After the New York Yankees played their 60th game of the season, the team was on a roll with five consecutive wins and sported a 37-23 record. In those five straight wins, against the Red Sox and Orioles no less, they outscored them by a mind-numbing 55-9. Aaron Judge went 4-4 in that 60th game of the season and crushed a 496 foot home-run that you most certainly have seen by now, unless you are living under a rock.
Everything was going right with the Bronx Bombers, right up until the team boarded the plane for California. The Yanks beat the Angels in Anaheim to start the road-trip and promptly lost the next two games. They traveled north and were swept by an Oakland A’s team that is currently 35-43. Making things worse, Yankees players started dropping like flies. Since the beginning of the road trip, they have lost Adam Warren, CC Sabathia, Aaron Hicks, Starlin Castro and Matt Holliday to injuries and in Holliday’s case, illness. Greg Bird had been on rehab assignments in Tampa and Scranton, but pain has returned in his problematic right ankle and hasn’t responded well to a cortisone injection.
Not only have these kids been called to New York to fill the void of injured players, they have contributed and excited Yankees fans and management alike. The Yanks are still only 5-11 since June 11, but the kids are playing well enough to give Yankees fans optimism now and for the future.
On June 11, I wrote about how the Yankees were spoiling us. After they finished mopping the floor with the Orioles and headed for California, they failed to bring two important things with them: Their mojo and their good health.
After winning the first game of their west coast trip in Anaheim, they lost the next two games to the Angels, followed by a four game sweep to the Oakland A’s. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. When Yankees pitchers pitched well, they didn’t hit. When the Yankees scored runs, their pitchers got lit up.
Worst of all was the injury bug making it’s ugly return. CC Sabathia, who has pitched so well this season, suffered a grade 2 hamstring strain in Anaheim and is probably out a month or more.
Adam Warren is also on the 10 day DL with right shoulder inflammation, but is expected to throw a bullpen on Friday. Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez are nicked up a little, but still in the lineup. Gleyber Torres isn’t on the Yankees major league roster, but he was on the fast track toward a major league debut until he suffered an injured left (non-throwing) elbow in a head-first slide in a game for the SWB Railriders in Buffalo.
The Yankees are now back home, and although they lost their first game of the series against the Angels, here’s hoping the Bronx Bombers can get back to their winning ways.
These Bronx Bombers are resembling Yankees teams from the late 1990’s and late aughts in terms of runs scored. As of this morning, they have scored 339 runs in 59 games, an average of 5.745 runs per game. That puts them on pace for 930 runs, which would equal production of the 2006 team and be the most since 2007, when the Yankees scored a mind-blowing 968 runs.
As I sit here typing this, as I think about which video clips, gifs and photos to use to supplement this entry, I feel spoiled. Researching the amount of team runs scored over the past 20 years, it’s obvious this Yankees team is very special.
I’m pinching myself. I’m doing this as a reminder that they haven’t hit a wall yet, the same wall ALL teams hit at some point during the season. The Yankees haven’t done that yet, not in a way that’s lasted for any time. I remind myself Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are 25 and 24 years old, respectively, and remind myself they have a combined career 621 MLB at-bats between them. It feels like Luis Severino has been here quite a while, but he’s still only 23 years old, with 34 career starts on his resume, the equivalent of one full season.
This is not to suggest pessimism, obviously I want this team to continue to roll over people with this offense and I would love to see Severino, Jordan Montgomery, and Michael Pineda keep shutting teams down and giving six or seven good innings every start. It would be great to have CC Sabathia continue defying Father Time. Masahiro Tanaka still has a 6.55 ERA.
Lastly, for the first time in quite a few years, the Yankees have enjoyed relatively good health. Having quality and productive depth has more than offset the few injury issues they have dealt with. All five starters have taken every turn to this point, and pushing back Tanaka a day is the reason Chad Green is making his first start of 2017 this afternoon.
The 2017 Bronx Bombers have been so much fun and so enjoyable to watch. Here’s hoping they stay healthy, productive and keep bringing joy to all Yankees fans everywhere.
Yesterday, we took a look at the New York Yankees‘ starting rotation and their individual performances for the first two-plus months of 2017. In the final installment of Yankees Report Card, we will examine the work the relief corps have done.
As of today’s date (June 9, 2017), Yankees relievers have collectively pitched to a 2.93 ERA and a record of 8-6. Let’s dig in.
Aroldis Chapman – (1-0, 3.55 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) Chapman is currently on the disabled list due to shoulder soreness. His ERA and WHIP are misleading, as his final two appearances (before going on the shelf inflated the numbers. Prior to those two games, Chapman’s ERA was 0.79 and he converted all seven save opportunities, mowing down hitters as only he can. Upon being shut-down, he pointed to a 33 pitch appearance in Boston on April 26 where he earned the save, but it was rainy and cold and that is where the pain began. Thankfully, Aroldis is on track to return to the Yankee bullpen in Oakland on June 16. Let’s hope there are no residual effects.
Dellin Betances – (3-1, 0.48 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) Betances allowed an earned run in his second appearance of the season (April 8) and hasn’t allowed one since, a span of over two months. I believe there is no doubt he took Yankees President Randy Levine’s harsh words to heart after the team defeated him in arbitration. The irony here is Betances stepped right in to the closer’s role after Aroldis Chapman went on the DL and converted all five save opportunities. His hits/9IP rate is at a career low 3.9. Betances still walks too many hitters (12 in 18.2 innings), but his ability to strike-out anyone usually negates the issue of occasional wildness. Someone needs to get Randy Levine measured for his astronaut costume.
Tyler Clippard – (0-3, 1.88 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) The “Yankee Clippard” made his return to the Bronx just before last year’s trade deadline. If you are following along on “Yankees Twitter” during the games, it seems whenever he is shown warming up or entering a game, he seems as welcome as an IRS audit. I acknowledge being part of the guilty party at times. I admit surprise at how good Clippard’s numbers are, if you look past his 0-3 record. His hits per 9 are 4.9, well below his career 6.2 His walks per nine is 3.4 (career 3.7) and his K/9 is 11.6 (career 9.9). Lastly, his FIP in ’17 is 3.36 — WAY below his numbers from 2015 and 2016. Maybe now is a great time to climb off his back and appreciate the nice numbers Clip has shown us this year.
Adam Warren – (1-1, 2.43 ERA, WHIP 0.81) Another Yankees reliever who is quietly having a decent season. Warren has done his job, giving the team multiple innings in games when needed. This season, Yankees starters have been giving more innings, which leads to less work in that capacity. The nice thing about Warren is he can be plugged into any part of the game and do well. Long relief? No problem. 7th or 8th inning set-up? Give me the ball. Need a save? He’s done that, too! A rough stretch of 5 appearances from May 14-May 23 (7 ER over 5.1 innings) inflated his ERA. If you throw that out, his ERA is 0.36 (one earned run over 24.1 innings). Warren doesn’t have the flashy arsenals possessed by Chapman and Betances, but he is pretty darn good!
Jonathan Holder – (1-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) What a great surname for a relief pitcher, eh? Maybe someday he will advance his career into securing holds, but for now manager Joe Girardi seems more comfy using him in the middle of games and less in situations with the game on the line. Of Holder’s 25 appearances in 2017, 15 of them were in games the Yankees were behind and eventually lost. His stuff is legit, a fastball he touches 95 and an excellent swing and miss curve (76-79 mph) he throws as often as his heat. His results in 2017 have been uneven, but with more time, experience and hopefully good health, one would think he will only get better. I like his chances.
Chad Green – (0-0, 1.62 ERA, WHIP 0.60) Green was recalled from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre in early May and has delivered good results in long relief, lights out in a few games in mop-up duty. In some outings, he can look great and others look shaky. His results with the big club in 2016 were mixed, and his stats in Scranton this season were sketchy (2-1, 4.72 ERA, 1.61 WHIP). For those drooling over Green’s numbers in New York for the past month, take it as fair warning. His stuff is good enough to pitch in the big-leagues, but he’s just been inconsistent. At most levels.
Bryan Mitchell – (1-1, 5.54 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) I have no idea what is happening with this guy. Until an injury late in Spring training last year, Mitchell seemed to be in line for a spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation. He finished 2016 with a handful of decent starts and began 2017 with seven good appearances (1-0, 1.04 ERA). Two rocky outings back to back at the end of April got him a ticket to Scranton. He ping-ponged back and forth again in May, making a total of five uninspiring outings between Triple-A and the Yankees for the entire month, at one point sitting for almost two weeks between appearances. To this writer, it makes me wonder if Mitchell has fallen out of favor with Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman. What happens from here remains to be seen.
Chasen Shreve – (1-0, 0.57 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) In limited work, Shreve has shown flashes of brilliance reminiscent of his first season (2015) in Pinstripes. He’s been used in low-leverage situations most of the time, unlike in 2015. If he continues pitching well, it could force Girardi to keep him over Tommy Layne, since it’s doubtful the team will carry 13 pitchers long-term.
Tommy Layne (0-0, 7.50 ERA, 1.83 WHIP) Sometimes the less said the better.
Some time between the All-Star break and the trade deadline, we’ll re-examine Yankees players and issue another report card.
A few days ago, we took a look at the first two months of the Yankees season, grading the team’s hitting and defense, position by position. Today, we are going to focus on starting pitchers.
While the hitters have supplied lots of muscle, Yankees pitchers have fared quite well, for the most part. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia each have six wins. However, if you watched Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox, you’ll see why everything isn’t completely well in the rotation. Let’s dig in.
Masahiro Tanaka – (5-6, 6.55 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) After three seasons of dependable starts and a career record of 39-16, the sky is falling. Or are those just all the home runs balls landing around us? In seven of Tanaka’s 12 starts, he has allowed a minimum of four runs. In 66 innings, he’s allowed 17 home runs (!), which would translate to 51 over a 200 inning season. Tanaka insists he is healthy, which has been debated since July 2014, Tanaka’s rookie season. His velocity is not down, in a start against Baltimore on April 8, he was 96 mph or above three straight pitches. His BB/9 innings is 2.5, a career high. His first three seasons were between 1.4 and 1.6, a telling sign pointing to lack of command. Tanaka has shown signs of his dominating self in three separate starts against the White Sox, Red Sox and A’s, allowing 2 runs and 14 hits over 23.1 innings, proving his stuff and ability are there. The Yankees will need “the good Tanaka” if they want to contend long-term in 2017.
CC Sabathia – (7-2, 3.66 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) Sabathia has provided strings of dependable in 2017. Since he started wearing the knee brace on his right knee at the tail end of 2015, he’s pitched better and shown a more velocity. He’s made the transformation from an all power guy to more of a finesse pitcher. But he can still reach back for a little extra when he needs it, touching 93-94 when needed.
CC can be a bit streaky. He allowed three earned runs total in his first three starts, while allowing 22 earned runs in the following four. Sabathia has pitched to the tune of a 1.11 ERA since May 16, winning all five starts, including a masterful performance against Boston on June 7 (0 runs in 8 innings). With Tanaka having his problems, the Yankees need this to continue.
Michael Piñeda – Updated stats: (7-3, 3.39 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) Piñeda has as many wins right now as he had all last season, which says quite a lot about how poorly 2016 went for him. He still gives up lots of home-runs (13) and still strikes out a lot of batters, but a big difference is in his WHIP, which is lower than the last two seasons. His walk rate is down from 2.7/9 IP in ’16 to 2.1, and his hits per 9 IP is down from 9.4 to 8.4. He’s doing much better at locating and keeping away from the big inning. He’s still prone to getting rattled out there, so it’s something to monitor, but bottom-line Piñeda is giving the team a chance to win.
Pineda pitched a strong outing tonight vs. Boston, his updated stats after beating the Red Sox stand at: 7-3, 3.39 ERA, WHIP 1.13. As a result, I also upgraded his report card grade from C-plus to B-minus.
Luis Severino – (4-2, 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) What a difference from last year. In 2016, Severino was tattooed early and often as a member of the starting rotation, to the point where he was sent back to Triple-A Scranton in mid-May. He ping-ponged back and forth between New York and Scranton, but never seemed settled. Luis spent a lot of time over the winter with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who worked with him with on several facets of the game and are paying dividends. He has struck out 76 over 68.1 innings and lowered his walk rate from 3.2 per 9 IP to 2.1. Severino has provided length as well, giving seven innings or more in six of his 11 starts. Sevy seems to have come of age.
Jordan Montgomery – (3-4, 3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) Rookie starter Montgomery has done a very nice job as the 5th starter in the rotation. In his ten starts, Monty has gone at least six innings and has limited any damage when things haven’t gone well. In his last start, Montgomery shut down a hot Blue Jays lineup that scored 37 runs in their previous five games. It’s easy to see why the Yankees are very high on him.
In our final installment of Yankees Report-Card, we’ll tackle the bullpen.
We are two months into the 2017 season, and the New York Yankees are sitting atop the A.L. East with a 32-22 record. As the season began, many fans (including this writer) had tempered optimism, figuring this season as a likely season of transition as the team gradually becomes younger.
Only someone forgot to tell the players this. After a 1-4 start, the “Baby Bombers” proceeded to set the league ablaze. The team scored 11 runs or more in the span of a week, including a thrilling comeback against the Baltimore Orioles on April 28 when Matt Holliday hit a walk-off 3-run homer to beat the O’s, 14-11.
Periodically, I’ll be evaluating the team and giving readers a report-card, of sorts. I’ll give a summary of their stats, and break down what has went right, as well as what may have gone wrong. The objective is to give a fair assessment. This time, we will cover the position-players. Next time, we’ll cover pitching.
Gary Sanchez – (.267, 6 HR, 15 RBI) “El Gary” missed time from mid-late April into early May with a right biceps strain, but has begun to get his home-run stroke back in shape. He hit two homers on June 1 in Toronto, of which both were his trademark line-drive bullets. Sanchez has only thrown-out 3 of 13 would-be base-stealers, but the majority of steals came with pitchers with slower deliveries. Gary is very good at calling a game and handling his pitchers. To me, that’s the most important part of his game.
Austin Romine – (.230, 2 HR, 10 RBI) Every team needs an Austin Romine on their roster. Romine has always been a catcher you can plug-in and play and not have to worry. While he won’t provide the power Sanchez has, Romine is still a serviceable hitter. Most importantly, he will give excellent defense behind the plate and handle his pitchers. Austin calls a good game and can step into the lineup and play well, as he did when Sanchez missed a couple weeks with injury.
Greg Bird – (.100, 1 HR, 3 RBI) Greg Bird bruised his right ankle in spring training and it never seemed to improve through the month of April. The injury obviously hampered him, especially at the plate. Mercifully, Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman shut him down and DL’ed him to let Bird’s ankle heal. He should be returning in the next couple weeks.
Chris Carter – (.180, 4 HR, 14 RBI) Carter may be the most vilified Yankees player since Stephen Drew, if you follow along on Twitter during the games. As many expected, when Carter is at bat, the breezes created by all his swings and misses could rival Carrier as a leader in air-conditioner manufacturing. He strikes out 43% of the time (48 K’s in 111 AB) and is adept at killing rallies. Thankfully, the team can afford to bat him eighth or ninth while Bird finishes rehab. In fairness, Carter is quite good at scooping bad throws out of the dirt, saving errors and potential runs.
Starlin Castro – (.315, 9 HR, 31 RBI) – Castro started hot right out of the gate in ’17, hitting .352 for the month of April. He had 10 games of two or more hits in April and 11 more in May. His emergence has been reason for Yankees brass to have top prospect Gleyber Torres playing third base in AA Trenton and now AAA Scranton. From time to time, Castro will boot a ball at his second-base post, but his defense is worlds better than his early days with the Chicago Cubs.
Didi Gregorius (.308, 4 HR, 20 RBI) Didi missed the first twenty games of the season while recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the World Baseball Classic. Upon his return, Gregorius started off hot, with seven hits in his first 15 at bats over three games. As of this writing, he has only one error in 32 games, which is a far cry from his early days in Pinstripes. Gregorius has displayed his cannon of an arm, easing any worries whether his shoulder is healthy.
Chase Headley – (.228, 3 HR, 23 RBI) Hoo boy. It seems hard to believe only six years ago Headley hit 31 HR’s and drove in 115 with the Padres, but it’s been all downhill from there. Strikeouts have always been a part of his game, but it’s easier to tolerate a 25% K rate when there is production. On the defensive side, Headley can make diving stops to his right and left that evoke memories of Graig Nettles. The problem is he has to make the throw to first base, which is usually an adventure. As of this writing, Chase has committed nine errors to the tune of a career-low .931 fielding-percentage. It’s not hard to imagine the possibility of a trade by the July 31st deadline with Gleyber Torres manning the hot corner in AAA Scranton.
Ronald Torreyes – (.284, 1 HR, 14 RBI) “Toe”, as manager Joe Girardi calls Torreyes, has been a reliable utility man since coming to the Bronx last season. He’s the kind of guy you can plug in to second, third or shortstop and not have to worry. On defense, Torreyes has 4 errors across 107 career games in Pinstripes, and a fielding percentage of .984.
Rob Refsnyder – (2 for 16, 0 HR, 0 RBI) Refsnyder has spent essentially the ’17 season in Scranton, and has only played sparingly the couple times he has been recalled due to injury. However, it seems manager Joe Girardi is giving preference to “Ref” at 1st base over Chris Carter while Greg Bird finishes his rehab. That said, he needs to hit better than 2 for 16 to keep getting regular at bats.
Brett Gardner – (.269, 12 HR, 26 RBI) Gardy has apparently been eating his Wheaties. As of this writing, he has 12 home-runs, after hitting seven all of last season. Gardner’s career high is 17 homers in 2014. At this pace, that will be shattered by the All Star Break. This display of power hasn’t caused any downturn in batting average. In fact, his .269 average is five points above his career average. His slugging percentage (.518) is over 150 points higher from 2016 (.362). In the field, Gardy provides Gold Glove defense and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body to make a play.
Jacoby Ellsbury – (.281, 4 HR, 14 RBI) Jacoby was off to a very productive start to the season when he made a great running catch off the bat of Alcides Escobar on the first pitch of the game against the Royals on May 24. His head immediately hit the wall, shaking him up. He finished the inning, but left the game at the top of the 2nd inning. After a series of tests, Ellsbury was diagnosed with a concussion and was placed on the 7-day disabled list. He was supposed to take batting practice in Toronto on June 2, but his headaches returned and was subsequently shut down. With concussions being what they are, let’s hope these symptoms go away soon for the sake of his well-being.
Aaron Hicks – (.321, 8 HR, 31 RBI) Aaron Hicks is showing the potential the Yankees were looking for when they traded for him in November 2015. He has upped his game defensively, as of this writing, he has yet to make an error. On the offensive side, Hicks has taken things to the next level. Over the past two weeks, he is 16-41, including a game against the Blue Jays on June 1 where he went 4-5 and drove in six runs. He’s also getting on base to the tune of .432 and his OPS is 1.009. Impressive.
Aaron Judge – (.324, 18 HR, 41 RBI) I don’t think anyone figured Aaron Judge would be putting up these numbers quite this soon. His homers are rarely ever cheapies and even his at-bats that AREN’T home-runs often result in balls that are scalded. Most impressively, Judge is third in the American League in pitches per plate appearance at 4.38. That’s unheard of for someone with his level of playing experience. Oh, and his defense has been pretty darn good, too (2 errors in 50 games). You must be doing something right to get your own cheering section names after you.
Matt Holliday – (.271, 12 HR, 37 RBI) The Yankees brought Holliday in to give the lineup another veteran presence who can drive in runs, as well as help mentor the young kids who are emerging. Holliday started off hot, going 8-22 to begin the season, and his production has been pretty steady. When needed, he can play first base and left field and won’t embarrass himself, but he’s here primarily to hit. He’s going to strike out a lot, but he won’t strike out at Chris Carter-type levels, but that’s what happens with most power hitters.
With Brett Gardner showing more power, he and Holliday have been having fun with a little “home run competition”.
Between the All Star break and July 31 trade-deadline, we will reassess and do this all over again.