Aaron Boone Evaluation Survey: August 10, 2020

Another week of baseball in the books. Can you believe that the season is already a quarter complete? We keep saying this, but: this is all so weird.

This past week was one the Yankees would like to forget. Games at Tropicana Field seem to do that to the Bombers. After beginning the week with a victory against the Phillies in the Bronx, things went south (literally and figuratively). The Yankees dropped two of three in the City of Brotherly Love and then three of four in Tampa Bay. At 10-6, the Yankees are still in first place and have a two game advantage on the Rays.

Before we get to the voting, let’s get into the latest on manager Aaron Boone:

  • Air horns in Philly: A few fans outside of Citizens Bank Park apparently got under the Yankees’ skin last week. Some ill-timed air horns were a nuisance during the team’s series in Philadelphia, and the Yanks’ skipper wasn’t too happy about it. He had an animated conversation with the umpiring crew, but was told there was no recourse. (Marly Rivera)
  • A Misunderstanding? Boone and hitting coach Marcus Thames were ejected in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Thames went first and Boone was livid (see video at top). Boone didn’t get into details regarding what was said, but he did indicate that Thames did nothing to deserve an ejection. (Brendan Kuty)
  • On Miguel Andújar’s role: The Yankees sent down 2018 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andújar. There haven’t been at-bats for Miggy and he didn’t do much in limited opportunities. Like with Clint Frazier before, Boone noted how difficult it was to demote Andújar. He also mentioned that he may have been pressing in his few chances to shine. Finally, Boone also discussed the challenge that Miggy (and any player) faces in going from full-time to part-time, but didn’t think it was out of the realm for him to get comfortable as a role player. He cited how Mike Tauchman was an everyday player in Colorado’s system and it took him some time to find his sea legs with the Yankees. (Randy Miller)
  • Down goes Giancarlo: Boone had to pinch hit for Giancarlo Stanton on Saturday. We later learned that Stanton is dealing with a tight left hamstring, apparently suffered while running the bases earlier in the game. He’s getting an MRI today and is going on the injured list. Boone expects him to be out “at least the next week or so”. As for Stanton’s absence in the DH spot: the manager says he’ll get a little creative. (Pete Caldera)
  • On Gary Sánchez’s struggles: It’s been a brutal start to the Yankees’ backstop’s season. Gary is at .103/.222/.205 (30 wRC+) through 45 plate appearances. The skipper is well aware of his slump, of course, but he reiterated his confidence in Sánchez offensively. Boone seemed to indicate that Gary is pressing: “…just a little bit racing out there, kind of chasing that hit a little bit” (Brendan Kuty). Additionally, Boone held Gary blameless for the wild pitch Zack Britton uncorked yesterday. (Howie Kussoy)
  • Chirp chirp: There was a bit of back-and-forth between the Yankees’ and Rays’ dugouts in yesterday’s series finale. Players on both sides were asked about it. Boone didn’t have too much to say about it, though: “Intense series, quiet stadiums, there’s back and forth all the time”. (Ken Davidoff)

And now, to the polls:

Last week’s results after the jump:

Game 16: Yankees Beat Themselves 4-3 in Another Horrible Game at the Trop

That was a no good, awful, infuriating baseball game to cap off a really disappointing 2-5 road trip from the Yankees. The Yankees blew a 3-0 lead with one out in the 7th inning to lose the game 4-3 on a walk-off single in the 9th inning. The offense was horrendous, James Paxton – who was otherwise excellent – wasted a great start by collapsing at the end, and Zack Britton was all over the place.

The Yankees fall to 10-6 on the season while the Rays improve to 8-8. They had a chance to really bury the Rays this weekend and they did not do it, instead dropping 3 out of 4. I am grouchy as hell about this baseball game so let’s just get right to the takeaways so we can be done with this one.

1. James Paxton Turns A Corner: To date, James Paxton’s struggles have been my biggest concern in the 2020 season. We all know the drill. His release point is way off, and it is impacting his fastball. It’s been a real problem so far. We all know about the velocity drop, but there’s also been an associated drop in spin rate:

Couple that together and what you have is a recipe for disaster. We’ve seen that manifest all year, particularly on his fastball. Check out some key indicators coming into today:

  • July 25 (@ WAS): 22 FB, 16 swings, 3 whiffs (19%)
  • August 2 (BOS): 34 FB, 21 swings, 3 whiffs (14%)
  • Total: 56 FB, 37 swings, 6 whiffs (16%)

Batters were sitting fastball, swinging at 66% of them, and making loud contact on those swings (average exit velocity of 93 mph). I bring all of this up not to be redundant but to place what Paxton did today into its proper context. He looked like an entirely different pitcher – and his fastball is the obvious reason why.

Today, by contrast, he got 7 whiffs on 25 swings (28%) and maxed out at 94 mph. It was encouraging. Furthermore, the YES broadcast noted that his spin rates were up (north of 2200 RPM) and that tracks with the eye test. That all allows Paxton’s other offerings to play up and results in swings like this:

All of these numbers were better before the 7th inning, too. That’s when it all fell apart. Jose Martinez led off the inning with a double. After getting an out, Mike Brosseau did this:

And one batter later, Hunter Renfroe did this:

Just like that, it was a 3-3 game. Gah. I saw some chatter than sending Paxton back out there for the 7th was too aggressive, but I don’t know if I agree with it. The dude was absolutely cruising and had just 77 pitches. The bullpen was taxed and I absolutely get trying to maximize Paxton’s performance today. If he was going to come out, though, it should have been after the Brosseau HR. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Again: gah.

There is work yet to do for Paxton – in an ideal world, he is throwing 97 again – but this was an extremely encouraging performance. This was a gross game but let’s keep that in perspective. This was a huge breath of fresh air from Big Maple. Here’s his final line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 11 K. And here is his final pitch plot:

2. Jonathan Holder’s Adventures, Courtesy of Joe West: Joe West and the umpiring crew had no interest in helping out Jonathan Holder, who relieved Paxton, in the 8th inning. It was maddening and it almost cost the Yankees the game. Here is the strike zone plot for the first at-bat of the inning against Ji-Man Choi:

That is just horrendous. Sure, the orange called strike just off the plate there benefited the Yanks, but it was a makeup call for the prior pitch (the very obvious strike). And even still, Choi was gifted two balls when he otherwise should have struck out. It was irritating, but that wasn’t all. Look at this one:

That blue dot there was on a 1-2 pitch. It was an obvious strike, even though Holder missed his location (Gary was set up high). West just blew it. This was about to be about 100 times MORE infuriating because of the NEXT blown call, which came on Renfroe’s grounder to Urshela:

He was originally called safe at first, but Boone’s challenged salvaged that and the Yanks got out of the inning. The umpires did everything they could to gift the Rays a run there but, to his credit, Holder didn’t allow them to. He threw 1.2 innings of 2 hit, 1 BB ball. He didn’t surrender a run. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Somehow.

3. More Wasted Opportunities: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Yankees blew a ton of opportunities at Tropicana Field. And I mean a ton, beginning right away. Rays starter Charlie Morton wasn’t right all game – he left with an injury – and it was apparent immediately. The Yanks loaded the bases in the first inning after a DJLM single, Aaron Hicks double, and Luke Voit walk. They were unable to truly capitalize: Gleyber flied out to shallow right and Urshela grounded out. The team got lucky that Morton hit Mike Ford with a pitch in-between those at-bats. It was a gift.

The trend continued throughout the day, as the Yankees continued to get on base but unable to get the hit they really needed. Their second and third runs came in the 5th inning. Luke Voit singled and Gleyber doubled (!) to set up 2nd and 3rd with two outs. Again, the Yankees did nothing. Mike Ford popped up, which brought up Gio Urshela. That resulted in this:

Urshela hit the ball hard, but Margot just has to catch that. So, in other words, all 3 of the Yankees’ runs came gift-wrapped by the Rays. They did a good job setting up those situations, to be fair, but they should have scored far more than 3 runs this afternoon. Were it not for the Rays mishaps, the Yankees very easily could have scored zero runs.

In total, every single Yankees batter left at least one runner on base. The team left 9 individuals on base total, though the individual batters left 20 on base. They had chance after chance in this game to really end it and they did not. A 3-run lead in the 7th inning should be plenty to win a game for the Yankees – especially when the other team seemingly wants to lose – but the offense didn’t do themselves any favors.

4. 9th Inning Frustration: Zack Britton came on in the 9th inning and he did not do the job. He was all over the place. Look at this:

He was ineffectively wild and surrendered a double, walk, a wild pitch (Gary probably should have blocked it), and a walk-off hit. Mike Brosseau led off the action with a double to left, though he was immediately thrown out at 3rd in the next at-bat. It was a grounder up the middle to Torres and he took off. Torres, to his credit, made a perfect throw to 3rd, but it was a bad decision by Brosseau in my opinion. Another gift from the Rays wasted by the Yankees, as Michael Perez ended the game for the Rays and put us all out of our misery just two batters later. Here’s the video of that, for some reason:

5. DJ LeMahieu, Hitting Savant: I want to end on a positive note, so let’s talk about DJ LeMahieu. The man is just a wizard at the plate. DJLM went 2-5 with a walk today, which is just more of the same from the Yanks’ most reliable hitter. He now has 67 multi-hit games since joining the team in 2019. He’s only played in 160 games, so that means he has two or more hits in 42% of them. That is just ridiculous.

Anyway, LeMahieu’s performance today brought his average right back to .400 on the season. He’s now hitting .397/.426/.517 (171 wRC+) on the season. Let’s keep him around beyond 2020, shall we?

Leftovers

  • Slump Busters: Gary Sánchez, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Hicks each had a hit today. Torres and Hicks each added in a walk, too. Gary just missed a home run, but it curved foul. There wasn’t a massive breakout performance or anything, but sometimes getting out of a slump is a process. There was something to be optimistic about for each of these guys, who have been really struggling. So that’s good, I guess.
  • Good Riddance to the Trop: The Yanks are not scheduled to return to Tropicana Field for the rest of 2020. Thank god for that. Good riddance to that absolute house of horrors.
  • Charlie Morton: Today sucked for Charlie Morton, who left today’s game with an injury. He didn’t look good and his velocity has been down all season, so I think there’s some cause for concern there for Tampa Bay. There’s a real chance that could have been the last start of his career, which would be a bummer for him.

The Yanks are off tomorrow as they return to the Bronx for a nine-game homestand. They’ll take on Atlanta for a two-game set on Tuesday and Wednesday before playing the Red Sox for four games and Tampa Bay for another three. Go enjoy the rest of your weekend and forget all about this awful performance.

Game 16: James Paxton Takes Mound as Yanks Try for Split

The Yankees split yesterday’s doubleheader but trail the Rays in the series 2-1. They haven’t lost a series yet in 2020 and I don’t want that to change today, so they should win today’s game and leave the Trop with a split. That sounds good, right?

While it’s been a frustrating series (for us and the Yankees themselves) so far, I’d take a split. The season is 25% over and the Yankees would leave Tampa with the Rays under .500 and 4 games out of first. That’s about a good a scenario as you could have imagined a few weeks ago. It’s important to keep that perspective.

New York Yankees (10-5)
1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Aaron Hicks, CF
4. Luke Voit, 1B
5. Gleyber Torres, SS
6. Mike Ford, DH
7. Gio Urshela, 3B
8.Gary Sánchez, C
9. Brett Gardner, LF
James Paxton, LHP

Tampa Bay Rays (7-8)
1. Yandy Diaz, 3B
2. Austin Meadows, LF
3. Jose Martinez, DH
4. Hunter Renfroe, RF
5. Mike Brosseau, 1B
6. Brandon Lowe, 2B
7. Manuel Margot, CF
8. Willy Adames, SS
9. Mike Zunino, C
Charlie Morton, RHP

The above lineup will probably be the Yankees “standard” one now that Giancarlo Stanton is out. Mike Ford continues to mash the ball so I figure the Yankees will continue to give him chances. That plus he keeps hitting in the middle of the order, so. Today’s big story, though, is obviously James Paxton. It’s time for him to turn it around.

News & Notes

  • The Yankees placed Giancarlo Stanton on the 10-Day IL with a “left hamstring strain” and recalled Thairo Estrada. Many fans probably wanted Clint, but he wasn’t traveling with the team. Estrada was. (Yankees PR)
  • Stanton hasn’t had his MRI yet but the Yankees expect it to keep him sidelined for at least a week. He’ll get the procedure tomorrow in New York. (Lindsey Adler)
  • The Yanks will “get creative” with the DH spot now that Stanton is sidelined. (Bryan Hoch)
  • Aroldis Chapman will face live hitters soon in Scranton. Aaron Boone says that might be as soon as Tuesday. I hope so. The Yankees need his arm back. (Lindsey Adler) Here is a bullpen he threw, courtesy of his Instagram:

First pitch takes place at 1:10 pm EDT in the Trop. YES has the TV broadcast with WFAN and WADO carrying the radio broadcast, as usual. Enjoy the game and take solace in the fact that the Yanks don’t go back to the Trop until 2021, potential playoff series aside.

Game 15: Yankees lose game, potentially Stanton

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It’s hard to win a game when the pitching staff issues nine walks in six innings. It’s also hard to win when the offense can only muster one run. That’s what happened to the Yankees this evening as they fell to the Rays, 5-3. The two sides split today’s doubleheader, leaving the Yankees in need of a win tomorrow to salvage a series split.

The loss stinks, but the bigger story is Gianarlo Stanton’s health. More on this below, but Mike Ford pinch hit for Stanton in the sixth inning of this one. It’s possible that Giancarlo hurt himself while running the bases in the fourth. We’ll pass along more information as it’s available.

A King without control

Michael King is still looking for a modicum of consistency early in his career. Once again, we saw him at his best and at his worst in this outing, which happened to be his first big league start. He had made two relief appearances earlier this season. Against the Nationals, he gave up 4 runs in 3 1/3, but all but one of those runs came in his final frame of work. Last week against Boston, King made just two mistakes in 3 2/3 innings — both solo homers. No other baserunners otherwise. Tonight was more of the same.

Perhaps King was a little too amped up in the first inning considering it was his debut as a starter. After Austin Meadows led off with a double, King recorded two quick outs. But from there, things broke down. The 25 year-old rookie walked the next three batters in a row to force in a run before finally getting out of further trouble. Although was around the zone, but couldn’t find it. The bigger problem, at least to me, is that he couldn’t get his sinker down. To wit:

That points to a guy being a little too excited for his first start.

King rebounded after a rough first. He struck out the side in the second and at one point had retired nine in a row, which had brought him to an out away from finishing four innings. That’s when he ran into trouble with the base on balls once again. King walked the next two hitters and Aaron Boone decided that was enough. In came Luis Avilán, who allowed two to score on a bloop single by Meadows. It wasn’t a bad pitch at all…

…but Meadows fisted it into shallow left field for the two-run knock. The 65.4 MPH single gave the Rays a 3-1 lead. Avilán got out of further trouble, which closed King’s line at: 3 2/3 innings, 1 hit, 3 runs, 5 walks, and 4 strikeouts. Another game of hot and cold for King.

Bats go quiet and things get ugly

The Yankees didn’t get anyone into scoring position until the fourth inning of this one. Ryan Thompson and Diego Castillo held their own in the early going, though the Yankees finally broke through in that fourth frame. After a one out walk by Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit strung together back-to-back singles to score a run. At the time, the Voit RBI tied this one at 1. However, it was bittersweet because Torres tried to go first-to-third but was hosed for the second out of the frame.

That baserunning blunder effectively killed the rally against Peter Fairbanks. In the next frame, the Yanks went down quietly vs. Andrew Kittredge, 1-2-3.

Struggles aside, the Yankees bench grew more and more frustrated with the umpiring crew in this one. DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela were recipients of some chin music in this one, and the Yankees clearly were not happy. At the minimum, the bench clearly wanted some sort of warning to protect the Yankees’ hitters. That didn’t come, and after the top of the fifth, ejections came. Both Aaron Boone and Marcus Thames were sent packing.

That wasn’t the end of the Yankees’ tribulations with the umps, however. But first, let’s get to potentially more significant news. In the sixth, with the Yankees down 5-1, Mike Ford pinch hit for Giancarlo Stanton with runners on first and second and nobody out against southpaw Jalen Beeks. YES later showed replays of Stanton running the bases apparently grimacing after sliding into second base. Meredith Marakovits reported that he left with a tight left hamstring. Not great!

Now, about that Ford at-bat. This is where the Yankees had beef with home plate umpire Vic Carapazza again. Or should I say, Carapazza antagonized the Yankees.

After Carapazza rung up Ford on a couple of close pitches, he seemingly barked and followed Ford back to the dugout. Not pretty, though cooler heads prevailed. After that, Gleyber bounced into an inning ending double play to effectively end any chance for a comeback. Torres was having a nice doubleheader up until that point.

Leftovers

  • Comeback foiled: the Yankees tried to muster a rally in the seventh, but (literally) came up just short. DJ LeMahieu plated two runs with an RBI single against Jalen Beeks. That brought up Aaron Judge, and in came Rays’ relief ace Nick Anderson. He hit a 391 foot flyout to end the game. Just missed it.
  • Albert Abreu made his big league debut tonight serving as the roster’s 29th man for the doubleheader. As he’s known to do, Abreu struggled with control in 1 1/3 innings. He gave up 3 hits, 2 runs, and 2 walks on 41 pitches. He also struck out 2. Abreu did flash some nasty stuff, however. His fastball touched 98 and his slider had a ton of movement.
  • Ben Heller made his second appearance of the season in a clean sixth inning.
  • Aroldis Chapman threw his second bullpen today in Scranton. He’s expected to face hitters in the coming days.
  • Erik Kratz maintained his 1.000/1.000/1.500 lifetime batting line with the Yankees’ since 2017 through one plate appearance today. Kratz walked against Castillo, but was finally put away by Kittredge to end his run. In the seventh, Kratz doubled down the right field line.

One more game left in this series as the Yankees hope to salvage a split in this series. It’s a matinee tomorrow featuring James Paxton and Charlie Morton. Hopefully we see a better version of Paxton tomorrow.

Update: Giancarlo Stanton leaves game early with tight left hamstring, likely to IL

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This isn’t good. The Yankees lifted Giancarlo Stanton in favor of Mike Ford in the top of the sixth inning against Rays’ lefty Jalen Beeks. It’s not clear if Stanton is hurt, but it’s a fair assumption at the moment until we hear differently. Giancarlo did run the bases in the fourth inning, which may be the culprit.

Update, 8:20 p.m. EDT:

Update, 8:32 p.m. EDT:

In his postgame press conference, Aaron Boone told the media that Giancarlo will undergo an MRI and is likely headed to the injured list. Ugh.

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