You want shorter MLB games? Throw strikes and locate!

In a few short weeks Spring training will be upon us. Mostly likely with it will be more changes initiated by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred in his never-ending quest to improve pace of play and shorten the length of games.

This past week, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale revealed Manfred’s proposal to change the 10 day disabled list back to 15 days as well as another stab at adding a pitch-clock to help control pace of play. I agree with returning the DL back to 15 days because it seemed to be used more as a way to manipulate rosters than an actual disabled list. I disagree with a pitch-clock but think it’s inevitable since all minor leagues now use it.

A search of average time per nine innings over the last 25 seasons revealed a MLB low of 2:49 in the year 2005. Two teams, the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros tied for the lowest average time per nine innings at 2:43 and the New York Yankees had the highest at 3:02, with the Boston Red Sox on their heels at 3:01. In 2018, the average time per nine inning games was three hours even, a drop of five minutes from the previous year.

What stood out for me in this research was the collective amount of pitches thrown between the Twins and Astros of 2005 and the rest of the league. The ’05 San Francisco Giants led MLB in total pitches with 24,324 over their 162 games. The Twins threw the fewest (21,902) with the Astros second fewest (22,112) that year.

The biggest thing I took away from looking at the numbers from from the ’05 Twins and Astros was that their starting pitchers threw strikes and pitched deep into games. Minnesota’s top three starters, Johan Santana, Brad Radke and Carlos Silva all averaged close to seven innings per start. In combination with this, all three guys constantly threw strikes. Santana, a power pitcher at the time gave up 1.7 BB/9 IP. Radke (1.0 BB/9) and Silva (0.4 BB/9!!) weren’t power guys, but located and let their defense do their jobs behind them. Houston starters Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and a 42 year old Roger Clemens weren’t the hardest of throwers, but tallied more strikeouts, being a National League team at the time. Oswalt (1.6 BB/9), Pettitte (1.7 BB/9) and Clemens (2.6 BB/9) also threw strikes and pitched deep into ballgames, all averaging between 6.5 and 7.0 innings per start.

In contrast with 2005, the 2018 Twins threw the most pitches collectively in MLB with 24,927, with the Chicago White Sox right behind with 24,926. The ’18 Twins top-three starters Kyle Gibson (3.6 BB/9), José Berríos (2.9) and Jake Odorizzi 3.8) walked well more than twice as many as their 2005 counterparts. As a result, Gibson and Berríos averaged just a shade over six innings while Odorizzi barely averaged five innings/start.

There are other variables that add to the length of the game today, with pitchers throwing harder and hitters going for the home run instead of putting the ball in play, but I think better control and location would be a big help with pace of play.

Throw strikes! (Shout-out to my man @JordanLeandre55 for this timeless moment) 😉

Do the Yankees Need Manny Machado?

As of this writing, Manny Machado is still a free agent.

The shortstop’s name, along with free agent OF Bryce Harper, has been tossed around more than any other MLB free agents than anyone in recent history. Both players have talent that transcends anyone else’s of this generation of baseball players. The fact they are still unsigned as we enter the final weeks before spring training has everyone in baseball talking.

As far as Machado is concerned, the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox appear to be the biggest suitors, with the New York Yankees appearing to have a passive interest. Early on in free agency, it was rumored Manny was seeking a contract as large as 300 million dollars over ten years. With the clock ticking toward spring training, it appears he won’t be getting anywhere near that 300 million price tag.

This past week, ESPN’s Buster Olney and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the White Sox offered Machado a seven year contract worth 175 million dollars, far below what he and his agent are seeking. Manny’s agent, Dan Lozano, released a statement calling out Olney and Nightengale for “inaccurate and reckless” rumors.

The Phillies and White Sox appear to be the better fits for Machado, and are more likely to offer more money than the more fiscally responsible Yankees of recent years. But if it would take “only” 175 million dollars and seven years to bring him to the Bronx (Manny’s reportedly preferred destination), should Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman pull the trigger and put him in Yankee Pinstripes? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

PROS:

  • Manny would be an upgrade in the field over current third baseman Miguel Andújar. This is a fact. He makes a lot of plays most third-basemen can’t make. Even though I am a believer in Andújar, and believe he will be much better, Machado is far and away the better defender right now. It’s not close.
  • Manny’s bat. While Andújar had a great offensive season, finishing 2nd in the AL Rookie of the Year voting (many think he should have won, including myself), Manny had his best offensive season of his career, hitting .297 with 37 HR’s and 107 RBI. He set career highs in almost every category, and figures to get even better.
  • Machado is still only 26 years old. If the Yankees can land him with a deal similar to what the White Sox allegedly offered him, it would be a great deal that ensures the Yankees getting him for his prime years through the duration of the contract.

CONS:

  • If Yankees sign Machado, I will make an assumption that it will be to play 3rd base. Even though Didi Gregorius is going to be a free agent after 2019, I believe the Yankees see Didi as the team’s shortstop now and into the future. If that is the case, will Manny be happy at third? He told then-Orioles skipper Buck Showalter late in 2017 that he wanted to return to his “natural position” of shortstop for the 2018 season, which of course he did. He could fill in at short in New York while Didi recovers from Tommy John surgery, but would certainly play 3rd base after Gregorius comes back (probably around the All Star Break. But will his heart be there?

Of course, Manny would have at least 175 million reasons to not mind playing third-base, and he’s better at third, anyway. That said, the Yankees have already made moves that seem to indicate they aren’t planning on Machado coming to the Bronx. Just after New Year’s Day, they signed veteran Troy Tulowitzki to a one year deal for the league minimum salary. Earlier this week, they added DJ LeMahieu and was told to “bring a lot of gloves” to spring training. And they still have infielder Tyler Wade, who deserves a fair shot with the big club. Wade has 124 career at-bats, and despite what many think, it’s a small sample-size and he is a very good fielder.

Andújar has been working all offseason to improve his glove-work, as he does every winter.

Anything can still happen, but it appears the Yankees have their infield pretty well set and although they did it without the “big splash”, the roster was assembled responsibly.

 

UPDATE: Apparently Machado’s dad let out word of a potential mystery team. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the Washington Nationals. If they are losing Bryce Harper as anticipated, they need to replace his bat. They could potentially shift Trea Turner to second base, making room in the infield for Manny.

 

Writers Making Statements with HOF Vote

Every December, baseball writers with Hall of Fame votes submit their ballots to determine who will be enshrined the following Summer in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

And it seems like every year or every other year, there is a baseball player who had such an outstanding career that one would think said player would have a chance to be unanimously voted in — 100% of the votes. In this particular case, the player in question is former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Sadly, many writers take their privilege of voting and turn it into a circus. This seems to be the case every few years, and this time around it’s Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. In Ballou’s piece, he uses Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, an NFL kicker (Adam Viniateri) and an AHL hockey goaltender to drive home his point about being a clutch player. I won’t get into that here, but I linked his story for all to see.

My outrage isn’t about Ballou not giving Rivera a Hall of Fame vote, because it’s safe to assume Mariano will easily be voted in despite Ballou not voting for him. The problem at hand is he’s not voting for ANYONE. That is a travesty.

Players can stay on the ballot up to ten years as long as they receive at least five percent of combined votes from eligible BBWAA writers. If a player drops below that threshold, they are forever removed from the ballot going forward. If a player isn’t voted into the Hall (which requires earning 75% of votes) after ten years, he also is removed forever from the ballot.

Based on that information, every vote has meaning. To pull the nonsense Ballou is doing is a disservice to the players, other BBWAA writers and the game itself. It’s unfair to punish players, it’s literally toying with peoples’ lives. In my opinion, any writer who pulls this stunt deserves to have their voting rights stripped.

However, this isn’t the first time a voter has turned the process into a clown-show. In 2013, ESPN personality and Miami Herald columnist Dan LeBetard turned his ballot over to Deadspin because he felt the voting process needed reform. He was immediately stripped of the privilege to vote. MLB.com writer Ken Gurnick created a stir in early 2014 when he voted for only one player, Jack Morris (who has since been voted in by the HOF veteran’s committee), bypassing Greg Maddux (who was voted in anyway).

I think the BBWAA should review and take action against writers who abuse the voting process. There are plenty of writers who don’t have the ability to vote and would cherish the opportunity.

Wild Horse Galloping to Cincy

Things had been mostly quiet on the western front since the end of MLB’s Winter Meetings more than a week ago. A late afternoon trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds was equivalent to pouring gasoline into the proverbial hot stove.

At 4:25 PM EST, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan fired off a tweet that warned the baseball world that a trade was imminent.

As you might predict, that got baseball Twitter all kinds of fired up. Several tweets from the winter meetings resurfaced regarding the possibility of Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig being involved in a potential deal. Nine minutes later, Passan sent out another tweet, this time with the specifics.

This is clearly a salary-dump move that benefits each team. Homer Bailey had been absolutely dreadful since signing his deal with the Reds a number of years ago, and moving Kemp and Puig allows the Dodgers room to make their much anticipated run for Bryce Harper in their now-vacant right field. It also has been noted on Twitter that Kemp and Puig weren’t very happy with manager Dave Roberts‘ platoon system and were looking to move on from LA because of it.

In other news, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted that free agent shortstop Manny Machado won’t be making any decision on a new team until after the New Year.

This also likely means Bryce Harper won’t be making a decision until after New Year’s Day either. So grab a Snickers bar and your blanket and toss another log into the stove. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Stay warm, be safe and enjoy your loved ones! 😎🎅🏽

Sizing up the Yankees Starting Rotation

Early this afternoon, the New York Yankees announced free agent J.A. Happ was returning to the team on a two-year contract with a vesting option for a third year. With Happ coming back, the Yankees now have six starting pitchers under contract for the 2019 season (although Sonny Gray most certainly won’t be returning to the team).

As of right now, the five man rotation seems to be shaping up as follows:

  1. Luis Severino
  2. James Paxton
  3. Masahiro Tanaka
  4. J.A. Happ
  5. CC Sabathia

It’s safe to assume GM Brian Cashman will still be looking to pick up another arm to add depth to the staff, especially since Sabathia’s balky right knee requires a DL stint to keep the pain at bay. Parker Bridwell, recently claimed on waivers from the Los Angeles Angels, was thought to be depth for the rotation. However, the team designated Bridwell for assignment, needing that spot on the 40 man roster for Happ.

Bridwell could always re-sign with the team on a minor league contract and accept a non-roster invitee, but he will be free to sign with any team.

There are still a good number of free agent starters available. Dallas Keuchel is still unsigned as of this writing, but with the Yankees already having three lefty starters, I would think they would look to add another righty for balance. I also think Cashman would prefer a less expensive option since the team will be paying north of 60 million just for the current five the team already has. A couple cheap options could be Clay Buchholz and Edwin Jackson. They both pitched very well for their teams this year and would assuredly be inexpensive in 2019. 45 year-old Bartolo Colon still wants to pitch. However, there are also a few guys in the Yankees system who could fill the role in Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga and Michael King. German and Loaisiga each showed promise as well as inconsistency in 2018, while King rose rapidly through the minors, starting in High-A Tampa and finishing with AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

All eyes are on the big free agents, waiting with baited-breath to see where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will end up, but it will also be interesting to see how Brian Cashman shapes up the rest of the Yankees’ pitching staff.

Winter Meetings – First Full Day

I really needed to write something as it’s been a about a month.

Today marks the first full day of the MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. This is where a lot of teams make trades and sign free agents for the upcoming season. Team executives, staff, player agents and players themselves all assemble here to “make things happen”

These particular winter meetings are exciting with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado headlining the free agent class. The Cleveland Indians are apparently looking to shed payroll and are shopping starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

So grab your favorite beverages, a snack and your tablet, laptop and TV remote and buckle in. This week should be interesting!

Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Outfield

Welcome to the final installment of Yankees “Take ’em or Trash ’em”. We have covered everything from pitching to catchers to the infield. Today we will look at the outfield and decide whether the Yankees should keep outfielders from this past season for 2019 or whether GM Brian Cashman should kick ’em to the curb. Let’s get started!

 

Brett Gardner – (.236, 12 HR, 45 RBI) Brett Gardner had his worst statistical season as a full-time player over his long career in New York. The 35 year old veteran started off slowly, hitting .210 in April before gaining traction with a .313 average in May. After a fast start in June, his average was .268 on June 8. It was all down-hill from there, his average plummeted with each passing month. It’s no secret Gardy has always tailed off in the latter months of a long season. Given his age he may be better suited to be in a part-time role to help keep him fresh throughout the 162 game schedule. Brian Cashman signed Gardy to a one year deal on Halloween for 7.5 million.

I think it was a wise move for a couple reasons. He provides valuable depth who can be very effective in a more limited role. He’s still good on defense, can steal bases (16 SB in 2018), and is a respected and beloved man in the Yankees clubhouse. A lot of fans overlook that important aspect.

Take him (and they wisely did!)

 

Andrew McCutchen – (.255, 20 HR, 65 RBI) The 31 year old veteran came over to the Yankees on August 31 from the San Francisco Giants for a pair of lower-level minor leaguers. Over his month in Pinstripes, Andrew was an on-base machine, with an OBP of .421. He drew as many walks as strikeouts (22 of each), hit five home-runs, played solid defense and brought laughs to fans who follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

 

McCutchen is a free agent and it’s unknown whether the Yankees will bring him back. I think he would be a good guy to bring back because he produces on offense, and adapted well to left-field which was a new position for him and can play anywhere in the outfield. Cutch is also durable, routinely playing in over 150 games a season.

Take him.

 

Aaron Hicks – (.248, 27 HR, 79 RBI) “Hicksie” will be entering his fourth season with the Yankees when the 2019 campaign kicks off. He had a hot/cold type of season in 2018. Things started slowly for the now-29 year old Hicks. At the end of May, he owned a .230 average with five home runs. When June began, Hicks turned on like a light-switch with five hits in the first two games. He heated up and averaged .275 from June 1 through August 16, when his average was at a season-high .254. During that 77 day stretch, Hicks hit 15 of his 27 jacks (a career-high). From August 17 through season’s end, he logged 30 hits in 130 at-bats (.231) and his average dipped to .248 on the season.

On defense, the strong armed center-fielder gets to almost every ball possible and he has the hops to jump up and rob home runs that ordinarily just clear the fence. Hicks was hampered a bit by hamstring troubles a couple different times during the season, and may have contributed to slowing him down in the second-half.

At age 28, Hicks just coming into his prime and it looks like the Yankees’ patience with him is paying dividends.

Take him.

 

Shane Robinson – (.143, 1 HR, 2 RBI) Let’s face it, the only reason “Sugar Shane” was in the Bronx is because of injuries. Regrettably, he was penciled into the starting lineup 17 different times out of necessity. After the first three starts, he was 3-8 with a sparkling .375 avg. In the final 14 games he started, he managed four hits in 41 at bats. Woof.

Trash him! 🗑️

 

Aaron Judge – (.278, 27 HR, 67 RBI) Here Aaron Judge was, sailing along toward another productive season at the end of July when Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis ran a two-seamer too far inside, clipping Judge’s right wrist. It caused a chip-fracture that side-lined him the next 45 games. Judge returned mid-September and he started to get the feel of things about ten days later. The Yankees struggled without him in the lineup, going 25-20 while Aaron healed up. Upon his return, they won nine of the 13 games he played. At the age of 26, Judge is an important leader on this team, and the team’s stellar play when he’s in the lineup is evident.

Take him (DUH)

 

Giancarlo Stanton – (.266, 38 HR, 100 RBI) Giancarlo was the marquee free agent addition last winter when Brian Cashman acquired him from the Miami Marlins. After hitting two home runs in the team’s season-opener in Toronto, he recorded 13 hits over his next 81 at-bats (.160), carrying a batting average of .198 after 20 games. After that, Giancarlo settled in, hitting at a .290 clip from April 23 through the end of August. In September, “Mike dropped” — hitting a lethargic .213 down the stretch. He was slowed down with a cranky hamstring that confined him strictly to a DH role, but he fought through it. Thanks to his early struggles, Yankees fans were slow to take to the 29 year old slugger — but he’s going to be just fine.

Take him.

 

Clint Frazier – (.265, 0 HR, 1 RBI) In spring training, Clint hit his head making a catch at the wall in left-field. Initially he was diagnosed with a “mild concussion”, but his recovery was slow, and it affected his entire season. Once he was cleared to play, he was sent to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Frazier hit 10 HR’s in 48 games in with the RailRiders, compiling a .311 average. He was promoted to the Yankees in July, and suffered concussion symptoms when he made contact with Baltimore Orioles 3rd baseman Jace Peterson in a mid-July game. Clint was placed back on the DL. Once he started feeling better Yankees brass sent him to Tampa to ramp up activity, but had to shut things back down after he began showing symptoms again.

At this point, we have to hope “Red Thunder” will continue recovering and be able to rid himself of these concussion issues that have disrupted this talented young man’s career. In Clint’s case, I’m not going to either take him or trash him — I’m just going to hope he starts to feel better and put this unfortunate chapter of his life behind him for good.

 

Jacoby Ellsbury – (Did not play in ’18) The 35 year-old Ellsbury missed the 2018 season recovering from oblique and hip injuries. His injury issues and less than expected production has long made him the whipping-boy of Yankees fans, but he was playing well in the first half of 2017 before suffering a concussion hitting the wall on a great catch. He wasn’t the same after he returned, although he got hot in September of that season, raising his season average from .238 in late August to .264 at season’s end.

Like Brett Gardner, a healthy Ellsbury can be still be productive with a controlled amount of playing time. Over-extending him will cause likely injury risk, but using him as a part-time player could wring out the last ounces of production. He’s signed through 2020, so why not get what you can out of him since he’s already being paid?

Take him (he’s getting paid regardless).

 

With that, we have now covered the entire team from pitchers, catchers, infield and outfield. We can sit back and watch what happens over the winter and toss more logs into the hot stove. It’s time to put “Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em” to bed.

Gardy sleep

Happy hibernating! See ya next time.

Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Infield

Welcome back to Yankees “Take ’em or Trash ’em”. Last time out, we covered New York Yankees catchers, this time we will go around the horn, covering the infielders. So let’s get started!

1st Base

Luke Voit (.322, 15 HR, 36 RBI) – The 27 year old Voit was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29 along with international bonus slot money in exchange for pitchers Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve. All Voit did in his first two months as a Yankee was set the league on fire, averaging a hit every three at bats (.333), slugging 14 home runs in his 39 games he played, essentially kicking Greg Bird out of his starting job. He won’t bring back memories of Don Mattingly in the field, but he won’t kill the team with errors, either. Based off his performance in August and September, Voit should get first crack at the starting job in 2019.

Take him.

 

Greg Bird (.199, 11 HR, 38 RBI) – Bird has been snake-bit over his short career, being perpetually injured. He began 2018 on the shelf yet again, having surgery on his troublesome right ankle late in spring training to remove a calcium deposit that caused pain. He returned in late May, finishing the month with five hits (including a home run and a pair of doubles) in 17 at-bats. Always a streaky hitter, he went cold in June with a .184 average and followed that up with a much better July (.265 avg.). After that, the wheels fell off for Greg — with ten hits in 82 AB’s (.122) in August. By this time, he lost his starting job to Luke Voit and started only three games in September. Bird is still young, celebrating his 26th birthday on November 9th. Eventually the Yankees are going to have to make a decision whether he fits into their plans going forward because right now, Luke Voit is the better option.

Trash him (trade him while there still is value).

 

2nd Base

Gleyber Torres (.271, 24 HR, 77 RBI) – The young rookie from Venezuela made his much anticipated debut in the third week of April, and played so well he never was sent back to Triple-A Scranton. After going hitless in his first game in Pinstripes, Torres had at least one hit or more in 28 of his next 30 games. The 21 year old carried an average over .300 for a large part of the season, but cooled in the second half. He still finished at .271 and hammered 24 home-runs. His defense still needs some work, committing 17 errors (12 at 2B, 5 at SS) but will get better with experience as the game slows down for him. He’s expected to fill in at shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Take him (Duh)

 

Neil Walker (.219, 11 HR, 46 RBI) – Walker was signed to a one year deal for four million during Spring training to provide depth at all infield spots, and he did that. The 33 year old Pittsburgh native had a very up and down season with the bat, but did provide some needed offense in July (.345 average) and August (6 HR’s) when required to play regularly. Walker is a handy guy to keep around due to his ability to play anywhere in the infield and being a switch hitter. If he’s willing to sign another dollar friendly deal, by all means do it. He’s not an everyday player, but can play decent ball a few days a week.

Take him.

 

Shortstop

Didi Gregorius (.268, 27 HR, 86 RBI) – Sir Didi, a Yankees fan-favorite continued to improve his game in 2018. His power output and run production was similar to his 2017 numbers. Gregorius hit 27 homers and drove in 86 runs, he also stole ten bases. His averaged dropped 21 points, but he raised his on base percentage twenty points by doubling his walk total (48 BB’s from 25 in ’17). In the field, Didi had six errors — down from nine the previous season. The Yankees are going to have to make do without Sir Didi for some time, as he injured his throwing elbow during the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox. He had successful Tommy John Surgery and will likely be out until after the All Star break. Gleyber Torres could possibly spend time filling in at short while Didi recovers.

Take him.

 

Ronald Torreyes (.280, 0 HR, 7 RBI) – Torreyes is probably glad this season is behind him. He was having a typical “Toe-type” of season, hitting .339 on May 20, when he was optioned to Triple-A Scranton when Greg Bird returned from ankle surgery. It was not an easy decision and manager Aaron Boone said it was “not deserved”, that it didn’t go over well in the clubhouse. A month later, Toe went on the inactive list as he returned to New York City to tend to his wife, who was ill and undergoing tests (thankfully his wife Anarelys is ok). He was inactive for almost a month before returning to action on July 23. Torreyes got back into playing shape, returning to the Yankees by mid-August. In his second game back, Toe had a three hits in a win against Toronto. He rarely played the rest of the way, with four hits in last six weeks of the season. Torreyes is still only 26 and can play anywhere in the infield, except 1st base. He also has some experience in the outfield. I think he’s ideal to keep around, especially since Didi’s going to miss at least half of 2019. He can get his hits, even if he’s only playing a few times a week.

Take him.

 

3rd Base

Miguel Andujar (.297, 27 HR, 92 RBI) – Okay. When a 23 year old rookie player hits 27 homers, drives in almost 100 runs AND hovers around .300 all season, you wouldn’t think there would be a need to justify the guy’s existence on the team for the foreseeable future. But here we are, with a lot of Yankees Twitter calling for Brian Cashman to sign free agent Manny Machado. Yes, there have been times when Andujar has struggled in the field but he only made 15 errors in 2018. Even Gleyber Torres had two more errors and played in 19 less games than Miggy! With each passing year, Miguel has worked on improving his glove-work and raised his fielding percentage. But he’s a natural hitter and an extra base hit machine, for a tiny fraction of what Machado would cost! I don’t think Cashman would disrupt the progress Andujar is making in the field and at the plate by going in a different direction. He’s smarter than that. Oh, did I mention that Andujar put up these numbers as a 23 year old rookie?

Just for reference, below are fielding stats for all 3rd basemen in MLB. I checked the E column (errors) to see who made the most. You’ll notice that Andujar had 15, tied for 4th most in the majors with a couple others including long time standout Evan Longoria.

Screenshot (46)

TAKE HIM (and stop the nonsense Machado talk) 🤫

 

PS. A couple years before Derek Jeter joined the Yankees, he made 56 errors at short. I think he turned out ok.

 

That covers the Yankees infield. Please join us next time as we decide whether to take or trash the outfielders. See ya then! 👋🏼

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! 👋🏼

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!