Happy Friday, everyone. It’s been a while since our last mailbag, but now that Spring Training is approaching, we’re bringing it back. We have a few good questions to address today. But before that: if you’d like to be considered for a future edition, please email viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com with your questions. We plan to choose our favorites each week. Now to the mailbag.
Dan asks: What is the Yankees equivalent of the [Andrew Benintendi] trade that just happened? I have to think KC would still be interested in moving him considering they’re rebuilding.
I disagree that the Royals would be interested in flipping Benintendi, but let’s go with it. Kansas City sent two players to be named later, Franchy Cordero, and prospect Khalil Lee in the three-team deal that netted them Benintendi. Let’s break Cordero and Lee down and then look for matches in the Yankees’ organization.
Cordero, 26, has tons of raw power but has yet to really tap into it. Even though his exit velocity has reached 117 MPH, he has just 12 homers and owns a .197 isolated power in his big league career (315 PA). That’s not awful power output, I guess. But tack on a very high strikeout rate (34.9 percent) and poor defense: the flaws are clear. PECOTA has him as a +1 WARP player with an 89 DRC+ in 507 plate appearance this year, which isn’t good. Last, He’s under team control for the next three seasons and has two minor league options left.
What a great start to this series. So much better than last weekend, in my opinion. The Yankees have now won their 70th game, improving to 70-39 on the season. They have a big lead in the American League East and are on the verge of all-but-ending Boston’s division hopes. This is all good. Very good. Much like last night, this was just a great game all around. Very enjoyable. Would watch again. Good news is that we might very well get to watch it again in about three hours. Steven will have you covered for that one.
Until then, let’s get right to the takeaways from this wonderful, wonderful game of baseball.
1. Domingo Germán is Legit: All that talk about the Yankee starting pitching and now that’s what, four consecutive quality starts in a row? These things always stabilize themselves, guys. Last week was weird, but it was last week. Anyway, what can we even say about Germán these days? He has just been a stud. Check out his game lines since returning from injury, including today:
July 3 vs. Mets: 6.o IP, 5 H, 1 R, 6 K, 0 BB
July 12 vs. Blue Jays: 6.0 IP, 3 H, zeros, 7 K
July 18 vs. Rays: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 5 K, 2 BB
July 23 vs. Twins: 3.2 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 3 K, 2 BB
July 28 vs. Red Sox: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 9 K, 1 BB
August 3 vs. Red Sox: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 7 K, 0 BB
I could have aggregated those lines, but it kind of obscures how good he’s been because of how bad he was in Minnesota. Those are 5 very, very good starts and 1 really bad one. Germán has been an absolute life-saver for the Yankees this year. These two starts against Boston, in particular, have been huge. Matched up against Chris Sale (more on that below), and he’s really helped stabilize the ship for the Yanks.
Today, he generated a 24% whiff-per-swing rate on all of his pitches combined, throwing 38 curves, 37 fastballs, and 12 changeups. He topped out at 96 mph. What a stud he’s turned into. I have long been a fan, but the changes he has made this year have made a real difference. Incredible. The 2019 Yanks, man.
2. Chris Sale and the Yankees: Remember when facing Chris Sale was scary? The Yanks have only mustered a .203/.257/.338 line in 472 chances against Sale across his career, during which time he has a 2.46 ERA in 117 innings. He’s been a real nemesis for the Yanks. He really has.
However, 2019 has been a different story altogether and I am absolutely freaking loving it. Coming into today’s matchup, the Yankees were hitting .279/.329/.544 off Sale in 2019. For some perspective, that’s a .873 OPS, .13 percentage points higher than Gleyber’s this season. The Yankees are pounding him, and he lost all three starts he made against them so far. Today made that four, and will undeniably make all of the above stats even more satisfying.
It all got started on the 5th pitch of the game when DJ LeMahieu did this:
As Katie Sharp noted on Twitter, that home run was the 5th the Yankees had him off him in 16.1 IP to that point. Incredible. Anyway, Sale held the Yanks scoreless for the rest of the inning, they did force him to throw 26 pitches.
After two quick frames in the 2nd and 3rd, the Yankees really punished Sale. Though, to be fair, they had a lot of help from home plate umpire Mike Estabrook. Check it out. After a seeing-eye single from Encarnación and a flyout from Torres, Gio Urshela mustered a single in an 8-pitch at-bat. Only, Sale and the Red Sox would argue that it should have been shorter. Cora was later ejected, largely as a result of this pitch:
Pitch 3–which, it goes without saying, was an 0-2 pitch–was called a ball, and Sale and Cora are right to be annoyed by it. Terrible call! It is a terrible call and there were a lot of them today. However, Sale’s case really isn’t all that effective. Here’s what happened after that pitch:
Gio Urshela single: 104.2 mph exit velocity
Kyle Higashioka single: 104.5 mph
Breyvic Valera single: 97.4 mph
Brett Gardner single: 100.9 mph
DJ LeMahieu home run: 97.5 mph
Aaron Judge double: 103.0 mph
I mean, gripe about the umpire all you want, but another idea might be to just try not getting absolutely shelled? Just a helpful suggestion from a friendly Yankee blog for you, Chris. Adding to the frustration for Boston is surely the way DJ’s second homer left the yard:
That’s a Yankee Stadium home run right there if I’ve ever seen one. Statcast says it went 351 feet, but you know–you just know!–that fans across New England were screaming at their televisions about the joke of a park in New York as if their own stadium isn’t literally smaller. Ah, the joys of a rivalry.
Anyway, it is so enjoyable to watch Sale get lit up by the Yankees, isn’t it? He’s been so frustrating literally every other season. The 2019 Yankees are extremely fun, so it’s very on brand for them to crush Chris Sale. I love it. Here are the videos from all of the other run-scoring moments, for your viewing pleasure:
3. Gio Urshela is Quite a Fella: I will fully admit to being a Gio Urshela skeptic. I’m too lazy to look it up right now, but I definitely wrote in at least one of our mailbags (I think two) that I didn’t see enough to know if Gio Urshela was legit as a hitter. This is yet another example of how smart I am, because holy smokes is Gio Urshela red hot. Here was his line prior to today’s game since the beginning of July: .333/.359/.667 (164 wRC+) with 1o doubles, 5 HR, 14 runs scored, and 11 RBI. That is across 78 plate appearances.
Today, he went 2-4 with a double and a run scored, raising his season line to .314/.356/.516 (127 wRC+) on the season. That is really impressive. Even more impressive? That he’s rebounded after what was a pretty brutal slump. Here are some graphs to show the slump and the bounceback:
I think those are all pretty clear, no? Gio struggled but has rebounded in an incredible way. He also provides fantastic defense. I don’t care what FanGraph’s data says (Baseball Prospectus’ data, on the other hand, is much higher on him). Here’s the video of the latest impressive play he made in today’s ballgame for your enjoyment:
4. DJ LeMahieu is Just Incredible: At this point, I really, honestly do not know what else I can possibly write about DJ LeMahieu in these reactions. I want to have something incisive or smart to say…but I think all I’ve got today is “holy crap how is this guy so damn good every day?!” I highlighted his two home runs above, but he also added a single.
All in all, he was 3-4 with 2 HR, 2 runs scored, 4 RBI and he played first base, bringing his line up to .338/.386/.536 (142 wRC+) on the season. DJ is leading the American League in hitting. He has 77 runs on the season and 75 runs batted in. The contact data bears this out, too. Check out some of his Statcast figures:
Average Exit Velocity: 91.5 mph (90th percentile)
Expected Batting Average: .313 (98th percentile)
Hard Hit Percentage: 45.8% (87th percentile)
xWOBA: .353 (86th percentile)
xSLG: .481 (76th percentile)
This basically just confirms what we already know: LeMahieu hits the ball really hard, and his so-called “expected” statistics based off his batted ball profile align with his actual production. There’s nothing flukey about his performance at all, and we all know how good his defense is across multiple positions. His 3.8 fWAR ranks 18th in baseball. What a player.
Ryan Ruocco, Where Art Thou?: Bob Costas is a legend, but man, I am just so sick of the baseball broadcast tendency to talk about 25 years ago instead of the game at hand. Talk about the current players, please. I know that he was thrown into this assignment and may not be up to speed on the two teams, but this is part of a larger trend. I miss Ryan Ruocco, is what this is all about. He was so good.
Benintendi Kills the Yankees: Andrew Benintendi hit a home run tonight, continuing his trend of just absolutely dominating the Yankees this year. From the stats guru Katie Sharp:
The Yanks and Sox will meet again tonight at 7:05 pm in a makeup of a May 30 rainout. The Yankees haven’t yet announced their starter, but I’m guessing it’ll be Chad Green, who will take on Brian Johnson (1-1, 6.43 ERA) for Boston. You can catch the game on YES or on WFAN 660 am, as always. Enjoy the break, everyone. We’ll see you in a little bit.