Newbie Darren O’Day sure knew how to endear himself to a fanbase, huh? There clearly was some intent in that comment early this month. As you may recall, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash touted his stable of guys who throw 98 last year in response to the beef the Yankees and Rays had. It sounded a bit threatening after Aroldis Chapman threw some chin music to Mike Brosseau. Granted, the Rays got the last laugh. It’s a new year though, and this bullpen is clearly pretty good, as O’Day said.
Although Aroldis Chapman‘s high octane fastball is no longer unique among his peers, he’s still one of the league’s best closers. He’ll continue to blow his upper-90s heat by hitters in 2021, but that might not be his only big threat anymore. Sure, his slider has been effective at times in the past, but this year, Chapman plans to incorporate the splitter he teased last season. It’s looked pretty nasty in camp.
Like it was for my holiday wish list post, it’s that time of year again. Let’s make some New Year’s resolutions for the Yankees. On a personal note, I’d like to finally stop procrastinating so much, but I’ll get to it later.
Let’s start with Giancarlo Stanton. The playoffs showed us how things are supposed to go with G: a slugger whose bat can change the game and carry the team. When healthy, he’s performed. While it’s not necessarily in his full control, let’s have him resolve to be fully healthy in 2021.
From the lineup to the bullpen we go. Aroldis Chapman. I know this isn’t fully in his control either, but, please, can he resolve to not give up a back-breaking, season-killing home run in the playoffs again? Two years in a row is more than enough.
Now onto a bench player after two star cogs in the machine: Tyler Wade. On paper, Tyler Wade should be perfect for the Yankee bench. He’s a speedy lefty who can play the middle infield positions and fake the outfield, and who walks a lot. He just needs to hit better. If he could up his contact and cut his strikeouts, he’d been a boon to the roster, not a drag on it. A resolution for Wade? Just make more contact.
To make this brief, my last one will be for the front office. If they’re not going to play in free agency, then they need to resolve to improve the team at the deadline when needed. That might mean a tweak or an extra piece, which I’m sure they’d be willing to do. But it could also mean a big splash to push them over the edge, which they’ve been relatively reluctant to do. If they’re going to limit themselves when they shouldn’t, they need to do the opposite later on.
Happy New Year, folks. Thanks for reading in this wild and crazy year.
Even though Aroldis Chapman is no longer unique in terms of elite fastball velocity, he’s still among the best relievers in all of baseball. But for as great as he’s been in the regular season all these years, 2020 is the second straight year in which he’s given up a homer to send the Yankees packing for the winter.
This wasn’t how the Yankees envisioned Chapman finishing the team’s season when he was first acquired in 2016. It was supposed to be him clinching the last out of a World Series victory. It was supposed to make the acquisition of him (twice, by the way) “worth it” after his domestic violence allegation and suspension. Ick, to put it lightly. Instead, Chapman’s been a mercenary who hasn’t gotten the job done when it’s mattered most. Maybe 2021 will be different, but for now, Chapman’s memories as a Yankee haven’t been very good in spite of the impressive statistics.
A late start to his season
Chapman tested positive for COVID-19 in July and missed the beginning of the regular season. Although he was cleared to return to the team before the end of the month, the closer didn’t get back on the mound for the Yanks until mid-August. As such, the hardthrowing lefty wasn’t the team’s saves leader for the first time since he was initially acquired him for the 2016 season. Zack Britton took the mantle in 2020 with 8 saves to Chapman’s 3.
We only have 13 regular season games to look at, but all indications are that Chapman was his usual self this season. He struck out a ton of batters (48.9 percent) and maintained the same fastball velocity as 2019 (~98 MPH). There were a couple of memorable outings, not in a good way, but there was nothing pointing toward decline for the 32 year-old closer under contract through 2022.
So, about those not so good performances. Chapman blew two saves in the span of a week against the Mets, including getting walked off at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees aren’t done yet. They beat the Rays 5-1 to force a deciding Game 5 tomorrow night in San Diego. The Bombers finally got a well pitched game from someone other than Gerrit Cole and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Let’s get to the takeaways:
Gleyber Day arrives just when the Yankees needed it. The shortstop’s 2-run homer in the sixth inning gave the Yankees some breathing room, putting the Bombers up 4-1. Up until that point, I had a lingering concern that an earlier wasted opportunity — scoring just one run after loading the bases with no one out in the second inning — would later haunt the Yankees. Thankfully it didn’t, and Gleyber’s bomb eased those concerns:
What a shot. How many dingers would the Yankees send over the Western Metal Supply Co. building if this was actually the team’s home ballpark?
Keep in mind that Gleyber fouled a ball off his shin in his previous at bat against Yarbrough. It took a while for him to get back in the box after it, too. I guess it’s safe to say he’s OK now!
By the way, Torres reached base two other times this one. Once via single, once via walk. He stole a base in the ninth and scored a run too. He had a really nice series against Cleveland last week, but had been relatively quiet until tonight against the Rays. Nice to see a big game from him tonight. Would be even better to see him carry it into tomorrow.
Are you having fun this season? Well, I’m not. The Yankees fell to 20-16 with an excruciating extra innings loss to the Mets, 9-7. The offense finally woke up, but of course, a late inning bullpen meltdown and horrid baserunning wasted that performance. Let’s break it down.
What can go wrong will go wrong. That’s the 2020 Yankees in a nutshell, folks. Injuries, horrendous slumps, you name it. Tonight’s poison? A bullpen meltdown and an inexcusable baserunning gaffe.
It all started in the eighth inning with the Yankees up 7-4. Zack Britton entered to hold things down. The Mets hadn’t score since the fourth inning and things seemed to be under control. The baseball gods had other plans, though. Britton gave up two runs before finishing the inning, though he wasn’t atrocious, per se. All three hits he surrendered were well placed grounders. A walk didn’t help either, but yeah. Even when Britton is getting grounders like we want him to, things occasionally go bad.
Then came the ninth. Aroldis Chapman came in for his second save attempt of the season (he blew his first to none other than the Mets). The inning got off to an inauspicious start: Jeff McNeil walked and speedster Billy Hamilton pinch ran. Hamilton wound up on second quickly because Chapman balked. Then, the Yankees got an absolute gift:
It proved to be a teaase, though. J.D. Davis did this:
Sigh. Chapman’s now 0-for-2 in save chances this season. This was simply an awful pitch to Davis. Doesn’t matter how hard he throws if it’s down the middle and thigh high. Especially with an 0-2 count!
Chapman preserved the tie to send this one to extras. That meant the extra inning rule was in effect with the previous inning’s last out starting on second base. In this case? It was Tyler Wade for the top of the tenth, whose speed we’ve been told is incredibly valuable. Not unless bad baserunning gets in the way.
Wade decided to one-up Hamilton’s mistake earlier. Just completely inexcusable. The Yankees would not score. This one came to an end in the bottom half of the frame. Albert Abreu, meet Pete Alonso:
At least the offense came alive. The Yankees plated four runs in the second inning of this one. They’ve scored that many runs in an entire game just six times in their last 13 games. By the time this one was over, the Bombers pushed 7 runs across. They went 6-for-12 with runners in scoring position. That feels unheard of!
It all began with a Gio Urshela, who dunked a single into right field with one out. Brett Gardner followed with a walk and Kyle Higashioka ripped a single between third and short. That brought up Tyler Wade, who came into today’s game feeling “unbelievable” at the plate. Yes, “unbelievable” in spite of a .163/.260/.279 batting line. So naturally, Wade hit a soft line drive into center field for an RBI single.
That made it 1-0 Yankees. It was a little surprising that Gardy didn’t score from second, but it proved to be no big deal as DJ LeMahieu hit a sacrifice fly thereafter to make it 2-0. Up next? Luke Voit, who did as he has often does this season:
What a season for Voit. Entering today, his 172 wRC+ was second in the American League only to Nelson Cruz.
The Yankees’ offense cooled down and didn’t score in innings three through six. Old pal Chasen Shreve and Jeurys Familia blanked the Yanks’ offense for 4 1/3 innings and allowed just one baserunner in doing so. It felt like the bad times were coming back all over again, and that maybe it wasn’t the Yankees offense, but rather Robert Gsellman, who deserved blame for the run scoring earlier. Plus, Happ couldn’t hold the lead which was further demoralizing (more on that shortly).
Fortunately, those doubts were premature. The bats perked up to score two in the seventh against Miguel Castro and another in the eighth vs. Justin Wilson. But as you know, it wasn’t enough.
Meet the new Happ. Same as the old Happ. We should have known this was coming. Make no bones about it, Happ was terrific in his previous start (7 1/3 shutout innings against the Mets) and good in the one prior vs. Boston (1 run over 5 2/3). But there was just no way he could maintain that run. It’s a story we’ve heard since last year: his fastball is no longer effective as it used to be and he doesn’t have good secondaries. He’s been trying to reinvent himself since last year, namely with a sinker that worked very well last time out, but it’s just not consistent.
The southpaw allowed a lot of loud contact in the early going, but ironically, the one run he allowed in the first three innings of this one was a wall scraping homer by Todd Frazier in the second frame. It had a .120 expected batting average and came 94.4 MPH off the bat. Of the more than 1,400 homers hit across the league this season, only 31 dingers this year had a lower xBA. Here it is:
After a clean third, Happ unraveled in the fourth. Perhaps most frustrating? It all came apart with two outs. To get that second out, he had to strike out Alonso while Frazier stood at third base. Up came Jake Marisnick, who, to put it kindly, isn’t a very good hitter. So of course, Happ leaves a hanging slider in any hitter’s wheelhouse:
Kyle Higashioka wanted it down out of the zone, but Happ couldn’t get it there. That’s a huge let down. You’ve just struck out the Mets’ best hitter (even if he’s struggling this year) and have a chance to strand a runner in scoring position with a comfortably below average hitter at the plate.
After Marisnick, Happ gave up three consecutive singles which brought in two more runs and tie the game at four. He escaped further trouble, but it seemed like Happ’s day was done with the heart of the order due up in the fifth. Naturally, Happ retired Michael Conforto, Dom Smith, and Frazier in order. I guess Aaron Boone really wanted to steal an inning with a doubleheader coming tomorrow. Lucky gamble, I guess.
Happ’s final line: 5 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts. Simply put, the Mets tattooed him:
I don’t know how the Yankees can keep sending him out there, but I’m not confident a change will be made either. I’d like to see Clarke Schmidt a shot, but the Yankees might just fall back on Happ’s previous two good starts and run him out there again Tuesday against Toronto. I mean, they went back to Happ after they skipped him due to ineffectiveness earlier this year. What makes this time different?
Looking for a positive? Urshela is starting to heat up. He’s now got a hit in four straight games and has tallied two hits in each of the last three. He was in a rut for a while there.
The number change did Mike Ford no good: he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, a walk, and five men left on base. As Bobby mentioned last night, I’d rather watch Miguel Andújar struggle than Ford at this point.
The Yankees will now embark for Baltimore for four games in three days. It all starts with a doubleheader tomorrow a little after 5 p.m. See you all then.