Author: Randy Page 2 of 19

Game 45: Adroit

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Is this a little winning streak we’re seeing from the Yankees? It sure looks like it. The Yanks swept today’s doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles winning Game 2 by the score of 10-1. It was a strong performance all the way around. The Yankees improved to 24-21. They are three games clear of Baltimore for the eighth playoff spot. Let’s get to the quick takeaways.

1. Tanaka is right on time: Despite that horrible 20 game stretch, the Yankees’ starting pitching hasn’t been all that bad. There were a few clunkers thrown in there but there have been strong performances from various members of the rotation. Under high stress situations, the starters largely kept the team in the games. A lot of the losses came down to offensive futility and/or bullpen implosions. Gerrit Cole threw his best start of his young Yankees career in Game 1. Masahiro Tanaka delivered a typical solid and steady start in Game 2.

Masa’s success hinges on his command. We know the great action of his splitter and slider. When he doesn’t have great command of those two offerings that pitch action is negated. Of course, that is true for all pitchers but a player like Tanaka relies heavily on his command because he doesn’t have the stuff to overcome mistakes. He was fighting his control early on. The second inning was a particular struggle. Fortunately, he made a couple of key pitches to wiggle out of a self-manufactured jam.

From that point forward, Tanaka was in full control of the game. He got into a rhythm and found his command. His swing and miss stuff improved as the game went on as well. He had fifteen swing and misses out of ninety-one total pitches. Tanaka also racked up five strikeouts through five innings. Outside of DJ Stewart’s home run, the Orioles weren’t able to put a lot of balls in play with authority. Here is Tanaka’s spray chart:

Outside of a few plays, Tanaka was dictating the type of contact the Orioles’ hitters were making. The plays in the outfield weren’t loud outs either. He used a strong pitch mix to keep Baltimore off-balanced. He finished his start retiring the last twelve batters he faced. Tanaka is awesome.

2. M-Voit-P: So, I am officially kicking off the Luke Voit MVP campaign. There are a few players throughout the league who have been getting MVP buzz and Voit isn’t on that list. It is high time for him to be amongst that group of candidates. Where would the Yankees be without Luke Voit? They would be in ninth or tenth place without him. He is currently hitting 285/.353/.629/.982 with 16 home runs and 36 RBIs. This is all happening while dealing with “foot stuff”.

This is one of Voit’s best performances as a Yankee. It may be his best. He hit two bombs in tonight’s game and here they are:

Voit went through a little tough spell over the last road trip but he has clearly snapped out of it. The power is obviously impressive but Voit is an elite hitter because he controls the zone so well. He has great plate coverage with power to all fields. Luke does a fantastic job of consistently putting the barrel on the ball in the zone and driving it with authority. He isn’t just a slugger with big power numbers. He can hit really well.

We may also see the emergence of a new leader on the team. After the second loss in Buffalo, Voit was incredibly candid about the team’s performance. He gave an honest evaluation and put the team on notice in his own way. That candor was refreshing especially in lieu of the manager’s canned positive platitudes. Voit backed his words up with a great performance. His value is rising both on and off the field. This may be one benefit of the injuries and the horrible twenty game stretch. There is an emerging voice on the team.

Leftovers:

  • This was a big day for the Yankees bullpen. All of the elite relievers were able to get another day off. Both Cole and Tanaka did their jobs in giving the team length in their starts. The pen should be good to go to attack the rest of the series.
  • Gleyber Torres is back to being Gleyber. He’s aggressive in the zone and driving the ball with authority. It couldn’t be coming at a better time. It is nice to see Voit get some help from another elite hitter.
  • Speaking of aggressiveness, the Yankees were noticeably frisky on the basebaths. While thrown out two times, Gardner was attempting to steal bases. DJLM was forcing the issue on the base paths in the first inning and stole a run. It is nice to see the team put pressure on their opponents. They need to keep this approach up. It is forcing teams to make mistakes and leads to easy runs. It also puts them in a more proactive state of mind to attach opponents throughout the game. This needs to continue.
  • The series continues tomorrow at 1pm. It will be Jordan Montgomery for the Yankees and Dean Kremer for Baltimore. The Yankees need some revenge on Kremer. Have a great night.

Game 43: A Win!

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The Yankees finally won a game. And it was an easy win. What a beautiful thing to write. The Yankees avoid the sweep against Toronto by a score of 7-2. There were some nice positives from tonight so let’s get into the takeaways.

1. Deivi The Stopper: The emergence of Deivi GarcĂ­a is one of the few bright spots during this horrific run for the Yankees. It feels like Deivi became an afterthought in Spring Training with the emerging focus on Clarke Schmidt. Outside of his hiccup in AAA last year, Deivi has been nothing but impressive since joining the Yankees organization. We all know how bad these last twenty games have been. There has to be a moment where a struggling team can point to and say that is when things changed. The 21-year-old may have delivered that moment tonight.

Deivi’s aggressiveness immediately stands out in his starts. He is looking to attack the zone with his fastball. There are stretches this season where the Yankees pitchers nibble too much around the zone. They could have two strikes in a count and instead of attacking the pitchers will throw too many chase pitches. Deivi GarcĂ­a is having none of that. He wants to challenge hitters and dictate the at bats. It starts with his fastball. Here is his pitch-type chart with the corresponding location:

There is a clear plan in place here. Deivi wants to go after hitters up in the zone. He doesn’t have electric velocity but he has fantastic deception and ride on the four-seamer. A lot of hitters are late on his fastball because of that. It also helps Garcia to live up in the zone. It makes it that more difficult for hitters to square up that velocity and it sets up his breaking stuff. He didn’t get a ton of whiffs on the four-seamer but the hitters were struggling to barrel it up. Out of his 49 fastballs, hitters fouled off eleven of them while putting eleven balls in play. The majority of those balls in play were soft contact. The Blue Jays offense only averaged an exit velocity of 90.9MPH. There weren’t many barrels from the Toronto lineup.

Deivi’s breaking stuff was filthy all game long. It felt like the longer the game went on the better his curveball became. It was clear from the beginning he had a good feel for the pitch. The Toronto batters were off balance all night. This was evident from the seven swings and miss Deivi induced from his 28 curveballs. He was also able to mix in a few filthy changeups as well. This one to Vlad Guerrero Jr. is a beauty:

That is how you go after hitters when you’re ahead in the count. Vlad Jr. didn’t have a shot on either pitch. What was even more encouraging about this start is the four-pitch mix. David Cone mentioned this on the broadcast and it is worth mentioning here. The longer Deivi’s start went on the quality of his slider also improved. This was a dominant performance from one of the youngest players in the league.

We can’t move on without touching upon Deivi’s presence. His confidence and poise are qualities we’ve heard about time and time again. Those characteristics have been crucial in his starts. He feels like the only Yankee having fun. He’s displaying great body language. There is a great rhythm. He has the audacity to smile. It has been great to see. There is also this nugget courtesy of Seth Rothman from the YES Network:

2. The Return of Gleyber Day: There is plenty of focus on the offensive failures of Gary Sánchez, Mike Tauchman, Mike Ford, and Tyler Wade. This is with good reason. They’ve been awful. Some of the brand names haven’t been very good either. This includes Gleyber Torres. Coming into this game, Gleyber only had one home run on the season. Yes, there was an IL stint in there but it’s not like he was tearing the cover off the ball prior to the injury. His return so far was more of the same. Tonight was a different story.

Gleyber’s aggressiveness on strikes in the zone is a key ingredient to his success. Prior to two strikes, he’s hunting for a pitch to drive as soon as he steps in the box. His walk rate has jumped up this year. Of course, this is a good thing but in a season where the offense is struggling to knock in runs, the team needs Gleyber to be more aggressive. He was able to do that tonight:

Now, the homer came on two strikes but there was an adjustment. Normally, Gleyber will go to his two-strike approach where he abandons his leg kick. He didn’t do that in this at bat. He was still hunting for a pitch to drive. It appeared Gleyber knew he had to jump start the offense in some way. He was out of character with the leg kick on two strikes and it paid off. Gleyber also added a double for good measure:

The key here? He jumped on the first pitch. This was a big moment in the game and Gleyber didn’t waste time. It just feels like the team overall lacked an aggressive and urgent attitude during this slide. They didn’t make competitive decisions. Deivi provided the aggression on the mound. Gleyber provided it in the batter’s box. This needs to continue.

3. Keep The Faith: This is a little easier to say after a nice and clean win. We have to remain positive about this Yankees team. Has the last few weeks been awful? Yes. Did I rant the last time I did a takeaway post? Absolutely. The faith in this team still remains. There is no way this team can sustain this horrific performance for the rest of the season. There is way too much talent on the roster for that to happen. Keep in mind, they had the best record in baseball up until mid-August.

They are going to make the playoffs. They will go on a run. Hopefully, they actually get healthy and stay that way. The season isn’t over. The sky hasn’t fallen. There is still a little bit of time to make this right. I believe they will do that.

Leftovers:

  • He is scuffling big time at the plate but Gary Sánchez is doing a great job behind the plate with the pitchers. He helped JA Happ’s great start yesterday and he did the same with Deivi GarcĂ­a. Some people are never going to give him credit but he is doing the job with the pitching staff.
  • It is nice to see the Yankees starting to slug the ball a little bit more. They’ve had huge RISP woes but the drop in power was alarming. The Toronto series may be a turning point in that area.
  • The Yankees start a big four-game series against the Orioles tomorrow. I can’t believe I’m typing that. Gerrit Cole will get the start. He needs to follow Deivi’s lead. The game starts at 7pm. Have a good night.

Game 39: Unacceptable

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The Yankees lose again by the score of 6-1 against the Baltimore Orioles. They are now 21-18. We’re going to do something different tonight.

Normally, this is where we would give some instant analysis of the day’s game. This performance isn’t deserving of that. Today’s game was an embarrassment. The Baltimore Orioles outclassed the Yankees. I am going to say that again. The Baltimore Orioles outclassed the New York Yankees. It was a listless performance from the Yankees.

This level of play cannot happen for a team with title aspirations. We’re reaching the point where the rash of injuries is no longer the primary reason for these outcomes. The active players on the roster are getting their asses kicked. The manager continues to make odd lineup choices. The maligned catcher is validating oftentimes harsh criticism. The vaunted bullpen is stinking it up. If Boston wasn’t in the Al East, the Yankees would currently be the worst-performing team in the division.

It is time to bench guys like Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade. They are actively harming the team with their performances. The Estrada error in the sixth inning changed the complexion of the game. It is a routine play that needs to be made. If you’re going to be a zero at the plate, your defense has to be airtight. Speaking of zeroes at the plate, Tyler Wade should no longer be on the 28 man roster. There is nothing of value he brings to the team. His offense is non-existent and even his baserunning hurt the team on one occasion. Both of these guys are huge black holes in a lineup struggling to find its footing. The fact that both of them continue to get starts is baffling.

This brings us to Boone. At first glance, sitting DJLM makes sense. He has played a lot since coming off the DL. The bigger question is why have AndĂşjar start in left field instead of someone like Brett Gardner? The left on left matchup reasoning doesn’t work because I saw Tyler Wade pop up a bunt behind home plate against a lefty tonight. These games are precious now. They are especially precious because Judge, Stanton, and Paxton aren’t coming back tomorrow or the next day. You have to win the games your ace starts. These lineup choices have to show a sense of urgency. I understand Boone’s thing is being calm, cool, and collected. That is totally fine with me but there are moments where urgency rules the day. We are at that point. Boone needs to match that moment.

Gerrit Cole isn’t above criticism either. There are stretches where a team needs its ace to persevere. This is one of those stretches and Cole is not succeeding. An error can’t unravel a brilliant outing. He has to pick his third baseman up. Instead, he loses his command and in the process tires himself out. He was fantastic for five innings. The team needed him to maintain that level of performance through the sixth. It didn’t happen. These are tough circumstances with the offense faltering. The Yankees paid a ton of money for him to rise above those circumstances. He is not meeting the challenge at this point. It is difficult to write that but this is where we are.

There are plenty of other places to lay blame. There is the ghost of Gary Sánchez. The bullpen is struggling. Aaron Hicks is not having a good year. The next men up players are crashing back to Earth. There is a laundry list of issues. The team needs to figure this out quickly. Teams across the league are facing a ton of challenges this season including COVID outbreaks. The Yankees issues are largely performance based. It is time to step up and turn this garbage around. There is still time to do so but it is quickly slipping away.

At least Clint Frazier is rewarding some Yankees’ fans patience. That is nice to see.

The Yankees will try to split the series agains the Orioles tomorrow at 1:05pm ET. It will be Tanaka versus Wojciechowski. I hope you have a better night than the Yankees.

Game 30: Embedded Yankee

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Dellin Betances came to the rescue!

The former Yankee uncoiled one of his familiar wild pitches but this time it handed a victory for the Yankees. The 2-1 win breaks the Yankees seven-game losing streak. According to the YES Network, the Yanks are still the only team in the last twenty-five years to not have an eight-game winning streak. That is remarkable. The pinstripes are now 17-13. I am very happy with this victory even if the takeaways are a bit critical. Speaking of which, let’s jump into them.

1.Happ’s Best Start of the Year: J.A. Happ is experiencing a season and a half long stretch of disaster. Every Yankees fan knows this. If you go by his comments to the press recently, it appears Happ is the only one unaware of this. That clearly isn’t the case, but the lefty has been pretty defiant of the idea that his performance isn’t concerning. It was time for him to back up his words. To his credit, with his team scuffling big time, Happ had the best start of his season.

Happ was aggressive and effective. There were a few at-bats with high pitch counts, but overall, he was largely efficient. We know that Happ is fastball reliant. Today wasn’t any different. The difference is the command of his four-seamer and two-seamer. He was particularly effective against the Mets left-handed hitters. Happ relied heavily on his two-seamers and sliders against lefties. He found success with this combo. Here is Happ’s pitch pie against lefties:

Happ threw over 60% two-seamers to lefties. As you can see from the graphic above, he was running it on the batters all game long. He and Eric Kratz employed the classic pitching strategy of busting the hitter in and making them chase away. Happ’s command was the key to unlocking this approach. Yes, his velocity has diminished over the last few seasons, but his command has eluded him more times than not in his starts. Today was not one of those days and Happ was dare I say, dominant.

Overall, J.A. mixed his pitches up well. Happ was effectively using his two fastballs, slider, and changeup all day. The called strike+whiff percentage was pretty good and consistent amongst his offerings. His four-seamer and two-seamer both sat at 35%, while his slider earned a 38%. This is a pretty good reflection of Happ’s need to be aggressive in the zone. His game is based on challenging hitters in the zone simply because he doesn’t have great secondary stuff.

That aggression led to pretty muted contact from the Mets hitters. Happ gives up pretty loud contact when he is going bad. The average exit velocity on his four-seamer and two-seamer was 85 MPH and 80.3MPH respectively. His slider, which hasn’t been his best pitch this year, registered an average exit velocity of 67.6MPH. The home run ball is Happ’s biggest bug-a-boo. He not only kept the Mets in the park but controlled their contact all game. Happ is the first Yankees pitcher to go beyond the seventh inning this season. The Yankees needed a big performance and Happ delivered. Kudos to him.

2. The Non-Voit/Frazier/DJLM Lineup Continues to Struggle: First, here is the good news. The Machine is back and, upon his return, immediately impacted the game at the plate. Even with some of the big bats still on the IL, LeMahieu immediately changes the dynamic of the lineup. He works counts. He extends at-bats. His contact is consistent. It is truly remarkable. In his second at-bat, he drove an outside pitch to the right-field wall for a triple. He worked a great at-bat in the 7th with the bases loaded, but as is the case during this awful losing streak, he couldn’t get the big hit.

This takes me to my larger point. A lot of emphasis during this losing streak is on the bullpen losing late leads. It makes sense because those are the dramatic moments of the game. Adam Ottavino immediately blowing the lead will get more attention. The far bigger concern in my eyes is the offense. One painfully obvious reason is the injuries. When you don’t have Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, and up until today, DJLM, you’re going to slow down. We know and understand this.

With that said, the lineup isn’t totally barren. Luke Voit continues to be a rock for the team. Outside of him and Clint Frazier, who is stepping up? Aaron Hicks, possibly due to Tommy John surgery, has lost his power stroke. Gary Sanchez has been brutal all year. If we’re being totally honest, Gary has created far too many outs over the last two seasons. Brett Gardner is ineffective. Mike Tauchman has hit a skid. All of these players entered the season with expectations to contribute. They’re simply not doing the job.

The attention to detail must increase when you’re scuffling on the offensive end. The Yankees have to cash in on opportunities to get cheap runs. That was not the case in the third inning. With Mike Tauchman on third and one out, Clint Frazier was up to bat. The Mets had the infield in. Frazier hit a routine ground ball to third baseman JD Davis. The Yankees had the contact play on and Tauchman was thrown out at home. Tauchman’s speed made the play closer than it should’ve been but that play simply can’t happen. I fully understand the conventional wisdom of the contact play.

Conventional wisdom doesn’t account for context. The Yankees need runs by any means. They can’t willfully give up these chances because the contact play is something you automatically do. The game action dictated Tauchman to stay at third. It’s an easy read. Instead, it was an easy out.

This was especially tough to swallow because Brett Gardner hit a booming double to center field. Clint Frazier was thrown out at the plate on a close play. The send was a good one. The issue was the contact play prior. The Yankees would’ve had a run in with second and third. In true losing streak fashion, they ended up empty handed. Here is an alarming stat from ESPN’s Marly Rivera:

There are far too many moments when the Yankees have failed to cash in. Yes, the bullpen is falling off a cliff but they’re not protecting big leads. Oftentimes, teams need more than one run to win a ballgame. The Yankees are creating some chances and then blowing them. The offense simply needs to find a way even with some of their big bats out.

3. Same Story, Different Day: The Yankees bullpen is atrocious during this streak. I think that pretty much covers it.

Leftovers: The Yankees won a baseball game. It was ugly and frustrating but who cares. The team needs victories. Let’s savor this one.

There is another doubleheader tomorrow. It will be Rick Porcello against TBD in the first game. You may see one of Deivi GarcĂ­a or Clarke Schmidt tomorrow. It will most likely be Deivi because of 40 man concerns. Have a great evening everyone.

Game 25: Swept Away By The Rays

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This was an abominable series for the Yankees. Yes, they dropped to second place, but that really isn’t the main issue. The larger concerns are the injuries, the poor performance of the bullpen, and the declining production of the wounded lineup. The Yankees dropped the final game of this series by the score of 10-5 and they are now 16-9 on the year. They’re a half-game behind the Rays. Here are the takeaways.

1. A Matter Of Control, Not Velocity: There is a ton of attention paid to James Paxton’s velocity drop. Almost everyone is on velocity watch for every one of his starts this year. Yes, Paxton isn’t throwing as hard as in the past. The most important thing is the pitcher’s health. He’s been able to make every start and finish all of them with good health. As the season goes on, Paxton has been able to adjust to temporary life without elite velocity. He is relying more on location and pitch mix to be successful. He was largely successful with that approach today.

Paxton enjoyed four innings of no-hit ball. Early on, the fastball was sitting in the 91-92 MPH range, but he was able to command it well. I mentioned yesterday that Tampa isn’t a great hitting team against the fastball. That was in the context of Gerrit Cole’s elite velocity. The location of the fastball can also stymy a team that doesn’t hit well against the pitch. Paxton was able to move the four-seamer around in all four quadrants of the zone. Here is his pitch location chart in the first inning:

Paxton threw the fastball just off the plate enough to entice hitters to swing at his pitch. He clearly felt good about his feel for the pitch because he threw it 54% of the time. While the velocity isn’t there, it is a good sign that Paxton isn’t shying away from using it. He didn’t have a ton of swinging strikes on it, but he did get quite a few called strikes on it. This is a further indication of a good command of the pitch.

James also did a great job of mixing up his arsenal. One of the reasons for his turnaround last year was mixing in more of his breaking stuff with the fastball. He did that today and it worked really well. James split up his changeup, knuckle curveball, and cutter pretty equally during his start. He used his changeup the most out of his secondary pitches. Almost a third of those pitches earned a swinging strike. It was very good throughout most of the start as was the rest of his secondary stuff.

Paxton’s command was really good until the fifth inning. This is when he ran into trouble. Holding onto a two-run lead, Paxton struck out Hunter Renfroe. James walked Willy Adames and Manuel Margot. This clearly wasn’t a great result especially considering the caliber of those two players. Joey Wendle came up to bat and laced a two-run double down the left-field line. Paxton’s control went from sublime to suboptimal in an instant. Here is his pitch location chart from the fifth inning:

This is vastly different from the command of the first inning. There had to be a reason why he lost his feel in the middle of a great start.

Well, there is indeed a reason for the sudden change in performance. The curse of 2020 rears its ugly head again. Here is the discouraging news from mlb.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Yikes. This is not good. Of course, I mentioned earlier you could live with the drop in velocity if Paxton remains healthy, but that is no longer the case. This is extremely concerning. The difference in performance was stark. The last thing the Yankees need is a significant injury to one of their starters. It appears we’ve hit that point in the year. Maybe Paxton wasn’t totally forthcoming when it came to his health. I am a firm believer in trusting players when it comes to health. If Paxton says he was healthy, then I believe it. In any case, the Yankees have a major issue on their hands. This wasn’t the only injury concern on the day.

2. The Injuries Continue To Pile Up: Derek wrote a great piece today breaking down Gleyber’s missing power stroke. We all hoped today would be the day when he was able to breakthrough. Instead, the Yankees starting shortstop left the game early with left hamstring tightness. Here is a video of the play:

Gleyber hit a ball down to third base, and as you can see, he stumbled running down the line. The Yankees immediately removed him from the game. Thairo Estrada replaced him. Here is an update from Bryan Hoch:

For his part, Gleyber just believes the hamstring is tight and nothing more. We will have to hold our breath with the MRI results.

If Gleyber is out for an extended period of time, the Yankees have a pretty tall task in front of them. Middle infield depth was a clear weakness of this roster. The Yankees chose not to pursue veteran middle infield depth in the winter. They took a real risk not shoring up that spot on the roster and it is biting them now. There are Yankees fans who believe in both Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada. It is hard to feel confident when that duo is now your starting double-play tandem. The defense should be solid, but the offense is a huge question mark. We’ve seen Wade’s limitations and the jury is still out on Thairo. This is a great chance for these two players. There is a potential opportunity to help the team in a big way. It is officially next man up season.

3. A Matter Of Perspective: It is important to address the larger context of this series. Yes, it sucked. The Rays outplayed the Yankees. They earned the victories. The injuries are piling up. There is a need for context to some of this stuff though. The majority of these matchups with the Rays have been very close. There is a bad defensive play here. There is an annoying bloop base hit there. The Yankees had multiple chances to break the Rays’ bullpen and didn’t come through. The team is missing some of their heavy hitters. That is how the games go.

The point is this series isn’t a referendum on the Yankees or their overall season. Keep in mind, the Yankees went 1 for 20 with RISP this series. That isn’t going to happen often. Some credit goes to the Rays, but not all of it. The bigger concern is weathering the obscene amount of injuries the team is experiencing. The Yankees have a great team. The Rays games have just broken Tampa’s way. If the Yankees can regain their health, they are one of the best, if not the best, teams in the league. So while the last few days were incredibly frustrating, the team will be ok. They are most likely making the playoffs. That is what matters.

Leftovers: Here is the big news:

First, we hope the player and staff member from the Mets has a full recovery. The well-being of everyone takes full priority. We also hope the Mets are able to contain the spread amongst their team.

MLB has already postponed the first game of the Subway Series tomorrow night. As of now, the rest of the series is still on. That obviously may change with more information. This is the reality of baseball in 2020. The Mets are playing a series in a hotbed. The virus is now a part of their immediate future. The Yankees will have to be ready to resume their schedule when it’s safe.

We will have more information when available. In the meantime, I think it is ok to take a deep breath. The Yankees will be fine. Have a great evening everyone.

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