Happy Wednesday. Tomorrow is the one week mark before Opening Day, which is crazy. We got a lot more clarity on some important roster matters – James Paxton starting Game 2 of the season! Aaron Judge is healthy! – and that will only continue over the next few days. We’re in the home stretch now.
Before we get into today’s news, check out our latest podcast episode. I promise it’s not irrelevant already. I also encourage you to send in any mailbag questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We’ll answer those on Friday. Finally, check out this video of the Yankees being clowns:
The Big Story: Jonathan Loáisiga, Bullpen Extraordinaire
Today’s real big story is that Aaron Judge is healthy and playing. There’s not really a lot of room to elaborate there. He’s healthy! That’s good. But, as I’m sure you could have guessed, I’m very excited to hear about the team’s plans for Jonathan Loáisiga. I have been the Views resident Jonathan Loáisiga fan since we started this thing and that’s not going to change soon. As such, I’ve been waiting to hear how they’re going to use him in 2020 – and it turns out Aaron Boone views him as a reliever. This isn’t a surprise, given the fact that he was rostered for the ALCS as a reliever, but I think it’s good news regardless.
As I argued at the end of 2019, I think his display last year highlighted just how dangerous of a bullpen weapon he could be. He clearly has the stuff to dominate. I mean:
I could watch that a thousand times and it would never get old. Anyway, his fastball & curveball combination is a Statcast favorite – he throws upwards of 98 with a high-spin curve – that helps him strike out more than a quarter of all batters he faces. You can’t doubt his stuff.
What you can doubt, and what even I’ll admit, is his ability to harness that stuff. He has always had an issue with walks, last year giving a ghastly 11% of all batters faced a free pass. That is not going to cut it. There is some evidence, if you squint, that the trend reversed toward the end of the year: although he managed to avoid walking a batter just 5 times in his 15 appearances, 4 of those games were in his last 7 games. It’s a start, at least.
Add in persistent health challenges and struggles the second time through the order (.677 OPS against vs. .977 OPS against) and it becomes clear that he could be a good fit for the pen. Its a great idea to put Loáisiga in the pen and tell him to let it fly. It might just work, and his stuff is too good not to give it a shot, in my opinion. I mean…
- Aaron Judge is Back: Folks, our week-long national nightmare is over. Aaron Judge is back in action. First, we saw him taking BP this afternoon. Second, Boone indicated that he thought Judge would play. We watched this same movie yesterday, so I was skeptical, but then we got the lineup and Judge was in it. Hooray for that. (Maybe all that cupping therapy paid off.) Let’s go into this bizarre season as healthy as possible, shall we? (He even hit a home run!)
- James Paxton, Game 2 Starter: I spent time mapping out the Yankees rotation yesterday under one set of assumptions and then the Yankees totally upended those. As I should have expected. Anyway, Aaron Boone announce that Paxton will start next Saturday’s game against Washington. Let’s hope he pretends this August and September is the same as last year.
- Daily Masa Update: It’s time for today’s Masahiro Tanaka update. He’s expected to throw a bullpen tomorrow, which is great. “If things go well, we’d hope that he’d be able to see live hitters before Opening Day,” Aaron Boone said. That’s about as quick as anyone could have expected and means that he’ll probably be ready to go after just missing a few weeks.
- Masks Behind the Plate: We’ve already seen Kyle Higashioka wear a mask behind the plate. Now, Gary Sánchez says he might, too – at least once the weather gets colder. I suppose we’ll have to see who does and doesn’t wear masks while playing.
- 10th Inning Strategy: We got a taste of the Yankees’ 10th inning strategy yesterday, and it led to some…interesting results. I’m all for using Tyler Wade to steal 3rd, but the Yankees should absolutely not bunt in most cases. (With the sluggers they have, they should let the team swing away. The runner is already in scoring position!) It also got me thinking about Adam Ottavino’s potential extra innings role (or lack thereof.)
- COVID and the Yankees: Aroldis Chapman may have COVID, but it’s apparently not stopping him from working out at home. Relatedly, apparently the Yankees are getting tests back within 1-2 days now (as they’re supposed to). That’s good news, because this entire exercise is going to fall apart if that’s not the case.
The Yankees are playing right now, actually, so turn on YES if you want to get a taste of that action. Here are the lineups for that game:
We’ll keep you posted if anything else notable happens tonight. Until then, enjoy your night, everyone.