Author: Matt Imbrogno Page 1 of 18

Hitting a Release Valve

Today seems like a good day to stop the slide. The Yankees have been pretty putrid for the last two games, two ugly losses against the Rays. As many fans–including many of you loyal readers–would tell it, this young season has been at least mildly frustrating to many and down right infuriating to others. For some, that boiled over on Friday night with fans throwing things onto the field.

As I wrote on Twitter Saturday morning, I’m much more frustrated with people who do that than with a struggling baseball team. The latter is to be expected, even with a team as talented as the Yankees. The former is unacceptable and dangerous. Please be better, Yankee fans.

While that’s not a good way to hit a release valve, we all need to at some point. That includes me despite the patience I’ve been preaching online and in real life. So here’s my release valve, my early airing of the grievances, so to speak.

On the micro level, I’m annoyed with Aaron Boone pulling his patented ‘get one more inning out of the starter’ act, which almost never works. He did it yesterday and it helped put the game out of reach. Of course, Jordan Montgomery shouldn’t be throwing five balls in a row, but there was no need for him to be in after the sixth inning.

I’m also frustrated with the team’s handling of Clint Frazier, which Derek detailed already, even before Frazier sat out on Saturday. The entire lineup seems to be slumping, save one or two guys, but only Frazier is the one who’s not allowed to work through his slump in game action. His replacement, veteran Brett Gardner, isn’t exactly lighting things on fire. He’s got two hits and three walks in his last 18 PA. Is this really an improvement?

The offense in general has been frustrating to watch, and Randy summed up why pretty easily yesterday:

When an offense isn’t getting breaks, it’s not too hard to watch. But when an offense is in between, as Randy noted, it’s awful. They seem to miss everything hittable and hit everything missable. That’s no good for anyone. But I still trust this team will hit and hit well.

The non-Gerrit Cole rotation has been disappointing to watch as a whole. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon haven’t lived up to their upside yet, but I’m willing to give them more time. Montgomery has been fine, but it would be nice to see him find a groove over the next few starts. Maybe not playing Tampa so much will help him and everyone.

Speaking of Cole, he’s the release valve today, right? He’s the guy the Yankees can turn to now after a losing streak and feel confident that he will stop it. With a win today, with a typical Cole outing, he can help us all head into the Yankees’ off day with confidence that things will turn around.

Game 14: Back to the Grind

Well, last night happened, huh? Read about it from Randy here; that’s all that needs to be said about it.

As for today, Jordan Montgomery takes to the hill against to lead the Yankees after an awful defeat. He’ll face the Rays for the second start in a row and will be opposed by Tyler Glasnow.

The lineup backing Montgomery up will be:

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 1B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS
  6. Brett Gardner, LF
  7. Gary Sánchez, C
  8. Gio Urshela, 3B
  9. Rougned Odor, 2B

The Tampa lineup opposing Monty will be:

  1. Yandy Díaz, 1B
  2. Randy Arozarena, RF
  3. Austin Meadows, DH
  4. Mike Brosseau, 2B
  5. Manuel Margot, LF
  6. Francisco Mejía, C
  7. Joey Wendle, 3B
  8. Willy Adames, SS
  9. Brett Phillips, CF

Of note:

If this is the case, the Yankees should just drop Bruce from the roster as soon as they can. Mike Ford can’t be up yet because of the ten day rule for options, but he should be up to replace Bruce soon.

Might this be the first time Boone and his coaches speak for fans? Perhaps!

Enjoy the game, folks (shouldn’t be hard compared to last night) and check back here later for takeaways and any news.

In the Sticks: Hicks Off to Slow Start

After a so-so 2020, the Yankees put a lot of faith in Aaron Hicks, specifically by naming him the number three hitter to start the season. It’s a move I thought made sense, but it hasn’t paid off yet. Hicks is off to a troubled start with an ugly .148/.258/.259/.517 line in the early going. Of course, that caveat applies; it’s still early and a hot week or so could have this line looking much better.

On the plus side of things, he does have four walks already and his walk rate puts him in the 63rd percentile per Statcast. It’s not much, but given the above batting line, we should take our positives where we can get them. The biggest problem for Hicks so far has been the opposite side of that coin: strikeouts.

He’s racked up 11 already. While I normally don’t mind a middle-of-the-order hitter whiffing a lot, it’s been excessive this year, with a strikeout rate pushing towards 40%–37 to be exact. This is a stark departure from 2020, when he had a career low strikeout rate of 18%. Let’s take a look at the early strikeout returns and see what’s up.

My first thought, as it is with most high strikeout rates, was that Hicks was having trouble with breaking balls. Breaking stuff is, generally speaking, pretty nasty these days and plenty of guys swing and miss at it. But his overall swing and miss percentage has actually dropped on breaking balls, going from 31.4% in 2020 to 22.2% so far in 2021. In fact, per Statcast, he actually hasn’t whiffed on a breaking ball in the zone so far this year. That’s encouraging. But…

With that decrease, there’s probably an increase elsewhere. And there is, both with offspeed pitches and fastballs. There’s been a moderate whiff increase with offspeed pitches from just under 45% to 50%. The incline has been much less subtle for fastballs: up to 35.7% from 20.7% in 2020. In the zone, he’s missing 23.8% of fastballs, up from 18% last year, up from 10% in 2019. That’s a semi-worrying trend, no?

In terms of out of the zone misses on fastballs, he’s double what he was last year, over 70%! That last one is a bit preposterous, driven by early season small sample sizes; but it’s still shocking to see, especially considering he is chasing a slightly higher percentage of out of zone fastballs which compounds the effect of the whiffing.

There’s also been a negative trend so far when he does make contact. After hitting too many grounders last year, Hicks has corrected in 2021, but perhaps a bit too much. His GB% now sits under 30% and he’s hitting fly balls at a career high rate of 35.7%. However, the lack of grounders so far isn’t all good.

His line drive rate is a touch under where it normally is and his pop-up percentage is a career high 14.3%. Indeed, Statcast tracks his contact as him getting under the ball 50% of the time so far. For reference, his career average there is just over 26%.

So he’s striking out a lot. And when he makes contact, he’s popping up too much. This is not a great combo! But, luckily, it is still way early and these numbers are definitely going to correct. That he’s still walking a lot is a good sign. Hopefully, he cuts down on the whiffs slightly and finds the balance between ground and air.

Game 8: Return of Judge and Gio

Our long national nightmare is over as Aaron Judge returns to the Yankee lineup today after sitting with ‘general soreness’ the last few days. He’ll start in right field. Joining him on the comeback trail after just one day off–one measly day, as my son might say–thanks to side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine is Gio Urshela who’ll play his usual third base today. The full Yankee lineup as as follows:

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS
  6. Brett Gardner, LF
  7. Gary Sánchez, C
  8. Gio Urshela, 3B
  9. Jay Bruce, 1B

They’ll be backing up today’s starter, Domingo Germán, who’ll be looking to bounce back from a poor first start of the season. Additionally, he’ll need to give length today after the Yankees got under three innings from Corey Kluber yesterday. On the mound, Germán will be opposed by Chris Archer, also looking to improve on a poor first start. The Rays lineup that will face Germán is as follows:

  1. Yoshi Tsutsugo, DH
  2. Austin Meadows, LF
  3. Randy Arozarena, RF
  4. Brandon Lowe, 2B
  5. Yandy Díaz, 1B
  6. Joey Wendle, 3B
  7. Willy Adames, SS
  8. Brett Phillips, CF
  9. Francisco Mejía, C

Of note:

First pitch is at 1:10 PM from Tropicana Field. Hopefully the Yankees can recover from yesterday’s ugly loss. Go, Bombers!

Game 7: No Judge in Return to Trop

The Yankees make their return to Tropicana Field today at 3 PM and as you can see above, they’ll do so without Aaron Judge. The right fielder will miss another game out of caution’s sake, as manager Aaron Boone noted. This is probably smart given how early in the season it is; there’s no reason for Judge to push himself.

Before this turns into a Judge-only post, let’s get to the players who are in today’s lineup:

Tampa Bay Rays

  1. Yoshi Tsutsugo, DH
  2. Austin Meadows, LF
  3. Randy Arozarena, RF
  4. Brandon Lowe, 2B
  5. Yandy Díaz, 1B
  6. Joey Wendle, 3B
  7. Willy Adames, SS
  8. Brett Phillips, CF
  9. Mike Zunino, C

LHP Rich Hill

New York Yankees

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
  2. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Gleyber Torres, SS
  5. Jay Bruce, 1B
  6. Gary Sánchez, C
  7. Clint Frazier, RF
  8. Mike Tauchman, LF
  9. Tyler Wade, 2B

RHP Corey Kluber

Mike Tauchman gets the start in place of Judge today–though in LF–his first of the year. So, once again, the Yankees will be trotting out a new lineup they haven’t yet.

On the mound today are Corey Kluber for the Yankees and Rich Hill for the Rays. Kluber will be looking to build off a strong first start with the Yankees, whereas Hill will be looking to bounce back after allowing four runs in four innings in his Rays’ debut.

At the plate, I’ll be watching to see if the Yankees attack Hill’s relatively low-velocity fastballs when he throws them. On the mound, I’m watching for how Kluber deploys his curveball and changeup against a mixed R/L lineup.

Stay here for your in-game chatting and check back later for postgame takeaways.

Let’s go Yankees!

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