Thursday, May 21, 2015

Is Michael Pineda a true ace?

There is little denying the fact that Michael Pineda has been the best pitcher in the New York Yankees rotation this season. He might have been the best pitcher during his time with the club last season as well. Being the best surrounded by mediocrity might make one the staff ace, but does not necessarily qualify one as a “true ace.” Is Pineda ready to be that type of pitcher?

Michael Pineda
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
By my definition there is a difference to being the ace of a staff and a true ace. One can be the ace of the staff yet fail to mark the following check boxes which elevate their status to elite starters. A true ace is one who would take over the top rotation position (or at least share it with another true ace) if placed on any team in the league.

A true ace is not just a pitcher who wins the most games on the team. He’s the pitcher that stops losing streaks. He’s the pitcher that keeps winning streaks going. He puts together long personal winning streaks. He’s the pitcher who adds value to each of his starts. He provides length in terms of number of innings pitched per start each time out. He dominates opposing teams, and doesn’t throw clunkers every four starts. He stays on the mound the entire season.

This is no knock on Pineda, but how many of these measures does he fulfill on a regular basis? He can be dominating as evidenced by his 16-strikeout performance May 10. But, he can also throw a dud, just like he did following that outstanding start (May 15 - five runs on 10 hits). He did put together a five-game winning streak, but he misses the mark elsewhere. Here is a breakdown of Pineda’s starts this season.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Yankees receive good and bad injury news

The New York Yankees received some good and then bad news concerning their starting pitchers on the disabled list. Masahiro Tanaka came out of Monday’s 29-pitch bullpen session without any issues and could begin a rehab assignment later this week while Ivan Nova is move one step closer to appearing in some minor league games. Unfortunately, the bad news was that Chase Whitley will be undergoing Tommy John surgery Tuesday.

Masahiro Tanaka
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
With both Tanaka and Nova set to begin rehab assignments, the blow of losing Whitley does not really sting so much. Let’s face it, Whitley ranks about eighth when all Yankees’ starters are healthy (at least in the club’s eyes). And worse for Whitley, he will likely be pushed way back in the Yankees’ depth chart by the time he is ready to return (at best next June and at worst the 2017 season).

Tanaka might need just one rehab outing, but if rusty he could be sent for a second. Nova will be on a 30-day assignment in order to take the time to readjust to “real” game action. Nova has been pitching in extended spring training games thus far. Tanaka could pitch Thursday, while Nova’s first start is still up in the air.

Monday, May 18, 2015

An uneven road for the Yankees

After Sunday’s 6-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees have book-ended a 20-8 stretch with a 1-4 start and a 1-5 slump. The Yankees might not be as good as that run, but they surely are not as bad as those slides either.

With an off-day Monday, the Yankees will travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the red-hot Nationals for a quick two-game set before returning home. The Yankees are currently 2-5 on the road trip, scoring just 11 runs in their last six games.

The Yankees recent slide came off the heels of a big offensive outburst in which they scored 11 runs and blasted five home runs. They were able to give CC Sabathia his first win of the season, despite the big lefty allowing four runs (three earned). More surprising, is that the Yankees only other win during the road trip was turned in by Sabathia in a much better seven-inning one-run performance against the Royals. In that game, the Yanks hit two homers and scored five runs. Sabathia was once receiving minimal run support, but in his last two starts, he’s been the benefactor of 16 runs, compared to six in the other five games for the rest of the staff.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Are the Yankees’ offseason trades working out?

The New York Yankees made three trades leading up to the 2015 season. Let’s take a look and see how they have worked out for the club thus far?

Trade: Catcher Francisco Cervelli to Pittsburgh Pirates for LH reliever Justin Wilson

The Yankees believed they had plenty of depth among catchers in their system making Cervelli expendable and wanted a lefty reliever who could also handle batters from both sides of the plate.

Performance season-to-date:

Cervelli – 98 plate appearances (PA), .270/.330/.337, 83 OPS+, six extra-base hits (XBH), 26 percent caught-stealing rate

Wilson – 15 G, 10.2 IP, 1-0, 4.22 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 98 ERA+, 0.94 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 5.1 BB/9

What you see from Cervelli is more or less what he has always has been. He gets on base often enough, but there is little power to go along with it. He’s a defensive-minded catcher. That said he is currently under league-average (29 percent) in caught-stealing rate for catchers.

Wilson has not been given as big of a role as anticipated and that might be because he has had big-time control issues. That is nothing new as the lefty has a career walk-rate of 4.0 BB/9. He’ll have reign in the walks if he is to become an impact reliever for the Yankees.

As a whole the trade is fine for the Yankees as John Ryan Murphy has filled in admirably for the Yankees and Wilson came with minimal cost and still has the potential to be a factor at the backend of the bullpen leading up to Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Adam Warren makes case to stick in Yankees’ rotation; will he?

New York Yankees starter Adam Warren got off to a rocky start in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. He allowed all three runs in the first two innings, coughing up an early 2-0 Yankees’ lead.

Adam Warren
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
It certainly looked as though the writing was on the wall for Warren’s future in the rotation considering the return of Chris Capuano from the disabled list in the coming days. Warren has been fairly inconsistent in his turns through the rotation over the season’s first several weeks. Wednesday was no different, but it leaned toward better in the end.

Warren brushed aside the first two frames and tossed five scoreless thereafter keeping the Yankees close. It was Warren’s longest start of his career and he managed to strikeout a career-high seven batters in the process.

Here’s how the night unfolded for Warren:

First two innings – three runs, four hits (one homer, two doubles), one strikeout

Last five innings – no runs, three hits (all singles), six strikeouts, one walk

So, if the Yankees have not already made up their minds about who was being sent to the bullpen and who was being sent down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Warren did not make things any easier.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Thoughts as Yankees pass season's one-fifth mark

The New York Yankees have played just over 20 percent of their games this season and find themselves in first place in the American League East with a somewhat comfortable four-game lead. It is early, but the Yankees have shown to be quite competitive despite preseason speculation that they might finish in last place.

The club cannot sit back. While the entire AL East is made of flawed teams, each will find a footing at some point and make their own runs, similar to the one the Yanks are on right now. The Bombers – yes they can be called the Bombers again – have won 18 of their last 24 games after a shaky 3-6 start.

The Yankees have done it with plenty of offense, an improving defense, good starting pitching and a stout bullpen buoyed by a fantastic eighth/ninth inning duo.

The club is second in baseball in runs scored (160), third in home runs (43), sixth in OBP (.326), fifth in SLG (.432) and sixth in team OPS (.759).

On the mound the overall team ERA (3.29) is fifth in MLB and first in the American League. They lead the majors in strikeouts with 294.

Friday, May 8, 2015

These New York Yankees are not boring

The original sentiment about the 2015 New York Yankees was that they were not very good, and worse boring. Due to not reaching the postseason the last couple of seasons, there was little excitement for the fans beyond the long and drawn out celebrations of Mariano Rivera’s and Derek Jeter’s retirements.

So far this season, it seems different. I wouldn’t suggest this is a collection of the most electrifying players in the sport, but there are several players who can ignite enthusiasm for Yankees fans.

It’s true the Yankees are in first-place and that brings its own thrill to the game, especially when many were counting the Yankees out. Optimism grows with every ballgame they win and each series they claim. But beyond winning, there has been a show of camaraderie and it goes beyond growing mustaches.

The Yankees have been brought together by three things this season; above all winning, a growth of mustaches (some better than others) and the most charismatic and notorious player on the team, Alex Rodriguez.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Chase Headley's baffling beginning to Yankees' tenure

When the New York Yankees signed Chase Headley to a four-year, $52 million contract this past offseason, I was fairly happy with the deal. I, like the Yankees, have been a big fan of Headley’s and he proved he could handle playing in the Bronx after a midseason trade. There are not many switch-hitting third baseman with 15-homer power, a good on-base percentage and a fantastic glove.

Chase Headley has had a rough start in field.
Photo credit: Keith Allison
While $52 million is a lot of money, it’s not difficult for a player to return value on that over the course of the contract. As it stands right now, Headley has a good deal of catching up to do.

Through 27 games and 109 plate appearances, Headley looks more like the player the San Diego Padres vanquished last season than the man who showed up in the Bronx and made people relish in what he could do here over the course of a full season. Headley owns a .238/.294/.386 slash with three home runs and 10 RBI. He sports a wRC+ of 87 (100 is average) and has generated a measly 0.1 fWAR.

Headley strikes out; he always has. But he mixed in a fair number of walks keeping his on-base percentage at or above league-average. He was never as bad as his current 3.6 K/BB rate. It doesn’t seem to matter much as to which side of the plate Headley is hitting from either. He has a 5.1 percent walk rate versus left-handed pitchers and 7.1 percent against right-handed pitching.

Well, his defense must be counting for something, you say?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Yankees go to the well one too many times

It’s been coming. One just had to look at the big picture where it concerned the New York Yankees’ bullpen. The Yankees have been playing (and winning) a lot of close games, requiring a good deal of effort from the bullpen. Finally, the relief crew couldn’t get it done and Dellin Betances was handed his first blown save of the season despite not allowing an earned run in Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Chase Whitley (right) deserved better.
Photo credit: Keith Allison
It is unfortunate because Yankees' starter Chase Whitley hung tight with Jays’ knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead after seven innings of work. Whitley was at 90 pitches on the night and didn’t seem to be tiring. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi felt that was Whitley’s limit.

“Yeah, he’s started before,” Girardi said according to Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog. “But he’s not a guy that’s used to going 95, 100 pitches. That’s not who he is. I just thought it was time for a change.”

My question to Girardi is when will he allow Whitley to go to 95, 100+ pitches? He has to do it sometime. Getting through seven innings with 90 pitches is very economical and it is not going to fall out that way all the time. When it happens, Girardi needs to be ready to take advantage of it.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Yankees seek revenge versus Red Sox

The New York Yankees finished the month of April in first place, something no one saw coming after losing two of three games to the Boston Red Sox in the season’s first week. The Yankees left New York after the series with a 2-4 record looking like a team with many issues, not one which would be atop the American League East as the calendar turned to May.

The Yankees turned things around and have won four straight series with the club going 10-3 over that time period. The Red Sox (12-10 overall) have lost two of their last three series, going 4-5 and have some issues of their own to overcome.

This weekend’s series also marks the beginning of 14 straight games against AL East opponents for the Yankees. While it is only the second month of the season, a poor performance in this stretch could be detrimental to the club.

The Yankees are now without Masahiro Tanaka, so the rest of the rotation will need to step up and it is the middle part of the starting five who get the call against the Red Sox. This will not be an easy task in Boston, but these guys will have to turn the corner at some point if the Yankees expect to remain in contention this season.