Yankees Take ‘Em or Trash ‘Em – Relief Pitchers

Ok, I have slacked off for the last week since I cranked out Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Starting Pitchers. With this edition of take ’em or trash ’em, we will put a wrap on the 2020 Yankees. With the Los Angeles Dodgers on the brink of winning the World Series, the end of this batshit crazy 2020 MLB season is in sight.

Let’s begin dissecting the Yankees bullpen.

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.

Take him! (and the Yankees did)

 

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.

Take him!

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.

Take him

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.

Take him!

*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.

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.

Take him.

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.

Take him. (Let’s not give up on him yet)

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.

Take him!

And with that, we have covered the 2020 New York Yankees. Stay tuned as we enter the Hot Stove League. Soon enough, we will see who and what is in their plans going forward.

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.

 

 

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 40 Game Report

It seems like it was just the other day when I cranked out the 30 game report for the New York Yankees. Time flies when you’re having fun, right?

The last ten games for the Yankees and their fans have been anything but fun. The same can be said for the ten games before that. It’s been a very ugly stretch for this battered team. Let’s get on to assess the carnage, shall we?

Hitting

Or lack thereof. Where do we even begin? I guess we will start with the guys actually producing. D.J. LeMahieu came back for the team’s 30th game after missing ten games with a hand injury. He picked right up where he left off. “LeMachine” logged 10 hits in 36 at-bats in this ten game stretch, including back to back two hit games against the Tampa Bay Rays. The second of which he slammed a pair of home runs in a rare Yankees win over the Rays.

First baseman Luke Voit was productive against the Mets and Rays, but cooled off considerably against the Baltimore Orioles. Backup catcher Erik Kratz has been a pleasant surprise for many reasons (see this YES Network video about him helping Latin pitchers realize their dreams), but he has swung the bat well (8 hits in 27 AB’s) and gunned down a couple runners. Saturday night, he caught O’s catcher Pedro Severino napping off 2nd base from his knees. Not bad for a 40 year old.

There’s not much else positive to say about the rest of this Yankees lineup. 3rd baseman Gio Urshela has battled a troublesome bone spur in his throwing elbow, and was placed on the IL. Gary Sánchez still looks lost at the plate (13 hits in 100 AB’s), including strikeouts in each of his last seven plate appearances. He did manage a home-run, a grand slam that proved to be a game-winner against the Mets in the first game of a doubleheader. However, Aaron Boone is planning to sit him for a couple days to get himself right.

Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Mike Ford and Tyler Wade continue to struggle and give non-competitive at bats. Mike Tauchman has one hit over his last 17 at bats. Clint Frazier is still hitting well (8 for last 26), but only drove in three runs. It’s hard to drive runs in when no one else gets on.

Pitching

You know things aren’t going so hot when Jonathan Holder has the lowest ERA on the team (minimum 10 IP). Sigh.

It’s been a tough last few turns for Gerrit Cole, but he deserved so much better Saturday night against the Orioles. He has his best stuff of the season. Cole struck out five of the first six hitters and sat 97-99 with his four-seamer. He had nine K’s through five innings on only 63 pitches. The next inning, the roof caved in. D.J Stewart hit a home-run. Hanser Alberto reached on an error. Cole issued back-to-back walks, then followed those up with a two-run single and a ground-rule double. Next thing you know, five runs have scored (one earned) and that’s all she wrote.

Masahiro Tanaka tossed six innings of two run ball in a 5-3 Yankees win against the Rays on September 1, punching seven tickets. Sunday against the Orioles, Masa was charged with four runs (two earned) over 5.1 innings in Baltimore. Like Cole the night before, Tanaka deserved a better fate. Luis Cessa relieved him for some reason only Manager Aaron Boone knows (more on this later). Cessa inherited two of Tanaka’s runners and allowed a single to load the bases. He went on to walk in a run, followed by a single for another Baltimore run. The O’s went on to a 5-1 win Sunday. Again, Tanaka deserved better.

Jordan Montgomery imploded in a his start against Tampa on September 2, giving up five straight hits and two home-runs to a fired-up Rays team. The day before, closer Aroldis Chapman sailed a 101 mph fastball just inches over the head of Mike Brosseau. The Rays felt they had something to prove, and they made a statement, jumping on Montgomery, who only recorded two outs on 39 pitches.

J.A. Happ made a start in Thursday’s makeup game against the Mets, going five innings, giving up 4 runs on eight hits. His season continues to be up and down.

Deivi García pitched a beautiful six innings against the Mets in his debut on August 30, striking out six. He looked like a seasoned veteran, allowing a scant four hits. He drew praise across MLB, including Pedro Martínez, whom García is often compared to.

His second start wasn’t as great, but pitched into the 5th inning before he was relieved by fellow rookie Clarke Schmidt, who was just called up to make his Major League debut. It didn’t go well, with the Orioles ripping him for three straight hits, allowing four runs to score. We’ll also touch on this move by Boone later.

Michael King made a couple of uninspiring starts and abbreviated starts, against the Mets and Orioles, respectively. King didn’t pitch badly, only giving up a total of five runs between the two starts. But Boone doesn’t give him a lot of rope. His longest outing of the season was his start against the Mets, four innings. That puts a lot of work on the bullpen.

Speaking of the bullpen, it’s worn out. Any starter not named Gerrit Cole or Masahiro Tanaka simply doesn’t get to pitch very deeply into games. Sometimes it’s for a good reason (they are getting shelled), sometimes it’s because Aaron Boone gets an itchy trigger-finger or analytics call for a move.

Adam Ottavino (16 appearances), Chad Green (15) and Zack Britton (13) are getting worked a lot, and the team is averaging 4.5 innings per start from their starting pitchers. Things are getting thin, and cracks are beginning to show. Jonathan Loaisiga, who’s been valuable as an opener and multi-inning reliever, was put on the IL with an illness unrelated to COVID.

As mentioned earlier, Aroldis Chapman threw a pitch above Mike Brosseau’s head. This ended up getting him a three game suspension from Major League Baseball. He has appealed and is awaiting a hearing. Even if reduced, it adds more to an overworked bullpen. Another unwise and selfish move by Aroldis.

Britton returned from the injured list last week, and will help ease the burden. He looked a bit rusty in his first couple games back, but should be fine with more work.

Luis Cessa and Jonathan Holder have received higher-leverage innings out of necessity, reaffirming how much the Yankees miss Tommy Kahnle (Tommy John surgery).

Aaron Boone/Coaching

The Yankees have now lost 13 of their last 18 games. Aaron Boone has made some questionable decisions. Bringing in Luis Cessa into a runners-on situation in relief of Tanaka trailing only by a run (it didn’t work). Having Clarke Schmidt, a starter, make his debut in the middle of an inning with runners on base (it failed miserably) when he had a couple other arms to chose from. Not having Erik Kratz catch J.A. Happ (who raved about working with Kratz after the game) when the pair was spectacular together in Happ’s previous start, having Kyle Higashioka catch him instead (it didn’t go that well).

I realize managing a team is difficult, managing a struggling team in New York magnifies it tenfold. But it seems like Boone is making things harder than it needs to be.

It’s easy for me, other writers and fans to be armchair managers. One thing is obvious. The Yankees need to turn this around, or they may be watching the playoffs along with us in our armchairs.

 

Gausman Makes Sense for Yankees

With only five days left until Major League Baseball‘s trade deadline, aspiring playoff teams are looking to add players to enhance their chances of winning a World Series title.

The New York Yankees are one of those teams. One area the Yankees would like to shore up is pitching. James Paxton is on the IL for an undefined time with a forearm strain, his team could use another starting pitcher. All Yankees starters *not* named Gerrit Cole have an ERA of 4.60 or higher. The Bronx Bombers need rotation help.

Kevin Gausman of the San Francisco Giants is reportedly available in trade, according to Yankees beat writer Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.

Gausman is on a one-year contract for a rebuilding team, and be had for a modest price. The eight-year veteran has always been up and down, but had some dominating performances this year. His spin-rates are higher on all pitches, and has struck-out a career-best 12.2 per nine innings, while touching 99 mph. Finally, Gausman is familiar with pitching in the heat of the AL East, spending six years with the Baltimore Orioles.

Teams have a few days left to make deals, so it will be interesting to see who does what. The Yankees will be in that mix.

It’s Opening Day!

It’s finally here!

Opening Day in MLB is a holiday in my household. Personally, I feel that it’s better than Christmas. Baseball is my favorite thing in life after my son. Every team in baseball is full of optimism and dreams of hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy in October.

And the weather is warmer in the vast majority of the country than it is on Christmas!

There is literally nothing on the agenda for me today than watching our national pastime. Good luck and best wishes to whomever you root for.

Enjoy the day, everybody!

Yankees Starting Rotation Taking Form

Yesterday, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced that Masahiro Tanaka will be their Opening Day starter when they face off against the Baltimore Orioles on March 28 at Yankee Stadium.

With Luis Severino not expected back from shoulder inflammation for roughly a month, Boone had to make new plans for the Yankees’ first game. Tanaka made it an easy choice because he’s thrown the ball well in each of his starts this spring.

James Paxton and J.A. Happ will follow Tanaka in the rotation, but who will follow them still remains to be seen. Domingo Germán has pitched well in Florida, allowing two runs over 7.1 innings with 12 K’s in the early going. Yesterday, Luis Cessa started against the Tigers, retiring the first 11 batters before allowing a hit. He has surrendered one run on five hits in his nine innings in his three appearances. Both Cessa and Germán are candidates to for the back end of the rotation with Sevy and CC Sabathia both unlikely to begin their seasons until late April.

What about Jonathan Loaisiga you ask? It’s a fair question. He has looked very good this spring, and he’s not ruled out by any stretch. But the Yankees are going to want to take it easy with him, especially after some injury problems limited him to 80 innings in 2018. Over Loaisiga’s professional career, he has thrown only 196 total innings in his four years. Chances are Jonathan will continue to hone his craft in Triple-A Scranton by starting every five days, building up his innings in a carefully controlled environment.

Cessa is out of options, and would require clearing waivers if the team tried sending him back to Scranton-Wilkes Barre, so he’s going to get every opportunity to make the team. Aaron Boone may decide to go with a five-man rotation right out of the gate. I see the rotation something like this until Severino and Sabathia return:

  1. Tanaka
  2. Paxton
  3. J.A. Happ
  4. Germán
  5. Cessa

 

Of course after Sevy and CC join the rotation, some decisions will have to be made for Germán and possibly Cessa, but I think both righties can hold down the fort in the meantime.

MLB Non-Roster Invitees – American League East

Spring training is finally here! Pitchers and catchers are already with their teams in Arizona and Florida, along with a good number of position players looking to get a head-start on things.

There are always a ton of players in MLB camps every spring, the majority of them being players on the 40-man rosters. Every team also has a number of players who are “non roster invitees”. The term is pretty self-explanatory. These guys are players who are not on the 40 man, but are invited to major league camp so the front office, manager and coaches can take a look at them. It’s generally a mix of young talent (think early round draft picks) and older players who are looking to looking to latch on with teams, hoping to continue their careers.

Today we’re going to look at a few players on each team in the American League East Division, and we will cover the remaining AL and National League divisions in future articles. Here we go!

Baltimore Orioles

Sean Gilmartin (LHP) – Gilmartin is a 28 year old soft-tossing lefty pitcher who first broke in with the New York Mets in 2015. He pitched very well in the ’15 season, but has scuffled in succeeding years, kicking around the minor leagues. He surfaced in Baltimore in 2018, pitching to a 3.00 ERA in 27 innings. He may come in handy for the O’s in 2019, and lefties have a way of sticking around.

Jace Peterson (Utility) – Peterson began 2018 with the New York Yankees, but was gone by the end of April when the Orioles plucked him off waivers after playing only three games in the Bronx. He didn’t hit well, ending the season on the Mendoza-line (.200 average), but he proved to be handy because he can play anywhere on the field. The Orioles have little talent, so the 28 year old handyman may end up sticking. Being a left-handed bat helps.

Mike Yastrzemski (OF) – Does the name Yastrzemski sound familiar? If you know your baseball history, it should. Yes, Mike is the grandson of former Red Sox legend and Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. The 28 year old bats left-handed like his grandfather and plays good defense in the outfield like him. In 2018, he spent the bulk of the season in Triple-A Norfolk, where he had a slash-line of .265/.359/.441. If young Yaz has a productive spring, he could fill a gap with the big club until some of their OF prospects are ready down the line.

Boston Red Sox

Erasmo Ramirez (RHP) – It seems like the former Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners hurler has been around forever, having made his debut back in 2012, but he’s only 28 years old. After Seattle acquired him in the middle of the 2017 season, he pitched reasonably well, compiling a 3.92 ERA down the stretch. Things went sideways last season. Ramirez made ten starts, pitching to the tune of a 6.50 ERA over 45.2 innings. He spent a few months on the DL with a shoulder injury, which might have been why he was so ineffective last season. The Red Sox’s rotation is pretty well set, but a good spring could land him a bullpen spot or a MLB deal elsewhere.

Zach Putnam (RHP) – The 31 year old Putnam hasn’t pitched since April 2017, when he injured his elbow in the middle of a game, resulting in Tommy John Surgery. He signed a minor league deal in December. He doesn’t throw hard (91-92) but was effective in 2016 (2.30 ERA), striking out more than a batter per inning. If Putnam stays healthy, he could provide good bullpen depth.

Rusney Castillo (OF) – The Red Sox signed the Cuba-born outfielder prior to the 2014 season to a seven year deal worth more than 72 million dollars. For all this money, the Sox have received a grand total of seven home-runs and 35 RBI since Castillo signed his name to the contract. He played a half season in 2015 in Boston and a handful of games in ’16, after which the Sox correctly figured Castillo was a bust. They have to pay him anyway, so he may as well be in big-league camp. He will probably be paid another 11 million to play in Pawtucket in 2019. His contract has an opt-out after this year, but I’m pretty sure he’ll want the 14 million he will be owed in 2020.

New York Yankees

Danny Farquhar (RHP) – Danny’s 2018 season came to an abrupt halt in late April after he suffered a brain hemorrhage in the White Sox dugout in the middle of an appearance. He made an incredible recovery after having life-saving brain surgery, and the Yankees signed him to a minor league deal on February 1. Farquhar has good stuff, but with mixed results over his career. If the soon to be 32 year old stays healthy, he will be excellent bullpen depth. This is such a great feel-good story, it won’t matter if he throws another pitch because he’s already won. I’m rooting for him.

Ryan Lavarnway (C) – The Yankees signed Lavarnway to a minor league deal in early November with an invitation to big league camp. The 31 year old will likely spend 2019 in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes Barre as depth and to add a veteran presence to work with the organization’s young hurlers such as Michael King, Domingo Acevedo and others. This is a nice addition.

Mike Ford (1B/DH) – 26 year old Mike Ford is a power-hitting first baseman who has worked his way through the Yankees minor league system. In 2017, he hit 20 home runs between AA Trenton and AAA Scranton, but was left unprotected on the 40 man. The Seattle Mariners took him in that winter’s Rule 5 Draft, meaning the M’s had to keep him on their big league roster for all of 2018, or have to return him to the Yankees organization. The latter happened, and he was returned. He hit 16 homers last year in Triple-A, and provided a slash-line of .253/.327/.433. His strong left-handed bat is good insurance if Luke Voit and/or Greg Bird go down.

Tampa Bay Rays

Ryan Merritt (LHP) – Remember him? The former Cleveland Indians pitcher who made a strong postseason start in Toronto back in 2016 has battled shoulder injury problems ever since. He was released last fall and quickly signed a minor league deal with the Rays. Merritt, soon to be 27 years old, never threw hard but does throw strikes —  and the Rays have a way of getting a lot out of their pitchers, so who knows?

Emilio Bonafacio (Utility) – Bonafacio is yet another guy who seemingly has been around forever, but is “only” 33 years of age. He’s played on eight different MLB teams, and if he makes the Rays squad, it’ll be nine. The switch-hitting utilityman spent most of 2018 with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League, where he hit .348 and stole 20 bags. With a young team, his veteran presence could go a long way, and his hard work would set an example for the kids.

Oliver Drake (RHP) – This poor guy must always keep his bags packed. He spent time on the rosters of five (FIVE!) different major league teams in 2018, having been plucked continuously off waivers. Despite all this time migrating from once place to another, he managed to make 44 appearances (1-1, 5.29 ERA), recording 51 strikeouts over 47.2 innings. Hopefully the 32 year old Drake will find a home with the Rays.

Toronto Blue Jays

Eric Sogard (INF) – Sogard spent the last two seasons in Milwaukee after spending parts of six seasons with the Oakland A’s. He was released by the Brewers on Sept. 1 with an anemic .134 average. Tampa signed him to a minor league deal in December and will add depth. There’s not much chance of him making the big league squad, as there are too many guys ahead of him. The 32 year old Sogard will likely be slated for Triple-A Buffalo. He’s a pro and young kids such as Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will benefit from his tutelage.

Mark Leiter, Jr. (RHP) – 27 year old Mark Leiter, Jr. was selected off waivers on Sept. 1 by the Blue Jays after the Phillies DFA’ed him. He came up as a starter in the Philadelphia organization and made a handful of starts for the Phillies in 2016 with mixed results. Leiter, the son of former MLB pitcher Mark Leiter and nephew of Al Leiter, pitched exclusively out of the pen last season. He’s not overpowering, topping out in the low 90’s and will probably be minor league filler in 2019.

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (3B) – I saved the best for last. This is Vladdy Jr’s first big league camp. To be sure, it will be his last as a non-roster invitee. The 19 year old son of MLB Hall of Fame right-fielder Vladimir Guerrero tore the cover off the ball between AA and AAA in 2018, to the tune of a .381/.437/.636 slash-line. He hit 20 home runs in 95 games and had 227 total bases. What stands out to me is the fact he only struck out 38 times in 357 at bats, walking 37 times. I had the privilege of watching him at a game in Buffalo last August. Here he is facing Scranton Wilkes Barre’s lefty Nestor Cortes, Jr.

 

 

Vladdy will likely begin the 2019 season with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, to give the Blue Jays an extra year of team control. I can’t wait to see what he can do when he’s called up, which will likely be early May.

In our next entry, we’ll take a look at some non-roster invitees in the AL Central. I hope you’ll join us!