The aptly named Road Trip From Hell followed the Yankees back to the Bronx. The 3-game set vs Anaheim was a “best of” from the west coast trip: Michael Pineda had nothing, Chris Carter made an error on a routine play, Tyler Clippard soiled himself on the mound, and the Yankees played sloppy defense, all combining to make the Angels look like something they aren’t, which is a .500 team missing it’s best player.
The two losses caused the Yankees to fall out of sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since May 20. The division is now a lot more cozy, which is bound to happen after a 1-8 stretch. I suppose the Yankees are fortunate to still be atop the division. They deserve credit for how well they played thus far in order to sustain a long losing streak, but part of me worries that the current skid is a market correction for a team that nobody expected to be good in the first place. Maybe that’s just the pessimist in me.
Anyways, check out last week in Yankees baseball if you missed it (although I don’t know why you’d put yourself through that torture again). On to this week!
That one hurt
Thursday night’s loss was a tough one. Everything went wrong for the Yankees: Luis Severino didn’t have his good stuff, the defense was sloppy, the bullpen wild, and Girardi made some head-scratching moves.
People were quick to blame Starlin Castro’s error for the loss. While I’m certainly not excusing the error, or the overall lazy play of the Yankees in this series, it’s not the factor I’m most concerned with. Errors happen. It sucks when they do, but in the words of the great John Sterling: That’s baseball, Suzyn.
Severino was given an early 5-1 lead thanks to yet another massive 3-run bomb by Aaron Judge, only to slowly let Anaheim crawl back into the game. It was clear from the start that Sevy didn’t have his stuff. Cameron Maybin, who I swear was a prospect back in like 2003, went yard to leadoff the game. Severino allowed the Angels to chip away with two runs in the 3rd inning and another in the 6th. By that time it was clear Severino was finished, yet Girardi ran him back out for the 7th. That’s when everything fell apart.
Castro’s error was not Severino’s or Girardi’s fault, but Joe did not put his pitchers in the best position to succeed. Chasen Shreve was the next pitcher to enter the game and he surrendered a sac fly to tie the game. Next came Dellin Betances, who had his first meltdown in a long, long time.
Betances has retired only 15 of 25 1st batters, allowed 4 of 15 inherited runners to score. Clippard: 24 of 33, and 3 of 16.
Juuuuuuuuuust a bit outside. Betances clearly not right tonight. pic.twitter.com/NBUhY61zav
It’s not news to any Yankees fan that Betances doesn’t perform well when he enters the middle of an inning. I cannot explain why that is, but he’s just not comfortable doing it. If Girardi was fine using Betances in the 7th inning anyways, why not start him in the inning? Or at the very least bring him into the game while the Yankees were still leading?
These are rhetorical questions, obviously. The bullpen (more on that in the next section) has been terrible lately, and it’s not helping that the starters aren’t going deep into games anymore. June 10, a Severino start, was the last time a Yankee pitcher went at least 7 innings. It’s no coincidence that is about when the Yankees losing streak began.
Tyler Clippard needs a vacation
It’s pretty rare that I feel bad for a professional athlete. After all, they’re paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a sport to entertain the masses. I’m not saying they don’t go through hardship; they have stress, they work hard, yadda-yadda. But at the end of the day, each and every one of us would trade places with pro athlete fill in the blank. I can’t say that I would have traded places with Tyler Clippard on Wednesday night however, who looked on the verge of tears after getting hit hard yet again.
Tyler Clippard’s last 8 games
Faced 29 batters
9 got hits
4 struck out
Yikes! It’s not just that Clippard has blown a few games, he can’t even get people out. There are position players who pitch in emergency situations with better numbers than Clippard has over the last week. I get what Girardi was trying to do on Wednesday. Clippard, after a horrific road trip and a day off on Monday, blew yet another game on Tuesday. There was no shot Joe was going to use Clip in a key situation on Wednesday, but when the Yankees took a big lead, he felt it was a good chance for Clippard to gain some confidence on the mound. It backfired.
At this point the world is spinning for Clippard. He clearly doesn’t have it physically (his fastball is lifeless and his changeup is fat), but the bigger issue is his mental state. As I said, he looked completely defeated sitting in the dugout on Wednesday. Clippard is a big league pitcher with a long history of success, but right now he probably feels like a little leaguer who just had one of the big kids who already hit puberty take him deep.
Clippard’s struggles will be easier to handle now that Aroldis Chapman is healthy. The Yankees are still going to need a bullpen arm not named Dellin Betances or Chapman to step up, however. Clippard may have been the face of the Yankees bullpen collapse on the west coast, but Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve were not much better. Chad Green impressed on Wednesday in a big spot and his stuff, unlike Clippard’s, is good enough to beat hitters by itself. The problem with Green however is lack of experience. With Adam Warren now on the shelf as well, Green is the clearcut option to fill Clippard’s shoes.
Hey Tanaka: Shut Up And Pitch
You probably know that MLB is on pace to set a home run record for the second consecutive season. After the steroid-aided offensive barrage, offense and home runs steadily declined, reaching a 20-year low in 2014 (booooor-ing). The long ball returned with a vengeance during the second half of 2015, which many people speculate to be the result of juiced balls. The newest development is that the balls are wound tighter and the seams are lower, which makes it travel farther. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that while runs scored per game have only modestly risen, home runs have skyrocketed. Using a complex math formula that was definitely not done with my iPhone calculator, the league average for home runs per team this season will be around 205, 18 more than last year and 41 more than 2014.
That brings me to Masahiro Tanaka, who sort of but not really complained about the juiced balls. When asked about it, Tanaka said: “I’m probably the pitcher that’s given up most home runs … so it sounds like I’m making excuses, but I do get the impression that the ball is flying a little bit further.”
Yes, Masahiro, that does sound like you’re making excuses. It also seems foolish coming from a pitcher who has given up the third most homers in baseball behind only Ricky Nolasco (stinks!) and Bronson Arroyo (he’s still pitching?). Tanaka also has an ERA hovering in the mid-6.00s, so I don’t think the ball being juiced has anything to do with his lousy performance this season. Instead, what I’d like Tanaka to do is shut up and figure out why he is getting tuned-up every time he takes the mound. Last time I checked everybody is playing by the same rules. Adapt or die.
Who’s on first?
Slow roller up along first… Next to the bag! It gets through Carter and Yankees fans want to gouge their eyes out.
This week Brian Cashman said that Chris Carter is the best option the Yankees have at first base. That may come as a surprise to you considering Carter is hitting .201, strikes out in 42% of his at bats, and is defensively inept. I realize he’s playing out of necessity, but you cannot convince me that the Yankees don’t have someone in the organization who is at least as good as Carter.
The whole first base nightmare has been caused by Greg Bird’s ongoing injury saga. Nobody thought Bird would have only played 19 games by June 23, but that’s the reality we’re in. In fact, it was the exact reason Carter was signed — to provide first base depth the Yankees felt they needed. It turns out they were right, however their unwillingness to move on from the Carter experiment is now a detriment to the team.
This is of the “It’s not what you want” variety. pic.twitter.com/eYKHL5OzkP
Tyler Austin is hitting .305 in 30 rehab games between Double- and Triple-A. We spoke with Donnie Collins, who covers the RailRiders for the Scranton Times-Tribune, on The Bronx Pinstripes Show this week about Austin, Bird, and what the Yankees are doing with first base:
Donnie said he believes Austin needs to cut down on his strike outs before the Yankees will consider calling him up. Tyler has struck out 30 times in 105 at bats in the minors this season, roughly 30% of the time. Is it good? No, but if my math is correct it is still 12% better than Carter. Factor-in Austin’s potential to hit for average and provide average defense, then we have found a guy who can give the Yankees more than Carter.
I don’t know what they are waiting for. Maybe Bird needs to be fully healthy before they comfortably release Carter, but part of me is not sure that will ever happen. Bird seems to be cursed in the injury department, and if we see him sometime after the All Star Break then I’ll consider that a win.
If Austin isn’t the answer then who is? It’s not Matt Holliday, who is worse than Carter defensively and too important offensively to risk injury at a position he isn’t comfortable. This is wishful thinking, but maybe the Yankees will get creative with Tyler Wade, who is having a great season and who Donnie called the RailRider’s best player. All I know is that Yankees fans are done with Carter and I hope the Yankees will soon be too.