Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Relievers

It’s another chilly day here in the northeastern United States. Two games of the World Series are under our belts with the Boston Red Sox winning both games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Game 3 is tonight at Chavez Ravine. Meanwhile, all the other teams in Major League Baseball are assessing things from this season with an eye on 2019.

In our last entry, we took a look at the starting rotation of the New York Yankees, deciding whether GM Brian Cashman should “take ’em or trash ’em”. Today we shall take a look at the bullpen. Let’s get started!

 

Dellin Betances – (4-6, 2.70 ERA) After a very up and down 2017, Betances cleaned up his mechanics and had his best season since 2015. He worked over the winter to make his delivery a bit more compact and more repeatable. He also credits bullpen coach Mike Harkey with using his high-octane fastball a bit more and admitting he started “listening a little bit more”. The results? Betances lowered his walk rate per nine innings from 6.6 in 2017 to 3.5, and struck out 115 batters in 66.2 innings. Over a span of 94 days (May 27-August 29), he allowed two runs over 33.2 innings while striking out 58.

Take him.

 

Aroldis Chapman – (3-0, 2.45, 32 saves) The 30 year old Chapman was reliable in 2018, saving 32 games for the Yankees and only blowing a pair of save opportunities. In 2017, Chapman was hittable, and his stuff seemed less electric. The velocity was there, but the life wasn’t and it showed, as his strike-outs per nine innings dropped to a career-low 12.3. In spring training, Aroldis worked to improve his off-speed pitches to keep hitters off his fastball and it resulted in a renaissance season. Chapman’s always been proud of his triple digit heat, but he mixed in some good sliders and even a change-up. At season’s end, Aroldis ended up striking out 16.3 per nine innings, an all time high for him.

Take him.

 

David Robertson – (8-3, 3.23, 5 saves) It seems like D-Rob has been around forever, as he was a young up and coming pitcher when the “Core 4” was still intact. Now 33 years of age, he has nine years of service time and will soon become a free agent. When he came back to the Bronx at the trade deadline in 2017, he dominated hitters down the stretch to the tune of  an ERA of 1.03 and 13.1 K/9 IP. In 2018, he was still as effective as ever but his 3.23 ERA is misleading. Four poor outings where he allowed three runs or more skewed his numbers. If you throw away those four appearances (13 ER in 3.2 IP), Robertson’s ERA drops to 1.64 over the other 65 games he appeared in. D-Rob will turn 34 at the beginning of next season, but he’s still got plenty in the tank.

Take him.

 

Chad Green – (8-3, 2.50) It would have been a difficult task for Green to repeat his performance in 2017, where he allowed only 4.4 hits per nine innings and struck out 13.4 per nine. His numbers were still good, but his hit-rate jumped to 7.6, and he allowed 35% of inherited base-runners to score. His K-rate also dropped to “only” 11.2. For some reason, Green threw his fastball more this season (86.5 percent of the time vs. 69.4 in ’17) and his slider much less (10.2% this year, down from 22.1 in ’17), while completely abandoning his cutter (thrown 7.8% in ’17) altogether.

Take him (but bring back the cutter and start mixing up the pitches).

 

Zach Britton – (2-0, 3.10, 7 saves) Britton came over from Baltimore at the trade deadline in return for a few minor league prospects. He had a few rocky outings in the first couple weeks, mostly attributed to control/command issues. To be fair to Britton, his season didn’t start until early June as he was returning from an injury to his right Achilles tendon that he suffered at home last December. By September, he looked more like the 2016 version of himself when the former Orioles closer nailed down all 47 save opportunities, allowing only four earned runs for the whole season. Britton’s one year deal (12M) is set to expire in a couple weeks. While he said “I would love to be back”, I have to wonder if an opportunity to close elsewhere for the right amount of money might entice him.

Take him (if you can keep him).

 

Tommy Kahnle – (2-0, 6.56, 1 save) Yuck. Kahnle was brilliant in 2017 after coming over from the White Sox in the deal that brought David Robertson back to New York, but his stuff never carried over into 2018. His velocity was down from the upper 90’s to 93-94 in spring training, and so was his effectiveness. After an especially horrific outing on April 10, he ended was optioned to Triple-A Scranton, where he pitched most of the season. Kahnle came back for good in the middle of August, but was relegated to mop-up duty. His season ended with an ERA of 6.56, and hopefully his days with the Yankees have ended as well.

Trash him.

 

Jonathan Holder – (1-3, 3.14) Holder was poised for his first full season in the big leagues after splitting 2017 between Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre and the Bronx. Back to back disastrous outings in early April got him shipped back to Triple-A, but he put things back together and two weeks later, he was back in the Big Apple. Holder’s overall numbers look rather pedestrian on the surface, but they are skewed because of five poor outings, including the aforementioned games in April. If you throw away those numbers (15 earned runs over 3.1 innings, also including a seven run meltdown at Fenway in early August), his ERA is a miniscule 1.15 over 55 appearances. Holder started using his fastball more, cut back on his cutter and added more velocity to his swing and miss curve, making it more like a slider. He also uses a change-up to keep batters off his fastball. It’s definitely working for him.

Take him.

 

A.J. Cole – (2-2, 6.14) Cole came to the Yankees in a cash-considerations deal with the Washington Nationals on April 23, complete with an ERA of 13.06 after four very shaky outings. He began his career in the Bronx on the right foot, posting a 0.83 ERA over his first 21.2 innings in relief. Yankees fans on Twitter all but gave him his own place in Monument Park. That would have been fine (not the Monument Park thing….), but the problem was the season wasn’t over yet. From July 31 through the rest of the season, Cole pitched to the tune of a 8.82 ERA, giving up 16 runs in 16.1 innings. By October, Yankees fans couldn’t wait to be rid of him. Right now, I would say Cole is nothing more than Triple-A filler.

Trash him.

 

Luis Cessa – (1-4, 5.24, 2 saves) It seems like Luis Cessa has been around for a long time, but he only has logged 151 innings in his major league career since 2016, all with the Yankees. He’s had success in Triple-A, but for some reason it’s not translating in the bigs. Cessa missed some time early in the season with a strained oblique, but didn’t gain much traction when he returned. He pitched well in three appearances in mid-September (9 IP, 2 R, 12 K’s) but any good feelings got washed away when he opened the final game of the season in Boston and got ripped for five hits and four runs in only 14 pitches. Cessa is still under team control for 2019, but out of options — so the Yankees will have to make a decision on him. I know what my decision is.

Trash him.

 

What that, we have covered the pitching staff. In our next installment of Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em, we will take a look at catchers. See you next time!

 

 

 

 

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$86,000,000 Mistake?

In a past article, I wrote about New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and the great moves he has made. I continue to have faith in his deals and the future of this team.

I am not sure signing Aroldis Chapman to a 5 year/86 million dollar deal is one of them. After last night’s loss to the Boston Red Sox, many Yankees fans were shaking their heads after a tough defeat. Chapman entered the game in the top of the 9th inning and quickly disposed of Hanley Ramirez on three pitches – fastballs clocked at 100, 102 and 102.

The next man up was 20 year-old rookie sensation Rafael Devers. Chapman, ever so proud of his heater, pumped two fastballs by Devers. By this time, the excited crowd at Yankee Stadium was buzzing, as all of Chapman’s pitches were 100 mph and above. The third pitch, also a fastball — a 102.8 mph fastball — was right down the middle and the baby-faced rookie barreled it up well enough to put it over the wall to tie the game. The excited crowd quickly grew quiet, like letting the air out of a balloon.

Chapman finished the inning without further problems, and went back out for the tenth inning. After quickly striking out Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley, Jr. was hit by an errant fastball and the following batter, Eduardo Núñez walked and by that time, Joe Girardi came out to hook Chapman. Reliever Tommy Kahnle later gave up a hit to score JBJ with the deciding run.

Illustrated below are Red Sox hitters’ numbers vs. Chapman in 2017. The numbers aren’t pretty. An on base percentage of .484, nine walks and six strikeouts.

Screenshot (111)

As Dennis Eckersley might say, “YUCK!” I’m pretty sure Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and all Yankees fans didn’t have this in mind when Chapman put his signature on that five year contract. A top-flight closer is supposed to lock down games against division rivals in the heat of a pennant race, not wilt like flowers in a dry, hot summer. But Girardi reiterated in his postgame interview, “Chapman is my closer”.

As if his performance alone wasn’t bad enough, it appeared Chapman smirked in response to a reporter’s question asking how frustrating this stretch of less than ideal outings has been for him. It’s roughly around the 1:10 mark in the video in the link below, courtesy of YES Network.

I can understand that players might find some questions dumb, annoying and any other adjective you want to use. In my humble opinion, losing a tough game to a division opponent is not a great time to laugh/smirk/whatever. I guess we better get used to it, because Chapman is here for the duration.

Yankees 1st Half Report-Card: Pitchers

The All-Star break is over, and teams are set to resume the second half of the season in Major League Baseball. In my last entry, I graded the position players on the New York Yankees. This time, we will assess the pitching staff’s job at the halfway point.

Starting Pitchers

Luis Severino – (5-4, 3.54 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) Severino used his time wisely over the past winter, working on pitches and mindset with Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez while in the Dominican Republic. The results have been profound. With some better luck and run support, Sevy could easily have at least five more wins. He’s emerging as the newest ace of the staff.

Grade: A-

Masahiro Tanaka – (7-8, 5.47 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) Tanaka is the guy that is SUPPOSED to be the staff’s ace, but has had an abysmal first half. It all started on Opening Day, when he gave up 7 runs in 2.2 innings and two home runs. Tanaka has been like the proverbial “little girl with the curl”, either very, very good or very, VERY bad. There hasn’t been much in between. The Yankees’ hopes for the season depend on him getting better. Tanaka can opt-out of his contract after 2017 if he chooses too, but if he doesn’t get better it seems the team will have another bad contract to pay for.

Grade: D- (five dominant starts saves him a failing grade)

CC Sabathia – (7-3, 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) When Sabathia started wearing a brace on his chronically bad right knee at the tail end of 2015, the results were much better and it carried through 2016. His numbers on the surface look good, and he made a number of starts where he looked like vintage CC. However, there has been 5 starts where he allowed 4 runs or more.  This includes a hideous stretch from late April into early May where he gave up 18 runs in 14.2 innings. Sabathia enjoyed a run of six effective starts, lowering his ERA by two runs, when he tweaked a hamstring on June 13 in Anaheim.

Sabathia tweak hammy

Sabathia came back on July 4 against Toronto and had no command. He probably could have used a rehab start for Scranton or Trenton. He’s 37 years old, but still has more in the tank. His velocity sits at 89-91, but still has 94 in his back pocket on occasions as needed. Hopefully CC will stay healthy and effective for the second half of the season.

Grade: B-

Michael Pineda – (8-4, 4.39 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) Michael Pineda is an enigma. Still. In fact, a picture of Pineda should be next to the definition of the word enigma. After a tough first start of ’17, Michael sailed along on a nine start stretch where he allowed three earned runs or less. Over said stretch, he won six of seven decisions and carried a 3.32 ERA at the end of May. Then June happened. Like flicking a light switch, 2016 Pineda emerged, looking every bit like the shell-shocked, unfocused Pineda that drives Yankees fans batshit crazy. From June on, his ERA shot up from 3.32 to it’s current 4.39. He gave up 53 hits over 36.2 innings during this stretch.

**EDIT** Pineda was diagnosed with a torn UCL in his right elbow, ending his season. Terrible news.

Pineda finishes 2017 with probable Tommy John surgery and an uncertain future. I wish him well.

Grade: D+

Jordan Montgomery – (6-4, 3.65 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) The rookie Montgomery opened everyone’s eyes in Spring Training with his ability to get guys out and willingness to challenge hitters. He earned the 5th spot in manager Joe Girardi‘s rotation and has kept a grip on it, like a bulldog. “Monty”, as Girardi refers to him, has worked at least six innings in eight of his 16 starts. Sure, he’s had a few clunkers, but all rookies do. Still, there are only three starts where he allowed four or more runs. He is striking out almost a batter an inning. Montgomery still hasn’t been lit up yet, unlike veteran starters Tanaka and Pineda.

Monty seems impressive and has a bright future ahead of him.

Grade: B+


Relief Pitchers

Aroldis Chapman – (2-0, 3.48 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) Chapman started off 2017 in his usual dominating way, converting all five save opportunities through April 26. That day, Chapman labored through the 9th inning, walking two, allowing a hit and striking out two. It was raw and drizzly in Boston and he threw 33 pitches. On May 7, in his return to Wrigley Field against the Cubs, he blew his first save, throwing 36(!) pitches before Girardi mercifully pulled him. Five days later, after another bad outing against the Astros, it was revealed Chapman was suffering from shoulder inflammation. He returned on June 18, but his results have been uneven. We’re in the 1st season of a 5 year/86 million dollar contract, so it would be prudent for Girardi to not leave him in games for 35 pitches.

Grade: C+

Dellin Betances – (3-4, 3.18 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) On the morning of June 22, Betances had a record of 3-1, 0.40 ERA and was shutting down everyone. Five days later, he was summoned by Joe Girardi to close out a game in Chicago and walked two batters, hit another and gave up a hit, resulting in a walk-off White Sox win. Things continued to fall to hell from there. Since June 27, Betances’ stat-line is ugly: 3.2 IP, 2H, 7R, 7ER, 10BB, 6K. Even Carlos Marmol wasn’t that wild. Warning signs began to show themselves earlier. He began walking more hitters in early June, when his workload become sporadic because games weren’t close and he wasn’t needed. After he pitched on May 27, his next appearance was six days later. His following appearance was five days after that. Then a four day gap. Pitchers need regular work, especially a man Betances’ size. Repeating a delivery is tougher for big and tall guys, and I believe the time off hurt him. I think if he gets regular work, Dellin will be okay.

Grade: B-

Tyler Clippard – (1-5, 5.24 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) Just as June was unkind to Betances, it’s been every bit as bad for Clippard. The problem for Clip is he is being hit all over the yard AND he’s walking people. His stat-line from June 1st to now is: 12.1 IP, 14 H, 16 ER, 12 BB, 13K and five HR’s allowed. Clippard doesn’t have the stuff and the upside Betances has. If he doesn’t turn it around quickly, the 32 year old Clippard may be gone before the trade deadline on July 31.

Grade: D-

Adam Warren – (2-1, 2.02 ERA, 0.79 WHIP) Warren has quietly had an excellent season out of the Yankees bullpen. In years past, he’s been a swing-man, making spot-starts and used in long relief. This year, he’s been used a variety of ways in relief, earlier in the year in low-leverage situations, and Girardi has also trusted him to hold the lead in the 7th inning. Warren missed three weeks in June because of a cranky shoulder, returned at the beginning of July. Whenever he’s been handed the ball, he’s done his job.

Grade: A

Jonathan Holder – (1-1, 3.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) Holder is a highly regarded young arm who hopefully will grow into a role where he will be trusted to hold leads and maybe even close games someday. He throws four pitches, so an eventual starting role isn’t out of the question. Right now, it’s hard to tell what you will get from Holder from game to game, because he’s left a lot of pitches over the plate. Those pitches are usually hit very, very hard.

Grade: C-

Chasen Shreve – (2-1, 2.96 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) After a promising beginning to his Yankees career in the first half of 2015, Shreve has been relegated to filling an inning or two of relief in mop-up situations. His control has been better this year, which has helped his cause. When a starter is failing in the early innings, Shreve is usually the guy you see warming up in a hurry because he can be ready quickly. He’s been optioned back and forth to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes Barre when fresh arms have been needed.

Grade: C

Bryan Mitchell – (1-1, 5.06 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) Mitchell has some of the best stuff on the Yankees staff, yet it seems Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild don’t know what way to use him. In 2016, he was all but named one of the five starters coming out of spring training, then suffered an unfortunate toe injury that took most of the season to heal. This year, Mitchell was having a good month of April until later that month when he gave up 7 runs over back to back outings. Since then, he’s been ping-ponged back and forth to Scranton where he’s now stretched out. The Yankees plan to start Mitchell in Boston on Sunday in the first game of a doubleheader.

In the wake of Michael Pineda’s injury, my guess is they will give Mitchell a start or two to prove if he’s worthy of being in the team’s plans or possibly to showcase him to other teams who need starters, or a good right arm. I am thinking the latter. For some reason, I have a hunch Girardi and Cashman have soured on Mitchell.

Grade: C-

See ya next time,

Charlie

 

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