Tag: 2019 Midseason Grades

Yankees’ Top Hits of the Year: First-half Edition


You don’t get to 57 wins at the All-Star break without some clutch hits along the way. The Yankees have had four walk-offs wins and plenty more comebacks.

In the vein of River Ave. Blues, I chose to look at the Yankees’ top five plays this season by Win Probability Added. With three of the top five coming in Baltimore, I almost made a No-Orioles caveat, though I held off.

Some of the season’s most memorable hits don’t make the list. Walk-off singles from Gio Ursehla, D.J. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres just missed the cut. Aaron Hicks’ tying home run Saturday with two outs in the ninth inning was the highest WPA event in a loss and came in eighth.

Meanwhile, LeMahieu and Luke Voit rank seventh and 10th in WPA this season, yet neither have a hit in the Yankees’ top five. That speaks to both the Yankees’ depth and the pair’s sustained output.

Without further ado, vamanos.

No. 5 – April 4: Gleyber Torres homer vs. Mike Wright

Of the five hits on this list, this was both the earliest in the season and in the game. The Yankees were 2-4 and trailing by an identical score in the sixth inning in Baltimore. Yankee fans were on edge after losing series to the O’s and Tigers.

Gary Sanchez homered with two outs to cut it to two runs before Greg Bird and DJ LeMahieu singled. Torres came up after already homering once and made Mike Wright the losing pitcher with one swing.

The three-run homer was a 39-percent swing in WPA. It was par for the course with Gleyber, who had clinched the first of four multi-homer games against the Orioles this season.

No. 4 – May 20: Gary Sanchez homer vs. Mychal Givens

Again, the Orioles. The Yankees had already tied the game in the ninth inning thanks to a two-homer night from Torres and a pair of Aaron Hicks sacrifice flies.

Baltimore had their top reliever on the mound in Givens and after a two-out walk to Luke Voit, there were men on third and first, two outs for Sanchez.

The script would have been simple last season: Sanchez strikes or pops out and the Bombers fall in embarassing walk-off fashion to the lowly Orioles.

Instead, Gary flipped the script and demolished a 1-1 pitch down left-field line to win the game, a run of the mill 46 percent swing in WPA.

The O’s brought up tying run a half inning later, but Aroldis Chapman struck out two to end the game.

No. 3 – April 17: Brett Gardner grand slam off Ryan Brasier

This one deserves to be higher simply coming against the Red Sox. The Yankees were vying for a two-game sweep but couldn’t get to Nathan Eovaldi and trailed Boston, 3-1.

Brandon Workman came in for seventh inning. He’s been the Sox’s best reliever for much of this season, but not on this night. A Clint Frazier single led off the frame before two more walks brought Gardy up with the bases juiced and just one down.

Alex Cora went to Brasier, who got ahead 0-2. Instead of putting away Gardner, the right-hander left a 97-mph fastball up in the zone and allowed the outfielder to power one into the short porch in right-center.

This was also a 46-percent swing. Adam Ottavino narrowly got out of a self-made jam in eighth inning and the Yankees swept the Sox. Thanks to this and the London Series, the Bombers are 6-1 against Boston this season.

No. 2 – May 7: Gio Urshela homer off Anthony Swarzak

Gio Urshela had already shown off some heroics with a 14th-inning single against Angels two weeks earlier. This one loomed even larger.

The Yankees trailed 4-2 after a rain delay against the Mariners and were down to their final two outs when Torres singled off former Yankee Anthony Swarzak.

As with Brasier and Gardner, Swarzak got ahead 0-2. After a foul ball, he too left one up and knew right away that he’d blown the game.

This 47 percent swing tied the contest and set the stage for LeMahieu’s walk-off single three batters later. That hit was a 39-percent swing, so I’ll make an educated guess that this was the Yankees’ top WPA turnaround in one inning for the year.

No. 1 – April 6: Clint Frazier home run against Miguel Castro

Funny enough, No. 1 and 5 on this list came in back-to-back games, though predictably, it was against the Orioles.

Jonathan Holder and Ottavino coughed up a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Yankees faced a 4-3 deficit before making two quick outs. Torres and LeMahieu each reached, bringing up Frazier, who’d come into the game earlier to pinch hit for Mike Tauchman.

Miguel Castro got the count to 2-2 before leaving a slider right in Frazier’s wheelhouse. The resulting three-run homer was a 58-percenter in WPA and was Frazier’s first long ball of the year.

Frazier and everyone on the Yankees tormented the Orioles in the first 12 meetings this year and this list drives that home all too literally.

Yankees Midseason Grades: The Outfield

With the Yankees reaching the All-Star break, we’re evaluating the team thus far, position by position, before play resumes. I started with the rotation, catchers/DHs and the infield. Now, let’s move to the outfield:

Ten innings. That’s the amount of time the Yankees have put together their ideal outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge this season. All three have spent significant time on the shelf, but the Bombers rode a veteran leader and a rotating cast of unexpected contributors to one of the best outfields in baseball.

As a whole, the Bombers’ outfield tied for 12th in wRC+ and tied for sixth in bWAR (11th in fWAR). Considering Hicks, Judge and Stanton have had just 358 plate appearances, that’s remarkable.

Let’s go player-by-player, starting with the ageless wonder:

Brett Gardner: A

The Yankees always say the same thing in Spring Training: This is the year they’re going to cut back on Brett Gardner’s playing time. Each year, injuries and a hot first half make those spring edicts laughable by June.

Gardner leads the Bombers’ outfield with 323 plate appearances and he’s had a throwback season at the plate, hitting 15 home runs as a beneficiary of the apparently-juiced baseball. He’s hitting .246/.328/.470, posting a slugging percentage 102 points higher than last season and 42 points higher than he career best. The outfielder also leads the team with eight stolen bases.

The longest-tenured Yankee is on pace to top his personal-high 21 homers by August. He’s hit everywhere in the lineup this season and has started as the No. 3 and No. 5 hitter in the lineup. And no, this isn’t 2013 again.

It’s not as if Gardner’s suddenly hitting the ball a lot harder as his average exit velocity increased by 0.4 mph. Instead, he has an average launch angle of 12.3 degrees, 3.1 degrees higher than his largest in the Statcast era.

In addition to an increased load at the plate, he’s played his most games in center field since 2013, before the Yankees acquired Jacoby Ellsbury. Though Aaron Hicks is back, we’ll have to see if his starting workload will once again lead to a second-half swoon.

Aaron Judge: INC/A-

How do you appraise Judge’s season when he missed two months? His batting line looks like his classic self at .271/.392/.525, almost a carbon copy of 2018. He’s cut down slightly on his strikeouts and added a few more walks while still producing 1.3 WAR in 33 games.

The fourth-year outfielder is hitting the ball harder than ever at 96.9 mph on average, though his launch angle has decreased. Despite that oblique injury, he’s hit multiple home runs since coming back and has slotted in just fine in the two-hole.

However, that oblique injury still creeps into mind. One would presume he needs more days off as the season goes along and we still don’t know if he’s 100 percent healed. He’s produced just fine since coming back — again, he’s hitting at his normal levels — but his injury history sticks in the back of your mind.

For Judge, the second-half goal is to stay the course and avoid major injuries … as if that’s something you can consciously do.

Aaron Hicks: B-

As with Judge, Hicks’ extended time on the shelf distorts the view of his season. He’s had more PAs than Judge or Stanton after coming back in May, but his back injury was mentioned as “chronic” and he had to ready two swings as a switch-hitter. That’s difficult without a full Spring Training.

At the plate, he’s given the team above-average production (103 wRC+) buoyed by a recent hot streak. The last two weeks are evidence that he’s coming into his own. Still, he’s striking out more than before without better power as a result.

Hicks remains the Yankees’ best option in center field and his hawk-like eye at the plate makes him a threat regardless of a slump. He could be set for a better second half provided he’s fully healthy.

Mike Tauchman: B

I know Tauchman can be a punchline, drawing ire for his promotion over Clint Frazier while striking out a bit too much. However, Tauchman has given the Yankees plenty of value this year and earned a back-of-the-roster spot.

Tauchman hit for plenty of power in Triple-A last season and that’s come through at times for the Yankees, though he’s still a below-average hitter. Instead, he keeps himself in the mix with his superb defense.

With a combination of speed and instincts, he’s given the Yankees respectable defense primarily in the corners with Hicks, Judge and Stanton all going down. He’s +5 in Statcast’s Outs Above Average, best among Yankees outfielders.

Cameron Maybin: A

The Yankees took a flyer on Maybin when their outfield depth reached its nadir and encouraged him to be himself, allowing him to join many swing changers in using an elevated swing plane.

From there, Maybin took off, hitting .314/.391/.500 in 133 plate appearances. He’s come through in the clutch and even hit five home runs, more than he hit all of last season. The 32-year-old was a force in June, batting .386 with a 1.153 OPS in 14 games.

However, a game after Judge returned, Maybin suffered a Grade 2 calf strain and is out for an extended period. While he’s on the IL, he’ll reach 10 years service time and a full pension, which is a positive amid his rehab. He’s earned a roster spot for when he returns.

Clint Frazier: B-

Expected to play Triple-A every day to start year, Frazier spent the first 2.5 months of the season in the Majors and justified his spot with a powerful bat. The 24-year-old known for legendary bat speed hit 11 home runs and batted .283/.330/.513 (117 wRC+) in 209 plate appearances, easily his best marks over three partial MLB seasons. Concussion woes hopefully remain a worry of the past.

His performance at the plate is simply incongruous with a demotion to Triple-A until you look at his defense. Frazier is a trainwreck in the outfield. He is 222nd out of 223 outfielders in Outs Above Average and has looked the part, perhaps costing the Yankees games.

Leading the American League, the Yankees can’t afford to let Frazier develop in the Majors and need to go with players who are more finished products. If Edwin Encarnacion weren’t on the roster, he could DH, though that would come at the expense of his outfield development.

Therefore, Frazier has to work on his game in Triple-A and either force open a spot, have one open organically or see himself traded before he can assume the mantle of Yankees starting outfielder. It’s unfair, but that’s the game.

Giancarlo Stanton: INC

It’s extremely weird putting Stanton at the end of this, but it’s fitting as he’s played the fewest games among these players. After playing the first three games of the year, he dealt with a “blown out” biceps, a shoulder injury, a calf strain and, after a brief return from the IL, a PCL strain in his knee.

For those who want to label him as injury prone, remember that he played 158 games last year and helped carry the Yankees with Aaron Judge out. He may indeed be injury prone moving forward, but he missed just seven games from 2017-2018.

In the nine games, Stanton’s played this year, he’s had tremendous patience, working seven walks in 38 plate appearances. He has just one homer thus far, although he has the two hardest hit balls by Statcast. That’s with just 18 balls put in play.

Stanton still has plenty of time to make a large impact this year assuming he returns close to the August timeline mentioned by Brian Cashman.

Yankees Midseason Grades: LeMahieu, Gleyber and the Infield

Embed from Getty Images

With the Yankees reaching the All-Star break, we’ll evaluate the team thus far, position by position, before play resumes. I started with the rotation and yesterday covered the catchers and DHs. Now, let’s get to the infield:

The Yankees’ infield has anchored the team this season. You could say the bullpen and I wouldn’t argue much. However, the combination of DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela and, now that he’s healthy, Didi Gregorius goes toe-to-toe with the league’s best infields. The first four had legit cases for the All-Star Game and Didi could in a full season.

Let’s kick it off with the team MVP:

DJ LeMahieu: A+

Y’all already know. DJ LeMahieu has been one of the best hitters in the American League and holds the edge in the batting title race at the break. He’s hitting a crisp .462 with runners in scoring position and had seven hits in the London Series alone. French for The Mahieu, or The Machine. It’s all the same. He’s been wonderful in pinstripes.

His first two games against Baltimore showed the potential of all he could do. It’s laughable to think that he sat out Opening Day, then had four hits, a double, some sterling plays at third base (not his natural position) and saw a ton of pitches. I remember thinking about whether he could actually handle third base and he immediately made a diving stop.

His two-year $24 million deal has been the steal of the offseason, particularly when you remember that the Rays were likely about to sign him. He’s been the Yankees’ most valuable player, has anchored their infield defense and done everything the team could ask for.

Luke Voit: A

There was a somewhat real debate before the season: Luke Voit, Greg Bird or outside help, who would win first base? Voit left no doubt with stellar Spring Training and even better Opening Day, when he homered in his first at-bat and never looked back at Bird.

He started the season by extending his on-base streak to 42 games, a constant amid the ever-changing Yankees lineup due to injury. With Judge out, Voit held down the No. 2 spot in the lineup and has batted .280/.393/.509 with 17 home runs, cementing himself as a top-end first baseman at the plate.

Voit walks 14 percent of the time, up even from his second-half surge in 2018. He’s cut down on his strikeouts slightly, though he’s swung and missed more on pitches out of the zone.

Defensive metrics have not been kind to him as he’s a -4.0 UZR with -6 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Still, with his batting, the Yankees will take it.

One curiosity on my end: It always seems like he gets pitches up and in. He only has six HBP this season and the zone breakdowns don’t back it up. Maybe it’s just his reaction — falling over and/or getting angry — that creates the perception.

Gleyber Torres: A-

Torres might have been handed the toughest task in the first half; He had to move to shortstop in the interim (once Troy Tulowitzki was injured) and then surrender the position back to Didi Gregorius right away. Torres hasn’t missed a beat.

In fact, he’s been a better fielder all around, ranking better by most metrics at both second and short. That’s not easy, particularly for a second-year player who made plenty of rookie mistakes in the field a year ago. He’s generally seemed more comfortable and, in cliched baseball parlance, let the game come to him. Now he gets to move back to second base, where he could spend a good decade or so.

You can dance if you want, you can leave the infield behind (MLB.tv)

On offense, Torres was slow out of the gate as he was thrust into the middle of the order. The 22-year-old appeared to be trying to do too much and was able to relax when the lineup received more reinforcements, taking off with a 151 wRC+ in May and 171 wRC+ in June.

All games count the same, but Torres has really made the Orioles hurt. Though he’s hit well enough outside Baltimore, he’s crushed 10 of his 19 homers against the O’s with seven dingers and a .522 batting average at Camden Yards in seven games. Let’s see those numbers against the Rays and Sox next!

Gio Urshela: A

No one saw this coming.

How in the heck did Urshela become one of the Yankees’ key contributors in the first half? I truly can’t explain it in full, whether it’s simply the opportunity, his change in batting stance and swing or just plain dumb luck. It’s been a blast though.

With Miguel Andujar on the shelf, Urshela simply would have made up for Miggy’s value by playing a steady third base, something Andujar failed to do. Urshela has a highlight reel of plays, yet he’s held back by a lack of range and the occasional error. Still, he’s more or less an average third baseman compared to Andujar’s dreadful season in the field.

However, Urshela has been a godsend at the plate. He batted .330 well into May and holds a .304/.355/.469 line with seven home runs at the break. He had just eight homers in his career to this point. It doesn’t hurt that he has a flair for the dramatic.

Though his offense has stagnated some, he’s one of the better bench players in baseball once Voit is off the IL. He puts the ball in play at a high clip and will figure to start plenty of games the rest of the way.

Didi Gregorius: B-

Through 22 games, Gregorius is still finding his footing at the plate. His power is mostly there but he has walked just thrice in 94 PAs. Sir Didi has never been much of a walker to begin with, but under two percent is low even for him.

He debuted in early June after undergoing Tommy John surgery following the 2018 ALDS. Gregorius was a quick healer, getting through the rehab process quickly and back into the Majors in eight months.

Though he appears about the same in the field, UZR hates him in a small sample (-14.4 UZR/150), though DRS has him at a more average -1 runs. He found a way to make highlight plays on the turf in London, when the field was eating up most other infielders.

We haven’t yet seen the Didi of old. Only glimpses. A second-half return to normalcy would help take the Yankee offense up another level yet.

Miguel Andujar, Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird: Incomplete

Remember when Andujar, Tulowitzki and Bird all started on Opening Day? LeMahieu was on the bench, Gregorius was hurt and Urshela was in Triple-A, a complete afterthought.

All three of these guys had curious resumes going into the year: Could Miggy replicate his rookie season while achieving competency defensively? Could either Tulo or Bird actually stay on the field, let alone produce with the bat?

The answer to those questions, unfortunately, was no. Andujar injured his shoulder diving back into third in the season’s third game and wasn’t the same in a brief return before surgery. There’s no return in sight for either Tulowitzki or Bird as they sit on the 60-day IL.

You’d be foolish to have expected much from the latter two, but this injury is entirely disappointing for Andujar. When he comes back he’ll have the road blocks of LeMahieu and Urshela, let alone his own defensive efficiencies. This blog wishes all three the best in their arduous rehab.

If you’re worried that I forgot about Thairo Estrada, Mike Ford and others, don’t worry, they’ll be subject to another post. #SummerofThairo continues.

Yankees Midseason Grades: Catchers and DHs

Bat flip! (MLB.tv)

With the Yankees reaching the All-Star break, we’ll evaluate the team thus far, position by position, before play resumes. Yesterday, the rotation. Today, the catchers and DHs.

The 2019 Yankees have experienced a reversal at catcher and DH. After Gary Sanchez couldn’t hit amid an injury-plagued 2018, he’s turned back into one of the premier sluggers in the game.

Meanwhile, Giancarlo Stanton powered the Yankees in 2018 while taking many DH at-bats before ceding the spot this year to batters like Kendrys Morales and Edwin Encarnacion, neither of whom have lived up to their past power.

Let’s go player-by-player:

Gary Sanchez – B+

The Kraken has returned after a one-year hiatus to the Bronx. In 75 percent of the games, he’s already eclipsed his home run total from a year ago (18) with a team-high 24. Outside of a brief IL stint in April, he’s finally had a year of health after shoulder and groin injuries sapped at his talent in 2018.

Overall, he’s batting .245/.315/.556 (122 wRC+), one of the best marks among catchers. We’ve covered it before, but El Gary has done this by keeping the ball off the ground and hitting almost all of his balls in the air.

There are a couple question marks for him at the plate. First, he’s stopped drawing as many walks while his strikeouts have gone up. That’s fine — he’s selling out for more power — but seeing him be more selection would be encouraging. Second, he’s slumped recently with a rise in strikeouts and, as you can see in the top graph, a return to balls on the ground.

His defense appears to have taken a step back contrary to the heaping of praise from fans and analysts alike. How so? Well, he’s improved his blocking, though it’s likely to the detriment of his pitch framing, which has been near the worst in the game. He’s improved since I broke down his defense last month and has been worth +0.1 framing runs in that time vs. -6.8 runs in the first portion of the season.

(If you want to read more on Sanchez’s defense, you can read what I wrote in my series on his framing in Part 1, blocking in Part 2 and throwing in Part III.)


Regardless of his defense, Sanchez’s turnaround plays a pivotal role in the Yankees’ AL East lead going into the break after facing a lengthening deficit a year ago.

Austin Romine – C-

Plenty of fans would give Romine an F for this season, and I can see why. After a career year in 2018, he’s regressed hard with a .231/.245/.315 batting line. He’s stopped walking almost entirely — he didn’t walk much before — and his power has evaporated, only hitting two so far this year.

So why a C- and not an F? Well, he’s provided defensive value. I hate saying this, but it’s the type that doesn’t show up in the stats. His arm is below-average and his framing is closer to average than Sanchez. Still, Romine manages a pitching staff well. Pitchers have been saying it for years and the Yankees wouldn’t keep around this below-average a hitter if he didn’t give that value. He seems to call a good game and the pitchers like him.

I don’t see the point in hating Romine. He’s the backup catcher. He’s going to give some mediocre — sometimes awful but sometimes clutch — at-bats once a week. With Sanchez killing the ball, Romine has seen less playing time and that figures to keep up if Gary stays healthy.

Romine is a free agent after this season and the Yankees will have an opportunity to upgrade. Still, I suspect he may be back in pinstripes considering how few players may want to enter a situation where they will play so little behind Sanchez. There’s value in Romine accepting his role.

Kyle Higashioka – N/A

Higgy has all of four games of playing time this year, hitting .200/.188/.333. The Yankees mostly stuck with Romine as the everyday catcher while Sanchez was out. Meanwhile, Higashioka has batted .257/.333/.566 with 13 dingers in Triple-A, often hitting in the middle of the order for Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Since this is his third year on the 40-man roster while spending time in the Majors, I believe he’ll be out of options after this season. I’m don’t believe the Yankees can get a fourth option on him, but the rules with extra options evade me. Assuming he doesn’t get the extra option, the Yankees will have to decide whether they’ll keep him in the Majors as a backup catcher — made more possible with a 26-man roster — or find a new third catcher.

Kendrys grounding out on a loop may be hell. (MLB.tv)

Kendrys Morales – F

It was a sad and short stint for Morales in pinstripes. The Cuban slugger came in with some promise after posting high exit velocities in Oakland despite poor numbers.

Morales homered in his second game with the Yankees and didn’t hit another ball out afterwards. In 19 games, he batted .177/.320/.242 and drove the ball into the ground consistently, unable to take advantage of his strength. He did show a tremendous eye — 12 walks to six strikeouts — but it wasn’t enough.

The 36-year-old was placed on the IL with a sprained ankle and was designated for assignment and subsequently released once healthy. Worth the flyer at the time, but he didn’t pan out.

Edwin Encarnacion – D

On June 15, Brian Cashman shocked many by acquiring Encarnacion, a DH added to a team full of power. All he cost was a little $$$ (less than Rays are paying him), a roster spot and a pitching prospect who hasn’t hit full season ball yet. Like Morales, worth the flyer.

But he’s surprisingly had just as little offense. He’s mustered four home runs, yet just a .123/.208/.338 batting line with 23 strikeouts in 72 PAs. That hasn’t come from him losing his batting eye. Instead, Matt detailed over the weekend how he’s swinging and missing more than ever at pitches in the zone.

Even without the production, he makes an impact with a fine glove as the backup first baseman and a staggering number of pitches seen, as he’s third in the game with 4.45 pitches per plate appearance. Still, if he’s going to hold Clint Frazier’s spot at DH, he needs to produce.

If the Yankees are going to maximize these two spots, Encarnacion and Sanchez need to get out of their respective slumps while Romine needs to play competent baseball, which he mostly does. He’s the backup, so please don’t get too aggrevated about his performance.

If Encarnacion continues to struggle, Frazier, Stanton or resting infielders can siphon his at-bats away. However, considering he was the AL’s top slugger just a month ago, Encarnacion likely has plenty of life left in his bat.

Yankees Midseason Grades: Starting Rotation

More splitters like this, please! (MLB.tv)

The Yankees have reached the end of the first half, or at least the All-Star break, with a 57-31 record and 6.5 game lead in the division. From now until play resumes Friday, we’ll evaluate the team thus far, position by position: First up: the rotation.

The Yankees came into the spring poised for improvement in the rotation with James Paxton aboard, a full season of J.A. Happ and the jettison of Sonny Gray. However, with injuries to everyone but Happ and Masahiro Tanaka, the staff has had to stay afloat with its depth.

Overall Stats

  • 4.22 ERA (12th in MLB)
  • 4.61 FIP (20th)
  • 16.2% K-BB rate (9th)
  • 443 2/3 IP (25th)

Masahiro Tanaka – B

Remember when everyone thought Tanaka should just go ahead and get Tommy John surgery after an injury to his UCL? Five years later, he’s the only Yankee starter to reach 100 IP and not miss or be skipped in a start this season.

The right-hander was improbably an All-Star despite a 3.86 ERA and 4.24 FIP in 18 starts, though his 2.1 fWAR lead Yankee starters. He’s raised his performance against top competition; in six starts against the Astros and Rays, he’s allowed just eight runs in 40 1/3 innings. His most high profile start, however, was a dud when he allowed six runs and couldn’t escape the first inning in London.

The key in the second half will be if he can find his old splitter. It’s gone from his go-to offering in big spots to one of the worst pitches in baseball as he’s lost depth on the pitch. The pitch ranks last among splitters in Fangraphs’ pitch values.

James Paxton – C+

Hailed as a potential new ace, Paxton has fallen short of lofty expectations thus far. He leads Yankee starters with 95 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings, but his 4.01 ERA lags behind his FIP.

The tall southpaw was hitting his stride in April after discovering he was tipping pitches against Houston. He allowed just five hits in 14 scoreless innings over two starts against the Red Sox and Royals while striking out 12 in each start.

However, as he has in previous seasons, Paxton suffered an injury. His knee took him out for 26 days in May and he’s been below-average since. In eight starts, he’s lasted just 38 2/3 innings and has a 4.89 ERA with hitters batting .299/.368/.503 against him.

There’s hope still for a strong second half. He hasn’t lost velocity since coming off the IL and produced back-to-back quality starts to end the first half. His 11-strikeout performance in Tampa on Sunday was his best outing in months.

Domingo German – A

German has broken out around a hip injury and leads the Yankees with a 3.67 ERA and 10 wins. I know, 10 wins means nothing, but it’s still somewhat cool. The right-hander had flashes of brilliance in 2018 and he’s become a consistent force when healthy this season.

What’s led to the breakout? His curveball is seventh in Fangraphs pitch values, just behind Aaron Nola and German Marquez. German throws the curve more than any other pitch and holds hitters to a .155 average with 55 strikeouts on the pitch.

The right-hander missed time with a hip injury and looked back-to-form in his return Wednesday. His surge in home runs before going on the IL — seven in three starts — was/is concerning, so whether hitters are powering up against him is worth monitoring.

J.A. Happ – D

Happ has had well documented issues with home runs this season, surrendering 20 in 89 2/3 innings. Only four of his 17 starts have been homerless.

What happened to the Happ from 2018, you ask? The 36-year-old has lost 1.3 mph on his fastball, which averages just 90.7 mph this season. That’s coincided with only a 0.3 mph drop on his changeup, so he no longer has as much separate between the two pitches. Between his fastball and slider, there’s only a 6.4 mph average separation between his fastest and slowest pitches.

He has some 2018 Sonny Gray issues going on with Yankee Stadium, allowing 13 home runs with a 6.29 ERA in 44 1/3 innings at home vs. 7 homers, a 3.77 ERA and 45 1/3 innings on the road. Fortunately, three of his four best home starts have been wins against the Rays and Red Sox.

Moving forward, he’s ideally a five-and-fly pitcher who can narrowly hand a lead to the bullpen.


CC Sabathia – B

Dang, CC Sabathia will retire in just a few months. That reality is tough to accept. The southpaw turns 39 years old on July 21 and has been a fine starter in his age-38 season with a 4.03 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 76 innings. He’s hit both 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts for his career.

Two concerning signs for Sabathia: After excelling off weak contact in 2016-2018, his average exit velocity allowed has gone from 84.4 to 86.5 mph in 2019. That’s still above-average but just by 1.0 mph. The other concern is a rise in home runs, which may be related. He’s allowed 1.9 per nine innings, better only than his 2014 campaign.

After a mid-season swoon around his annual knee maintenance IL stint, he has turned it around with three straight quality starts against the Rays and Jays. He was over-extended in Saturday’s start, yet he featured his best stuff of the year.

Luis Severino – N/A

Severino signed a four-year extension at the start of Spring Training, but fans haven’t seen the newly paid right-hander. He’s missed the entire season with a shoulder injury (injuries?) and has had a series of setbacks. The Yankees admitted to missteps with his rehab.

Since he was injured early in the spring, he needs a full ramp-up to come back, so any further setbacks would presumably preclude a return in 2019. That’s devastating for the Bombers.

Chad Green/Nestor Cortes Jr. – A

Jonathan Loaisiga initially held down the depth starter role and had mediocre results before going down a rotation cuff injury. In his place, the Yankees have turned to the opener, the Rays’ go-to strategy for supplementing a beleaguered rotation.

Turning to Chad Green to open and primarily Nestor Cortes Jr. as the bulk pitcher, the Yankees found a dynamite combination. The team is 8-0 with the opener thanks to Green figuring things out after a Minor League stint. Cortes has been a revelation with his contrasting repertoire that complements Green well.

Maybe the most entertaining pitch of the year (MLB.TV)

If the Yankees acquired another starter or two, they’ll likely avoid using the opener again this year, allowing Green and Cortes to pitch in the bullpen. Still, the strategy has proven successful for the Bombers and can be used again in a pinch.

As for further depth in-house, there could be one shining hope on the horizon

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