 RBI) Hoo boy. It seems hard to believe only six years ago Headley hit 31 HR’s and drove in 115 with the Padres, but it’s been all downhill from there. Strikeouts have always been a part of his game, but it’s easier to tolerate a 25% K rate when there is production. On the defensive side, Headley can make diving stops to his right and left that evoke memories of Graig Nettles. The problem is he has to make the throw to first base, which is usually an adventure. As of this writing, Chase has committed nine errors to the tune of a career-low .931 fielding-percentage. It’s not hard to imagine the possibility of a trade by the July 31st deadline with Gleyber Torres manning the hot corner in AAA Scranton.

Grade: D+

Ronald Torreyes – (.284, 1 HR, 14 RBI) “Toe”, as manager Joe Girardi calls Torreyes, has been a reliable utility man since coming to the Bronx last season. He’s the kind of guy you can plug in to second, third or shortstop and not have to worry. On defense, Torreyes has 4 errors across 107 career games in Pinstripes, and a fielding percentage of .984.

Grade: B

Rob Refsnyder – (2 for 16, 0 HR, 0 RBI) Refsnyder has spent essentially the ’17 season in Scranton, and has only played sparingly the couple times he has been recalled due to injury. However, it seems manager Joe Girardi is giving preference to “Ref” at 1st base over Chris Carter while Greg Bird finishes his rehab. That said, he needs to hit better than 2 for 16 to keep getting regular at bats.

Grade: Incomplete

Outfield:

Brett Gardner – (.269, 12 HR, 26 RBI) Gardy has apparently been eating his Wheaties. As of this writing, he has 12 home-runs, after hitting seven all of last season. Gardner’s career high is 17 homers in 2014. At this pace, that will be shattered by the All Star Break. This display of power hasn’t caused any downturn in batting average. In fact, his .269 average is five points above his career average. His slugging percentage (.518) is over 150 points higher from 2016 (.362). In the field, Gardy provides Gold Glove defense and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body to make a play.

Grade: A-

Jacoby Ellsbury – (.281, 4 HR, 14 RBI) Jacoby was off to a very productive start to the season when he made a great running catch off the bat of Alcides Escobar on the first pitch of the game against the Royals on May 24. His head immediately hit the wall, shaking him up. He finished the inning, but left the game at the top of the 2nd inning.  After a series of tests, Ellsbury was diagnosed with a concussion and was placed on the 7-day disabled list. He was supposed to take batting practice in Toronto on June 2, but his headaches returned and was subsequently shut down. With concussions being what they are, let’s hope these symptoms go away soon for the sake of his well-being.

Grade: B

Aaron Hicks – (.321, 8 HR, 31 RBI) Aaron Hicks is showing the potential the Yankees were looking for when they traded for him in November 2015. He has upped his game defensively, as of this writing, he has yet to make an error. On the offensive side, Hicks has taken things to the next level. Over the past two weeks, he is 16-41, including a game against the Blue Jays on June 1 where he went 4-5 and drove in six runs. He’s also getting on base to the tune of .432 and his OPS is 1.009. Impressive.

Grade: A

Aaron Judge – (.324, 18 HR, 41 RBI) I don’t think anyone figured Aaron Judge would be putting up these numbers quite this soon. His homers are rarely ever cheapies and even his at-bats that AREN’T home-runs often result in balls that are scalded. Most impressively, Judge is third in the American League in pitches per plate appearance at 4.38. That’s unheard of for someone with his level of playing experience. Oh, and his defense has been pretty darn good, too (2 errors in 50 games). You must be doing something right to get your own cheering section names after you.

Grade: A+

Judges-Chambers-Yankees

Designated Hitter:

Matt Holliday – (.271, 12 HR, 37 RBI) The Yankees brought Holliday in to give the lineup another veteran presence who can drive in runs, as well as help mentor the young kids who are emerging. Holliday started off hot, going 8-22 to begin the season, and his production has been pretty steady. When needed, he can play first base and left field and won’t embarrass himself, but he’s here primarily to hit. He’s going to strike out a lot, but he won’t strike out at Chris Carter-type levels, but that’s what happens with most power hitters.

With Brett Gardner showing more power, he and Holliday have been having fun with a little “home run competition”.

Grade: B+

 

Between the All Star break and July 31 trade-deadline, we will reassess and do this all over again.

NEXT: Yankees Report-Card: Pitchers

See ya next time!

Charlie

The Beanball Epidemic

Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals were involved in a bench-clearing brawl when Hunter Strickland deposited a 98 mph fastball into Bryce Harper‘s right hip in the top half of the 8th inning at AT&T Park.

After the dust settled and the players went back to their respective dugouts, most fans and media likely wondered, how many games will Harper be suspended? To a lesser degree, how many games will Strickland be banned? No disrespect to Strickland, but the game of baseball suffers as a whole when Harper isn’t playing. While Strickland denies hitting Harper on purpose, the whole thing was unnecessary, especially if it truly was about the two home runs Bryce hit off him in the 2014 postseason.

There have been no less than four bench-clearing incidents within the month of May in 2017, making beanbrawls and resulting fights an epidemic. The Rangers and Astros kicked things off when Lance McCullers threw a pitch behind Mike Napoli’s head on the 1st of May. A little more than two weeks later, Yasmani Grandal took exception to a fastball thrown by Johnny Cueto, and the benches emptied. The same day, the benches cleared on a couple different occasions when Jose Bautista flipped his bat after a home run and Jose Motte quick pitched to strike-out Kevin Pillar. The above mentioned Giants/Nationals brawl makes four , and there are two more days worth of games left to play as of this writing.

In the postgame interview, Harper stated, “A baseball’s a weapon“. When it is thrown at speeds professional baseball players throw, it’s potentially lethal. When most fights happen in baseball, it is usually because a pitcher threw at another team’s hitter. In this month’s dust-ups, that was the case in each game with the exception of the Braves/Blue Jays game.

Personally, I think it’s right that teams protect their players when needed, but it’s getting to the point of getting ridiculous. If Hunter Strickland really was exacting revenge against Harper hitting 2 home runs off him two and a half years ago, Joe Torre and Major League Baseball needs to raise the bar higher in terms of punishment. To some degree, they did when commissioner Rob Manfred and Joe Torre told the Red Sox and Orioles to cut out the feuding, after both teams traded high and inside (and at time, behind) pitches resulting from the late slide by Manny Machado.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but from a fan’s standpoint, I don’t want to see someone seriously injured (or worse) because some pitcher decides to use a 90 mph as a weapon because he’s mad.

Before I go, I want to share a video of the very first bean-brawl I ever saw. On August 12, 1984, the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres had a brawl for the ages. I was 13 years old and was watching the game on TBS, back when Ted Turner owned both the TV station AND the Braves, and most of their games were televised. I’ll let the Sporting News article I linked and the video below to give the specifics, but it was very surreal and unforgettable.

 

The above video is only part of the craziness. There were other times over the course of that crazy game where the benches cleared, both before and after. There are videos on Youtube that show the others.

The Braves manager on that fateful 1984 day? None other than Joe Torre!

 

 

See you next time!

Charlie

In Memoriam: MLB Players Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice

Memorial Day is a day where everyone should take a few moments and honor those who served in the Armed Services and was killed in the line of duty. Those who made the “Ultimate Sacrifice” protecting our freedom and our way of life deserves the highest respect.

In honor of Memorial Day, I would like to honor the MLB players who were killed during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. Their names all deserve to be mentioned.

World War I:

Lt. Alexander “Tom” Burr (OF), US Army Air Service, killed in a plane crash in France on 10/12/1918

Lt. Harry E. Chapman (C) of the US Army, died of illness in Nevada on 10/21/1918

Lt. LaVerne A. “Larry” Chappell (OF), Medical Corps, died of illness in San Francisco, CA on 11/8/1918

Pvt. Harry M. Glenn (C), US Army, died of illness in St. Paul, MN on 10/12/1918

Cptn. Edward L. “Eddie” Grant (3B), US Army, killed in action in France on 10/5/1918

Cptn. Newton S. “Newt” Halliday (1B), US Navy, died of illness in Great Lakes, Il on 4/6/1918

Cpl. Ralph E. Sharmin (OF), US Army, died in an accident in Camp Sheridan, AL, 5/24/1918

Sgt. Robert G. “Bun” Troy (P), US Army, died from battle wounds in France, 10/7/1918

 

World War II:

Cptn. Elmer J. Gedeon (OF), US Air Force, killed in action in France, 4/20/1944

1st Lt. Harry M. O’Neill (C), US Marines, killed in action in Iwo Jima, 3/6/1945

In 2013, Rob Weintraub wrote an excellent article for the New York Times on Cptn. Gedeon and 1st Lt. O’Neill expanding on their lives and their ultimate sacrifices in the line of duty.  Two Who Did Not Return

 

Korean War:

Mjr. Robert O. “Bob” Neighbors, US Air Force, missing in action in Korea, 8/8/1952

 

Vietnam War:

None

 

In the interest of space and time, I limited this article to major league players. Many more players killed during these conflicts were minor league players, Negro League players, college, amateurs, semi-pro players and baseball players from other countries as well.

I drew my information from Gary Bedingfield’s Baseball in Wartime website, an excellent resource honoring players who served, who died in the line of duty, surviving Veterans and more. It’s well worth your time to check it out, and even donate to help keep this resource online, if you so wish.

So please take a few moments to thank everyone who died in the line of duty, allowing us the freedom we enjoy in today’s world.

 

See ya next time.

Charlie

 

 

Posted in MLB

Yankees Stay Patient, Hold Off A’s, 3-2

BRONX, NY – For 5.2 innings in yesterday afternoon’s contest against the New York Yankees, live-armed Oakland A’s starting pitcher Jharel Cotton help the Bronx Bombers without a hit.

Cotton had spotted the Yankees an early 1-0 lead, thanks to some wildness in the first inning. Second baseman Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly to right-field, scoring catcher Gary Sanchez, who had walked earlier in the inning. Sanchez advanced to second, when Cotton hit Matt Holliday with a pitch and both runners moved up on a wild pitch, setting the stage for Castro’s sac fly.

Cotton and Yankees counterpart CC Sabathia matched zeroes on the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth inning. Cotton’s pitch-count was climbing, thanks to his own lack of command and Yankees batters making him work. However, no Yankees batters had recorded a hit. After two quick outs, Gary Sanchez reached base with another walk, bringing up Holliday. On a 1-0 pitch, the 105th of the afternoon for Cotton, Holliday deposted a home-run into the A’s bullpen in left/center field, putting the Yankees ahead 3-1.

 

Two pitches later, Starlin Castro singled, ending the day for Cotton. Those would be the only two hits the Yankees would have for the entire game.

The A’s wouldn’t go away easily, however. Tyler Clippard was on the hill to start the top of the 8th inning. On a 2-2 pitch to the first batter, Jed Lowrie, he struck him out looking. It was the third time Lowrie was rung-up by home plate umpire Will Little, with some pitches being rather questionable, and he blew his stack. Little thumbed him out quickly, but Lowrie had his say. Khris Davis was next, and he walked on a 3-2 count. The following batter, Ryon Healy hit a 1-1 pitch for a double to left, driving Clippard from the game.

Yanks manager Joe Girardi had closer Dellin Betances warming up as Clippard started the inning, and this proved to be a wise decision. Betances came in, and quickly extinguished the fire Clip started. He followed that up by pitching a quick 1-2-3 9th inning, capped striking out Matt Joyce to end the game.

Video highlights courtesy of MLB.

 

Michael Pineda faces off against A’s starter Andrew Triggs in afternoon’s series finale at 1:00 eastern. It can be seen on YES Network.

See ya next time!

Charlie

Posted in MLB

Updated: Is Bartolo Reaching the End of the Line?

June 5, 2017 – **UPDATE**

Bartolo Colon has another rough start against the Phillies, and Braves media and fans are speculating whether this could be his final start for Atlanta.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Original story written May 25, 2017

The numbers are ugly. Bartolo Colon and the Atlanta Braves faced the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon at Sun Trust Park and the Bucs had their way with the now 44-year old starter, as the Pirates defeated the Braves, 9-4. After today’s carnage (5 IP, 10H, 7ER, 3BB, 1K), Colon’s season record stands at 2-5, accompanied by a 6.96 ERA.

Bartolo Eats It 2

Colon has stumbled through most of his starts in 2017, and his stats for May have been particularly bad. He allowed 39 hits and 25 runs over 24 innings this month, and his trademark pinpoint control has wavered. Over the past month, Bartolo has allowed seven walks. This doesn’t look terrible on the surface, but for a pitcher like Colon, it’s an issue because he now barely reaches 90 mph, and he needs to be precise with his locations or he will get torched. In 2015 and 2016, Bartolo’s average BB/9 innings were 1.1 and 1.5, respectively. In 2017, it’s almost 2.4 BB/9 innings.

Screenshot (414)

An examination of Colon’s stat line, illustrated above, shows he threw roughly 60% of his pitches for strikes and he walked three batters over five innings. A number of his other starts in ’17 have had similar results.

A pitcher with lower velocity can survive in the majors if he can locate his pitches, and Colon has proven it time and again over the years. No pitcher can survive long in the big leagues if he can’t locate, even those who reach the mid and upper 90’s.

Over his twenty year career, Bartolo Colon has logged more than 3,200 innings, almost 2,400 strikeouts and won 235 games. He’s wowed us older fans who remember his early years with the Indians when he could touch 100 mph routinely over the course of his starts. Colon persevered as he recovered from years of shoulder troubles and worked his way back in 2011, and transitioned to more of a finesse pitcher. He learned to win games with lesser stuff and pinpoint location, and won 82 games over the past seven seasons.

Whether Colon’s 20 year career will result in him being inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame is debatable, but this writer feels he should get serious consideration. If this season is the end of the line for Bartolo, then it’s been a hell of a ride and I’m glad I was able to see it.

And we’ll always have his home run off James Shields to look fondly back on! 😎

See you next time!

Charlie

Yankees Bullpen Not Much of a Relief Against Royals

For 6.2 innings, Jordan Montgomery shut down the Kansas City Royals lineup on Tuesday night. The lone blemish was a solo homer by Lorenzo Cain in the top of the seventh inning. Montgomery was efficient and he threw strikes, 71 of them in his 98 pitches on the night. It was easily his best outing of the season, and he was in line for the win as he departed.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi called on Adam Warren to get the last out of the 7th inning, and it took all of seven pitches for the Royals to take the lead and wipe out what would have been a much deserved third win of the season for Montgomery. Warren threw two quick strikes on Salvador Perez, but couldn’t put him away. Perez stroked a single on the 6th pitch of the at-bat, and Jorge Bonifacio smoked the first pitch he saw from Warren over the wall in right-field to give the Royals a 3-2 lead.

In the top of the 8th inning, Girardi called on Jonathan Holder to hold the Royals offense in check. It took all of two pitches for Yankees fans to murmur to themselves, “It’s not what you want”, when Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield lifted Holder’s offering over the right field fence. Two batters later, Holder hit Alcides Escobar with the 7th pitch of the at-bat, and Girardi summoned lefty Chasen Shreve to face the left-handed power threat Mike Moustakas. Things went from bad to worse when “Moose” absolutely destroyed an offering from Shreve that landed in the second deck, closing the scoring on the night, giving Kansas City a 6-2 lead in a game the Yankees had at hand for much of the evening.

The bullpen’s performance in this game highlighted a growing issue with the Yankees, especially with starters having some struggles going deep into games. We are 43 games into the 2017 campaign, and one has to question if relievers are becoming overworked. Tyler Clippard and Holder have appeared in 21 games and 20 games, respectively, putting them on pace for roughly 80 games for the season. Warren has appeared in 16 games.

It’s still early in the season and while 20 games may seem tame in terms of general numbers, that’s a lot of warming up and coming in to close to 50% of the games. There are some games where these guys may have warmed up, but weren’t called upon. It just leaves this writer wondering if guys are already beginning to feel some fatigue.

Yankees starter stats 52417

Above are the season stats as of this morning for Yankees starting pitchers. None of the five starters are averaging six innings per start. Michael Pineda‘s average innings/start is the highest on the team at 5.96, while Masahiro Tanaka is lowest at 5.3333 innings/start, everyone else falls in between. In most cases, the starters are approaching 100 pitches in the majority of these starts, so efficiency is the main issue.

Simply put, the Yankees need more length from their starters. It’s too much to ask for the bullpen to get 10 or more outs per game, every game, because guys are going to get burned out and fatigued. After last night’s performance, it makes one wonder if that is already happening.

See you next time!

Charlie

Posted in MLB

Derek Jeter’s Jersey Retirement

On Sunday afternoon, May 14, 2017, the New York Yankees retired shortstop Derek Jeter‘s famed number 2 jersey in between games of a sort-of day/night doubleheader. Over his 20 year career, he had legions of admirers among both Yankees fans and everywhere across Major League Baseball. There are plenty of articles online which illustrate his career and accomplishments, both as a team and personally, so I’m going to write about what he meant to me as a Yankees fan.

When Derek first was called up to the Yankees from the Columbus Clippers, then the Yankees’ Triple-A farm team in 1995, I had become more of a casual baseball observer. I was then 24 years old, freshly married for the first time, and just started working in machine trades which entailed long hours with lots of overtime. I didn’t have much time to watch baseball, and the team had some lean years in the early 90’s. The 1994 team was excellent, but the 1994-95 MLB Player’s Strike left a bad taste in my mouth.

Late in the ’95 season, I realized the Yankees were playing well and made the playoffs. They were matched-up against the Seattle Mariners, who were managed by one of my favorite players from my childhood, Lou Piniella. Derek didn’t make the 1995 Yankees‘ postseason roster, but I watched some of the playoff games when I could. I got my first glimpses of Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, and despite losing to Ken Griffey Jr. and the Mariners, I found myself getting re-hooked on baseball.

edgar_martinez_1995alcs

In ’96, I was still working odd hours which took away my abilities to watch the games in the evening. I followed the Yanks through SportsCenter highlights and the daily newspaper (internet was barely a thing in ’96). They made it to the World Series against the Atlanta Braves, the reigning champions. By the postseason, I was finally able to work day-shift and was home in the evening to watch the games.

The magical run the Yankees were on looked to be in jeopardy, as the Braves won the first two games at Yankee Stadium.  But Joe Torre never flinched. Atlanta was a place of comfort, as he managed the Braves for a while in the 1980’s, but he felt confident about winning down there.

 

Torre’s confidence in his team paid off, and a huge turning point in the series came when Yanks catcher Jim Leyritz hit a three-run homer off overpowering Atlanta closer Mark Wohlers.

Leyritz HR off Wohlers

Derek Jeter and the Yankees went on to win the ’96 series and three more over the next 4 seasons. I was officially hooked back on the Yankees and Derek was such a huge part of that. The young core of players made watching them fun and reinvigorated my love for baseball.

Derek is only 3 years younger than me and I feel like we “grew up with each other” over the years as we aged. As the 1990’s progressed through the 2000’s, the Yankees won and Derek delivered. After 9 years of not winning the World Series, Jeter and the Yankees hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy with their Series championship against the Phillies in 2009.

2009 Yankees Win

 

In October 2012, in a playoff game against the Detroit Tigers, Jeter broke his ankle on a diving play to his after off the bat of Jhonny Peralta. That play effectively took the wind out of the Yankees’ sails and Detroit went on to face the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series.

As Jeter recovered from his ankle injury, his 2013 season never really got up and going for any amount of time. He admittedly came back too soon and his trials and tribulations in 2013 are chronicled here from our friends at River Avenue Blues.

The following Spring Training, Derek Jeter announced 2014 would be his final season in a Facebook post. Throughout 2014, he received gifts from other MLB cities on the road.

 

But those appetizers from the road couldn’t compare to the main course at home. The Yankees honored Jeter on Sunday, September 7th, a game the Yankees would lose to the Kansas City Royals by the score of 2-0.  It was a different story on the night of September 25th, when the Yankees played their last home game of the season.  “El Capitan”, as long time play-by-play man John Sterling calls Jeter, cemented his legacy as a clutch hitter (not that he needed to) when he drove in the game winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Yankees a win in his last game at Yankee Stadium.

I will never forget that game, I remember it just like it was yesterday, even though it was more than 2 and a half years ago.  I’ll never forget the waves of emotion from other Yankees fans on my Twitter timeline who were experiencing the same emotions as I.

In the years since Jeter’s retirement, the Yankees roster has grown much younger and a new core of young talent has taken hold, bringing the same excitement to younger fans the same way Derek Jeter did for me 20 years ago. But on Derek’s big day, it was nice to take one last look at the Yankees past as old becomes new again.

See you next time!

Posted in MLB

The Velocity Craze is Hurting Pitchers

Ask AP

Radar guns were first used to measure velocity of pitchers in the major leagues some time in the 1960’s, although it was extremely rare and was deemed far from an exact science. On August 20, 1974, The Guinness Book of World Records measured a fastball thrown by Nolan Ryan of the then named California Angels officially at 100.9 mph, a record that stood for at least a couple decades.

Within the past 20 years, MLB broadcasts on all the major networks have been showing radar gun readings on every pitch. This craze has escalated to the point where MLB Network has a clip of a commercial for their major league coverage showing gun readings at stadiums. Play by play broadcasters have made radar gun readings a just as much a part of their deliveries as balls, strikes and outs.

Sadly, arm injuries have increased as much as average fastball velocity has in the past several years. Tommy John Surgery is the most common arm related injury for pitchers, and the frequency of elbow reconstruction has skyrocketed over the past decade. An updated list of Tommy John surgeries, courtesy of Joe Rogele, provides support of this claim.

New York Mets ace pitcher Noah Syndergaard‘s recent injury spurred more discussion in baseball circles about the perils of starters throwing pitches at maximum effort instead of pacing themselves throughout the course of a game.

On NPR’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed baseball writer Jeff Passan, who provided excellent in-depth information on what a pitcher experiences when pitching through pain, from his mentality to physical results, he discusses Tommy John himself, and how baseball has evolved into the billion dollar industry that it is today. Also discussed are the measures now in place to help protect children from injuring their arms when pitching in Little League and going forward as they grow. The transcript from this interview can be found here, it’s well worth the time to read.

Former Major League pitchers Jim Kaat and Danny Graves have weighed in on Twitter on the state of pitching.

 

Both Kaat and Graves know of what they speak. Kaat pitched in MLB from 1959-1983 and Graves from 1996-2006, with neither having an overpowering arsenal at their disposal. They each had to pitch to succeed and they did just that, with Kaat winning 283 games and Graves was a fixture at the back end of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen, earning 182 career saves.

A good example for children to watch and learn from in today’s world of flamethrowers is Kyle Hendricks of the Chicago Cubs. Illustrated below is a breakdown of his pitches from yesterday’s game against the New York Yankees. The graph below that shows each pitch’s velocity in the order he threw them. His fastest pitch of the game was a fastball clocked at 87.1 mph.

Kyle Hendricks summary 5-5-17

Screenshot (343)

Hendricks has drawn some comparisons to former Cubs and Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux, and I have to agree. Watching him pitch in the 2016 playoffs, he looked to me like a young Maddux with his two-seamer running back in to left-handed hitters and catch the inside corner. His command is almost as good as Maddux, too.

For the sake of today’s young pitchers and young kids learning to pitch, I hope they focus less on radar-gun readings and max-effort pitches and more on command, more on learning how to truly pitch.

Posted in MLB