Spring Training News & Notes: February 16-17

Masahiro on the Mound! (Via Yankees)

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.

Leftovers

  • 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)
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5 Comments

  1. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    Good to see Gary finally willing to admit his weakness and work on getting better. Tanner will get him on par defensively with Higgy. I hope Jorgie comes to Spring Training to work with Higgy on his hitting. That’s the only weakness in his game and he actually showed a lot of pop in the bat last year.

    Gleyber is 100% right to attack the Astros and all the players going after them and Manfred are speaking for all of us. What they did was a cover up just like Selig did with PED’s. Hand out some slaps on the wrist and sweep it under the rug. They all need to be subpoenaed and brought in before Congress to testify under oath.

    Of course Boone is going to say they’re not going to throw at the Astros. He has to say that publicly. But you know the very first chance they get they’re going to do it. I’d put Chapman in as an opener and throw a 100 mph fastball at Altuve’s head in the 1st inning to send a message.

  2. dasit

    that john henry statement is one of the most embarrassing things i have ever read

  3. Mungo

    Clarke Schmidt is interesting, but I suspect a few things will need to go wrong for him to make the roster out of camp. Definitely like his attitude. He’s likely limited to 130 innings or thereabout this year, so he feels more like a 2021 option for the rotation, but if Monty and Garcia struggle in Spring Training, that could open the door. They can limit his innings more on the backend of the season with Paxton and German set to return.

  4. chip56

    I honestly think Manfred and MLB underestimated two things:
    1. Just how angry other players are about this
    2. Just how arrogant the Astros would be in the face of this

    That combination has brought us to where we are now, a place where the Commissioner is threatening to punish players who hit the Astros more harshly than he punished the Astros themselves.

    As for Boone, I would take what he said with a grain of salt, it does him no good to say “yeah, we’re going to drill Altuve and Bregman in the ribs when we play them.”

  5. Mosher

    Read a Curry tweet last night that YES is probably going to have Coney and Cole sit down soon and have a decent chat about the Art of Pitching.

    Would love for VF314′ to keep their ear to the ground about that and let us know if and when it’s going to happen. Please and thank you.

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