With 2019 coming to a close, all of us here at Views want to take a moment to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year. Today, we’d like to reflect on this first (partial) year of the site’s existence by highlighting some of our favorite articles since the site’s inception in May. But first, we’d also like to emphasize our appreciation of our readers. We wouldn’t be here without you!
Additionally, a special shout out to everyone at River Avenue Blues, who helped us get off to a quick start. It’s pretty amazing what a few retweets from RAB did for us at the early stages of the blog.
It’s been an exciting year, but we’re also very excited for what’s in store for 2020 and beyond. So, thanks again for reading! And without further ado, here are some of our handpicked favorite posts from 2019:
Released in May, Full Count is David Cone’s opportunity to recount his career and impart the lessons he learned from his many years around the game. Cone tells his story with the help of Jack Curry, himself New York Times bestselling author previously who you likely know from the very same YES broadcasts Cone often graces.
If you’re just looking for stories of the late 90s Yankees, there are plenty. Cone reminisces about his back-and-forths with the late George Steinbrenner and, of course, goes in-depth on his immortal accomplishment in 1999, his perfect game against the Expos. One of the funnier moments in the book is his recollection of facing Manny Ramirez.
Yet the book is so much more than just a collection of fun stories. The former Yankee and Met details the humbling process of making the Majors and hands down the wisdom he wishes he’d had at a younger age. Cone tackles his time as a Players Union rep and the 1994 strike.
Cone himself reads the audiobook, if you’re interested in that form. The erstwhile starting pitcher interview for the Yankees’ pitching coach vacancy this week, so this could be giving you a glimpse into the man in the ear of the Bombers’ staff.
This book, written by former Cooperstown mayor Jeff Katz, recounts one of the most peculiar seasons in baseball history. The subtitle to the book — Fernandomania, The Bronx Zoo and the Strike that Saved Baseball — gives you a strong glimpse.
The season on its own is compelling. A strike in the middle of the season led to first half and second half champions and hundreds of games canceled. For Yankees fans, the Bombers feature prominently as they and the Dodgers marched towards the Fall Classic, stopping in the first-ever Division Series along the way.
Yet I’d also recommend it with its relevance to right now. A little more than 40 years after the events of the book, baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire and MLB and the Players Association very well could find their way to another work stoppage. The work of Marvin Miller and players such as Bob Boone to stand up to ownership was admirable, and some of the same issues (free agency, compensation, rich vs. poor teams) still affect the game.
The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh joined forces with FiveThirtyEight’s Travis Sawchik on this contemporary story about the forces changing player development in baseball.
If you can stomach a heavy dose of Trevor Bauer, who features prominently into the book, you receive a strong sense of the modern game. The book goes deep on Driveline Baseball, from which the Yankees signed away Sam Briend, as well as some of the development trends within the Astros’ and Red Sox’s organizations.
For a Yankees connection, the book details Adam Ottavino’s makeshift pitching laboratory. However, the Pinstripers, like most teams, weren’t keen on outsiders getting a view at their private process.
If you want to have baseball history woven through the present day, Tyler Kepner is the master. The New York Times’ scribe is a must-read in the paper (or online) and this book is just an extension of his combination of impressive reporting and knowledge.
The book goes through the history of pitching and individual pitchers. Kepner’s passion for the game comes through as he writes about Steve Carlton’s slider or how Madison Bumgarner relates to Ralph Terry.
I distinctly remember this book on the required reading list going into high school and I was the only one in my class that enjoyed the W.P. Kinsella classic. The only fiction book in this post, the novel was eventually adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, and it’s one of my personal favorites.
Figured I’d put this one in both because it’s a personal favorite and the Yankees are going to be playing at the Field of Dreams in August. If you read it, they will come.
After having an MRI a few days ago that showed no ligament damage, Aaron Hicks was still not feeling right. So, Hicks sought out a second opinion from Dr. Neil ElAttrache in California. Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Hicks was recommended a few weeks of rest before a re-evaluation, which all but ends his 2019 season. Maybe there’s some slim chance he’ll be available in the playoffs, but don’t count on it. And definitely don’t expect to see him before the regular season ends.
Most jarring about this news is that Tommy John surgery is on the table. Although it wasn’t prescribed now, Sherman notes that it could be required if there are no improvements from rest. Seems odd considering the Yankees said there’s no structural damage, but what do I know.
There are all sorts of ramifications from not having Hicks this year and potentially a chunk of next season should he go under the knife. In the present, it means counting on Brett Gardner in center field the rest of the way. I’m comfortable with that, but the Yankees have no depth at the position thereafter. Mike Tauchman is out for the year too, which basically leaves the Yankees with Cameron Maybin. Of course, Maybin has been banged up of late as well. Hopefully, Gardner can stay on the field because it would be difficult to try much else in center field this season.
James Paxton’s resurgence is not just about his curveball
But it’s not just the knuckle-curve that’s made Paxton’s fastball find better results toward the end of the season. The knee injury Paxton suffered in May, he said, kept him from driving his delivery toward the plate, but he is not feeling the effects of that now.
“There was a time when I was really struggling with my knee,” Paxton said. “I don’t think I had the life on (the fastball) that I wanted. I wasn’t using my legs the right way, but now I feel I’m able to get into my legs and I have no problem with that knee and I can really drive through the fastball.”
That makes plenty of sense, right? Look, there’s no doubt his refined pitch mix has helped, but health is also something we may have discounted when he was having a hard time. It could have been part of his issue with allowing first inning runs — perhaps getting his knee good and loose took him longer than usual at the expense of his first inning of work.
The Baseball Prospectus prospect staff called out a few breakout candidates next season (subs. required). Pitcher Luis Medina is one of them. Though Medina is still somewhat of an enigma, he finished the season really strong and has an incredible skillset. And, after a slow start to 2019, he closed it out on fire. In his last 8 starts, here’s what Medina did: 45 2/3 innings, 63 strikeouts, 29 hits, 15 walks, and 1 home run allowed. All that was good for a 1.77 ERA. Most promising, though, had to be his reduced walk rate.
Chance Adams and Domingo Germán on their curveballs
If you want to nerd out a little bit on pitch grips, Fangraphs’ David Laurila collected some insights on how Chance Adams and Domingo Germán developed their curveballs. In college, Adams moved from a more traditional curveball grip to a knucklecurve. Germán’s grip is unconventional too, apparently.
One thing that really stood out from the pictures within are just how long Germán’s fingers are. He makes the baseball look like a golf ball, especially in comparison to the photos of Adams’s grip.
Adams has yet to break through in the big leagues just yet, but he does have elite curveball spin going for him (93rd percentile). And, as he notes in Laurila’s post, his breaking ball is a little more slurvy which jibes with the movement numbers. His curve’s horizontal movement is 7.1 inches more than average. That’s a top ten mark in the majors.
The Yankees and Twins will meet again tonight at 8:10 pm for the rubber match of the three-game series between the two first-place teams. It’s a potential playoff matchup, too. Last night’s game was an instant classic and not one many of us are likely to forget anytime soon.
Before then, though, let’s all take a deep breath, grab another cup of coffee (games that end at 2am suck!), and catch up on some news and notes from around Yankeeland.
Here’s something I didn’t know: J.A. Happ has been the Yankees’ best pitcher in July. I repeat: J.A. Happ has been the Yankees’ best starter in July. Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. But check it out:
Huh, would you look at that? Happ has a 2.87 ERA (2.91 FIP) with 10+ K/9 in 15.2 innings pitched in July. That, coupled with a finally-declining HR rate (in both HR/9 and HR/FB%), have combined to make him the Yanks’ most valuable starter in terms of fWAR this month despite throwing the fewest innings in the non-opener category.
That’s actually very encouraging and something I’d missed entirely. It’s obviously an extremely, extremely small sample, but hopefully it’s the start of something. Happ did have a 111 ERA+ in the ALE in his last 5 seasons before 2019, so there’s a recent track record here. It would be nice for him to keep this forward momentum rolling and build on it by giving the Yankees some length this evening. Lord knows they need it after last night.
According to ESPN’s Jon Morosi, the Yankees have been in contact with the Arizona Diamondbacks about SP Robbie Ray. Check it out:
The 27-year-old Ray is having a nice season in Arizona (3.95 ERA, 31% K rate, etc.) and is an interesting but uninspiring potential trade candidate. I’ll break him down in more depth in the coming days, so not going to go too much into it here, but he’d likely be a solid innings-eater in New York. That’s not nothing. Anyway, just some food for thought.
FanGraphs’ Trade Values
Each season around this time, FanGraphs publishes a series in which they rank some of the top MLB players and establishes their trade value. You can check out the whole series here. It’s a fun exercise, though I don’t know how Trout isn’t #1 on this list every year. I know his contract, but I don’t care. There is Trout and there is everyone else. That’s just how it is.
Anyway, three Yankees made the list on the top 50 most valuable trade chips in baseball, and you can probably guess them: Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sánchez.
Gleyber, unsurprisingly, came in the highest at 12. If I’m being honest, that seems a bit low for the 22-year-old megastar in the making who just keeps getting better and is under team control for 4 more seasons after 2019, but hey–maybe I’m a biased source here. (Ed note: I am a biased source here.) Honestly, as yourselves: for which players would you trade Gleyber? I’m not sure that there are 11.
Judge and Gary came in at 15 and 46, for what it’s worth. Check it out for yourself and get super mad about it. That’s what happened on Twitter, from what I saw, because of course it is.
Baseball America Top 30
Baseball America updated their Top 30 organizational prospects. There aren’t many surprises. That means that Seigler isn’t in the Top 10, which isn’t surprising but remains disappointing. Hopefully he can turn around his season in Staten Island soon enough. It’s behind a paywall, so I won’t give too much away, but here’s the top 10:
Gil is having himself one hell of a season, and it’s great to see him getting some love in the rankings. Views’ son, Deivi Garcia, also comes in number 1 overall. No surprises here.
We covered the Hall of Fame here at Views, and Steven even was lucky enough to go up to Cooperstown last weekend, but I wanted to pass along a very fun and informative article by ESPN’s Sam Miller about Mariano.
Frankly, you guys should all be reading everything Sam writes, as I think he’s the best baseball writer in the business. I think this Mariano article is a perfect example why: he conducts a fun thought exercise in which he asks if postseason-only Mariano or regular season-only Mariano are Hall of Famers.
In his trademark, thorough way, he proves what we here at Views knew all along: that Mariano is the greatest, and that there will never be another like him. Just don’t ask us about his politics, and we won’t ask you about them either, okay? Deal? Deal.
Today at 1:30 pm, Yankee legend Mariano Rivera and Yankee great Mike Mussina will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. They’ll be honored alongside Phillies/Blue Jays great Roy Halladay, Mariners great Edgar Martinez, and Cubs great Lee Smith, and Orioles great Harold Baines. That’s a pretty great collection of talent right there. Should be a fun day in Cooperstown.
Mariano, of course, is the most dominant relief pitcher of all time and the first-ever unanimous Hall of Fame inductee. There are no shortage of mind-boggling figures out there to illustrate Rivera’s incredible career, but I love a good excuse to fawn over Mariano, so here are a few:
His career 205 ERA+, which ranks him against his peers by adjusting for league/park factors, is the highest all-time among all pitchers. (Clayton Kershaw and Pedro Martinez rank 2nd and 3rd all-time, at 158 and 154, respectively.)
His career 56.59 WPA ranks 1st among relievers and 5th out of all pitchers, placing him behind just Warren Spahn, Greg Maddux, Lefty Grove, and Roger Clemens and just ahead of Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson.
His career 33.63 Situational Wins Saved (Win Probability Added/Leverage Index) ranks 1st among relievers and 21st all-time among all pitchers, just 0.02 behind fellow inductee Roy Halladay despite 1,466 fewer career innings pitched.
His 652 career saves ranks 51 higher than 2nd place Trevor Hoffman, 174 more than 3rd place and fellow inductee Lee Smith, and 215 more than 4th place Francisco Rodriguez.
In 141 postseason innings pitched, Rivera owned a 0.70 ERA, allowed just 86 hits, 13 earned runs, issued just 21 walks, recorded 42 saves, and allowed only 2 home runs.
He won 5 World Series, recording the last out in 4 of those victories. He is also the only man in MLB history to throw the final pitch in 4 consecutive World Series (1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001).
I could go on, and on, and on, and on, of course. There was simply nobody like Mariano Rivera. Jay Jaffe’s Hall of Fame case on FanGraphs is a read to which I find myself returning quite often, so check it out yourself if you haven’t already. A-Rod also spoke with ESPN about playing with Rivera this week, which was fantastic. Check that out, too.
Mike Mussina had a mighty impressive career in his own right, though he was far from the clear-cut case that Mo was. His road to Cooperstown was winding and long, but plenty of sabermetric-minded writers and fans advocated for years for his inclusion. I have been a big proponent of Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame candidacy for years, and it was a lot of fun to watch his vote percentage climb over the years.
And let’s be clear: Mussina is absolutely deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown. His career, which was often marked by near-misses and close-but-not-close-enough, was made up of nearly two decades of consistent, dominant performance in the steroid-era American League East. Moose was my favorite pitcher on the mid-2000s team (a formative era for me, personally) and I’m psyched to see him get this honor today. Again, Jay Jaffe really went deep into Mussina’s candidacy this year (and led the charge for years), so check that out.
These two great Yankees will receive one of the highest professional honors of their life today alongside some of the esteemed competition. For those of us not in Cooperstown today, we can check out the festivities at www.baseballhall.org, which will show the ceremony via webcast.