Yankees Progress Report – 60 Games

When we left off after the Yankees 50 game report, the team was playing much better. The offense was still lagging but they were getting good pitching and just enough offense to win seven of their ten games from May 17 through the 27th. To quote a worn-out cliché from manager Aaron Boone, it looked like the Yankees were turning the corner.

Fast forward another ten games later, and the team is back where they were three weeks ago, treading water and playing barely over .500 ball. The Yankees played three games against the Tigers in Detroit and got swept. They returned home to play a four-game set against the Rays, which they split, followed by three games at home against the Boston Red Sox. In any case, it ended in a demoralizing sweep in front of the Yankee Stadium faithful.

Let’s go over the carnage.

The offense – let’s just say it was offensive. To save the aggravation of re-living it, I’ll just summarize. Yankees hitters need to be better. When they weren’t striking out, which was often, they were hitting into double plays. When they weren’t hitting into double plays, they were making dumb outs on the base-paths. And that’s only when they were finding ways to get on base. 

Yankees beat-writer Sweeny Murti summed it up well.

Honestly, it’s been painful. To save space, I’ll just say that Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela are really the only hitters that are performing as expected. The rest are spinning their wheels in the mud. 

Pitching – the rotation and pitching staff as a whole suffered a tremendous blow when Corey Kluber went on the injured list. He left his start against the Blue Jays after three innings on May 25. Just six days prior, he pitched a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Diagnosed as a shoulder strain, Kluber has reportedly sought 2nd and 3rd opinions.  Kluber played catch on June 4 and felt good, which is encouraging.

Gerrit Cole was roughed up at home against the Rays on June 3, giving up five runs in five innings. Uncharacteristically, a pair of lead-off walks in the 4th and 5th innings ended up scoring. Additionally, his spin-rates were down, which made some ask if he was curtailing his supposed use of sticky substances in the wake of MLB’s announcement that they are going start randomly checking pitchers for illegal use.

The bullpen is beginning to show signs of wear, with Chad Green and Justin Wilson suffering poor recent outings. Green let in four runs against the Red Sox while recording just a pair of outs in a 7-3 loss on June 5. Wilson was walked off in the 10th inning in Detroit on May 28, when Robbie Grossman hit a two run shot. In essence, Wilson should have been out of the inning with a save and a Yankees win. Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza had other ideas. According to MLB Gameday, Wilson hit his spot which should have been called strike three. Carapazza called it a ball.

Murphy’s law took over and Grossman ended the game on the very next pitch. 

To be sure, it was a tough 10-game stretch, with the Yankees losing five out of seven at home. The Yankees started an eight game road trip with an 8-4 win against the Twins, with the offense looking much more like themselves. By and large, it’s a good head start for the next ten game stretch. Like YES Network broadcaster David Cone says, “Home runs are a great deodorant”. So is winning!

See ya next time!

Yankees Progress Report – 50 Games

It feels like I just published the New York Yankees 40 game report, but here we are again to cover the team’s first fifty games. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? 

It is fun when the team is winning, and the Yankees have done this quite a bit lately. Their record sits at 29-21 after a 5-10 start. They continued their road trip into Texas, dropping the first game of a four-game set on Monday, May 18. Gerrit Cole struggled, allowing five runs to the Rangers in a 5-2 loss. Jameson Taillon struggled the next night. His teammates spotted him five runs, but the Rangers got to him for four runs in just 4.1 innings. The Yankees went on to win, 7-4.

The following night, Corey Kluber was dialed in from the beginning. The offense scored just a pair of runs, but that was all he needed. Kluber looked like his Cy Young self, mastering the Rangers on his way to a no-hitter. He breezed through 101 pitches, 71 of them for strikes. After getting 14 outs the night before, Kluber gave the bullpen a needed night off.

 

The rest of the rotation followed Kluber’s lead, pitching a total of 37 scoreless innings before allowing another run. Domingo Germán and Jordan Montgomery each hurled seven scoreless innings, with Monty notching a career-high eleven strikeouts against the Chicago White Sox on Friday, May 21. The next night, Cole returned to form with seven scoreless of his own, frustrating Chicago hitters to the tune of seven punch-outs and only four hits.

Taillon redeemed himself a bit on Sunday, May 23 with five scoreless innings against the same White Sox. Trouble came after an off day, when Kluber left his start against the Toronto Blue Jays after just three innings. He reported his arm feeling heavy and unable to get really loose. An MRI showed a slight strain, but nothing truly serious.

With the starters going deep into games, it gave the Yankees bullpen a needed breather.  Aroldis Chapman had the nerve to be human and give up a run on May 23, but it didn’t matter in the end as the team won. He now has a 0.47 ERA to go with 11 saves and a 2-0 record. 

Jonathan Loáisiga has struggled a bit in his last four appearances. He only allowed one run, but allowed a few hits and just isn’t quite as dominating. His stuff is so good, though. He and Chapman, along with Chad Green have formed a really good set ’em up and shut ’em down bullpen squad. 

More good news, as Zack Britton (right elbow surgery) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment tomorrow with Double-A Somerset.

On the other side of the ball, the Yankees offense has been up and down. Aaron Judge has caught fire at the right time, hitting .434 with 6 HR and 11 RBI in his last 15 starts. Last night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Blue Jays, he smoked a blast to center that doinked off the windows above Monument Park.

Gleyber Torres came back after a battle with COVID-19, and promptly raked. He recorded 11 hits in 18 at bats against Texas and Chicago. However, Gleyber didn’t record a hit against the Blue Jays in all three games. Luke Voit, who made his season debut on May 11, went back on the injured list with a strained oblique muscle. He struggled in his time back with the Yankees, hitting .182 with just one home run. Voit will be out until some time in July.

Gio Urshela is cooling off a bit, but still managed seven hits in 32 at bats and 5 RBI over the past ten games. Gary Sánchez is never going to hit well, I think that’s a given at this point. But he did hit a needed home run last night, a solo blast in the 3rd inning off Robbie Ray. He added another hit in the 6th inning. We’ll take what we can get from Gary.

And I need to show some love to Tyler Wade. He’s been getting more playing time, out of necessity with the team being banged up. He has two hits in ten at bats, but made a really good running catch in the 9th inning of Corey Kluber‘s no-hitter. This is relevant because Wade has hardly played any outfield in his career. He discussed it in the postgame Zoom room with Yankees beat writers.

Last but not least, Giancarlo Stanton makes his return tonight after recovering from a quad strain. He last played on May 13.

The Yankees begin a three game set in Detroit for a weekend series against the Tigers before returning home next week for a pair of important series against the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. Both teams are currently ahead of the Yankees in the AL East.

Yankees 40 Game Report

The New York Yankees and Major League Baseball are through forty games, roughly the first quarter of the 2021 season. After starting out 5-10, the Yankees have won 17 of their last 25 games. The bats have warmed along with the weather, and the team has gotten good pitching more often than not.

In this installment of “Yankees xx Game Report”, we’re going to cover games 32 through 40. We got a little off kilter the last couple times, and I want to get back on track covering games by full ten game increments. So let’s get started!

The Yankees won all three series against the Nationals, Rays, and Baltimore Orioles, for a 6-3 record in those games. Yankees fans tend to be a greedy bunch (in a GOOD WAY), so there was some disappointment when the team failed to complete the sweeps against Tampa Bay and Baltimore.

  • Pitching

Gerrit Cole started only one game during this span of games, but he made it a beauty. On May 12, the unquestioned rotation leader delivered eight scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and a dozen punchies. He threw 73 strikes over 106 pitches.

Jordan Montgomery has been uneven, and his two most recent starts has been more of the same. Six innings of one-run ball in Tampa on May 11, and yesterday he went just three innings (76 pitches) and let in five runs in Baltimore. On the season, Monty is sporting an ERA of 4.75 and hasn’t gone past six innings in his eight starts. 

Corey Kluber has also made eight starts in 2021. His first four starts were less than impressive, but I will chalk it up to rustiness after pitching one inning last year. The Klubot locked it in since, reeling off 26.1 (7 ER) innings reminiscent of his Cy Young years. The Yankees won all four starts, and Kluber has lowered his season ERA to 3.48.

Domingo Germán pitched well in his two starts against the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees won both games and Germán got his team to the seventh inning each time (3 runs over 12.1 total innings). He’s throwing strikes and seems to be back to form after missing all of 2020 under suspension for his role in a domestic abuse incident.

Jameson Taillon, the Yankees fifth starter and newest addition to the rotation, has struggled. He missed most of the past two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Many pitchers who have had this surgery say command is the last thing to return to normal, so this isn’t unexpected. The stuff is there, as Taillon has struck out 43 in his 33.1 innings. What’s hurt Jamo is not being able to put hitters away, resulting in getting into deep counts and raising his pitch totals. Taillon also seems to have one bad inning where things start to go sideways. Patience is going to be key, but I believe it will be rewarded in the long run. For now, Taillon sports a 5.40 ERA and a record of 1-3.

As for the bullpen, the guys are still getting the job done. Aroldis Chapman has converted all nine save opportunities, striking out 31 in his 15 innings and allowing only one unearned run. Jonathan Loaísiga has two saves of his own, filling in when Chapman was unavailable while touching 100 mph. Chad Green has been dependable, while lefties Lucas Luetge, Justin Wilson and Wandy Peralta have been excellent. On the injury front, Zack Britton is throwing simulated games with Triple-A Scranton, and should be ready to begin a rehab assignment any day now.

**UPDATE** Yankees clubhouse reporter Meredith Marakovits reports Britton has some “general soreness” after the simulated game. The plan was to have him make a rehab appearance with Somerset on Wednesday, but will push that back for now.

  • Position Players 

Aaron Judge is getting hot, and it’s coming at a great time. In the Baltimore series, Judge swung his gavel to the tune of six hits and 4 HR’s in ten at bats. He’s 13-29 with five bombs over the past nine games. With Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton hitting the injured list, the Yankees need him. 

Luke Voit is back after finishing a week-long rehab assignment with Scranton Wilkes-Barre. It took a few days for him to get going, but Voit drove home a pair of runs in Baltimore while collecting four hits in nine AB’s.

Gio Urshela returned he sat out a few games with a sore knee. He’s back to hitting the ball (7-22 – .318) and being his dependable self, including a clutch three-run HR in Baltimore that proved to be the winning runs.

After DJ LeMahieu carried the Yankees in 2019 and 2020, we became used to him raking like a man-possessed. He’s not hitting .350, but he’s been extremely dependable. On the season, LeMahieu’s slash-line is .272/.364/.364. Over the past nine games, it’s .286/.375/.457 – which is more indicative of the hitter he is.

Gleyber Torres has been out since May 11 after testing positive for COVID-19. The diagnosis came at a tough time, as Gleyber was starting to hit after a slow start to the season. Torres was 13 for his last 43, including his first home run of the year on Mother’s Day. The Yankees are hoping he will be back soon.

In the catching department, Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sánchez are holding their own. They each have five home-runs, but are also hitting under .200. I can live with it, as long as the guys are handling the pitching staff and defense.

And I have to give Tyler Wade some love. When Torres went down, Wade stepped in with six starts at shortstop. He has 5 hits in his 16 at bats, and drew a pair of walks. Everyone seems to hate on the guy, myself included at times. He deserves credit for some good at bats.

It’s hard to believe we’re a quarter of the way through the 2021 season. The Yankees play four games in Texas against the Rangers before heading back to the Bronx to face the White Sox and Blue Jays.

Yankees Ten Game Report – Games 22-31

The New York Yankees have blown through another ten game chunk of the 2021 season, so here we are again. The Bronx Bombers finished series vs. the Orioles, Tigers, and those lovable Houston Astros. The Yankees split a four-game set with the O’s, swept three against the Detroit and took two of three against Houston. All in all, they won seven of ten, so things are looking up in the Bronx.

Often the object of Yankees fans’ wrath, no one has been hotter than Giancarlo Stanton the past two weeks. His numbers for the past twelve games are mind-numbing. His slash line – .481/.509/.904 for an OPS of 1.413. Over that span, Stanton has gone 25-52, with 6 HR and 4 doubles. He sent another missile into the Yankees bullpen yesterday.

Aaron Judge isn’t hitting at the same clip as Stanton (I mean, who can?), but he contributed three home runs of his own to go with ten RBI over the past ten games. By the same token, he played in nine of those games. Staying healthy is important.

Speaking of health, there’s cause for concern. Third baseman Gio Urshela came up gimpy in yesterday’s series finale against the Astros. Gio banged up his knee in on a diving play late in the game. The team is awaiting results of an MRI as of this writing. The timing is unfortunate, as Urshela went 12 for his last 33 AB’s while bringing home seven baserunners.

Second baseman Rougned Odor was fortunate to not have any structural damage in his left knee after a scary home plate collision with Astros catcher Martín Maldonado. Still, Odor went on the 10 day IL.

Gleyber Torres has picked up the pace over these three series. He has 10 hits in his last 30 AB’s, with three doubles and seven RBI. Even better, he walked five times and only struck out three. His at bats have been quality. No HR’s yet, but this approach is better. Really, Gleyber doesn’t need to be a power bat. This is good.

Gerrit Cole and Corey Kluber each delivered a pair of strong starts. Kluber especially opened eyes with a dominating performance against the Tigers. In that game, he gave eight innings of two-hit shutout ball, punching tickets for ten Detroit hitters. Domingo Germán shut out the Orioles over seven innings and gave five effective innings vs. the Astros (2.25 ERA, 12 IP). In the second game, Jordan Montgomery ground out six innings of three-run ball against Houston, not having his best stuff. At the same time, he’s growing as a pitcher, and those games are character builders.

The bullpen has been lights out, and Aroldis Chapman is putting up video game numbers. Over his eleven appearances (11 innings), the Yankees closer has allowed five baserunners (two hits, 3 BB) and struck out 26. His FIP is -0.81 (yes, MINUS).

Chad Green has done his job well, but the Astros got to him yesterday with Jose Altuve hitting a three-run HR that was the difference in the game. These things happen. We don’t like it, but “that’s baseball, Suzyn”. Just have to turn the page and move on.

Darren O’Day went on the injured list with a right rotator cuff strain, necessitating Michael King‘s return from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. From the left side, Lucas Luetge and newcomer Wandy Peralta (obtained from the Giants for OF Mike Tauchman) have done the job. Justin Wilson has not pitched well in his return to the team, with an overall ERA of 7.04 – and 16.88 over his past three games. To be honest, the Yankees need more from him.

But reinforcements are coming. Luke Voit played a pair of games in Syracuse for Triple-A Scranton, scorching the ball. Him and Miguel Andújar had quite the game on May 6 against the Triple-A Mets.

Voit was expected to play again in Syracuse last night, but when I scanned the field during batting practice, he was noticeably absent. Of course, given the uncertainty for the injury to Urshela, I suspect he was scratched and is on his way to New York. However, we’re still waiting for official word.

Andújar DID play last night for and only went 4-5 with a pair of home-runs in a 17-11 win for the RailRiders. There was some confusion last night, after he was moved mid-game from first base to third. This created a false alarm, thinking he may have been pulled. He’s making his own case for a return to the Yankees.

So that’s it for this Yankees Ten Game Report. The Bombers are looking better, more like the team we expect to see. See ya next time! 😎👋🏽

**UPDATE**

Luke Voit was not recalled from his rehab assignment, and yesterday was a scheduled day off as part of the plan. However, Miguel Andújar was called up after his big performance in Syracuse.

 

Yankees 20 Game – Plus one – Report

The last time we covered the Yankees “Ten Game Report”, the team was 5-5 and they were coming off a pair of wins. They salvaged an 8-4 win in St. Petersburg against the Rays, and beat the Blue Jays in the first game of a three-game set in nearby Dunedin, FL. Things were beginning to look up, right?

Wrong. The Yankees proceeded to lose six of their next seven games, the wheels fell off and now the Yankees are 9-12 after twenty-one games. The offense continued to be offensive. Gerrit Cole has been himself (3-1, 1.71 ERA), but the rest of the starting rotation has continually came up short, leaving the bullpen to cover several innings most games. In the sixteen games Cole didn’t start, Yankees starters are averaging 4.25 innings. Jordan Montgomery has provided the most innings behind their ace, while Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Domingo Germán have struggled to give length.

Yankees relief corps are still giving excellent innings, led by Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga. Lucas Luetge, who has been a wonderful story since spring training, notched his first win since 2013 in relief of Montgomery in a 5-3 win on April 23. The collective workload the bullpen has taken on in the early going is a concern, however. Green and Loaisiga have already appeared in ten and nine games, respectively. Luis Cessa and Darren O’Day have appeared in eight games each, and Luetge seven. This kind of workload isn’t conducive to success, and the overwork can lead to injuries. This is reason to worry, especially to a guy like Loaisiga, who’s had injury problems in the past.

On offense, the Yankees as a team are hitting .206 with a collective on base percentage of .302. Aaron Judge has overall been the team’s most reliable everyday hitter, with a slash-line of .246/.366/.449 and 4 HR’s. Giancarlo Stanton has been mostly cold, but did smoke a pair of blasts in the aforementioned 5-3 win in Cleveland. A positive spin – Stanton does lead the team with 14 RBI. Kyle Higashioka has seen increased playing time, a big reason is hitting almost 100 points higher than Gary Sánchez, with just as much pop in his bat. The other reason is his overall catching abilities, which frankly are much better than Sanchez. Yankees manager won’t say it, but Higgy is Cole’s personal catcher for most intents and purposes.

The last eleven games have been ugly. There’s no sugarcoating it. But the weather has been brutally cold, especially so in the game I went to at Yankee Stadium on April 21. The Atlanta Braves were in town for a two-game series and Wednesday’s game was frigid, with temperatures hovering in the low 40’s with sustained 20 mph winds. When the calendar turns to May in a few days, the weather should soon warm up. Getting Luke Voit back will only help, and he’s currently at the Alternate site in Scranton ramping up his rehab.

It’s hard to stay patient, especially for Yankees fans who expect wins, runs and homers. Sensing fans frustrations, General Manager Brian Cashman called a Zoom meeting/press conference on Monday, April 19 to attempt to calm the masses. It didn’t really work, but the right thing to do is continue to stay the course. For now.

Fans didn’t really buy it, but something had to be done even for the sake of doing something. Time will tell, but I feel confident the Yankees bats will warm up. Hopefully the rotation will pick things up and ease the burden on the relievers.

See ya next time! 😎👋🏽

Yankees 10 Game Report – 2021 Season

It’s that time again! Last year, I broke down the Yankees season in chunks, ten game increments. I am going to do the same thing in 2021, because it’s simply more manageable. I don’t want the reports to be super long, and I can better detail what’s happening with the team this way.

The Yankees are 5-5 after ten games. They lost two of three at home against the Blue Jays to kick things off. They followed that by taking two out of three against the Orioles. The Bronx Bombers went to St. Petersburg and promptly lost the first two of a three-game set against the Rays. The Yankees avoided the sweep by winning the final game of the series, and won again last night against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL.

  • Pitching

Gerrit Cole has been as-advertised, racking up 29 strikeouts over 18.1 innings. His ERA is a scant 1.47 and WHIP is 0.82. Cole is a pitching savant, and guys flock to him. On April 11, YES Network cameras captured Jordan Montgomery talking to Cole shortly after Monty was removed from the game. A reporter asked him about it after the game.

 

Montgomery wasn’t as sharp in his start against Tampa Bay as he was in his first start, but kept his team in the game. In his two starts, “Gumby” has a 3.27 ERA in eleven innings. Corey Kluber‘s first pair of starts (7 runs, 6.1 innings) leave something to be desired, but he’s a professional. Despite early troubles, I think Kluber will be ok in the end. Domingo German stunk it up in his two starts (12 hits/7 runs over seven total innings) and was optioned to the Alternate site (AAA Scranton Wilkes Barre) account of several off days. Jameson Taillon‘s first start in Pinstripes went well. Despite not pitching in a major league game since 2019, he wasn’t rusty, giving up only two runs in 4.2 innings (he was on a pitch count).

Yankees relievers have been very dependable in the early going. Aroldis Chapman, Darren O’Day, Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga have all provided valuable scoreless relief. Chad Green suffered a pair of “Rob Manfred runs” (including an extra-innings loss), thanks to his stupid extra innings runner on 2nd base rule. Otherwise, Green has been money. Youngster Nick Nelson was flogged by the Rays in a mop-up outing. Lucas Luetge gave up a few runs in his three appearances. Without a doubt, the bullpen has been valuable.

  • Position Players

The bats have been lagging, which isn’t unusual early in the year. It’s April and it’s cold. Yankees hitters have left a not-so-nice 69 runners on base. Overall, the team is hitting .232 with 41 runs scored in ten games. Gary Sanchez has hit quite well, with a pair of home runs, four RBI and a slash-line of .296/.406/.556. D.J. LeMahieu has been his usual steady self (.268/.362/.415), with at least one hit in eight of ten games. Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton struggled at times, but still have found a way to drive in a combined twelve runs. Gleyber Torres has an anemic slash-line of .205/.295/.231, and is also struggling in the field. He already has a pair of errors and just seems shaky out there. Also, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge have contributed with their bats and outfield glovework. Clint Frazier has lagged, but I’m confident he will shake it.

Rougned Odor made his Yankees debut at Tropicana Field and quickly made his mark, driving in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning.

I like the move, trading for the 27 year old second baseman. No question, Odor has more upside than Tyler Wade (who was optioned to AAA Scranton). With his soft hands, I can eventually see him getting work at 3rd base and perhaps even shortstop.

Ok that’s it for the Yankees ten game report. We’ll see you again after the next set of 10 games!

 

2021 MLB Season Preview – The AL East

Happy Opening Day! After an miserable year in 2020, including an abbreviated sixty game schedule, fans are looking forward to a full 162 game season. Best of all, fans will be allowed in MLB ballparks. The stadiums will not be sellouts at first, but as COVID vaccinations continue, capacities will increase. Normalcy is slowly returning.

The AL East Division is always competitive, and will continue to be in 2021. Today, we’ll take brief looks at each team in the East and assess their chances of winning the division. Let’s get started!

  • Boston Red Sox – After last year’s disaster, there’s nowhere to go but up. Alex Cora is back to manage the team after a year away from baseball account the much publicized Astros sign stealing scandal. Over the winter, the Red Sox added Kike Hernandez, Franchy Cordero, and Marwin Gonzalez to their lineup. They brought in former Yankee Adam Ottavino to their bullpen and Garrett Richards for the rotation. This team will hit, but their success will ride on pitching. Nathan Eovaldi is back throwing 100 mph seeds and Eduardo Rodriguez is back after missing 2020 with post-COVID related heart issues. Chris Sale (recovery from Tommy John surgery) is slated to re-join the team after the All Star break. If their bullpen holds up and does the job, the Sox will be much better in 2021. However, they’re still behind upper-echelon teams like the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays.
  • New York Yankees – Last year’s Yankees finished 2nd behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Injuries are a big reason why, as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each missed more than half the season. Remaining healthy is the biggest concern for manager Aaron Boone and the Bronx Bombers. If the bodies hold up, the Yankees are the most talented team in the division. The Yankees lineup is basically unchanged from last year. Good health also goes for pitching – if newcomers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon make all their starts, good things will happen.
  • Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays are for real. Sure, things change every year because the team’s salary structure dictates they must. Kevin Cash is a top-notch manager (other than that Blake Snell World Series thingy) and gets the most from his players. Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau, Randy Arozarena and Tyler Glasnow make up a formidable core. They have the lineup to compete and score a lot of runs. As with most teams, pitching well – especially in relief – is key to success. Beyond Glasnow, the Rays rotation is a patchwork quilt of recycled and older starters. Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks and Chaz Roe are good at shutting teams down. They’ll be at or near the top the entire way.
  • Toronto Blue Jays – What a lineup. After the Yankees, these Baby Jays have the best lineup in the AL East, and maybe the entire league. Over the winter, GM Ross Atkins brought in CF George Springer, 2B Marcus Semien and starting pitcher Steven Matz. The Jays and manager Charlie Montoyo have young flamethrower Nate Pearson slotted in behind Hyun-Jin Ryu in the rotation. Again, pitching well will be important – especially in this loaded division.

Enjoy the games today and the entire season! There’s no day quite like Opening Day. For me, it’s better than Christmas.

Hot-foots, Warm ups and Pranks

Yesterday was Election Day in the United States, and anxieties are high across the country. So, I thought it would be a good time for a fun article. In the following paragraphs, let’s have some laughs and look back at some funny moments in MLB.

Nineteen years ago, in September 2001, A.J. Burnett was a 24 year old flamethrower who was in his first full season with the then-called Florida Marlins. As fans settled into their seats, Burnett threw his warm-up pitches while the team mascot, Billy the Marlin was riding in the back of a pickup truck getting the fans excited. As the truck and Billy the Marlin drove around the perimeter behind home plate, Burnett fired a perfectly timed warm-up pitch that shattered the window behind the passenger side door.

Twelve years later, Burnett was with the Pittsburgh Pirates when he had a rosin bag give out on him. After he noticed the cloud of rosin around him he flashes two fingers. That’s because it was the SECOND time it happened to him in the same season. 🤣🤣

Starting pitchers on their days off can be as lethal in the dugout as they are on the mound. Case in point, Justin Verlander giving then-Tigers teammate Don Kelly a “hot foot”. When Kelly realized his foot was on fire, his reaction was priceless.

Ten years ago, former Yankees pitcher Chan Ho Park talks with reporters at his locker after pitching three scoreless innings in Boston. He is asked what the difference was from his previous outing, when he pitched poorly three days before. We’ll just let Park answer, while Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera looks on in the background. 😂

Finally, let’s watch Yankees right-fielder Aaron Judge when he joined “The Tonight Show” in New York City’s Bryant Park in 2017 to ask people what they thought about Aaron Judge.

In conclusion, I hoped you enjoyed this lighthearted look at baseball. We could all use a little less stress and more laughs. Have a great day and please be kind, as we don’t know what battles people are facing.

 

Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Position Players

Well, the time has come once again. For the past few seasons, I have graded New York Yankees players based on performance. I then recommend to either take ’em or trash ’em. Former Yankees beat writers Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand had their own annual take ’em or trash ’em when they were with ESPN, they deserve the credit. When they left ESPN, it was no more. I always enjoyed it and missed it, so I decided to do it on The Titanium Spine.

This first installment of Take ’em or Trash ’em will cover position players. Without further adieu, let’s begin with the catchers.

Catchers

Gary Sanchez – OOF. It’s been a long ways down since Sánchez made a splash back in 2016, when he hit 20 home runs in 53 second half games for the Yankees. This year, he averaged roughly one hit every seven at bats and his on base percentage (OBP) fell to a career-low .253. He did manage 10 home runs, but he just can’t hit. Coupled with his ongoing defensive problems, it doesn’t seem feasible to hang onto Gary when an established star like Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto will be available in free agency. That said, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gave Sánchez something of a vote of confidence when speaking to the media yesterday.

That may well be lip service. Yankees GM Brian Cashman addressed the media Wednesday afternoon at his season-ending press conference, and did not commit to Sánchez as the full time starting catcher in 2021.

 

 

 

My opinion? Trash ’em!

Kyle Higashioka – Higgy became a popular man with “#YankeesTwitter”, simply by being a reliable guy with his bat and behind the dish. After spending a chunk of August on the shelf with an oblique strain, Higashioka returned in September and played the bulk of games as their starting catcher. He cemented that status when he slugged three home runs in a 13-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. However, his defense and game-calling made him popular with the pitching staff. Higgy became Gerrit Cole‘s personal catcher, or as Cole describes it, “I’m his personal pitcher”. It made a difference. With Gary Sánchez catching, Cole’s ERA was 3.91 after eight starts. With Higashioka behind the plate for seven starts (including the playoffs), it fell to 1.79. The ace of the Yankees staff is clearly more comfortable with Higgy, whom he was college teammates with at UCLA.

Take ’em!

Infield

Luke Voit – In a season full of injury and instability, Voit was one of the few sure things the Yankees could count on day in and day out. The 29 year old slugging first basemen played 56 of the teams sixty games, and led the major leagues with 22 home runs. Voit’s OPS (on base plus slugging percentages) of 948 was second on the team, only behind D.J. LeMahieu, and he cut his strikeout rate from 33 percent to 25 percent. Luke also provided a steady glove at 1st base, all while dealing with a painful foot-injury often described as “foot stuff”. He did have a platelet rich plasma injection and will spend some time in a walking boot.

 

 

Take ’em!

Mike Ford – This one hurts. When Ford hit a walk-off game winning home run off Oakland A’s closer Liam Hendriks in 2019, I thought he might have cemented himself a place on the Yankees roster going forward. Like Tyler Wade, I watched Ford play a good number of games at Triple-A Scranton and he had grown on me. As fate would have it, Luke Voit seized the Yankees 1st base job from him and hasn’t looked back. Ford hit a paltry .135 with only a pair of home runs, and went 0 for September in 22 plate appearances. Ford was sent to the Yankees alternative site in Scranton. One of the last memories of the Yankees postseason was manager Aaron Boone sending Ford to the plate to pinch hit for Kyle Higashioka late in Game 5 of the ALDS. The reactions were as you would expect.

 

 

I hate saying it because Ford is such a good guy, but Trash him.

D.J. LeMahieu – There aren’t enough superlatives to properly describe how much LeMachine means to this team. Simply put, the 2nd baseman is the Yankees heartbeat. When D.J. missed nine games due to a left hand injury, they went 2-7 in those games. The Yankees went 30-20 in games D.J. played and 3-7 when he didn’t. He led Major League Baseball in hitting with a .364 average and 1.011 OPS. The Machine gets on base 42 percent of the time, a true catalyst. He’s going to command a large salary this winter as a free agent, and the Yankees can’t afford to let him walk away. Oh, and he can play anywhere in the infield except shortstop.

Take him!

Tyler Wade – I’ll admit I always had high hopes for Wade, having watched him play a lot when he was with the Yankees Triple-A club, the Scranton Wilkes Barre RailRiders. It goes to show the talent in the minors doesn’t always translate to the big leagues. T-Wade hit a lethargic .170 in his limited at bats, which made him about as popular as a case of the clap. That said, Tyler is still a solid defensive replacement in the infield and can steal bases as a pinch-runner. I suppose there still is value in that, plus he’s still only 25 years old.

Take him (if you don’t have to rely on him every day)

Gleyber Torres – Gleyber had a very uneven, up and down 2020 season for the Yankees. After whacking 38 home runs in 2019, the number fell to three. In a normal full season, that would probably equate to 10-12. Torres’s average fell from .278 to .243 and the OPS from .871 to .724. In the field, Gleyber made nine errors in 40 games at shortstop. It was a painful season to be sure, but he did rebound in the playoffs and absolutely raked. Ten hits in 23 at bats, a pair of home runs, 5 RBI and a 1.262 OPS. And still, Torres is 4-5 years from even entering his prime. He will be ok, just keep working on defense.

Take him.

Gio Urshela – Gio picked up where he left off last season, providing excellent defense at third base (only one error) and reliable offense. Urshela really took off in September, raking to the tune of a .390 average with a 13 game hitting streak. The power numbers dipped, likely due to painful bone spurs in his throwing elbow. Gio will not require surgery at this time, as noted in the tweet above in Luke Voit’s paragraph.

Take him.

Miguel Andujar – When Andújar went down with a shoulder injury early in 2019, Urshela took over and Miguel has been unable to wrestle the third base job since. Miggy made the Yankees 28 man roster at the beginning of the season in late July, but his playing time was sparse. In order to keep him in playing shape, Andújar was optioned to Scranton to play every day in daily simulated games. His agent wasn’t happy about that.

 

 

When Urshela went on the injured list in September, Andújar was recalled and gave the Yankees offense a shot in the arm. He went 11-31 in nine games (eight of them starts) for a .355 average and .975 OPS in that span. When he gets regular at bats, Miguel has proven he can hit. Still, defense is an ongoing issue with Miguel. In six games at third base, he made three errors and made another in left field where he looked uncomfortable. With Gio Urshela firmly entrenched at third and nowhere to play, I believe the Yankees would be best served to seek to trade Andújar for more pitching help.

Trash ’em.

Outfield

Brett Gardner – Gardy has been a mainstay in the Yankees outfield since his arrival in 2008. He’s the last remaining holdover from the 2009 World Series winning team. Brett hit a personal best 28 home runs and drove in a career high 74 RBI in 2019. Unfortunately, time is catching up with Gardy, now 37 years old. His average dipped to a career-low .223, his worst as a full time player. Gardner’s bat speed has slowed after six thousand plate appearances. Gardy said he still wants to play in 2021, and would be a good fit as a reserve outfielder and defensive replacement. That said, I don’t think he fits as a productive every day player anymore. The offensive stats back that up. However, his speed in the outfield and glove still play. And his hitting could easily rebound if not subjected to the rigors of playing every day.

Take him – only as a back up.

Clint Frazier – Frazier came to the Yankees back in 2016 when Brian Cashman traded then-closer Andrew Miller to Cleveland in a trade-deadline deal. After a series of ups and downs, Frazier is now healthy from post-concussion symptoms and showing why the Yankees were and are excited about his future. “Red Thunder” provided thunder with his lightning-quick bat speed when he was recalled from Scranton in mid-August. In his first four games, Frazier went 8-15 with a pair of homers and five extra-base hits. Before hitting a 1-20 skid to end the 2020 regular season, Clint was hitting .306 with a 1.017 OPS. Frazier finished at .267 with 8 HR, 26 RBI and an OPS of .905. I believe he’s earned a shot at the left field job full time. He’s paid his dues.

Take him.

Aaron Hicks – I can best describe Aaron Hicks as a case in frustration. One category he improved in is staying healthy and on the field. Hicks also improved his walk rate. Everything else offensively is in decline, at a time when most athletes are in their prime. Hicks’s average, slugging percentage and OPS are in decline since 2017. Aaron made only two errors, but he made a few misplays in center field that shouldn’t have happened. At times, he looked disinterested. No worries, though. He’s under contract through 2025 at the minimum, when he will be 36 years old. It’s not a bank-breaking annual salary (in relative terms, at least), but still a long time to be tied to a player who has regressed when he should be improving. This was NOT one of Brian Cashman’s best signings.

I would love to trash him, but doubt he’s going anywhere.

Giancarlo Stanton – Stanton started off the season hot, whacking a pair of home runs in Washington against the Nationals. After five games, Giancarlo had eight hits in 16 at bats, with 6 RBI. Unfortunately, bad luck struck once again and Stanton missed five weeks with a bad hamstring. After he came back in mid-September, he went 7-35 (.200) in nine games with one home run. But Stanton was there when the Yankees needed him in the postseason. In seven playoff games, he went 8-26 (.308) with 6 HR’s and 13 RBI, and showed truly fun Stanton is to watch when locked-in.

In Cashman’s post-mortem presser this afternoon, he indicated Stanton will be primarily a DH going forward.

 

 

 

He’ll here through the 2028 season. Try the veal. Take him.

Mike Tauchman – After emerging as an excellent left handed option in the Yankees outfield in 2019, Tauchman had an equally uninspiring 2020 campaign. He finished at .242 with no home-runs and 14 RBI. After a three game series sweep at home against the Red Sox, Tauchman had six hits in 12 at bats. After that, he promptly fell off the face of the earth. From August 17 through season’s end, Mike had eight hits in 65 plate appearances for a .151 average and .462 OPS. Like Tyler Wade, Tauchman is a defensive replacement and pinch runner, and can’t be counted on for production as an everyday player. The sentimentalist in me would take Brett Gardner over Tauchman.

Take him (strictly as a reserve/defensive replacement).

Aaron Judge – Let me start by saying I love Aaron Judge. I really do. The broken hand he suffered from an errant inside pitch from Jakob Junis in 2018 wasn’t his fault. He pulled an oblique on April 20, 2019, the day after my son and I were lucky enough to watch him play from the Judge’s Chambers at Yankee Stadium. He fractured his rib in September 2019 on a diving play in the outfield that wasn’t officially diagnosed until March. The extra time from the season being delayed gave Judge more time to heal.

When the season started in late July, Judge hit the ground running. After 18 games, Judge hit .292 and slugged 9 HR’s with 20 RBI. Then he pulled his right calf. The injury bug nailed him less than three weeks into the season. After missing nine games over 15 days (thanks to an unscheduled COVID break), Judge returned for three at bats against the Baltimore Orioles in the second game of a doubleheader. He was removed in the sixth inning after reaggravating the calf, missing 21 more games as a result.

Judge returned for the team’s final ten games, but he looked out of sorts. He had no home runs, two RBI and only seven hits in 36 at bats. In the postseason, Judge didn’t look much better, with four hits in 35 plate appearances (.133 average). At least he hit the ball a long way when he DID make contact, sending three of them over the fence.

Bottom line, Judge has to find a way to stay on the field. People with large bodies like his are more prone to injury. But he’s not doing the Yankees any help in the dugout (the same can be said for Stanton). Judge is better off as a DH but Cashman said Stanton is a DH going forward. It’s a conundrum, but I think Judge and Stanton should split their time in RF and DH to help preserve both of them.

Anyway, Take him.

Thanks for reading my “Take ’em or Trash ’em”, next time we’ll take a look at Yankees pitchers.

 

 

Yankees Missing Extra Gear vs. Rays, Missing a Manager

After losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series, the season is over for the New York Yankees.

The writing was on the wall, even before the postseason started. The Yankees won only two of their ten regular season against the Rays, and generally looked lethargic against the 2020 AL East Division winners. Collectively, the Yankees hit .218 against the Rays. In the eight losses against them, the numbers were worse (.194). Those numbers are tough to swallow, considering the Yankees/Rays rivalry seems more intense in recent years than when they play against the Red Sox.

It’s very apparent the Rays raise their games to another level when they play the Yankees. That’s what good teams do when the stakes are high. Players like Randy Arozarena, Ji-Man Choi, Mike Zunino and Mike Brosseau are far from household name. But each of them has bludgeoned the Yankees in 2020, the most household name team in Major League Baseball. They had “that extra gear” needed to win.

Meanwhile, the Yankees core of Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined for 13 hits in 70 at-bats (.186) against the Rays in the regular season. That’s just unacceptable. D.J. LeMahieu, soon to be a free agent, went 10-30 against Tampa, which illustrates how vital he is to this lineup and must be retained.

In the ALDS, the Yankees fared a little better, hitting to the tune of .242 in the five-game series. However, manager Aaron Boone‘s decision to use Deivi Garcia as an opener and starter J.A. Happ to follow him blew up in his face. To me, this was irresponsible. Boone tried to get cute, trying to beat Rays manager Kevin Cash at his own game. You can’t do that when you don’t have the personnel designed to excel pitching that way. Happ has been the most reliable starter for the Yankees behind Gerrit Cole. I already wrote about this farce in detail, so I won’t clog up a lot more space about that.

Unfortunately, there were other situations where it seemed like Aaron Boone was playing checkers, while Kevin Cash played chess. Like when Boone sent up Mike Ford to pinch-hit for Kyle Higashioka in the top of the 8th inning against Rays closer Diego Castillo.

Jimmy O’Brien (Jomboy) illustrates most everyone’s reaction when they saw Ford come to the plate in THAT situation.

I mean seriously, what the fuck is Aaron Boone thinking here?? Ford had two at bats in the postseason, including this ill-fated appearance where he went down looking. Higashioka was 0-2 on this night, but came into the game with an OPS of .853! And taking Higgy out of this game meant Gary Sánchez had to come in on defense. With Aroldis Chapman pitching. Who doesn’t always know where his pitches are going.

WHAT THE HELL IS BOONE THINKING?

In the end, Chapman gave up a home-run to Mike Brosseau on the tenth pitch of the at bat, and it cost them. Game over.

In the end, the Yankees didn’t have that extra gear needed to beat the Rays. They got outplayed, and certainly got out-managed.