In my last takeaways post, I implored people to keep the faith. There was no way a team this talented would play that poorly for the rest of the year. The Yankees are now on a ten game winning streak. They look like a machine right now. This is the level of performance we were expecting coming into the season. The 7-0 win over the Red Sox tonight leaves the Yankees at 31-21. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to one. This is quite a run. Here are the takeaways.
1.Clint Is Here To Stay: Normally, the takeaways would start with the fantastic start from J.A. Happ but we’re going to highlight Clint Frazier first. It’s pretty obvious that DJ Lemahieu and Luke Voit saved this team from a disastrous season. You can make a strong case that Clint deserves to be in that group as well. He’s done nothing but mash and play solid defense since his call up from the Alternate Site. Coming into tonight’s game, Clint was sporting a cool 165 OPS+. Frazier was firmly entrenched as the team’s clean up hitter while some of the stars were on the IL. He was a consistent power source for a lineup that experienced a team-wide power shortage for a long time.
The returns of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gleyber Torres have done nothing to dim the star of Frazier. He is continuing to be a force in the lineup. Clint was the offensive star of the game tonight. He drove in the second run of the game in the first inning, added another hit, and then did this on his third at-bat:
This was a meatball and he destroyed it. It isn’t easy for a right-handed hitter to drive the ball out of right field in Fenway Park. The home run was clocked at 103.4 MPH. The home run was the culmination of good at-bats and great swings from Frazier all night. Here is his heat map for the game:
It is one thing to blister the ball on the middle and inside parts of the plate, it is another to catch barrels on the outer half of the plate. This is a sign that both Frazier’s mechanics and timing are in perfect harmony with one another right now. You add in his impressive bat speed and you get performances like tonight. Clint Frazier should be the Yankees starting left fielder for the next few years at least.
2.Happ Is Proving A Point: If you’ve been following us for a while, you are familiar with our feelings about J.A. Happ. It is safe to say we’re not the biggest fans. I’m guessing most of you will agree. With that said, we give credit when it is certainly due. Over his last four or five starts, Happ has been pretty damn good. Tonight was his best start of the season. This Boston lineup, despite their team record, is still pretty formidable. J.A. dominated them for seven innings.
Two big keys for Happ’s turnaround are the usage and command of his four-seamer and sinker. Happ has always been reliant upon his fastball but it feels like he got away from that for a while going back to last year. He lost the feel for those pitches last year and used his slider more. It got him in trouble for various reasons. The command has returned so the usage has jumped up. Here is his pitch plot for tonight’s start:
Despite not having the best velocity or spin rate on his fastball, Happ can be really effective when he can command the upper part of the zone. It is especially effective if he can control the inside corner. If he is pinpoint on the inside it opens everything else up for him. It’s clear he was able to do that tonight. This is pretty much what the Yankees want to see in this plot.
Happ used the four-seamer a whopping 50% of the time in this start. Of the 57 fastballs thrown, he was able to create a 46% called strike and whiff rate. He also forced as many foul balls as balls in play on the four-seamer. The Red Sox struggled with this pitch all night. They couldn’t square it up. The average exit velocity was 84.8 MPH. This was a fantastic performance to say the least. It is one of his best in a Yankees uniform.
As the playoffs rapidly approach, Aaron Boone has a great conundrum on his hands. In the three-game series, does he go with Deivi or Happ in his rotation? The obvious debate is experience versus youth. This decision is going to extend well beyond that. Who will the Yankees face? What are the tendencies of those potential lineups? Who can exploit the weaknesses of their opponent better? Do you have a stronger belief in Happ’s resurgence or Garcia’s emergence? Will you have Deivi or Garcia pitch a potential Game 3 or have one of them pitch Game 2 and save Tanaka for the elimination game? These are all questions Boone and company will need to answer when deciding upon a Wild Card Series rotation. I think I still lean towards Deivi because we’ve seen bad Happ too many times but it is increasingly becoming a tough decision.
The Yankees finish this series against the Red Sox tomorrow afternoon at 1:07pm. They have a chance to sweep the season series against Boston. I really hope they can pull it off. Deivi gets the start. It doesn’t matter who is pitching for the Red Sox. Have a great night everyone.