Brewers notes: Escobar, Hardy, and Davis

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Some follow-up notes on yesterday’s big shakeup in Milwaukee
* Called up to replace J.J. Hardy at shortstop, 22-year-old prospect Alcides Escobar is making his first career start this afternoon against the Padres. And he’s batting ninth, behind pitcher Manny Parra. Escobar doesn’t figure to be much of an offensive threat at this stage of his career, but he has outstanding speed and because of that my guess is manager Ken Macha likes the idea of a “second leadoff man” at the bottom of the order.
* Meanwhile, Dave Cameron of Fan Graphs notes that by sending Hardy to Triple-A the Brewers can delay his free agency. Prior to the move Hardy would’ve gone past five seasons of service time this year and been eligible for free agency following next season, but if he remains in the minors until September the Brewers would have him under their control through 2011. At this point Hardy staying in Milwaukee is unlikely, but the teams looking to trade for him would also love to get another season out of the deal.
* General manager Doug Melvin is apparently looking to make even more changes, because the Brewers claimed Doug Davis off waivers from the Diamondbacks, giving the two sides a chance to work on a potential trade. Davis pitched for the Brewers from 2003-2006 and said yesterday that “going back to Milwaukee would be fun … I know the fans would be behind me.” However, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that trading for Davis “seems unlikely.”

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.