I don’t know about you, but I haven’t spent too much time watching baseball since the Yankees were eliminated. I’ve tried to tune in to the NLCS, but my goodness, Globe Life Field is incredibly depressing. What an awful ballpark. As for the ALCS? Just can’t do it. Seeing Tampa Bay going for the sweep tonight is a bummer knowing that the Yankees would have stomped Houston. Sigh. Anyway, here’s the latest in the Yankees’ world:
End of season press conferences: Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman spoke to the media today. We recapped it here.
Domingo Germán’s future: In the same interview, Hal was asked about whether or not he’d be comfortable having Germán on the roster next season. His response: “I have to absolutely feel comfortable that he deeply, deeply regrets and is sorry for what he did, and I absolutely have to be comfortable with the fact that he’s turned his life around”. The details of the incident aren’t public, but it sure doesn’t sound good.
Details on Zack Britton’s option:The reliever told the New York Post that, based on his understanding, the Yankees have to decide on his 2022 option three days after the end of the World Series. If declined, Britton will have two days to decide on opting out of 2021.
DJ LeMahieu is the Yankees’ Hank Aaron Award Nominee:MLB announced each team’s candidate this morning. LeMahieu, who won the batting title with a .364 batting average, also had the American League’s best wRC+ (177). He’s got to be the favorite in the AL, no?
Send us your mailbag questions: Just a friendly reminder here. Shoot an email to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll consider your question for upcoming mailbag posts.
Happy Friday, everyone. Got a handful of questions in this week’s mailbag. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We answer our favorites each week.
Jeff asks: Not to sound too complain-y about Gerrit Cole, but small sample size aside…what does the underlying data say in regards to hit Hard Hit percentage being the highest of his career?
Atlanta socked three dingers against Gerrit Cole a few days ago and made a bunch of hard contact otherwise. Home runs have been a problem for Cole this year (10 allowed in 41 innings), but he’s given up his fair share of dingers in the past. But as Jeff points out, Cole’s 45.5 percent hard hit rate is the highest of his career. Previously, it maxed out at 39.8 percent in 2018 with Houston. Last year, he had a 35.5 percent rate.
Before digging deeper, it’s important to note that hard hit percentage makes up any batted ball with an exit velocity of 95 MPH or higher. It can be a popup or grounder too, not necessarily just a line drive or a deep fly ball. Pointing this out matters. For instance, if you look back at Cole’s 2018 season, you’ll see that his hard hit rate was one of the worst in the league (13th percentile). However, his expected batting average (91st percentile), expected slugging (83rd percentile), and xwOBA (89th percentile) were all superb. Even though there were a lot of high exit velocities against him, hitters didn’t square up too often.
So at first glance, a high hard hit rate against Cole isn’t necessarily a big deal this season. I’d say that the bigger concern is opponents’ higher barrel rate against him. Right now, that stands at 11.1 percent (career-worst, 7.6 previous high in 2017) and is in the 27th percentile of MLB. I’m still pretty comfortable chalking that up to a small sample size, though. His stuff certainly hasn’t deteriorated. He just hasn’t put everything together for one outing yet. Frustrating? Yes. But I have no reason to doubt it’ll come around.
I have one theory as to why batters are barreling Cole’s pitches more often this season. Cole has seemed to struggle throwing his curveball for strikes, which is something he could do in the past. Take a look:
Basically, Cole’s only been able to locate his fastball for a strike with consistency in 2020. That probably makes things easier for hitters — they aren’t seeing knee-buckling curveballs dropped into the strike zone like in years past. It’s one less thing to keep them honest.
Iron Mike asks: What do you think Domingo Germán’s future is with the Yankees next year? Also if the Yankees are in dire need of pitching, can’t he technically pitch after the 3rd game of the playoffs?
I’ll get your second question out of the way first: yes, he can technically return after the third game of the playoffs, but I would not expect that to happen. As far as I know, he’s home and not preparing for a return. I doubt the Yankees would want to throw him out in a high leverage spot for the first time in 2020, anyway.
As for next year: I think Germán will be a rotation candidate. The Yankees will have no shortage of openings with James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and JA Happ all potentially gone via free agency. Plus, Luis Severino won’t be ready for the start of the season. And, considering how comfortable the Yankees were with bringing in Aroldis Chapman twice after a domestic violence suspension, I can’t envision anything different here.
Brian asks: Has there been any update on the Ellsbury contract situation? Will he be paid the same prorated salary that other players are earning, and is there any news on whether or not the Yankees are still trying to avoid paying him because he sought unapproved medical advice?
It’s been radio silence on Jacoby Ellsbury for months now. I believe the last we heard was that the MLBPA filed a grievance on the outfielder’s behalf in attempt to regain the remaining $26 million on his contract. Unless the two sides settle, there will be an arbitration hearing.
If Ellsbury wins the grievance, he’ll get his full $26 million. He was released well before this pandemic changed the fate of the 2020 baseball season. Per Forbes, players not on 40-man rosters receive their full guaranteed contracts. Had the Yankees kept him around, he’d have earned roughly $9.6 million. Tough luck for the Bombers, I suppose, but there’s a chance the team walks away without paying him a penny if they win the hearing.
Old friend Steven asks: The most obvious selling team is the Red Sox. If Chaim Bloom came to you, the Yankees GM, and said everyone but Devers, Benintendi and Eduardo Rodríguezwere on the table, who would you target?
Oh, I think this is an easy one: Xander Bogaerts. Though I have to imagine that he probably wouldn’t be on the table, either. The 27 year-old shortstop is in the first year of a six-year deal, though he can opt out after 2022. He’s currently hitting .276/.342/.505 (123 wRC+) for Boston and is coming off a 7 WAR season.
Frankly, there’s really not much else on this roster that’s attractive. I *suppose* the Yankees could benefit from either Nate Eovaldi or Martín Pérez, but that’s a real stretch. Been there, done that with Eovaldi, who hasn’t been good since 2018 anyway. He’s also under contract through 2022. Pérez has actually been OK this season (3.45 ERA and 4.56 FIP in 31 1/3 innings), but he’s not particularly inspiring. His career DRA is 6.13. Barf.
Finally, with the departures of Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree, there’s not much left in this bullpen to look at. I do think that Phillips Valdez is intriguing (0.98 ERA, 3.15 FIP in 18 1/3 innings). His changeup, which he throws 47.1 percent of the time, has been pretty nasty. He’s got a 36.9 percent whiff rate on the pitch.
Anyway, the Yankees and Red Sox haven’t pulled off a trade since the Stephen Drew for Kelly Johnson swap in 2014. That was the first time to two sides made a swap since 1997! Baseball Reference has the rundown of all Yankees-Red Sox trades here.
Playing baseball seems pretty reckless right now, but things will move full steam ahead starting this week. The Yankees already announced their initial player pool yesterday, which I broke down here. Most of those players will report to “summer camp” by Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. The rest, i.e. the taxi squad, will head to another location.
Boland quotes one club insider who said that Judge “didn’t seem to be holding anything back”. That’s good and all, but tee work is still a long ways away from game action. Hopefully, the three week tune up is enough time for him to ramp up from the tee to game-ready. The Yankees really need as much of Judge as possible in this shortened season, so hopefully we get better news when the players report to camp this week. For now though, “could” doesn’t leave me particularly optimistic.
Stanton, Hicks, and Paxton are healthy
In better injury news: Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and James Paxton are healthy.
Stanton, who lost nearly all of 2019 to a myriad of injuries, suffered a calf strain back in February. It’s not new news that Stanton’s ready, though. Manager Aaron Boone said so back in March, as Bobby reminded us in a post a few weeks ago.
Finally, Paxton’s surgically repaired herniated disc is a non-issue at this point. This is old news, but positive nonetheless. Having a healthy Paxton piggy back Gerrit Cole during the 60 game sprint will be key, especially if the southpaw is as good as he was down the stretch last summer. Remember, the Yankees were undefeated in his final eleven starts of 2019 when he posted a 2.51 ERA. Not only would a repeat performance obviously propel the Yankees, but it would help Paxton land a big contract this winter when he hits free agency.
Domingo Germán’s suspension
The shortened season has guaranteed that the Yankees won’t have Domingo Germán in 2020. The 27 year-old right hander was suspended at the end of 2019 after MLB’s investigated a domestic violence altercation between Germán and his girlfriend.
Entering this year, there were 63 games remaining on his suspension which would have put him on track for a return in June under normal circumstances. Instead, the remainder of his suspension will keep him on the sidelines for all of the regular season and three postseason games should the Yankees make it. I can’t imagine the Yankees bringing him back for the postseason, though.
About JA Happ’s Vesting Option
I doubt that the Yankees want to bring JA Happ back in 2021. Over a full 162 game season, it wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the Yankees to prevent his $17 million option from vesting. Was he really going to make 27 starts or throw 165 innings over a full season this year? Probably not. But now, under the terms of the March agreement, things get trickier for the Yankees. Take a look:
Each player signed to a major league contract at the start of the season shall have his salary determined by multiplying his full-season salary by the number of games scheduled (not adjusting for weather-related postponements or cancellations) divided by 162, minus any advanced salary. In the event of an additional interruption or delay, the salary shall be determined by multiplying his full-season salary by the games played by the player’s club divided by 162. Thresholds and amounts for bonuses, escalators and vesting options would be reduced by using the same formula.
In a 60 game schedule, Happ needs to make 10 starts or throw at least 61 1/3 innings to return to the Yankees in 2021. I wouldn’t fret about the innings threshold. However, limiting Happ to just nine starts during that span won’t be so simple. It’ll take an injury or a demotion to the bullpen to fall short. I guess we can’t rule out contraction of COVID-19 either, sadly. What a world we live in.
What if the pandemic interrupts or ends the 60 game season prematurely? Happ’s thresholds would be recalculated based on the amount of games the Yankees play. Since Happ will only need to make one start every six games, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where the season ends after just 10 games and Happ’s already made two starts, thereby guaranteeing his 2021 option.
Steamer and ZiPS have had their days in the sun, but today, it’s PECOTA‘s turn. In continuation of our series reviewing the Yankees’ projections, let’s take a look at Baseball Prospectus’s projection system du jour.
Betting the over
Hitter: PECOTA is definitely the projection system lowest on Gleyber Torres. It still gives him a solid forecast — .257/.323/.464 with 28 homers in 595 plate appearances (111 DRC+, 2.9 WARP) — but that seems very beatable. Such a performance would be a step down from his career 123 DRC+, and I can’t imagine predicting the 23 year-old to regress at this point of his career. On the bright side, Torres’s top comps is pretty nice: Carlos Correa.
Pitcher: I feel like projection systems are sleeping on Adam Ottavino, PECOTA included. Now, PECOTA isn’t quite as low as Steamer is, but I expect better than a 3.49 ERA and 4.01 DRA for Otto. As I wrote in the Steamer post, it’s pretty clear that these systems are very conservative on the right-handed reliever because of his high walk rates.
Betting the under
Hitter: Kyle Higashioka is in line for the backup catcher role this year, and by PECOTA’s evaluation, he’ll be pretty good at it. BP’s system doesn’t have a spectacular offensive projection by any means (89 DRC+), but does foresee a bit of power (9 homers in 175 plate appearances). Much of Higashioka’s 1.3 WARP projection is tied to his defense (+8 FRAA), as expected. My expectation: he won’t hit quite that well. He has a nice minor league track record offensively, but playing sporadically will make things a little more difficult for him and I just don’t see a 31 homers per 600 plate appearances pace.
Pither: I can’t see Domingo Germán recording a 3.47 ERA in 2020, which is what PECOTA forecasts. His 4.48 projected DRA is a bit worse and seemingly more reasonable, but I find it very difficult to be that high on a pitcher’s run prevention skills after he surrendered 30 homers in 143 innings last year. PECOTA also has German pitching more often in relief (34 games, 8 starts) which perhaps accounts for a lower ERA, though it’s anyone’s guess as to what role Germán plays when his suspension for domestic violence ends.
Hitter: I picked DJ LeMahieu for the over against Steamer and could have done so again with ZiPS. But when it comes to PECOTA, things look much more sensible from my perspective. PECOTA projects DJLM to be the Yankees’ best position player (5.2 WARP) and expects him to slash .303/.359/.456 (119 DRC+) with 16 HR in 595 PA. Perhaps there’s a little more power in there than that, but I’m not going to quibble with this projection.
Pitcher: Sign me up for Luis Severino’s PECOTA. A 3.19 ERA and 2.9 WARP in 156 innings? Yes, please. Sure, a little more in terms of innings would be nice, but better to be safe than sorry after a lost 2019.
Hitter: Last year, I wrote about Luke Voit’s terrific preseason PECOTA projection for BP. It was an eye opening forecast for a hitter with a limited, abeit terrific, major league track record. This year, Mike Ford has virtually the same preseason forecast under similar circumstances. It expects Ford to slash .255/.342/.502 (126 DRC+) with 12 dingers in 210 plate appearances after a 125 DRC+ in 2019. Voit wound up falling short of his 2019 projection (118 actual vs. 128 projected DRC+), but much of that was due to injury.
Pitcher: I can’t say I expect much from Jordan Montgomery this year. However, PECOTA foresees a solid first full season back from Tommy John surgery. In 89 innings, it calls for 1.0 WARP buoyed by a 3.48 ERA and 4.58 DRA. The DRA projection looks reasonable, but the ERA is much lower than I anticipated.
Hitter: Has Luke Voit’s second half slump resulted in some people sleeping on the first baseman? That’s my impression, at least. Bobby dispelled that in Voit’s season review, and now PECOTA reminds us that Voit is still potent at the dish. The first baseman is projected to bat .263/.354/.471 with 25 bombs in 560 plate appearances. That’s good for a 119 DRC+ and 2.0 WARP.
Pitcher: PECOTA adores Chad Green. He didn’t start off 2019 so hot, but he was excellent down the stretch after returning from a minor league stint. In 2020, PECOTA says we can expect Green (68 DRC-) to be the Yankees’ best reliever not named Aroldis Chapman (66 DRC-). In 65 innings, PECOTA projects Green to post a 2.66 ERA and 3.33 DRA. Should he hit those marks, it would be Green’s best season since he burst onto the scene in 2017.
Major League Baseball has concluded its investigation into Domingo Germán following accusations of domestic violence. Germán has been on “administrative leave” since September 19 while the investigation was underway. He was accused of slapping his girlfriend — the mother of his children — following CC Sabathia’s charity event.
It is the fourth-longest suspension handed out under the league’s current domestic violence framework, but it is the longest suspension absent criminal charges, per Keyser. The suspension is retroactive. Germán missed 18 games in 2019 — 9 in the playoffs and 9 in the regular season — which will count toward his 81-game suspension. He’ll miss 63 games of the 2020 season. MLBPA is not expected to appeal the suspension, also per Keyser. Germán is not putting out a statement in response.
There are obviously downstream baseball impacts here. Germán won’t be able to play in a professional game until June, meaning his ability to contribute to the team is limited. That’s not important, though. It’s much important to see the league handle this matter with the seriousness it deserves. Germán, for his part, is required to participate in “evaluation and treatment” programs while suspended. He will also donate money to a charity that provides victims of domestic violence with counseling. Hopefully, everyone else involved in this ugly affair is getting the help they deserve, too. That’s the real story here, baseball be damned.
UPDATE (3:36 pm): The Yankees have released a statement following the report. Here it is: