Yankees Progress Report – 60 Games

When we left off after the Yankees 50 game report, the team was playing much better. The offense was still lagging but they were getting good pitching and just enough offense to win seven of their ten games from May 17 through the 27th. To quote a worn-out cliché from manager Aaron Boone, it looked like the Yankees were turning the corner.

Fast forward another ten games later, and the team is back where they were three weeks ago, treading water and playing barely over .500 ball. The Yankees played three games against the Tigers in Detroit and got swept. They returned home to play a four-game set against the Rays, which they split, followed by three games at home against the Boston Red Sox. In any case, it ended in a demoralizing sweep in front of the Yankee Stadium faithful.

Let’s go over the carnage.

The offense – let’s just say it was offensive. To save the aggravation of re-living it, I’ll just summarize. Yankees hitters need to be better. When they weren’t striking out, which was often, they were hitting into double plays. When they weren’t hitting into double plays, they were making dumb outs on the base-paths. And that’s only when they were finding ways to get on base. 

Yankees beat-writer Sweeny Murti summed it up well.

Honestly, it’s been painful. To save space, I’ll just say that Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela are really the only hitters that are performing as expected. The rest are spinning their wheels in the mud. 

Pitching – the rotation and pitching staff as a whole suffered a tremendous blow when Corey Kluber went on the injured list. He left his start against the Blue Jays after three innings on May 25. Just six days prior, he pitched a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Diagnosed as a shoulder strain, Kluber has reportedly sought 2nd and 3rd opinions.  Kluber played catch on June 4 and felt good, which is encouraging.

Gerrit Cole was roughed up at home against the Rays on June 3, giving up five runs in five innings. Uncharacteristically, a pair of lead-off walks in the 4th and 5th innings ended up scoring. Additionally, his spin-rates were down, which made some ask if he was curtailing his supposed use of sticky substances in the wake of MLB’s announcement that they are going start randomly checking pitchers for illegal use.

The bullpen is beginning to show signs of wear, with Chad Green and Justin Wilson suffering poor recent outings. Green let in four runs against the Red Sox while recording just a pair of outs in a 7-3 loss on June 5. Wilson was walked off in the 10th inning in Detroit on May 28, when Robbie Grossman hit a two run shot. In essence, Wilson should have been out of the inning with a save and a Yankees win. Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza had other ideas. According to MLB Gameday, Wilson hit his spot which should have been called strike three. Carapazza called it a ball.

Murphy’s law took over and Grossman ended the game on the very next pitch. 

To be sure, it was a tough 10-game stretch, with the Yankees losing five out of seven at home. The Yankees started an eight game road trip with an 8-4 win against the Twins, with the offense looking much more like themselves. By and large, it’s a good head start for the next ten game stretch. Like YES Network broadcaster David Cone says, “Home runs are a great deodorant”. So is winning!

See ya next time!

Yankees Progress Report – 50 Games

It feels like I just published the New York Yankees 40 game report, but here we are again to cover the team’s first fifty games. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? 

It is fun when the team is winning, and the Yankees have done this quite a bit lately. Their record sits at 29-21 after a 5-10 start. They continued their road trip into Texas, dropping the first game of a four-game set on Monday, May 18. Gerrit Cole struggled, allowing five runs to the Rangers in a 5-2 loss. Jameson Taillon struggled the next night. His teammates spotted him five runs, but the Rangers got to him for four runs in just 4.1 innings. The Yankees went on to win, 7-4.

The following night, Corey Kluber was dialed in from the beginning. The offense scored just a pair of runs, but that was all he needed. Kluber looked like his Cy Young self, mastering the Rangers on his way to a no-hitter. He breezed through 101 pitches, 71 of them for strikes. After getting 14 outs the night before, Kluber gave the bullpen a needed night off.

 

The rest of the rotation followed Kluber’s lead, pitching a total of 37 scoreless innings before allowing another run. Domingo Germán and Jordan Montgomery each hurled seven scoreless innings, with Monty notching a career-high eleven strikeouts against the Chicago White Sox on Friday, May 21. The next night, Cole returned to form with seven scoreless of his own, frustrating Chicago hitters to the tune of seven punch-outs and only four hits.

Taillon redeemed himself a bit on Sunday, May 23 with five scoreless innings against the same White Sox. Trouble came after an off day, when Kluber left his start against the Toronto Blue Jays after just three innings. He reported his arm feeling heavy and unable to get really loose. An MRI showed a slight strain, but nothing truly serious.

With the starters going deep into games, it gave the Yankees bullpen a needed breather.  Aroldis Chapman had the nerve to be human and give up a run on May 23, but it didn’t matter in the end as the team won. He now has a 0.47 ERA to go with 11 saves and a 2-0 record. 

Jonathan Loáisiga has struggled a bit in his last four appearances. He only allowed one run, but allowed a few hits and just isn’t quite as dominating. His stuff is so good, though. He and Chapman, along with Chad Green have formed a really good set ’em up and shut ’em down bullpen squad. 

More good news, as Zack Britton (right elbow surgery) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment tomorrow with Double-A Somerset.

On the other side of the ball, the Yankees offense has been up and down. Aaron Judge has caught fire at the right time, hitting .434 with 6 HR and 11 RBI in his last 15 starts. Last night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Blue Jays, he smoked a blast to center that doinked off the windows above Monument Park.

Gleyber Torres came back after a battle with COVID-19, and promptly raked. He recorded 11 hits in 18 at bats against Texas and Chicago. However, Gleyber didn’t record a hit against the Blue Jays in all three games. Luke Voit, who made his season debut on May 11, went back on the injured list with a strained oblique muscle. He struggled in his time back with the Yankees, hitting .182 with just one home run. Voit will be out until some time in July.

Gio Urshela is cooling off a bit, but still managed seven hits in 32 at bats and 5 RBI over the past ten games. Gary Sánchez is never going to hit well, I think that’s a given at this point. But he did hit a needed home run last night, a solo blast in the 3rd inning off Robbie Ray. He added another hit in the 6th inning. We’ll take what we can get from Gary.

And I need to show some love to Tyler Wade. He’s been getting more playing time, out of necessity with the team being banged up. He has two hits in ten at bats, but made a really good running catch in the 9th inning of Corey Kluber‘s no-hitter. This is relevant because Wade has hardly played any outfield in his career. He discussed it in the postgame Zoom room with Yankees beat writers.

Last but not least, Giancarlo Stanton makes his return tonight after recovering from a quad strain. He last played on May 13.

The Yankees begin a three game set in Detroit for a weekend series against the Tigers before returning home next week for a pair of important series against the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. Both teams are currently ahead of the Yankees in the AL East.

Early Candidates for the American League Cy Young Award

We are a third of the way through the MLB season, baseball’s top pitchers are separating themselves from the rest of the pack. Some of the usual cast of characters are pitching as expected, and there are a couple of surprises as well.

Today we will look at early contenders for the American League Cy Young Award.

Gerrit Cole – The $324 million dollar ace of the New York Yankees is doing his thing. His numbers (6-2, 1.81 ERA) are as you would expect. Cole struck out ten or more five times, and struck out 59 hitters without issuing a walk. The Cy Young odds have been updated and it looks like Cole is now -125 favorite to take home the award.

John Means – Means opened eyes across the baseball world on May 5, when he pitched a no-hitter against the Mariners in Seattle. But those who have watched the big, strapping lefty for some time shouldn’t be surprised. He’s leading the AL in ERA with 1.79, and would be among the league leaders if he had more run support from his Orioles teammates.

Kyle Gibson – Some folks reading this are probably saying, “WHO?” The 33 year old Gibson has toiled in relative obscurity in Minnesota for most of his career, before coming to the Rangers prior to the 2020 season. He entered this season with a career 69-74 record and ERA over 4.50, but seems to have finally put it together. Gibson has a 3-0 record and 2.24 ERA in ten starts, including a 1.50 ERA in his last nine outings. Like John Means, he should have a lot more wins if he had run support.

Hyun-Jin Ryu – Ryu has been one of baseball’s top pitchers since coming to the majors in 2013 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to the 2020 season, he signed a four year contract with Toronto to be their ace. He hasn’t disappointed. Ryu posted a 2.69 ERA across a dozen starts in the abbreviated season last year. He has carried it over this year, fashioning a 2.53 earned run average. The stuff is there for him to win, the biggest obstacle has been staying healthy long-term.

Tyler Glasnow – Before he was traded to the Rays from Pittsburgh, it was hard to tell where Glasnow’s career was headed. The 6’8″ righty had trouble with mechanics and keeping everything in-line. The raw stuff was there, but no one know where the ball was going when it left his hand. After the trade in Summer 2018, Kevin Cash and the Rays put him right into the starting rotation. A switch flipped on when Glasnow began working with respected pitching coach Kyle Snyder. The Rays coach is also a big man and a former pitcher. The 27 year old Glasnow (4-2, 2.57 ERA) is pitching deep into games, averaging 12.6 K’s per nine innings. 

In a later installment, we will break down starters who could battle for the Cy Young in the senior circuit.

 

Yankees 20 Game – Plus one – Report

The last time we covered the Yankees “Ten Game Report”, the team was 5-5 and they were coming off a pair of wins. They salvaged an 8-4 win in St. Petersburg against the Rays, and beat the Blue Jays in the first game of a three-game set in nearby Dunedin, FL. Things were beginning to look up, right?

Wrong. The Yankees proceeded to lose six of their next seven games, the wheels fell off and now the Yankees are 9-12 after twenty-one games. The offense continued to be offensive. Gerrit Cole has been himself (3-1, 1.71 ERA), but the rest of the starting rotation has continually came up short, leaving the bullpen to cover several innings most games. In the sixteen games Cole didn’t start, Yankees starters are averaging 4.25 innings. Jordan Montgomery has provided the most innings behind their ace, while Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Domingo Germán have struggled to give length.

Yankees relief corps are still giving excellent innings, led by Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga. Lucas Luetge, who has been a wonderful story since spring training, notched his first win since 2013 in relief of Montgomery in a 5-3 win on April 23. The collective workload the bullpen has taken on in the early going is a concern, however. Green and Loaisiga have already appeared in ten and nine games, respectively. Luis Cessa and Darren O’Day have appeared in eight games each, and Luetge seven. This kind of workload isn’t conducive to success, and the overwork can lead to injuries. This is reason to worry, especially to a guy like Loaisiga, who’s had injury problems in the past.

On offense, the Yankees as a team are hitting .206 with a collective on base percentage of .302. Aaron Judge has overall been the team’s most reliable everyday hitter, with a slash-line of .246/.366/.449 and 4 HR’s. Giancarlo Stanton has been mostly cold, but did smoke a pair of blasts in the aforementioned 5-3 win in Cleveland. A positive spin – Stanton does lead the team with 14 RBI. Kyle Higashioka has seen increased playing time, a big reason is hitting almost 100 points higher than Gary Sánchez, with just as much pop in his bat. The other reason is his overall catching abilities, which frankly are much better than Sanchez. Yankees manager won’t say it, but Higgy is Cole’s personal catcher for most intents and purposes.

The last eleven games have been ugly. There’s no sugarcoating it. But the weather has been brutally cold, especially so in the game I went to at Yankee Stadium on April 21. The Atlanta Braves were in town for a two-game series and Wednesday’s game was frigid, with temperatures hovering in the low 40’s with sustained 20 mph winds. When the calendar turns to May in a few days, the weather should soon warm up. Getting Luke Voit back will only help, and he’s currently at the Alternate site in Scranton ramping up his rehab.

It’s hard to stay patient, especially for Yankees fans who expect wins, runs and homers. Sensing fans frustrations, General Manager Brian Cashman called a Zoom meeting/press conference on Monday, April 19 to attempt to calm the masses. It didn’t really work, but the right thing to do is continue to stay the course. For now.

Fans didn’t really buy it, but something had to be done even for the sake of doing something. Time will tell, but I feel confident the Yankees bats will warm up. Hopefully the rotation will pick things up and ease the burden on the relievers.

See ya next time! 😎👋🏽

2021 MLB Season Preview – The AL East

Happy Opening Day! After an miserable year in 2020, including an abbreviated sixty game schedule, fans are looking forward to a full 162 game season. Best of all, fans will be allowed in MLB ballparks. The stadiums will not be sellouts at first, but as COVID vaccinations continue, capacities will increase. Normalcy is slowly returning.

The AL East Division is always competitive, and will continue to be in 2021. Today, we’ll take brief looks at each team in the East and assess their chances of winning the division. Let’s get started!

  • Boston Red Sox – After last year’s disaster, there’s nowhere to go but up. Alex Cora is back to manage the team after a year away from baseball account the much publicized Astros sign stealing scandal. Over the winter, the Red Sox added Kike Hernandez, Franchy Cordero, and Marwin Gonzalez to their lineup. They brought in former Yankee Adam Ottavino to their bullpen and Garrett Richards for the rotation. This team will hit, but their success will ride on pitching. Nathan Eovaldi is back throwing 100 mph seeds and Eduardo Rodriguez is back after missing 2020 with post-COVID related heart issues. Chris Sale (recovery from Tommy John surgery) is slated to re-join the team after the All Star break. If their bullpen holds up and does the job, the Sox will be much better in 2021. However, they’re still behind upper-echelon teams like the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays.
  • New York Yankees – Last year’s Yankees finished 2nd behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Injuries are a big reason why, as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each missed more than half the season. Remaining healthy is the biggest concern for manager Aaron Boone and the Bronx Bombers. If the bodies hold up, the Yankees are the most talented team in the division. The Yankees lineup is basically unchanged from last year. Good health also goes for pitching – if newcomers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon make all their starts, good things will happen.
  • Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays are for real. Sure, things change every year because the team’s salary structure dictates they must. Kevin Cash is a top-notch manager (other than that Blake Snell World Series thingy) and gets the most from his players. Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau, Randy Arozarena and Tyler Glasnow make up a formidable core. They have the lineup to compete and score a lot of runs. As with most teams, pitching well – especially in relief – is key to success. Beyond Glasnow, the Rays rotation is a patchwork quilt of recycled and older starters. Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks and Chaz Roe are good at shutting teams down. They’ll be at or near the top the entire way.
  • Toronto Blue Jays – What a lineup. After the Yankees, these Baby Jays have the best lineup in the AL East, and maybe the entire league. Over the winter, GM Ross Atkins brought in CF George Springer, 2B Marcus Semien and starting pitcher Steven Matz. The Jays and manager Charlie Montoyo have young flamethrower Nate Pearson slotted in behind Hyun-Jin Ryu in the rotation. Again, pitching well will be important – especially in this loaded division.

Enjoy the games today and the entire season! There’s no day quite like Opening Day. For me, it’s better than Christmas.

Why Are Teams Interested in J.A. Happ? Let Me Explain…

Over the last few days, a few prominent baseball writers have shared on Twitter teams who are interested in former Yankees starter J.A. Happ, currently a free agent.

 

The comments are as you would expect, given his track record with the Yankees. Happ’s final game in Pinstripes was in Game Two of the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays, where he took over for Deivi Garcia at the bottom of the 2nd inning (which I thought was a horrible idea) and promptly imploded. That game is still fresh in the minds of Yankees fans, and many baseball fans who watched on national television.

No doubt, Happ struggled in his first full season as a Yankee in 2019. Similarly, his first couple of outings in 2020 were rocky as well. He made his next start on August 16 against the Red Sox at home, giving up only one run over 5.2 innings. That outing began a stretch of seven starts where he was literally the best starter in the rotation not named Gerrit Cole.

Coupled with Cole, the two of them were the most reliable starters on the team in September. The numbers in the image above speak for themselves. Seven starts, an ERA of 2.34 over 42.1 innings, a WHIP under one and almost a strikeout an inning. In addition, Happ averaged more than six innings each start. Believe me, General Managers across the league were paying attention.

Hopefully this can answer the question of why J.A. Happ is generating interest in the free agent market. So far, the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Angels publicly expressed interest. Don’t be surprised to see him return for a third tour of duty with the Toronto Blue Jays. He enjoyed playing there, and you can be sure he will be pitching with a chip on his shoulder the next time he faces the Yankees.

 

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.