Happy Friday, everyone. It’s a good one: the Yankees took two out of three from the Astros. I wish that they won yesterday, of course, but the bullpen was due for a clunker eventually. Still, it was a good series. Now the Yanks will get ready to take on the Nationals for a three-game home stand before an off-day on Monday.
Before that, it’s time for another mailbag. Four good questions today. As always, send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org – we choose our favorites every week on Friday morning. Let’s get to it.
Mike Asks: The Yanks seems to get the bases loaded pretty frequently of late, but I still feel like they don’t really seem to get the big hit – Judge grand slam last week aside. My question is, how are the Yanks doing compared to league average in terms of loading the bases, and relatedly, how do they do in terms of driving in runners in that situation?
This is an interesting case. Much like how every fan thinks their team strikes out too much, I think every fan believes that their team is below-average with the bases loaded – even the best offenses make a ton of outs, and bases loaded opportunities are uniquely exciting moments, so it can easily feel that way. In 2021, the Yankees are pretty much hitting league-average with the bases juiced, if you can believe it:
- League Average: .276/.332/.452, 25% K rate
- Yankee Offense: .293/.311/.439, 25% K rate
In fact, the Yankees have a higher batting average than the league with the bases loaded. I wouldn’t have guessed that! At the same time, there’s less power, which gets to the root of this question. The Yankees are a powerful team and are equipped like nearly none other to turn a bases loaded situation into 4 runs. Every time they don’t, and, well – it’s frustrating at worst and disappointing at best. It’s not surprising this is the case. The team really wasn’t Yankees weren’t hitting with that much power until recently. Stands to reason that would be universal in all situations.
But the bases loaded complaint has been something of a common chord over the years. It is definitely not true when you zoom out a bit. The Yankees absolutely mash with the bases loaded. Check out the league average line with the bases loaded since the beginning of 2019 compared to the Yankees’ performance:
- League Average: .272/.322/.455, 23% K rate
- Yankee Offense: .322/.355/.536 17.6% K rate
That will do, I’d say. Their wOBA with the bases loaded, in fact, is 5th highest in baseball over the stretch. If you want to see what futile looks like with the bases loaded, look no further than Tampa Bay, who hits .232/.276/.358 in such situations. It’s the worst mark in the league. Now that is what I call ineptitude!
Anyway, if we check these figures again in a few weeks, I’m sure the bases loaded power will be there, too – just like it has been in years past. I mean, they’re already pretty good in those situations. Plus, they can do this at any time:
Rich Asks: I noticed while watching Tuesday’s game against the Trashtros that Gleyber’s throws to first seem to be a lot simpler/cleaner. Specifically, the time the ball is in his glove is less than the time he sets to throw with the ball in his hand. There’s no hesitation or double clutching or fumbling for the ball. As a result, his throws have appeared more accurate. Does the eye test hold up over the last couple of weeks?
I think so. It’s hard to quantify fielding over such a small sample – honestly, I still struggle to trust defensive metrics generally – but I do think that Torres has looked much, much smoother and confident in the field right now. He will likely never be a true Gold Glove caliber defender in the infield, but that is okay – as Derek outlined when Gleyber was really struggling, he doesn’t need to be. He just needs to be competent and hit.
I do think he’s turned the tide defensively, at least moving into competent range. According to Statcast, he’s cost the Yankees two runs defensively, which puts him 23rd out of 32 qualifying shortstops. His -2 OAA ranking ranks 20th. These are both significantly better than it would have been a few weeks ago. Again, it’s not great, but it’s something. He also turned in a pretty slick play the other day, ranging to his left:
Pretty nice! That will do the trick. I think it’s definitely true, regardless of how good he’s been overall, that Gleyber is not making mistakes on the easy plays anymore. That alone is progress, and I hope he keeps building on it.
Freddie Asks: What’s your take on the return of Severino? I know it’s hard to predict how a guy will return from TJS, but if you had to guess do you think he can contribute this year?
Hard to project, as you note, but I’m very confident. I think that three seasons of injury have spoiled our memory of what was one of baseball’s best pitchers in 2017 and 2018. And he was really pretty good in 2019, too, allowing just 6 H and striking out 17 in 12 innings of work. He also didn’t allow a (regular season) HR despite the rocketball. The big issue, as we all remember, was that he didn’t have much command and he was walking the farm…but he also didn’t have a proper rehab assignment.
Will we get this Severino again? I don’t know. Tommy John is fickle, of course. Many pitchers do not return to their pre-TJS norm. On the other hand, many do. So it’s a real “time will tell” situation. I am confident, though.
It’s super easy to dream on Severino’s stuff. Super easy. When he’s on, he’s electric. That alone is a good start. Adding to it is the fact that he will have several months to get up to speed. He’s facing live hitters next week, and should be rehabbing in June and July, putting him on track for a return to the Yankees around the All-Star Break. That’s 5 full months before October 1, which is when the Yankees really need him to be in tip-top form.
The good thing about the Severino injury rehab is that the Yankees really aren’t counting on him in the regular season. When he returns to the Bronx, they can afford to take it easy with him, build up his strength, and get his sea legs back under him. The point is that he should have plenty of time to iron out the kinks.
His real upside is being paired behind Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Corey Kluber (both of whom have hopefully stayed healthy and effective) for an October rotation. Even if he doesn’t turn into the Severino of old in 2021, he will have a full offseason ahead, too. I think it’s fine to feel confident in Severino. You might even say that the return of the Yanks’ former ace will be the best trade deadline acquisition they could make.
Jason Asks: Do the Yanks take a flier on Albert Pujols?
Nope, though his unceremonious dumping by the Angels yesterday bummed me out. Pujols is one of the players I have ever seen play. His career in St. Louis is inner circle Hall of Fame stuff. We all know it, but it’s worth checking it out again: he had a 170 OPS+ in 3,500 plate appearances across 11 seasons. Truly wild. He ranks 14th all-time in hits, and his 667 home runs is 5th all time, behind just Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds.
He was also pretty good for his first few years in Anaheim, too, despite the reputation – he posted a 138 OPS+ his first year there. The decline was sharp, though, just as many predicted it would be. In a weird twist of fate, Pujols’ best season in an Angels uniform was worse than his worst season in St. Louis. It’s a very odd but incredible career, all things considered. He will be a first-ballot, inner-circle Hall of Famer.
All that said, the Angels were right to move on. Pujols hasn’t performed in years. In fact, he’s been dreadful. Since 2017, he owns a .240/.289/.405 (85 OPS+) line. He’s been getting worse each season, too. This is to say that the Pujols of old is not in there. There is almost no chance that he can help the Yankees, especially not with Luke Voit’s return imminent. There is nowhere for him to play, and he wouldn’t perform. Think about it this way, if he’s not good enough for the Angels, he’s not good enough for the Yankees.