How have the Yankees hitters performed against sliders?

Tonight the Yankees square off against the Chris Archer. With both Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeremy Hellickson on the shelf, Archer’s easily the Rays’ best starting pitcher on the Rays not named David Price. One notable characteristic of Archer is that he throws more sliders than the average bear, turning to the slide piece 33% of the time both this season and last. Of all pitchers who have thrown at least 200 pitches in 2014, only three have thrown the pitch with a higher frequency. Tomorrow, the Rays will give the ball to lefty Cesar Ramos, who’s also thrown a slider one third of the time this year.

Ted Williams once called the slider “the best pitch in baseball.” No doubt, a good slider can be unhittable at times and between Archer and Ramos, its probably safe to say the Yankees batters will receive a steady diet of them this weekend. Does this bode well for the Yankees hitters? Going back to 2008, here’s how Yankees hitters have fared in plate apearances in which they saw at least one slider:

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Playing with fire: David Phelps

At this juncture, it’s hard to complain about the Yankees’ bullpen. Despite Mariano Rivera‘s retirement and David Robertson‘s early stint on the disabled list, the previous concerns about the relievers have been quieted for now. As a whole, the bullpen has posted a 2.95 ERA and 3.83 FIP in just under 40 innings. There is some indication of luck with FIP being higher than ERA, but I think everyone would have signed up for this performance before opening day. One contributor gaining Joe Girardi‘s trust has been David Phelps, who has seemed to take over the “seventh-inning role” after Robertson was put on the shelf. Should Phelps be trusted? Continue reading

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Mike Ford is tearing up the Sally League — Who is he?

While perusing the Yankees’ early-season minor league stats, I came across Mike Ford, who’s hit .347/.421/.510 so far for the class-A Charleston, good for a 177 wRC+. With just 57 plate appearances, the sample size is obviously microscopic, but numbers like that are pretty hard to ignore. Although Ford’s performance is partially driven by his .405 BABIP, his strikeout and walk numbers  have been impressive both this season and last. So who the heck is this guy? Continue reading

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Why playing Kelly Johnson at first base is not ideal

Mark Teixeira‘s hamstring injury left the Yankees without a true first baseman on their roster, forcing them to get a little creative to fill the void. In Teix’s absence, Joe Girardi has mostly penciled in Kelly Johnson at first, save a couple of starts by the now DL’d Francisco Cervelli. Starting Johnson at first is not ideal, and that’s not because Johnson’s an inferior player. In fact, Johnson’s a fine player, but he’s not a fine first baseman. Continue reading

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The potential downside of using backup starting pitchers as relievers

After Michael Pineda won the battle for the final rotation spot this spring, the Yankees decided to use the other candidates — David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, and even Shane Greene — to fill out the big league bullpen. Joe Girardi has already shown a willingness to use Warren and Phelps in key, late-inning situations — a trend that’s likely to continue, especially with David Robertson on the shelf. Continue reading

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An early look velocity trends for Yankees pitchers

Less than two weeks into the season, its still far too early to make any conclusions about performance, especially for pitchers who have only one or two games under their belts. Something that can be a little more telling, though, is fastball velocity. Unlike ERA or strikeout numbers, a pitcher can’t fluke his way into throwing harder. Sure, some pitchers may not yet be at full strength in early April, which could lead to slightly slower velocities, but there’s a limit to how fluky a pitcher’s velocity can be — it’s not like Hiroki Kuroda can randomly average 100 MPH over a week of games. Either a guy can throw hard or he can’t. So how hard have the Yankees’ pitchers been throwing so far compared to last season? Continue reading

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Is Taylor Dugas an underrated prospect?

Fangraphs prospect analyst Nathaniel Stoltz recently labeled outfielder Taylor Dugas as one of the most underrated prospects in the Yankees system:

Dugas is very far off the prospect radar — he was unranked in the Yankees’ consensus top 58 prospect list compiled by Chris St. John of Beyond the Box Score, meaning not a single site out there included him in their rankings. Dugas’ plate discipline stats have been off the charts in the low minors, but his primary drawback is that he has barely any power at all, leading to a peculiar .293/.385/.351 triple slash in A-ball. Conventional scouting wisdom holds that a guy like that will  be exposed in a hurry as he faces more polished pitchers who will go right after him. Given his complete lack of pop, it’s easy to see why he hasn’t received much love from prospect evaluators, especially since, at age 24, he’s a little old to be getting his first taste of Double-A.

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The recipe behind Tanaka’s dominant splitter

Of the seven pitches Masahiro Tanaka offers, one stands out above them all: the splitter. That isn’t to say the rest of his arsenal is mediocre, but the split is Ma-Kun’s calling card. It hasn’t taken long to see that he is capable of confusing opponents with the diving pitch, one that some have called the best of its kind in the world. To be fair, the splitter isn’t a particularly popular pitch nowadays. Yet, what we’ve seen from Tanaka is a pitch that has been difficult for batters to square up. Continue reading

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Trade comps for Gary Sanchez

As the Yankees’ clear-cut top prospect, Gary Sanchez‘s name was at the top of virtually every organizational prospect list out there last winter, and assuming nothing goes awry, Sanchez should be ready to take on big league catching duties within the next year or two. The obvious issue is that the Yankees already have their catcher of the present and future on their roster in Brian McCann, who’s under contract through 2018. McCann may not be the Yankees’ catcher for all five of those years, but he almost certainly will be for at least the next three — well past Sanchez’s 2015 ETA. Throw in fellow catching prospect John Ryan Murphy, who is all but ready for the show, and Sanchez’s future with the Bombers is hazy at best. Sooner or later, the Yankees will dangle Sanchez. It may not happen this season, or even this winter, but it’s only a matter of time. Continue reading

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Fun with small sample sizes: The worst Yankees offensive seasons of the last 20 years

Last week, I wrote a post highlighting some of the best seasons by a Yankee in a teeny tiny sample size. Today, I’m repeating this exercise for the worst seasons of the last 20 years. From 1994-2013, these Yankees had the lowest wRC+’s in a season in which they had between 50 and 100 plate appearances:

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