[singing] Matt’s on…he’s ready to go…on the Views From 314 ft Podcast. Matt’s on, Matt’s on! It’s another Francesa style podcast. Matt rides solo and shares his thoughts on the Yankees’ disappointing finish to the 2020 season.
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Last year, James Paxton was the Yankees best pitcher down the stretch. This season, the team couldn’t count on him at all. From injuries to depleted stuff, the lefty simply couldn’t get himself going in 2020. The timing couldn’t have been worse for both him (as an impending free agent) and the Yankees (whose pitching depth thinned out really quickly).
There was palpable excitement about Paxton’s 2020 before we learned he needed back surgery in February. He was excellent in the second half of 2019 and delivered a solid postseason. In particular, his six innings of one run ball against the Astros in Game 5 of the ALCS. But little did we know that Paxton was troubled with back pain dating back to last postseason.
Paxton needed treatment to make those postseason starts, but the hope was rest would have him at full strength for 2020. Instead, discomfort flared up during Paxton’s offseason workouts, and a wait and see approach simply didn’t work. He went under the knife and was expected to return sometime in May or June.
Of course, Paxton didn’t actually miss any time due to surgery because of COVID-19 postponing the start of the regular season. That doesn’t mean it didn’t loom large later, however. As I’ll get to in a moment, Paxton was never himself during his five regular season starts. Sure, he put together one very good start in Tampa Bay, but it wasn’t with his vintage stuff.
Paxton was never able to iron out his mechanics upon his return either. That quite possibly led to a flexor strain in his left arm. As a result, his season effectively ended on August 20th. There was some hope that he’d return at some point down the stretch, perhaps as a reliever in the postseason, but that obviously never came to fruition.
Today marks the beginning of our 2020 Season in Review series. Like last offseason’s series, we’ll reflect on the year that was for the Yankees. We begin with DJ LeMahieu.
It’s pretty difficult to imagine where the Yankees would’ve been these last two years without DJ LeMahieu. And to think: his signing was a headscratcher prior to the 2019 season. Now, LeMahieu has wrapped up two spectacular seasons in pinstripes and has been the team’s most valuable player during that run. His free agency is going to be a hot topic in the coming weeks, but for the time being, let’s look back on LeMahieu’s fantastic 2020 campaign.
Another career year at the plate
Small sample size, I know, but LeMahieu’s batting line absolutely jumps off the page when you see it. .364/.421/.590 with 10 homers in 216 plate appearances? Just remarkable. Last year was supposed to be his career year, but instead, the infielder topped it with an even better output in a shortened 2020 campaign.
LeMahieu already has one accolade to his name for his 2020 performance: the MLB batting champ. Juan Soto, who hit .351, was the next closest hitter. LeMahieu’s the first player to win the batting title in both the AL and NL, by the way. And with award season coming next month, the infielder could add some more hardware to his mantle. He’s one of the finalists for the Hank Aaron Award, which is given to the league’s best hitter. LeMahieu’s also likely to earn some MVP votes after a fourth-place finish last season.
He may not win the MVP award, but LeMahieu seems like a pretty decent bet to win the Hank Aaron Award. The other finalists are José Abreu, José Ramírez, Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz, Brandon Lowe, and Teoscar Hernández. He’s got all of them beat in wRC+ (177, next closest is Abreu at 167) and OPS+ (Cruz, 169), to cherry-pick a couple of favorable leaderboard rankings.
Each Monday during the regular season and postseason, we ask you to evaluate how Aaron Boone’s doing as the Yankees manager. Last week’s edition was the culmination of 2020’s series, and unsurprisingly, you all weren’t too pleased with Boone’s performance. After all, the Yankees fell short under his helm for the third straight season and a number of the skipper’s decisions came under scrutiny during the ALDS.
Before we take a look at the final survey results, let’s quickly address Boone’s standing for next season. We already know that Boone is staying and that the team won’t decline his 2021 option. That said, the majority of those who voted last week would like to see a change in the dugout:
Obviously, the collective opinion on Boone isn’t in line with the organization’s sentiment. Perhaps running that poll just a few days after elimination skewed things a tad. Still, it’s clear that Boone’s favorability trended downward as the season went on. Take a look at the full-season weekly results:
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.