Friday, July 24, 2015

GARDY GOES .... PEARLY?



As in pearly white shoes. Personally, I think the whole thing is overblown. But apparently wearing white baseball cleats is a high crime in baseball. Brett Gardner has been officially and unofficially warned about wearing the offending shoes during a game ever again. You can't make this stuff up.


"Several warnings already," Gardner said. "Unofficial and official. From the bottom all the way to the top, so, it was a one-time thing." He said the warnings came from the league and from the team.


It all happened during Sunday's game. Brett Gardner, in his first ever All-Star game, was given the cleats as a gift. He liked them, but couldn't wear them because the American League was in visitors uniform. So he brought them to the clubhouse upon his return. C.C. Sabathia saw them and liked them too. So much so that he made him wear them during his start on Sunday day.  "Hey um, if you don't have those white shoes on, you keep your little a** inside". Hey, that's what I would have said! Who hasn't had that happen to them? You see something you think looks cool and you want to wear it. You put on that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirt and you wear it out in public, and you coax your family into wearing it too. Okay, that almost never happens. But you get the point.


It made the news that he wasn't fined. Wow. I could point out that baseball saw players do steroids, cheat on their wives, drink excessively, and always looked the other way. Or that the trade deadline is.coming up and we have some moves to make. Or that ... you know ... we're in a pennant race and need to win. Don't worry. I'll have to remember to delete those last few sentences before I publish this article, otherwise that could stir up controversy.


To finish this up, I have some good news to report. Some reporter actually asked Joe Girardi about the situation. He assured us that it's taken care of. Thank God. I'll be able to sleep peacefully tonight.


Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

Thursday, July 23, 2015

FROM YANKEE STADIUM... WITH LOVE


It's never a bad day at the ballpark when you're there with friends. That's what I think anyway. So when the opportunity came to spend a Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium with my fellow BYB writers, of course I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn't want to spend a day hanging with baseball writers, at a baseball game, talking baseball?


After the opening festivities and Roll Call, we got to baseball. I'm the type that likes to get into the details of the game, like batting stances, pitch selection, the position of players in the field. I've noticed that for the casual fan this can get annoying sometimes. Not so when you're sitting next to a baseball genius like Jeana Bellezza. We got to talking about pitching arm angles and noticing how a slight drop was producing base hits and home runs. Then when Brett Gardner came to bat and his entrance music was blaring over the speakers, I said something about how it reflected the fact that he grew up in the South. "Holly Hill, South Carolina". You can't make this stuff up. I imagine that Jeana's house has a war room filled with player profiles pinned to the walls, but I digress. We endured the lack of Yankees hitting and the Robinson Cano home runs, though we did enjoy the serenading of Nelson Cruz toward the end of the game.


We got the families involved in the day too. Jeana brought her mom Linda and I brought my wife Heather. It was Heather's first time at a BYB gathering, and having her meet the gang was extra special for me.  Linda is a great lady who is always ready to share her thoughts and has decades of experience watching the Yankees. Erica Morales, another baseball genius, along with her husband Richie joined us later for dinner. It's hard to put into words what it was like sharing war stories, talking baseball, talking fantasy baseball, talking more baseball, and just sharing life.


It was the kind of day you hope to recall years later in a moment of nostalgia, of time spent with family and close friends that you admire and care about. Here at BYB, we talk a lot about family. Whether it's about coaching our kids' Little League, or supporting those in need, we believe in family and the values that go along with that. It impressed me how much it was true in our little group of writers. A bunch of great people, who I met through a common love of baseball and Yankees. I know this wasn't one of my typical pieces. And it wouldn't be an Ike piece without some stats, so here goes. The temperature almost reached 90 degrees, and the humidity reached close to 80%. It was a hot, humid day and it was brutal to be outside. The Yankees didn't even win. But it was a great day to be at the ballpark. I was there with friends.

Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

Sunday, July 19, 2015

THE REFSNYDER FACTOR


As the Yankees went into the final series before the All-Star break, Rob Refsnyder got the chance of a lifetime and took the field as a major league ballplayer. Now it appears that he will get the chance to keep that job, as he will stay with the club as the Yankees head into the second half of the season. That would be good news, as the Yankees desperately need some hitting. The especially need somebody who can hit above .200 playing second base.


There are a lot of rumors floating around about Refsnyder being trade bait. Honestly, I don't believe it. When you have a kid in the minor league system hitting close to .300 and having an OPS topping out at .800, like Refsnyder is, you would never risk the perceived value by bringing him to the majors and taking a chance on him hitting poorly. You would bring him up because you need a legitimate second baseman. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part because I like the kid.


Regardless of what happens, the fact is that the Yankees need him to be playing second base at the major league level. They suffered through the first half of the season with a second baseman hitting .182 and with a fielding percentage a hair above the league average. Stephen Drew is a backup infielder and occasional defensive substitution, and should not be the easy everyday weak link in the lineup.


Refsnyder was sent down from spring training to work on his defense, and he still has work to do there. In two major league games, he has already recorded his first error and his fielding percentage at AAA of .966 indicates that he has room for improvement. Nevertheless, that may be good enough for what the Yankees need to do down the stretch. It was good enough for Sunday's game where he recorded his first major league home run - a 2 run home run in the 9th inning that turned out to be the difference in the game.


I believe that if the Yankees hang on to Refsnyder, this will have a cascading effect on the entire infield. Knowing that Drew could substitute at shortstop, Didi Gregorius now has the incentive to step up his defense. Even Chase Headley, who has committed an usually high number of errors this year,  can be the victim of a defensive substitution late in the game. The point is that Refsnyder could be the straw that stirs the drink in the infield, and his presence could be the tipping point for the second half. It should be interesting.

Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

Saturday, July 18, 2015

MLB DOMESTIC ABUSE POLICY IS CLOSE


In the midst of the fanfare of the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby, this little nugget came out at the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed that baseball is close to implementing a domestic abuse policy. "I am certain that we will have one that we will announce shortly." 



MLB PA Union chief Tony Clark was quick to chime in though he was less optimistic about how soon it would he announced. "We are closer than we have ever been to getting something in place that makes sense. I couldn't tell you tomorrow or the day after. I can simply tell you that we're close." I take that to mean that the players' union is making sure they protect their players.


I have to say that the Commissioner is certainly making it a point to do the right thing. After seeing the black eye the NFL took when they mishandled this issue, it certainly seems like a wise move. As for me, it can't come soon enough.

Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

Friday, July 10, 2015

THE YANKEES ARE READY TO MAKE A DEAL



In the final stretch of the first half, the Yankees front office is wheeling and dealing for the final adjustments for the second half. The Yankees have their eyes on a few players, to fill some holes in the roster. While the Yankees are in first place, there are plenty of needs that need to be met if they’re going to go to the playoffs and compete well. The starting rotation is inconsistent at best, and more than half of them are recovering from serious injuries - something the Yankees can hardly afford. The bullpen is overworked, depending on only a few good pitchers because of disappointing trade acquisitions and rookie call-ups. The team is hitting .254 and holds the fourth worst fielding percentage in the league. Clearly there is room for improvement.


Let's start with the starters. We have reported the news that the YANKS ARE SCOUTING THE HECK OUT OF JOHNNY CUETO. I still wonder whether Johnny Cueto can handle the pressure of playing in New York, but all signs are that the Yankees are trying to decide whether or not they want to pay the inordinately high asking price. They are not the only ones. Somebody might flinch and cough up half the farm, but the Yankees have more cost-effective options. For instance, Jeff Samardzija. There’s something to be said about a starter that has a winning record on a last place team. He has a 0.9 HR/9, 1.7 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, and a career ERA of 3.92. If we’re worried about the bullpen, he is averaging just under 7 innings per start over 17 starts, and 10 of those were Quality Starts. He is on a 1-year contract, and the White Sox are in last place. If we offer them something competitive, and they can get something out of it, I believe he moves. 


There is another diamond in the rough that the Yankees should be looking at, and the name should be familiar. Ian Kennedy is on a 1-year deal and should be available for the right, but not crazy price. Right now he’s 4-8 with a 4.84 ERA, which sounds downright dreadful to the untrained eye. First, smart scouts learn to ignore win-loss records when the team is hitting .239 behind him. Second, Kennedy had 3 bad starts in May that blow up his stats. Take a look at his starts since June 1. In seven starts - five of them Quality Starts - he had a 2.63 ERA, 8.12 K/9, and 1.98 BB/9. Before you point out that he only had two wins during that stretch, note that he had 2 runs or less of support while on the mound in 6 of those 7 starts. Look, I hated it when we gave up on him at age 24, and I still think he has potential.


It’s time to beef up the hitting as well. The most obvious way to improve the hitting is to replace our second baseman, and I am liking Howie Kendrick. He is in his contract year and has gotten some attention from scouts. Nevertheless, while all eyes wanting a second baseman are on Ben Zobrist, the Yankees may be able to pull off a deal here with a little less competition. He’s hitting just under .300, his OPS is just under .800, and his fielding percentage is .991. At age 31, this would be a good deal. 


There are a lot of good deals out there if the Yankees are looking in the right places. The obvious risk is that they will be tempted to give up too much. With a rich farm system, everyone is demanding a huge return. Still, we get the feeling that we are going to see some good moves before the trade deadline. More to come.


Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

Sunday, July 5, 2015

ERIC JAGIELO MAY NEED SURGERY


Eric Jagielo may be headed for arthroscopic surgery on his knee. That's the troubling news coming out of the Trenton Thunder. Jagielo injured his knee sliding into home plate a few weeks ago. At first the team thought it was just a bruise but after an MRI revealed that there is something more significant. The Yankees don't believe that he tore a ligament, however, a second opinion is imminent.


Jagielo was the Yankees' first-round pick in 2013 and was ranked #11 in Yankees minor league system by Baseball America. At age 23, he showed promise as a third baseman and was probably on the Yankees 2016 plan. That or he was going to be bait for a trade deadline deal. Either way, this is a loss for the organization.


Known more for his bat than his glove, he was showing some good power numbers. His OPS of .842 had him on track to complete this third consecutive season of an OPS above .800. He needs to work on his fielding and get his strikeouts down, but the kid's got potential. Even if he needs surgery, it's not the end of the world. After all, Mariano Rivera needed elbow surgery after his third season in the minors and look how he turned out.  Nevertheless, if anything major happens with this, we'll be sure to let you know.


Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

Saturday, July 4, 2015

SABATHIA TO THE BULLPEN - THINK ABOUT IT


Sometime between now and the end of July the Yankees have to make some decisions about the makeup of the team, and what they are going to look like, to make a push for the playoffs. A big part of those decisions is around the starting rotation. Everybody knows that CC Sabathia has been something of a question mark this season. Maybe everyone would be better served if he considered a move to the bullpen.


Now I know what you're thinking. I say the word bullpen and you hear the word demotion. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I think his numbers say that he would do better coming out of the bullpen instead of trying to start and go at least six innings. In his first 16 games in 2015 he ERA is north of 5 and his opponents' batting average is a hair under .300. There doesn't seem to be any pattern to indicate specific weaknesses except one: his performance early in games vs his performance in later innings.


The first time through the lineup, hitters are batting .250 against him with an OPS of .694 - pretty respectable. After that, the batting average jumps to .325 and the OPS jumps to .925. That's significant. Consider that most major league starters are expected to go through the lineup 3 times and you realize that this spells trouble. Let's look at pitch counts. If you accumulate all of his stats for the first 25 pitches of each game he's pitched this season, opponents' batting average is .234 and their OPS is .698. Again, not bad. But from pitch 26 on, again Sabathia's numbers fall off a cliff. Opponents batting average climbs to .321 - almost 80 points higher - and the OPS goes to .897 - almost 200 points higher.  Major league starters typically go a minimum of 80 - 100 pitches per game, so the problem becomes obvious.


Now consider that most relievers pitch 25 to 40 pitches per game and they rarely see a hitter twice. Also, consider that relievers don't have to worry about saving good pitches for the next time they face any particular hitter. He will always be throwing his best stuff in any given  at-bat. It opens up a lot of possibilities if Sabathia is open to the idea. All the scenarios which include trading for starters like Johnny Cueto and bringing up rookies like Luis Severino take on a new dimension.


Dennis Eckersley faced a similar challenge at the end of his career. Or rather, what he thought was the end of his career, until he reinvented himself. Same goes for John Smoltz. After the 1986 season, his 12th in the majors, Eckersley was dumped by the Cubs. You couldn't blame them - in 32 starts he only had six wins. Then Oakland picked him up and converted him into a reliever. A year later he led the American League with 45 saves and came in second in the Cy Young voting. A guy who looked like he was done turned into a premier closer and ended up pitching for 12 more seasons, with a Cy Young and an MVP in 1992. John Smoltz switched from starter to closer for four seasons. In that time, he accumulated 154 saves and came in third in the Cy Young voting in 2002.


All that to say that a switch to a reliever role is not a demotion. It's all in what you do with it, and the numbers show that CC Sabathia could do a lot with that. There are just a few mental hurdles that he, the fans, and the Yankees need to get over. First there's that $23M price tag for this year and $25M for 2016. He would be the most expensive relief pitcher in franchise history. Get over it. You paid what you paid and you got 6 years of starts out of him. For several years, he anchored the staff, and his resume includes a World Series win for us. The price tag itself won't make him a better starter, and maybe your best play is to make him a reliever and get as much value as you can in that role.


The other mental hurdle is being able to recognize that he really cares and that he is doing his best and it is just not working. You can see it in the grimace on his face when he says he can't play at that level anymore. You can see it when he barks at an umpire and gets ejected for arguing a bad call. You can see it when he's the first one charging from the dugout after a pitcher throws at Alex Rodriguez. Believe me - he cares. He wants to win badly and to be a contributing member of the team.


It is painful to watch the end of a hero's career when you can't live up to past expectations. Not everyone gets to have a farewell tour in their final season. It becomes especially aggravating when it's not the final season of your contract and you haven't declared that you're done. Besides, I'm not convinced that he is done.

CC - we love you and will root for you till the end. Just think about it.

Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue