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Mailbag: Bases Loaded, Gleyber Defense, Severino, Pujols

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 viewsfrom314@gmail.com – 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.

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5 Comments

  1. Dani

    Is Pujols’ contract with the Angels the worst non-Chris Davis contract in the history of baseball? In those 10 years he had like 1 above average season, maybe 2 if you’re very generous. It’s like he left St. Louis and stopped playing baseball.

    • MikeD

      It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

      The best. His first five years with the Angels he produced OPS+s of 138, 116, 126, 118 and 113, for a 127 average. Comfortably well above average production for a 1B/DH type. His first year he cranked out 50 doubles and 30 HRs, one of three 30+ HRs years, including on with 40 during that span. He had four seasons with 100+ RBIs in his first six years and an All-Star appearance. Five of his first six years he played in 150+ games. Showing up and having health is a very underrated skill, although one Yankee fans should appreciate based on the last few seasons. So Pujols in his first five years averaged 3 rWAR with that 127 OPS+. Can’t argue with that.

      The worst. There’s no way around it; he’s been bad the second half of the deal, producing an 85 OPS+ and a negative 2 rWAR. There’s nothing good to be said. Even the single 100 RBI year he had during this stretch was mostly eyewash. Mostly.

      Part is perception. Even at his best as an Angel, he was a far cry from the inner-circle HOFer on the Cardinals. That said, he was still productive, so it’s difficult for me to say that a player who produced for five years holds one of the WORST contracts ever, but I will say it was a bad contract. Compare that with Davis. Has he had even a good season under this extension? Ellsbury? Played four seasons out of seven. He had almost 9+ WAR, but he basically was awarded half of that just for standing in CF based on how WAR is calculated. Miguel Cabrera’s deal is still going, with another $64M owed over the next two seasons. By Fangraphs’ cost-of-a-win formula, it was a bad deal, but Fangraphs’ formula is also a bad formula. It treats big market teams the same as small market teams. It treats all wins the same, whether a team is in contention for a wild card, or a team is in last place. The very nature of MLB is young talent is cheap, older talent more expensive, so applying a single formula to an individual player is pointless. It doesn’t recognize the bifurcated nature of player contracts. The blended average for a team should be considered since the cost of talent varies.

      Last, Arte Moreno was negotiating with FOX on a $3B TV deal while courting Pujols. This has been forgotten but they are connected. He promised big talent and ratings for that TV deal. Pujols was as much a business decision as a baseball decision, one that has paid off nicely for Moreno and has paid off nicely for Pujols.

      Worst contract? No. Bad contract. Ok.

  2. Sam Cramer

    I can only say this anecdotally, but it seems to me that the infield throws from Gleyber and others all improved the moment Jay Bruce stopped playing first base. Not to completely excuse Gleyber, but Bruce’s 1B play was horrendous and I wouldn’t ask him to scoop my ice cream. I can only imagine that got made every other infielder think twice before throwing to first. I love Gleyber and I hope he has a long and productive career where ever he plays. Let’s just hope he defensive miscues were a blip and he settles in for the long haul.

  3. I think those bases loaded stats potentially gloss over a lot of the issues fans have with the Yanks in those situations and similar, rightly or wrongly is TBD. I think it requires a deeper dive. First of all, the actual number of AB’s in those situations is probably relevant. The more often it happens, the more likely your true talent should be revealed. Also, I’d like to see some numbers relating to how many runs do the Yankees ultimately score in innings when they have the bases loaded with no outs, 1 out, 2 outs, versus the rest of the league. Hitting into a DP only counts as an 0 for 1, so it has the same BA impact as a K, same BA impact as a ground out that scores a run, but all have a very different impact on the runs scored that inning. All BA with the bases loaded is not created equal. Also, I think the problem most Yankee fans have with all this is the lack of most of the hitter’s ability to adjust their approach. So looking deeper into the Yankee performance with runners in scoring position and less than two outs is also a curiosity of mine, especially getting the runner in from 3rd with less than 2 outs. I miss the days of Scooter praising guys for hitting to the right side and moving the runner (usually Willie Randolph after Rickey got on, and then stole 2nd, setting up Mattingly/Winfield/Baylor to drive him in. Ok boomer). A perceived lack of situational approach and hitting is what I believe is the bigger issue behind fans’ complaints and concerns with the bases loaded.

    • Also, are one or two guys (DJ?) buoying the Yankees’ bases loaded stats to make the overall team stats look acceptable, yet fans are still justified in being discouraged whenever anyone other than DJ steps to the plate with the bases loaded?

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