Category: Mailbag Page 2 of 12

Mailbag: 2021 rotation, Voit’s contract, COVID-19 opt-outs, and Urshela’s metrics

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:

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. Masahiro Tanaka
  3. Trade/Free Agent
  4. Deivi García
  5. Jordan Montgomery

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.

ComparisonWeak %Topped %Under %Flare/Burner %Solid %Barrel %

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.

Mailbag: Playoff Matchups, Outfield Situation, Domingo Germán, Deivi Garcia, Paxton Trade, & Injuries

Happy Friday, everyone. And what a Friday it is. The Yankees are absolutely rolling and every game looks like it’s a home run derby. I love it. Aaron Boone’s smile there is how I’m feeling all of the time right now.

Anyway, time for a mailbag. We’ve got a ton of good questions today. Please, as always, send your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We choose our favorites every week.

Dan Asks: From a playoff seeding perspective, would you rather the Yanks overcame the Jays and got the 5th seed, playing the Twins in Minnesota, or would you rather the Yanks got stuck at the 7th seed and played Tampa?  

This question was obviously sent in before the Yankees dominated the Jays this week, but my answer would have been the same either way: I want the Yankees to play Minnesota. This isn’t just because of Yankees-Twins playoff magic – would you count on that in 2020? – but because I want to avoid facing Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow in a three-game do-or-die series if at all possible.

I know that Minnesota has been good. Believe me, I do. Kenta Maeda is having a fantastic season. Jose Berrios has great stuff, as does old friend Michael Pineda, and Randy Dobnak has been a surprise as well, even if he’s come back to earth recently. I just would rather take my chances against that rotation than Tampa’s.

To be clear: I am not scared of the Rays. I want nothing more than for the Yankees to play the Rays in the 2020 playoffs. The Yankees are a much better team than them when fully healthy and it will be nice to remind Tampa and their fan of that. But the facts are the facts. And, besides:

Kenny R. Asks: In an ideal world when we get back to full health, how do we keep Frazier and Andújar in this lineup during the playoffs? I can’t see them both playing, and I can only see Frazier getting in if he or Judge slide over to LF.

I don’t think they’ll both even make the playoff roster, which is fine. The fully-healthy Yankees are extremely deep and one of the consequences of that is that talented players are on the chopping block. When fully-healthy, the Yankees outfield in particular is extremely crowded. That said, there is a space in left field that will be open. I think we can confidently say that Giancarlo Stanton will likely be reserved for DH duties come October, and Hicks will man center field and Judge will play in right.

That leaves a space in left field, obviously. Brett Gardner has been hitting the ball much better lately and he has the ~veteran~ experience of playing in the playoffs and winning the World Series. That’s worth something. But the Yanks have already slid Frazier over into left lately. I don’t think that’s an accident, and the way his bat has been playing, coupled with the way the Yankees and Aaron Boone are talking about him, leads me to believe he may just get some left field action in the playoffs. We’ll have to see how they use him in the next week or so to get a better idea.

Jon Asks: Has there been any word on how the Yankees plan to use Domingo Germán in the playoffs, or if they plan to use him at all? I haven’t heard anything about him, but he seems like a weapon that could be useful as a bullpen piece for the postseason.

In theory, yes. He would be a useful bullpen piece. In practice, I don’t think there’s any chance that the Yankees bring him back into the mix for the 2020 playoffs. That went out the window with the 60-game season. In a full 162-game season like normal, we’d have seen Germán at some point. At the very least, we probably would have at least heard something about him.

There’s been no noise about Germán because he’s a non-factor. He isn’t allowed to work out with the team and hasn’t been around them since last September. He had a nice 2019 season before the gross incident but I don’t think he has nearly a long enough track record to warrant rushing him back for the 2020 playoffs. At the earliest, we’ll see Germán again next spring.

Jonathan Asks: I see Deivi is throwing a ton of fastballs and not throwing that many curveballs especially the first time through the order. I know his fastball is sneaky good with deception but when you have a 3,000 RPM+ curveball shouldn’t that be utilized? I don’t expect him to go all Tanaka and throw 70 percent offspeed but why not throw 30% curveballs? Is it just that he can’t throw as many for strikes?

I think there’s more here than just a simple mailbag post. You’re right that Deivi’s curveball is disgusting. To wit:

That is a curveball that I’d like to see him throw as much as possible. And it’s something that typically flows with the Yankees’ anti-fastball philosophy. Or at least the one they’ve deployed in the last few years. It’s still a bit too early. to tell if Matt Blake is an adherent.

For right now, though, I’m not getting worked up about this. Jonathan sent this question during Deivi’s last start, during which he threw the curve under 4% of the time. That definitely seems alarmingly low, but context is key: this was the first time Deivi was seeing an MLB lineup for the second time. In fact, it was two consecutive starts against the Blue Jays. Mixing up his usage makes sense. He and the Yankees want to show that he’s a versatile pitcher who can make adjustments and anticipate the adjustments of his opponent.

I don’t think this was anything more than that. And, to be clear, the approach worked. He had success yet again this week, even when shelving his trusty curve for his new-ish slider and improved change. The kid is so damn impressive. I can’t wait to see his method of attack in his next start.

Andrew H. Asks: With Paxton all but gone for the season, can we declare that we lost this trade? Justus Sheffield only has league average numbers this year, but he’s still healthy, young, and under team control.

I wouldn’t go that far. The impulse makes sense – who doesn’t want to evaluate trades this way? – but it’s not apples-to-apples. The Yankees traded Sheffield for Paxton because they were in a win-now mode and Paxton was probably the best pitcher they could get for Sheffield at that time. To that point, Sheffield only threw 36 innings in 2019, while Paxton was a major contributor to a 2019 Yankees juggernaut. He even started Game 1 of the ALDS and a must-win Game 5 of the ALCS. Both of these were the right decisions, mind you.

The injuries are frustrating and I wish Paxton was around in 2020. I also wish that he was more consistent last year. Still, it’s important to maintain perspective. I don’t think the Yankees were ever high on Sheffield, and while his ERA- looks nice, his peripherals are just okay and I don’t think he’d be a big contributor on this Yankees team. They didn’t lose this trade.

Perhaps a better question is if the Yankees could have used Sheffield to get a better pitcher than Paxton. I personally don’t think so, either at the time or later, but I guess we’ll never know.

Mark Asks: Am I wrong to feel that Aaron Boone seems to be treating this as a 162-game season when it comes to resting players? I am writing this on Sept. 11, and in the 1st game of today’s DH he is “resting” Andujar and Hicks, after the team was rained out yesterday, no less.  I would rather see them in the lineup than Gardner/Tauchman or Wade. Three weeks to go and wins are desperately needed, but I don’t see any sense of urgency on Boone’s part. What is he saving these guys for?

We got a bunch of questions to this effect this week. I understand the frustration. I really do. We all want to see the Yankees A-lineup and we almost never see it. We didn’t in 2019 and we haven’t in 2020. I’m just as annoyed by it as you are. I promise.

But we know what they’re saving these guys for: they’re saving them for the playoffs. I will grant you that the situation changed a lot since you wrote this a week ago. But the doubleheaders are weird. I just can’t bring myself to get worked up over it, especially against Baltimore. The Yankees are so much better than Baltimore even with the B lineup.

In general, though, the Yankees are just always going to prioritize load management until the games really count. Had the Yanks kept losing and were in danger of losing a playoff spot, we’d see that urgency you all want to see. The Yankees didn’t panic when the ship looked like it was on fire, though. They went with their time-tested model. They’ll keep that up moving forward. Judge and Stanton will get rest. So will Torres. Luke Voit probably will, too. The idea is to get those guys healthy and unleash the Murderer’s Row lineup next month. Now that’s something to look forward to.

Mailbag: Game 3 starter, voids from 2019, James McCann in free agency, and short-season evaluations

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Another week, another mailbag to open. Four questions to address today. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We answer our favorites each week. Let’s get to it.

Kenny asks: James Paxton being shut down again is disappointing. If the playoffs started tomorrow, is it absurd to have Deivi García be the third starter after Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka? This would be in lieu of a resurgent JA Happ and a struggling Jordan Montgomery.

To be precise, Paxton won’t throw again for a couple of days after feeling some soreness Wednesday. I wouldn’t say he’s shut down, though things certainly aren’t looking good for him. It’s probably not worth counting on him to contribute much, if at all, the rest of the way.

Now to the question. I’m not so sure the Yankees would go with a traditional starting pitcher in a hypothetical Game 3 in the first round. Remember, it’s a best-of-three series to open up the postseason. There’s a distinct possibility that the Yankees (or any other team) go the opener/bullpen game route instead. Of course, a lot of that depends on how much the ‘pen is used in the first two games of the series. Or, even better, the Yankees would just win those first two games and call it a series.

If the bullpen game isn’t an option, I’d strongly favor Deivi at this point. So no, it’s not absurd to think he’s deserving of it over Happ or Monty. It sure sounds like Aaron Boone believes García can do it too:

“I know he wouldn’t flinch at the opportunity…I’m totally confident, forget the pitching part of it, that he can handle any situation you throw him in. Hard to predict where we’ll be three weeks from now and just what exactly we’ll look like. But he’s certainly putting his name in those conversations because of his performance.”

Happ certainly has pitched better lately (2.59 ERA in last four starts), but I do not love the idea of putting the season in his hands. I’m still scarred from his 2018 ALDS performance, I guess. But it’s not just that. We’ve seen far more bad than good since last year with Happ, and even with a good run of late, who’s to say that he doesn’t have another dud?

Montgomery has pitched himself out of the conversation thanks to his last two outings. He still has time to turn the ship around, but there’s no way he’d get the ball if the season ended today. So, it pretty much comes down to Deivi or Happ in the traditional starter route.

All this isn’t to say that García wouldn’t have a bad game. He’s not invincible, of course. But at the same time, I’d rather lose with a more talented pitcher on the mound. Not a 37 year-old who’s mostly struggled over the last two seasons.

Andrew asks: Not having Encarnación, Maybin, and Didi really hurt the depth of this lineup. Would it be safe to say Didi would be the player that would currently help this lineup that’s been decimated by injuries?

I think that’s pretty safe to say. The combination of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Jordy Mercer have hit .177/.266/.248 in 128 plate appearances this season. Didi, meanwhile, has hit .273/.333/.469 in 160 opportunities for the Phillies. That’s a massive difference! The Yankees middle infield depth is putrid and its something we’ve discussed on this here blog since the offseason. So of course, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu missed time with injuries which forced inferior players to get opportunities.

While Maybin and EE would be nice to have right now, they aren’t missed as much as Gregorius. As bad as Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford have been this year, I wouldn’t say it was totally unreasonable for the Yankees to believe they were good depth for this season. They performed well last year when called upon. Would I have preferred some extra insurance in those spots? Yes, but it’s not as egregious as doing nothing to shore up the middle infield after letting Didi go. Also, consider this: if the Yankees brought back Maybin (or brought in someone else as outfield depth), there’s a chance Clint Frazier is still toiling away at the Alternate Site.

We’ve never seen Wade or Thairo exhibit any success at the big league level. To count on either of them as insurance up the middle was a big mistake. And again, that’s not in hindsight. Wade came into 2020 with a lifetime .197/.268/.298 (53 wRC+) in 241 big league trips to the plate. Estrada carried a .250/.294/.438 (91 wRC+) line last season in 69 opportunities. Even if the Yankees liked those two more than most, to not grab some sort of big league insurance was foolish. If you’re not willing to spend $14 million to bring back Gregorius, OK, but at least do something. How about Cesar Hernandez? José Iglesias?

Richard asks: Do you think the Yankees might have an interest in signing James McCann as insurance this offseason with how Gary Sánchez has struggled the past two years? If so, what would a hypothetical contract look like?

I do think the Yankees will strongly consider adding another catcher this winter. I wrote about this my thoughts piece a few days ago. McCann will probably come at a price above the team’s comfort level, though. I think he gets something along the lines of the Travis d’Arnaud contract. Atlanta signed him for two years and $16 million last offseason.

d’Arnaud got that deal thanks to a strong finish with the Rays last season. He started off slowly with the Mets, got DFA’d, was with the Dodgers for literally one plate appearance, and then was shipped to the Rays. In Tampa Bay, d’Arnaud hit .263/.323/.459 (107 wRC+) with solid defense. That brought him into free agency as a 30 year-old, the same age McCann is for his impending trip to the open market.

McCann’s bat has been really good since last year, but it wasn’t until this year that his defense (particularly framing) vastly improved. That’s quite possibly the result of having elite defensive backstop Yasmani Grandal as a teammate now. Anyway, McCann posted a 109 wRC+ in 476 plate appearances last year and has a 163 mark in 79 this season, so the bat seems pretty good. Pair that with improved glovework and you’re probably looking at the d’Arnaud deal. I don’t think the Yankees will spend that on a catcher to play three times a week. McCann probably wants a full-time gig anyway.

As an alternative, I wonder if the Yankees can pry Tyler Flowers away from Atlanta. He’s been terrific for them since 2016, albeit never really playing much more than 50 percent of the time. Flowers has put up at least 2 WAR annually, mainly from the glove, but the bat isn’t a total zero. He’s got a 118 wRC+ this year in 54 plate appearances, though he’s probably closer to the 88 and 95 marks he put up in the last two seasons. And at 34, he’s probably looking at something similar to the $4 million he signed for this season. The Yankees should be in on something like that.

Eric asks: If you were the front office trying to figure out how to improve the team over the offseason, what are the metrics (or other indicators of performance) that you would take seriously despite the weird season?

You know what: I’m not so sure this short season changes the way teams evaluate players as much as we might think. In this day and age, teams are looking at health, Trackman/Hawkeye/Statcast/Rapsodo data, and scouting evaluations to support decision-making. I don’t think 60 games vs. 162 games changes that.

For example, the Yankees have seen James Paxton without his best velocity all season and he’s now dealing with a flexor strain. That’s got to be a huge red flag for his impending free agency. I presume that’ll be enough for the team to walk away from him this winter.

Then there’s someone like Sánchez, whose .121/.230/.327 line has so many people wanting him out of the organization. And yet, the elite underlying exit velocity, barrel percentage, and hard hit percentage numbers still exist. Is that enough for the Yankees to try to get him right for 2021? Probably.

Ultimately, everything boils down to talent level. Now that teams have metrics that are intended to be a proxy for talent, that’s what they’re gonna keep on using.

Mailbag: Gary Sánchez’s defense, Matt Blake’s performance, Miguel Andújar, and Tyler Wade’s hitting

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Labor Day weekend is here. Hope you all are able to take some time off and enjoy yourselves. Maybe the Yankees can win a few games this weekend for us, too. That’d be nice after last night’s atrocity. Anyway, it’s mailbag day and we have a few questions to respond to. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We answer our favorites each week. Let’s get to it.

Todd asks: Is it safe to say that Sánchez’s one-knee down experiment this year is a bust? Especially with RISP? The dude isn’t the most agile of backstops, and limiting his mobility while in this position does not seem to be optimal. With his arm strength and pop time, he should easily be able to make the throw on any steal attempt. But he has to get better at stopping those pitches in the dirt and holding runners. The one-knee down set up is simply not working, and IMHO, it’s time to move on.

I think it’s far too soon to throw in the towel. Has Gary’s blocking been frustrating this season? Yes, without a doubt. He’s already recorded 4 passed balls and 16 wild pitches this season. Baseball Prospectus’ EPAA ranks him the worst blocker in the game at the moment. Remember, Sánchez had just 7 passed balls and 30 wild pitches in 2019. That came after 18 and 45 a year prior and 16 and 53 in 2017. So it feels like he’s taken a step back. Here are all four of his passed balls this season:

Those are just flat out whiffs. They don’t have anything to do with actually blocking a pitch. That doesn’t excuse anything, of course.

As for the wild pitches allowed, I wonder if the knee-down position does make it more difficult to move laterally and get in position to block pitches in the dirt from side-to-side. For example:

It’s like he’s stuck and has no chance to save some of those pitches from getting passed him. Look, I’m the last person to ask for catching defense advice, but maybe Todd is on to something with regard to this stance while runners are on base. Does the benefit of a few extra framed strikes outweigh the greater risk of wild pitches? My instinct is that the framing is not necessarily worth it in these situations.

By the way, I should note that Sánchez’s framing has improved compared to last year. Per Statcast, his strike rate is up nearly 2 percent from last year. At 48.3 percent, his strike rate is also the second highest of his career (2018, 50.0 percent). He’s exhibited his biggest gains just below the zone, as I think was expected with this new stance.

To bring this full circle, the hope was that bringing in catching guru Tanner Swanson would allow Gary to be good at blocking and receiving at the same time. We haven’t quite seen that happen just yet. Maybe he can’t have the best of both worlds, but I wouldn’t give up on it after just 36 regular season games.

Now, for all the talk about catcher defense, the most frustrating part of Sánchez’s season has been his hitting. We can talk about Gary’s difficulties behind the plate until we’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter if he’s going to hit .130/.245/.337 (59 wRC+). I can’t help but wonder if the constant emphasis on tweaking his catching style has taken away from his offensive development. Maybe just let him play without giving him too much to think about? I don’t know.

Jack asks: I know it’s one of the most difficult things in baseball to quantify, but how do you think Matt Blake has done as pitching coach? For me, this was one of the thing I was most interested to follow during the season (back when we thought this was going to be a normal season). It feels like basically all of the pitchers on the team have either regressed or gotten worse. Paxton was the perfect case – can a pitching coach come in and help a star pitcher fix his mechanical problems? The small sample size results are not inspiring.

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It’s way too soon to evaluate Blake. Yes, it’s been frustrating to watch James Paxton struggle, but his missing velocity can’t be pinned on Blake. Paxton’s on the injured list now, after all. Has Gerrit Cole struggled of late? For sure, and Blake is undoubtedly working to get him back on track. By the way, Cole has nothing but good things to say about working with the team’s new pitching coach:

“I think (Blake’s) got a large tool belt,” Cole said Tuesday before the Yankees’ 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. “He’s been around enough people to be able to talk simple pitching like stay back or get to the baseball. And he’s also there to say how or why a pitch is breaking a certain way, or how or why a pitch has a predictive value, or why you would put more weight on this pitch in this situation or not.

“He touches kind of all atmospheres to the realm, I guess. Maybe he might be a bit behind in terms of mound visits and time one-on-one with the pitchers and game management and kind of reading how his guys are operating through the game, but of course (manager) Aaron (Boone) is there to lend his set of eyes during that, too.

“But (Blake’s) going get that experience sooner or later, and he’s getting that experience at a premium level. So he’s getting premium knowledge, and I think by and large when it’s all said and done, he’ll have a really unique tool belt in the sense that he can really kind of do everything.”

Aaron Boone basically confirmed what Cole said:

“Everything I’ve seen suggests makes me think he’s gonna be really good at this,’’ Boone said. “I think he gets tagged with the analytical, new-age stuff, but there’s a lot of old-school in him, too, with how he looks at things and approaches things.

I know that Cole nor Boone are going to throw him under the bus in public, but at the same time, it’s especially good to hear Cole elaborate on why Blake has potential to be good at this gig. There may be some things that he’s still adjusting to, such as mound visits as Cole suggests. But to this point, there’s not much else we can do other than take the team’s word on Blake.

Iron Mike asks: Are we reaching the point where we should consider accepting Andújar’s defensive liability for his offensive upside in LF? The Gardner/Tauchman showing has been abysmal offensively.

I’ll make this one quick: yes, but he also doesn’t have to play left field right now either. Andújar can be the full-time designated hitter while we wait for Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to return. Mike Ford (.169/.265/.339) is really struggling and has played almost everyday of late. Truck Month was fun last September, but I’m concerned that a lot of his production last year came against inferior pitching during expanded rosters. Maybe that’s worth investigating separately. Now, I know Miggy looked dreadful in his limited time with the Yankees this season, but we also know how good he can be at this level. Remember when he hit .297/.328/.527 as a rookie? Good times.

Of course, Tauchman nor Gardner should be in the lineup everyday either. Gardner’s age may finally be catching up to him, whereas Tauchman is probably just flat-out bad:

Gross. There’s a big risk in putting Miggy in left field though. Remember this?

Eek. That’s me just cherry-picking one really bad play out there, of course. He really hasn’t gotten a ton of run out there, though I assume he’s been working on his outfield play at the Alternate Site.

Considering how the offense is sputtering, it could be worth playing Andújar in left field. You’d still have to run Ford out at DH, but at least Ford is still hitting the ball hard this year in terms of exit velocity. Come the sixth or seventh inning, Tauchman or Gardner can replace Miggy in the field. Whatever the case may be, I want to see Andújar get regular at-bats at this point. I’m over watching other guys fail.

Andrew asks: I’ll preface this by saying I have no illusions of Wade ever becoming a starting caliber player and I’m very much looking forward to Torres coming back and pushing him back to the bench. However, my naked eye assessment and memory (albeit spotty) have led me to believe that Wade has suffered from some bad luck this season and his slash line may look a bit worse than he’s actually fared at the plate. Can you examine some of his underlying metrics (Hard Hit %, BABIP, etc.) and see if there’s actually something to my theory or if I’m just talking nonsense?

Unfortunate timing to discuss this one after Wade’s brutal and inexplicable baserunning mistake last night. But yes, Wade has actually hit into some bad luck this season even with a .167/.255/.271 triple-slash to date. Per Statcast, his expected batting average is .276 and xwOBA is .325 (vs. .234 actual wOBA). It just so happens that we tweeted about this yesterday before the game:

So yeah, his .200 BABIP appears to be a product of bad luck. Maybe he wasn’t wrong in saying that he feels “unbelievable” at the plate (lol). Regardless, I can’t wait for Gleyber Torres to return this weekend and get Wade out of the lineup.

No matter how unlucky Wade has been, he can’t afford to make a gaffe like he did last night. He was given a role on this team based on his speed and reputed defensive chops. Without making the most of either of those two, Wade could be gone regardless of good or bad fortune with the bat.

Mailbag: Cole’s hard hit rate, Germán’s future, Ellsbury’s contract, and trading with Boston

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Happy Friday, everyone. Got a handful of questions in this week’s mailbag. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We answer our favorites each week.

Jeff asks: Not to sound too complain-y about Gerrit Cole, but small sample size aside…what does the underlying data say in regards to hit Hard Hit percentage being the highest of his career?

Atlanta socked three dingers against Gerrit Cole a few days ago and made a bunch of hard contact otherwise. Home runs have been a problem for Cole this year (10 allowed in 41 innings), but he’s given up his fair share of dingers in the past. But as Jeff points out, Cole’s 45.5 percent hard hit rate is the highest of his career. Previously, it maxed out at 39.8 percent in 2018 with Houston. Last year, he had a 35.5 percent rate.

Before digging deeper, it’s important to note that hard hit percentage makes up any batted ball with an exit velocity of 95 MPH or higher. It can be a popup or grounder too, not necessarily just a line drive or a deep fly ball. Pointing this out matters. For instance, if you look back at Cole’s 2018 season, you’ll see that his hard hit rate was one of the worst in the league (13th percentile). However, his expected batting average (91st percentile), expected slugging (83rd percentile), and xwOBA (89th percentile) were all superb. Even though there were a lot of high exit velocities against him, hitters didn’t square up too often.

So at first glance, a high hard hit rate against Cole isn’t necessarily a big deal this season. I’d say that the bigger concern is opponents’ higher barrel rate against him. Right now, that stands at 11.1 percent (career-worst, 7.6 previous high in 2017) and is in the 27th percentile of MLB. I’m still pretty comfortable chalking that up to a small sample size, though. His stuff certainly hasn’t deteriorated. He just hasn’t put everything together for one outing yet. Frustrating? Yes. But I have no reason to doubt it’ll come around.

I have one theory as to why batters are barreling Cole’s pitches more often this season. Cole has seemed to struggle throwing his curveball for strikes, which is something he could do in the past. Take a look:

Basically, Cole’s only been able to locate his fastball for a strike with consistency in 2020. That probably makes things easier for hitters — they aren’t seeing knee-buckling curveballs dropped into the strike zone like in years past. It’s one less thing to keep them honest.

Iron Mike asks: What do you think Domingo Germán’s future is with the Yankees next year? Also if the Yankees are in dire need of pitching, can’t he technically pitch after the 3rd game of the playoffs?

I’ll get your second question out of the way first: yes, he can technically return after the third game of the playoffs, but I would not expect that to happen. As far as I know, he’s home and not preparing for a return. I doubt the Yankees would want to throw him out in a high leverage spot for the first time in 2020, anyway.

As for next year: I think Germán will be a rotation candidate. The Yankees will have no shortage of openings with James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and JA Happ all potentially gone via free agency. Plus, Luis Severino won’t be ready for the start of the season. And, considering how comfortable the Yankees were with bringing in Aroldis Chapman twice after a domestic violence suspension, I can’t envision anything different here.

Brian asks: Has there been any update on the Ellsbury contract situation? Will he be paid the same prorated salary that other players are earning, and is there any news on whether or not the Yankees are still trying to avoid paying him because he sought unapproved medical advice?

It’s been radio silence on Jacoby Ellsbury for months now. I believe the last we heard was that the MLBPA filed a grievance on the outfielder’s behalf in attempt to regain the remaining $26 million on his contract. Unless the two sides settle, there will be an arbitration hearing.

If Ellsbury wins the grievance, he’ll get his full $26 million. He was released well before this pandemic changed the fate of the 2020 baseball season. Per Forbes, players not on 40-man rosters receive their full guaranteed contracts. Had the Yankees kept him around, he’d have earned roughly $9.6 million. Tough luck for the Bombers, I suppose, but there’s a chance the team walks away without paying him a penny if they win the hearing.

Old friend Steven asks: The most obvious selling team is the Red Sox. If Chaim Bloom came to you, the Yankees GM, and said everyone but Devers, Benintendi and Eduardo Rodríguez were on the table, who would you target?

Oh, I think this is an easy one: Xander Bogaerts. Though I have to imagine that he probably wouldn’t be on the table, either. The 27 year-old shortstop is in the first year of a six-year deal, though he can opt out after 2022. He’s currently hitting .276/.342/.505 (123 wRC+) for Boston and is coming off a 7 WAR season.

Frankly, there’s really not much else on this roster that’s attractive. I *suppose* the Yankees could benefit from either Nate Eovaldi or Martín Pérez, but that’s a real stretch. Been there, done that with Eovaldi, who hasn’t been good since 2018 anyway. He’s also under contract through 2022. Pérez has actually been OK this season (3.45 ERA and 4.56 FIP in 31 1/3 innings), but he’s not particularly inspiring. His career DRA is 6.13. Barf.

Finally, with the departures of Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree, there’s not much left in this bullpen to look at. I do think that Phillips Valdez is intriguing (0.98 ERA, 3.15 FIP in 18 1/3 innings). His changeup, which he throws 47.1 percent of the time, has been pretty nasty. He’s got a 36.9 percent whiff rate on the pitch.

Anyway, the Yankees and Red Sox haven’t pulled off a trade since the Stephen Drew for Kelly Johnson swap in 2014. That was the first time to two sides made a swap since 1997! Baseball Reference has the rundown of all Yankees-Red Sox trades here.

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