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News & Notes: Hicks update, Paxton, Medina, Adams, Germán

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Aaron Hicks gets a second opinion

After having an MRI a few days ago that showed no ligament damage, Aaron Hicks was still not feeling right. So, Hicks sought out a second opinion from Dr. Neil ElAttrache in California. Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Hicks was recommended a few weeks of rest before a re-evaluation, which all but ends his 2019 season. Maybe there’s some slim chance he’ll be available in the playoffs, but don’t count on it. And definitely don’t expect to see him before the regular season ends.

Most jarring about this news is that Tommy John surgery is on the table. Although it wasn’t prescribed now, Sherman notes that it could be required if there are no improvements from rest. Seems odd considering the Yankees said there’s no structural damage, but what do I know.

There are all sorts of ramifications from not having Hicks this year and potentially a chunk of next season should he go under the knife. In the present, it means counting on Brett Gardner in center field the rest of the way. I’m comfortable with that, but the Yankees have no depth at the position thereafter. Mike Tauchman is out for the year too, which basically leaves the Yankees with Cameron Maybin. Of course, Maybin has been banged up of late as well. Hopefully, Gardner can stay on the field because it would be difficult to try much else in center field this season.

James Paxton’s resurgence is not just about his curveball

Over at the Athletic (subs. required), Lindsey Adler wrote about James Paxton has gotten things on track. This has been covered quite a bit over the last few weeks, including on this very blog, but the part I found most interesting in Adler’s piece was this:

But it’s not just the knuckle-curve that’s made Paxton’s fastball find better results toward the end of the season. The knee injury Paxton suffered in May, he said, kept him from driving his delivery toward the plate, but he is not feeling the effects of that now.

“There was a time when I was really struggling with my knee,” Paxton said. “I don’t think I had the life on (the fastball) that I wanted. I wasn’t using my legs the right way, but now I feel I’m able to get into my legs and I have no problem with that knee and I can really drive through the fastball.”

That makes plenty of sense, right? Look, there’s no doubt his refined pitch mix has helped, but health is also something we may have discounted when he was having a hard time. It could have been part of his issue with allowing first inning runs — perhaps getting his knee good and loose took him longer than usual at the expense of his first inning of work.

Luis Medina is poised to climb prospect rankings

The Baseball Prospectus prospect staff called out a few breakout candidates next season (subs. required). Pitcher Luis Medina is one of them. Though Medina is still somewhat of an enigma, he finished the season really strong and has an incredible skillset. And, after a slow start to 2019, he closed it out on fire. In his last 8 starts, here’s what Medina did: 45 2/3 innings, 63 strikeouts, 29 hits, 15 walks, and 1 home run allowed. All that was good for a 1.77 ERA. Most promising, though, had to be his reduced walk rate.

Chance Adams and Domingo Germán on their curveballs

If you want to nerd out a little bit on pitch grips, Fangraphs’ David Laurila collected some insights on how Chance Adams and Domingo Germán developed their curveballs. In college, Adams moved from a more traditional curveball grip to a knucklecurve. Germán’s grip is unconventional too, apparently.

One thing that really stood out from the pictures within are just how long Germán’s fingers are. He makes the baseball look like a golf ball, especially in comparison to the photos of Adams’s grip.

Adams has yet to break through in the big leagues just yet, but he does have elite curveball spin going for him (93rd percentile). And, as he notes in Laurila’s post, his breaking ball is a little more slurvy which jibes with the movement numbers. His curve’s horizontal movement is 7.1 inches more than average. That’s a top ten mark in the majors.

Germán’s curveball doesn’t light up Statcast, but it’s gotten some pretty impressive results. His whiff rate on his yakker is near the top of the league.

Game 146: An ugly loss

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When it was 6-0 Yankees through the top of the second, the first thing that came to my mind was the mercy rule Aaron Boone brought up a few weeks ago. And if I told you the Yankees would go on to score 11 runs, you’d definitely think that the mercy rule was in need.

Well, the Yankees pitching staff wasn’t up to the task tonight. The team with the fewest runs scored in baseball plated 12. Detroit won via a walkoff RBI single from Jordy Mercer against Chance Adams. Here are the takeaways:

Fool me once… Nestor Cortes did a nice job in his first two innings of work. He blanked the Tigers while striking out two. But once the top of the order came around again, Cortes got knocked around. It was death by singles; three of the first four Tigers hitters singled and cut the Yankees’ advantage to 6-2. That knocked out Cortes with two on and one out in the third.

Cortes had a 4.39 ERA through July 31st and had done a very respectable job through then. But since August, he’s fallen off. He has a 6.75 ERA in 18 2/3 innins since then. Perhaps that’s to be expected of a pitcher who relies on arm angles and mostly junkballing. He’s having a hard time fooling hitters twice; not just in terms of the last month and change, but also tonight when the Tigers’ lineup turned over.

And then there’s Cessa, who has fooled everyone a million times. To be fair, Cessa has been mostly good this season. His ERA is 17 percent better than league average even though his FIP is just 3 percent better than average. So of course, Cessa entered and quickly allowed the two inherited runners to score. And eventually, the Tigers rallied to tie it up at 6.

Cessa seems to do this a lot: once you think he’s on the verge of getting DFA’d, he puts together a stretch of nice performances. After that, you’re just waitin for the outing where he blows up again. In tonight’s case, his previous three were all two innings scoreless outings. But tonight, his bad side flared up. He allowed 3 runs in 2 2/3 innings, though that doesn’t include the two inherited runners from Cortes that scored.

The B-list and C-list relievers need to pitch better than they did tonight. Once Cessa’s night was done and the score was 8-7 in favor of the Yankees, Aaron Boone turned the ball to Cody Gearrin. Look, the game shouldn’t have been 8-7 in the first place, especially after a 6-0 lead. But Gearrin had one job to do: get outs against a lowly Tigers team. He couldn’t do that.

After recording one out in between two singles, Gearrin was lifted for Jonathan Loaisiga. As great as his stuff is, Loaisiga really hasn’t clicked at the big league level yet, and he got hit around. It took three batters for the Tigers to take a 10-8 lead.

And after that, Loaisiga walked the next two hitters to load the bases before finally escaping.

The struggles of these relievers eventually forced Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton to enter this one. That’s not what you want. It’d be great if some of these secondary relievers could get the job done and give the back end guys some extra rest as the season closes out.

Why Chance Adams in the 9th? After Boone went to Ottavino and Britton in the seventh and eighth innings, he pitched Adams in a tie game in the 9th. Adams started off strong: he struck out Travis Demeritte to start the frame. It was all downhill thereafter. Grayson Greiner doubled, and Jordy Mercer won it:

Here’s why this doesn’t make sense: once he brought in Ottavino and Britton, Boone was clearly trying to win the game. Home field advantage is on the line, after all. He wasn’t necessarily punting with guys like Gearrin and Loaisiga earlier because there was still time to tack on more runs. However, once Adams came in, Boone was really living on the edge. The skipper should have stuck to one gameplan, not waver. If he was willing to give his guys some rest in spite of trying for the league’s best record, so be it. But don’t play it both ways.

Moreoever, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman haven’t pitched since the 7th. Either could have pitched the 9th before Adams. Ultimately, though I didn’t like Boone’s decision-making here, it’s not all his fault. The Tigers’ offense is pitiful and should have never scored 12 runs in the first place.

Edit: Apparently Kahnle wasn’t available tonight but should be okay for tomorrow. Still, Boone could have gone to Chapman in the ninth.

Brett Gardner has shown no signs of his usual second half slump. Gardner went deep in each of the first two innings of tonight’s game. He hit both dingers against Edwin Jackson. The first homer, a solo shot that opened the scoring, set Gardner’s career-high mark in homers (22).

He had previously reached 21 in 2017. As you know, he wasn’t done:

Gardner has been great down the stretch this season. Entering tonight, he had a 107 wRC+ in the second half of this season vs. a 109 mark in the first half. That’s quite unlike him, as he typically craters in August and September. Remember, he finished last season with a second half wRC+ of 67.

Not enough homers. I’m being sarcastic, obviously. The Yankees offense did exactly what it had to do against Detroit. It just didn’t get the support of the pitching staff. Not only did Gardy go yard twice, but Didi hit two homers as well. The other two were from Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnación. Here’s Encarnacion’s which tied the game at 10 after Gearrin and Loaisiga coughed things up.

Here’s Didi’s second shot, which gave the Yankees a temporary 11-10 lead.

Leftovers

  • Tyler Wade hit his first career triple in the Yankees’ 5-run second inning. It was the first of his career. It looked like Wade thought he had a homer off the bat, but Comerica Park is huge. It traveled 390 feet in the air and probably would have left Yankee Stadium.
  • Ottavino gave up a run in his inning of work, because no Yankees’ pitcher was safe tonight. Except Zack Britton, of course. He finally delivered some semblance of stability with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
  • The Yankees have caught the Twins in the home run race, 276-all. The Yankees have outpaced them significantly since August, though Minnesota still has two games in hand which could ultimately give them the edge. Whoever comes out on top will have the single season home run record.

These two sides go again tomorrow. Same time, same place. CC Sabathia will make his first start since is most recent knee flare up. Matthew Boyd will counter for Detroit.

Game 142: A Fenway Stinker

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Well that was a lame game. The Yankees fall to 92-50, losing 6-1 to Boston. Here is the box score. The magic number remains at 12. Tonight I really mean it when I say this: let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. Domingo Germán Has a Home Run Problem: Look, Germán has been a lifesaver in 2019. He really has been. All year, he has helped stabilize the Yankee rotation and taken a real step forward after flashing some promise in 2018. I think we’ve covered that again and again on this here website, including this afternoon when Steven noted that Germán might well reach 20 wins this year.

With that said, though, I think it’s pretty clear at this point that Germán gives up a few too many home runs. Coming into tonight, 108 pitchers logged at least 100 innings. Germán’s 1.97 HR/9 rate ranks 9th among them (though it ranks only 3rd on the Yanks, as both CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ have surrendered more). That is not ideal!

The HR bug came back to bite Germán again tonight. With two on and two out in the 4th, Brock Holt hit an RBI single to score Rafael Devers, which brought Mitch Moreland to the plate. Moreland promptly cleared the bases with this:

That made the game 4-0 right there, and it certainly ruined Germán’s night. He wasn’t sharp at all, with 4 walks in 4.1 IP, but the HR, as it so often is, was the biggest blow. Here’s his strike zone plot:

Oof. That about tells the tale right there. He struggled all night, really. Oh well. It is what it is. His final line was 4.1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 5 K. There’s always next time, Domingo.

2. Not So Nasty Nestor Strikes Again: Nestor Cortes only pitched for two-thirds of an inning tonight, but they were not a good two-thirds of an inning. He immediately walked Rafael Devers after replacing Germán, which put two men on (Germán had walked Betts before exiting). Then Boegarts did this:

That added another run to Germán’s line, one to Cortes’, and made it 6-1 Boston. It was not an ideal appearance by any means.

Cortes has had a few of those recently, unfortunately. He had a 8.49 ERA in his last 11.2 IP coming into tonight, spanning 7 appearances since August 12. In those, he’d surrendered 2 runs or more 4 times, held opponents scoreless just twice, and given up 4 big flies. I still love watching Cortes mix up his delivery and arm angles, but it’s been a while since he’s been really effective now. Hopefully, he turns it around soon.

3. Stymied by…Them?: Who the hell even pitched in this game for Boston? I watched this whole game, unfortunately, and I don’t even know. Okay, that’s a little unfair, but I think you get the idea. Here’s who actually pitched for the Yankees’ big rivals tonight:

  • Jhoulys Chacín: 2.0 IP, zeros, 4 K
  • Josh Taylor: 1.0 IP, zeros, 2 K
  • Marcus Walden: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • Andrew Cashner: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 K
  • Ryan Weber: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K
  • Darwinzon Hernandez: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 K

The Yankees couldn’t muster up any offensive production against them. Gross! Now, that’s not completely true. Gregorius logged the Yankees’ first hit in the 4th inning, which was a nice piece of hitting. He slapped the ball the other way down the 3B line, beating the shift, so that was cool. Gary Sánchez followed that up with a walk, but Edwin Encarnación struck out. Oh well.

Brett Gardner, who rules, did log a solo HR right down the RF line, wrapping around the Pesky Pole. Here is the video:

Good stuff! That was Brett’s 21st home run of the season, which ties his career high. It’s September 6. Do we think the balls are juiced or what? But whatever. I’m really enjoying 2019 Brett Gardner and won’t let something like “doctored baseballs” stop that. Gardner also logged the only other Yankee hit of the night. He’s hitting .251/.329/.489 (115 wRC+) on the season. You love to see it.

That was about it, though, for the offense. It was not their best night. Alas.

4. At Least the Defense Showed Up: Hey, the Yankees played great defense! This game was a bummer, but it least it had that going on for it. Let’s go one-by-one.

Luke Voit had a nice play at first, nabbing a sharp grounder from Mitch Moreland that ended the 2nd inning. Check it out:

And then there’s my favorite play of the night. It wasn’t close, really. Jackie Bradley Jr. broke for 2nd on a pitch very low and out of the zone. It’s the type of pitch you dream of stealing a base on, really. But Gary had other plans (#DROG). He made a slick backhanded grab of the ball as it bounced and proceeded to fire an absolute rocket to Gleyber Torres at 2nd. Gleyber made a really impressive tag, and the speedy Bradley was way out. Check this beautiful thing out:

Remember when Gary was having throwing issues for like 3 minutes in the rainy days of April? Yeah, me neither. (Also, I wonder if that was because of the ball?) Anyway, that was a hell of a play.

Finally, Didi Gregorius made a sweet play of his own in the 5th. It didn’t result in a double play (almost!) but it sure was pretty. Check it out:

Sure, the Yankee offense didn’t show up and the pitchers didn’t have a great night. But hey, the Yanks brought their gloves! So that is nice, at least.

Leftovers

  • A Questionable Send: There was a bit of a questionable send in the th inning. With Gary on 2nd base, Brett Gardner lined a single to center field…and they waved Gary, who is slow, home. This despite: 1) the big deficit, 2) the fact that Gary is very slow, 3) the fact that the ball was struck very hard, and 4) Jackie Bradley Jr. has a cannon of an arm. As you can imagine, Gary was out by a mile. Here is the video, if you care to watch it:
  • New Faces in the Bullpen: The Yankees used Tyler Lyons, Cody Gearrin, and Chance Adams to get the last 3 innings worth of outs tonight, and they did very well. They each threw an inning, combining for 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, and 2 K. Not bad! A nice job by the back end of the pen there. Can’t say they didn’t give the offense a shot.
  • Nice to See Ortiz: Finally, Edwin Encarnación and Gary Sánchez visited with David Ortiz yesterday, which warmed my heart. We all remember Ortiz as the victim of a horrific attempted murder in the Dominican Republic two months ago, so it sure was nice to see him out and about with some friendly faces. Keep getting better, David. We’re all rooting for you. Here is some video of the get-together:

Up Next

The Yankees and Red Sox will meet for the 2nd game of their 4-game, wraparound series tomorrow at 4:05 pm. J.A. Happ (5.34 ERA) will face someone from Boston (starter TBD) in Fenway as the Yankees try to even this series at one each. You can catch the game on FS1 nationally, YES locally, and on WFAN for the radio broadcast.

Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone. Hope it’s better than this game was.

Game 138: Gardner hands the keys to Ford to ignite victory

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It’s hard to feel good before any game JA Happ starts this season, but today, he veteran southpaw stepped up. He threw six shutout innings, and though Sean Manaea and the Oakland bullpen matched zeroes to that point, the Yankees were resilient. The B-list relievers put the Bombers in the hold, but it was nothing the offense couldn’t overcome (in walkoff fashion). After losing four straight to the A’s to start the regular season, they finished off the last two victorious, including this one, 5-4.

JA leaves everyone feeling Happy. Heck of a performance by Happ this afternoon. He threw six one-hit innings, didn’t allow a run, and struck out five. His only real blemish was four walks. Here are the last two times he completed six innings of work:

  • 7/30 vs. Arizona
  • 6/6 vs. Toronto

This A’s club hit Happ pretty hard two starts ago, so it’s nice to see him rebound today. He did two things really well: command his fastball and induce soft contact.

That’s a lot of blue and light red, including two clutch double plays to end the first and second innings. The latter helped him escape a jam with runners on the corners and no one out. In sum, Oakland’s batted balls average 82.7 miles per hour, much lower than Happ’s season mark of 88.9.

Even though the southpaw handed out four free passes, he still had quite good location on his fastball:

He pretty comfortably attacked away from a righty’s perspective all day. 62 of his 98 pitches were four-seamers, which came in at an average of 92.5 MPH, his third highest average velocity game for him on the year. Oakland couldn’t seem to square up Happ’s heater; they whiff 8 times and fouled off 16 against it.

For all the good Happ did, he came very close to unraveling in the fith. After walking the first two hitters of the frame, he struck out Jurickson Profar looking and induced Sheldon Neuse and Josh Phegley to fly out. It took 29 pitches to do so, leaving him at 89 overall, so it seemed like the end of his day.

Alas, Happ returned to the mound for the sixth. Didn’t seem like a great idea, especially when it was against Oakland’s top of the order for the third time. Nonetheless, Happ delivered a nine pitch 1-2-3 inning to finish the day.

Boone’s decision to go to September callup relievers proves costly. There’ll surely be some frustration about Boone’s decision to pitch Ryan Dull in the seventh once Happ departed. When Dull entered, there was no score. After recording the first out with ease, he promptly loaded the bases for Sheldon Neuse:

That was Neuse’s first career hit, a go-ahead two-run double. Later, Josh Phegley dribbled an RBI groundout to first base to make it 3-zip. Initiallly, it didn’t look like a run would score on the grounder as Profar held up at third while Luke Voit retrieved it. Once Voit flipped to Dull covering first, Profar broke home to make it 3-0.

In the eighth, Boone went to Chance Adams. The 25 year-old righty made one big mistake: he hung a curveball to Matt Olson, who hit a classic left-handed hitter short porch homer to increase Oakland’s lead to 4-0.

Who else could Boone have gone to?

(Fangraphs)

We know the Yankees don’t like to throw pitchers three games in a row, so count out Cory Gearrin and Tommy Kahnle. Even though Zack Britton said he was available pregame, I’m sure the Yankees wanted to be careful with his calf cramp. Adam Ottavino threw 22 pitches yesterday, but considering he pitched the ninth inning, he could have came in before any of the September call up relievers. Especially since Oakland had their best hitters up when Dull came in.

The offense had no answer for Oakland through seven frames. Sean Manaea, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jake Diekman blanked the Yankees for seven innings. Manaea was particularly impressive in his first game since last summer after undergoing shoulder surgery. He was perfect through three innings and wound up allowing just one hit while walking three and striking out five.

The only real scare the Yankees had against Manaea was the first at-bat of the game. DJ LeMahieu put a charge into one to dead center which died.

The Yankees also threatened in the fifth and loaded the bases with three walks vs. Manaea. But, Matt Olson robbed Mike Tauchman of a hit with a diving playing to end the frame. Tauchman’s batted ball had an expected batting average of .440.

You can’t hold this lineup down for long. Don’t ever count this Yankees team out of any game. This offense is way too good for a four run deficit to be safe. In the eighth, Mike Tauchman walked against Diekman, who was pulled for Lou Trevino. LeMahieu singled and Aaron Judge walked to load things up with nobody out to make Gleyber Torres the tying run. He hit a sac fly that cut the deficit to 4-1. That kept the Yankees streak of at least one run scored in every game dating back to July 1, 2018 alive. It’s the second longest streak ever, only mid-1931 to mid-1933 Yankees went longer.

After the sac fly, Oakland decided to go to closer Liam Hendriks for a five out save. Gary Sánchez popped out in foul territory on a nice play by Olson (again), leaving it up to Didi Gregorius with two outs and runners on second and third. Didi ripped a rocket on one hop to shortstop Marcus Semien, but it was too difficult to handle and went into center field. Two runs scored and the Yankees were down just one. Hendriks escaped further trouble in the eighth. But in the ninth, the Yankees wasted absolutely no time to tie it and win it.


Brett Gardner is awesome, folks. He was a hero once again. And what a moment for Mike Ford, huh? He’s been fantastic lately. He certainly made the most of his pinch-hit opportunity in place of Clint Frazier.

Leftovers:

  • Clint Frazier return to big league action for the first time since June 16th. He went 0 for 2 with a walk. In his first at bat, he scalded a 108 MPH groundout against Sean Manaea.
  • Luis Severino threw one inning and 33 pitches for Scranton. He was pulled after the second inning’s leadoff hitter, Andy Burns, homered. Sevy had allowed a run in the first inning too, which resulted in a final line of: one inning, three hits, two runs, two strikeouts, and one homer. Severino threw his fastball between 94 and 96 MPH.
  • Edwin Encarnación went 1 for 3 with a single and hit by pitch. He was hit by a breaking ball and laughed it off, so nothing to worry about there.

The Yankees are back in action tomorrow afternoon on Labor Day. It’s a 1:05pm start vs. the Texas Rangers. Have a good rest of your Sunday!

Yankees add Frazier, Adams among initial call-ups

Clint!!! (MLB.tv)

The Yankees recalled OF Clint Frazier, RHPs Chance Adams and Ryan Dull and selected the contract of LHP Tyler Lyons for their first set of September call-ups.

To make room for Lyons on the 40-man roster, David Hale was placed on the 60-day IL.

Frazier was the lone position player called up and is in the lineup batting eighth and DH’ing for the series finale in Oakland. Though he batted .283/.330/.513 (115 wRC+) in 53 MLB games, he struggled in Triple-A, going .247/.305/.433 (85 wRC+) in 61 games. However, he worked on his defense and seemed to improve in left field.

Adams and Dull worked in the Triple-A bullpen after recent demotions. Dull never got into a game with the Yankees this year, while Adams had a 7.48 ERA in 21 2/3 innings in his second taste of the Majors. If you want more on Dull, here’s my piece on him from his original acquisition.

Lyons, meanwhile, is new to the Yankees’ roster after signing a Minor League contract two weeks ago. The left-hander was an effective reliever in St. Louis in 2013-2017 before falling to a 9.15 ERA over 20 2/3 innings with the Cardinals and Pirates over the last two seasons. He’s been more effective in his Triple-A stints, including with the Yankees.

The 31-year-old’s fastball velocity is down from the low-90s to high-80s in the past two seasons, though he’s a slider-first pitcher anyway. We’ll see if he can find something back in the Majors.

Hale recently had an injury to his left kene in his rehab from a back injury, so he’s on the shelf for a while. The 60-day IL placement likely keeps him out for the season.

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