Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees have returned to the Bronx and that means it’s time for the return of our mailbag. Exciting! It’s been a while, but it is good to have baseball to talk about again. I’m sure everyone else feels the same way.
If you have any questions, please send them to our gmail at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We choose our favorites each week and answer them on Friday. Today, we have six good questions. Let’s get right to it.
Iron Mike Asks: In a 60 game series, what statistical records would the this Yankees roster be most likely to beat, i.e. DJ batting over .400 or most K/9 over a full season for a bullpen?
This is a good but tough question. We’re going to have to really change our point-of-view for a “dominant season” this year. Just check out this list of 60-game or fewer season “records” to get a sense of that. So, whatever record we’ll see will probably be something “boring” like K% or at-bats per home run. Something where a short, torrid stretch can really make a difference. I’m going to go with AB per HR. Barry Bonds, of course, holds the single-season record with a HR every 6.52 ABs in his record-setting 2001 season. The Yankees have two prime candidates to beat this mark in Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
Let’s start with Giancarlo, who ranks 5th all-time in this category (minimum 3000 PA), hitting a home run once every 13.81 at-bats. The only players better are Jim Thome (13.76), Barry Bonds (12.92), Babe Ruth (11.76), and Mark McGwire (10.61). Wild, right? This makes him a natural fit to break this record.
Not to mention, we’ve already seen Stanton rip off an incredible, Bonds-esque 60-game stretch. It happened in 2017, during his 59 HR season. From June 22 through August 29 of that season, Giancarlo hit .317/.422/.824 (212 wRC+) with an absurd 33 home runs in just 60 games. He had 221 at-bats over that period, meaning he hit one HR every 6.42 at-bats. That’s disgusting, and that mark be the single season record. He’d just eek out ahead of Bonds. Of course, it’s unlikely Stanton will ever be this good again, but he did do it before. It’s at least possible.
The other option, of course, is Judge. He has a HR every 12.9 at-bats in his career (he obviously doesn’t qualify for the list above), which is even better than Stanton. It’s the same as Bonds (!), believe it or not. Also in 2017, Judge hit a HR every 10.4 at-bats, leading the league. An insane stretch from Judge might make a run at this at this record. I’d like to see it!
It’s extremely, extremely unlikely, to be fair. It’s almost certainly not going to happen. But this is the record I think we might see a Yankee break this year. An ideal world has both Judge and Stanton repeating their 2017s, but let’s not get greedy. Just one will do.
Andrew H. Asks: If the most exciting World Series matchup actually happens (Dodgers vs Yankees), who benefits more from the universal DH? Is it the Dodgers who can throw another bat into their loaded lineup or is it the Yankees who don’t need to waste their 9th slot with inexperienced AL pitchers trying to hit?
The correct answer here is both teams. Pitchers hitting is dumb and I will die on this hill. Both the Yankees and the Dodgers benefit from having a real hitter in that slot. Therefore, we win as fans. Everyone’s happy, except for cranks who can’t accept change that first began when [checks notes] Richard Nixon was President of the United States.
It’s tempting to say the Dodgers here – do they need another bat? – but I’m going to say the Yankees. The Dodgers didn’t construct their roster with a DH in mind. The Yankees did. Letting the Yanks go to Chavez Ravine with their normal lineup instead of a handicapped one feels like advantage Yankees, but I’m possibly viewing this through my pinstriped glasses. In any case, though, I don’t think it matters that much. I’d just like to see the Yanks and Dodgers in the World Series. That’d be nice.
Paul Asks: Any idea what the atmosphere is going to be like for games without fans? Organ music, CHARGE calls, etc. Empty seats or some kind of filler (the A’s are letting fans pay to have a cardboard cutout of themselves be in the stands?). It’s going to be weird, but, like, how weird are we talking?
It’s going to be super weird. Dystopian, even. I am excited to watch the Yanks take on other teams and for the games to count again, but I really don’t know what they’re going to feel like. Watching the simulated games, fun as it has been, is extremely weird. It’s the only applicable word. I imagine that those practices are going to be treated differently than real games, at least, but I’m really not sure.
I hope the Yankees don’t do organ music or charge calls, though. That seems to invite a whole new level of dystopia. At the same time, so does playing in a totally empty park, where players would likely hear the announcers calling the games, so who knows? I really don’t know what to expect, but I’m also very ambivalent to the idea of cutout fans in Yankee Stadium. Too weird, even if I get why it’s happening in some places.
For what it’s worth, the Yankees have begun to play music during the scrimmages now, according to Lindsey Adler. That feels like a happy medium. Play some music in the background to fill the Stadium for the players while we still hear the announcers.
James Asks: Do you know how contract incentives will be applied to the shortened season? Doesn’t Happ have an option that vests if he hits a certain number of innings or something? Does that get prorated or is it impossible for him to hit it in 60 games?
J.A. Happ is the big one, as noted here. Under normal circumstances, Happ would need to make 27 starts or throw 165 innings for his 2021 option to vest. That, obviously, is not going to happen in 2020 – but, fortunately for Happ, it doesn’t need to. This is all prorated now: Happ just needs to start 10 games or throw 61.1 innings for his option to vest.
As Derek noted here, this actually feels like a better deal for Happ. He just needs to make one start every six games for the option to vest, which feels very much like it could happen. As with so much else this season, we don’t know how it will play out, but let’s hope that 2020 Happ looks more like 2018 Happ than the 2019 version. (I do think there’s a chance of that happening, believe it or not.)
Bill Asks: Are you surprised Jasson Dominguez, Austin Wells, or any of other valuable prospects who are still far away from the majors didn’t make the satellite team? It seems we have a few guys on the expanded roster who won’t be expected to play for the big club this year, and it’s a shame that the Martian and some other kids won’t be getting hands-on development time.
I’m not surprised at all. That’s because of some of the technical rules at play that are easy to miss. The big one: removing a player from the 60-man roster has actual consequences. Teams can remove players from the 60-man, but any removed player has to clear waivers. That’s true even for non-40-man players like Jasson. If there are a slew of injuries and/or a COVID outbreak, the Yankees would either have to call up Dominguez (or Wells) or lose them entirely. That’s a level of risk the Yankees just won’t take to get a guy a few extra weeks of development. They want to win the World Series, which means only including impact players on the roster.
So, there are real incentives in place that encourages contender teams to roster only players who can help at the MLB level this season. In other words, the Yankees’ 60-man roster makes a lot of sense. I’m sure Dominguez, Wells, and other lower-level prospects will have some sort of development plan in place. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it exists. We’ll find out more soon, if I had to guess.
Eric Asks: My question is about the Rule 5 Draft, do you think there will be any changes to it with the minor league season being canceled or if it isn’t changed do you expect a greater amount of prospects taken in the draft?
As far as we know, there aren’t any substantive changes to the Rule 5 Draft yet. Each December, teams without a full 40-man roster draft non-40-man players from other organizations in the Rule 5 Draft. Eligible players include anyone who signed while 18 or younger who is not on the 40-man roster within five seasons of signing or any player who signed while 19 or older who is not on the 40-man within four seasons of signing.
There are two things important to know about this year’s draft. The first is that there are no changes yet. It will proceed as it normally does in December. The second is players will accumulate service time in 2020 even though they won’t be playing. That’s good news for players, as anyone who would have been Rule 5 eligible in normal circumstances still will be eligible.
As for how it will impact teams’ strategies, I really have no idea. We’ve already seen owners say that they’re not going to spend a lot in the offseason on free agents, so in theory they should be even more interested in securing marginal advantages at the edges to round out rosters. But, at the same time, that same tendency may mean fewer real prospects are even left unprotected. I see both sides here, and I ultimately have no idea. Time will tell.