He’s Right

Joel Sherman has a good piece in today’s Post about how Yankee fans should cheer CC Sabathia for what he did on the mound never failing to take the ball, especially when you compare him to Matt Harvey.

I’ve been hard on Sabathia this year, and while I still don’t think the Yankees should start him anymore, it is unquestionable that he was a warrior for them. He deserves our thanks and appreciation for that.

You Can Never Have Too Much Pitching

The Yankees keep trying to force a six-man rotation down our throats and they keep being thwarted by injury. Today we learned that CC Sabathia would be back in a six-man rotation Wednesday, but that quickly turned back to a five-man rotation when it was reported that Nathan Eovaldi was being shut down for the next two weeks with elbow inflammation. That doesn’t sound promising, and the Yankees may have lost him for the rest of the season.

That’s a potentially big loss, but also one that will be over-hyped because of Eovaldi’s recent numbers. Yes, he has pitched very well since the All-Star Break, but look at these comparisons:

2014 10.1 H/9 0.6HR/9 1.9BB/9 6.4K/9

2015 10.2H/9 0.6HR/9 2.9BB/9 7.1K/9

Basically, he has done the exact same thing when it comes to giving up hits and home runs, while increasing both his walks and strikeouts. FIP puts his ERA this year at 3.43 versus 3.37 last year. In short, he isn’t necessarily doing anything better than he did last year, but people seem to think he is. (And as a sidetone, his ERA last year was 4.37 and he went 6-14. This year it is 4.20, yet he his 14-3. Perhaps wins are not a great way to evaluate a pitcher?)

Now, I will make two caveats about my somewhat clinical evaluation of Eovaldi above. 1- He is pitching in a tougher league and ballpark, so the consistency in his home run rate and increase in his strikeout rate are encouraging. 2- He has developed a new pitch this year, the splitter (maybe that’s why he has elbow problems?) He has only been really throwing it in the second half of this year, but it accounts for 16% of all of his pitches. It has given him a fourth pitch to go along with his fastball, curve, and slider and if he can continue to hone it, he may become a much better pitcher in the future.

That was going to be the very interesting bet the Yankees would have had to consider making this offseason. Eovaldi will be two years away from free agency after this season. If you believe his FIP numbers are indicative of his performance and think he might be on the upswing, the smart play would be to extend him now before he gets too close to the big payday of free agency. This elbow inflammation may put an end to that idea.

Worth a Read

SI.com has posted their article about Brian Cashman online. It got a lot of press last week because it includes an anecdote from 2010 when Cashman told Jeter that he would rather have Tulowitzki at short than Jeter. That’s an interesting story, and the article is loaded with them.

One interesting note is Billy Beane’s contention that Brian Cashman should be a future Hall of Famer. He says, “If anybody else had done what Brian’s been doing, you know what’d be in front of his name? Future Hall of Famer

That’s a complicated argument. Clearly, the Yankees have financial resources that other team, at least until recently, couldn’t match. But, it is worth remembering that the Yankees haven’t finished under .500 since 1992. That’s impressive.

I think managing and general managing the Yankees is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have almost unlimited  resources and your brand is the biggest in the game. On the other, you have insane expectations, and you will never get enough credit for what you do because of all of those resources. I don’t know if that’s a job many people would really want, and it amazes me that Brian Cashman has been doing it for 17 years.

Saved By A Knee?

You never want to see a player get hurt. And you really don’t want to see someone who has been a great pitcher for your team get hurt. But, CC Sabathia’s injury yesterday may turn out to be a positive for the Yankees. For one thing, Sabathia simply isn’t a very good pitcher anymore. Yankee management doesn’t want to admit that, but the numbers tell the story. Much was made about a recent surge in his performance, but four starts in August with a 3.80 ERA tell us very little about what the future holds.  But beyond his general ineffectiveness, the Yankees were about to adopt a six-man rotation because of Michael Pineda’s return and this injury should prevent that. (More on the “should” in a minute)

The Yankees have a mediocre rotation. There are flashes of brilliance from all of them, but the overall numbers show a team that gets about average results. Using ERA as a benchmark, the four starters other than Sabathia have ERA’s within 10% of the league average, plus or minus. Tankaka and Nova are ahead of the league, while Pineda and Eovaldi are below it. (I’m keeping Severino out of this conversation for the minute because he has only four starts.) Dig a little deeper and FIP flips those names around. Pineda has a 3.00 FIP, Eovaldi a 3.53, Tanaka a 4.11, and Nova a 4.12. But the Yankees have a really good bullpen. Of their five major relievers (Miller, Betances, Warren, Wilson, and Shreve) only Shreve has a FIP significantly higher than his current ERA. And they have employed a number of other arms effectively throughout the season. A “smart” team would emphasize the relievers and deemphasize the starters. The Yankees have mostly done that by pulling their starters early in games, or at the first sign of trouble.

And that’s the problem with a six-man rotation. Adding another starter to this mix gives the rotation more rest, but do they really need it? The Yankees are already leaning on their bullpen and minimizing starter innings. With an extra day off between starts, Joe Girardi might be tempted to push his starters deeper into games. That would be a mistake. Rosters are expanding in a week and the Yankees will be able to formalize their multiple-arms approach in the bullpen thanks to that. Keep pitching the starters for six innings and then bring in the bullpen to figure things out. It’s a good formula for this team.

As for the “should” part….It sounds like the Yankees might use Bryan Mitchell as a sixth starter if he is recovered from getting hit in the face last week. <sigh>


Remember Montero

As Greg Bird rounded the bases for a second time yesterday I wondered to myself how long would it be before he was anointed the next great Yankee. It didn’t take long. Don’t get me wrong, I loved what Bird did yesterday and I love the idea of Greg Bird becoming a long-time Yankee, but things have gone from silly to crazy in one day.

First off, let’s start with the idea that Bird has somehow “Wally Pipped” Mark Teixeira. In 1925, Wally Pipp hit .230 with a total of 12 extra base hits, Lou Gehrig was an easy choice to replace him. In 2015, Teixeira is hitting .257 with 31 home runs. He is in the Top-10 in a number of offensive categories and plays gold-glove caliber defense. That is not someone you take out of the lineup when healthy, no matter how good a rookie looks.

Second, let’s remember that this was one game and Bird now has a total of 39 games above AA ball in his career. Yes, he could hit like this for the rest of his life. More likely, he will struggle as pitchers adjust to him and perhaps even need some more minor league seasoning. That’s not a knock, Mike Trout hit .220 in his first season in the bigs. Sometimes it takes time and Bird might need that.

And finally, let’s think of when we have seen this before. Jesus Montero ring a bell? How about Shane Spencer or Kevin Maas? Rookies have come up and blasted the ball before only to struggle and turn out to be much less than the Yankees thought they might be. Bird seems like a better bet than any of those guys, but we shouldn’t hand him a starting spot next year yet. For one thing, there isn’t one right now with Teixeira and A-Rod under contract in 2016. For another, let’s see him hit like this a bit more before making long-term decisions.

This is all a good thing for the Yankees. Teixeira’s contract expires after 2016 and Bird would be all of 24 heading into 2017. The job is his then at the latest. Between 2017 and now there will be opportunities for him to contribute, but he may also spend time in the minors. That’s ok, the exciting thing is you are starting to see the outlines of the Yankees infield of the future and it looks like a good one.

That John Henry is Full of…

Remember the line when Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn are driving into what they think is the Rockies only to see a vast plain?  “That John Denver was full of crap!”  Well, John Henry is too.  Just 2 months after saying this about Ben Cherington, “The GM is going to be the GM of this club for a very long time,” we find out that Dave Dombrowski has been hired as President of Baseball Operations and Ben Cherington is out.  Apparently Cherington was given the option of staying but when you lose your – authority, it probably makes sense to move on…along with your recently signed 3 year extension.

What does this mean for the Red Sox?  Dombrowski, fired by the Tigers in June, is a more traditional baseball mind, preferring old-timey scouting vs. modern analytics.  The Red Sox under Cherington had become heavy in analytics and sometimes I felt that the numbers were the only reason for moves.  Things like personalities and hard work were overlooked as long as a player’s Fenway splits were solid.  Hanley Ramirez is a good example of an analytic signing whereas a traditional baseball mind might have said his tendency to dog it is a reason to stay away.  Heck, even Hanley warned a Dodger teammate not to be like him, hated by his teammates…wasn’t that warning enough Ben?

This calls into question what will happen with analytical people like Bill James.  Will they leave, get fired or figure out a way to co-exist with Dombrowski?  Regardless, this all happened very quickly and came out of nowhere.  When Dombrowski left Detroit, a fairly well-known writer (can’t remember if it was Ken Rosenthal or Buster Olney) tweeted that the Red Sox had no interest in him.  Well that turned out not to be the case and today we have a decidedly new way of doing things.

Dombrowski, won a World Series with Florida in 1997 and went to 2 others with Detroit in 2006 and 2012.  There will be, most likely, many other changes with the Red Sox between now and the start of the 2016 season.  That can be said of any season, but the front office, which has been largely stable since Henry took over save for the moving of Theo Epstein, is undergoing a makeover and one that was needed as continuing this trend of feast or famine can’t be allowed.

It’s Not About Baseball

I think my favorite Yankees-Red Sox moment had nothing to do with a game result. It was the night that Joe Torre returned from cancer treatments to manage the Yankees. The game was at Fenway and I was there. The Boston crowd was absolutely perfect, cheering Torre and giving him ovations whenever he came out of the dugout.

I thought of that last night when I heard the awful news about John Farrell. Cancer is an awful disease and it has affected both sides of this blog profoundly. I hope John Farrell gets well very soon. I hope that we see him managing the Red Sox next season and that Yankee fans get to give him a long ovation.


Bird is the Word

The Yankees are calling up Greg Bird. Now the question is, where does he play?

This is a really interesting move. On one hand, Bird has hit incredibly well and is a highly-touted prospect, so why not get him up here and see what he can do? Furthermore, the Yankees DFA’ed Garett Jones for the second time yesterday, so they didn’t have a true backup first baseman on the roster.

But again, where does he play? He is a first baseman only, so unless you are going to sit Teixeira or A-Rod and let Bird DH, he is on the bench and that doesn’t make sense development-wise.

So, let proceed from the idea that he is going to play, at least temporarily. A-Rod has played every game except one since the All-Star Break, so I could see Bird at DH tonight. The Yankees won’t want Teixeira to play three games on the turf in Toronto, so I could see Bird at first tomorrow or Saturday. After that, I would bet that they send him down again and call up someone like Pirela to cover multiple positions.

That would make sense and since Bird had to be added to the 40-man roster after the season anyway, this is a worthwhile move. The hard part will be if he hits well the next two or three days and then gets sent down. Talk radio will love that, but what else can you expect if Teixeira and A-Rod are healthy?


If this were the late September, we would be talking about the last ten days in historical terms. To lose 6-1/2 games in the standings in ten days is absolutely stunning, but that is exactly what has happened to the Yankees. They woke up on Monday, August 3rd with a six-game lead. Thanks to going 2-6 while Toronto went 9-0, they wake up this morning 1/2-a game behind Toronto.

And the fact that it isn’t late September should be consoling to Yankees’ fans. That and the fact that they actually still lead Toronto in the loss column. Toronto will cool off from this pace. The Yankees will hit again. The problem is with three games coming up in Toronto starting Friday, the Yankees will need both of those things to happen quickly. A three-or-four game lead at this stage really is significant, no matter what the last ten days have shown us.

It’s Just Probability

There has been a lot of press about the fact that last night was the first ever time in baseball history that all 15 home teams won. It was written about a bunch this morning and even made the national news casts. It’s a neat thing, but the fact that it has never happened before isn’t a surprise.

Start with the fact that baseball has had 30 teams since the 1998 season, meaning this is the 18th season that you could have 15 home teams win on the same night. Now estimate the expected winning percentage for a team at home. Let’s say 60% is probably the highest average you could justify. You would therefore expect all 15 home teams to win 60% raised to the 15th power. That’s would put the odds at roughly 1 in 2,500. If you assume that all 30 teams played on the same night 162 times a season, you would have had 2,916 times that all 15 home teams could have won on the same night since the expansion in 1998.

But it is worth remembering that if you have odds of 1-in-2500, trying something 2500 times doesn’t guarantee you will experience it. Vegas makes a lot of money off of people watching roulette wheels and expecting that eight-consecutive reds will result in the ninth spin being black, but it doesn’t work that way. Each spin has the same odds as the last. (And Vegas diabolically has two green numbers so your odds of black and red are not even 50-50 but about 47.5%-47.5% with a 5% chance that green comes up and ruins you.)

All of this is another way of saying I am bored and too depressed to talk about the Yankees right now. Hopefully, that changes tonight.