DotF: Bird stays hot on rehab assignment in Scranton’s win

Two quick notes to pass along before we get to the games and a standings update:

  • 1B Brandon Wagner made an appearance in today’s Monday Morning Ten Pack (subs. req’d). “Because (his swing) is so quick and efficient, he can wait until balls are deep in the zone before he makes a decision. It’s fun to watch … His swing is in good shape and he should hit as he continues to move up the minor-league ladder. The real question is whether he’ll be able to move off first or hit for enough power to stick at the cold corner,” said the write-up.
  • RHP Juan De Paula was named the Short Season NY-Penn League Pitcher of the Week. He came over in the Ben Gamel trade last year. De Paula allowed one hit and one walk in seven scoreless innings in last week’s start. He struck out seven. So far this year the 19-year-old De Paula has a 3.06 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 47 innings with Staten Island.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Rochester) they are 70-47 and have a 6.5 game lead in the North Division … their magic number to clinch a postseason spot is four, and their magic number to clinch the division is seven

  • LF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • 2B Starlin Castro: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI — played seven innings at second base as scheduled
  • 1B Greg Bird: 2-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB — he played the entire game as scheduled … here’s video of the single and double (the double probably should’ve been caught) … pretty much a vintage Greg Bird minor league game right there … he’s now 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles and two homers in five rehab games
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-4, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing) — 12-for-27 (.444) during his seven-game hitting streak
  • RF Billy McKinney: 3-5, 1 RBI, 1 K — had been in a 3-for-21 (.143) rut
  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4, 1 BB
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 4/5 GB/FB — 61 of 101 pitches were strikes (60%) … he’s up to 138.2 innings this year after throwing 127.1 innings last year
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K — half of his 22 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K — eleven of 18 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Monday Night Open Thread

Did you all catch a glimpse of the eclipse earlier today? I didn’t get a great look at it, mostly because it’s been cloudy here in New York. Still kinda cool though. Anyway, on this night without Yankees baseball, I recommend checking out Sam Miller’s article on the Skunk in the Outfield, a trick play that caused chaos during the 2006 Rhode Island state high school championship tournament. Really great stuff.

Here is an open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network will carry a regional game at 7pm ET. And apparently the (football) Giants are playing a preseason game too. Talk about those games, the eclipse, the Skunk in the Outfield, or anything else right here. Just not religion or politics please.

Prospect Profile: Stephen Tarpley

(Rick Ferry/Pinstriped Prospects)
(Rick Ferry/Pinstriped Prospects)

Stephen Tarpley | LHP

Background

Born in Los Angeles, Calif., Tarpley attended Gilbert High School in Arizona. The lefty was drafted in the eighth round (248th overall) of the MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians. He declined to sign with the Indians, instead opting to attend the University of Southern California (USC).

As a freshman, he pitched well for the Trojans. He didn’t allow any home runs and went 5-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 14 games (13 starts). He earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and Freshman All-American honors.

Instead of remaining at USC, he transferred to Scottsdale Community College, closer to home in Arizona. In 16 games (15 starts), he had 2.35 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 92 innings. After one season at Scottsdale, he was able to re-enter the draft and was taken in the third round (98th overall) by the Baltimore Orioles. He signed for the slot bonus of $525,500.

Pro Career

He began his career with the GCL Orioles in July 2013, slowly building up to four inning outings (all starts) with escalating strikeout totals to boot. He was hit harder in later outings, but still strong peripherals with a 25-3 K-BB ratio in 21 innings with no homers. After the season, he was the Orioles’ 21st ranked prospect according to Baseball America.

The then-21-year-old was promoted to Aberdeen in the New York Penn League for the 2014 season. He allowed two homers (half of his season total) in his first game and had the reverse of his rookie season, slowly improving as the year wore on. He finished the year with a gem, going eight innings with 10 K and no runs vs. Lowell. He ended with a 3.66 ERA in 66 1/3 innings and was BA’s 16th ranked prospect in the O’s system.

The following January, Tarpley was dealt alongside reliever Steven Brault to the Pittsburgh Pirates for OF Travis Snider. Joining West Virginia in the South Atlantic League, he got his first taste of full season ball beginning in May 2015. For the year, he went 11-4 with a 2.48 ERA in 116 innings. Despite throwing nearly 50 more innings, he issued just one more walk and had two fewer homers. He maintained a strong groundball rate thanks to his sinking fastball. The southpaw even had a weather shortened no-hitter against his former teammates.

The No. 17 prospect for the Pirates after 2015, he moved to High-A in 2016. Unfortunately, his numbers were worse across the board. He didn’t begin his year until May with an oblique injury. He threw 20 starts for the second straight year, averaging just five innings a start. His strikeout rate remained level, but his walk issues crept back up while allowing eight home runs, two more than he’d allowed to that point in his professional career.

On Aug. 30, the Pirates dealt him as a PTBNL (with Tito Polo) to the Yankees for Ivan Nova. He made just one start for Tampa before his season ended and didn’t make a postseason appearance.

2017 Performance

For the second straight season, Tarpley missed the beginning of the season with an injury. In an interview with Pinstriped Prospects, Tarpley said it was “a little shoulder soreness.” The injury kept Tarpley out through June 10, when he made his debut with two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. That started a trend.

Pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, Tarpley has excelled. In 14 games, he’s thrown 30 2/3 innings and has yet to allow a run. His groundball rate is an off-the-charts 66.7 percent while posting a career best strikeout rate of 13.3 percent, more than 10 percent higher than 2016. Despite an elevated walk rate, he still has the best K-BB% since Rookie ball and has a 2.50 GB/FB ratio. He even has an 18.8 infield-fly ball rate.

All but one of his outings has been for at least four outs and 10 of his 14 have gone at least two innings. He’s allowed just eight hits, thanks in part to a .129 BABIP and a career-best 5.3 line-drive percentage. Groundballs and weak fly balls are a heck of a way to excel and have helped him post a .082 batting average against.

It was just 30 2/3 innings in High-A (a level he repeated), but this is also his first experience as a reliever. As a plus, he has nearly identical numbers against LHBs and RHBs this year after posting reasonable splits in past seasons. In the interview with Pinstriped Prospects, Tarpley said “my two-seam has improved a lot, just overall my pitches in the zone have improved.”

The southpaw earned a promotion to Double-A Trenton this week and threw two shutout innings (No hits, 1 BB, 3 K) en route to a win.

Scouting Report

Tarpley is 6-foot-1 and weighs 185 pounds. He’ll be 25 next February. He works off a two-seam fastball that has solid sinking action. He has three off-speed pitches with a curveball, changeup and an improving slider. His fastball tops out around 94-95.

Here’s part of MLB.com’s breakdown of Tarpley prior to his trade to the Yankees last August:

He’ll run his fastball up to 94-95 mph at times and throws it with good sink to generate ground-ball outs. Tarpley has two breaking balls and likes to throw his curve more than his slider, though the Pirates feel the slider is better … He also has a good feel for his changeup, giving him a solid three-pitch mix he uses to pound the strike zone.

In their 2016 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America said Tarpley “profiled as a back-of-the-rotation” starter and was able to neutralize right-handed batters with the way he attacked the zone.

My Take

Tarpley is in Trenton for the stretch run and postseason, where he’ll get a new challenge, albeit in a pitcher’s park. That, along with a potential stint in the Arizona Fall League, should give the Yankees a better idea of whether he deserves a 40-man spot after being passed up for one last year.

A left-handed relief pitcher repeating High A can be a tough sell for a 40-man spot, but his dominance in Tampa could have made the Yankees think otherwise. He is, after all, a former third round pick and could be finally hitting his potential at 24. As the saying goes, they don’t check IDs on the mound.

As for a return to the rotation, his Rule 5 status makes this a tougher proposition. He’d likely need to repeat High A or spend a full season in Double A to return to starting. As my cousin, who first turned my attention to Tarpley, pointed out, his walk rate also doesn’t fit the profile of a starter.

If he can impress in Double A or the AFL (in his return back to Scottsdale perhaps), he’d be a potential shuttle reliever as soon as mid-2018 in the best case scenario. Otherwise, Rule 5 eligible for the second straight year, he’s shown enough to be chosen by another organization at the winter meetings.

With reinforcements on the way, it’s time to drop Aaron Judge in the lineup

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

There’s a weird dynamic in Yankeeland right now. The two most vilified players on the roster are the runaway Rookie of the Year favorite and the best young catcher in baseball. Gary Sanchez, who is hitting .270/.346/.519 (127 wRC+) with 23 home runs this season, has been catching grief for his league leading 12 passed balls. He was even benched for a game two weeks ago.

Aaron Judge, meanwhile, is hitting .282/.413/.593 (163 wRC+) with an AL leading 37 home runs this season, though it really has been a tale of two seasons for him. He hit .329/.448/.691 (197 wRC+) in the first half and has slumped down to .169/.329/.355 (80 wRC+) in 35 games since the All-Star break. Over the weekend Judge went 1-for-12 with five strikeouts in the three games against the Red Sox.

“I’m not getting the job done. I want to be there. I’m the three hitter, the middle of the order. I’ve got to be that guy for the team,” said Judge following yesterday’s game (video link). “I trust the guys behind me to get the job done, but as the three hitter, I want to be that guy in the position with runners on every single time. It’s a little disappointing not being able to get the job done but you can’t pout, you can’t cry. You’ve just got to keep working and move on.”

Not surprisingly, Joe Girardi was asked about moving Judge out of the third spot in the lineup prior to yesterday’s game. That’s usually what happens then the three hitter has struggled as much as Judge has the last few weeks. And, again not surprisingly, Girardi shot the idea down entirely. He’s always been a very patient manager who sticks with his guys, sometimes to a fault.

“He’s going to stay (in the third spot),” said Girardi prior to yesterday’s game (video link). “I’m not going to move him. He’s still dangerous. He’s still getting on a pretty high clip and he’s on in front of some other guys that are swinging the bat well so, yeah, he’s going to stay there … I think you fall into a roulette, if you’re just moving guys all over the place (based on hot and cold streaks) … We’re kinda going on what he’s done this year, and we’re letting him fight his way out of it.”

Girardi is patient and will stick with his guys, but not indefinitely. Just this weekend Aroldis Chapman was demoted out of the closer’s role. Literally one day after Girardi said he was sticking him with as a closer. It took four straight pretty terrible outings, but it happened. Jacoby Ellsbury has been riding the bench for weeks. Eventually Tyler Clippard was moved into low-leverage situations. Girardi will make changes when he feels they are necessary, and right now, he doesn’t feel a lineup change is necessary.

That said, I believe they’ve reached the point with Judge where it’s not best for the team to continue hitting him third. That’s the goal here, right? To put the team in the best position to win. This isn’t a one or two-week slump. He’s batted 155 times in the second half. That’s nearly 30% of his season plate appearances. I’m not saying Judge should bat ninth or be demoted to Triple-A or anything like that. But bump him down a bit below some presently better hitters? Sure. This lineup makes sense to me:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Todd Frazier
  8. DH … uh … Tyler Austin? Jacoby Ellsbury?
  9. 2B Tyler Wade Ronald Torreyes

Nice and easy. Basically flip Sanchez and Judge in yesterday’s lineup. Sanchez is swinging very well of late and deserves more at-bats than Judge. Same with Gregorius. It wouldn’t be very difficult to argue Headley should hit ahead of Judge as well, though I’m not sure I’d bat Judge any lower than fifth given his power. He can still change a game with one swing and he could snap out of it at any time.

Girardi says he’s going to stick with Judge as the three hitter for the time being, so I don’t expect him to be moved down even though I think it should happen. The Yankees do, however, have several players nearing a return from the disabled list, and perhaps their returns will make Girardi more open to batting Judge lower in the lineup. The return of Starlin Castro and Greg Bird will give the Yankees more weapons and Girardi more lineup options. For example:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. 1B Chase Headley
  8. DH Greg Bird
  9. 3B Todd Frazier

See? Much deeper lineup. We really have no idea what Bird will give the Yankees once he returns because the guy’s missed close to two years, and the last time he was in the big leagues, he didn’t hit at all. You know how bad Judge has been since the All-Star break? Bird was even worse in April. So yeah, batting him down in the lineup and moving him up once he’s shows he’s capable of producing at a high clip works for me.

Anyway, the addition of Castro — I should mention I’m not too optimistic Matt Holliday will come back and be an impact hitter again, though I’m hoping to be completely wrong — gives the Yankees another quality bat, and another hitter to bolster the middle of the lineup. It’s one thing to stick with Judge as the three hitter when so many regulars are hurt. Once everyone is healthy though, it’s much easier to bump him down in the lineup.

The Judge lineup demotion is intended to do two things. One, to give more productive hitters more at-bats. That’s simple enough, right? And two, to take some pressure off him. Judge does look like he’s pressing now, and that’s normal when a guy is in a slump. They all press and try to hit a five-run home run each at-bat. Maybe dropping him in the lineup won’t alleviate any of that pressure and Judge will still press. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason not to do it though.

Girardi doesn’t want to demote Judge in the lineup because he believes he’s going to turn it around and soon, and that’s great. A manager should have confidence in his guys. At the same time, Judge’s slump is going on six weeks now, and there comes a time when action is necessary. If Girardi wants to wait until Castro and Bird return and he has more lineup options, fine. Maintaining the status quo doesn’t seem like a viable option anymore, however. Judge hasn’t produced for too long now and it’s time to de-emphasize him in the lineup, and hopefully it’s only temporary.

Yankeemetrics: Riding the NYY rollercoaster (Aug. 18-20)

(AP)
(AP)

Deja vu all over again
Another night, another candidate for Worst Loss of The Season. The Yankees suffered their billionth gut-wrenching defeat on Friday night, obliterating any positive momentum they had built up coming off a four-game sweep of the Mets. After flipping an early three-run deficit into a three-run lead in the seventh, the bullpen imploded in epic fashion with nine outs to go, adding to the never-ending list of miserable Yankee late-inning collapses this season.

Let’s recap the gory details, bullet-point style:

  • 22nd blown save of the season, six more than they had in all of 2016. Through Friday’s games, no team in the majors had more blown saves than the Yankees (the Mariners also had 22). Going back to 1969 when saves became an official stat, only three other times in franchise history have they finished a season with more than 22 blown saves: 1997 (25), 1988 (24), 1986 (23).
  • 6th time they lost a game after leading by at least three runs, their most in any season since 2014 when they had eight.
  • 18th loss when out-hitting their opponent, the second-most in MLB behind the White Sox (25, LOL). Over the last 15 years, they’d never before suffered more than 15 such losses in a season.

Breaking news: the Yankees had plenty of chances to score, but couldn’t cash in, going 1-for-11 with RISP and stranding 14 guys. Chase Headley, Todd Frazier and Brett Gardner led the offensive charge by reaching base four times each. That’s good! So how rare is it for a team to lose when having at least three players be so productive? Glad you asked. Our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series …

It’s just the third time in the last 50 years that the Yankees lost a nine-inning game in which at least three guys were each on base four-or-more times. It also happened on September 22, 2000 against the Tigers and May 25, 1980 against the Blue Jays.

Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green were the obvious culprits in coughing up the three-run advantage in the seventh, but Aroldis Chapman‘s eighth-inning meltdown is more troubling (and eventually got him yanked from the closer role). He gave up two runs on two hits and a walk, extending his recent stretch of awful pitching. This is just the second time he’s allowed at least one run in four straight appearances; the other instance was early in his 2011 rookie campaign. And it’s the first time in his major-league career that he’s given up multiple runs in three straight outings.

(Getty)
(Getty)

One step forward …
One day after suffering the Worst Loss of the Year, it was hardly a surprise in this rollercoaster season that the Yankees notched their their Most Important Win of the Year on Saturday night at Fenway, holding on for a gutsy, much-needed 4-3 victory.

CC Sabathia has embodied the Fighting Spirit more than any other pinstriper this season, and this game proved it. Consider that he is:

  • 7-0 with a 1.46 ERA in eight starts following a Yankee loss this season, and the team won the only no-decision he got. That’s the best ERA in the majors (min. 7 starts), just ahead of a guy named Clayton Kershaw (1.54).
  • 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts against the Red Sox this season. He is one of just three Yankees since 1950 to win their first three starts vs the Red Sox in a season while posting a sub-1.00 ERA in those outings; Scott Sanderson (1991) and Whitey Ford (1956) are the others.

Sabathia also reached a significant milestone, becoming the all-time American League leader in strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher. Congrats, CC.

Tyler Austin delivered one of the most stunning swings of the season when he crushed an 435-foot bomb over the Green Monster in his first career at-bat against Chris Sale to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Is Austin the team’s new good luck charm? Six of his seven career home runs have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead, and they are 7-0 in games when he homers.

Todd Frazier added a crucial insurance run with a sixth inning solo homer, following up on the two-run blast he hit in the series opener. That earned him a special place in the rivalry with this #FunFact: Frazier and fellow third baseman Graig Nettles (1973) are the only players to homer in each of their first two games as a Yankee at Fenway Park.

(New York Post)
(New York Post)

… And one step backwards
What goes up, must come down, right? That pretty much sums up the 2017 Yankees. They dropped series finale against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, falling to an abysmal 5-14 in “rubber games” (third game of a three-game series where the teams split the first two).

That is by far the worst record and most losses in such games by any team in the majors this season. And, even more depressing is this stat: their .263 winning percentage in rubber games is on pace to be the worst by any AL team since the 2013 Astros … who finished with 111 total losses that year. Oy vei.

Much of the blame for this loss falls on the dead-silent Yankee bats, which produced their fewest hits (3) and runs (1) at Fenway Park since a 5-1 loss there on September 22, 2013. Not even a Brett Gardner home run could spark this lackluster offense — this was the first time the Yankees lost this season when Gardy went Yardy, falling to 16-1 in those games.

Gardner did reach the nice round number of 20 homers, giving us a chance to recognize his rare combination of power, patience and speed. Gardner is the eighth left-handed batter in franchise history with at least 20 homers, 15 steals and 60 walks in a season. The others on the list are decent: Babe Ruth (twice), Lou Gehrig (1931), Bobby Murcer (1970), Reggie Jackson (1977), Johnny Damon (2006), Bobby Abreu (2008) and Curtis Granderson (2011).

Aaron Judge was hardly the only Bomber to go cold on Saturday, yet because this is a stats article, we feel obligated to note that he struck out for the 37th game in a row. That ties the MLB all-time (spanning multiple seasons or single-season) record set by Expos pitcher Bill Stoneman in 1971-72.

It’s a contrived and dubious mark, but what is more concerning are a couple of his post-break splits. He is 4-for-28 (.143) with runners in scoring position since the break; he hit .305 with RISP before the break. Judge is also 1-for-32 (.031) vs left-handed pitchers since the break; he hit .345 vs lefties before the break.

Beyond those specific situations, Judge’s ability to make hard contact — his signature stat of the season — has simply cratered. In 35 games since the break, he has a hard-hit rate (per Fangraphs) of just 32 percent (it was 49 percent before the break), easily the least-powerful 35-game stretch of his career:

judge-hard-hit-chart

Fan Confidence Poll: August 21st, 2017

Record Last Week: 5-2 (32 RS, 31 RA)
Season Record: 66-57 (630 RS, 488 RA, 72-51 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Tigers (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Mariners (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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DotF: Andujar’s big game leads Scranton to a win

Two quick notes to pass along:

  • C Kyle Higashioka is on the disabled list with a shoulder problem, not a recurrence of his recent back injury, according to Conor Foley. He said his shoulder feels weak. No idea how long he’ll be sidelined, but with September call-ups right around the corner, you can bet Higashioka hopes to be back soon.
  • SS Tyler Wade, who has nine plate appearances in the last 19 days, lost his rookie eligibility through service time today. He dropped off MLB.com’s top 30 Yankees prospects list and RHP Trevor Stephan has jumped on.

Triple-A Scranton (3-0 win over Durham)

  • RF Jake Cave: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI
  • DH Starlin Castro: 1-4, 1 K — here’s video of the single he and Greg Bird, who had a scheduled off-day today, are traveling with the RailRiders for their road trip and will continue their rehab assignments this week, according to Conor Foley
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — eight homers in 45 Triple-A games now
  • LF Billy McKinney: 0-4, 2 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-3, 1 R
  • RHP Domingo German: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 4/5 GB/FB — 64 of 102 pitches were strikes (63%) … 69/19 K/BB in 65 Triple-A innings this year
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 24 of 36 pitches were strikes (67%)

[Read more…]