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.

Yankees End of Season Report – Playoff Preview

When we last looked at the New York Yankees in my “50 Game Report”, I wasn’t sure what kind of team they were. The last ten games of the season didn’t give any more clarification, other than the 2020 Yankees are a notoriously hot and cold team.

Maybe I just answered my own question, the Yankees aren’t bad but they aren’t good. They’re just streaky. Anyway, let’s cover the last ten games of the 2020 schedule. Then we’ll briefly look ahead at their AL Wild Card Series against the Cleveland Indians.

Catcher

Gary Sánchez – Gary suffered through an absolutely horrific season with the bat and behind the plate. Sánchez went 2-5 with a clutch game-tying three run home run against the Red Sox at Fenway on September 18, and seemed to be turning the corner. He was fresh off an 8-27 stretch with 3 HR’s, but went back in the tank, and finished the season with two hits in his final 23 plate appearances. Sánchez ends the 2020 season with an abysmal .147 average, making the “Mendoza Line” (.200 batting average) seem a galaxy away. He is a liability on both sides of his game.

Kyle Higashioka – With Sánchez struggling, Higashioka’s playing time has increased. Higgy already has been serving as Gerrit Cole‘s quote/unquote personal catcher, and earned more playing time by simply being reliable both at the plate and behind it. Kyle finished the season at .250 with 4 HR’s and 10 RBI, and went 3-11 with runners in scoring position (RISP).

Infield

Luke Voit continued his MVP-caliber 2020 season by going 10-40 (250) during the season’s final ten game stretch, with a pair of homers and six RBI. He finished the season with a slash-line of .277/.338/.610 to go with 22 HR’s and 52 RBI. Not bad for a 60 game season.

After D.J. LeMahieu came of the injured-list on August 29, he played every one of his team’s remaining 31 games. While he couldn’t maintain the .411 clip he was raking at before he hurt his left hand, he still finished the 2020 campaign with a .364 average. That was good enough to win the AL batting title. The Yankees are a completely better team with LeMahieu in the lineup. When he played, they went 31-20. Without him, the Yankees were 3-7. The Yankees would be wise to sign him long-term. He is Captain material, and the team responds to him.

Gio Urshela continues to provide offense, as he went 12-34 (.353) over the team’s final ten games. Urshela is also a vacuum cleaner at the hot corner, showing over and over again why the Yankees were justified to choose him over Miguel Andújar at third base.

While Urshela, LeMahieu and Voit are hitting well, Gleyber Torres has struggled most of the season. His average dropped to a career low .243. His slugging percentage fell .167 points from .538 in 2019 (38 HR’s) to .368 this year (only 3 HR’s). However, Torres’s OBP was higher in 2020 (.356) than 2019 (.337), a result of more patience by earning walks at a higher rate. Making things worse, Gleyber’s fielding percentage also dropped to a career-low .933, his first full season at shortstop. Still, Torres is extremely young (23) and I would bet every dollar he will rebound on both sides of his game.

Tyler Wade has played at an increasing rate, despite continuing to produce at an anemic rate. Only Aaron Boone knows why, as he’s best suited as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner.

Outfield

Longtime Yankee Brett Gardner turned 37 years old on August 24, and much of the season has been a struggle. Gardy limped into September with a .169 average. Over the season’s final month, he turned it on with 17 hits in 59 at bats (.288) and knocking in 9 RBI. Over the last ten games of the schedule, Gardy went 7-19 (.368). No one knows for sure if this will be the end for Brett Gardner, but if so, he finished it off on a high-note.

Like Gleyber Torres, centerfielder Aaron Hicks had an odd season with the bat. His slash-line has dropped every season since peaking in 2017, but this year his on-base percentage reached a career high .379. Why, you may ask? Working more walks. Hicks walked more times (41) than he struck out (38) for the first time in his career. Like Brett Gardner, Hicks finished on a stronger note. After bottoming out at .200 on September 5, he recorded 17 hits in 66 at bats over the last twenty Yankees team games to finish at .225.

Clint Frazier has been a pleasant surprise all season with the injuries to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. He provided a spark when the Yankees needed it, and played excellent defense, after struggling in 2019 with depth-perception from post-concussion syndrome. As late as September 19, Frazier’s slash-line was .306/.422/.595, but closed out 2020 on a 1-20 slump with 11 strikeouts. Still, Clint has much to be proud of. With the Yankees facing the Indians, Frazier is going to look forward to taking it to the team that drafted him, then traded him to the Yankees in 2016.

Both the aforementioned Judge and Stanton have struggled since returning from their injuries. Judge has 7 hits in 36 at bats (.194), while Stanton has 7 in 35 AB’s (.200). Combined, their production since returning is one home run with six RBI. To be fair, it seems like Judge and Stanton will play a game or two and manager Aaron Boone will sit them for a “rest day”. They need the at bats and reps. I’m not sure if it’s coming from the Front Office or Boone himself, but being an every day player many years ago, Boone should know this.

Pitching – Starters

Gerrit Cole has been on fire all September. In his four starts the Yankees Ace (with a capital A), mowed down 34 hitters in 27 innings. This equated to a WHIP of 0.70 and allowing batters to hit .147 against him. Filth.

Masahiro Tanaka did not have the same dominant month Cole did, but he still was steady and reliable, which is all the Yankees need. Tanaka went 3-2 in September with a 3.62 ERA. Plus his postseason stats speak for themselves (5-3, 1.76 ERA, 0.78 WHIP in 8 starts). Masa will be ready to go.

 

After his first two starts of the 2020 season, longtime veteran J.A. Happ was looking at an ERA over ten and an unsure future beyond this season. Since then, all Happ has done is become the Yankees most reliable starter not named Gerrit Cole. The 37 year old lefty pitched to a 2.34 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over his last seven starts, striking out 39 over 42.1 innings. Happ earned his keep over the past month and a half, and deserves a lot of credit.

Lefty Jordan Montgomery (5.11 ERA) and young rookie righthander Deivi García (4.98) were up and down. Their postseason roles will likely depend upon matchups. However, both will be ready to help any way they can.

Bullpen

Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton are ready to go for the playoffs after dominating performances down the stretch. In Buffalo against the Blue Jays, Chapman broke out his new toy, a split-finger fastball.

After a hideous meltdown on September 7 against the Blue Jays in Buffalo, Adam Ottavino worked his way back into Aaron Boone’s circle of trust with seven solid outings. Over his final seven appearances, Ottavino allowed just a run in 5.2 innings (1.59 ERA) with 10 K’s. Chad Green suffered a similar fate against the Jays in Buffalo on Sept. 7, and also turned it around in six games since (1.35 ERA). Hopefully they will provide needed innings for the back of the Yankees pen.

The usual cast of suspects round out the bullpen. If Jonathan Holder, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loáisiga and Michael King (combined 5.03 season ERA) are pitching, chances are good things are not happening for the Yankees.

The Yankees are in Cleveland to open their Wild Card Series tomorrow night against Shane Bieber (1.63 ERA), the likely AL Cy Young Award winner. After they face Bieber, the Yankees will have to contend with Carlos Carrasco (2.91) and Zach Plesac (2.28). They will have their hands full. Once they get into Cleveland’s bullpen, Bombers will have to deal with Oliver Pérez, James Karinchak (17.7 K’s/9 innings) and Brad Hand.

I will report back after the conclusion of the Yankees season. Hopefully it won’t be a post-mortem report. Hopefully it will be after the Yankees hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy with champagne-soaked hair. It’s been too long since Yankees fans have seen this sight.

 

 

 

Which Yankees Team is it?

After a seven-game homestand against the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees took to the road to play a three game set against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. They won the first two games, 6-5 Friday night, followed by an 8-0 whitewash on Saturday. J.A. Happ‘s outstanding shutout performance over eight innings, coupled with a potent offense had the Yankees and their fans flying high on a ten-game winning streak. Things are great, right?

Pump the brakes. The next afternoon, rookie starting pitcher Deivi García laid his first real egg against the Sox. It was an early exit where he gave up 11 pitches where the ball was hit 99 mph or harder, by far the most of his brief major league career. It set the tone for the entire game, which ended in a 10-2 blow-out. The game was still in reach, until relief pitcher Jonathan Holder gave up three more runs. The highlight of the game was beloved backup catcher Erik Kratz pitching the bottom of the 8th inning.

 

After leaving Boston, the Yankees traveled back to Buffalo, where the Blue Jays had taken them to the woodshed a couple weeks prior. The hope going into this series was the Yankees would continue momentum they built when they buried the Jays in a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Bombers simply bludgeoned them by a composite score of 43-15, with a mind-blowing total of eighteen (18!!) HR’s in the three games.

For the first game back at Sahlen Field, Yankees manager Aaron Boone started rookie Michael King as an opener. It was a bullpen day, specifically designed to push back the rotation in preparation for the playoffs. It didn’t go well. King breezed through the first two innings with ease. After the first time through Toronto’s lineup, he wasn’t fooling anyone. He departed after 2.2 innings and five runs later. Jonathan Loáisiga, who relieved King in the third, tossed gasoline on the fire by letting in 4 more runs in the fourth inning. The rout was on.

The Yankees only scratched across a pair of runs against Jays starter Matt Shoemaker and reliever T.J. Zeuch. Mike Tauchman capitalized on Wilmer Font‘s wildness with a double down the right field line in the 9th. That drove in three runs, making the final score a little less ugly at 11-5. It was “garbage time” offense, to use a football analogy. It should be noted Tauchman was only in this game because the game was a blowout. Moreover, it’s time to get all the regular players at bats every day. No more resting players bullshit, because the guys need regular at bats. Let Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres get their bats going. The Yankees need their offense. Most certainly, their struggles are a result of too much downtime.

The losses to Boston and Toronto drops their road record to 10-16, compared to 21-7 at Yankee Stadium. With this year’s postseason set up the way it is, the Yankees can’t take their foot off the gas pedal. They have to find a way to have as many playoff games at home as possible.

Pitching is a concern for the Yankees. Starters Gerrit Cole, Happ and Masahiro Tanaka have pitched well over the last month, while Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman anchor the bullpen. However, literally everyone else scares the daylights out of me. Will Deivi García rebound from his rough outing in Boston? Can Jordan Montgomery at least give two solid turns through a lineup? Will Adam Ottavino keep building on his last few positive outings? Lastly, will someone please lock Holder and Luis Cessa in the crapper so they don’t have to pitch?

Joking aside, this is put-up or shut up time for the Yankees. What team is it? The one who reeled off ten straight wins, or the unpredictable team who all too often made Yankees fans scream into their pillows? To be sure, they better find a way to win consistently on the road or it’ll be an early exit in the postseason.

 

Yankees 50 Game Report

A week and a half ago, as I was typing out my Yankees 40 game report, I was doing it with a sense of doom and resign. The Yankees seemed to be in a free-fall. They were in the middle of a five-game losing streak and lost six of seven. The team wasn’t hitting. When they did hit, they couldn’t pitch. Things looked bleak.

What a difference ten games make! After losing the first pair of games on the road to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees have reeled off eight consecutive victories. In four of them, the Bronx Bombers have lived up to their moniker, scoring ten runs or more. They are coming off a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays at home, making up for losing three of four in Buffalo earlier this month.

Yankees bats have never been hotter. The team scored 43 runs over the three games, including a mind-blowing 18 (!!!) home runs. No Yankees team has ever done that. Amazing.

Hitting

A line from ex-MLB hitter Mark DeRosa in the game “MLB The Show 20” come to mind. “There’s a fight at the bat rack for who’s gonna hit next”. Let’s start at the top of the Yankees lineup and work our way down.

D.J. LeMahieu continues to rake like a man-possessed. He played all ten games and brought his lunch pail to work, going 16-40 (.400) with six bombs and 11 RBI. Why the Yankees haven’t extended his contract is beyond comprehension. They can’t afford to lose him.

Luke Voit has firmly seized the first base job. Initially splitting time with lefty batting Mike Ford (who has since been optioned to Yankees alternative site in Scranton) in a platoon situation, Voit has been scorching hot no matter who is pitching. Over the last ten games, Voit went 14-43 (.326) while mashing 7 taters and bringing him 18. None of his home-runs are cheapies, either.

Gleyber Torres hasn’t shown the power he displayed in 2019 when he belted 38 home runs, but still is very productive. Over the last ten, “Glasses Gleyber” went 9-26 (.346) with a pair of homers and eight RBI.

Injured superstars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are back! Both players took an o-fer in their first games back, but last night Giancarlo went 4-5 against Toronto. He only came a triple shy of the cycle, bringing home a pair of runs. Having Judge and Stanton in the lineup makes an already potent lineup more dangerous.

Third baseman Gio Urshela missed a handful of games while on the injured list with bone spurs in his throwing elbow. He returned Tuesday and has since gone 5-14 over three games. No RBI’s, but it’s hard to drive in runs when everyone else is clearing the bases with home-runs.

OF Clint Frazier has been consistently productive in 2020 for the Yankees. Injuries to Stanton and Judge opened the door for Frazier and he’s earned his everyday playing time. He played all ten games, going 11-34 (.324) with a pair of homers and nine RBI. On Monday, Frazier revealed he was still dealing with concussion issues that carried over from 2018. He suffered from depth perception problems, which explains his defensive struggles last season. This year, Clint’s defense has been top-notch.

It’s been no secret Gary Sánchez has struggled in 2020, so we’ll take any silver linings. Always streaky, Gary went hitless in his first nine at bats over this ten game stretch, followed by six hits in the next 22. Sánchez socked a pair of homers in the Toronto series, driving home six. Backup catcher Kyle Higashioka has caught Gerrit Cole‘s last two starts, and all he’s done is hit four HR’s, including a three-homer game against the Blue Jays.

Veteran outfielders Brett Gardner (6 for 22) and Aaron Hicks (7 for 28) have been suffering through abysmal seasons, hitting .198 and .215, respectively. The defense is still there for both of them, but for some reason the offense hasn’t been there. Mike Tauchman had a three hit game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 11, but has otherwise been non-existent. Light hitting Tyler Wade has subbed in for Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres when needed. When he’s on base, Wade is always a threat to score. The problem here is, he’s rarely on base.

Pitching

It all starts with Gerrit Cole. The ace starting pitcher, Brian Cashman’s so-called “White Whale”, made a pair of starts against the Orioles and Blue Jays. Both outing were seven-inning gems, a two-hit complete game shutout against Baltimore in the first game of a doubleheader, followed by a three-hitter against Toronto. Cole gave up one run in his collective 14 innings, striking out 17 hitters. Filthy.

Masahiro Tanaka follows Cole in the Yankees rotation, and is a nice contrast. Masa is going to give up his home runs, it’s just who he is. The good thing is Tanaka never walks anyone, so usually the bombs are solo jobs. He had the benefit of a lot of run-support over his last pair of starts, his teammates giving him ten runs. This allowed Tanaka to pound the strike-zone and get outs efficiently. Against the Blue Jays, the long-time mainstay of the Yankees rotation had his longest start of 2020, seven innings. The only damage was a pair of homers to Lourdes Gurriel.

Deivi García, all of 21 years of age, has continued his impressive rookie season. The young righty made a pair of starts against the Blue Jays, pitching seven innings each time. In Buffalo, he only allowed a pair of runs on five hits in Buffalo, a start that helped stop a five game skid. Six days later, he made another start against Toronto. This time, the Yankees won 20-6 and his seven innings helped rest a weary bullpen. His WHIP and SO/BB ratios are better than Gerrit Cole’s. Imagine that. Did I mention he’s only 21??

Rounding out the rotation are lefties Jordan Montgomery and J.A. Happ. Montgomery’s last outing was a very solid 5.2 innings of one-run ball against the Orioles at home. He struck out a career-high nine and lost a win opportunity on an unearned run that scored after he departed. Monty’s season high is six innings, as he seems to hit the proverbial wall after about 75 pitches. Aaron Boone doesn’t seem to give him a lot of rope, and Montgomery seemed unhappy when the manager relieved him in the Baltimore game.

After a rough pair of starts to begin the 2020 season, veteran J.A. Happ has reeled off five starts where he’s kept his team in the game, if not pitch outstanding. Over the five starts, Happ has pitched to a 2.45 ERA, with 27 strikeouts over 29.1 innings. Over that span he has allowed a scant five walks and 23 hits, translating to a WHIP of 0.95. Happ is earning his money, although he only has a record of 1-2 to show for it.

In the bullpen, Chad Green and Adam Ottavino combined for a horrific meltdown inning against the Blue Jays in Buffalo on September 7. The Jays scored four times on Green and six against Ottavino in a 10 run inning that lasted 43 minutes. Green rebounded with a pair of good outings against Baltimore, while Ottavino struggled again six days later. Boone used Adam again last night against Toronto, and he looked much better. He gave up a hit, but struck out a pair of Blue Jays in a 13 pitch inning.

It’s hard to predict what the Yankees will get from Jonathan Holder. The 27 year old Holder was lights out over the last month where he only allowed one run over 10 innings (eight appearances). He came in last night to close out last night’s game against Toronto with a 10-3 lead. He departed 28 pitches and four runs later when closer Aroldis Chapman had to come in to put out the fire and lock down the save. Holder’s ERA jumped two full runs after the game, now sitting at 4.08.

Zack Britton continues to bring his lunch pail to work and get the job done. Britton provided four efficient scoreless innings over games 41-50 and picked up a win along the way. I applaud his unselfishness, as he could probably close for every other MLB team not named the Yankees.

The aforementioned Chapman notched a pair of saves this past week and added another memorable moment he probably would prefer never happened. Chapman recorded the first out in the 9th inning of a tie-game against the Orioles. We’ll just let Jomboy break it down, as he always does so well.

Of note, Chapman’s appeal for the suspension he received for throwing a pitch over Tampa Bay Rays hitter Mike Brosseau was supposed to be heard this past Monday (September 14), but there has been nothing reported since. Stay tuned.

Luis Cessa, Mike King, Jonathan Loaisiga and Nick Nelson are the leftovers who usually come in to mop up or cover in the event of injury. Cessa and Loaisiga are generally the more trusted pitchers of this quartet to get the higher leverage innings.

Next time, we’ll cover the final ten games of the season. We’ll also take a peek at what will be ahead for the Yankees as we enter the expanded postseason in this crazy year that is 2020.

For Yankees, Playoffs Start Now

After tonight’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees will have completed 80 percent of their 2020 schedule. It has been a roller-coaster season for the Bronx Bombers, with injuries and uneven play up and down the lineup and pitching staff.

The Yankees begin a three-game homestand, taking on Toronto this evening at Yankee Stadium. Last week, the Blue Jays took two of three games against them at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. Thus included a demoralizing 12-7 loss on September 7 when relievers Adam Ottavino and Chad Green thoroughly imploded. The Yankees rebounded, winning the series finale and followed by sweeping the Baltimore Orioles in a four-game set at home.

Looking ahead, this upcoming series against Toronto is the beginning of the (unofficial, of course) playoffs for the Yankees. Their final 13 games consist of the three games at home against the Jays, followed by three games against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway, then four games back in Buffalo against Toronto. Finally, the 2020 campaign closes with a three-game set against the Miami Marlins at home September 25-27.

The Yankees will be healthier in the days ahead. Injured players Gio Urshela, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are expected to all return by the weekend. Scranton Wilkes Barre Railriders reporter Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) sent this tweet yesterday showing them working out at PNC Field.

The returns of Urshela (expected back tonight), Judge and Stanton give the lineup a nice boost. While players like D.J. LeMahieu, Luke Voit, Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres have carried the team, the addition of the three injured sluggers makes the Yankees much more potent.

It may take a few games for Urshela, Judge and Stanton to get back in a rhythm and feel comfortable. However, the Yankees have to show they can win against their upcoming opponents. The Blue Jays have been rolling, winning twelve of their last 18 games. Their lineup is potent, and their bullpen is quietly effective. They added three starters before the trade deadline and won’t go quietly. The Red Sox have had a miserable season, but will want to gear-up and play spoilers against their longtime rivals. The Marlins won’t roll over, as they are only four games out of first place in the NL East behind the Atlanta Braves. The Yankees will have their hands full over the next two weeks.

For more coverage, you can listen to me as I join the great Sal Maiorana on his podcast “SalSpeaks”. I join Sal each Tuesday as we break down the week for the New York Yankees. The link is below.

https://www.salmaiorana.com/posts/8332010?utm_source=manual

Yankees – No Deal? No Problem.

As Monday afternoon’s 4:00 PM trade deadline quickly approached, I rapidly refreshed Twitter to see if the New York Yankees made a deal to bolster themselves for the stretch run.

Four o’clock came and went, and word finally came in from a few beat writers. Yankees GM Brian Cashman didn’t pull the trigger on anything.

It’s a fair point. The Yankees have a number of big names on the injured list, most of them are expected back this season. Giancarlo Stanton (left hamstring), Gleyber Torres (left hamstring/quad) and Aaron Judge (right calf) will return before season’s end. Reliever Zack Britton (hamstring) and Kyle Higashioka (oblique) made their returns last night against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Although it would have been nice to add a starting pitcher like Kevin Gausman, as I wrote about last week, I think the Yankees have enough to get by as long as their current starters pitch close to their capabilities. J.A. Happ and Deivi García were stellar in their last outings (García’s MLB debut).

With sixteen teams making the playoffs in this crazy year that is 2020, the Yankees just have to play well enough to get in. Once the playoffs start, anything can happen. The hottest team at the time makes the longest playoff run. It’s happened before. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series with a regular season record of 83-78. Historically, many 90 win teams have missed the postseason! Cashman was right to not mortgage the future. There is no reason to trade the team’s very best prospects in a year when more than half the teams in Major League Baseball will reach the postseason.

So let’s see what happens when the big guys come back. Let Judge, Stanton and Gleyber heal up for the playoffs. There is enough on hand to get them there.

Yankees 30-Game Report

After yesterday’s walk-off win against the New York Mets, the Big Apple’s other team, the Yankees officially reached the halfway point of 2020’s abbreviated schedule. The Bronx Bombers are 17-13 heading into Sunday’s doubleheader against these same Mets.

The past ten games for the Yankees was a brutal stretch. They won the first two games against the Boston Red Sox, were swept by the 1st place Tampa Bay Rays in a three-game set. Then the team was idled due to a handful of Mets players testing positive for COVID-19, followed by an off-day and a rain-out in Atlanta. After play resumed, the Yankees were swept by the Braves in a doubleheader. The Yankees traveled back home to be swept in another doubleheader Friday night against the Mets. Finally the Yanks won Saturday afternoon, snapping a seven-game losing streak.

In fairness, that five day stretch where the Yankees didn’t play a game did not do them any favors. The team has scored 11 runs in five games since resuming play. Not playing for close to a week, doesn’t do any baseball player much good.

Hitting

After spending 15 days on the shelf recovering from a calf injury, Aaron Judge was penciled into the lineup in the second game of a doubleheader in Atlanta. His return lasted six innings before re-injuring the same calf. After hitting a single in three at bats, Judge was replaced by Clint Frazier in right field.

This of course sent Twitter into a raging frenzy. After a couple of days, Brian Cashman told a group of Yankees fans on a Zoom call Judge would be returning to the injured-list. On the same call, he also said shortstop Gleyber Torres was looking at 3-6 weeks for his recovery from a quad strain and hamstring injury.

As for the players still on the field, it wasn’t a pretty ten game stretch. The Yankees did get excellent production from first baseman Luke Voit. Aaron Boone installed Voit in the lead-off slot, and has been a revelation. Luke has hit at a .452 clip in the past ten game (14-31) with 7 HR’s and 10 RBI. He’s simply on fire.

D.J. LeMahieu missed a bunch of games due to a left hand ailment, but returned yesterday. Raking with a .411 average before going on the IL, he picked right up, smoking a triple in the bottom of the 3rd inning. LeMahieu is a welcome sight for this Yankees team.

Third baseman Gio Urshela was held out of the last few games with a bone spur in his right elbow. This may explain why he only had four hits in his last 24 at bats.

Tyler Wade and Miguel Andújar saw increased playing time due to Torres and Urshela being out. Neither player has hit well, combing for four hits in 35 at bats over the past ten games. At least Wade provides reliable defense; a 55-gallon drum is more dependable than Andújar at the hot corner. After a horrible day in Friday’s twin-bill, Miguel was sent back to the team’s alternate site in Scranton. Both Andújar and Wade might benefit from a change of scenery at this point.

With Judge back on the IL, Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier will continue to see increased playing time. Both are productive at the plate, countering the lack of productivity by veterans Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner.

Behind the dish, Gary Sánchez is going through a nightmarish season. On the season, Gary has 10 hits in 77 at bats with 37 strikeouts. In Friday’s doubleheader, he left a small army of Yankees stranded on the bases in two separate crucial plate appearances. Manager Aaron Boone went with 40 year old veteran back-up Erik Kratz to catch J.A. Happ the following day. Kratz and Happ were teammates way back in 2014 when they were with the Toronto Blue Jays. Happ responded with 7.1 scoreless innings, and said he felt very comfortable with Kratz back there.

Pitching

Let’s start with the aforementioned Happ. Coming into Saturday’s start against the Mets with a 6.39 ERA, he did it with a chip on his shoulder. Speaking with the press on a Zoom-call, he said this……

Given Happ’s age (37) and his contract situation (17M/year), there may be something to it. On Saturday, he delivered 7.1 scoreless innings on three hits, with no walks and 5 K’s. He raved about working with Erik Kratz, who may find himself catching Happ in his next turn later this week.

Let’s talk about Gerrit Cole. He’s the undisputed ace of the Yankees pitching staff. As great as he is, he’s giving up home runs at a break-neck (10 over 41.1 innings). Cole allowed one blast in each of his first five starts, followed by a pair of solo shots in St. Petersburg against the Rays. Following that start, Gerrit gave up three bombs to the Braves, including one by Ronald Acuña, Jr. (473 feet) that may still be in orbit. Cole’s stuff is still crisp as ever, and he is his own harshest critic. He’s not someone to worry about because he will figure it out.

Masahiro Tanaka made a pair of starts, one in Tampa where he was pretty bad (6 runs/4 innings/2HR), and one on a hot/humid day in Atlanta (5 scoreless innings). Tanaka still hasn’t thrown more than 71 pitches in a start, and was gassed after 66 pitches against the Braves. The steamy weather in Atlanta may have pushed his endurance a bit.

James Paxton made a start against the Rays at Yankee Stadium that was bizarre. He held Tampa hitless through four innings. Paxton went out for the 5th and struck-out the first batter, followed this with a pair of walks and a wild-pitch, which put the runners on 2nd and 3rd. Joey Wendle doubled home the runners, and went to 3rd on the throw home. Paxton walked the next batter, then allowed a sac fly which scored Wendle. Paxton struck out the next guy, ending the inning. I called the inning bizarre, as Paxton normally has excellent control. Also notable his velocity, already lower in 2020, dropped further – barely touching 90 mph.

A few days later, the Yankees announced Paxton is heading to the IL.

Jordan Montgomery performed well in two starts, the first on August 17 against Boston. He allowed one-run ball into the 4th inning before the game was stopped by rain. The second start was the first game of Friday’s doubleheader. Cruising through five innings, the only blemish an unearned run, thanks to another error by Miguel Andújar. Jordan started the 6th inning allowing a pair of singles on consecutive pitches, which brought Aaron Boone out of the dugout to make a change. Chad Green came in and promptly gave up a home run to Mets first baseman Pete Alonso. Montgomery deserved a better fate.

The bullpen – Yankees relief pitchers haven’t provided much relief. Let’s start with Chad Green since we already touched on him. Coming into the 7 inning twin-bill in Atlanta, Green was his usual dominating self with a ERA of 0.71. Taking over after Tanaka’s five scoreless, he gave up a pair of bombs, handing a win to the Braves. Two days later, Green came in following Jordan Montgomery and it was batting practice. Three homers later, it was all over but the shouting. Those two outings raised Green’s ERA almost three runs.

Adam Ottavino has also tossed gasoline on the fire, coming in after J.A. Happ’s start yesterday only to blow the lead after allowing a home run to Wilson Ramos. On August 20, Ottavino gave up three runs after a poor performance by him and Luis Avilán (since released).

Zack Britton has been a wonder this season, especially while close Aroldis Chapman recovered from a bout with COVID-19. Britton made his first appearance in a non-closing situation against Tampa on August 19, and had a tough outing. After he departed, the team announced he will be going on the IL with a left hamstring problem. He has been throwing bullpens over the past couple days, and should be activated soon.

The 32 year old Chapman has made three appearances. He has yet to earn a save, but looked much better in his last outing, compared to his first pair. The velocity is bumping up for Aroldis, touching 99-100 mph.

Jonathan Loaisiga has worked as an opener and long reliever, turning in reliable work when needed. Jonathan Holder and Luis Cessa have provided decent work, normally in low-leverage situations. It’s asking a bit much for them to pitch with the game on the line, however.

Next time, we will cover the next ten games for the Yankees and see what progresses. Thanks for reading!

Yankees 20 Game Report

Welcome back, everyone. It’s that time again! We’re going to take a look at the New York Yankees in ten game increments instead of half-seasons like a normal 162 game season. Last time out, we covered games one through eleven, this time we will even things out by covering games 12 through 20.

Pitching

Yankees pitching over these nine games was a mixed bag. Gerrit Cole pitched well in Tampa against the Rays, but didn’t make it out of the fifth inning because he got into a lot of deep counts that ran his pitch count up. Five days later, he silenced the Red Sox over seven innings of one-run ball.

James Paxton also had a pair of starts against those same Rays and Red Sox. The Big Maple gave up three runs in both starts, and looked much more like himself. His fastball velocity has been a source of concern as he continues building strength after back surgery over the winter. In his starts this week, his velo continues to trend upward, touching 95 a few times against the Red Sox. Equally as important, his spin-rates are also improving. Paxton’s 7.04 ERA is still unsightly, but he looks more like himself.

Masahiro Tanaka gave a pair of good starts, albeit abbreviated as he continues building his pitch-counts after a late beginning to his season after taking a liner off his head during summer camp. Jordan Montgomery and J.A. Happ contributed serviceable starts, the latter coming last night against Boston after ten days off. Montgomery and Happ both looking much better than their previous outings.

In the bullpen, Zack Britton continued his great work filling in for Aroldis Chapman, converting every save opportunity. Chad Green and Adam Ottavino have been amazing, giving the Yankees nearly flawless work in relief. Jonathan Loaisiga has been dependable, the same can’t be said for Jonathan Holder.

By the way, Aroldis Chapman has been activated ahead of tonight’s series finale against the Red Sox.

Hitting

On the offensive side of the ball, the Yankees scored 54 runs over the last nine games. Gary Sánchez and Gleyber Torres made significant progress after slow starts to the season. Gary homered in three straight games, while Torres has 13 hits in his last 25 at bats.

In the OF, Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier have been tearing things up this week. Tauchman has shredded Boston, going 6-12 with 4 RBI, while Frazier (recalled for the injured Giancarlo Stanton) has announced his presence with authority by going 8-15 (2 HR, 8 RBI) over four games. Aaron Hicks’s defense has been spot on, and his bat is starting to rebound while taking a lot of walks. Brett Gardner’s struggles continue, but he earns his money as a much as a leader as his on-field work.

Mike Ford and Luke Voit have covered first base with their bats as well as solid defense, and Gio Urshela continues to prove his 2019 wasn’t an outlier.

D.J. LeMahieu (.456 OBP) and Aaron Judge (9 HR, 20 RBI) were tearing the covers off the ball, but both went down to injury this past week. Because 2020 can’t be normal, the Yankees again are dealing with health problems.

With Stanton out, Judge sidelined until Saturday and LeMahieu sidelined for the better part of a month, the Yankees need production from everyone.

Tonight, the Yankees wrap up the series with Boston. Jordan Montgomery gets the start for the Yankees, while Martín Pérez takes the mound for the Sox.