Friday, July 31, 2015

For Yankees, Best Deal at Deadline May Be Rotation Shuffle

Back in 1964, June 15th was the trade deadline. The Yankees were in the middle of a pennant race with Chicago and Baltimore much of that season. They had three reliable starters in their rotation in Whitey Ford, Al Downing and Jim Bouton. Three other pitchers, who were  in and out of  the rotation that year, Rollie Sheldon, Ralph Terry and Stan Williams, struggled with injuries or inconsistent performances. The Yankees could have used another starter  at that deadline (Most pitching staffs of the day had four starters with an occasional fifth starter, often referred as a "swing man" or "spot starter.") 

So on that deadline day in '64, two notable starters, Jim "Mudcat" Grant and Ernie Broglio were traded. You'd  think the Yankees might have had an interest in the Cardinals' Broglio, a recent 20 game winner. The Broglio deal to Chicago merely cost the Cubs a spare outfielder, as future Hall of Famer, Billy Williams was the Cubs  incumbent left fielder. Given the Yankees pitching status. you would also think they might at least have  kicked the tires on either Broglio or Grant.

Why is this old trade deadline story worth mentioning after all these years? Well, today's Yankees are in a similar spot in a way. They could use another starter. In 1964 they passed on whatever trade opportunities at the deadline, waited all the way until August 12 and brought up a young pitcher from Richmond named Mel Stottlemyre. Stottlemyre was the difference in the pennant race, making 12 starts and compiling a 9-3 record down the stretch. Might the Yankees be thinking in a like manner today?

Luis Severino is pitching as well at Scranton, as Stottlemyre did at Richmond. In Severino's last start he went 6 innings, allowing just  one hit and no earned runs along with ten strikeouts and no walks. Whatever they do, it's almost August and the Yankees need to rethink their rotation. Severino, Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell might all deserve a shot at joining the rotation with Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova.

Which brings us to last night's starter, CC Sabathia.

Sabathia was once again, horrible in the Yankees 7-6 loss to the Rangers in Texas, surrendering 5 runs, all earned, in five innings of work. It is just not working this year for Sabathia. Isn't it about time the Yankees just admit it? Yes, Sabathia has a large contract.  Can they really move him to the bullpen? There is a space, recently vacated by Chris Capuano. Certainly not a pleasant set of circumstances for Joe Girardi, but it is painfully obvious Sabathia is dragging an already troubled rotation down.

So unless there is an injury that hasn't been disclosed, the Yankees have no choice but to move Warren, Mitchell or Severino to Sabathia's spot. As for the contract, the Yankees are not going to stop paying him, are they? That is all that matters. Pay the contract and utilize Sabathia in the best interests of the New York Yankees. Period.  Maybe Sabathia can figure something out while in the bullpen. You never know. The Yanks are also hoping for a healthy return, to the rotation, by September, for the recently disabled  Michael Pineda, which means they actually would need two of Warren, Mitchell and Severino for awhile.

Bonus points if you know who the Cardinals got for Broglio, If you are old enough to remember the deal, you already know the "spare outfilder" acquired by St Louis was none other than Lou Brock. Funny how a trade looks much different when its made compared to years later when it becomes a part of baseball lore, good for St. Louis and not as much for the Cubs.  Remember that if the Yanks swing a deal today in the waning hours of this trade deadline. Sometimes it is better to solve roster issues if you have in house options. I'm thinking Severino is just that one great option like Stottlemyre was in '64. There's only one way to know. Make the move, Yankees. Call up Severino with CC  going to the pen.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The 2015 Trade Deadline: Some Rumors Ain't Worth A Damn

The Yankees' weakest link reared its ugly head last night, as Masahiro Tanaka failed to protect a 2-run lead, leading to a 5-2 loss to the Rangers. As I write this, there is still no word about whether or not the Yankees will make a deadline deal for a starting pitcher.

If you believe the rumors, the Rangers are about to make a HUGE deal for a starting pitcher: Cole Hamels. However, as we saw last night with the Mets' Wilmer Flores at Citi Field, some rumors ain't worth a damn.

Frankly, I am surprised that, in this social media age, something like this hasn't happened before. No one will ever forget it. Hopefully it doesn't happen to another player. Hopefully another player won't get "wilmered."

Of course, everyone's asking why Terry Collins didn't know about the trade, or lack thereof.  My guess is that the trade was nixed before the lineup card was made out. If that wasn't the case, then the Mets are even more dysfunctional than I thought.

One more day of deals and rumors of deals, folks. Hold on to your hats.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Yankees Bullpen Day Works Out Well In Short & Long-Term

Last night, way back in the bottom of the 1st inning, right around when Chris Capuano was pulled from the game after 0.2 IP, 42 pitches and just 18 strikes, and before the Yankees offense put up some truly impressive offensive numbers, Yankees writer Bryan Hoch tweeted the following quote that he attributed to John Sterling:

“In baseball, you play so many games, sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war.”

The point of the quote was, yes, the Yankees were taking a risk of losing a game started by Chris Capuano from the outset, but the benefits for the starting rotation made that potential loss more than worth it.

Here’s the current fragile state of the Yankees starters: Masahiro Tanaka has missed time on the DL and is pitching with a partially torn UCL. Ivan Nova was pulled yesterday with arm fatigue and, though he downplayed it, Nova is coming off Tommy John surgery and still needs to be careful. CC Sabathia is getting older and has a bad knee. Michael Pineda has been injured every year he has been with the Yankees, has never thrown 200 innings in a season and is already at 118.0 IP for the year. As for Nathan Eovaldi, well, he seems fine actually, but if you can get him some rest then why not?

The starting rotation is the Yankees' weakest link. As Bernadette pointed out yesterday, the offense has saved starters on more than one occasion. The Yankees bullpen has also shouldered more than their fair share of innings, with starters often failing to go deep into games.

So, if those starters can be kept healthy and effective as the Yankees play through the summer, then that’s for the benefit of the entire team. So, yes, maybe Joe Girardi will sacrifice a game or two with a bullpen day but, if it gets those starters the occasional breather then so be it.

Of course the Yankees offense silenced the critics of this plan (for a night anyway) by putting up 21 unanswered runs against Texas Rangers pitching. This wasn’t even a chip away game. They scored 11 runs in the half inning after the Rangers scored their five, and just kept slugging from there.

The star of the game was Diego Moreno, who relieved Chris Capuano after just being called up, and no hit the potent Rangers offense for 5.1 IP.  (In fact, the Rangers didn't get a hit after Capuano left the game. That's 8.1 IP of no hit ball.) Moreno absolutely earned the win, his first in the Major Leagues, with his stellar performance.

Offensively Didi Gregorius (4-for-5, 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored) and Chris Young (3-for-5 with a Grand Slam) set the pace for the team but, really, this was a team effort. Aside from Mark Teixeira--who may have suffered some karmic effects for his unprofessional behavior during and after yesterday's game--starters had at least one hit and one RBI. 

The Yankees simply had no intentions of losing last night's game. 

The point from the 1st inning still stands though. Even if the Yankees had lost this game, Girardi made the right call by inserting a sixth starter for a turn through the rotation. The Yankees have built themselves a bit of a cushion and, if keeping the starters healthy will help them keep / grow that cushion in the long run, then that’s the right move. Win or lose, it’s the right call. Glad to see Girardi wasn’t afraid to make it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yankees Offense Continues To Bail Out Inconsistent Starting Pitching

Another win for the Yankees last night, another step closer to a return to the playoffs.

The Yankees now have a 7-game lead in the AL East. Everyday they're looking more and more like one of the best teams in baseball. Assuming they grab the division crown, however, how far will they go once Serious October Baseball begins?

They have one of the best offenses in baseball this year. The home runs just keep on coming, A-Rod's birthday blast and Didi's surprising shot the latest to be added to the list, last night. The one-two punch of Ellsbury and Gardner, the power in the middle and, most recently, the contributions from the bottom of the order make this a lineup to be feared. Will it be feared in October?

"Good pitching stops good hitting."  At no time is this maxim more true than during the playoffs. Just look back at the Yankees' recent history during that time. They hit their way into the playoffs, then didn't hit a lick--as John Sterling is fond of saying--during the playoffs.

Put that together with the only truly weak link on this Yankee team, the starting pitching, and it could be a quick playoff exit for the Bronx Bombers this year.

That weak link has been stronger at times, and, at times, has been weaker. For that reason it is hard to gauge the need the team has for starting pitching. Should they go all in for Cole Hamels? Look for a Brandon McCarthy type? Stand pat? It really is hard to say.

Less than five days to go before the trade deadline.What happens before then will determine what happens in October.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Yankees Continue To Win Series, Must Keep Eye On Division Foes

The New York Yankees are pure fun to watch right now. Whether it’s winning close 1-run games (they played in five straight coming out of the All-Star Break and won four of them) or blowing out the opposition (they won three of their last four games and each win was three runs or higher) the Yankees are finding ways to win series.

Excluding the series against the Angels, which concluded on July 1, the Yankees have won every series this month including a sweep of the division rival Baltimore Orioles. They have built a healthy 6.5 game lead in the A.L. East, and are 13 games above .500. Not only are they playing well, but they are getting valuable contributions from even their back-up players.

John Ryan Murphy won the game for the Yankees on Saturday night by hitting a 3 run HR off name brand Twins closer Glen Perkins, and Garrett Jones, who last played on July 18, came through with a bases loaded single to give the Yankees a lead they would never relinquish in Sunday’s game.

Even Stephen Drew, he of the sub .200 batting average, added in a HR for good measure,

Based on these results, Brian Cashman could be forgiven for standing pat as the July 31 trade deadline draws near. The potential problem is, will their A.L. East opponents do the same? Based on run differential, the Yankees are third in the A.L, trailing the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays are leading not just the division but the entire American League. Somehow they are just at .500, but history tells us that will even out over time.

The Blue Jays have missed the playoffs every year since 1993 and, given the two Wild Cards, the overall parity in the American League and the fact that the core of their team is not getting any younger, there’s nothing to suggest that the Blue Jays won’t go for broke this year. If they get some pitching they will be nothing short of dangerous, and the Yankees play them 10 more times this year, all after the deadline.

Similarly, the Orioles are a powerful team, ranking fourth in the American League in HRs. They have struggled badly recently, going 4-6 in their last 10, including the three game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, but could go on a run at any time given the talent they have in their line-up. The Yankees have six games left against them, including the final series of the season.

If either of these teams make a steadying move over the next week it could make the Yankees job a lot harder in the upcoming weeks.