Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Catchers

As I sit here on Wednesday morning, I’m sipping my second cup of coffee and thinking back on what an entertaining World Series we just watched between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. Game Three’s 18 inning marathon won by LA and Saturday night’s back and forth see-saw game in Game Four, eventually won by Boston have made this series a classic — the many antics by Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado not withstanding.

While the city of Boston watched the Red Sox victory parade today, the rest of Major League Baseball teams are sorting out what went wrong in 2018 and planning ahead for 2019. The New York Yankees and their front office are doing the same thing.

In the third installment of “Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em”, we will take a look at the team’s catchers. Let’s get started!

Gary Sanchez – (.186, 18 HR, 53 RBI) Good Lord. Sanchez went from runner up for AL Rookie of the Year (in less than half a season, no less), to All Star in 2017 to the outhouse in 2018. If you are looking for a positive, the Kraken walked six more times than he did in 2017 despite 150 less plate appearances. I guess that’s a good thing, considering his average dropped 90 points to an anemic .186 on the season. Gary just never seemed to get into a groove as he did in 2016 and ’17. His defense behind the plate went from bad in 2017 to worse in ’18. He allowed two more passed balls (league leading 18) than he did in 2017, despite playing in 28 less games. Sanchez threw out 30% of base stealers, down from 38% and 41% from 2017 and ’16, respectively. He got crossed up with his pitcher more times than I could count because he couldn’t remember what pitch he called and basically seemed disinterested back there. Sanchez missed a bunch of time on two different occasions with right groin strains, which may have played a small role in his regression.

This game-ending play from July stands out. Yankees were down a run in Tampa, and Gary loafed down the line and was easily thrown out. Although he ended up on the disabled list the next day, he admitted he needed to run harder.

I think a change of scenery would be good for both Sanchez and the Yankees both. I think he needs some kind of wake-up call. The Miami Marlins are always looking to shed payroll. With New York possibly thinking of offering the aforementioned Manny Machado a contract, it’s not optimal to have two players known for loafing in the same lineup. Perhaps Yankees GM Brian Cashman could whip together a package to land fellow catcher JT Realmuto, who wants to be traded? Sanchez has more team control at a lower price, which would suit Marlins owner Derek Jeter.

Trash him (Meaning trade him).

Austin Romine – (.244, 10 HR, 42 RBI) Romine played quite a bit in 2018, with starter Gary Sanchez sidelined two separate times with a strained groin. He did what he always does, bringing his lunch-pail and goes to work. In 265 total plate appearances (close to half a season’s worth for a full-time starter), Romine knocked ten balls over the fence and drove in 42 runs. He had four games of three hits and several other games here he had two hits. As the season wore on (hey, catchers get banged-up), his average started dropping through August and September. Romine earns his money off the field and on, being a very good defensive catcher and mentoring Gary Sanchez and most importantly, working with and having the respect of the pitching staff. Dollar for dollar, the Yankees are getting their money’s worth.

Take him.

Kyle Higashioka – (.167, 3 HR, 6 RBI) Drafted by the Yankees way back in 2008, the 28 year old Higashioka was recalled by New York on both occasions when Sanchez was injured. He got his first major league hit on July 1 at Yankee Stadium, when he hammered a no-doubter down the left-field line into the second deck off Red Sox starter David Price in the bottom of the 4th inning.

That was probably his most memorable moment of 2018, as he ended the season with more strikeouts (16) than hits (12). Historically, the “Higster” has never been a good hitter (.202 average at Triple-A Scranton in 2018), and is minor league filler. I wish for him to do well, but spots on the “40 man” are valuable and I think the Yankees are better suited to move on with younger talent.

Trash him.

In our next installment of Yankees “Take ’em or Trash ’em”, we will whip it around the horn, covering the infielders. See you then! 👋🏼

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Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Relievers

It’s another chilly day here in the northeastern United States. Two games of the World Series are under our belts with the Boston Red Sox winning both games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Game 3 is tonight at Chavez Ravine. Meanwhile, all the other teams in Major League Baseball are assessing things from this season with an eye on 2019.

In our last entry, we took a look at the starting rotation of the New York Yankees, deciding whether GM Brian Cashman should “take ’em or trash ’em”. Today we shall take a look at the bullpen. Let’s get started!

 

Dellin Betances – (4-6, 2.70 ERA) After a very up and down 2017, Betances cleaned up his mechanics and had his best season since 2015. He worked over the winter to make his delivery a bit more compact and more repeatable. He also credits bullpen coach Mike Harkey with using his high-octane fastball a bit more and admitting he started “listening a little bit more”. The results? Betances lowered his walk rate per nine innings from 6.6 in 2017 to 3.5, and struck out 115 batters in 66.2 innings. Over a span of 94 days (May 27-August 29), he allowed two runs over 33.2 innings while striking out 58.

Take him.

 

Aroldis Chapman – (3-0, 2.45, 32 saves) The 30 year old Chapman was reliable in 2018, saving 32 games for the Yankees and only blowing a pair of save opportunities. In 2017, Chapman was hittable, and his stuff seemed less electric. The velocity was there, but the life wasn’t and it showed, as his strike-outs per nine innings dropped to a career-low 12.3. In spring training, Aroldis worked to improve his off-speed pitches to keep hitters off his fastball and it resulted in a renaissance season. Chapman’s always been proud of his triple digit heat, but he mixed in some good sliders and even a change-up. At season’s end, Aroldis ended up striking out 16.3 per nine innings, an all time high for him.

Take him.

 

David Robertson – (8-3, 3.23, 5 saves) It seems like D-Rob has been around forever, as he was a young up and coming pitcher when the “Core 4” was still intact. Now 33 years of age, he has nine years of service time and will soon become a free agent. When he came back to the Bronx at the trade deadline in 2017, he dominated hitters down the stretch to the tune of  an ERA of 1.03 and 13.1 K/9 IP. In 2018, he was still as effective as ever but his 3.23 ERA is misleading. Four poor outings where he allowed three runs or more skewed his numbers. If you throw away those four appearances (13 ER in 3.2 IP), Robertson’s ERA drops to 1.64 over the other 65 games he appeared in. D-Rob will turn 34 at the beginning of next season, but he’s still got plenty in the tank.

Take him.

 

Chad Green – (8-3, 2.50) It would have been a difficult task for Green to repeat his performance in 2017, where he allowed only 4.4 hits per nine innings and struck out 13.4 per nine. His numbers were still good, but his hit-rate jumped to 7.6, and he allowed 35% of inherited base-runners to score. His K-rate also dropped to “only” 11.2. For some reason, Green threw his fastball more this season (86.5 percent of the time vs. 69.4 in ’17) and his slider much less (10.2% this year, down from 22.1 in ’17), while completely abandoning his cutter (thrown 7.8% in ’17) altogether.

Take him (but bring back the cutter and start mixing up the pitches).

 

Zach Britton – (2-0, 3.10, 7 saves) Britton came over from Baltimore at the trade deadline in return for a few minor league prospects. He had a few rocky outings in the first couple weeks, mostly attributed to control/command issues. To be fair to Britton, his season didn’t start until early June as he was returning from an injury to his right Achilles tendon that he suffered at home last December. By September, he looked more like the 2016 version of himself when the former Orioles closer nailed down all 47 save opportunities, allowing only four earned runs for the whole season. Britton’s one year deal (12M) is set to expire in a couple weeks. While he said “I would love to be back”, I have to wonder if an opportunity to close elsewhere for the right amount of money might entice him.

Take him (if you can keep him).

 

Tommy Kahnle – (2-0, 6.56, 1 save) Yuck. Kahnle was brilliant in 2017 after coming over from the White Sox in the deal that brought David Robertson back to New York, but his stuff never carried over into 2018. His velocity was down from the upper 90’s to 93-94 in spring training, and so was his effectiveness. After an especially horrific outing on April 10, he ended was optioned to Triple-A Scranton, where he pitched most of the season. Kahnle came back for good in the middle of August, but was relegated to mop-up duty. His season ended with an ERA of 6.56, and hopefully his days with the Yankees have ended as well.

Trash him.

 

Jonathan Holder – (1-3, 3.14) Holder was poised for his first full season in the big leagues after splitting 2017 between Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre and the Bronx. Back to back disastrous outings in early April got him shipped back to Triple-A, but he put things back together and two weeks later, he was back in the Big Apple. Holder’s overall numbers look rather pedestrian on the surface, but they are skewed because of five poor outings, including the aforementioned games in April. If you throw away those numbers (15 earned runs over 3.1 innings, also including a seven run meltdown at Fenway in early August), his ERA is a miniscule 1.15 over 55 appearances. Holder started using his fastball more, cut back on his cutter and added more velocity to his swing and miss curve, making it more like a slider. He also uses a change-up to keep batters off his fastball. It’s definitely working for him.

Take him.

 

A.J. Cole – (2-2, 6.14) Cole came to the Yankees in a cash-considerations deal with the Washington Nationals on April 23, complete with an ERA of 13.06 after four very shaky outings. He began his career in the Bronx on the right foot, posting a 0.83 ERA over his first 21.2 innings in relief. Yankees fans on Twitter all but gave him his own place in Monument Park. That would have been fine (not the Monument Park thing….), but the problem was the season wasn’t over yet. From July 31 through the rest of the season, Cole pitched to the tune of a 8.82 ERA, giving up 16 runs in 16.1 innings. By October, Yankees fans couldn’t wait to be rid of him. Right now, I would say Cole is nothing more than Triple-A filler.

Trash him.

 

Luis Cessa – (1-4, 5.24, 2 saves) It seems like Luis Cessa has been around for a long time, but he only has logged 151 innings in his major league career since 2016, all with the Yankees. He’s had success in Triple-A, but for some reason it’s not translating in the bigs. Cessa missed some time early in the season with a strained oblique, but didn’t gain much traction when he returned. He pitched well in three appearances in mid-September (9 IP, 2 R, 12 K’s) but any good feelings got washed away when he opened the final game of the season in Boston and got ripped for five hits and four runs in only 14 pitches. Cessa is still under team control for 2019, but out of options — so the Yankees will have to make a decision on him. I know what my decision is.

Trash him.

 

What that, we have covered the pitching staff. In our next installment of Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em, we will take a look at catchers. See you next time!

 

 

 

 

Yankees Take ‘Em or Trash ‘Em – Starters

The 2018 season is over for the New York Yankees after the Boston Red Sox knocked them out in the ALDS. The Sox were the better team during the regular season and it clearly has showed throughout the playoffs. Tonight Boston faces off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game One of the World Series.

With the Yankees long gone, it’s time to assess. When Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand covered the Yankees beat for the mothership, they would collectively author a piece called “Take ’em or Trash ’em” on Yankees players, coaches and the GM. There would be commentary on the way each person performed and whether the Yankees should keep them or discard them for the next season. I am going to break the team up by position, beginning with starting pitchers. In future installments I will cover relief pitchers, catchers, infield, and finally the outfield.

Without further adieu, lets begin with the starting pitchers.

Luis Severino – (19-8, 3.39 ERA) The 24 year old Severino won a career-high 19 games and struck-out 220 hitters over 191.1 innings and posted an ERA of 3.39, so there shouldn’t be any worries, right? But if you examine Sevy’s season up close, his 2018 was a Jekyll and Hyde affair. At the All Star break, Severino had a record of 14-2 with an ERA of 2.31. Over the second half, he went 5-6 and the ERA skyrocketed to 5.57, giving up 76 hits over 63 innings. The Red Sox jumped on Severino early in his start in the ALDS and it was because he was evidently tipping his pitches. That leads me to believe he might have been doing it during his rocky second half. I’m not worried, he’s too good to not get it back together. He will be eligible for arbitration after next season and still under team control until 2023.

Take him.

Masahiro Tanaka – (12-6, 3.75) After an inconsistent 2017 season, Tanaka seemed more like himself in 2018, posting a 12-6 record and a 3.75 ERA — down almost a full run. He missed a month after injuring a hamstring on the basepaths at Citi Field during an interleague game against the Mets. He returned in the second half, pitching to the tune of a 2.85 ERA after the All Star break, averaging more than six innings per start, striking out more than a batter per inning. The soon to be 30 year old Tanaka has two more years remaining on his contract.

Take him.

JA Happ – (17-6, 3.65) Yankees GM Brian Cashman traded for the now 36 year old Happ just after the All Star break, and he proved to be a steal. All Happ did in his eleven starts with the Yankees is go 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA. He was consistently reliable, just what the team needed. Overall, the soon to be free agent went 17-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 2018. It will be interesting to see if Cashman makes Happ an offer to keep him in the Bronx, I’m thinking he will since he said starting pitching is a priority over this coming offseason.

Take him.

CC Sabathia – (9-7, 3.65) Carsten Charles Sabathia has enjoyed a storied career over his 18 seasons, logging 246 wins and nearly 3,000 strikeouts (2,986 to date). In 2018, CC added nine more wins to his resume, going 9-7, 3.65 over 153 innings in 29 starts. At this point in his career, the 38 year old Sabathia is nothing more than a fifth starter. He tends to lose his effectiveness after he reaches 85-90 pitches, and his balky right knee (which is bone on bone and will need eventual replacement) all but guarantees he will miss at least a few starts each year. Sabathia will be a free agent after the World Series ends. He still plans to pitch in 2019, but it remains to be seen if it will be with the Yankees.

CC’s one of my favorite players on the team and I appreciate all he’s done, but given his age and wear and tear, I think it’s time to keep a spot open for up and coming guys like Justus Sheffield and Michael King.

Trash him.

Sonny Gray – (11-9, 4.90) Yeesh. Gray spent the first half of 2018 in the starting rotation and pitched to the tune of a 5.46 ERA over 90 innings, likely cementing his legacy as one of the most hated Yankees pitchers since Javier Vazquez. After JA Happ was brought over from Toronto, Gray was banished to the bullpen. In the second half, Gray actually pitched better — going 5-2, 3.63 over 12 appearances (5 starts). In his season ending press conference, GM Brian Cashman all but packed Sonny’s bags for him, saying a trade would be likely.

TRASH HIM.

Jordan Montgomery – (2-0, 3.62) “Monty” emerged as a reliable lefty in the Yankees rotation in 2017, finishing sixth in rookie of the year voting. He made a half dozen starts before going down with a torn UCL which required Tommy John surgery, ending his season. He will likely be back in the second half of 2019, and hopefully will quickly regain form with his heavy sinker.

Take him.

Domingo German – (2-6, 5.57) The 26 year old lanky right-handed flame thrower stepped into the rotation when Montgomery went down. In his first start of the season, he struck out nine over six no-hit innings against the Cleveland Indians. He wasn’t fully stretched out, so he was removed after 85 pitches. That was the highlight of German’s season. He made 12 more starts, most of them being forgettable. German had a penchant for giving up runs in the first couple innings, putting his team in an early hole. His stuff seems to play better out of the bullpen, where he can just cut it loose.

Trash him.

Lance Lynn – (10-10, 4.77) Lynn was brought over from the Twins for Tyler Austin and minor league pitcher Luis Rijo at the trade deadline. He started off in the Bronx like gangbusters, allowing just one run over his first 17.2 innings (2 starts, 1 relief appearance). Yankees fans were waiting for his Yankeeography. Lynn came back down to Earth over his next four starts (19 ER/18.2 IP). Overall, he did what he was brought over to do, which is eat innings and be serviceable. Lynn went 3-2, 4.14 over 54.1 innings. He will be a free agent after the World Series, but doubt he will be back in a Yankees uniform in 2019.

Trash him.

In our next installment of Yankees Take ‘Em or Trash ‘Em, we will take a look in the bullpen. See ya next time!

ALDS Game 2 – Yankees/Red Sox

In less than an hour, Game 2 of the ALDS between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will take place at Fenway Park.

Game 1 could not have gone much worse than it did for the Yankees. Boston hitters teed-off on JA Happ to the tune of three runs in the first inning, and tacked on two more runs in the third, chasing Happ after two-plus innings of work, and the Yankees down 5-0.

Things got worse when center fielder Aaron Hicks had to leave the game in the top of the 4th inning when he pulled up lame after a base hit. Hicks has dealt with a bad hamstring for the last month and he left the game. He’s day to day.

The Yankees continued to chip away and Aaron Judge came to the plate against Sox closer Craig Kimbrel in the top of the 9th with the score 5-3. Judge lined a laser beam over the wall in right-center field into Boston’s bullpen to narrow the game to a single run deficit. Brett Gardner struck-out on a 2-2 fastball from Kimbrel, followed by Giancarlo Stanton, who watched three pitches go by for strikes without moving his bat. Yankees second-half sensation Luke Voit followed up with a K of his own and that was that.

Masahiro Tanaka starts Game 2 for New York, and they desperately need him to repeat his playoff performances of 2017. If the Red Sox pounce on him early, it will leave manager Aaron Boone no choice but to empty out his bullpen again. That will put a lot of pressure on the Yankees offense. The ability is obviously there for this lineup to score a lot of runs, but Hicks is not at 100 percent and Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez aren’t making much contact. Brett Gardner has had a rough second half of 2018. With the above guys scuffling, Red Sox pitchers can pitch around Gleyber Torres, Didi Gregorius and Andrew McCutchen.

Bottom line, the Yankees need to win tonight or they might just get swept.