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.
Zack Britton– (1-2, 1.89 ERA, 8 saves) Having a once-time dominating closer (120 saves from 2014-16 with Baltimore Orioles) in your bullpen to back up Aroldis Chapman is handy. While Chapman was recovering from a bout with COVID-19, Britton took over closing duties. He saved all eight opportunities and was dependable all summer. Britton finished the season with a 1.89 ERA, easily the best among Yankee relievers. His only hiccup was a couple shaky outings after missing 10 days while nursing a hamstring injury.
In less than a week, we may know the Yankees’ plans for Zack. His current contract is through 2021 (13M), but the club must decide on his option for ’22 after this year’s World Series. If Yankees decline Britton’s option for 2022, he can immediately opt-out if he wishes. Being that he’s only 32, he should still have many effective years left. Stay tuned!
*UPDATE* Per a tweet from Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch, the team has picked up Zack Britton’s option, keeping him under contract through 2022.
Can confirm that the #Yankees have picked up Zack Britton's option for 2022, valued at $14 million.
Aroldis Chapman – (1-1, 3.09 ERA, 3 saves) On the surface, Chapman’s season ERA (3.09) isn’t bad. The 32 year old from Cuba picked up 3 saves, his lowest total since 2011. He missed a few days at the front end of the season recuperating from COVID. Chapman took a few lumps in his first two outings but came out guns-a-blazing in September. Including his final game in August with his stats in September, Chappy was unhittable. In eleven games from August 29 – September 25, Chapman allowed a run, three hits and three walks over 10.2 innings. Over that span, he struck out twenty batters! In addition, Chapman held his opponents to a .184 on base percentage and a .361 OPS. While he may throw 102 with his fastball anymore, he still can dredge up 100. Chapman’s slider is a very viable off-speed pitch and recently unveiled a split-finger fastball in against Toronto.
Chapman’s current contract keeps him in the Bronx through the 2022 season.
Chad Green – (3-3, 3.51 ERA, 1 save) This is another case of stats being deceiving. If you toss out three games where Green was lit up, he held opponents to a 0.77 ERA in his other 19 appearances. It feels like he has been around forever, but Green is still only 29 and has two more seasons before he reaches free agency. He’s an important piece of the Yankee bullpen, especially with fellow righthander Tommy Kahnle missing the 2020 season.
Tommy Kahnle – With the except of one appearance where he recorded all three outs by strikeouts (see below), Kahnle missed the season after injuring his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery and is still recovering. As of this writing, there are no new updates. He is arbitration eligible and it’s likely the Yankees will iron out a contract, since GM Brian Cashman likes to avoid arbitration hearings as much as possible. Kahnle’s return will be a welcome sight, as the Yankees were too often forced to rely on guys who simply didn’t get the job done.
*UPDATE* Apparently the Yankees wanted to outright Kahnle, removing him from the 40 man roster while he continues recovery from elbow surgery. Kahnle decided to become a free agent instead. This is unfortunate.
RHP Tommy Kahnle elected free agency today in lieu of accepting an outright assignment.
Adam Ottavino – (2-3, 5.89 ERA) After a good first season in 2019 in New York, things didn’t go as well for him in 2020. After a particularly brutal three week stretch from mid-August into early September (including a horrific performance in Buffalo against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 7), Ottavino found himself working in lower-leverage situations. However, he turned it around the rest of the way. Over his final seven games, he allowed only one run and struck out ten in 5.2 innings. For those wanting Otto off the team, he’s probably not going anywhere. He has one more year remaining on his contract at 9M.
I still think Ottavino has more in him, given his stats from 2018 and ’19.
Jonathan Holder – (3-0, 4.98 ERA) When Yankees legend Ron Guidry was a struggling rookie, the late Billy Martin asked him, “Is there anybody in this league that you can get out? Because if you can, let me know.” We know how that turned out for Guidry, but I ask the same thing about Jonathan Holder. I suppose it’s good to have bullpen filler guys for low-leverage situations, but this is what Holder is reduced to. His strikeout rate dropped to a career-low 5.8/9 innings while his walk rate doubled to 4.6/9. I wish I could put a positive spin to on Holder’s entry in this article, but I’m having trouble. Maybe a change of scenery will jump-start things for his once-promising career. Holder is only 27, so he has time. Also, this is the first and last time you will see Guidry and Holder mentioned in the same breath.
Trash him. 🗑
Luis Cessa – (0-0, 3.32 ERA, 1 save) Luis Cessa is another bullpen filler on the roster to eat innings in mop-up situations. He has a live arm, consistently hitting 95-97 with his fastball. The 28 year old righty from Mexico was tagged for four runs over 1.1 innings in his final appearance of the 2020 season, causing his ERA to jump from 2.21 to 3.32. Cessa figures to once again be a part of the Yankees bullpen in ’21. That’s fine as long as they aren’t relying on him in high leverage situations.
Take him (someone has to eat the innings)
Jonathan Loáisiga – (3-0, 3.52) The young righthander from Nicaragua has been something of an enigma in his short time with the Yankees. His stuff can be dominating, and there were times he shut teams down. Other times, Loáisiga pitched behind in the count, forcing him to groove pitches with the expected results. I’m not sure where the Yankees plan to best utilize Jonathan going forward, but he rose up through the minor leagues as a starter. I think Loáisiga would be best served to start 2021 in Scranton (he has one option remaining), where he can start every five days. He has three pitches, let him refine things and get stretched back out. That way, if the Yankees have an injury, he can immediately be plugged right into their rotation. His stuff is just too good to be a middle reliever. Plus he’s still young, about to turn 26.
Nick Nelson (1-0, 4.79 ERA) – Nelson made his major league debut in 2020 after rising through the minors in 2019. The 24 year old native of Panama City, FL picked up a his first win in his initial appearance against the Red Sox on August 1. Like Jonathan Loáisiga, Nelson climbed through the system as a starter. He would be better served to start 2021 in Triple-A to gain experience and continue honing his craft. That said, it’s hard to ignore a guy who can bring 99 mph heat out of the bullpen.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Awww I’m not attached to Brett Gardner in needing him back next year on a roster level…but after 12 seasons.. him coming back to tip his cap to an empty stadium is not how it should end for him here… 💔 #Imnotcryingyourecryingpic.twitter.com/MpeCq5khAu
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
With Major League Baseball having a shortened 60 game season in 2020, I thought we could cover the New York Yankees in ten game increments. I like the idea, to me it makes things more manageable as opposed to 81 game halves.
With that, let’s get to it. A disclaimer – the Yankees played a doubleheader yesterday against the Philadelphia Phillies, which were the tenth and eleventh games. They made a nice run in the late innings after laying an egg early in the first game, and played well in the second game, so I couldn’t omit that. Therefore, this entry will cover games one through eleven. The next report will canvas games twelve through twenty.
It all begins with Gerrit Cole, the “White Whale” of General Manager Brian Cashman’s last off-season. He’s been everything the Yankees expected so far. Cole is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA, striking out 16 over his 17.2 innings of work. If not for a pair of rain-shortened outings, the “Cole Train” would likely have a couple more innings under his belt.
Jordan Montgomery and Masahiro Tanaka looked good in their first starts of 2020, and both appear healthy. Montgomery, beginning his first full season after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2018, has regained his velocity and command. Tanaka, who took a 112 mph line-drive off the side of his head in Summer Camp, showed no ill-effects in his start against the Boston Red Sox on August 1. He will still be on a pitch count, likely 65-70 pitches.
James Paxton and JA Happ are points of concern for Aaron Boone and Pitching Coach Matt Blake. Paxton, coming off back surgery at the beginning of 2020, hasn’t regained his velocity. Over his two starts, the “Big Maple” has been sitting at 91-92 mph, about 5 mph short of his normal velocity. Paxton’s numbers are ugly – 12 hits and 8 runs allowed over four innings. Meanwhile, Happ is healthy but he’s not hitting his locations. He doesn’t have the velocity to cover a lack of command, and his results have been predictable. Happ owns a 10.29 ERA, walked eight over seven innings and allowed three long balls. Yikes.
The bullpen has done nice work, with Zack Britton converting all five save opportunities. Britton, Chad Green, Adam Ottavino and Jonathan Holder have all held opponents scoreless. David Hale and Michael King have pitched well when needed to give innings, and Jonathan Loaisiga has performed well at times. Nick Nelson earned his first major league win in relief of Tanaka, before getting hung out to dry in Game 1 of yesterday’s doubleheader (and being subsequently sent down afterward). Closer Aroldis Chapman is probably at least a week away, and the reliable Tommy Kahnle is lost for the rest of the season (and likely much of 2021) after undergoing Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.
Welcome to the Aaron Judge Show! Seriously, Judge is white-hot right now. After starting the season 2-12, he went on a tear, hitting home-runs in five consecutive games. When Judge lowers the gavel, he doesn’t hit wall-scrapers, they get stuck in orbit.
Luke Voit has launched four homers over nine games and looks back to his second half of 2018 level. Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela are also raking, with OPS’s of 1.028 and 1.088, respectively. Urshela came up early in 2019 when Miguel Andújar injured his shoulder and has firmly seized the 3rd base job. Andújar, now healthy, has struggled to the tune of 1-14 (.071) and was optioned to the Yankees “Alternative Site” (2020 version of being sent to Triple-A Scranton) last night. He could also be trade-bait if Brian Cashman decides to look for more help in the rotation.
Roster Moves: Following last night’s game, the Yankees optioned INF/OF Miguel Andújar, INF Thairo Estrada and RHP Nick Nelson to the Alternate Site.
Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Gary Sánchez have struggled, to the consternation of many on Twitter. It’s a matter of time before they get going, particularly Torres ( I think Gary will also be fine as well). Gardner, now 36, may be best off in a platoon situation if the Yankees decide to bring Clint Frazier back up from Scranton. Mike Tauchman has earned a lion’s share of playing time, but only so many at bats are available with this log-jam.
Next time, we will cover games 12-20 and see if the Yankees can continue to stay hot.
In 16 days, the New York Yankees will play their first game of the 2019 season. A couple days ago, I gave my thoughts on how the Yankees rotation might look on Opening Day. Today I’ll dive into their bullpen and give my thoughts on who will be there.
Tommy Kahnle – 2018 was basically a washout for Tommy. He never had the same velocity he carried after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox in 2017, and was injured in an early appearance in April, which he didn’t disclose. Tommy kept pitching with a sore arm, fairing so poorly he ended up back in AAA. Kahnle says he is feeling much better this spring and says “the ball is coming out of his hand better”. He is out of options and would require passing through waivers unclaimed to stay with the Yankees organization if sent down. Therefore, Tommy will get every opportunity to make the club and bring the heat.
Stephen Tarpley – The 26 year old Tarpley came to the Yankees in August 2016 as part of the deal that sent Ivan Nova to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He rose quickly through the system in 2018, progressing from Double-A Trenton to Scranton Wilkes Barre, posting a composite ERA of 2.20 at both levels. He was rewarded with a September 1 call-up, and made his big-league debut at Yankee Stadium the next day. Tarpley pitched so well in September that Aaron Boone added him to the postseason roster for the ALDS against the Red Sox. “Tarp” is able to pitch multiple innings and is effective against both lefties and righties, making him all the more valuable.
Jonathan Holder – Jonathan’s overall ERA (3.14) in 2018 isn’t bad in itself, but it IS deceiving. Four rough outings in his 60 appearances skewed his numbers. Back to back appearances in early April and another pair of outings at the beginning of August were enough to make his ERA balloon more than 2.5 times it’s size. In his other 56 games, Holder’s ERA was 1.29 and WHIP was 0.88.
Chance Adams – In a way, Chance’s 2018 season was kind of similar to Kahnle’s because of injury. In an article by NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty, Adams had surgery after the 2017 season to remove bone chips from his right elbow, and it took longer to recover than expected. He didn’t have the mid-90’s velocity when he did return, nor the results to match. Chance will probably begin his 2019 season in Triple-A Scranton where he can start every fifth day, stay stretched-out and is only a phone call away if needed in New York.
Ben Heller – Ben missed all of 2018 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and will hopefully contribute during the second half of 2019. Heller and Jordan Montgomery are pretty much on the same timetable.
He's going through much the same program as Jordan Montgomery. With a typical 14-month recovery, you're probably looking at a return to games in June.