Mailbag: Concern About James Paxton, Zack Britton in Extras, Aaron Judge’s Injuries, Ma and Pa Pinstripe

Happy Friday, everyone. We’re now less than a week away to Opening Day, and now we even have a venue for the Yankees’ first game. Imagine that. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to have some baseball to watch – even the intrasquad games are comforting – but I just hope it can work. Adding in travel schedule, plus all of the additional personnel, is where this whole thing will fall apart if it’s going to. We’ll see, I guess.

Anyway, four good mailbag questions today. As always, drop us a line at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com if you have questions for a future edition. We answer our favorites every Friday.

Twitter User CouldntCareBear Asks: Should we be worried about James Paxton? I know it was only an intrasquad game but 2 HR’s in the 1st inning?

Not yet – or at least not for that reason. I’m not really focusing on intrasquad results, even at this late point in camp. There’s two sides to the coin here, right? Paxton gave up two home runs on Wednesday (bad) but Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge hit them (good). That makes it a bit more challenging from an analytical POV.

Anyway, for pitchers, I’m more interested in their workload, how their stuff looks, and what their velocity is. That’s where it’s more reasonable to be concerned about Paxton. He is recovering from back surgery, and while he’s going to be ready for Game 2 of the season, that is always cause for concern.

And, as I noted yesterday, Paxton’s having some predictable issues for a man in his situation. He’s been working to correct an issue with his delivery and his velocity still isn’t where he wants it to be. That’s more concerning to me than any results in camp. If there’s anything to be worried about, it’s that.

Now, with that said, I’m not losing any sleep here. He says he’s fixed the delivery issue and also explained away the lack of velocity. On the one hand, what else is he going to say? But, on the other hand, the Yankees slotted him in to Game 2 of the season despite other options. That means they’re confident Paxton will be A-OK next week. If they feel good about it, I do too – but I’m still going to be watching his upcoming exhibition game closely.

Dave Asks: Will the Yankees consider holding Zack Britton for the 10th inning in tie games given his ground ball ratio and the new extra inning rules?

This is an interesting idea that came during a discussion of Adam Ottavino’s potential extra innings vulnerability. The idea would be to hold Britton for extras given his extreme ground ball rates. Aaron Boone certainly has other capable weapons in a tie game, and perhaps this would be a way to maximize Britton’s unique skillset. As Derek noted earlier this week, the man just does not surrender fly balls:

That could matter a lot. With the new extra innings rule, teams are going to bunt a ton. That means we can expect a man on 3rd with 1 out in many cases. There is certainly some value in having a guy on the hill who is far less likely to surrender a sac fly than anyone else. It also opens up the option of intentionally walking whoever is up, putting runners on the corners with 1 out, and going for the double play.

That strategy comes with obvious risks – putting runners on in tied or close games is not preferable – but it’s at least something to consider. Now, do the Yankees want to hold Britton for the ideal situation? I don’t think so. (It also might not even be the ideal situation, as a high K% guy is preferable.) Always use your best arms as soon as possible – something Britton knows all too well – and that’s what the Yankees should do. Depending on the situation, though, it could work. And it’s something the Yankees could consider depending on who is available and when, but likely won’t come into play until Chapman returns. I’m fine with that.

Jonathan Asks: MLB history is full of terrific players whose careers were ruined by injuries. Greg Bird was a recent example of just such a player. For those of us who are more senior, the Brooklyn Dodgers (remember them?) had a young star outfielder Pete Reiser who kept running into walls and injuring himself, eventually ending a very promising career. Is Aaron Judge another Pete Reeser?

Let me start here by saying I love the reference. It prompted me to lookup Reiser, who I’d never heard of before this, and that guy had a fascinating, sad career. He also missed three years for World War II service in addition to his apparently chronic injuries. Still, he hit .295/.380/.450 (128 OPS+) in 10 seasons that included 3 top 10 MVP finishes. Not bad!

I’ll take your word on the root cause of his injuries, too, because I think that makes this a better question (and comparison) than simply asking if Judge is “injury-prone.” Judge’s most recent injury – “stiff neck” notwithstanding – came from him laying out in a meaningless game in September. He broke his rib on this play:

Ouch! Another prominent injury of his came on a HBP in 2018 and a banged up shoulder from hard play in 2017. These are not “made of glass” injuries, despite what the Twitterati may say. And it’s not going to change anytime soon: “You break a bone in your ribs from diving, trying to make a play for your pitcher, get hit in the wrist by a pitcher – it’s just freak things. I’m going to keep playing this game hard, and that’s all I know,” Judge said on Wednesday.

The point is that it’s premature to call Judge injury prone. He has battled injuries every year in his short career, sure, but I think they’re freak things. Maybe Judge will be perpetually hurt and I’ll look dumb for this. Certainly wouldn’t be the first time. But Judge is certainly no Greg Bird, and his injuries haven’t been as persistent Reiser’s. Let’s hope he stays healthy all year and next. Then we can finally put this to bed.

John Asks: John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman are the soundtrack of summer for our family of six Yankees fans. Have you heard if John and Suzyn will be broadcasting home and away games this season?

The rules for broadcasting are understandably different in 2020. There is a limit to the number of media members allowed in the park for a game. This is a good thing, given the pandemic. TV broadcasters are not traveling. That’s a universal rule. Radio is supposedly exempt. This is all still a work in progress.

For our purposes, it doesn’t matter. John and Suzyn will call home games as usual but won’t travel. (Again, that’s good, given their age.) Don’t fret, though: they’re still calling road games. They’re just doing it remotely from Yankee Stadium. Weird? Yes. But Ma and Pa Pinstripe will still be calling every pitch of the season this year, however long it lasts.


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1 Comment

  1. JG (Ben Francisco)

    Well Judge looks like he’s fine now at least

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