Rodriguez, Mulvey are players to be named later

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Lots of “players to be named later” have been swapped recently and this afternoon two of them have actually been … well, named later.
* Sean Rodriguez joins Matt Sweeney and Alex Torres as the third prospect heading from the Angels to the Rays for Scott Kazmir. Rodriguez has split time between second base and shortstop in the minors while hitting .301/.398/.626 with 50 homers in 170 games at Triple-A.
Those numbers are inflated by a hitter-friendly environment and at 24 years old Rodriguez doesn’t project as a star, but he’s an MLB-ready infielder with good power and represents a nice pickup for Tampa Bay. He seemed destined to never get a great opportunity with the Angels, so the deal works out well for Rodriguez too.
* Kevin Mulvey was part of the big trade that sent Johan Santana from the Twins to the Mets, but now he’s headed to the Diamondbacks as the PTBNL for reliever Jon Rauch. Mulvey’s stock has dropped since the Santana deal, but at worst he’s an MLB-ready fifth starter and was one of the Twins’ top dozen prospects coming into the season.
Philip Humber has been dropped from the 40-man roster twice without being claimed off waivers and Mulvey is in Arizona, so Minnesota’s return for Santana basically now boils down to Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, and 1.25 seasons of Rauch. Not quite the haul Twins fans had in mind when all the juicy rumors were swirling two offseasons ago.

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.