What Will Santa Bring Yankees for Christmas?

It’s the first full day of Winter, Christmas is almost here, and everyone is excited in anticipation of gifts they will soon be receiving. Fans of Major League Baseball are also excited to see who their favorite teams will sign as a free agent or make a trade to solidify their lineups or pitching staffs.

Of course, the New York Yankees are in the market to add to their team, as they are every Winter. The big name in play is D.J. LeMahieu, who’s spent the last two seasons with the Bronx Bombers. Bringing him back is imperative, as I wrote back in November. Over his pair of seasons with the Yankees, LeMahieu put up a slash-line of .336/.386/.536 with 36 HR’s and 129 RBI in 195 games. Brian Cashman, the Yankees GM, maintains he is doing everything he can to retain the popular and surehanded 2nd baseman.

YES Network’s Jack Curry thinks LeMahieu will return. Certainly, this would bring a collective exhale from Yankees fans strong enough to qualify as a gale wind.

If LeMahieu leaves, the wise move would be to move Gleyber Torres back to second base, and sign a shortstop. Old friend Didi Gregorius could be an option. Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow late in 2018, Sir Didi played all 60 games for the Phillies in 2020. He put up decent numbers (.284/.339/.488 with 10 HR’s and 40 RBI) and should have no problem securing a multi-year deal. It’s hard to say if Cashman is willing to re-commit to Gregorius after letting him leave after 2019. Would Didi even be willing to return?

With Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ hitting the free agent market, the Yankees have a few holes to fill in their starting rotation. Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery are the two main holdovers from the 2020 season. Luis Severino is expected to return from Tommy John Surgery, but unlikely to be ready by Opening Day 2021. Deivi García seems ready to contribute after a number of good starts late in the summer. No one knows what to expect from Domingo Germán. He missed the 2020 season while suspended for his role in a domestic violence incident in September 2019.

Trevor Bauer is the big, high profile name in free agency and he would instantly upgrade the Yankees rotation. However, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has repeatedly said he does not want the team’s budget to be above the luxury tax threshold (210M for 2021). Adding Bauer would most certainly push them above 210 million. It’s more likely Cashman will look to lower priced options such as Corey Kluber or Jake Odorizzi (both missed virtually the entire season) or bringing back Paxton on one year deals to prove they are healthy.

Other than adding pitching and trying to bring back LeMahieu, the Yankees are in good shape, roster-wise. Hopefully Santa will deliver Yankees fans with some nice gifts to celebrate over Christmas.

And I want to wish all of you a safe, happy and healthy Merry Christmas! 🎄🎁

Could Yankees Really Trade Gleyber Torres?

 

Last night, on YES Network’s “Yankees Hot Stove” program, Meredith Marakovits interviewed Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman. Meredith asked him about several Yankees players, including star infielder Gleyber Torres, who struggled on both sides of his game for the majority of the truncated 2020 campaign. Cashman cut right to the chase.

Courtesy of YES Network 2020

 

“He wasn’t in the best shape to start the second spring training.”

Ouch! But it does explain why Torres had troubles for most of the season. It also explains why he was so hot in the postseason when he raked to the tune of a 1.292 OPS. He had his feet under him and was in proper playing shape.

While 2020 was a year unlike any other (and hopefully we won’t ever see again), it’s a bit troubling Gleyber apparently let himself go during the layoff. No one knows what he was doing or not doing at the time. For Cashman to take this public, he evidently wasn’t impressed.

Which leads me to wonder. If (a big if) Yankees re-sign free agent DJ LeMahieu, would Cashman consider trading Torres for much needed pitching help? Remember, Cashman says Gleyber’s a better second baseman. Gleyber’s value is still high, considering the hot postseason he just had. He also hit 38 home runs in 2019, driving in 90 runs. But what happens if he has another punchless season in 2021 and his defense hasn’t improved? His trade value would drop precipitously. Of course, if LeMahieu leaves to go elsewhere then all bets are off.

Almost two and a half years ago, Cashman said “I have to walk around in this city”, when asked if he could consider trading Torres.

 

Now, it may not be as far-fetched.

 

Yankees Biggest Need – D.J. LeMahieu

Free agency is here in Major League Baseball, and every team is formulating game plans for the 2021 season. Across the nation and world, baseball fans are excited in anticipation of their teams adding to their rosters. Except for Cubs fans, maybe. That makes me sad. I like the Cubs.

One of the best free agents on the market is DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees. To say he’s been valuable for the Bronx Bombers is a massive understatement. He was their prime catalyst in 2020, getting on base 42 percent of the time. His slash-line (.364/.421/.590) numbers were in the top-ten in every category except slugging, where he fell just a hair short.

His mere presence in the Yankees lineup made the team better. With LeMahieu playing, the team went 30-20 in those games. When he didn’t play, they won only three out of ten games. The level of contrast is remarkable.

Understandably, Yankees GM Brian Cashman is reluctant to give contracts to players beyond four years. Given he is 32 years old, it seems even wiser to not do so. However, LeMahieu is not your run of the mill early 30’s infielder. He drove in 102 runs in 2019 and finished 4th in American League MVP voting. Not only did he crack the top-five votes of 2019, he did the same in the 2020 season, coming in third. Silver Slugger Awards in both seasons as a Yankee. To be sure, D.J. is a leader. Perhaps he is even worth being named a captain. Furthermore, he can play everywhere in the infield except shortstop (and would likely be fine there as well). Need I go on?

By the same token, other teams are getting ready to make offers to LeMahieu. With Robinson Cano now suspended for the 2021 season for another positive drug test for PED’s, the Mets are looking for a second baseman. With Steve Cohen now owning the crosstown team, they finally have an owner willing to spend.

To be sure, the Yankees need to add pitching in the free agent market, as there is no such thing as having too much pitching. I have no doubt the team will add some.

The Yankees would be wise to give LeMahieu what he wants and be done with it. He is their rock. It’s time.

Kim Ng Makes History, Becomes 1st Female General Manager

At 10:38 this morning, Jon Heyman of MLB Network announced on Twitter that the Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng to be the team’s new General Manager.

 

This is significant. At almost 52 years of age, Kim Ng is now the first female GM in Major League Baseball. Notoriously slow to adapt to modern ways, Major League Baseball showed it wants to shed it’s archaic ways. It took a young owner like Derek Jeter to break the mold. Furthermore, she is the first female general manager of ANY major sport (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) in the United States.

While Ng is new to the GM title for the Marlins, she is anything but new to MLB front offices. Starting at the bottom, Ng began her career thirty years ago with the Chicago White Sox, working her way up to the title of Assistant Director of Baseball Operations. Wanting to advance, she left in 1997 to take a position in the offices of the American League, where she was Director of Waivers and Records, approving transactions.

Ng joined the New York Yankees in 1998 as Assistant General Manager under Brian Cashman, himself a new GM. She stayed with the Yankees through the 2001 season, and left for the Los Angeles Dodgers where she held the same title, while adding the title of Vice President. In 2005, Ng interviewed for the Dodgers vacant GM position, but lost out to Ned Colletti. Wisely, Colletti kept Ng in the same position, where she stayed until early 2011.

Undeterred, Ng interviewed for General Manager positions up and down the West Coast. She applied from San Diego to Seattle and everywhere in between. In March 2011, she left Los Angeles for a job as Senior VP of Baseball Operations for MLB, while reporting to Joe Torre. Ng stayed with MLB until Jeter and the Marlins made her historic hiring official this morning.

 

This is a great day for Major League Baseball and humanity in general. Ng’s hiring is more proof women can do what historically has been known as a “man’s job”. I would bet she will do it better than most men. I wish Ng the very best in her new job in Miami.

 

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.

Felt Cute, but Yankees Should Delete Later

Last night, for some reason, the New York Yankees thought it was a great idea to do something different in a playoff game. Manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman started 21 year old rookie Deivi Garcia against the Tampa Bay Rays, used him for exactly one inning, then replaced him with lefty J.A. Happ at the beginning of the 2nd inning. Happ went on to give up two home runs and four runs over 2.2 miserable innings.

In theory, the reasoning is understandable. With the righthanded García starting, Rays manager Kevin Cash put a number of players who hit lefthanded in his lineup. Bringing in Happ early is a good way to counter and gain an advantage.

But here’s the problem – Happ is not accustomed to being used in relief. The 37 year old has been in the starting rotation wherever he’s played for the last ten years. The preparation is different, and the larger problem is the mental difference. Think about how you do your job, whatever your profession is. Say you’ve been at your job a long time, and all of a sudden your boss has you do your job in a different way than you’re used to. You are thrown for a loop, right? Think about it.

Plus, Happ hasn’t pitched in a live game for 11 days. His routine is already screwed up, the feel isn’t there and then Boone and Cashman changed the way he’s being used. He had two strikes against him before he even threw a single pitch, and many folks on Twitter felt the same way.

After the dust had settled, Yankees Twitter came out of the woodwork. They point out how lousy Happ is and what a mistake it was for the Yankees to keep him. People quickly forget he helped carry this team on his back the second half of August and all of September. Happ’s stats over his last seven regular season starts: 42.1 IP, 30 hits, 11 ER, 7 BB, 39 K’s. He held opposing hitters to an OBP of .241. He and Gerrit Cole held everything together in September.

Folks, this is 100 percent on Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman. They are getting skewered in the papers and media and it’s deserved. They have to be held accountable.

Analytics most certainly have their place in baseball. But you still have to operate with common sense and a feel for things. The Yankees failed miserably in that aspect at the worst possible time against a team that owned them all season.

 

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.

Yankees – No Deal? No Problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yankees 30-Game Report

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

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

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

Hitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yankees 10 Game (Plus 1) Report

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. 

Pitching

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.

Hitting

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.

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.