Brian Cashman: Yankees MVP

Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is over and the contenders who landed their guys are figuring out where to put them in their lineups or pitching staffs. Usually deadline days are hectic and somewhat chaotic, and this one was no different. Plenty of teams made their deals today. The Dodgers landed Yu Darvish right at the 4:00 PM deadline, upgrading their rotation. They also upgraded their bullpen.

The New York Yankees landed Sonny Gray in a trade with the Oakland Athletics that sent prospects Jorge MateoDustin Fowler and James Kaprielian to the A’s. Both Fowler and Kaprielian are currently recovering from injuries, but all have high upsides.

Yankees Senior VP and General Manager Brian Cashman has been busy in July. On July 19, he traded for Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and former Yankee David Robertson from the Chicago White Sox in return for much maligned reliever Tyler Clippard and prospects Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo. Yesterday, Cashman traded minor league pitchers Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell to the Minnesota Twins for lefty starter Jaime Garcia, who himself was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Twins a handful of days earlier. Numerous other lesser trades also have been made which can be seen in Yankees transactions.

All these moves were made by Brian Cashman without the team having to part with their best prospects. A’s GM Billy Beane, an excellent executive in his own right, originally wanted Clint Frazier (#2) and Estevan Florial (#4 prospect) in the deal for Gray.

Since Cashman took over as GM in 1998, the experience he has gained has served him well. I am blown away that the Yankees never had to part with their very best prospects while loading up in a big way for a run at a World Series title. Which I must repeat:

Well done, Mr. Cashman. Well done.

Brian Cashman thumbs up

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Yankees 1st Half Report-Card: Pitchers

The All-Star break is over, and teams are set to resume the second half of the season in Major League Baseball. In my last entry, I graded the position players on the New York Yankees. This time, we will assess the pitching staff’s job at the halfway point.

Starting Pitchers

Luis Severino – (5-4, 3.54 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) Severino used his time wisely over the past winter, working on pitches and mindset with Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez while in the Dominican Republic. The results have been profound. With some better luck and run support, Sevy could easily have at least five more wins. He’s emerging as the newest ace of the staff.

Grade: A-

Masahiro Tanaka – (7-8, 5.47 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) Tanaka is the guy that is SUPPOSED to be the staff’s ace, but has had an abysmal first half. It all started on Opening Day, when he gave up 7 runs in 2.2 innings and two home runs. Tanaka has been like the proverbial “little girl with the curl”, either very, very good or very, VERY bad. There hasn’t been much in between. The Yankees’ hopes for the season depend on him getting better. Tanaka can opt-out of his contract after 2017 if he chooses too, but if he doesn’t get better it seems the team will have another bad contract to pay for.

Grade: D- (five dominant starts saves him a failing grade)

CC Sabathia – (7-3, 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) When Sabathia started wearing a brace on his chronically bad right knee at the tail end of 2015, the results were much better and it carried through 2016. His numbers on the surface look good, and he made a number of starts where he looked like vintage CC. However, there has been 5 starts where he allowed 4 runs or more.  This includes a hideous stretch from late April into early May where he gave up 18 runs in 14.2 innings. Sabathia enjoyed a run of six effective starts, lowering his ERA by two runs, when he tweaked a hamstring on June 13 in Anaheim.

Sabathia tweak hammy

Sabathia came back on July 4 against Toronto and had no command. He probably could have used a rehab start for Scranton or Trenton. He’s 37 years old, but still has more in the tank. His velocity sits at 89-91, but still has 94 in his back pocket on occasions as needed. Hopefully CC will stay healthy and effective for the second half of the season.

Grade: B-

Michael Pineda – (8-4, 4.39 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) Michael Pineda is an enigma. Still. In fact, a picture of Pineda should be next to the definition of the word enigma. After a tough first start of ’17, Michael sailed along on a nine start stretch where he allowed three earned runs or less. Over said stretch, he won six of seven decisions and carried a 3.32 ERA at the end of May. Then June happened. Like flicking a light switch, 2016 Pineda emerged, looking every bit like the shell-shocked, unfocused Pineda that drives Yankees fans batshit crazy. From June on, his ERA shot up from 3.32 to it’s current 4.39. He gave up 53 hits over 36.2 innings during this stretch.

**EDIT** Pineda was diagnosed with a torn UCL in his right elbow, ending his season. Terrible news.

Pineda finishes 2017 with probable Tommy John surgery and an uncertain future. I wish him well.

Grade: D+

Jordan Montgomery – (6-4, 3.65 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) The rookie Montgomery opened everyone’s eyes in Spring Training with his ability to get guys out and willingness to challenge hitters. He earned the 5th spot in manager Joe Girardi‘s rotation and has kept a grip on it, like a bulldog. “Monty”, as Girardi refers to him, has worked at least six innings in eight of his 16 starts. Sure, he’s had a few clunkers, but all rookies do. Still, there are only three starts where he allowed four or more runs. He is striking out almost a batter an inning. Montgomery still hasn’t been lit up yet, unlike veteran starters Tanaka and Pineda.

Monty seems impressive and has a bright future ahead of him.

Grade: B+


Relief Pitchers

Aroldis Chapman – (2-0, 3.48 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) Chapman started off 2017 in his usual dominating way, converting all five save opportunities through April 26. That day, Chapman labored through the 9th inning, walking two, allowing a hit and striking out two. It was raw and drizzly in Boston and he threw 33 pitches. On May 7, in his return to Wrigley Field against the Cubs, he blew his first save, throwing 36(!) pitches before Girardi mercifully pulled him. Five days later, after another bad outing against the Astros, it was revealed Chapman was suffering from shoulder inflammation. He returned on June 18, but his results have been uneven. We’re in the 1st season of a 5 year/86 million dollar contract, so it would be prudent for Girardi to not leave him in games for 35 pitches.

Grade: C+

Dellin Betances – (3-4, 3.18 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) On the morning of June 22, Betances had a record of 3-1, 0.40 ERA and was shutting down everyone. Five days later, he was summoned by Joe Girardi to close out a game in Chicago and walked two batters, hit another and gave up a hit, resulting in a walk-off White Sox win. Things continued to fall to hell from there. Since June 27, Betances’ stat-line is ugly: 3.2 IP, 2H, 7R, 7ER, 10BB, 6K. Even Carlos Marmol wasn’t that wild. Warning signs began to show themselves earlier. He began walking more hitters in early June, when his workload become sporadic because games weren’t close and he wasn’t needed. After he pitched on May 27, his next appearance was six days later. His following appearance was five days after that. Then a four day gap. Pitchers need regular work, especially a man Betances’ size. Repeating a delivery is tougher for big and tall guys, and I believe the time off hurt him. I think if he gets regular work, Dellin will be okay.

Grade: B-

Tyler Clippard – (1-5, 5.24 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) Just as June was unkind to Betances, it’s been every bit as bad for Clippard. The problem for Clip is he is being hit all over the yard AND he’s walking people. His stat-line from June 1st to now is: 12.1 IP, 14 H, 16 ER, 12 BB, 13K and five HR’s allowed. Clippard doesn’t have the stuff and the upside Betances has. If he doesn’t turn it around quickly, the 32 year old Clippard may be gone before the trade deadline on July 31.

Grade: D-

Adam Warren – (2-1, 2.02 ERA, 0.79 WHIP) Warren has quietly had an excellent season out of the Yankees bullpen. In years past, he’s been a swing-man, making spot-starts and used in long relief. This year, he’s been used a variety of ways in relief, earlier in the year in low-leverage situations, and Girardi has also trusted him to hold the lead in the 7th inning. Warren missed three weeks in June because of a cranky shoulder, returned at the beginning of July. Whenever he’s been handed the ball, he’s done his job.

Grade: A

Jonathan Holder – (1-1, 3.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) Holder is a highly regarded young arm who hopefully will grow into a role where he will be trusted to hold leads and maybe even close games someday. He throws four pitches, so an eventual starting role isn’t out of the question. Right now, it’s hard to tell what you will get from Holder from game to game, because he’s left a lot of pitches over the plate. Those pitches are usually hit very, very hard.

Grade: C-

Chasen Shreve – (2-1, 2.96 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) After a promising beginning to his Yankees career in the first half of 2015, Shreve has been relegated to filling an inning or two of relief in mop-up situations. His control has been better this year, which has helped his cause. When a starter is failing in the early innings, Shreve is usually the guy you see warming up in a hurry because he can be ready quickly. He’s been optioned back and forth to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes Barre when fresh arms have been needed.

Grade: C

Bryan Mitchell – (1-1, 5.06 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) Mitchell has some of the best stuff on the Yankees staff, yet it seems Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild don’t know what way to use him. In 2016, he was all but named one of the five starters coming out of spring training, then suffered an unfortunate toe injury that took most of the season to heal. This year, Mitchell was having a good month of April until later that month when he gave up 7 runs over back to back outings. Since then, he’s been ping-ponged back and forth to Scranton where he’s now stretched out. The Yankees plan to start Mitchell in Boston on Sunday in the first game of a doubleheader.

In the wake of Michael Pineda’s injury, my guess is they will give Mitchell a start or two to prove if he’s worthy of being in the team’s plans or possibly to showcase him to other teams who need starters, or a good right arm. I am thinking the latter. For some reason, I have a hunch Girardi and Cashman have soured on Mitchell.

Grade: C-

See ya next time,

Charlie

 

Yankees 1st Half Report Card: Position Players

The first half of the season is over in Major League Baseball. Players not included in the All Star Game festivities are resting up, spending time with their families and taking a break in the middle of what is always a grueling season.

It’s also a time for fans to reflect on the first halves of their favorite teams and media to assess teams they cover.

With that, let’s break down the first half of 2017 for the New York Yankees. Today, we will grade position players. Next time, we will grade the pitchers. Let’s begin!

Catchers

Gary Sanchez – (.276, 13 HR, 40 RBI) Gary Sanchez, a 2017 All Star, has been a key part of the Yankees lineup. He’s not slugging to the beat of the ridiculous pace he put on in the 2nd half of 2016, but his .491 slugging percentage is very respectable. His defensive stats are a bit lacking in comparison to last year. Sanchez had three errors and six passed balls in his abbreviated 2016. In 2017, he already has nine errors and seven passed balls. He is throwing out close to the same amount of would-be base-stealers; in 2016, Gary gunned-down 13 of 19, in 2017 he’s nabbed 11 of 19.

Grade: B

Austin Romine – (.231, 2 HR, 17 RBI) Romine is a career backup who does a respectable job behind the plate on the occasions Gary Sanchez needs a breather and also can play 1st base in a pinch.

Grade: C


1st Base

Greg Bird – (.100, 1 HR, 3 RBI) 2017 was supposed to be the year of Greg Bird’s resurgence. Instead, it’s been a mess. He fouled a ball off his right ankle at the end of March, and started the season hoping his ankle would heal as he played. After 19 games, he won’t on the DL and hasn’t played since. Six days ago, a member of Yankees management questioned Bird’s desire to play. Stay tuned.

Grade: Incomplete

Chris Carter – (.201, 8 HR, 26 RBI) Oy. Chris Carter‘s time in the Bronx was a disaster, both with the bat and his glove. Brian Cashman pulled the plug on Carter for good, DFA’ing him for the 2nd (and last) time after the Yankees’ game on July 4th, and releasing him on July 11.

Grade: F (if there was a lower grade, I would give it)


2nd Base

Starlin Castro – (.313, 12 HR, 45 RBI) Castro began the season hitting like a man-possessed and carried an average hovering around the .350 mark three weeks into May, including a 9 game stretch from April 27-May 6 where he was a blistering 18-39 (.461). Since then, his average has slowly trended down until he went on the disabled list after pulling his hamstring on June 26. He’s scheduled to be activated from the DL for tomorrow’s game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway.

Grade: A-


3rd Base

Chase Headley – (.251, 4 HR, 36 RBI) Ever since Stephen Drew left, it seems Headley has become #YankeesTwitter’s favorite scapegoat, with the exception of Chris Carter in his short stay. In ’16, he cut his errors by more than half (10) compared with 2015 (23 errors). This season he already has eleven. In the batter’s box, Headley is striking out more frequently with each passing year. In ’15, he K’ed in 23% of his at bats. In ’16, it rose to 25%. So far this year, it’s 29%. Before Gleyber Torres went down with Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, there was talk of him taking over at third by the end of July. Now it seems Headley will continue on as the Yankees as the third baseman through at least the end of the season.

Grade: D+


Shortstop

Didi Gregorius – (.291, 10 HR, 38 RBI) Didi missed the first month of the season while he let his right shoulder heal after straining it in the WBC. Upon his return, he promptly recorded seven hits in his first fifteen at-bats. He never missed a beat. In mid-June, Gregorius’ average stood at .344. He’s tailed off in the last month, but his .291 average is still very good. In the field, Didi’s fielding has vastly improved. In his first two seasons, he recorded 28 errors between the two seasons. In 2017, he has two errors total, and he fields the ball cleanly 99.2% of the time, up from 97.5%. Each year, Didi gets better and better.

Grade: A


Utility Infielder

Ronald Torreyes – (.278, 2 HR, 20 RBI) – “Toe” has become a fan favorite, with his ability to play almost anywhere on the field and produce. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has plugged Torreyes in everywhere on the field except first base, catcher and CF. Torreyes has one error on the season, testimony to him being prepared to play almost anywhere. At bat, Ronnie hits well enough that there isn’t no real drop-off in production if he needs to fill in long-term, as he did when Didi and Starlin Castro were out with injuries.

Grade: B+


Outfielders

Brett Gardner – (.256, 15 HR, 40 RBI) Gardy started slow out of the gate in April, but raised his average gradually through the end of May, where his average stood at .280 on May 24. His average has dropped steadily since, as seems to happen with Gardner as the season wears on. It’s possible the beating he takes with his hard-nosed style of play takes it’s toll on his body, lowering his productivity as the season progresses. Fielding is never a problem with Brett. He has yet to make an error this season.

Grade: B

Jacoby Ellsbury – (.266, 4 HR, 17 RBI) Ellsbury’s season was off to a good start, hitting .281 through May 24, when he crashed into the wall making a running catch in a game against the Royals, sustaining a concussion. After missing a month, Ellsbury’s average dropped 15 points during the eleven games since his return (9 for 42). In the field, he is generally sure-handed and can run down most balls in the gaps.

Grade: B

Aaron Hicks – (.290, 10 HR, 37 RBI) Until his season was rudely disrupted by a strained oblique muscle, Aaron Hicks was busy making Yankees fans forget his forgettable 2016. In 200 at-bats, he has already out-produced most of his numbers from last season. His OBP is over 100 points higher and he’s taking as many walks as strikeouts, while his walk to K ratio was 1:2 in 2016. In the outfield, he can play anywhere with no drop-off in defense. Hopefully Hicks will return around the middle of August.

Grade: A

Aaron Judge – (.329, 30 HR, 66 RBI) Hey, this guy is pretty good! Needless to say, Aaron has opened eyes everywhere in the world of baseball with his mammoth home-runs and ability to hit every baseball with authority. Don’t overlook his defense, though. He’s made several great plays in the field this season, including the diving catch against the Blue Jays.

Grade: A+


Designated Hitter

Matt Holliday – (.262, 15 HR, 47 RBI) Holliday’s first season as the Yankees’ DH has been solid. Before going down with an illness later diagnosed as Epstein-Barr virus, known to cause Mononucleosis, he was producing as well as ever. His days in the field are most likely done, but Holliday’s bat still has plenty of pop. Along with Starlin Castro, plans are to have Holliday return for Friday’s game in Boston.

Grade: B

In the next entry, we will take a look at Yankees pitchers and their grades for the first half of the 2017 season.

See ya next time!

Charlie