Happy Friday, everyone. The World Series is tied at 1-1 and, for this weekend at least, I am the world’s biggest Dodgers fan. I expect that the same is true for all of you, too. Anyway, it’s time for a mailbag after a quick shout out to Derek, who has been really carrying the load here while Randy and I have been tied up with other, real-life things recently. Props to Derek.
We chose four good questions today. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com for consideration. We choose our favorites each week. Let’s get to it.
Dan Asks: Any idea how MLB is handling the luxury tax for 2020? Players only received 37% of their salaries–all payrolls are therefore significantly below the luxury tax threshold.
This has been a confusing process for sure. There was never that much clarity over it. There are a few parts to this. The first is that the CBT was never prorated, despite the fact salaries were. It was still going to be the same and it was going to be calculated taking the annual average value (AAV) of a player’s overall contract. Same as normal, 37% prorated or not.
The second is that this was tied to a specific moment in time. It all depended on if the season concluded or not. If MLB canceled the season before September 1, the 2020 season did not count at all, really. Teams were on the hook for their end of 2019 payroll for CBT purposes. If, as is what obviously happened, they played beyond September 1, then the AAV of the end-of-2020 roster payroll is what counted. That’s what happened, and that means Gerrit Cole’s contract was on the books for the Yanks.
We have four mailbag questions to answer this week. As always, send what’s on your mind to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com for a chance to have your question answered in a future edition. Let’s jump right into today’s selected questions.
A couple of folks ask: How about a Didi Gregorius reunion?
Didi just turned 30 and is a free agent for the second consecutive season. He was quite good for Joe Girardi’s Phillies this season. Gregorius played in all 60 games and hit .284/.339/.488 (116 wRC+/112 DRC+/119 OPS+). He displayed good power (10 homers, .205 ISO), walked 6.3 percent of the time, had a career low (read: best) 11.8 percent strikeout rate. Defensive metrics on his performance, though his reputation at shortstop is sterling. Depending on your WAR metric of preference, Didi was worth +1 WAR in 2020.
Who wouldn’t want to bring him back? He checks a ton of boxes performance-wise, but we also have the benefit of already knowing that he can succeed in the Bronx. I probably should have mentioned him in my piece earlier this week, in fact.
Happy Friday, everyone. We’re just a few hours away from Game 5. In the meantime, let’s open up this week’s mailbag. I’m only answering two questions because so many of this week’s questions related to the offseason after losses in Game 2 and Game 3. Let’s wait until the Yankees are actually eliminated (if they are eliminated!) to discuss the 2021 plans.
As always, shoot your questions to viewsfrom 314 [at] gmail [dot] com. Away we go:
Dan asked/suggested: The Yanks need to rethink their bullpen usage. Considering the no off days and the fact that they have only three good relievers, the Yanks should try using starters out of the pen on their throw days. It worked for the Nats last year. Do you think Masahiro Tanaka or JA Happ are up for it?
I understand this sentiment, but the Nationals didn’t have much of a choice last year. The only reliever Washington could really trust was Daniel Hudson. Sean Doolittle too, I suppose. The Yankees have a deeper bullpen that’s really good on paper, inconsistencies aside. And sure, the lack of off days this postseason makes it more difficult on the Yankees’ traditional relievers, but it’s not as if that makes it any easier for starters as well.
It’s also important to point out that Washington really only did this with Patrick Corbin, who came out of the ‘pen five times last October. Yes, Stephen Strasburg relieved in the do-or-die Wild Card Game and Max Scherzer made one bullpen appearance in the NLDS, but that’s it.
It is Friday, which means it’s time for a (delayed) mailbag. I certainly enjoyed the rest of my day yesterday basking in the glory of the Yanks’ sweep of Cleveland in the Wild Card Series. Over the weekend and especially on Monday, we will have in-depth of all things ALDS. Until then: an ALDS-themed mailbag.
I limited these to the best questions about the upcoming ALDS. We got a bunch of questions about the offseason, but I am filing those away for the future. I am all playoffs right now. Please send us your questions at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com if you’d like to be included in a future edition. We choose our favorites each week.
E Asks: Should Gerrit Cole start both Game 1 and Game 5 (if necessary) in the ALDS?
The short answer here is obvious: yes. It is emphatically yes. We all saw how dominant Cole was on Tuesday and I don’t think there is any doubt that he is the best pitcher on the Yankees. In fact, you could argue that he is the best pitcher left in the postseason. (I would argue this.) This is what Cole looks like, just for a reminder:
That is the guy you want to throw as many innings as possible in the postseason, and the Yankees should do just that. The good news is it will be easy to execute. It lines up well.
Remember, Cole started Game 1 of the Wild Card Series with two days of additional rest. He will start Game 1 of the ALDS with an extra day of rest, as well. Game 1 is on Monday, which lines Cole up to start a theoretical Game 5 on three days of rest. You absolutely use him in that game if it comes to that. There is no question in my mind.
Cole is a true ace. He wants the ball in the big moment and is capable of pushing it to the extreme. And we’ve all seen how he gets when Boone removes from a game. He is the real deal. If the Yankees and Rays make it to a Game 5, then you start Cole and don’t think twice about it. Hopefully, though, the Yankees have long clinched by then.
Dan Asks: The Yankees’ bullpen is clearly not as good or deep as it was last year. Additionally, the lack of playoff off-days will make it impossible to use the same relievers each game. Do you see that changing how Boone will manage going forward? For instance, I can’t see the merit of pulling a starter after 3 innings in a non-elimination game, under these circumstances. To me, the best bet is counting on our starters to get 5-6 innings per game and going from there (even if that means them giving up runs in some early jams).
We will have a lot more to say about this over the weekend and on Monday, as I think it’s one of the burning questions of the new format. Teams won’t be able to use their bullpens quite the same way as they have in the past few postseasons. The Yankees are no different.
That said, I don’t think it will change that much, honestly. These are still playoff games and there is absolutely no point in giving up a game to plan for tomorrow. That is a loser’s mentality and I don’t think that the Yankees should go that route. You play to win the game you’re playing and you deal with tomorrow tomorrow, especially when you only need to win three times to advance. That means using your highest-leverage pitchers in the highest-leverage spots, assuming they’re available. That’s why you have them.
In other words, if Tanaka or Happ or whoever get hit around and fall behind early with no sign of turning it around, take them out of the game right away. I don’t care if it’s the 2nd or 3rd inning. I was tough on Boone yesterday, but he did go to Britton at exactly the right time on Thursday. He also had no problem pulling Tanaka in Game 1 of the ALCS last year in order to go to the pen. There’s little reason to expect this to change.
Now, the Yankee pen hasn’t been quite as formidable as we expected. Maybe that means he will want to push starters more. I don’t know. All I know is he shouldn’t hold relievers back to plan for tomorrow. That is how you end up never using your best arms. Besides, the Yanks have a horse in Gerrit Cole who should soak up a significant portion of innings in two of the five games.
Got a few questions to answer as we head into the final weekend of the regular season. Before we dive in, remember to send your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com for a chance to be included in a future mailbag. Now, to this week’s questions:
A few people asked: What does the Yankees’ 2021 rotation look like?
People sure love to talk about next year’s team when this season isn’t over, huh? Nonetheless, I’ll oblige.
As you likely know, the Yankees can lose Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and JA Happ in free agency this offseason. That leaves a number of holes to fill, though the team does have enough big league caliber starters to fill out a staff. It just may not be as good as this year (or before this year). The players under contract for 2021: Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo Germán, Deivi García, Clarke Schmidt, and Michael King.
Of course, there are caveats with the seven pitchers I just rattled off. Severino is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will start the 2021 season on the injured list. Germán will have just finished his suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy, so who knows how much rust he will have to shake off. Montgomery was a roller coaster this season. King was terrible. Schmidt will have just one big league start to his name entering 2021. At least Cole and Deivi looked great.
Now, if all goes well, that group could look pretty good by 2021’s end! Cole and Severino could make for a formidable one-two punch. García and Schmidt have a ton of upside. Germán and Montgomery are more than capable back-end guys, with the former having shown flashes of better than that in 2019.
That said, count on the Yankees reinforcing the rotation this year. For one, I’d bet on Tanaka’s return, but I expect Paxton and Happ to depart. Don’t expect any free agent splurges like Trevor Bauer to replace those guys, though. A trade or middle-market free agent (Kevin Gausman? Marcus Stroman? Mike Minor?) signing seems more likely. Here’s what I envision as the Yankees’ ideal rotation come Opening Day 2021:
By season’s end, you can slot in Sevy. Forget about who that boots from the staff as that sorta thing always seems to sort itself out. Injuries and unexpected performances happen.
Paul asks:Should Luke Voit’s contract be extended?
Everyone at this here blog loves Voit, but this answer is a pretty easy no. Voit turns 30 in February and won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season. It stinks for the first baseman, but he was a late bloomer who won’t hit the open market until his mid-thirties. That leaves the Yankees very little motivation to extend him beyond 2024 at the moment.
Voit’s now a lifetime 138 wRC+ hitter in over 1,000 big league plate appearances and should still get paid fairly well in arbitration. He’s going to be super-two eligible this offseason and should get a nice raise over the near league-minimum pay he’s gotten over the last couple of seasons. More traditional stats like home runs and RBIs pay in arbitration, and Luke’s got those aplenty.
Aside from age and team control considerations, I think Voit’s position and health are detractors from any extension. I just don’t see much of a reason to lock up a 1B/DH type when the team already has a number of those guys on the roster already. Additionally, though Voit has played through “foot stuff” this season, I can’t help but worry about his health over the long run. Last year’s oblique injury really held him back too.
Dan asks: I recall speculation before the season started that players who were on teams that were clearly eliminated would be compelled to opt-out, to avoid playing in meaningless games. Obviously, that hasn’t happened. Are you surprised at all?
I’m a little surprised, but I think that there are two big reasons we haven’t seen a bunch of opt-outs.
First, The expanded playoffs have definitely played a big part here. 21 of the league’s 30 teams are still alive with just three games remaining. Had the league stuck to 10 playoff teams for this season, perhaps we’d see a lot more guys bowing out early.
Additionally, perhaps players have become more confident in the league’s health protocols as the season’s gone on. The amount of positive tests and team-wide outbreaks has slowed down the stretch. Earlier this season, it was a lot easier to imagine players dropping out as playoff hopes dwindled because of the numerous positive tests and postponements.
All that said, one high profile player has opted out this week: Andrelton Simmons. The Angels (26-31) are technically still alive too, though it’ll take a lot going right for them to overcome the Astros (29-28) for second place in the AL West.
Jeremy asks: Gio Urshela is the man. I’m hoping you can help me understand something about his advanced stats (and advanced stats in general). His Exit Velo (86th percentile), xBA (98th), and xSLG (86th) are elite. Why are those stats so high when his Hard Hit% (56th) and Barrel% (48th) are fairly average? His K% (90th) is pretty elite but I feel like that only explains part of the xBA and not much of anything else. Is it more so because his GB%/FB%/LD% mix (38.3%/19.2%/38.3%) is seemingly much better than the MLB average (45.3%/21.9%/25.7%)?
It’s definitely strange that Gio’s hard hit percentage and barrel percentage aren’t up to snuff with his average exit velocity. I do think that Jeremy is on the right track with the batted ball type mix, but there’s one other thing I’d like to add.
Gio’s distribution of batted ball quality is excellent. He may not have a ton of hard hits or barrels, but he almost never makes weak contact. He also doesn’t get on top of the ball too often either. Further, the “under” or “flare/burner” category isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many of those are bloopers that dunk in. Better than a weak hit or chopper that’s almost an automatic out.
We should also keep in mind what this means for Gio’s hard hit and barrel percentages. Remember, a hard hit ball is 95 MPH or greater exit velocity in any direction. Grounders, pop-ups, or line drives can all get the same treatment under hard hit percentage. So just because Urshela isn’t great there doesn’t mean his exit velocity and xStats are inflated. Rather, it appears that Urshela’s distribution of hit quality helps him in the exit velocity department, while his launch angle helps him rarely hit into easy outs.
As Jeremy noted, Gio hits grounders well below league average and hits liners well above league average. Consider that with his hit quality distribution and elite bat-to-ball skills and you can see why Urshela’s had so much success.