Mailbag: Playoffs, Player Acquisition, Cessa, Chapman HOF

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Things are all right in Yankeeland, aren’t they? The Yanks have won 9 in a row, they’ve got a commanding lead in the AL East, and they’re in competition for home-field advantage. They are really rolling. Let’s hope they keep this up.

Anyway, time for another mailbag. Five good questions this week. As always, reach out to us on Twitter or Gmail (viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [d0t] com) with your questions. We’ll answer the best ones each week.

Mark Asks: In a perfect world, the Yankees suffer no more injuries and get back all of their players by the end of the season (Stanton, EE, Voit).  Who does Boone put out there for Game 1 of the ALDS?

This is a great question, and one I’ve been thinking a lot about these days as we watch the replacement Yankees continue to just steamroll the league. You know that there will be a significant number of fans arguing that the team is better off with the replacement team–as it relates to Stanton, in particular. The Yankees are good and everyone stepped up, but it’s not the Yankees’ style. Remember how they stuck with Severino and Sánchez last postseason? They put talent first, and I think that’s the right approach. Always put the best team out there, especially in the playoffs.

Anyway, this is the dream lineup for the ALDS, in my opinion:

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, LF
  5. Edwin Encarnación, DH
  6. Luke Voit, 1B
  7. Gary Sánchez, C
  8. Gleyber Torres, 2B
  9. Didi Gregorius, SS

Now, before anyone yells at me, remember: there’s no right or wrong way to compile a lineup that talented. If you say “my lineup is better”, then great. I probably don’t disagree, because not a single one of those players deserves to hit in the bottom half, let alone bottom third. The Yankees are pretty good with their lineup construction as it is, so I’m not worried.

My “dream” lineup is more of a “collection of the ideal players that the Yankees could take into the playoffs healthy.” You give me those 9 guys in a starting lineup for the month of October, and I like my chances as the Yankees, no matter who the other team is. We can only hope.

Yogi Asks: If the season ended today, who do the Yankees send to the mound for Game 1 of the ALDS? Is that the same person YOU would choose? Why/Why not?

This is a related question to the one above, but I actually think this one is a bit more difficult. Tanaka, for example, has historically been great in the postseason–he owns a 1.50 ERA in 30 IP across 3 separate postseasons and 4 opponents. He’s always seemed to be a guy who steps up when it matters most. James Paxton clearly has the stuff to dominate a game, too, and he has looked much better of late. In the playoffs, teams like the Yankees–that is to say, smart ones–typically bet on their talent to perform.

However, I have a hard time not going with Germán, don’t you? I wrote this the other day, but here are Germán’s starts since he returned from his IL stint:

  • July 3 vs. Mets: 6.o IP, 5 H, 1 R, 6 K, 0 BB
  • July 12 vs. Blue Jays: 6.0 IP, 3 H, zeros, 7 K
  • July 18 vs. Rays: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 5 K, 2 BB
  • July 23 vs. Twins: 3.2 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 3 K, 2 BB
  • July 28 vs. Red Sox: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 9 K, 1 BB
  • August 3 vs. Red Sox: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 7 K, 0 BB
  • August 8 vs. Blue Jays: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R (3 ER), 2 K, 1 BB

Germán, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say, has been the Yankees most consistent starter over the last month or so. There’s no doubt about it. I’d have a really hard time not giving him the ball in Game 1, telling him to air it out for as long as he can, and then turning to the super bullpen at the first sign of middle inning trouble.

Hopefully, though, the Yankees get Severino back, Tanaka finds his splitter consistently again, and Paxton stays on a roll. Then the Yankees can consider leaving Germán for later in the series, which would almost feel like a luxury. Hey, a man can dream, right?

Ted Asks: I know that the single July trade deadline has passed, so teams can’t acquire players for the playoffs.  Can you please clarify, if the Yankees wanted to trade for a player just for the regular season, say to eat innings and allow Domingo German and the other starters some more rest, are teams allowed to make trades at all?

No, an MLB player cannot be traded anymore. That ship sailed on July 31 at 4 pm EST. That said, if you want to get technical, the Yankees could trade for a player on a MiLB contract–something I only recently learned–by also trading a player on a MiLB contract. That’s going to be the scrap heap and the Yankees might just prefer one of their already in-house Triple-A arms.

They could also claim a player off waivers, or wait for a player to clear waivers and sign him. That’s how Joe Panik, of Yonkers, is now a hot topic in some circles right now. The Giants released him and now he’s fair game. That could theoretically happen with a SP, too, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. The 2019 Yankees you see now are the 2019 Yankees you’re going to get, and that’s more than fine.

Eric Asks: My question for the week is that since the league has seen Cortes twice, his stats have not been good. With Cessa performing well recently is it possible they do a Green+Cessa(opener/bulk)?

It is possible, yes. And you’re right that Cessa has performed, which I think is something we should say more just because of internet fan hate that guy takes. Here are his stats since June 19: 27.1 IP, 19 H, 5 R (4 ER), 29 K, 7 BB, 4 HR. Too many walks, too many homers, but that’s a 1.32 ERA for those of you keeping track at home. From the last guy consistently in the pen. Not bad!

Here is Cortes Jr. during the same period, by contrast: 26.1 IP, 25 H, 14 R, 21 K, 12 BB, 7 HR. Uniformly worse! That’s a 4.78 ERA, which is closer to average than you think, but a far cry from Cessa’s recent performance.

Now, let’s be clear: neither of these guys are Cy Young candidates. I’m not sure I’m really comfortable counting on either of them. That said, during the rest of the regular season, I don’t see why you can’t give Cessa a “bulk guy” status, at least for a game or two. Recent results are recent results. He’s been performing and Cortes Jr. has not. I could see a change, though I don’t think it really matters all that much.

Jason Asks: Seeing the news that Chapman got his seventh straight 30 save season made me suddenly wonder, is there any chance he will be HoF bound?  He had a really dominant stretch and was a unique player for much of his career (with no one else coming close in terms of velocity).  The sheer freakishness of his peak pitching velocity gives him a special place in baseball history, but is it enough to get him into the Hall?

This is a really great question and one I just love to tackle, even knowing it’s just a bit preliminary. Relievers in Cooperstown is a bit of a complex topic for Hall of Fame watchers, so let’s just start with the basics: Chapman has had a phenomenal career. With Cincinnati, New York, and Chicago, Chapman has thrown 523.1 innings with a 2.27 ERA (181 ERA+) with 266 saves (never once recording fewer than 30 saves in a complete season) and a 40.1% strikeout rate. He has allowed only 295 hits in those innings, more than canceling out his above-average walk rate of 11%, surrendering fewer than 0.5 HR/9 in his career.

He has a 2.31 ERA in 30.1 postseason innings across 10 series and was a key part of the first Cubs World Series championship in over a century, Game 7 meltdown or not. (That meltdown was largely a result of Madden’s absurd workload, in my opinion.) He’s been mostly the same pitcher under pressure and in May.

So, yeah, in raw data, it’s pretty clear that Chapman belongs in the conversation. Factor in his ethos–Chapman routinely touching 101+ back in the day was truly special–and you have the solid foundation of a pitcher deserving of Cooperstown.

But does he deserve it? That is a different question altogether. Jay Jaffe’s JAWS approach, which I find extremely useful in 99% of HoF candidacy discussions, doesn’t really work with relievers. That’s because so many of the top WAR leaders for RP in the Hall of Fame (there are only 8) logged many of their innings as starters, which obscures the value stats.

But we can control for that using the Play Index on Baseball-Reference, which tells us that of all pitchers making at least 90% of their career appearances out of the pen, Chapman’s 16.8 career bWAR ranks 44th all-time. That’s below relievers like Troy Percival, Armando Benitez, Joakim Soria, and John Wetteland. It’s significantly lower than contemporaries like Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Kimbrel and light-years behind other dominant relievers of the bullpen era like Billy Wagner, Joe Nathan, Trevor Hoffman, and, of course, Mariano.

Then there’s the whole DV thing, which I am sorry, but I have to bring it up. There is a character clause, and it has gotten a lot more attention recently. That’s true even with Barry Bonds, who also had DV incidents that few people talk about. I don’t have a HOF vote and almost certainly never will, so I don’t have to make this decision. But it is one each voter will have to make, rightly or wrongly.

So, yeah. Chapman has a case, especially on the ground level. If he wants to join the super-elite club of enshrined relievers, he still has more work to do. A lot more work, in my opinion.

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11 Comments

  1. Rich

    Why does mostly everyone seem to think Hicks should hit in middle of order. If everyone is healthy no way he should bat 3rd. On the other side everyone likes to put Torres down the bottom! This team doesn’t need Stanton back just so he can get filleted by the likes of Verlander and Cole. Need less K’s and more hits with RISP in playoffs. Stanton supplies neither!

  2. dasit

    the single trade deadline is such a bad idea
    it will be frustrating to look at the standings on 7/31 and imagine all the would-be sellers and buyers and players who could have had a magical “cc in 2008” type run

  3. chip56

    The only concern I would have about Stanton is that the guy hasn’t seen live pitching in months. I don’t know that throwing him into the mix against guys like Verlander, Greinke, and Cole and saying “go get ’em big guy” is fair to him at all.

    • Bobby

      This is 100% fair. It almost sets him up for failure. I think it would depend on how much rehab time he has at the big league level—if he gets a month, then it’s a different story. However, time is running out.

      For the purposes of this, though, I assumed best case scenario everywhere, which also would have included Severino at SP for G1.

  4. Tauchman has been great, but there is some underlying analytical data saying there’s luck in this. Gio has been flat out crushing the ball, the expected stats back his play up. I’m looking at the ideal collection of players and having a hard time excluding Gio. But, I also recognize pulling Voit or EE for Gio sounds absurd too. I want the full compliment of players, but it’s nice knowing you have Gio there if one of those 2 don’t get back in time. Would lead to a better defensive lineup.

    • CountryClub

      I know we’re supposed to be assuming everyone will be healthy. And I’ll be happy to be wrong. But, I think it’s a long shot Voit is there come Oct.

    • Dan

      I’d honestly pull Didi for Gio if the playoffs started tomorrow bad everyone was healthy. Play Gio at 3rd, Torres at SS, DJ at 2B. As much as I love Didi, Gio’s flat out been better this year than Didi has ever been.

  5. CountryClub

    If most people are healthy, I’d be surprised if Stanton isn’t the DH. Considering almost all of these players are hitting, going with a strong defensive lineup won’t really hurt the O. I could easily see them putting Urshela at 3b, DJ at 1b and Gardner or Tauchman in left. Obviously, it wouldn’t be for every game. But, that lineup would not surprise me at all.

    • Ben

      You’re gonna leave Voit and EE off for tauchman and urshela?

      • CountryClub

        Not off the roster. But with the way the yanks (and most teams) care about D, I can certainly see a game where they’re both on the bench. Obviously, the odds of everyone being healthy come Oct are slim, anyway.

      • Rich

        If everyone is healthy I would absolutely play Gio at 3rd and DJLM at 1st. Best defense and Gio deserves to play the way he has been hitting. I don’t need to see Voit get caught looking on fastballs on inside corner anymore.

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