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Tag: cory gearrin

An assortment of relievers [2019 Season Review]

Tarpley. (Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of the Yankees’ core tenets is a strong bullpen, as evidenced once again in 2019. But a strong bullpen isn’t just about the relief aces like Zack Britton or Chad Green (among others). Other pitchers play important roles too, even in blowouts and games that aren’t on the line. Today, I take a brief look at an array of pitchers who spent time on the Yankees’ major league roster this season. Most of these pitchers didn’t have much success on the mound, and many won’t be back in 2020, but they still played some role on this year’s club.

Jonathan Holder

After a strong 2018, the Yankees expected Holder to be an important piece of the bullpen. Not in terms of high leverage, but rather, holding the fort down in the middle innings. Unfortunately, he fell far short of his 3.14 ERA and 3.04 FIP in 66 innings a year ago.

Not only did Holder get sent down to Triple-A twice this year, but to add injury to insult, he finished the season on the injured list. The 26 year-old righty wasn’t horrible to start the year, but he certainly wasn’t anything special. By the end of May, he had a 4.55 ERA but a much better 3.07 FIP. Come June, things took a turn for the worst. He allowed six homers and 15 runs (13 earned) in eight innings before he was sent to Scranton.

The final straw came on June 24th, when Holder faced five batters and did not record an out. The big blow was Freddy Galvis’s grand slam. Holder was optioned after the game, returned for one appearance in July, and didn’t resurface in the Bronx again until August. But not long after, he hit the injured list with shoulder inflammation and missed the remainder of the season. There’s no indication that any portion of his 2020 season is in jeopardy.

Assuming he’s healthy, Holder will be in the mix for one of the last bullpen spots in spring training. He has one more minor league option remaining, so he could be an up-and-down relief arm once again if he can’t re-establish himself.

Stephen Tarpley

If you had me guess how many innings Tarpley threw for the Yankees this season, I would have guessed a dozen or so. Maybe it’s because the season has been over for a few months now, but my guess is far off. In fact, the lefty threw 24 2/3 frames for the Bombers this year. He was ineffective and finished the season with a 6.93 ERA and 5.69 FIP.

Tarpley’s big issue was the long ball. He’s been a ground ball pitcher for some time now, even garnering (unfair) comps to Zack Britton, but that was far from the case in 2019. He had just a 36.2 percent ground ball rate and surrendered six homers (2.2 per nine innings). This came on the heels of a 63.8 percent ground ball rate for Scranton this season.

Tarpley still has two more minor league options, so he still has time to work the kinks out. He’s had plenty of success in Triple-A, but it’s just not translated at the big league level. However, he may also be on the 40-man chopping block as we await the official announcements of Gerrit Cole and Brett Gardner.

Cory Gearrin

The Yankees claimed Gearrin off waivers from the Mariners near the end of August. Unexpectedly, he quickly became one of the team’s most oft-used relievers. The sidearmer appeared in 18 of the Yankees final 32 games of the regular season.

His usage was a little perplexing given his uninspiring results, but upon reflection, it makes sense. Not only did Aaron Boone say that the organization believed Gearrin had upside, but Gearrin also offered some relief (pun intended) for guys who had been worked hard like Adam Ottavino.

Gearrin’s a free agent, but there hasn’t been a peep about him in the rumor mill. Not that anyone would expect there to be. Chances are Gearrin receives a minor league deal for 2020, and your guess is as good as mine regarding with what team he’ll sign with.

Tyler Lyons

The Yankees picked up Lyons on a minor league contract in August after the Pirates released him earlier in the month. The former Cardinal was last an effective big league reliever in 2017 while he was still with St. Louis. Once rosters expanded in September, the Yankees gave the lefty a shot.

Lyons was decent in September and had eight scoreless outings in eleven total appearances. Similar to Gearrin, Lyons gave the Yankees another warm body to provide key relievers a breather. Surprisingly, Lyons earned a spot on the playoff roster and appeared in both the ALDS and ALCS. He retired all five batters he faced, including four strike outs, but the games he pitched were already out of hand.

The others

Longtime farmhand Brady Lail, the Yankees’ 18th-rounder in 2012, made a one game cameo in August before the Yankees’ designate him for assignment. He’s currently a minor league free agent…Jake Barrett appeared in two games for the Yankees before elbow inflammation ended his season. He too is a free agent…Same deal for southpaw Joe Mantiply, who was one-and-done for an August game and is now a free agent…the Yankees nabbed Ryan Dull, part of their run on scrapheap relievers, in mid-August off waivers. Dull last only lasted three games with the Bombers before the Blue Jays claimed him off waivers in September…Joe Harvey was a surprise addition to the 40-man entering 2019 and was decent in 10 innings for the Bombers (4.50 ERA). The Yankees traded him to the Rockies for Alfredo Garcia before the deadline.

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Breaking down the Yankees’ bullpen roster decisions

Cessa Time!

With just days until the Division Series opens, we still don’t know how the Yankees will organize their bullpen for the game.

The team has their top five relievers — Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman — set in stone behind their three main starting pitchers. Starters CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ are likely to join the bullpen. However, it’s still a mystery which other relievers the Yankees will roster and just how many.

The Bombers could go with as few as 11 pitchers — just one more pitcher — or as many as 13 arms, most likely in the 12-13 range. The respective absences of Dellin Betances and Domingo German made the last few weeks an open competition for the final spots.

Of the other pitchers on the 40-man roster (sorry, Deivi), here are the top candidates: Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, Cory Gearrin, Ben Heller, Tyler Lyons and Stephen Tarpley. Here’s how they rank by leverage index entering games in September:

  • Cessa: 1.12
  • Lyons: 0.65
  • Gearrin: 0.59
  • Heller: 0.51
  • Tarpley: 0.42
  • Loaisiga: 0.36

From that alone, you can tell that the team has trusted Cessa to bigger spots, allowing him to pitch in high-leverage spots three times in the last month alone, including once in extra innings.

Now, here are some of the basic stats for each pitcher out of the Yankees’ bullpen this season, ordered by ERA:

  • Heller: 7.1 IP, 1.23 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 32.1 K%, 10.7 BB%, 1.23 HR/9
  • Loaisiga: 19.2 IP, 3.20 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 28.4 K%, 11.1 BB%, 1.37 HR/9
  • Cessa: 81 IP, 4.11 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 21.9 K%, 9.0 BB%, 1.56 HR/9
  • Lyons: 8.2 IP, 4.15 ERA, 5.98 FIP, 35.3 K%, 5.9 BB%, 3.12 HR/9
  • Gearrin: 14 IP, 4.50 ERA, 4.79 FIP, 13.1 K%, 6.6 BB%, 1.29 HR/9
  • Tarpley: 23.2 IP, 5.70 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 30.1 K%, 4.14 BB%, 1.14 HR/9

Outside of Cessa, these were some small samples, particularly the long shot Heller, who was working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He’s worth mentioning as a possibility, but he hasn’t worked in high leverage spots. Let’s disregard him for now, though he’s looked good this month.

Meanwhile, this leaves out Loaisiga’s brief stint as a starter in April, as well as Gearrin’s numbers in Seattle, which improve his overall line.

The Top Tier

Cessa, Loaisiga and Gearrin. None of the trio distinguished themselves down the stretch as they each gave up runs in the last week of the season. Still, the three righties each bring something to the table.

Cessa has been the team’s designated innings eater this year. He led all Yankee relievers in innings pitched (81) and served as both a mop-up man and bulk pitcher, with the occasional high-leverage spot mixed in. You won’t mistake him for an elite reliever, but he can give the team length and had a strong outing against the Twins in July.

Loaisiga is the most talented pitcher on the bubble. As I detailed two weeks ago, his stuff is electric, but his command is sub-par. I’d grind my teeth if he’s pitching high-leverage, but he has the makings of a back-end reliever with some refinement. That might not be this season though.

Gearrin is the veteran with the most experience. At 33, he’s in his eighth MLB season and has a 3.64 ERA across 302 innings. The Twins hit him well in a small sample, but Gearrin is most effective as a ROOGY. Have him face lefties and you tempt fate, but he can get righties out at a decent clip (.252/.338/.341 in 154 PAs this season).

The Southpaws

Tarpley and Lyons. They’re under consideration for one reason: Their southpaw status. The two lefties could be deployed, particularly on 13-man pitching staff, as LOOGYs to attack Minnesota’s left-handed hitters. Presumably, Sabathia would serve a similar purpose in October, so these guys could be superfluous.

Lyons didn’t excel against lefties in pinstripes. Lyons allowed two homers to lefties and had a .267/.313/.667 mark against same-sided hitters, though he also struck out eight of the 16 he faced. Tarpley, who was hit around by righties, held lefties to a .200/.289/.300 mark over 11 2/3 innings with just one homer and 18 strikeouts.

Tarpley has been the better of the two, but he’s been asked more often to work as a full-inning reliever to his own detriment. He’s a fringe candidate for the postseason roster, but he’s a better one than Lyons.


With a crowded group of position players, the Yankees should go with just 12 pitchers in the five-game Division Series. Even with some key lefties in the Twins’ lineup, the Yankees can get by with Sabathia as their LOOGY and stick with their top arms to get through the lineup.

That should leave two spots for the bubble candidates mentioned above. Of those, I’d go with Cessa for mop-up duty, with either Gearrin and Loaisiga as your 25th man. In an ideal series, none of these guys see the mound (or they exclusively see the mound, but you get what I mean). This choice shouldn’t make or break the Yankees’ roster, but it’s an important one nonetheless.

Yankees’ end of the regular season checklist

Embed from Getty Images

The Yankees are in the catbird seat with a week to go in the season. No, they may not secure homefield through the postseason, but they’re guaranteed to be home on Oct. 4 to start their playoff run. No regular season game left is a must win, which is neat.

The Bombers still have some business of which to take care in their final five games. Beyond trying to chase down the Astros, they have to figure their final roster, adjust to roles for the postseason and stay fresh all the while. Here’s the checklist for New York the rest of the way.

Chase Homefield, Play Spoiler

The Astros and Yankees have the following schedules ahead of them

Houston: 2G @SEA, 4G @LAA

New York: 2G @TB, 3G @TEX

The Astros (102-54) hold a half game lead over the Yankees (102-55) going into these final games. As a friendly reminder, the Astros have the tiebreaker. That means the Yankees have to lose two fewer games than the Astros the rest of the way.

That’s ultimately unlikely even if the Yankees go full-tilt. The Astros are playing two teams well under .500 and may not even lose two games. Therefore, the Yankees almost certainly have to sweep their final five games to have a chance.

However, the Yankees are also chasing homefield advantage for the World Series. The Dodgers sit at 100-56 with games against the Padres and Giants remaining. By virtue of their series win in Los Angeles, the Yankees have the tiebreak. By finishing with the same record or better than LA, the Pinstripers would be guaranteed to start and end a potential Fall Classic at home.

Lastly, the Bombers can spoil the Rays’ bid to even advance to October. Tampa Bay is tied for the second wild card spot with Cleveland. Win one or two of their pair with the Rays and the Yankees could knock their division mates out of the dance.

Gonna need all this firepower in October. (MLB Gifs)

Get Healthy and Stay Healthy

The Yankees now have a handful of key contributors out for the year with Aaron Hicks and Dellin Betances chief among them. There are only 11 days to get right for ALDS Game 1. Of the walking wounded in the Bronx, there are three players the team needs to get back on the field that could actually return: Gleyber Torres, Edwin Encarnación and Gary Sánchez.

Torres, by all accounts, is fine after his injury scare Friday, but he was out of the lineup for consecutive games this weekend. Just getting him back and fresh over the next five games is a priority.

Encarnación is expected to return in Texas, though he could play in the finale against the Rays, Aaron Boone told reporters. Sánchez has a chance of playing by the end of the Rangers series, but he may have to go into the postseason cold. Not ideal, but he has to remain steadfast in his rehab.

On the stay healthy side, Giancarlo Stanton and Luis Severino looked good in their respective returns this week. The Yankees now have to get Stanton ready for a full game in the field and further stretch out Severino. Do that, and that’s two elite players back.

Adjust to Playoff Roles

Stanton appeared in 36 games in left field last year and has already played eight there this season, including Opening Day. Still, the Yankees can give him more reps as he prepares for his October home.

Meanwhile, Cameron Maybin should probably start another game in center field as he’s the backup there for October. Aaron Judge has all of a few outs of MLB experience in center, so he could handle it in a pinch, but it’s best not to need him. Tyler Wade can handle more outfield reps as well as some pinch running opportunities if he’s going to be a supersub (more on that later).

On the pitching side, CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ figure to pitch out of the postseason bullpen. The plan is for Sabathia to have a scripted start of an inning out of the pen in Tampa, then an unscripted opportunity in Texas. Happ will pitch at some point Wednesday in Tampa, perhaps behind an opener.

Figure out Final Roster Spots

As we’ve detailed in recent weeks, the Yankees have the majority of their postseason roster spots all but decided, provided a few key players are healthy. If Sanchez and Encarnacion are on the roster, there are really only three spots up for grabs, and two of them should be relievers. Here’s a quick rundown of the locks:

Position Players (12): Sánchez, Romine, Voit, Encarnación, LeMahieu, Torres, Gregorius, Urshela, Stanton, Gardner, Judge, Maybin

Pitchers (10): Paxton, Tanaka, Severino, Happ, Sabathia, Ottavino, Kahnle, Britton, Chapman, Green

I’m assuming the Yankees go with 12 pitchers in the Division Series. With two days off in the series, they shouldn’t need more than that. That leaves two spots open for Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, Cory Gearrin, Ben Heller and Tyler Lyons, those being the most realistic candidates.

The first three there are the best of those with Loaisiga having the best stuff and looking dominant in two recent low leverage outings. I think Cessa and Loaisiga take the spots, but I’d like to see Gearrin get a chance.

If the last spot goes to a position player, it appears that Wade has the spot. (The Yanks could also eschew Maybin for Wade, but that would be questionable.) Wade can play everywhere on the field outside of pitcher, catcher and first base. He’s the fastest man on the team and would be an excellent pinch runner. Is he needed? No, yet a designated pinch runner likely has more use than another reliever in a short series.

Game 133: Ford Slugs 2 HR as Yanks Best Mariners 5-4

TFW the Yankees don’t stop winning

Remember when the Mariners were 13-2? Me neither. The wheels really fell off for them this year, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Yankees took advantage of the bad opponent, riding a big 2nd inning to a 5-4 victory. Aroldis Chapman came on in the 9th inning and locked down the save, preserving the win. Here is the box score as the Yankees improve to 86-47 on the season. They retain their huge AL East lead, as you know.

Also, before today’s game, I noted on Twitter that the Yankees had 20+ HR from every lineup slot except the 9-hole, so of course number 9 hitter Mike Ford went out there and mashed two HR to make it official. The Yankees are now the first team to have done this in consecutive seasons after becoming the first team in MLB history to do so last year. And they did it in August. They have a shot to get 30 (!) HR from each lineup if they stay hot. Unlikely, but not impossible.

Anyway, it’s 1 am in New York and I have work in the morning, so let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. A Mediocre Night for J.A. Happ: Look, was it a mediocre night? I don’t know. He gave up 3 ER in 5 IP to the lowly-Mariners, and he walked 3 of them. And yet Happ surrendered just 2 H and retired 7 batters by strikeout, so it wasn’t all bad. But, Happ being Happ, one of those hits was a big home run. Here is the video:

That one was a 3-run bomb to Dylan Moore, who is hitting just .207/.304/.402 (92 wRC+) on the season. That’s just what J.A. Happ is into these days. Here is the Yankees’ 2019 Home Run Leaderboard, for those keeping track at home:

  1. Gleyber Torres: 33
  2. J.A. Happ: 31
  3. Gary Sánchez: 29
  4. Domingo Germán: 28
  5. CC Sabathia: 22

As an old friend used to say…that is not what you want! Good grief. That is a lot of home runs. Listen, Happ is a good pitcher. He is the subject of some significant wrath these days, and I get it, but the man had a 3.44 (125 ERA+) across 3 seasons in the AL East, the majority of which he had to face both NYY and BOS. Hopefully, the non-juiced ball in 2020 will help him out, but who knows. He should also throw fewer fastballs, in my opinion.

Anyway, there was a new approach from Happ tonight, first noticed by Friend of the Blog™ Lucas Apostoleris:

He threw 2 more curveballs, which made it 5 on the night. Weird. I said before that Happ should throw fewer fastballs, so maybe this is the start of something? I’ll have to look into it more soon, but for now this is just going to get labeled Something to Watch™. I’m still going with a mediocre start, by the way. I’m in a generous mood. Here was the strike zone plot:

2. Gleyber Torres, Still Just 22: I’m sure you all know this by now, but it bears repeating: Gleyber Torres is 22-years-old. That’s it. And yet our man is still hitting .288/.353/.554 (133 wRC+) after his 1-4 night tonight. That also included this, which was his 33rd home run of the 2019 season:

That one left the bat at 108+ mph and traveled 438 feet to dead center, which is the very definition of power. Remember when Gleyber was supposed to be a 10-15 homer guy? So much for that. On a related note, check out the AL HR Leaderboard:

  1. Mike Trout, LAA: 42
  2. Jorge Soler, KCR: 36
  3. Max Kepler, MIN: 35
  4. Gleyber Torres, NYY: 33
  5. Nelson Cruz, SEA: 33

Our guy, who is 22-years-old, is 4th in the American League in HR as a middle infielder. Now, I know the baseballs are juiced and all that, and that really does matter. But you also just gotta tip your cap to Gleyber Torres, who just continues to improve in nearly every element of his game. He has most notably cut down on his strikeout rate, which now sits at 20.3% this year compared to 25.2% last year.

It’s pretty wild to me how quickly he became one of the Yankees’ best hitters. Gleyber Torres is going to be on the Yankees for a long time, and that’s as exciting a prospect as I can remember in some time because, again, he is just 22-years-old.

3. Mike Is Built Ford Tough: What more is there to say about the Yankees’ depth this season? The 27-year-old 1B has ably filled in for Edwin Encarnación, hitting .232/.330/.516 (115 wRC+) with 8 home runs in just over 100 plate appearances. It seems that crushing an all-time legend like Clayton Kershaw is good for the confidence, so Ford added two more home runs to the tally tonight, both of which traveled 399 feet. Here is the first, which was his 7th of the season:

And here was the second, which was his 8th:

Both big flies came off Malone (more on him below), which is interesting because Milone is a lefty. Before tonight, Ford came into the game hitting .438/.500/1.188 (322 wRC+) with 4 HR in 18 plate appearances, which is a tiny sample, so tiny as to be minuscule, but it’s worth noting.

Anyway, that’s now 6 homers off lefty pitchers for Ford, who is giving the Yankees some much-needed lefty-on-lefty pop. It’ll be worth tracking how Ford does against southpaws going forward, in any case.

4. High-Leverage Nasty Nestor: After some weirdness in the bottom of the 6th with Cory Gearrin (more on that below), Boone turned to Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr. with one out and runners on 1st and 2nd in a 2-run game…and Nestor rewarded him (mostly). He got Omar Nervaez to pop up to Torres at short and induced a weak fly ball to Judge from Jake Fraley to escape the jam and preserve the lead.

In the 7th, though, he ran into some trouble. Specifically, he ran into Mallex Smith, who did this:

But all things considered, that’s a solo home run. It’s not the end of the world, even if it’s not ideal. Cortes recovered, and his ultimate line was 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K. On the season, Nestor has 54 K in 55 IP, but also has 20 walks and 11 HR allowed. He’s been a relatively mixed bag, but I have to admit that I love watching him pitch.

Anyway, taht was an appearance that could have gone much differently, but instead, Cortes kept the Yankees in the lead and passed the game on to the big relievers in Kahnle and Chapman. That’s the name of the game for a guy like Cortes.

Leftovers

  • Tommy Milone, (Former) Yankee Killer: Remember when soft-tossing lefties like Tommy Milone were the kiss of death for the Yankees? Me too. Tommy Milone probably wishes he does, too. Coming into tonight, Milone owned a 2.70 ERA in 23.1 IP against the Bombers in his career (though the Yanks had won some games against him despite it). Tonight, though, it was all Yanks. The Yanks tagged him for 5 runs in 3.0 innings. They slugged 3 HR off him (you saw them above). Great stuff, guys.
  • Balkin’ Cory Gearrin: Pretty weird scenario in the bottom of the 6th. First of all, going to Gearrin there–it was a relatively high-leverage spot in a 2-run game–is just another example of the Yankees not using guys on 3 consecutive days. Anyway, Gearrin does a weird double toe-tap thing from the stretch that became an issue in the 6th. With a guy on 1st, the umpires stopped the game to warn Gearrin, evidently, Boone came out to discuss, and he threw some warm-up (?) pitches in the middle of the inning. All to avoid a balk, which of course he then did a few pitches later. It seemed to really get with Gearrin, too, who walked Seager after the balk. He would recover to strikeout Tom Murphy and Boone took him out, but yeah. That was a weird one.
  • Tommy Kahnle is So Good: After all that with the no three-days-in-a-row rule, the Yankees still managed to turn this game over to Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman with a 1-run lead going into the 8th inning. Kahnle even got to face Seattle’s 3-4-5 hitters. That’s pretty much just how you drew it up. Anyway, Kahnle retired Nola on a disgusting changeup (I have a post in the works on the pitch, which is just filthy), retired Seager on a weak grounder to short, and retired Murphy on a series of even more disgusting changeups. He is striking out nearly 14 men per 9 (37%) and has a 2.77 ERA in 52 innings pitched this season. He’s been unreal.
  • Rakin’ Romine: Everyone’s favorite backup catcher Austin Romine has done it again, with 1-4 night. He’s now up to .270/.292/.410 (81 wRC+) somehow, in large part thanks to a .338/.362/.585 (144 wRC+) line in about 70 plate appearances since the All-Star Break. Tonight, his 1 hit drove in Mike Tauchman (nice baserunning), and the video is here, so check it out:
  • Small Ball Aaron Judge: After a weekend with a power display, we saw a little bit of small ball Aaron Judge tonight. In the 4-run 2nd inning, in which the Yankees batted around, Judge beat out a soft grounder off LHP Tommy Milone and then promptly stole second base. You just can’t predict baseball, Suzyn (but seriously, just is so much more than a simple power hitter).
  • Let Brett Bang Celebration Continues: Seems like the “Let Brett Bang” celebration is going to be one that sticks, huh? It’s been going on since the ejection last week, and it feels like the sort of thing this team is just going to run with. I personally enjoy this kind of thing, and plus this one is just objectively hilarious. I mean:

Up Next

The Yanks will continue their West Coast trip tomorrow night for the second of this three-game set against Seattle. Masahiro Tanaka (9-7, 4.68 ERA) will take on Yusei Kikuchi (5-8, 5.19 ERA) in another 10:10 pm start. I’ll be up with you, and we’ll have you covered every step of the way. Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone, and be sure to enjoy your extra cup of coffee tomorrow morning.

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