Series Preview: Slumping Yanks @ Bad News Braves (by Ububba)

This weekend’s series finds the suddenly stumbling New York Yankees at Turner Field for a trio of games with the following pitching matchups:

   • Friday night: Masahiro Tanaka (9-6, 3.61) vs. Williams Perez (4-4, 4.76)
   • Saturday night: Luis Severino (1-2, 2.74) vs. Matt Wisler (5-4, 5.43)
   • Sunday afternoon: Nathan Eovaldi (13-2, 4.00) vs. Julio Teheran (9-6, 4.29)

Make no mistake: Our team sucks out loud & it can lose to any club anywhere at any time —€“ for several games in a row, for a week straight, or certainly often enough to make one wonder if we’ll ever win again. At this point, with the Braves plummeting to their worst finish in a quarter-century, it’s hard not to merely root for draft position and against injuries. That’s all we have, really.

But for me, a native Georgian/lifelong Braves fan who’s lived in New York City for 25 years—see the symmetry?—these are the games that’ll get some attention. (Confession: I’ve been a Yankee season-ticket holder for two decades.) The rest of the season will be kinda like one of those odd years when my Georgia Bulldogs stagger down the stretch without a chance to win an SEC football title—in those cases, you just want to beat your rivals, maybe ruin someone’s season, if you can. “Hey, let’s trip up Auburn before we stick it to the Humble Bumbles, and then let’s win the bowl game.” So, what I’m really saying: At this point, I just wanna beat the Yanks & the Mets.

But before we look again at those pitching matchups and mentally punt the entire series, it should be noted again that, right now, this Pinstriped bunch is reeling a little bit. Yes, the trade-enriched Blue Jays are rampaging thru the AL & have passed the Bombers in the division—the Yanks are not hitting much these days. But a little bit of perspective might be in order for this particular Yankee club.

Coming in to the season, a Wild Card berth might’ve been considered the club’s ceiling. Why? There were just so many what-ifs & maybes—essentially, a lotta best-case scenarios had to happen if this club was going to contend.

For starters, Teixeira & A-Rod, their two main power sources, were returning from various injuries & a notable year-long suspension. Brian McCann was coming off the worst season of his career. Although Jacoby Ellsbury had a good, though certainly not great, first season (and a full one), his history told us that it could be tough to keep this very expensive player on the field. In 2014, Carlos Beltran looked occasionally crippled & perhaps washed-up. Ditto for C.C. Sabathia. (It was a bit strange to consider that, of all the high-priced talent the club had acquired for its lineup, the one guy Yankee fans could probably count on for a good 2015 was Brett Gardner.)

But, back to the rest of the potentially rickety rotation: After a blazing start, Tanaka went down in mid-season ’14, then eschewed surgery, so he remained a huge question in ’15. Ivan Nova & Michael Pineda had also been injury-prone —€“ who knew what they could give? Swingman Adam Warren looked promising, but had never pitched big innings. And Eovaldi, whom they plucked from South Beach for Martin Prado, remained a power pitcher with an upside, but a guy who’d never really put it together. The bullpen, however, looked pretty bad-ass by teaming Dellin Betances with free-agent Andrew Miller, who replaced closer David Robertson.

The first four months of the season were more than hunky-dory in YankeeLand. They hit a gazillion home runs, mostly fueled by Teixeira and A-Rod, whose comeback was considered a redemption by some fans, thoroughly fishy by others. (With him, the drama never ends.) The rotation mostly held up and the bullpen was lights-out. Until very recently, they stayed in first place.

At the moment, however, they’re 1.5 games behind Toronto & more than a few fans believe that this is an old club that’s breaking down before our very eyes, wilting in the depths of summer. Their two most valuable offensive players for the year have seemingly hit a wall and one has suffered “the inevitable injury.” Outside a game-winning GSHR last week vs. Cleveland, A-Rod (26 HRs) has been mired in a deep slump for nearly a month. FWIW, we won’t see him this weekend, unless he’s a PH. He no longer wears a glove.

Teixeira (31 HRs) suffered a “deep bone bruise” on a foul ball off his leg this past week. If he plays at all at The Ted, watch him try to run —€“ he couldn’t beat Haystacks Calhoun in a 40-yard dash right now. I’m guessing we’ll see more of Greg Bird at 1B instead. On a team that’s relied heavily on the long ball all year, those 2 guys really carried the Yanks to August. But now they’re truly struggling and/or playing hurt.

The rest of the offense? McCann’s been better than last year—his counting numbers (23 HR, 75 RBI, etc.) are already the same as ’14 with 6 weeks to go in ’15—and his rate stats are up noticeably (.245/.314/.469 from .232/.286/.406). Didi Gregorius, who was a real disaster (mostly offensively) the first couple months seems to have shaken it all off & he’s begun to hit. His range remains good, even if he’s muffed some routine balls & had a few bad throwing errors.

It must be noted that Ellsbury is practically stealing money this year. Look up his salary, then look up his ’15 stats & you’ll see that $21M isn’t exactly a bargain for a .714 OPS/101 OPS+ in limited play. (Hey, only 6 years & $127M more to go on that contract, and guess what? He’s hurt again.) Gardner, a fan favorite who earned his first All-Star berth this summer, is hitting about .200 since that All-Star Game.

The only guy who’s really hitting right now is Beltran, who got off to a terrible start & had an injury- riddled 2014. (What’s new with this bunch?) He seems likes he’s in a groove —€“ that easy stroke is really stinging the ball these days. A Bad Note: He might be the AL’s worst RF. He’s had some adventures out there, and a couple of them have really hurt the club —€“ but you can’t DH him, unless you’re also going to sit A-Rod. Beltran just cannot move anymore out there.

At 3B, it’s hard to figure what’s happened to Chase Headley this year. At the plate, he’s been OK— league-average, exactly—if a bit of a disappointment following his $52M extension thru 2018. But he’s been less than great in the field —€“ 20 errors & some really shaky moments along the way. At 2B, Stephen Drew has been feast-or-famine at the plate—sub.200 BA, but 15 HRs—still, he plays a solid 2B. If the other guys hit, he doesn’t kill you. And FWIW, he’s gotten some really big HRs for them this season.

Overall, their pitching is middle of the pack in the AL. Their starters are nothing terribly special outside Tanaka on a good day —€“ though Severino appears to have really good stuff thru his 3 starts. Eovaldi has a gaudy record and has pitched well lately, but he’s benefitted from run support & he’s gotten touched up a bit throughout the year. Nova is OK, but doesn’t strike fear in anyone—I saw him get blasted by Houston the other night—and it always appears that the ever-fragile Pineda will have a good outing, then they’ll skip his next start or give him an extra day to recover. Before he reinjured his knee & went on the DL this past week, Sabathia was pitching a little better —€“ but for most of the season was a bit of a disaster. It was charitable to call him the world’s most-expensive 5th starter.

If they do escape or get past the Wild Card round & into the ALDS, don’t be surprised to see a rotation of Tanaka, Eovaldi, Severino & Nova (or Adam Warren). Scary? Not really. The relievers have been a real strength and the back of their bullpen (Betances & Miller) has been as good as any combo in baseball this season. LHP Chasen Shreve has been terrific as well, boasting a crazy reverse split (a .580 OPS for right-handed hitters). They just haven’t had too many late leads to protect in recent times.

For the Yanks to be a post-season force, once again, a lot will have to go right for them—and that includes basic health. Doesn’t mean they won’t thump us this weekend in our own ballpark, but this is not your older brother’s Yankees. Right now, they’re kinda held together with duct tape, chewing gum and baling wire—though it’s certainly the best such materials money can buy, purchased from the highest-end boutique.

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46 thoughts on “Series Preview: Slumping Yanks @ Bad News Braves (by Ububba)”

  1. Wow, what a great preview, a team in dollared decline. Thanks, it sharpens the appetite for what is to come this weekend. Throwing money around usually works, unfortunately, but not always. Ironic that the success story you pick out from the dross is one of ours, the man with the lovely name we gave away. Glad Mac is having a better year, my guess is he wishes he wasn’t there, from Day 1.

    Meanwhile, across the park, there is hooting and hollering and general joie de vivre. Ho hum, down 5 so come back and score 9, close out in 13. This is a very good, young baseball team – it seems to have happened almost overnight but it is not going to go away. Pitching/power/defense. (When o when will we have power? Anywhere? At any level) They will be a major pest for us in the years ahead, how did they do it, i’m not sure. If they had a bullpen of any real depth they could win it all this year.

    ububba…as a transplanted Georgian now watching all these Yankee games and traveling for work as much as you do, do you find it ironic this is one series you will not get to see? Or is there a way?! Thanks again.

  2. the New York Yankee
    a pure aggregate of the crankee
    now the AArodRP
    so hope springs eternal for you and for me.

  3. Betances, Miller, Shreve, and Justin Wilson have combined for 7.3 WAR out of the bullpen. The Yankees’ awesome pen, particularly Betances, is what has kept them out of 4th place.

    …but perusing their roster, do my eyes deceive me, or did Kyle Davies pitch in a game for them this season?

  4. Beside Justin Wilson (does anybody remember “The Cooking Cajun”?), I also neglected to mention Chris Young, who was a lefty-masher supreme for the first half of the season, a big part of their power parade. But, like the most of the others, he’s now in a deep slump.

    #1/3
    Thanks. Well, I wish these games were in The Bronx, yeah. I’m working an event in town this weekend, so that woulda been perfect. FWIW, I’ve seen almost every IL game (save 1 or 2) the Braves have played at Yankee Stadium since 1997, and it’s always great to see the Atlanta fans there in full support.

    Yes, the Mets are on a crazy roll & their chances in the post-season are as good as any other NL club. But that NL tournament should be a rough ride. And right now, Mets fans are really rooting for the Dodgers to win out west — they’d rather not see the Giants in the NLDS.

  5. @4 according to BBREF, yes, Kyle Davis pitched 2 scoreless innings in one appearance this season. His first appearance since 2011. Amazing.

  6. It kinda sucks that Kyle Davies’ first picture on Google is his mugshot from public intoxication. But that’s crazy that he comes out for one appearance, and he’s never to be seen again.

  7. What’s supposed to happen when there are runners on second and third and a wild pitch lands in the umpire’s pocket? That very thing happened at a minor league game I’m watching.

  8. I thought I might watch a little of the game tonight in B-Mac’s return to the Ted. Now I think I’ll go back to my previously scheduled programming (which involves scrubbing the kitchen sink, which should tell you all you need to know about the game).

  9. How frequently should the kitchen sink be scrubbed? Do u use a stainless steel cleaner like barkeepers friend?

  10. I have the feeling that the Braves Journal comments section is going to have a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” vibe to it going forward.

  11. After 2 out, no one on in the first, 5 men reach and score
    After 2 out, none on in the second, 7 men reach, 4 score
    To be continued…

  12. Eh, maybe I’ll check out that new Thai restaurant in the neighborhood.

    Hard to watch any more of this… We seem to be reaching new lows daily.

  13. Detwiler is atrocious. Hard to believe he was once a top-10 draft pick, top prospect, and temporarily very effective major leaguer

  14. @13 I clean mine once in a Braves win, which means I think I can almost remember the last time I did it.

    It looks like I bailed at the right time. Nothing like a series in Atlanta that will cure whatever ails ya, as these scuffling Yanks have proven.

  15. @17 – Visiting my in-laws in Florida one time, the father-in-law had “McCloud” on (like you do.) All I remember is the Chief telling the secretary: “Bring me the bottle labeled ‘McCloud’.”

  16. If these scores hold, we’ll pick up a game on the Phils, Fish, and Brewers. And the Rockies are tied with the Pirates, so we could pick up one on them too. Could be a very productive night.

  17. Yup, that just happened…. only thing that would make this more appropriate would be if Fredi pulled Gomes for Zane Smith.

  18. This makes us that much more attractive to OF free agents. Come here, and you’ll probably get to pitch a few innings.

  19. the slumping Yanks
    have proffered a vote of thanks
    no problem we said
    we wouldn’t know what to do if we were ahead.

  20. the Atlanta Braves
    have set a record for the fewest saves
    when, rarely, they lead
    then there follows a compulsion to concede.

  21. Nooo! I have wanted my entire Braves fandom to watch a position player pitch, and I missed Gomes. Every single major league team has pitched a position player since the Braves last did 26 years ago (http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2014/5/19/5731592/position-players-pitching-list). I guess that’s the price you pay rooting for a team that has a quarter of a century of continued success. With Sept. 1 right around the corner this was probably my one big chance to see it this year.

  22. who was it who said
    they’re so injured, they’re really half dead
    a foot in each camp
    now who does he think needs the more to revamp?

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