Worst Loss Ever!

To quote Comic Book Guy, last night was the worst loss ever.

At least as far as regular season games go.  Bases loaded, no one out in the bottom of the 9th.  How did the Red Sox mess this up?  John Farrell found a way.  First, he pinch hit Dustin Pedroia for Travis Shaw.  Shaw would have been going against a lefty, so I have no major beef with this move, except that Christian Vazquez was on deck and he has been a complete disaster at the plate for the past several weeks.  Why not let Shaw have a crack at it and pinch hit for Vazquez instead?  Both Shaw and Vazquez have been struggling but Shaw is the better hitter.

Pedroia struck out, Vazquez hit a fielder’s choice to the catcher.  Next, Farrell pinch hit for Marco Hernandez with a guy making his major league debut in Ryan LaMarre.  Nothing against LaMarre, but when your first major league at bat is with the bases loaded and 2 out in the bottom of the 9th, there is a fair chance you’ve never been more nervous.  And nervous he was.  First pitch, foul.  Second pitch, swing and a miss and a miss by 1 foot, a very weak and nervous swing.  Third pitch, swing and a miss, inning over.

Craig Kimbrel coughed it up in the top of the 10th and the Red Sox went on to lose 3-1.  This was a crushing loss.  If any one of those 3 had a hit, I probably wouldn’t be writing about but a manager’s job is to improve the odds and put people in positions they can succeed.  LaMarre was in way over his head and that blame falls on Farrell.

We’ll see how the Red Sox recover from this one.

First Is Cursed!

I don’t think I have ever seen a depth chart at a single position get decimated in the way the Yankees’ first base situation has been. Let’s recap.

1- Greg Bird, first baseman of the future and the insurance to a Mark Teixeira injury, goes down in the offseason with season-ending shoulder surgery.

2- Dustin Ackley, the new backup first baseman, hurts his shoulder on a slide and has season-ending, shoulder surgery.

3- Mark Teixeria gets hurt and may require season-ending surgery. He might also come back.

4- Chris Parmalee, the guy they invited to camp when Bird was injured and stashed in the minors, gets hurt catching a throw to first. He has a grade 2, hamstring tear, and will probably miss two months.

So first of all, Rob Refsnyder should get an exorcism performed on the first base area.  Second, this could be a good development long-term.

The Yankees don’t have a position for Refsnyder. He isn’t good enough at second for them. He took a couple of balls off his face at third and they soured on that idea. His arm hasn’t starred in the outfield. But they like his bat and if he hits, they can figure out ways to accommodate his glove.

Ideally, Refsnyder can become a multi-positional talent. If they can put him anywhere on the field, except catcher, center, and short, that is a huge asset to have. They can tolerate a below-average glove if they can hide it by moving it around the diamond.

And ultimately that is what 2016 should be about for this team- experimenting. See what Refsnyder can do at first, and with the bat. See if Pineda can turn into the pitcher his stuff says he should can be. See if Hicks is worth developing, and if Romine has a bigger future than backup catcher.  See what Chapman and Beltran can get you on the trade market, instead of the draft pick down the road.

The Yankees won’t do that unless things fall apart in the next month. Barring that, the best a fan can hope for is last year’s approach- do no harm. The 2016 Yankees could be a lot of things, champions seems the most unlikely. Make sure you don’t mortgage the future to chase an impossible dream.


The A-Rod Problem

The Yankees short-circuited Alex Rodriguez’s return to the lineup last night by suddenly sending him to Trenton and making it sound like he won’t be back in the Bronx until tomorrow at the earliest. That’s a short term answer to what is looking like a long term problem- A Rod’s lack of flexibility.

The Yankees decided last year that Alex is only a DH now. That handcuffs Joe Girardi when he is making out a lineup as he can’t DH other guys without sitting Alex, but other guys are clearly good DH candidates. When Alex is hitting, that’s a small sacrifice, but when he isn’t it is a real problem.

And Alex hasn’t really hit this year. He was actually starting to hit when he got hurt, but his overall numbers are ugly- .194/.275/.444  Add in the fact that Carlos Beltran is clearly not a good fielder anymore and you can make a convincing argument that Beltran should be the full-time DH. The problem with that is then you start Aaron Hicks presumably, and he hasn’t hit enough to justify that.

For now the Yankees should run Alex out there most of the time. When they face a LHP they should always use him. When they face a tough righty, they should consider benching him and let Beltran DH. Try that until the All-Star Break and see what happens. If Alex hits reasonably well, keep that plan in place. But if he continues to hit the way he has until now, then the Yankees need to reduce his AB’s even further and start to think about cutting ties permanently with him.

At The Quarter Pole

The Yankees entered the second quarter of their season last night and are still sub-.500, but are within three games of that mark for the first time in 22 games.

The offense has looked better, scoring runs at a rate of 4.42 per game in May versus 3.36 in April. The pitching has been better too, dropping the runs allowed from 4.73 in April to 4.11 in May. So the trends are positive, but the questions still linger. Here are my questions heading into the second quarter.

1- Will the starters do enough? The formula is simple, six innings and then the Big 3. But the starters aren’t even averaging six innings an appearance and their cumulative ERA of 4.82 is 23rd in MLB. If you want a reason for optimism, every starter has a FIP lower than their current ERA.

2- Is there someone who can provide a “4th” arm out of the bullpen? The Yankees will need someone else besides the Big 3 to step up and be able to provide outs in a big spot. I don’t think Chason Shreve is that guy. Is it Goody or Yates? That’s a big question.

3- Is Texeira’s start a sign or a fluke? Advanced stats are mixed on this one. His walk rate and line drive rates are encouraging, but his strike out rate has surged as has his ground ball rate. Furthermore, his BABIP is .265, so bad luck isn’t really an issue.

4- Is Girardi going to implode before the All-Star Break? I worry about Joe, he just looks stressed and I think he is managing stressed. He pulled Eovaldi from a one-hitter the other night after 85 pitches and went to the Big 3. He can’t keep doing that.

5- Is the bench going to help? Hicks looks better, though his overall numbers are bad. Ackley has done nothing of note, and Torreyes is fading fast. Could the Yankees look to Refsnyder as the permanent bench player?

Overall, you have to give the Yankees a grade of C- or D+ so far, which is better than the F they would have earned two weeks ago. But it is also a long way from where they want to be.

Keep On Shuffling

The Yankees overhauled their roster before tonight’s game to get fresh arms, and a full bench. Phil Coke is DFA’ed. While Chad Green and Conor Mullee are headed back to Scranton. In their place are Luis Cesna, James Pazos, and Rob Refsnyder.

I wouldn’t expect any of them to last long. Refsnyder is probably only here until A-Rod is ready to return later this week. Cessna or Pazos will be sent down when Saabthia is brought back Friday, and the other may be sent down for Johnny Barbato, who is eligible to return on the 19th. But, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Yankees are using their 40-man roster efficiently, spreading out the innings over 15 or so pitchers instead of the usual 12. The way the starting pitching has been recently, don’t expect that to end anytime soon.


I won’t argue that the Yankees have a long way to go. They are still four games under .500 and buried in the AL East. But make no mistake, they sent a message with this homestead. Winning series against Boston, Kansas City, and Chicago, is no easy feat, and neither is a 7-3 homestead.  Coming home with a 9-17 record, The Yankees had to rise to the occasion, and they did.

How did they do it? Much better offense and great bullpen work. In fact, while the offense was the chief worry coming into this homestead, I would suggest the rotation is the biggest one leaving it. Tanaka hasn’t looked great the last two times out, and he had been their only consistent starter.  Sabathia and Severino are on the DL, while Pineda looks completely lost. Chad Green will make his MLB-debut tomorrow and the Yankees will have to cross their fingers that he can give them some innings.

Now they head onto the road for seven games, return home for three games, and then head on the road for eight more. It’s part of an overall stretch where the Yankees are going to play 40 games in 41 days from May 2nd to June 12th, thanks to the earlier rain out in Detroit. That will test their depth and their resolve. One challenge down, plenty still to come.

The Best and The Worst

Over on fivethirtyeight.com they have a ranking of every team since 1903 using their ELO system. (For those of you unfamiliar with the site, it is run by Nate Silver, a Baseball Prospectus founder who got into political forecasting and runs the site under the ESPN umbrella.) It is a fun list to look at and contained some surprises for me.

1- The 1906 Cubs finished second, to the 1939 Yankees, with the 1927 Yankees finishing 3rd. Not a huge shock that the ’39 Yanks did so well, that was quite a team.

2- The 1998 Yankees were fifth showing how historically great that team was.

3- The 2009 Yankees were 33rd, which really surprised me. I don’t ever remember feeling that team was that good.

4- The 2004 Red Sox ranked 64th while the 2004 Yankees finished 256th. That works with my contention that they were simply better.

5- Before becoming the Yankees, the Highlanders were really bad, but he 1989, 1990, and 1991 Yankees all were near the bottom.  It is worth remembering how badly George Steinbrenner had decimated the team in the late 80’s and how great Gene Michael’s rebuilding job was.

6- The worst team ever was the 1904 Washington Senators, but the second-worst was the 2003 Tigers. Three years later they won the World Series. (Thanks to Greg for pointing out that it was only the ALCS. My brain is not what it once was.)

Anyway, it is a fun list and you can search it by team and year if you want.

Knuckling Under

Is it me, or do you also expect the Yankees to lose anytime they face a knuckleballer?  Granted, it doesn’t happen often, but it has seemed to stymie them every time this century. (Ok, they did hit Wakefield occasionally, but you get the idea.) What you have to hope is that tonight didn’t get them too much out of sync for the rest of this homestead.

You can never ask a team to sweep, so the Yankees have to be happy with this weekend’s result. Tomorrow brings a fresh challenge with the champs, Kansas City, in for four games. The Yankees get Chapman back from his suspension tomorrow as well which will make things really interesting.

I don’t know how the Yankees will use Chapman, but I hope they don’t decide that they need to use him in the 9th, Miller in the 8th, and Betances in the 7th. That makes sense in the playoffs, but for now I would much prefer they look at this as an opportunity to have two guys available every night to pitch the 8th and 9th.  The Yankees could certainly close down the final three innings of a game, but wouldn’t it be much more powerful to consistently close down the 8th and 9th? I think so.


Strange Moves

The Yankees made two curious moves in last night’s 1-0 loss, one looked good, the other looked bad.

The first move was the choice of outfield alignment. We have all seen the cannon that Aaron Hicks has for an arm, so logic would dictate that he play in either right or center field with Dustin Ackley taking left. That’s not what the Yankees did, putting Ackley in right and Hicks in left. Ackley vindicated the move with his game-saving catch against the wall in the 9th, but it still wasn’t the correct move.  You have to put Hicks’ arm in right to cut down on runners advancing out of respect for his arm. Worth also noting that whatever scouting the Yankees used to make the decisions (they wouldn’t specifically comment on it) Hicks didn’t have a defensive assist or putout, while Ackley had one and two, so the ball still found the guy the Yankees tried to hide.

The second move was more egregious because it didn’t make any sense, starting the 10th inning with Johnny Barbato instead of Andrew Miller. Girardi said they did it because they wanted to save Miller for when the Yankees had the lead. The fallacy in that logic is that they may never have the lead and while you can’t win the game in the bottom of the 10th, you can lose it. The second problem with that logic is why do you use Betances in the 9th then?

And now we come to a homestead that could well determine if this season is fixable. Ten games against two first place teams and the defending World Series champions. If the Yankees want to make a statement, the opportunity is there. If they are going to roll over and die, that opportunity is there too. They will have to avoid some raindrops, especially this weekend, but I suspect our worst fears will either be confirmed or rejected by the time we hit May 15th.


Swisher Time?-UPDATED

I get the impulse to bury the Yankees, they look awful, but 8-16 is hardly a death sentence. However, they need to change things up and A-Rod’s injury last night gives them that opportunity. Assuming he is headed to the DL, which it certainly seemed like in the postgame, why not callup Nick Swisher and see what he can do for this club?

We know he will bring energy and positivity, two things the Yankees could sorely use right now. He is a switch-hitter which could help. And while a few weeks in Scranton isn’t enough to convince me he has turned back the clock, he is hitting there. He has played mostly first, but also a game in right field, and could do fill in there while primarily DH’ing in New York. Getting him on the 25-man would be easy, Greg Bird can be moved to the 60-day DL.

And I think it makes a lot more sense that calling up either Refsnyder or Judge. Those guys would be put into a pressure cooker that could seriously hurt their development. Swisher knows the drill and is looking for one last shot at the bigs. If A-Rod is DL-bound, let’s go with Swish.

UPDATE 5:45PM- A-Rod is indeed on the DL, but in the most Yankee-move possible, they have decided once again to go with 13 pitchers. That leaves a bench with three players on it and one of them is the backup catcher. Considering the off-day Monday and the fact that the Yankees only needed 2 innings from the bullpen last night, it is an extra strange move, unless you want to read it as a vote of no confidence in tonight’s starter- Sabathia. Assuming that is the case, I would expect a pitcher to be demoted tomorrow.