LADY AT THE BAT

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thoughts On Yankees Pitching, After A Rain Out & Beyond

The schedule makers for MLB always seem to throw quirky things in to each team's schedule. The Royals and Yankees began their season series of seven games in Kansas City on May 16 and were scheduled to play the last of those seven games on Thursday afternoon, May 25 in the Bronx. Now, because of Thursday's rain out, they will play that final game as a one game series at the beginning of the season's final home stand on September 25.

So much for playing the entire season series of seven games in ten days. The postponement made me think ahead to the next game, which is tonight at home with Oakland in town, and also four months down the road when the makeup game will be played.  My thoughts today will be limited to the overall state of the pitching staff.

Of immediate concern is tonight's game, when Joe Girardi will give the struggling Masahiro Tanaka the ball, hoping to get well beyond the three and fewer innings that Tanaka has given in his last two starts. The good news is the rain out gives Tanaka an extra day of rest. Tanaka will still be at home where he seems to do better and will be facing the Athletics, not one of the most prolific lineups in the game. We're told, perhaps ad naseum, that Tanaka is healthy and is just needing to "simplify" his approach. So all should be well in Yankeeland following Tanaka's Friday performance?

We'll see.

With the mention of the makeup game between the Royals and the Yankees being rescheduled exactly four months down the road, to September 25, I cannot help but wonder what the Yankees status will be by then. Maybe they will have clinched the division and will hand the ball to somebody just up from AAA, say Chance Adams perhaps? Or, the Yankees might be in a fight for a playoff spot and every game will matter. It could also be that the Yankees fade away as the season progresses and the lineup on September 25 will be filled with just kids from the farm, trying to make an impression for next year.

We know this Yankees team, if they struggle, won't go down easily. They enter the Oakland series in first place in the AL East with a 27-17 record. The rotation the last time around received solid starts from all of  Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino. We're just waiting for Tanaka to claim his rightful ace status in this rotation, and perhaps the rotation will be clicking on all cylinders as the calendar turns to June.

The loss of Aroldis Chapman hurts, but it appears Dellin Betances is indeed cut out to be the team's closer for awhile. Setup man Tyler Clippard is solid in that role, but the mix of Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, Chad Green and the rest must hold down the fort in the 7th inning, or if a starter makes an early exit (or another 18 inning game comes along as was the case a few weeks ago at Wrigley).

Which brings us to thoughts of what upgrades the Yankees make, if any, before the July 31 deadline. Starting pitching has been mentioned on many sites I follow but, barring injury, will there be a need to add another quality starter? Who then  gets demoted to the bullpen to make room? Only Montgomery and Severino have options to be shipped to the minors which doesn't seem plausible at this point. If a need presents itself, the other problem in acquiring a quality starter is the asking price. The Pirates' Gerrit Cole and the White Sox' Jose Quintana are not going to come cheap. The asking price for either starter will be prospects, probably three in the Yankees' top five, though likely excluding number one prospect Gleyber Torres. Seems more likely GM Brian Cashman would trade for a veteran rental, at a lower price or just look to promote someone from AAA, like Adams or Domingo German, if the need arises. 

The bullpen also may be an area the Yankees upgrade before the deadline. Anybody have a lefty specialist they are willing to move? I think the bullpen will be the focal point for a mid season pitching acquisition.

One More Tanaka Thought
I recently read a comment on a fan site suggesting the Yankees should let Masahiro Tanaka walk at the end of the season. But Tanaka is not a free agent this season. It bears repeating: Tanaka can opt out of his current contract with the Yankees. That will only happen if he pitches well enough to get an extension by opting out. If Tanaka cannot be assured of a better deal from the Yankees or any other team by opting out, then he remains signed with the Yankees through 2020 with a full no trade clause to boot. Pitching inconsistently or poorly will only guarantee Tanaka stays in the Bronx for three more season after this year. A decision by the Yankees whether to sign Tanaka or let him go to another team only occurs if Tanaka pitches so well he can opt out and can expect a big payday.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sevy, Yanks Win Big While YES Makes Odd Decision

After Tuesday night's bullpen debacle, the Yankees really needed length from Luis Severino. He did not disappoint: 8.0IP, 4H, 0R, 0ER, 1BB, 7K. Dellin  Betances struck out the side in the ninth, completing the shut-out against the Royals, 3-0.

Severino seems to have come full circle now. After breezing through the minor leagues, and pitching so well in his 2015 debut season there was talk he should start the AL Wild Card Game, Sevy had a lost 2016. There was talk of giving up on him as a starter and converting him into a power arm out of the bullpen. The debate about it was more than heated, but the Yankees didn't listen to it. They kept him in the rotation and, it looks like they made the right decision.

So now, what about Masahiro Tanaka? He pitches the series finale today. The Yankees are convinced he is not hurt, and manager Joe Girardi has said he doesn't want to turn him into Spider-man. (An MRI reference, I guess.)  Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has spoken about going back to basics. Play-by-play announcer Michael Kay is surprised this is needed, having called Tanaka a wizard. (Or, was it a magician? I forget.)

In any case, big start for Tanaka today. Since it's a day-game-after-a-night-game, I'm assuming he'll be caught by Austin Romine,with whom he has had better results this season. We shall see.

The (Lack Of A) Net Bites Again
Late in the game, a young boy was hit in the forehead with Chris Carter's broken bat. He was treated by Stadium medical personnel and carried out (while conscious) holding an ice pack to the wound, as nearby fans applauded.  However, if you were watching the YES Network, you knew only that "someone" had been hit with the bat. Kay said, "That's the reason for the delay." YES cameras showed nothing, and nothing more was said about it. If WFAN's Chris Moore hadn't complained on Twitter about a lack of professionalism on the part of YES, I would have been none the wiser.

A Royals fan saw my exchange with Moore and tweeted that the Royals broadcast on Fox Sports KC also showed nothing, prompting Moore to suspect there was a new MLB policy, perhaps to keep ticket sales from dropping. But the fan then reported that Fox Sports KC did show the fan being carried out. Watch it here.

So why did YES choose a) not to show what happened, and b) to basically not talk about it?  Kay has had a soap box for this topic for several years, but he was virtually mum last night. Was Chris Moore right? Or was it what Royals fans tweeted, that it wasn't shown out of respect for the little boy?

Very odd. Hopefully we'll get to the bottom of it all very soon.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Yankees Lose As Bullpen Spoils It For Montgomery

Joe Girardi has made some pretty dumb moves in his managerial career with the Yankees. A lot of them have involved the bullpen. However, I wouldn't be so quick to blame him for last night's loss.

It was pretty clear that Jordan Montgomery had begun to run out of steam, especially after the rope Eric Hosmer hit off him, following Lorenzo Cain's home run. It was only a one-run lead at that point, and the bullpen had been money lately. Unfortunately, the bank was robbed last night. Four home runs and two innings later, Montgomery was stuck with a no-decision and the Yankees with a 6-2 loss.

It's hard, but you have to focus on the bright spot in this game  Montgomery could have just made excuses for his loss in Kansas City last week ("I'm young." "It was my first time pitching on national TV.") Instead he put the blame on himself and turned things around in his very next start, against the very same team. His sparkling line: 6.2IP, 2H, 1ER, 0BB, 6K. The Yankees have a lot to look forward to with Jordan Montgomery.

Then again, that's what we all said about tonight's starter, Luis Severino. Severino fell into a valley last year and is only now climbing out of it. The same may not happen with Montgomery, but don't be surprised if it does.