Author: Matt Imbrogno Page 1 of 26

Deep Thinking

TAMPA, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 28: Gleyber Torres #25 of the New York Yankees fields a ground ball from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays (not pictured) during the second inning during a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 28, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Pitchers and catchers should be reporting about a month from now. Given where we’re at with the owner-induced lockout, I think we’ve got a snowflake’s chance in Hell–let alone a snowball’s–of that actually happening. But I’ll take an optimistic (perhaps too optimistic) look forward now to a time when the Yankees are playing games. Even with some holes that need to be filled–notably shortstop and first base–the Yankees have the opportunity to be a fairly deep team.

Before we examine that, though, it’s clear that the team does need to sign a full time shortstop. They don’t actually have one on the roster right now, given that they moved Gleyber Torres off the position by the end of the 2021 season. Hopefully, they go big and sign either Carlos Correa or Trevor Story to that position, rather than a stopgap, filler option. I won’t hold my breath on that, though. Regardless, there will be someone playing shortstop for the 2022 Yankees and that means that, including Torres and Urshela, the Yankees will have three players capable of playing short. They should lean on that to load manage and rest players whenever possible.

Torres, as mentioned, is now a second baseman again, meaning the Yankees have at least two legitimate players who can man the position, along with DJ LeMahieu. DJLM can also play a competent first and third, meaning the Yankees can be flexible with their lineups. Whether the Yankees roll with Luke Voit or re-sign Anthony Rizzo or go outside the org for help, LeMahieu can spell that player at first and give him a DH day, which trickles into the outfield depth.

Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks can both actually play center field. Aaron Judge can fake it and play a good right field. Giancarlo Stanton didn’t turn into dust while playing in the OF in 2021. Being able to lean on all those facts should help the Yankees get platoon advantages, rest players, and keep hot bats in the lineup.

The Yankees always preach about wanting flexibility, athleticism, and depth. They more or less have it now. They just need it to be shored up with some acquisitions and then have the confidence to deploy it properly.

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Fun with ZiPS

On Thursday, Derek took a look at the Yankees’ 2022 ZiPS projections. Today, let’s do something similar and have some fun–since there’s very little fun to be had in the baseball world these days–and run these projections through an old friend: the Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis Tool.

For those unfamiliar, the concept is simple. You drop in player names and their OBP and SLG numbers and the tool spits out a bunch of lineup permutations to see which one is the best. Now, the models that the tool uses are a little outdated and it isn’t foolproof, but, like I said, it’s fun! I’ll use the 1959-2004 model to cover more dates, get more of a variety of run environments in there.

First, let’s roll with players currently on the Yankees, so we’ll exclude Anthony Rizzo and Brett Gardner. The lineup will look like this (OBP/SLG):

C: Gary Sanchez (.304/.432)

1B: Luke Voit (.342/.468)

2B: DJLM (.344/.402)

SS: Gleyber Torres (let’s just roll with it for now; I’ll play with other versions later) (.332/.426)

3B: Gio Urshela (.318/.458)

LF: Joey Gallo (.352/.507)

CF: Aaron Hicks (.340/.400)

RF: Aaron Judge (.369/.538)

DH: Giancarlo Stanton (.338/.491)

Assuming the batting order is as follows, this team should score 5.257 runs per game, about 852 over the course of the season:

  1. DJLM
  2. Judge
  3. Gallo
  4. Stanton
  5. Voit
  6. Urshela
  7. Hicks
  8. Torres
  9. Sanchez

The best possible lineup–5.293 runs per game, 857 per 162 is:

  1. DJLM
  2. Judge
  3. Voit
  4. Gallo
  5. Stanton
  6. Sanchez
  7. Torres
  8. Urshela
  9. Hicks

Even without any upgrades at the plate, the Yankees figure to be a good hitting team. Granted, we thought that last year…but I doubt they’ll be as shaky as last year and that the team will be as it is above. So let’s get frisky and do some wishcasting on this roster.

Last night, someone asked me, while I was tweeting from the Views account, what I want the infield to look like in 2022. I said I’d want Matt Olson at first, Carlos Correa at short, with DJLM at second and Gio at third. Let’s keep the rest of the team the same and fit that infield into the tool (while remembering that the Correa and Olson projections wouldn’t be adjusted for being Yankees). If that were the case, I assume the lineup would be:

  1. DJLM
  2. Judge
  3. Olson
  4. Stanton
  5. Gallo
  6. Correa
  7. Urshela
  8. Hicks
  9. Sanchez

That lineup would average 5.448 per game, 882 over 162. The best possible lineup with those projections would be

  1. Correa
  2. Judge
  3. Stanton
  4. Olson
  5. Gallo
  6. Sanchez
  7. Hicks
  8. Urshela
  9. DJLM

Is any of that going to happen? It’s highly unlikely! But it’s still fun to think about. Next time, I’ll revisit this with some other players plugged in and fool around with positions and playing time. Until then, be well and hope this owner-enforced lockout gets resolved.

My Ridiculous Ideas

It’s the offseason, folks, which means a slower trickle of news to begin with. On top of that, it’s the week before Christmas, which slows things down even more. And, as I’m sure you’re well aware, there’s a lockout on, which goes beyond gumming up the works and straight up stops them. With that said, let’s get to a favorite past time of mine: coming up with ridiculous ideas MLB will never implement because there is precious little else to talk about.

Leading off, let’s talk one of my favorite things: realignment! I’ve spilled my guts about this before on the podcast and probably in digital ink, too, but let’s go over it again. I would love to see MLB radically realign in one of two ways.

First, let’s keep AL/NL, but we go back to a 16/14 split, with Houston going back to the NL or Milwaukee going back to the AL. We implement a universal DH, because duh, but balance the schedule so each team plays everyone in their league an equal amount of times and we eliminate interleague play. In this scenario, the top four teams in the AL and NL respectively make the playoffs–like the pre-second wildcard days–and we go from there.

My second idea is similar, but with an added twist: eliminate AL and NL altogether, institute a universal DH, balance the schedule, and the top 8 make the playoffs, regardless of original league, and we run the tournament from there. Yankees/Red Sox World Series? Hell yes. Full disclosure, such an event would likely take a decade off of my life.

The other schedule/alignment altering idea I had, one I’ve kicked around a lot, is relegation/promotion, similar to that in European football. This will never, ever happen in the US, but it’d be cool to see in baseball. Now, with the way the minors feed the majors and all the things that go along with that system, relegation to AAA couldn’t happen. Instead, we’d have to split MLB in two and go from there. In my idea, the top half would be eligible to play for the WS while the bottom half wouldn’t. The bottom teams in the top and the top teams in the bottom would trade places, like they do in European football.

In this scenario, I’d also like to see a cup style competition added, perhaps as the last game of each series (balance the schedule, find a way to make every series three games), so that the first two would count towards the regular season standings with the third counting towards a cup standings, with different incentives for placement there (draft position, IFA money, etc.). I’ll live on Mars before this happens.

Last on this list is a change to the Hall of Fame. I’ve tweeted this out for sure, though I’m foggy on the old specifics, so let’s see what I can (re) hash out. This thought was inspired by Albert Pujols. Albert Pujols will be on the HOF ballot in 2026 and will be inducted in 2027. At that point, it will have been 11 years since his last above average season (2016) and 15 years since his last elite season (2012). That is a super long time! For some players, it’s pretty clear right away that they should be eligible way sooner than five years.

What I’m proposing, aside from eliminating the ten-player limit, is a sort of pre-ballot for retiring players. When a player retires, he goes on a ballot to determine if he will get on the ballot immediately or have to wait five years before appearing on the official ballot. Hell, given the age of baseball information we’re in, we could argue that a five year wait is pretty outdated at this point, but I get it.

Anyway, these are my ridiculous ideas. Like ’em? Hate ’em? Got any of your own?

A Brief Meditation on Fandom

On Friday, sports came up during a discussion in the teachers’ lounge at my school. I forget how the conversation arrived to this point, but I recall sharing something I’ve said before about the difference in my habits while watching my favorite teams.

While watching the Yankees, I remarked, I’m relatively calm and chill–despite the curse words that frequent my Twitter account–until the playoffs. But on the other side of the coin, when I watch UConn basketball–men’s or women’s–I have absolutely zero chill. I rock back and forth like Leo Mazzone. I pace around whatever room I’m in, even for regular season games, let alone conference tournaments or the NCAA Tournament itself. For example, the last time the men’s team was in the National Championship game–2014–a game they led wire-to-wire, I spent most of it on the floor between the couch and the TV because I was so nervous.

I suppose caring that much is a luxury, isn’t it? To care so much, to invest so much time and energy into something we ultimately have no control over. Hell, I’ve been writing words online about the Yankees in some ‘official’ capacity since August of 2008 and unofficially on message boards, forums, etc. for years before that, too. I’m under no illusion that doing so has had any effect on the New York Yankees, but I care and it’s fun, and that’s why I keep doing it, even now in a lockout when there is, quite literally, nothing to write about.

On the other hand, knowing that fandom ‘doesn’t matter’ in the universal sense allows us to escape from our escapism when necessary. Over the last few years, I’ve cut back on watching the Giants and the NFL in general for many reasons, but mostly because the Giants have been terrible and it was no fun to get worked up and agitated over their poor performance anymore. Sports, however different they are from movies, TV shows, whatever, are ultimately entertainment products and when something stops entertaining us, we should stop engaging. It took me far too long to realize that with The Walking Dead, but that’s another story. Glad I hopped off that train, even if it was far too late.

With that in mind, I wonder if we should be less rigid about fandom, whether it’s our own or others’. Want to root for two teams? Do it. Want to just keep track of players and not care about team loyalties? Go for it; it’s what most of my students do with football and basketball anyway. Want to root for some team you have no geographical or biographical connection to? Right on. Whatever you want to do, do it. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

Early Lockout Thoughts

The inevitable happened and it’s still annoying. Like a dreaded Monday after a good weekend, the owner-imposed lockout of MLB players happened last week and now we’re left with a cold, relatively baseball-less winter. As a quick aside, I’m being generous in calling the 2021 season a good weekend, huh? Regardless of that, it looks like we’re in for the long haul, so let’s have some reminders.

  1. It’s not your money! This applies to free agent signings and it applies to revenues in baseball. That money is not yours and is never going to be yours. Don’t hate on it when players ask for more of it; they have a relatively short window to earn as much as they can and, dammit, they should, just like any of us would. I would rather my money go to the people actually providing the entertainment than the wealthy people who pay their checks.
  2. You wouldn’t do your job for less money than you think you’re worth, right? Right. And neither should nor will MLB players. Baseball is a game, sure, but to the players, it’s also work and this dispute is just like any number of work disputes any one of us could have. They’re going to–just like we would–fight for what they think they deserve. Will they necessarily get it all? Probably not. But they’re right to fight for it and we ought to support them; they’re much more like us–workers–than they are the owner–bosses.
  3. Unionize your workplace! This goes especially for minor league baseball players. I hope we see them unionize real soon.

Now, to a more Yankee specific thought.

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