New York Yankees: AL East

Yanks might be strongest of the weak

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24

NEW YORK -- The Yankees might not be good, but they might be good enough.

The beat-up Yankees (53-48) are piecing it together a week into the second half, and it is paying off. They entered Thursday night's Baltimore-Seattle game tied for the AL's second wild-card spot with Robinson Cano's Mariners and just 2½ games behind the Orioles in the AL East. The Yankees are tied with the Toronto Blue Jays (54-49), who come to the Stadium for three this weekend.

It is sort of hard to tell if the second-half Yankees are any better than the .500 first-half club. They just took three of four from the worst team in baseball in a weird series. Somebody had to win each game, and this year, that team has not been the Texas Rangers in most cases.

But that is not the Yankees' issue. They lost the first game of the series with five errors. They needed nearly five hours and 14 innings to win the second. In the third, their grounds crew was their MVP, as poor tarp placement allowed the Yankees to escape a Yu Darvish start with a rain-shortened win after just five innings. Thursday, played in a tidy two-hours, 47 minutes, was of the more conventional variety, 4-2 in nine innings.

[+] EnlargeIchiro Suzuki
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsAre the Yankees beginning to turn the corner?
Well, if conventional, you had the Yankees winning games with Brandon McCarthy, pitching as well as any starter over the past month, on the mound, Chase Headley smashing RBI singles off the right-field wall and Francisco Cervelli swinging like Thurman Munson in his prime.

Add it up, and it left manager Joe Girardi intent on tuning in to the O's and M's on Thursday night.

"I'm sure I'll put it on," Girardi said. "And it will help me go to sleep."

Girardi is sleeping a bit easier because the Yankees have won six of seven after the break. After Thursday, they are an MLB-best 32-20 (.615) in games decided by two runs or less, which is mostly a tribute to Dellin Betances and David Robertson and the way Girardi has used them.

The Yankees might have found a little something with McCarthy and Headley. McCarthy is 4-0 with a 1.72 ERA in his past five starts, three of which have been with the Yankees.

"It is a nice feeling," McCarthy said. "It is the opposite of how I felt earlier this year, where I was a burden on a team. I was the guy holding things up."

Headley has hit in 14 of his past 16 games, batting .322 (22-for-66) over that span. He is starting to feel like himself, he said.

Both have brought a little urgency to the clubhouse, energized by the pennant race.

"I was really at a point where I feel I really wanted more pressure, kind of the fight-or-flight thing," McCarthy said. "I've always responded well to it."

Headley has been in only one pennant race. Back in 2010, his San Diego Padres lost to the San Francisco Giants on the last day of the season to miss October.

"It is a tough pill to swallow, especially if you have been in the league as long as I have and not been in the playoffs," said the 30-year-old Headley, who broke into the majors at 23 years old. "Those opportunities don't come all the time, so you want to take advantage of those."

The Yankees have chances every year. The level of talent is in the eye of the beholder. Most fans and media haven't been impressed with this 2014 club. Headley has never seen anything like it.

"It is certainly far superior than anything I’ve ever been a part of," Headley said. "I don’t say that to knock the guys in San Diego. I have a lot of tremendous friends and teammates over there, but the collection that is in this clubhouse is much different than anything I’ve ever been a part of."

With Brian McCann shifting to first with Mark Teixeira out, Cervelli continues to step up. He played every inning behind the plate of this long series. Cervelli called it no sweat, smiling, saying his season just started since he was out with a hamstring injury for a couple months.

"He is probably as energetic as any player I've got," Girardi said. "He loves to play."

The Yankees need grinders, like Cervelli, if they are somehow going to be one of the strongest of the weak. Being good -- maybe even just OK -- might just be good enough this year.

Ellsbury, Jeter, McCann are failing Yankees

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
Both run-scoring base hits by the Kansas City Royals on Sunday came on balls New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury came close to catching, but couldn’t quite come up with.

On the list of problems the Yankees currently have, Ellsbury’s defense may not rank high. But when the team put up $153 million to get Ellsbury, the Yankees didn’t expect his defensive numbers to be what they are.

Ellsbury ranks 30th in defensive runs saved among the 35 center fielders with the most innings played this season. He’s not catching the balls similar to the one hit by Lorenzo Cain as often as he has in any prior season in his career. He has rated above average on the “deep ball” component of the defensive runs saved stat in every year since 2008. In 2014, he’s well below average.

Now, you’ll probably point out that Ellsbury has made his share of very good catches this season, and that is true. He has 16 “good fielding plays” (think Web Gem nominees) based on defensive evaluations by Baseball Info Solutions (a video scouting service used by teams and media), and should easily surpass the 27 he had last season.

But he has 10 defensive misplays & errors, only three fewer than he had in all of 2013.

Those misplays and just-misses add up over the long run. On Sunday, they contributed to another Yankees defeat.

That’s one of the more fixable problems the Yankees are currently dealing with. (The sample size is small enough to think it could be just a temporary funk, or that adjustments to Ellsbury's positioning could fix things.)

What else is of immediate concern at the moment?

Time to move Jeter down?
Derek Jeter is now 4-for-30 this month, and it has become talk-show fodder that the time has arrived to move Jeter down in the lineup.

That may be warranted. Jeter currently ranks last in the majors in isolated power, a stat that measures a hitter's ability to garner extra bases on his hits (in other words, hit doubles, triples and home runs).

Since getting four hits against the Chicago White Sox on May 25, Jeter has 46 at-bats and only one extra-base hit. His slash line is .174/.191/.196 in that span.

We know that Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long likes to chart a “well-hit average” stat. Our version of that stat (tracked by a company that provides data to teams, including the Yankees) has Jeter with only two balls that registered as hard-hit in his past 11 games.

What’s up with McCann?
Brian McCann is hitting .234 with a .319 slugging percentage and no home runs in his past 15 games.

McCann’s 2014 numbers resemble those from his 2012 season, when he hit .230, with 20 home runs and only 14 doubles, and slugged .399.

The cause of the low batting average is partly McCann’s stubbornness in pulling ground ball after ground ball. He’s 8-for-58 when hitting a ground ball this season, and 2-for-31 when pulling one.

The minimal power is an issue, particularly away from Yankee Stadium, where he has only two home runs in 106 at-bats.

Long may want to take a Curtis Granderson-type approach in dealing with McCann, to help get him back to hooking pitches over the fence (a specialty for the Yankees' previous center fielder).

In the previous four seasons, McCann averaged 10 home runs per season against pitches that were in the lower half of the strike zone and on the outer half of the plate (or off the outside corner). He has only two in 2014.
NEW YORK -- Hiroki Kuroda didn't have much Friday night, but he did have a sense of humor.

After the worst start of his career, Kuroda was asked if it is hard to make adjustments as a 39-year-old pitcher.

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsHiroki Kuroda gave up two home runs Friday night.
"I don't know. This is the first time I've been 39," Kuroda said through his translator, drawing laughter from reporters, after allowing eight runs (six earned) in 4⅔ innings in the New York Yankees' 13-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

Kuroda didn't offer up any excuses, about the cold weather or anything else. But after four pretty good starts this season, this was a clunker. The Angels hit four home runs, two off Kuroda.

"His stuff was a little flat," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Angels started beating up Kuroda in the second inning. They scored three runs on two singles and a double.

"The key moment was in the second inning," Kuroda said. "With runners on first and third, I got ahead 0-2."

Instead of finishing off Hank Conger for the first out, Conger smashed an RBI double for the first run of the game. From there, Kuroda never found his footing.

In the third, Kuroda was one batter away from escaping without allowing a run. He retired the first two batters before a single preceded Ian Stewart's two-run homer. In the fifth, Albert Pujols went deep, and Kuroda was soon gone from the game.

Kuroda has had some weird splits lately. He was 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA in his past 15 home starts. On the road, he is 0-7 in his past nine starts.

He usually has success against the Angels. Before Friday, he was 3-2 with a 2.16 ERA against Los Angeles. He is expected to make his next start on Thursday at home against the Seattle Mariners.

McCann at first: Brian McCann played first base late in the game, for the second game in a row. Could Girardi be prepping McCann for some starts there in place of Mark Teixeira?

"No, no," Girardi said. "You get a little nervous pulling your catcher and not having an extra catcher."

If John Ryan Murphy were to go down, Girardi would have been forced to use someone unaccustomed to catching if he had taken McCann completely out of the game.

McCann hadn't played first base since high school before Thursday's win in Boston. It wouldn't be a shocker if, at some point this season, McCann picks up a start or two at first base if the need occurs.

Thanks, now goodbye: Bruce Billings chewed up some innings for the Yankees' depleted bullpen. Now, he will likely be sent right back down to Triple-A.

Girardi said he would talk about it with GM Brian Cashman on Friday night. Vidal Nuno starts Saturday, and David Phelps can't be used in relief because he is starting on Wednesday.

Kelley in the ninth: The Yankees were down 11 runs with two outs in the ninth inning when Girardi made a pitching change. He brought in Shawn Kelley, who hadn't pitched since Sunday.

"He just hadn't thrown in a while," Girardi said.

Cool with it: Girardi basically always backs his players no matter what. With the Yankees trailing 8-1 in the sixth inning, there were two outs and men on first and second. Carlos Beltran decided to swipe third. He was safe, but Teixeira didn't run on the back end.

Trying to steal in that situation doesn't make much sense, but Girardi said he was fine with Beltran doing so. He was safe, so it didn't matter.

"If they're going to give it to you, we are going to take it," Girardi said.

It was a pretty close play, but Beltran got in there.

Dealin' Dean Anna mops up

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Dean Anna is a shortstop by trade and a ball player by nature, but he hadn't thrown a pitch, he figured, since he was an 11-year-old Little Leaguer back in Harvey, Ill.

So when New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi told him Saturday night that he was his eighth-inning guy, Anna wasn't quite sure what to think. Or to feel.

[+] EnlargeDean Anna
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDean Anna was forced to pitch Saturday night, which is not exactly how Joe Girardi drew it up.
Anna knew it wasn't an opportunity, or an honor, since the Yankees were in the midst of being crushed 16-1 by the Tampa Bay Rays -- although the score was a mere 14-1 when Anna got the call.

And when he left the mound, after a relatively quick, but not uneventful, inning, here was his self-assessment: "I thought I did all right. I thought I was going to hold them to the last two, but then a guy got a base hit. I don't really remember it anymore."

By the numbers, Anna struck out as many batters as Dellin Betances (zero), allowed one-quarter of the runs allowed (two) by starter Ivan Nova, got one swing-and-miss (on a 60 mph pitch to James Loney) and extended the misery of David DeJesus, who came to the plate zero for his past 22 and left 0-for-23 after popping out to the infield.

"Oh, nice," Anna said. "I guess I did my job."

But Anna knew the truth: "When you see me in there, it's not a good day for us."

This was a miserable day for the Yankees. Nova allowed eight runs, including four home runs, and left in the fifth inning with an elbow injury, the severity of which has yet to be determined. He was followed by Matt Daley, called up earlier in the day, then allowed six runs (although only four were earned), including a long home run to Wil Myers.

Betances wasn't charged with any runs but had a recurrence of the control problems that periodically plague him, issuing a bases-loaded walk to Ryan Hanigan. When Betances finally ended the seventh inning by striking out DeJesus, Girardi decided to save the remainder of his bullpen for Sunday's series finale, which will be started by emergency starter Vidal Nuno.

That's when Girardi approached Anna and told him he would be the first Yankees position player to take the mound since last May 15, when Girardi called upon another shortstop, Alberto Gonzalez, to get the final out of the ninth inning in a game the Yankees were losing 12-2 to the Seattle Mariners. Gonzalez obliged by getting Robert Andino to fly out to center field.

Girardi had specific instructions for Anna: "Just do not get hurt. Lob it in. I don't want to have to come out there and yell at you because you're throwing too hard. Just play catch." Anna followed the instructions to the letter. He threw 17 pitches, 14 of them for strikes.

"Someone told me I topped out at 72 [miles per hour]," he said, laughing. "I probably could have hit 85 or 86 if I aired it out."

After suffering the embarrassment of the swing-and-miss, Loney stroked a single to right. Myers then doubled to left, sending Loney to third. After getting Sean Rodriguez to pop out and Logan Forsythe to line out to left, Hanigan delivered the two-run single that drove Anna's ERA to 18.00, from which it will likely never retreat.

"When I do lessons back home, that's actually how I throw: just a nice little flick in there," said Anna, who works with young ball players at a baseball camp near Chicago in the offseason. "It was actually pretty easy throwing strikes and stuff like that, but it's not fun when I'm out there. Not fun at all."

Rapid Reaction: Rays 16, Yankees 1

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse than Fright-day Night at the Trop, along came Shudder-day Night.

In what was, statistically, the worst performance by a New York Yankees starter in a century, and maybe the worst all-around team performance in a decade, the Yankees got crushed 16-1 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

How bad was it? So bad that Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to turn to infielder Dean Anna to pitch the eighth inning.

And compared to the professional pitchers who preceded him, Anna wasn't all that bad. In fact, he was better than Matt Daley and a whole lot better than Ivan Nova.

The gory details:

No good: Nova had a nightmare of a game, allowing a career-high four home runs, including two to Ryan Hanigan, the No. 9 hitter in the Rays lineup.

Nova then left the game at an opportune moment -- two on, none out and Evan Longoria at the plate -- in the fifth inning with what was announced as "right elbow soreness." Two starts back, Nova allowed seven earned runs in 3⅔ innings against the Baltimore Orioles.

Historic performance: According to Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats & Info, Nova is the only Yankees starter in the past 100 years to allow at least eight earned runs and four home runs in four innings or fewer.

Archenemy: The Yankees have now faced Rays starter Chris Archer four times, lost four times and scored a grand total of four earned runs in 28⅔ innings (1.35 ERA). On Saturday, Archer worked into the seventh inning, allowing just three hits (one an infield single) and one run.

Long gone: Who else but Longoria would hit the most impressive homer of all, a moon shot off a first-pitch curveball that nearly hit the top of the dome before landing on the furthest catwalk from home plate, way back in the left-field seats? Ben Zobrist was aboard, giving the Rays a 4-0 lead in the third inning. It gave Longoria the all-time Rays franchise lead, which, if you've seen him hit against the Yankees, you would have thought he already had.

The Daley Double: Wil Myers hit his second home run of the game, a three-run shot, off Daley, who was called up Friday night from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi left Daley in for mop-up duty, but after he allowed four more runs, the manager mercifully pulled him and brought in Dellin Betances with one out in the sixth.

What's next: The series finale on Sunday afternoon. Vidal Nuno (0-0, 14.54 ERA) gets the spot start for the Yankees, opposed by lefty Cesar Ramos (0-1, 7.50). First pitch is at 1:40 p.m.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- By this time tomorrow, the Yankees should be announcing the reinstatement to their roster of Mark Charles Teixeira, their $23-million-a-year first baseman who is expected to be ready to return after a 15-day stay on the disabled list with a hamstring strain.

That means there will be one infielder too many on the Yankees roster, and someone will have to go.

Rest assured, it will not be Yangervis Solarte.

[+] EnlargeYangervis Solarte
AP Photo/Steve NesiusYangervis Solarte won't be leaving the Yankees lineup anytime soon.
The 26-year-old rookie, whose formidable skill set somehow eluded the detection of the Minnesota Twins organization for six minor league seasons and the Texas Rangers for two more, is among the leading hitters not only on the Yankees roster, but in the American League. He started Friday night's game leading the AL in batting (.373), on-base percentage (.448), slugging percentage (.569), doubles (seven) and hits (19).

So he's not going anywhere soon. The slipper might yet fall off in this Cinderella story, but he's already done too much for the Yankees to be in any hurry to pull the plug on him.

However, when Teixeira comes back, he's going right back to first base. That means Kelly Johnson is going back to third. Derek Jeter is a fixture (no jokes, please) at shortstop. And Brian Roberts was signed to play second base -- most days anyway.

So where does Solarte fit in, and who sits to make room for him?

"I’ll worry about that when we get there," manager Joe Girardi said. "The kid has played great, there’s no doubt about it. If you’re playing well -- and you’re playing extremely well -- you’re going to continue to play someplace."

Girardi agreed that it was unusual that a player who appears as poised and accomplished as Solarte has in his first 17 big league games could have been overlooked by not one, but two major league organizations over a period of eight years.

But he refused to take the bait that somehow what Solarte has shown the Yankees is an illusion and that eventually, and inevitably, he will return to being the player that never impressed either the Twins or the Rangers enough to take a chance on him. The Rangers, in fact, allowed him to leave as a minor league free agent, and the Yankees scooped him up.

"Some guys are late bloomers," Girardi said. "It’s a short sample, I understand that, but it seems like the kid has an idea of what he’s doing. Sometimes, you wonder how a guy doesn’t get an opportunity."

So far, he has shown an ability to play two infield positions -- second and third -- and Girardi said he would even consider using him at shortstop "in a pinch." So badly did the Yankees want to find a role for him this spring that they even tried him in left field. An added plus is that he's a switch-hitter who has shown equal ability from each side of the plate.

"There are those days you think, 'Is there a day he’s not going get a hit?' and he finds a way to get a hit," Girardi said. "He’s just been really consistent with what he’s done. No matter where we’ve played him, third or second, he’s done a good job for us. He has not been fazed by his surroundings at all. You think about some of the people that he’s probably looked up to over the years watching them play. He’s sitting next to them now performing at an extremely high level."

So there's no question he will continue to play. He will even play tonight, I would bet, even though he fouled a ball off his left shin in the seventh inning last night and was dragging a huge bag of ice on his lower leg in the clubhouse afterward.

When asked Solarte if he was OK to play, he laughed. "I'm fine, fine," he said.

He's come too far to allow something as minor as a bruised shin to keep him out of the lineup.

He'll be in there, all right. The question is where, and in place of whom?

Question: When Tex returns, who should Yangervis Solarte replace in the Yankees infield, Kelly Johnson or Brian Roberts?

Tonight: The Yankees need length out of Ivan Nova (2-1, 5.94 ERA) after the bullpen meltdown in Friday's 11-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Nova faces right-hander Chris Archer (1-1, 4.50) in Game 3 of this four-game series. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.

Bullpen 'hiccup' could sink Yanks

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Manager Joe Girardi called it "a hiccup," but it was more like a hemorrhage: four pitchers, two innings, eight earned runs.

That was what the Yankees bullpen did Friday night after having strung together seven stellar games and 15⅓ scoreless innings.

A hiccup, of course, is just a momentary annoyance. A hemorrhage is often fatal. Girardi better hope he is right and that what happened to David Phelps, Matt Thornton, Adam Warren and, worst of all, Cesar Cabral in Friday night's 11-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays is something that can be cured simply by holding your breath.

Otherwise, it's too scary to contemplate.

[+] EnlargeCesar Cabral
AP Photo/Steve NesiusHow bad was Cesar Cabral on Friday? He lost his job immediately after the game.
After all, any relief pitcher can have an off night. But when just about every relief pitcher that enters a game has an off night, well, that means the entire bullpen has had an off night, and no team can afford to have many of those.

Yes, it's early in the season; yes, it's only one game; and, yes, the Yankees are still 11-7 and on top of the AL East by a game.

But for one night at least, all the preseason fears about the bullpen came true -- in living color -- and probably worse than anyone could have imagined.

Cabral was the worst of all. He faced six batters without getting a single out, allowing three hits, three runs, hitting three batters, throwing a wild pitch and getting ejected after the third hit batsman by plate umpire Joe West, who was probably acting to protect the Rays hitters. Certainly, Girardi had no such intentions; he fully planned to leave Cabral out there as long as possible so as not to have to use Shawn Kelley, his interim closer while David Robertson's groin strain heals.

Cabral was so bad he lost his job. The Yankees announced after the game he had been designated for assignment and would be replaced on the roster by Matt Daley, a right-handed reliever from Long Island.

But Warren, who had been so good Girardi was talking about him as a permanent late-inning reliever, wasn't much better than Cabral. He worked an inning and allowed three runs on four hits, including the back-breaker: Sean Rodriguez's long, two-run home run that turned a 6-5 game into an 8-5 game, effectively putting it out of reach.

In descending order, there was Phelps, who faced three batters and gave up a hit that turned into a run, and Thornton, who faced two hitters and allowed a single and got one out only because Yunel Escobar made a baserunning mistake that allowed Derek Jeter to throw him out at third. Thornton, too, got charged with one run in the Rays' three-run seventh.

But the real problem was that neither Phelps nor Thornton ever appeared capable of regaining control of the game once the Rays started threatening. And without Dellin Betances, who worked two innings on Thursday, and Vidal Nuno being saved for a spot start on Sunday, Girardi had no choice but to leave Warren out there longer than he should have, and to even bother going to Cabral.

(Read full post)

TORONTO -- On a normal night, Jacoby Ellsbury's three-hit, two-double, two stolen-base night would be back-page material. So would rookie Yangervis Solarte's three RBIs on a pair of doubles. How about Ichiro Suzuki, a Hall of Famer reduced to the role of bench player, going 3-for-5 and raising his early season batting average to .556?

But this was anything but a normal night, and, unfortunately for Ellsbury, Solarte and Ichiro, they finished in a triple dead heat for third-place money.

All three were overshadowed by Masahiro Tanaka's gutsy performance in his first major league start and the hamstring injury that might set Mark Teixeira down for a lengthy period of time.

Still, all three had nights worth mentioning, and, by the way, did I mention Ellsbury's sparkling sliding catch on Dioner Navarro's bloop to shallow center in the sixth?

"Obviously, I’ve had to see it from the other side a number of times," manager Joe Girardi said of Ellsbury. "He did everything tonight. He hit. He stole bases. He made a great catch in center field, and that’s why we went and got him, because that's what he's capable of doing. He’s a game-changer."

As for Solarte, he started the game at second and moved to third in the second inning when Teixeira was forced to leave and Kelly Johnson had to move from third to first.

"He's stepped in and done a really good job," Girardi said. "We saw it in spring training, but you never know what’s going to happen when the second and third deck get out there and the bright lights turn on and you’re in a big league game. But he has picked up right where he ended in spring training."

Dean Anna also made his first big league start tonight, going 1-for-4 with a walk and playing a solid shortstop in place of Derek Jeter, who had a scheduled day off. Anna made a sparkler of his own, ranging to his right to snag Adam Lind's grounder and spinning and firing to Teixeira for the out.

Super-sub: Johnson, who is not only the starting third baseman but also the emergency infielder at the three other positions, will now take over the first-base job until Teixeira comes back -- if it is soon -- or until the Yankees make a personnel move if Tex winds up on the disabled list, which seems likely.

Asked if he was prepared for the shift, Johnson said, "I'm going to have to be. Just like anything else, I'm going to get more comfortable as I play more over there."

Johnson also had two hits tonight, including a seventh-inning triple.

Tipping point: The Yankees teed off on Jays starter Dustin McGowan, with five hits in the first inning, and both McGowan and manager John Gibbons thought they knew why: They believe McGowan was tipping his pitches. "If he was, I didn't notice," said Ellsbury, who doubled and singled before McGowan was lifted in the third.

High-water mark: The Yankees had 16 hits tonight, the most of the brief season so far. Obviously.

Low voltage: The Yankees, sometimes known as The Bronx Bombers, have yet to hit a home run this season.

Top stats to know: Carlos Beltran

December, 20, 2013
What should you know about Carlos Beltran from a statistical perspective?

He’s going to enjoy Yankee Stadium.
Check out the difference in dimensions between Busch Stadium and Yankee Stadium in the image below.
Image courtesy Greg Rybarczyk,

Then consider this: Beltran hit 32 home runs at home the last two seasons, only one fewer than Yankees slugger Robinson Cano, and Beltran was hitting in a ballpark much less friendly for left-handed hitters.

That should also help Beltran from a defensive perspective as he’ll have considerably less ground to cover when he plays right field. Beltran rated below average there last season, with minus-six Defensive Runs Saved.

Durability should not be a concern
Yes, Beltran was injured in 2009 and 2010. And yes he has to rest occasionally, but he plays and plays a lot. He’s averaged 146 games and 137 starts over the last three seasons.

Liking the No. 2 spot
Much like former Yankee Curtis Granderson, Beltran has enjoyed the role of the No. 2 hitter, especially in the last two seasons.

This has been most noticeable against right-handed pitching. Consider these two splits from 2012 and 2013.

Beltran vs. right-handed pitchers as No. 2 hitter:
.331 batting average, .388 on-base percentage, 25 home runs in 344 at-bats

Beltran vs. right-handed pitchers in other slots:
.258 batting average, .334 on-base percentage, 15 home runs in 449 at-bats

Postseason stud
Beltran has a .333 batting average, .445 on-base percentage and .683 slugging percentage in postseason play.

The only player with at least 75 plate appearances to finish their career with numbers that good is Lou Gehrig (.361, .482, .731).

Beltran has hit 16 home runs in 180 postseason at-bats. His rate of one home run every 11.3 postseason at-bats rates second-best among active players, trailing only Nelson Cruz (one homer every nine at-bats).

Double shifted
Add Beltran to the list of Yankees who will likely see their share of infield shifts.

Beltran may actually be shifted when he’s hitting both left and right-handed.

You can look at both spray charts in the image below. Beltran actually warrants the adjustment more as a right-handed hitter than as a lefty.
As a right-handed hitter the last two seasons, he’s hit only seven of 79 ground balls to the right of second base.

As a lefty, he’s hit 23 percent of balls to the left of second base, making him a borderline shift candidate.

The Red Sox didn’t hesitate to shift against him during the World Series and we suspect the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays will do likewise, since they are among the teams that use defensive shifts most often.

Beltran has 358 home runs, the same number in his career as Yogi Berra did. They’re tied with Carlos Lee for 81st all-time.

Beltran’s next homer will tie him with another former Yankee, Johnny Mize and his third homer of the season will even him with Joe DiMaggio.

My Stats & Info colleague Katie Sharp chimed in with a few nuggets of interest:

Beltran played 839 games for the Mets from 2005-11. The only player to play more games for the Mets and then play for the Yankees is Darryl Strawberry (1,109).

If Beltran reaches 30 homers this season, he would be just the third Yankee to hit at least 30 home runs at age 37 or older. Babe Ruth (41 in 1932 and 34 in 1933) and Jason Giambi (32 in 2008) are the only players to do that in pinstripes.

In six career games at the new Yankee Stadium, Beltran is 7-for-19 with two doubles and six walks. His .368 batting and .520 on-base percentage are both his highest at any park where he has played at least five games.

Beltran has yet to hit a homer at the new Yankee Stadium. The only other current stadium that he has played at without a homer is Petco Park (79 at-bats).

Beltran has a .654 OPS in 31 games versus the Rays, his lowest OPS against any team in his career. He has been even worse at Tropicana Field, with .594 OPS and just one homer in 56 at-bats.

Stats to know: Brian McCann

December, 5, 2013
We went sifting through Brian McCann's numbers and trends, looking for meaningful and interesting notes. Here are five we found that struck us as worth sharing.

Home-Run Consistency
McCann has seven seasons with at least 20 home runs, including 2013, when he hit exactly 20 in 356 at-bats.

He’s hit 20 or more home runs in each of the last six seasons. Only three other players whose primary position was catcher have done that -- Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra.

My Stats & Info colleague Katie Sharp also points out that McCann's swing is made for Yankee Stadium. He is the only player to hit at least 17 home runs to right field in each of the last five seasons.

Pitch-framing specialist
McCann has been heralded as a pitch-framing specialist, meaning that he’s able to steal a few extra strikes for his pitchers by positioning pitches such that the umpires call them strikes.

Different studies will show different things with regards to this. Our tools show McCann’s strength to be making sure that pitches in the strike zone are called strikes.

Over the last three seasons, McCann’s pitchers have gotten strike calls on 84 percent of pitches in the strike zone. That’s about four percentage points higher than the major-league average. Our MLB Insider, Jim Bowden, said that McCann excels at this because of a left hand that is steady, with little movement made when catching the pitch.

In fact, McCann ranks sixth-best in that stat among the 70 catchers who caught the most pitches in the strike zone in that span. The catcher right behind him on the list is none other than the player he's replacing as the primary starter, Chris Stewart.

Something to watch: Two-strike success
After a stretch of seasons in which his numbers with two strikes were relatively ordinary, McCann excelled in those situations in 2013. The chart on the right documents the difference.

McCann outperformed his norms in this area in a number of ways.

One particularly noticeable was how he handled the two strike pitches that our pitch-tracking system deemed low and off the outside corner.

Here's what we mean from a visual perspective
McCann cut back on how often he chased that pitch, letting the really bad ones go, and selecting ones that he could punch for hits. From 2010 to 2012, McCann’s success was such that he’d have had three hits per 27 at-bats ending with a two-strike pitch to that area.

He had 11 in 2013.

Can this be duplicated in 2014? We’ll find out.

Expect a lot of shifts
McCann can expect to see a lot of infield shifts, particularly given how every AL East team uses them with a higher-than-normal frequency.

The image on the right is his ground-ball spray chart from last season. McCann hit 106 ground balls last season, with 91 hit to the right of the second-base bag.

The shifted defenses are one reason that McCann’s batting average has dipped a bit. From 2009 to 2011, he reached base 23 percent of the time when hitting a ground ball to the right of second base. In 2012 and 2013, that dropped to 12 percent.

Similar to Mark Teixeira, McCann will not bunt often to defy the shift, but he is capable of doing so if he feels he needs to do so. He’s bunted five times the last three seasons, with his four most recent bunts resulting in base hits.

He finishes slow
McCann finished the 2013 regular season with a .202/.270/.318 batting average, on-base-percentage, slugging percentage combo in his last 36 games, with only four home runs, then went 0-for-13 with six strikeouts in a loss to the Dodgers in the division series.

McCann’s slow finishes have come with the package the last few years. His September-October OPS’ over the last four seasons have been .644, .626, .634, .554.

What was interesting about his 2013 finish is that McCann didn’t start his season until May. He missed the first month recovering from right-shoulder surgery.

Top stats to know: Ellsbury to Yankees

December, 3, 2013

Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsJacoby Ellsbury will be wearing a different jersey the next time he swings a bat in the Bronx.
The New York Yankees would not be left out of a busy Tuesday of baseball transactions.

Media reports have them signing centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million deal.

What Ellsbury brings
Ellsbury's top attribute is his speed. He's led the American League in stolen bases three times, including in 2013 when he stole 52 in 56 attempts.

Ellsbury has only hit 10 or more home runs in a season once, but when he did so, he did in a big way, hitting 32 in 2011.

He should find the short porch of Yankee Stadium to be tempting. Of his 53 home runs in the last five seasons, 48 were hit to right or right center.

Ellsbury also rates as a high-caliber defensive player. The Yankees will have to decide between playing him or Brett Gardner in center field.

Last season, the two played almost the same number of innings at the position.

Ellsbury finished with 13 Defensive Runs Saved, sixth-best in the majors and seven more than Gardner.

Gardner has also shown that he can handle left field well. From 2010 to 2012, he led all leftfielders with 50 Defensive Runs Saved.

Yankees needed to bolster their offense
The Yankees posted a .683 OPS as a team in 2013. That ranked fifth-worst in the majors, barely ahead of the cross-town rival Mets (.672).

The Yankees had ranked in the top three in the majors in OPS in every season from 2009 to 2012.

Ellsbury had a .781 OPS in 2013. Fellow free agent signee Brian McCann was slightly better with a .796 OPS.

Primary concern: Injury risk
The key for the Yankees will be in keeping Ellsbury on the field.

Ellsbury finished with 8.1 Wins Above Replacement in 2011 and 5.8 WAR in 2013, but he missed nearly all of 2010 and more than half of 2012 due to injuries.

That's a lot of money
Ellsbury's seven-year deal would net him an average of $21.86 million per season. That's about a million dollars more than he made in total from 2008 to 2013.

He would be the fourth player to sign a free-agent deal with the Yankees that was worth more than $150 million, joining CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.

The only outfielders to get larger contracts than the total value of Ellsbury's are Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp, each of whom signed eight-year deals worth $160 million.

Did You Know?
There are nine active players with at least 200 stolen bases and an 80 percent success rate on their steal attempts.

The signing of Ellsbury would give the Yankees, at least for the moment, three of them- Ellsbury, Ichiro Suzuki and Rodriguez. Brett Gardner could join that mix this coming season, as he enters with 161 steals and an 81 percent success rate.

Spend Hal's money: Matt Garza

October, 14, 2013
We all know Hal Steinbrenner has set a goal of cutting the Yankees' payroll to $189 million for 2014. Your duty as a Yankees fan is to make sure he doesn't achieve that goal, and our job at is to provide you with reasons to make sure he doesn't. Hey, it's Hal's money, not yours. With that in mind, we are going to examine potential free-agent and trade candidates in a new feature we call, appropriately, "Spend Hal's Money."

Today's candidate: Matt Garza
Position: Starting Pitcher
Age: Turns 30 on Nov. 26
Height: 6-4
Weight: 215
2013 numbers: 10-6, 3.82 ERA, 24 starts for Cubs and Rangers

Expected going rate: Veteran free-agent starting pitchers can be pricey. It would make sense for Garza's agent to point to Garza's former teammate, Edwin Jackson, who got four years and $52 million from the Cubs last season and say "My guy is better than that."

Garza's career numbers are comparable to those of Anibal Sanchez (Sanchez is listed as his fourth-most comparable player on and the Tigers gave Sanchez five years and $80 million this past offseason.

The pros: The good version of Garza is an above-average starting pitcher. Over the past three seasons, he has an ERA of 3.62 and a strikeout-to-walk rate of better than 3-to-1.

He had stretches in which he pitched like a high-end starter, such as his last six starts for the Cubs prior to his trade to the Rangers (1.24 ERA in 43 2/3 innings)

Garza has a good history against the Yankees AL East rivals. He's pitched well in Rogers Centre and decently in Fenway Park and Camden Yards. He beat the Red Sox twice in the 2008 ALCS.

Garza won't cost the Yankees a draft pick. Since he was traded in midseason, he is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer (if the Yankees sign a free agent who receives a qualifying offer, it would cost them a first-round pick).

The Steamer projection for Garza in 2013 per is a 3.94 ERA over 173 innings. That's basically a match for what the Yankees got from Andy Pettitte in 2013.


Should the Yankees spend Hal Steinbrenner's money on Matt Garza?


Discuss (Total votes: 4,221)

The cons: Garza has made 18 and 24 starts the last two seasons due to a pair of injuries (elbow, strained lat), so his ability to stay healthy will be a concern. He typically throws about 20 sliders a game, which can be hard on the arm.

Garza described by his teammates and emotional and ultra-competitive (it was awhile ago, but in 2008 he did get into a fight with his catcher in the Rays dugout) which might not be the best fit for someone prone to giving up home runs who would have to pitch in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium 16 times a year.

Lastly, though there were some free-agent signings last year that looked good in Year 1 (Sanchez and Zack Greinke among them), long-term starting pitcher signings are dicey. There are definitely more Carl Pavanos than Mike Mussinas.

THE VERDICT: Signing Garza would be a bit of a risk, one the Yankees might not be looking to take given their desire to stay under a payroll of $189 million. Our verdict would be to pass on Garza if he's looking for Sanchez-type money, but to put him on their short list if he can be garnered for something closer to Jackson dollars.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Mo: Most dominant athlete ever?

September, 28, 2013
Reuters/Shawn BellMariano Rivera has reigned atop his sport for a long time.
Has Mariano Rivera dominated his role in baseball as much as any player in major American sports?

A case can be made that Rivera has been the most dominant pitcher in MLB history, as dominant a player at his position as such legends Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Jerry Rice and Wayne Gretzky were at their positions.

The case for Rivera

Run prevention
Rivera currently has the lowest ERA since the stat was first tracked in both leagues in 1913 (2.21) among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched. The next-best ERA of any player since World War II is 2.52 by Hoyt Wilhelm. Mariano’s WHIP of 1.00 is also the lowest in the live-ball era.


Which athlete most dominated his position/sport?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,542)

Postseason genius
In the postseason, Rivera was even better, allowing just 11 earned runs in 141 innings, good for a 0.70 ERA which is best all-time among those with at least 50 playoff innings. He faced the best hitters on the best teams in baseball in 96 postseason games -- and held them to this microscopic slash line: .175 BA/.212 OBP/.228 SLG.

Automatic save machine
His 652 saves are the most in baseball history, and no active pitcher is even close. The 38-year-old Joe Nathan is next on the active list and he’s more than 300 saves short of Rivera. From Elias: Rivera has entered a regular-season game with a lead 914 times. The Yankees have gone 868-46 (.950) in those games. In the postseason, he entered 68 games with a lead and the Yankees went 64-4 (.941).

The case for Jerry Rice

Untouchable yardage record
Jerry Rice holds perhaps one of the few seemingly unbreakable records in sports: His 22,895 receiving yards are nearly 7,000 more than No. 2 Terrell Owens. Rice broke 1,000 yards in 11 straight years, from his age-24 season through his age-34 season.

Touchdown machine
He also holds the record for the most touchdowns in NFL history, with 208. Emmitt Smith at No. 2 had 33 fewer. And the active leader in TDs? That’s Tony Gonzalez with half of Rice’s total, at 104.

Did it in the playoffs, too
Rice also holds the NFL playoff record with 22 TDs and has almost 1,000 more playoff receiving yards than anyone in league history. Eight of those playoff touchdowns came in four Super Bowls, of which Rice’s teams won three.

The case for Wayne Gretzky

The Greatest One
His nickname, “The Great One,” might be an understatement. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Gretzky is the holder or co-holder of 61 NHL records: 40 for the regular season, 15 for the playoffs and six for All-Star competition. He won the Hart Trophy for MVP a league-record nine times as well.

Some of those records
Think of any major stat in hockey and Gretzky is the career leader. Most goals by 93, most assists by more than 700 and most points overall by almost 1,000. In fact, if Gretzky hadn’t scored a single goal, he would still be the NHL’s all-time points leader with his assists (1,963) alone. He holds nine of the top 11 scoring seasons in league history, including the top four.

Elected immediately
Gretzky was so good, the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee decided to waive the three-year waiting period for him “by reason of outstanding preeminence and skill.” They also stated he’d be the last player to receive such an honor. Even his number 99 was retired league-wide before his final game.

The case for Tiger Woods

Domination of the tour
At age 37 (he'll turn 38 on Dec. 30), Tiger Woods has won 79 career events on the PGA Tour (Phil Mickelson is the next active leader with 42 wins). Woods is three wins behind the all-time record-holder Sam Snead, who won 82 events on the Tour, the last coming when he was 53 years old.

Despite struggling recently, Tiger has won 14 majors. That number is second all-time to Jack Nicklaus' 18 wins, but Tiger holds the record for largest margin of victory in two of the four majors (15 in the 2000 U.S. Open, 12 in the 1997 Masters). The 15-stroke win in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach is the largest margin of victory by any golfer in major history.

Against the best fields
The World Golf Championships (WGC) are events that have exclusive fields consisting only of the top 50 players in the world, recent tournament winners and members of international competition teams. The best of the best. Tiger Woods has won 18 WGC events in his career. Next on the list is Geoff Ogilvy ... with three.

The case for Michael Jordan

Scoring machine
Jordan’s finest talent was always his scoring ability. He led the league in points each of his 11 fully healthy seasons with the Bulls. At 30.1 points per game, he holds the highest scoring average in NBA history.

The rings
NBA players have always been measured by championships, and Jordan was no exception. It took him until his seventh year in the league, but he led the Bulls to three straight titles from 1991 to 1993, and then after coming back from a stint in minor league baseball, he led Chicago to another three-peat from ’96 to ’98.

The awards
He was a five-time league MVP, a league-record six-time Finals MVP (twice as many as any other player), and he did it on defense, too, as a nine-time NBA All-Defensive first-teamer, tied for the most in league history.

Rapid Reaction: Rays 8, Yankees 3

September, 25, 2013
NEW YORK -- It ain't over 'til it's over, but, today, even Yogi would have to admit, it's over. Because it is.

The Yankees' hopes of sneaking into the second AL wild-card spot, on life support since Sunday's 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, came to its official, merciful end tonight in a second straight lifeless performance against the Tampa Bay Rays.

This one was the second half of the Yankees season in a nutshell: poor starting pitching, unreliable relief pitching and practically nonexistent hitting. On the bright side, Charlie Brown arrived at the ballpark safely and well in advance of the first pitch. And with the Cleveland Indians beating the Chicago White Sox -- with help from a home run by Nick Swisher -- it really didn't matter what the Yankees did, anyway.

Deep sixth: After two strong innings in relief of Phil Hughes, David Huff imploded in the sixth inning, allowing a three-run homer to Evan Longoria and a solo shot to David DeJesus to turn a 3-2 game into a 7-2 runaway. For Longoria, it was his eighth home run this season against the Yankees, more than 25 percent of his season's total of 30, and in just 18 games, which translates into 72 homers over the course of a season played solely against the Yankees. Not quite a Barry Bonds pace, but close enough.

Had his Phil: Girardi had a quick hook on Hughes -- yanking him with none out and the bases loaded in the third -- following a prodigiously bad call by third-base umpire Tim Timmons, who called Longoria safe at third even though Eduardo Nunez had clearly beaten him to the bag after snagging Delmon Young's grounder. But following a double by James Loney and a single by Longoria, Girardi had seen enough and brought in Huff. Hughes' final line as a Yankee: 2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB and 2 K's. How short was his leash? Fifty-one pitches. Hughes' final record? 4-14, 5.19 ERA. Heck of a way to head into free agency.

Could've been worse: Hughes got hit hard in the first inning but escaped with just one run when Alfonso Soriano ran down Young's drive to the wall in left for the last out of the inning. But before that, leadoff hitter Ben Zobrist drove Vernon Wells to the right-field fence for the first out, Wil Myers and Loney laced back-to-back doubles for the first run of the game and the normally sure-handed Brendan Ryan booted a routine grounder. So Hughes was lucky to squirm away down only 1-0.

High Nunie: Nunez, who handles David Price well -- he came in 7-for-25 lifetime against him -- crushed an 0-1 pitch into the left-field seats to lead off the third to (temporarily) cut Tampa's lead to 3-2. Price worked seven innings, allowed two runs on six hits -- two of them to Nunez, who also doubled leading off the Yanks' first.

Long balls: Longoria added a solo HR off Preston Claiborne leading off the ninth. His ninth homer of the season against the Yankees is the most by an opposing player since Jose Cruz Jr. in 2001.

More company for Lou: Robinson Cano's first-inning double off the left-field fence that drove in Nunez to tie the game at one was Cano's 40th double of the season. That gave him 40 or more doubles in a season for the seventh time to tie Lou Gehrig for the franchise record.

Andy's turn: It wasn't exactly Mariano Rivera Day, but the Yankees honored Andy Pettitte -- before a sparse crowd -- at home plate before the first pitch. Pettitte, who made his last Yankee Stadium start on Sunday against the Giants, was given a base from that game, which the Yankees and Pettitte lost 2-1.

Good grief: To the relief of thousands, including members of the Yankees front office, tonight's Charlie Brown bobblehead giveaway went off a lot smoother than Tuesday's Rivera fiasco. Two skids of cartons containing bobbleheads were parked inside the main entrance of the Stadium when the press gate opened at 2 p.m.

What's next: The home season finale pits Ivan Nova (9-5, 3.13 ERA) against RHP Alex Cobb (10-3, 2.90). First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. It's also Mo's last home game as a Yankee. Worth tuning in for. Maybe Girardi will give him an inning in center field.

One Mo Time (Rivera vs. Rays)

September, 24, 2013
Steve Jacobson/Getty ImagesMariano Rivera pitching in Tropicana Field circa 2004, when he recorded his 300th career save there.
This is the final installment of our "One Mo Time" tribute to Mariano Rivera, reviewing his career against every major-league team. To see other articles in this series, click here.

By the Numbers
Career vs Rays

64 saves
2 blown saves
1.71 ERA
105 IP
73 H
113 K
25 BB

Did You Know?
• Mariano Rivera's 64 saves against the Rays are his second-most versus any team (he has 79 against the Orioles) and the most by anyone against the Rays. The three pitchers who rank 2-3-4 in saves against the Rays have a combined 60 saves against them (Jonathan Papelbon, Troy Percival, Joe Nathan).

• Rivera had a streak of 33 straight save chances converted against the Rays from 1998 to 2005 and then a 27-save streak from 2005 to 2011. He's only had two blown saves against them: one in 2005 and one on Opening Day 2012.

The only longer streaks by a pitcher against a team are 37 games, by Lee Smith against the Expos and 36 games by John Franco against the Phillies and Joe Nathan against the Tigers.

Rivera has the two longest save streaks against the Rays. The next-longest is 13 games, by B.J. Ryan and Keith Foulke.

• Rivera's 1.71 ERA in 105 innings against the Rays is the best ERA for any of the more than 100 pitchers with at least 50 career innings against the Rays.

He finished his career with a 1.18 ERA at Tropicana Field, his second-lowest at any ballpark he's visited more than 15 times, and behind his 1.11 ERA at US Cellular Field. His 1.18 ERA there is easily the best by any pitcher than has thrown at least 50 innings at the dome.

• In 2011, Rays hitters went 0-for-14 against Rivera. That's the worst single-season 0-for by a team against Rivera. Rivera has held four different teams to 0-for-10 or worse in the regular season, but the Rays are the only team against whom he’s done so twice (2000 and 2011)

• Rivera has averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings in his career vs the Rays, his highest strikeout rate vs any AL team (except Astros). That is the second-highest strikeout rate against the Rays by any pitcher (min. 100 IP), behind only Pedro Martinez (11.4).

• Rivera didn't allow a homer in his first 45 appearances vs. the Rays from 1998 to 2005, which is easily his longest homerless streak from the start of his career vs. any team. It is also one appearance shy of his most consecutive games without allowing a homer to a team at any point in his career. He has a 46-appearance streak vs. the Rangers and vs. the Royals.

• The first Rays player to homer against Rivera was former ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez. His solo homer in the bottom of the ninth inning on August 16, 2005 tied the game at three runs apiece, as the Rays eventually went on win in the 11th inning. Perez, now the bench coach for the Astros, often spoke of that game as his favorite baseball memory, because he homered against two future Hall of Famers -- Rivera and Randy Johnson.

• Current Rays third baseman Evan Longoria is one of five players to homer twice against Rivera. With a home run in this series off him, he would become the only player to take Rivera deep three times.

• Rivera's 4-6 record vs the Rays matches his worst vs any team he has faced more than 10 times (2-3 vs Royals).

• Rivera's only two blown saves against the Rays have come in Tampa. He's 27-for-27 in save conversions against them at home. He once went more than five years (between 1999 and 2004) without allowing a run at home against the Rays.

• Speaking of home, with this being Rivera's last series in Yankee Stadium, we can tell you that his 314 saves at home are the most all-time, four more than Trevor Hoffman. Rivera's 314 home saves are more than 200 more than the Yankee with the next-most Dave Righetti, 111.

Rivera is also one of only two pitchers to be on the mound for the final out of two World Series clinchers in his home ballpark (1998 and 2009). The other is a former Yankee, Allie Reynolds.

They Said It
"I think of consistency and class and I don't throw the word class around easily. He's different. You can argue over who the best shortstop was, or the best centerfielder. You can't argue about who was the best closer."
-- Rays manager Joe Maddon on Mariano Rivera

Magic Moments
May 7 and May 9, 2002 -- Rivera earns saves against the Rays, the 224th and 225th of his career, tying and passing Dave Righetti for the most career saves in Yankees history.

May 28, 2004 -- Rivera records his 300th career save, getting the final three outs in a 7-5 Yankees win.



Jacoby Ellsbury
.286 14 64 64
HRM. Teixeira 20
RBIJ. Ellsbury 64
RB. Gardner 79
OPSJ. Ellsbury .778
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAH. Kuroda 3.88
SOM. Tanaka 135