The most likely outcome for a Derek Jeter at-bat this season has been the groundout, as he has done that 35.23% of the time. His groundball rate sits at 68% on the season, while his career mark is 56%…
Let’s completely ignore sample size issues for a moment, shall we? In this outfield this season (prior to last night’s game, even), Marcus Thames has an UZR/150 of -17.4. Such a rating is inline with Thames’ previous fielding trends while with the Tigers. Basically, though this was made especially clear during last night’s game, he is the worst outfield defender on the Yankees’ roster. However, with Nick Swisher out, unless fans want to see the offensively anemic Greg Golson receive a ton of extra at-bats, Joe Girardi is forced to play him in the outfield (he has wisely shifted Thames over to right field, though, where there is less ground to cover, overall).
At the beginning of the year, Girardi actually played Thames in left, and seemingly had to learn just how bad Thames was with a glove through trial and error. I think it is pretty clear now that he is downright miserable, fielding-wise (even I did not think he would be this bad). When Swisher returns, the Yankees will have to employ Thames (and Miranda) at DH, because, regardless of his hitting, Thames is too much of a defensive liability to play in the outfield.
When Brett Gardner got off to a hot start, I dove into it so now I’d like to do the same thing for Francisco Cervelli, who’s hitting even better than Gardner was.
Going into last night, the Yankees’ catcher was hitting .400/.471/.517/.987 with a .439 wOBA and a 179 wRC+. The .117 IsoP is very “meh” but the .071 IsoD is encouraging. This is the product of an 8.5% walk rate, up from just over two percent in 2009. That mark is close to his minor league mark of 9.42% (.367 career MiL OBP, .094 IsoD) and is a big reason why he’s been able to produce so well thus far in 2010. If he can keep that walk rate up, it will help him keep some value when his BABIP regression comes.
Speaking of BABIP, we can trace a lot of Frankie’s early success to that. Right now, he’s putting up a BABIP of .453. This could be coming from a 22% line drive rate, which is pretty high. A .453 BABIP obviously points to a good deal of luck, but when it comes with a 22% line drive rate, we can deduce that some of those hits are falling because they’re well struck. Cervelli has also had more ground balls (48%) than last year (45.8%). Those grounders are also turning into hits more often than they were last year. On grounders this season, Cervelli is hitting .333 as opposed to .289 in 2009. Frankie has also hit fewer fly balls this year, which shows us he’s doing a good job of staying on top of the ball. That, obviously, leads to more line drives and grounders, which are more likely to turn into hits than flies.
In terms of plate discipline, Francisco has been swinging less. He’s overall swing percentage is down to 43.7 from 50%. Most importantly, his O-Swing% has dropped from 28.0% to 23.3%. Looking at contact percentage, we see a 1% increase. So, he’s swinging at fewer pitches, but making contact with a few more.
So how’s Frankie been doing it? By walking more, swinging at fewer pitches, hitting the ball hard, and with a little bit of luck. The BABIP is definitely going to fall, but let’s enjoy this awesomely energetic ride for as long as it goes on. With his defense and (hopefully) an increased walk rate, Cervelli will be a very serviceable player.
Wade Davis is a noted and widely respected anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and photographer. In 1985, he became famous after publishing a book about the zombies of Haiti, entitled The Serpent and the Rainbow. Wait. That’s the wrong Wade Davis.
This Wade Davis was drafted out of high school by the Rays in the third round of the 2004 draft. After signing, he had quite the length minor league career, racking up 767.1 IP, or 200 IP more than Phil Hughes’ entire minor and major league career. In the minor leagues, Davis put up an ERA of 3.28 and averaged an impressive 8.7 K/9 ratio and a 2.63 K/BB ratio. Last year, the Rays called him up in September, and he performed well in 6 starts, putting up peripherals almost identical to his minor league numbers (8.9 K/9, 2.77 K/BB). Penciled in as the fifth starter on a very deep and talented staff, Davis gave Rays fans reasons for optimism going into 2010.
The 24 year old right hander has had a bit of a slow start in 2010. His ERA currently stands at 3.38 over 40 innings, but his FIP is a full run and a half higher, at 4.94. The discrepancy is the result of an unsustainably low BABIP of .239 and a strand rate of 82.6%, 10% higher than his career average and 20% higher than it was in 2009. In 2010, Davis has struck out 27 and walked 21, which leaves him with a K/9 of 6.08 and a BB/9 of 4.73. Davis’ career minor league walk rate is 3.3 BB/9, which is not bad but not great. This isn’t the best of developments for Davis, although it is accompanied by an odd 6% increase in the percentage of times Davis has gotten batters to chase balls out of the zone. The decrease in strikeouts is also represents a step backwards. Davis has always had good strikeout strikeout numbers, averaging 9.3 K/9 in AAA in 2008 (53 IP) and 7.9 K/9 in AAA in 2009 (158 IP). This could represent a small sample fluke, or it could be the result of a new pitch and approach. More on this later.
Davis is a power pitcher with a diverse arsenal. He features a fastball that averages 92-93 mph, although he can dial it up into the mid-90s. He also throws a good curveball, a slider and a show-me changeup. Some scouting reports have said that Davis has a “heavy” fastball, which presumably means that it comes in hard with good downward action, thereby inducing ground balls. Davis isn’t a groundball machine though. In 2010, his GB% is almost identical to his FB% at 43.5%. In 2009, 43.5% would have been good for 58th out of 130 pitchers (min IP 100), in between Doug Davis and Bronson Arroyo. If a “heavy fastball” is supposed to imply a lot of groundballs, then Davis’ fastball should be described as “light to medium”.
Interestingly, Fangraphs shows that Davis has begun throwing a 2-seam fastball 21% of the time this year, as opposed to 0% in 2008. This has come at the expense of his 4-seamer, which he is now throwing 51.6% of the time (down 14%), and his cutter (down from 7.0% to 0%). I wondered if we were dealing with some type of misclassification, and so I asked Steve Slowinski of DRaysBay for his observations. He was kind enough to respond with this:
“My instinct was to say it’s a Pitch f/x error, but looking at Joe Lefkowitz’s tool, it appears FanGraphs is right – Davis didn’t throw any two-seamers last season. I might see a couple on there that could be classified as two-seamers, but at the least he’s dramatically increased using the pitch this season. All of the Rays’ starters use both two- and four-seam fastballs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he was instructed to start using it in the big leagues. His groundball percentage has also increased from last year, which could be as a result of adding the two-seam fastball.”
Thanks to Steve for the input. Steve is right about the ground-ball percentage (up to 43.5% from 39%), and so while we may be seeing a reclassification of the cutter as a two-seamer, it does seem that Davis is throwing this new pitch with more regularity in 2010. This could be the reason that Davis’ contact rates are up. The percentage of times batters swing at his pitches is almost identical to his 2009 campaign, but batters have made contact 8% more of the time. His O-Contact% (contact on pitches outside the zone) has seen the biggest rise, going from 61.2% to 78.7%. As noted earlier, his O-Swing% has increased as well, so it appears that batters are offering at more of his stuff outside the zone, making contact more frequently, and also walking more. 40 innings isn’t a statistically significant sample and so these numbers may be juiced by a few free-swingers, but the apparent change in Davis’ arsenal may create some different results than what he has had in the past.
Wade Davis’ peripherals suggest that a correction is coming . His BABIP and strand rate ought to rise back to career norms, and he’s going to see a huge inflation in his ERA, especially if he’s unable to revert the bad trends in his strikeout and walk rates. The prescription for the Yankees is simple: don’t swing at balls outside the zone, take the free passes as they come, and hammer the fastballs inside the zone. From Joe Lefkowitz’s Pitch F(x) Tool:
Yes, please. The Yankees had good results last time they faced Davis. Here’s hoping for more of the same.
Today, its time to look at probably the guy with the most helium in the system right now, Hector Noesi. His stat line is a thing of beauty:
|2008||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk-A-||3.33||14||48.2||43||23||18||7||10||55||8.0||1.3||1.8||10.2||5.50|
|2009||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-A+||2.92||26||117.0||96||42||38||6||15||118||7.4||0.5||1.2||9.1||7.87|
Now that he’s finally in Trenton, Noesi will have more eyes on him. We’ll be able to get a read on a key remaining question: is he a starter or reliever on a first-place team? I think he is a starting pitcher, and could lock down a rotation spot in New York as early as mid-2011.
However, I do think that Noesi faces several significant road blocks along the way. Injuries will always be a concern for him following his 2007 Tommy John surgery. He followed that up with a 2008 suspension for a positive drug test. The result is that Noesi’s 117 innings in 2009 represented his first full minor league season at the ripe age of 22. We don’t know if he can handle a full major league workload as a starting pitcher yet. We do know, however, that he can get hitters out, and go deep in to games when his leash is let go.
The Yankees promoted Noesi to Double-A, and he will probably start there Thursday. To make room for him, the Yankees finally made the necessary move and pushed Ryan Pope to the bullpen. I think he’ll be in Trenton for the rest of the season. While the Yankees have shown a willingness (Kennedy, Joba, Melancon, Aceves) to move more experienced prospects quickly from Double-A to Triple-A in the past. Still, I think that Noesi needs some time to build up his innings. With Nova and McAllister hanging out in Scranton, there is no pressing need. The Yankees hold option years for Noesi for both 2011 and 2012.
I hesitated to pull the trigger on Hector (and others) in my fall top-30 prospect ranking, but I won’t make the same mistake again. I plan on being very aggressive across the board with my spring ranking. A preview: Hector is the third best starting pitcher in the organization, behind Zach McAllister and Ivan Nova. Now hopefully he doesn’t burn me.
Tomorrow, its time to look at Brandon Laird.
Yesterday, Chad Jennings had some injury updates. Let’s take a look and see what we’ve got.
1. Jorge Posada hopes to be back in the lineup. That’s great news, as Posada’s bat makes the lineup that much more dangerous again. His 2010 line sits at .326/.406/.618/1.024, .441 wOBA, 180 wRC+. Posada coming back could mean either a night off for Frankie Cervelli or he could DH.
2. Alfredo Aceves will play catch tomorrow. That’s good news. His return to the bullpen will help a lot as the Yankees will have someone who can actually give length.
3. Curtis Granderson is taking swings and running pain free, which is fantastic. Like Posada’s, Granderson’s eventual return to the lineup recircularizes it. It will push Randy Winn back to the bench, though he’s hit well in May.
4. Nick Swisher hopes to be in the lineup tonight. It’s always nice to see Swish.
5. With Nick Johnson out, it appears that Juan Miranda will get regular starts at DH. I’ve got no problem with this, though I’d prefer another option.
A baseball team cannot blow eighth inning leads three games in a row and expect to win the majority of those games. It cannot.
If CC Sabathia pitches your team seven innings of one run ball, and your team has scored five runs, there is utterly no reason that that game should be lost.
You can argue whether or not Cervelli should have bunted (he shouldn’t), whether Winn should have been pinch hit for (not a possibility because Posada and Swisher are still too hurt), or the merits of Thames playing in the outfield (he shouldn’t, but again, not really any other option), but tonight’s game came down to one thing:
A set-up man handed a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning needs to leave that inning with the lead. End of story.
However, tonight, the second time in three games, Chamberlain could not get the job done. You can argue that Girardi should have removed Chamberlain earlier, but with the bullpen, in Girardi’s words, “a mess”, Chamberlain really did need to get the job done. He did not.
You can argue the leverage argument–that once the game got to 5-4, Rivera should have made an appearance, but rushing Rivera to get ready on a rainy night in the forties in May is also not necessarily the best course of action.
I’m no pitching expert, so I can’t tell you what he should have thrown, but half of the pitching battle is (supposedly) that the hitters don’t actually know what’s coming. With Joba, you don’t necessarily have to guess.
So yes, once the ninth inning played out as it did, Marcus Thames should have caught the baseball, the umpires should have called a strike, Cervelli should have not bunted because Robbie Canó was already at second base and Cisco’s got some great RISP numbers, and Randy Winn swung at ball four twice, but NONE of that matters if the Yankees actually manage to hang onto a four run lead in the ninth inning.
Last year, we made fun of the Phillies (and the year before, the Mets) for bullpens that weren’t getting the job done. I know the Yankee bullpen has been overworked, but when Sabathia gives you seven and your two best relievers are available, you have to find a way to win that game.