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!

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Yankees Bullpen Forecast – Opening Day

In 16 days, the New York Yankees will play their first game of the 2019 season. A couple days ago, I gave my thoughts on how the Yankees rotation might look on Opening Day. Today I’ll dive into their bullpen and give my thoughts on who will be there.

Manager Aaron Boone will probably carry 13 pitchers from the get-go. The Yankees will have their usual cast: Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green and Dellin Betances, plus newly acquired Adam Ottavino. That leaves three spots to fill.

Tommy Kahnle – 2018 was basically a washout for Tommy. He never had the same velocity he carried after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox in 2017, and was injured in an early appearance in April, which he didn’t disclose. Tommy kept pitching with a sore arm, fairing so poorly he ended up back in AAA. Kahnle says he is feeling much better this spring and says “the ball is coming out of his hand better”. He is out of options and would require passing through waivers unclaimed to stay with the Yankees organization if sent down. Therefore, Tommy will get every opportunity to make the club and bring the heat.

Kahnle cranks up heat

Stephen Tarpley – The 26 year old Tarpley came to the Yankees in August 2016 as part of the deal that sent Ivan Nova to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He rose quickly through the system in 2018, progressing from Double-A Trenton to Scranton Wilkes Barre, posting a composite ERA of 2.20 at both levels. He was rewarded with a September 1 call-up, and made his big-league debut at Yankee Stadium the next day. Tarpley pitched so well in September that Aaron Boone added him to the postseason roster for the ALDS against the Red Sox. “Tarp” is able to pitch multiple innings and is effective against both lefties and righties, making him all the more valuable.

Jonathan Holder – Jonathan’s overall ERA (3.14) in 2018 isn’t bad in itself, but it IS deceiving. Four rough outings in his 60 appearances skewed his numbers. Back to back appearances in early April and another pair of outings at the beginning of August were enough to make his ERA balloon more than 2.5 times it’s size. In his other 56 games, Holder’s ERA was 1.29 and WHIP was 0.88.

Chance Adams – In a way, Chance’s 2018 season was kind of similar to Kahnle’s because of injury. In an article by NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty, Adams had surgery after the 2017 season to remove bone chips from his right elbow, and it took longer to recover than expected. He didn’t have the mid-90’s velocity when he did return, nor the results to match. Chance will probably begin his 2019 season in Triple-A Scranton where he can start every fifth day, stay stretched-out and is only a phone call away if needed in New York.

Ben Heller – Ben missed all of 2018 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and will hopefully contribute during the second half of 2019. Heller and Jordan Montgomery are pretty much on the same timetable.

MLB Non-Roster Invitees – American League Central

Welcome back! Pitchers and catchers have been in camps across Florida and Arizona, getting acquainted or reacquainted with each other. This week, position players will be in camp looking to get things started. In addition to players on 40 man rosters, there are several “non roster invitees” with each team, looking to make good impressions. Some are young guys, usually early round picks that teams are excited to see, and the rest are veteran ballplayers trying to latch on somewhere.

On Friday, we took a look at three non-roster invitees on each team in the AL East who To start off your Monday. Let’s pick three NRI’s on each team in the AL Central to talk about.

Chicago White Sox

  • Blake Rutherford (RF) – Rutherford, a 2016 1st round draft pick, came to the White Sox in the summer of 2017 from the New York Yankees in the deal that sent David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle to the Bronx. Rutherford, 21, spent last year in High-A ball where he posted a .293/.345/.436 slash line to go with seven home runs and 78 RBI. A left-handed hitter, Rutherford is tall and lanky (6’3″, 195), can play all three outfield spots and can steal a few bags (15 in 2018). He is expected to begin 2019 with the Double-A Birmingham Barons.
  • Ryan Goins (INF) – Goins began the 2018 season with the Royals, where he posted an anemic .226 average in 41 games. He was released at the beginning of July and signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia the following day. The 31 year old Goins spent the rest of the season with their Triple-A team where he hit .220 over 42 games. At least he was consistent. He’s no more than minor league filler, but will provide steady infield defense no matter where he plays.
  • Evan Marshall (RHP) – If 28 year old Evan Marshall never throws another major league pitch, he’s come out on top. He’s overcome and returned from brain injury from a 105 mph comebacker and he and his wife, Allie, had a major health scare when their four-month son Ryan became ill. Thankfully, it appears both Evan and Ryan are healthy now. Here’s hoping Evan can resume his major league career on Chicago’s South Side in 2019.

Cleveland Indians

  • Dioner Navarro (C) – Wait, what? The 35 year old switch-hitting catcher hasn’t played a major league game since 2016, when he split the season between the White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, hitting a weak .207. In 2018, Navarro played 20 games with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League, with pedestrian results. Surprises can happen, but I will be stunned if he plays another MLB game.
  • Matt Joyce (OF) – After hitting a career-high 25 home runs in 2017, the left-handed slugger lost his mojo in ’18. He finished the season barely above the “Mendoza Line” at .208 and only seven HR’s in 83 games. After two seasons in Oakland, Joyce signed a minor-league deal with the Tribe a little more than a week ago. He rebounded nicely in ’16 after having a rough 2015 season in Anaheim, but at age 34, the odds are a bit longer.
  • Alex Wilson (RHP) – Signed to a minor league deal the same day as the aforementioned Matt Joyce, Wilson came from the Tigers, where he spent the last four seasons. He had decent numbers last season, posting a 1.05 WHIP to go with a 3.36 ERA. The 32 year old Wilson isn’t a strikeout pitcher. He “only” throws 92-93 with his heat and has a cutter (86-88) he employs well. Wilson could be a guy the Indians make good use of, especially after losing Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to free agency

Detroit Tigers

  • Casey Mize (RHP) – 21 year old Casey Mize was the number one pick in last year’s amateur draft after a successful collegiate career at Auburn University. He has a fastball that ranges 92-96 and can reach back for a little more when he needs it. Mize made five brief starts in the low minors, all but one at High-A ball in Lakeland (Florida State League). Over his 11.2 innings, he struck out ten and walked only two. Look for Mize to spend all 2019 in the minors, and at the very least the first month of 2020 so the Tigers can keep an extra year of team control.
  • Daz Cameron (OF) – Cameron, a 2015 first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros, was acquired by Detroit in the 2017 mid-season trade that sent Justin Verlander to Houston. The young center-fielder, the son of former MLB outfielder Mike Cameron, began 2018 in High-A Lakeland. He was promoted to Double-A after 58 games, and again promoted to Triple-A Toledo after a good showing in more than fifty games in Erie. In AAA, the sleek right-handed hitter struggled a bit in his brief 15 game stint as a Mud Hen. Look for him to begin ’19 in Toledo, but he could be in the Motor City by September, maybe even mid-season if he tears it up.
  • Pete Kozma (INF) – Thirty year old Pete Kozma will never be confused for a good hitter, but hard work and determination are a staple of his. After his days with the Cardinals ended after 2015, he bounced from the Yankees to the Rangers, to Detroit. He even found time to play 24 games with the Perth Heat of the Australian Baseball League. Expect Pete to play in Toledo this year, assuming he stays with the organization. If nothing else, Kozma’s work ethic and experience will be more important to the team than his actual play.

Kansas City Royals

  • Drew Storen (RHP) – The ink on Storen’s minor league deal isn’t even dry, having signed his contract on Friday, Feb. 15.

If he doesn’t make the team, he has an opt-out he can exercise on March 25. Storen spent 2018 recovering and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, last pitching for the Cincinnati Reds in 2017. If Drew is healthy, he will be a serviceable reliever. Storen, now 31, doesn’t have the velocity he had when he was closing for the Nationals in the early part of this decade, but he knows how to pitch. It’s no-risk, high reward potential for the Royals.

  • Homer Bailey (RHP) – Also pulled from Cincinnati’s recycling bin is former Red Homer Bailey, he of one of the most hideous season stat-lines in recent history. All he did over his 20 starts was go 1-14 with a 6.09 ERA and WHIP of 1.63. He is still only 32, and the velocity is still more than good enough, averaging more than 93 with his gas. Perhaps a much needed change of scenery and some mechanical adjustments will do Bailey good. Another no-risk/potential high reward.
  • M.J. Melendez (C) – 20 year old Melendez was Kansas City’s second round pick in 2017 and is rated as the team’s fifth-best prospect in their system. He spent last year in A-ball in Lexington of the South Atlantic League where he hit a respectable .251 with 19 home runs and 73 RBI in 111 games. It’ll be a while before Melendez reaches the majors for good, but rubbing elbows with the boys in the big-club now will be good motivation for him to work hard and get back.

Minnesota Twins

  • Royce Lewis (SS) – Royce is the top prospect in the Twins organization and was the number one pick of the 2017 amateur draft. Lewis, 19, spent last season split between Single-A Cedar Rapids, where he hit .315, and High-A Fort Myers (.255). His combined stats were respectable, logging .292/.352/.451 with 14 HR’s and 74 RBI. He stole 28 bases in 36 attempts. Lewis had 21 errors in 112 games, but experience and maturity will help clean that up. Look for him to start the season in High-A ball and advance to AA Pensacola later in 2019. If he really crushes it, a promotion to AAA Rochester late in the season isn’t be out of the question.
  • Lucas Duda (1B/DH) – Like a lot of current free agents, the market just hasn’t been there this offseason. The lefty power-hitting Duda took what he could, signing a minor league deal last week. The Twins need a first baseman after Joe Mauer retired, and this is a low-risk deal that will pay off if the 33 year old Duda has a rebound year. He’s never going to hit for average, but if Lucas hits closer to the 30 jacks he tallied in 2017, it’ll be well worth it.
  • Tim Collins (LHP) – Collins first made it to the major leagues back in 2011, when he made the Royals team out of spring training. He stayed in Kansas City through 2014, then missed the 2015, ’16 and ’17 seasons because he had two Tommy John surgeries. The 28 year old Collins resurfaced in 2018 with the Washington Nationals, making 38 appearances. The 5’7″, 168 lb. lefty is small in stature, but still generates a good fastball, still reaching 93-94 even after his elbow surgeries.

And with that, we’ve knocked off the AL Central Division. On Wednesday, we will turn our eyes to some non roster invitees in the AL West. Please join us!

You want shorter MLB games? Throw strikes and locate!

In a few short weeks Spring training will be upon us. Mostly likely with it will be more changes initiated by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred in his never-ending quest to improve pace of play and shorten the length of games.

This past week, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale revealed Manfred’s proposal to change the 10 day disabled list back to 15 days as well as another stab at adding a pitch-clock to help control pace of play. I agree with returning the DL back to 15 days because it seemed to be used more as a way to manipulate rosters than an actual disabled list. I disagree with a pitch-clock but think it’s inevitable since all minor leagues now use it.

A search of average time per nine innings over the last 25 seasons revealed a MLB low of 2:49 in the year 2005. Two teams, the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros tied for the lowest average time per nine innings at 2:43 and the New York Yankees had the highest at 3:02, with the Boston Red Sox on their heels at 3:01. In 2018, the average time per nine inning games was three hours even, a drop of five minutes from the previous year.

What stood out for me in this research was the collective amount of pitches thrown between the Twins and Astros of 2005 and the rest of the league. The ’05 San Francisco Giants led MLB in total pitches with 24,324 over their 162 games. The Twins threw the fewest (21,902) with the Astros second fewest (22,112) that year.

The biggest thing I took away from looking at the numbers from from the ’05 Twins and Astros was that their starting pitchers threw strikes and pitched deep into games. Minnesota’s top three starters, Johan Santana, Brad Radke and Carlos Silva all averaged close to seven innings per start. In combination with this, all three guys constantly threw strikes. Santana, a power pitcher at the time gave up 1.7 BB/9 IP. Radke (1.0 BB/9) and Silva (0.4 BB/9!!) weren’t power guys, but located and let their defense do their jobs behind them. Houston starters Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and a 42 year old Roger Clemens weren’t the hardest of throwers, but tallied more strikeouts, being a National League team at the time. Oswalt (1.6 BB/9), Pettitte (1.7 BB/9) and Clemens (2.6 BB/9) also threw strikes and pitched deep into ballgames, all averaging between 6.5 and 7.0 innings per start.

In contrast with 2005, the 2018 Twins threw the most pitches collectively in MLB with 24,927, with the Chicago White Sox right behind with 24,926. The ’18 Twins top-three starters Kyle Gibson (3.6 BB/9), José Berríos (2.9) and Jake Odorizzi 3.8) walked well more than twice as many as their 2005 counterparts. As a result, Gibson and Berríos averaged just a shade over six innings while Odorizzi barely averaged five innings/start.

There are other variables that add to the length of the game today, with pitchers throwing harder and hitters going for the home run instead of putting the ball in play, but I think better control and location would be a big help with pace of play.

Throw strikes! (Shout-out to my man @JordanLeandre55 for this timeless moment) 😉

Wild Horse Galloping to Cincy

Things had been mostly quiet on the western front since the end of MLB’s Winter Meetings more than a week ago. A late afternoon trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds was equivalent to pouring gasoline into the proverbial hot stove.

At 4:25 PM EST, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan fired off a tweet that warned the baseball world that a trade was imminent.

As you might predict, that got baseball Twitter all kinds of fired up. Several tweets from the winter meetings resurfaced regarding the possibility of Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig being involved in a potential deal. Nine minutes later, Passan sent out another tweet, this time with the specifics.

This is clearly a salary-dump move that benefits each team. Homer Bailey had been absolutely dreadful since signing his deal with the Reds a number of years ago, and moving Kemp and Puig allows the Dodgers room to make their much anticipated run for Bryce Harper in their now-vacant right field. It also has been noted on Twitter that Kemp and Puig weren’t very happy with manager Dave Roberts‘ platoon system and were looking to move on from LA because of it.

In other news, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted that free agent shortstop Manny Machado won’t be making any decision on a new team until after the New Year.

This also likely means Bryce Harper won’t be making a decision until after New Year’s Day either. So grab a Snickers bar and your blanket and toss another log into the stove. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Stay warm, be safe and enjoy your loved ones! 😎🎅🏽

Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Relievers

It’s another chilly day here in the northeastern United States. Two games of the World Series are under our belts with the Boston Red Sox winning both games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Game 3 is tonight at Chavez Ravine. Meanwhile, all the other teams in Major League Baseball are assessing things from this season with an eye on 2019.

In our last entry, we took a look at the starting rotation of the New York Yankees, deciding whether GM Brian Cashman should “take ’em or trash ’em”. Today we shall take a look at the bullpen. Let’s get started!

 

Dellin Betances – (4-6, 2.70 ERA) After a very up and down 2017, Betances cleaned up his mechanics and had his best season since 2015. He worked over the winter to make his delivery a bit more compact and more repeatable. He also credits bullpen coach Mike Harkey with using his high-octane fastball a bit more and admitting he started “listening a little bit more”. The results? Betances lowered his walk rate per nine innings from 6.6 in 2017 to 3.5, and struck out 115 batters in 66.2 innings. Over a span of 94 days (May 27-August 29), he allowed two runs over 33.2 innings while striking out 58.

Take him.

 

Aroldis Chapman – (3-0, 2.45, 32 saves) The 30 year old Chapman was reliable in 2018, saving 32 games for the Yankees and only blowing a pair of save opportunities. In 2017, Chapman was hittable, and his stuff seemed less electric. The velocity was there, but the life wasn’t and it showed, as his strike-outs per nine innings dropped to a career-low 12.3. In spring training, Aroldis worked to improve his off-speed pitches to keep hitters off his fastball and it resulted in a renaissance season. Chapman’s always been proud of his triple digit heat, but he mixed in some good sliders and even a change-up. At season’s end, Aroldis ended up striking out 16.3 per nine innings, an all time high for him.

Take him.

 

David Robertson – (8-3, 3.23, 5 saves) It seems like D-Rob has been around forever, as he was a young up and coming pitcher when the “Core 4” was still intact. Now 33 years of age, he has nine years of service time and will soon become a free agent. When he came back to the Bronx at the trade deadline in 2017, he dominated hitters down the stretch to the tune of  an ERA of 1.03 and 13.1 K/9 IP. In 2018, he was still as effective as ever but his 3.23 ERA is misleading. Four poor outings where he allowed three runs or more skewed his numbers. If you throw away those four appearances (13 ER in 3.2 IP), Robertson’s ERA drops to 1.64 over the other 65 games he appeared in. D-Rob will turn 34 at the beginning of next season, but he’s still got plenty in the tank.

Take him.

 

Chad Green – (8-3, 2.50) It would have been a difficult task for Green to repeat his performance in 2017, where he allowed only 4.4 hits per nine innings and struck out 13.4 per nine. His numbers were still good, but his hit-rate jumped to 7.6, and he allowed 35% of inherited base-runners to score. His K-rate also dropped to “only” 11.2. For some reason, Green threw his fastball more this season (86.5 percent of the time vs. 69.4 in ’17) and his slider much less (10.2% this year, down from 22.1 in ’17), while completely abandoning his cutter (thrown 7.8% in ’17) altogether.

Take him (but bring back the cutter and start mixing up the pitches).

 

Zach Britton – (2-0, 3.10, 7 saves) Britton came over from Baltimore at the trade deadline in return for a few minor league prospects. He had a few rocky outings in the first couple weeks, mostly attributed to control/command issues. To be fair to Britton, his season didn’t start until early June as he was returning from an injury to his right Achilles tendon that he suffered at home last December. By September, he looked more like the 2016 version of himself when the former Orioles closer nailed down all 47 save opportunities, allowing only four earned runs for the whole season. Britton’s one year deal (12M) is set to expire in a couple weeks. While he said “I would love to be back”, I have to wonder if an opportunity to close elsewhere for the right amount of money might entice him.

Take him (if you can keep him).

 

Tommy Kahnle – (2-0, 6.56, 1 save) Yuck. Kahnle was brilliant in 2017 after coming over from the White Sox in the deal that brought David Robertson back to New York, but his stuff never carried over into 2018. His velocity was down from the upper 90’s to 93-94 in spring training, and so was his effectiveness. After an especially horrific outing on April 10, he ended was optioned to Triple-A Scranton, where he pitched most of the season. Kahnle came back for good in the middle of August, but was relegated to mop-up duty. His season ended with an ERA of 6.56, and hopefully his days with the Yankees have ended as well.

Trash him.

 

Jonathan Holder – (1-3, 3.14) Holder was poised for his first full season in the big leagues after splitting 2017 between Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre and the Bronx. Back to back disastrous outings in early April got him shipped back to Triple-A, but he put things back together and two weeks later, he was back in the Big Apple. Holder’s overall numbers look rather pedestrian on the surface, but they are skewed because of five poor outings, including the aforementioned games in April. If you throw away those numbers (15 earned runs over 3.1 innings, also including a seven run meltdown at Fenway in early August), his ERA is a miniscule 1.15 over 55 appearances. Holder started using his fastball more, cut back on his cutter and added more velocity to his swing and miss curve, making it more like a slider. He also uses a change-up to keep batters off his fastball. It’s definitely working for him.

Take him.

 

A.J. Cole – (2-2, 6.14) Cole came to the Yankees in a cash-considerations deal with the Washington Nationals on April 23, complete with an ERA of 13.06 after four very shaky outings. He began his career in the Bronx on the right foot, posting a 0.83 ERA over his first 21.2 innings in relief. Yankees fans on Twitter all but gave him his own place in Monument Park. That would have been fine (not the Monument Park thing….), but the problem was the season wasn’t over yet. From July 31 through the rest of the season, Cole pitched to the tune of a 8.82 ERA, giving up 16 runs in 16.1 innings. By October, Yankees fans couldn’t wait to be rid of him. Right now, I would say Cole is nothing more than Triple-A filler.

Trash him.

 

Luis Cessa – (1-4, 5.24, 2 saves) It seems like Luis Cessa has been around for a long time, but he only has logged 151 innings in his major league career since 2016, all with the Yankees. He’s had success in Triple-A, but for some reason it’s not translating in the bigs. Cessa missed some time early in the season with a strained oblique, but didn’t gain much traction when he returned. He pitched well in three appearances in mid-September (9 IP, 2 R, 12 K’s) but any good feelings got washed away when he opened the final game of the season in Boston and got ripped for five hits and four runs in only 14 pitches. Cessa is still under team control for 2019, but out of options — so the Yankees will have to make a decision on him. I know what my decision is.

Trash him.

 

What that, we have covered the pitching staff. In our next installment of Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em, we will take a look at catchers. See you next time!