Tagged: Jon Lester

The Yankees need to sign Max Scherzer to improve their rotation

Max Scherzer pitching during the 2013 season.

Max Scherzer pitching during the 2013 season.

The current rotation for the Yankees, after the recent departures of Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy, would be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Adam Warren and David Phelps. Ivan Nova will slot into the rotation likely in June when he is recovered from the Tommy John surgery he had on his right elbow last April.

This is a rotation with health question marks and unproven pitchers at the four and five spots, which means that the Yankees need to overpay Max Scherzer in order to have a better season than they did in 2014. Scherzer will not turn 31 until the end of July and is coming off of two consecutive All-Star seasons.

He has only thrown more than 200 innings twice in his career (2013 & 2014), which proves that he probably will not breakdown as early as a pitcher like Jon Lester, who has done so six times. Scherzer and Lester are both 30, but Lester has made 252 starts while Scherzer has made only 198. Lester has already signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs, and James Shields, who is the other marquee free agent, is not worth signing because he is 32 and has made 285 starts.

Scherzer reportedly wants a six-to-seven year contract that could reach $200 million, which would be the second highest total contract ever given to a starting pitcher after the one Clayton Kershaw signed, but the Yankees need to listen to his agent, Scott Boras, because he will be able to be counted on to be an ace for the next three-four years. Scherzer won the Cy Young in 2013 and has had ERAs of 2.90 and 3.15 in each of the last two seasons. Also, he has averaged 32 starts, 197 innings and 209 strikeouts in the last six seasons.

He needs to be given this contract because he is a strikeout pitcher who doesn’t allow many homers or walks as he hasn’t allowed more than 18 homers, walked more than 63 batters or struck out fewer than 240 batters in the previous two seasons.

Scherzer has also done very well in some of the new sabermetric stats. He WHIP, which is walks plus hits divided by innings pitched, has been an outstanding 1.175 and 0.970 during the last two seasons. Scherzer’s FIP, which measures a pitchers effectiveness at preventing walks, homers and hit by pitches and causing strikeouts, was seventh in league in 2013 and 11th last season. He had the third highest strikeouts per nine innings in MLB with 10.29 and had the seventh best Wins Above Replacement (WAR) among starters.

Scherzer, who will be starting his eighth season and seventh complete season after making his debut in 2008 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, has not had any significant injuries during his career with the Diamondbacks and Tigers. Tanaka and Pineda, who pitched very well when healthy last season, both had their seasons interrupted by injuries.

Tanaka should be relied on next year and was an All-Star in his rookie season after posting stats of 140 strikeouts, a 2.77 ERA, 14 wins, 1.056 WHIP and only 21 walks in 136 innings. However, he missed about 11 starts after his start against the Cleveland Indians on July 8 because of elbow inflammation. An MRI revealed that he had a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He will be a bit of an unknown until he can stay healthy the whole season, but according to Brendan Kuty, Joe Girardi said he is expecting Tanaka to “make his 32 starts” in 2014.

Pineda, who is an imposing pitcher with a 6’7″, 265 pound frame, had an outstanding 1.89 ERA and 59 strikeouts in only 13 starts. His strikeout to walk ratio was remarkable since he only walked seven batters, and his 0.8 walks per nine innings proves how effective he was. His curveball, slider and fastball combo make him very difficult to hit.

However, after being an All-Star with the Mariners in 2011 and being traded to the Yankees in January of 2012, Pineda has had tendinitis in his right shoulder and then an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder that caused him to miss the 2012 season. He began the 2013 season on the 60-day DL as he was still recovering from the shoulder surgery he had as a result of the labral tear in his right shoulder. He was activated in July and pitched six games in the minors.

He pitched his first game for the Yankees on April 5, 2014 and had his first of many dominating performances. However, while pitching in a simulated game while serving his 10-game suspension for pine tar usage, he suffered a Grade 1 strain of his Teres Major muscle below his right shoulder. This injury forced him to the miss the months of May, June and July.

Tanaka and Pineda proved to be very effective when not injured last season, but their health question marks combined with Sabathia’s decline and the fact that Warren is best suited for the bullpen proves that Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman need to give Scherzer the contract that he is looking for. If Pineda and Tanaka can stay healthy and only miss about five or six starts combined they would form an imposing top three in the rotation with Scherzer. The Yankees are already counting on Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran having better seasons than they did in 2014, which makes improving the rotation even more important towards making and advancing in the playoffs in 2015.

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Jesus makes his Yankees debut, but the series win over Boston was highlighted by Burnett and Martin

There were many positives during this game, however, the one that stands out is that A.J. Burnett actually pitched the Yankees to victory, only allowing two runs.

I still think he should be taken out of the rotation, as he allowed 16 runs in two starts before this one, and his ERA is still 5.25, but now Girardi at least as a legitimate decision to make after Phil Hughes struggled so much in his last start.

Not many had confidence in Burnett coming into this game, but something was able to click in his brain allowing him to pitch like he was still a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.  What he was a starter for the Blue Jays he was consistently effective (2.56 ERA in eight starts) instead of consistently ineffective in eight starts before this one for the Yankees (8.71 ERA and zero wins).

Jon Lester had struggled in his three previous starts against the Yankees this season, but he will likely be somewhere in the top 10 in the CY Young with his 3.09 ERA, so it is not surprising that he only gave up one run in five innings.

Lester likely would have been able to pitch deeper into the contest if it was not for his very eventful top of the first.

David Ortiz hit a hard single to right, in the second inning, which gave him a 15 game hitting streak.

In the top of the third Andruw Jones missed a double by inches as his towering line drive just missed hitting the foul line on the Green Monster.  However, unfortunately he would go on to strike out looking on a 2-2 count.

Jones would go 0-1 with three walks but more importantly he has hit more like the hitter he was with the Braves for much of the second half of the season because of an advice from a somewhat unlikely source.  Jones would receive a call during the All-Star break from his mother who said that she didn’t like the way he was setting his legs in his batting stance.

Amazingly, during what was Burnett’s best start since June 29th, he only gave up Dustin Pedroia’s two run blast in the bottom of the fourth.  This would score MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez, and would prove that Burnett is actually capable of adjusting to adversity.

With one out in the fifth inning Robinson Cano hit a long double into the triangle in center-field on Lester’s 100th pitch.  That double was Cano’s 39th of the season. Swisher bunted with one out which is very puzzling because he is one of the better RBI men on the team. They were down by a run and he could have driven in Cano with a single.

Jesus Montero would bat in top of the fifth with a chance to be the savior, but the nerves of playing in his first big league game and facing Lester got to him as he grounded out to shortstop.

Mark Teixiera got hit right on the knee to load the bases after Derek Jeter singled off of the Green Monster and Curtis Granderson walked.  At least that was not a fastball or he would have been badly hurt.  However, the Yankees failed again with men on base as Cano grounded out to third.

In the sixth inning, with david Ortiz batting, Burnett threw a pitch with a 3-2 count that appeared to be strike three on the outside corner but the umpire called it a ball.  Joe Girardi made the correct decision taking him out of the game at that point.  Burnett had allowed a single to Pedroia before that walk, and it was smart not to take any risks with AJ pitching.

To end the sixth inning Curtis Granderson made an outstanding diving catch to prevent two runs from scoring.  This also kept Burnett’s line at two runs, which is impressive.

One of the Yankees best prospects, Jesus Montero, who is known for his hitting, left a total of six runners on base in his first three at bats.  He would not do any damage in his fourth at bat but at least he was able to get himself to first via getting hit on his jersey.

With runners on first and second, Russell Martin decided to come through in the clutch, after so many had not earlier in the game.  Chris Dickerson, who had pinch run and Montero, scored giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead.  Eric Chavez would hit a single to send Martin home, while would set the Yankees up for victory as their dominating bullpen options were on deck.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mariano Rivera surprisingly walked two hitters and give up a single before Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate.  He just wanted to make the game bottom of the ninth interesting as   Gonzalez would be called out on a checked swing to give the Yankees the victory and with the win they are now tied in the loss column with Boston.

The Yankees stranded nine base runners in the first five innings which would be a theme that luckily did not cost them the win.  They would go on to leave 13 men on base and would leave runners in scoring position with two outs six times, with Montero being the culprit three times in his debut.  On the other hand, Boston would be equally hurt by leaving 10 runners on base.

Another major reason that the Yankees got the upper hand in this game was that their bullpen vastly outperformed the Red Sox’ relievers.

Former Yankee pitcher Alfred Aceves, who can do a little of everything (and who choose number 91 after Dennis Rodman) gave up Martin’s double and in the process surrendering his teams lead.  Daniel Bard would allow the Yankees to have a two-run cushion as the Yankees best three relievers were set to enter the game.  Eric Chavez would close out the scoring off of Daniel Bard, with an RBI single, and he has improved his average 21 points since August 28 (this drastic increase is partly because he is a part-time player).

However, for the Yankees, their relievers only gave up one hit in 3.2 innings.  Corey Wade (2.17), who would get the team out of the fifth inning and pick up the win, was signed on June 13th and has proven to be one of the better mid-season, under the radar, acquisitions by GM Brian Cashman.

The impressive back of the bullpen trio of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera imposed their will like normal, but they just had to work around four walks between them.

Rivera got Gonzalez out on his patented cutter which has to be one of the best single pitches of all-time.  The best closer in baseball history will soon be official as he is now five saves away from 600 and seven away from Trevor Hoffman’s all-time saves record. He could accomplish this feat in late September.

They now begin six game home-stand against division foes Toronto and Baltimore (with one on the road because of Hurricane Irene) who are in fourth and fifth place, respectively.  Boston will now face Texas and Toronto in their next six games as the neck-and-neck division race is bound to continue until the last few days of September.

Yankees winning streak is halted at three, they need a victory over Lester to win the series

The Yankees were able to score five runs off of Josh Beckett, four of them earned, which should have been enough to win but Phil Hughes would allow a total of six runs during the Yankees 9-5 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday night.

Hughes pitched well through the first four innings only allowing two runs, but that was not good enough as he turned in his third underwhelming start since coming off the disabled list.  He has had five starts where he allowed two runs or less but he still needs to find that consistency that he had the first-half of last season.  Having three starts where he has allowed more than five runs is not going to cut it.

Even though Hughes has been somewhat feast or famine since coming off the disabled list, he should still be the one to stay in the rotation over A.J. Burnett.  I hope for the best, but I don’t think it is very likely that Burnett allows four runs or less against the Red Sox tonight.  The one major factor in Burnett’s favor is his mammoth contract but Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi need to realize that it is more important that the Yankees are able to count on their starting pitcher.

Burnett has allowed 16 runs in his last two starts and part of the reason that he was signed before the 2009 season was because he had dominated the Red Sox while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays.  In eight starts with the Blue Jays he had five wins and 2.56 ERA, but in eight starts for the Yankees against Boston he has zero wins and an 8.71 ERA.  Even if he somehow allows three runs his should be his last start of the season.

Hughes gives the Yankees a realistic chance of hurling in a dominating start but the same can’t really said for Burnett at this point.  It might make sense to call up Dellin Beances, Manny Banuelos or Adam Warren to see how they do during a spot start, if Hughes does not pitch a quality start when he toes the rubber next.

Putting one of these three top pitchers from AAA Scranton in the middle of a playoff race might be a little risky but it is worth a shot since they have so much potential.  If Hughes does indeed falter again, the Yankees would have no better option besides taking rookie Hector Noesi out of his long-relief role and giving him a start.

Based on how he has performed this season in the Bronx and for Scranton it is likely that Noesi would pitch well if given a chance to start, but he has been a valuable asset in his current bullpen role.  However, if Hughes is kept in the rotation like he should be, and he does not allow three runs or less in his next start something has to be done.

Derek Jeter was the offensive “star” for the Yankees as he was the only player with more than one hit, driving in Eduardo Nunez for the first run of the game in the top of the third, and also adding another single later in the game.

During the fifth inning in Tuesday’s game Francisco Cervelli hit a solo home run, but when he led off the fifth inning during Wednesday’s game he was only able to hit a fly ball to Crawford.

Hughes gave up Ortiz’s 28th homer with two outs in the fifth inning to deep center field to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead.  Ortiz has been on fire recently bringing a 10 game hitting streak into Thursday’s game, with six multiple hit games and 11 RBI during that time period.

After striking out in his first two at bats against Beckett, Robinson Cano would hit a double to the Green Monster between the centerfielder and leftfielder, to score Mark Teixiera.  Chavez continued his scorching hitting as he wound up on third after a double (and an error), where Cano and Nick Swisher scored, after hitting a ball into the left corner, which would carom around preventing rookie Josh Reddick from fielding it cleanly.

At the end of the top of the sixth the Yankees edged the Red Sox 5-4 but it was all downhill from there.  Hughes would allow two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, off a double by long time Boston catcher Jason Varitek and Varitek’s run would be charged to him as reliever Boone Logan gave up a homer to left by MVP candidate Jacoby Ellsbury.

Luis Ayala, who had previously proved to have been a solid under the radar pickup by Cashman, gave up a two-run homer to Varitek in the eighth, but those runs would prove to be meaningless towards the outcome of the game.

The offense could not manage even a hit or a walk off of Beckett in the seventh, Daniel Bard in the eighth or closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.  Mark Teixiera did not show up in this game as he was 0-3 while leaving runners in scoring position with two outs twice.

In the top of the eighth, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher hit balls hard that appeared to be singles, but Marco Scutarto and Dustin Pedroia, respectively, fielded the short hops cleanly to get them out.

Gardner is now 6-54 as he could not reach base to keep the game alive with two outs in the ninth inning.  Jonathan Papelbon simply overpowered and outmatched him on three pitches.

Derek Jeter, who has been on a tear since the beginning of August, passed Craig Biggio with his 3,061st career hit.

According to Kim Jones, Jesus Montero will likely start at Designated Hitter in Thursday’s series finale since they are facing Jon Lester and Montero excels against southpaws.  It will help if he could be the everyday DH against lefties because they have not been getting consistent production out of that spot, but it is more important that they get reliable production from their starters for the rest of the season, especially the four and five spots.

Jon Lester will be pitching for the Red Sox tonight.  He has a 14-6 record with a 3.09 ERA, having allowed one run in each of his past three starts.  However, in three starts against the Yankees this season, the Bronx Bombers has solved him as they scored 10 runs in 18 innings (5.00 ERA).

His story is impressive because he was diagnosed with Lymphoma on August 31st, 2006, but he was able to recover fully as evidenced by winning the final game of the 2007 World Series.