The Yankees’ first Grapefruit League game is next Saturday at 1:05 pm against the Blue Jays. It can’t get here soon enough. These updates will get a lot more exciting once the games start, I can tell you that much for sure. Although I agree with Derek that I’m sick of the Astros scandal, this quote is just too spicy to not pass along:
“The only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says ‘commissioner’ on it.” Well, damn, Justin Turner. Tell us how you really feel! As much as I — and likely you! — are sick of this by now, the reality is that it just isn’t going anywhere. The league messed this one up big time. MLB remains as predictable as ever. (On the other hand, it is extremely satisfying to see the players teeing the hell off on the league and the Astros for this. Extremely, extremely satisfying.)
Today’s Big Story: The Quest for a New Stance
In last week’s thoughts post, I said I was looking forward to hearing about new catching coordinator Tanner Swanson’s new regime. I said that Lindsey Adler would be the one to give us more information about it, and she proved me correct almost instantly with a story about a new stance. (Subs req’d)
“We’ve been working on having my right knee lower to the ground and receiving in that position. Adjusting from that position to movement, you know? Being flexible in that position, that’s the main focus right now”, Gary Sánchez told Adler. Here’s a good photo of the approach:
We’ve been closely following the pitch-framing stuff for a few months now, highlighting how it’s a specialty of Tanner Swanson’s and how he helped Mitch Garver. Pitch framing is also a hidden skill of Kyle Higashioka’s, so this is especially interesting to us. This is something that Swanson really focuses on, saying in an earlier interview that “the elite pitch framers in our game are impacting the game in a huge way.” He wants to help put a focus on pitch framing without sacrificing other elements of the position.
For what it’s worth, that’s a not-so-subtle comment about Gary Sánchez. We all know about Gary’s propensity for the passed ball and how that’s dominated the discussion about him for years. He had a reputation for being a bad defensive catcher, but he was always good at framing pitches — which the data shows is a more useful skill.
This deserves a more in-depth look — that’ll be forthcoming — but Gary essentially flipped in 2019: the passed balls stopped but the framing got worse. From a defensive perspective, that is actually a worse outcome for the team over the course of the season. That’s where the new stance comes in. Keeping Gary low to the ground, in theory, positions him to block the ball while preserving the ability to frame still. If he’s too focused on blocking, he’ll sacrifice the framing; if he’s too focused on framing, he’ll sacrifice blocking.
This is an attempt at a third way if you will. I’ll look at this more closely this week, but, so far, this is the most interesting development out of camp to me. As Swanson said: “I think if we can have a similar impact on Gary Sánchez that we had on Mitch Garver, you’re dealing with a beast.” Indeed, Tanner. Indeed.
- Our communal son Gleyber Torres spoke out today about the Astros scandal, if that’s something you still want to hear Yankees talk about. (Marly Rivera) I gotta say, though, the video game analogy is hilarious. (Lindsey Adler) Former Yankee Cameron Maybin had some words about it yesterday, too. (Cody Stavenhagen)
- Aaron Boone squashed the idea that the Yankees will be throwing at the Astros when they face them in May and honestly, good. (Lindsey Adler)
- Gio Urshela took grounders today, and there is a video of it in case you needed to see it to believe it. (Jack Curry)
- Clarke Schmidt is officially Someone To Watch™ this spring. He supposedly did well in Sunday’s simulated game. (Jack Curry) We covered Schmidt here and will have more soon. Curry is about as plugged in as any Yankee reporter out there, so it’s very possible that he has some insight into the Yankees’ thinking. Or he’s just speculating. That’s Spring Training, baby. You just never know.
- Gerrit Cole threw against live batters yesterday and he did what you’d expect him to do: strike guys out. Jack Curry manually logged the appearance and said that he threw 27 pitches to 8 batters with 5 strikeouts, a popup, and 2 hits. (Jack Curry) Fans even gave him a standing ovation because Yankee fans are hilarious. (NY Post) Here is some video of the appearance:
- As expected, there was plenty of data tracking happening for this session. Cole loves analytics and so do the Yankees, so this makes sense. (Lindsey Adler) Remember, the league is shifting its tracking technology this year. (Eno Sarris, subs req’d)
- Masahiro Tanaka threw to live batters today as the team continues to prepare for the start of the Grapefruit League season. Here’s some video of that:
- Hitting coach Marcus Thames and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere “were the unsung heroes of the [Yankees’] remarkable 2019 season” according to Lindsey Adler (subs req’d) who has a neat story out about their behind-the-scenes impact.
- Here is a really weird story about Brett Gardner. It’s tough to be an athlete sometimes. (Brendan Kuty)
- Mike Tauchman spoke to the press today, talking about his frustrating injury in 2019 and the general expectations that come with playing for the Yankees. (Brendan Kuty)
- Red Sox principal owner John Henry put out a statement today apologizing to fans for trading Mookie Betts, which, lol. (Red Sox)