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Should Kyle Higashioka be Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher?

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Gerrit Cole gets the ball tonight in what will be his final regular season start. In all likelihood, Kyle Higashioka will catch him this evening. Higgy has caught Cole’s last three starts, all of which have been excellent performances from the ace. The Yankees have yet to put an official label on it, but it sure looks like Higashioka is Cole’s personal catcher. Should that hold, Gary Sánchez will be on the bench for Game 1 of the postseason. The numbers for Cole throwing to the two catchers are jarring:

By Catcher
Split G IP ERA HR BB SO BA OBP SLG tOPS+
Kyle Higashioka3 20.0 0.901527.127.184.21124
Gary Sanchez8 46.0 3.91121260.224.282.494131
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2020.

Catcher ERA typically is not indicative of much, but considering how stark the results are between the two backstops and Sánchez’s lack of hitting this season, it’s become a pretty easy decision to make. Stuff-wise, Cole doesn’t look any different with either catcher behind the plate. That said, there are some differences worth pointing out that perhaps Gary can take into account for 2021.

When I last wrote about Cole, hitters were teeing off against his fastball. I surmised that a big problem was his inability to throw his secondary pitches in the strike zone, making it easier for batters to sit fastball. I guess I was wrong. Here’s a heatmap of Cole’s secondary offerings in his last three starts, all with Higashioka behind the plate.

And yet, Cole’s fastball has been even more effective despite a lack of curves, sliders, and changeups in the zone. With Higgy, batters have a .241 wOBA and .268 xwOBA against Cole’s fastball. With Gary, opponents’ wOBA is .343 and xwOBA is .366 against the heat. Huge difference.

Perhaps it wasn’t as simple as just being able to wait for Cole to throw a fastball since nothing else was going to be a strike. Rather, it appears that pitch usage with Higashioka behind the plate is not as predictable as when Sánchez has caught Cole. Let’s start with overall pitch selection:

Pitch TypeHigashiokaSánchez 
4-Seam51.0%54.1%
Slider20.9%25.5%
Curve20.9%15.0%
Change7.1%5.4%

Fewer fastballs and a little more balance in the slider/curve department when Higashioka catches. Let’s now go to when Cole falls behind in the count:

Pitch TypeHigashiokaSánchez 
4-Seam54.9%69.4%
Slider27.5%16.8%
Curve9.8%6.6%
Change7.8%7.1%

Now here’s a massive difference. 1-0, 2-0, 3-1…whatever the count may be, hitters could bank on a heater coming with Gary catching Cole. Not so much with Higashioka. Alright, how about when Cole’s ahead in the count?

Pitch TypeHigashiokaSánchez 
4-Seam47.1%44.8%
Slider22.1%35.6%
Curve23.5%15.6%
Change7.4%4.0%

Fastball usage is pretty similar here. If anything, Higgy has been more willing to have Cole throw his curve, whereas Sánchez went more slider heavy. Finally, let’s look at even counts.

Pitch TypeHigashiokaSánchez 
4-Seam51.9%52.2%
Slider15.6%23.0%
Curve26.0%19.5%
Change6.5%5.3%

Again, Higashioka seems to favor the curveball a bit more than Gary. Here’s a visual breakdown of count and pitch usage by catcher:

Higashioka catching.
Sánchez catching.

Overall, it’s evident that Higashioka has called a less predictable game with Cole on the mound as compared to Sánchez. In fairness, we can’t assign 100 percent of the credit or blame to Cole’s battery mates for pitch calling. He can shake them off he wants, you know. Still, the results with Higashioka have been much better and there is a noticeable difference in how Cole has attacked hitters with Higgy behind the plate. The fastball isn’t as hittable and the overall numbers are great.

I’ve been a staunch defender of Sánchez, but I can’t argue for him in favor of Higashioka with Cole on the mound at the moment. If Gary was raking, it might be a different story. I know he’s hit better of late, but it’s not enough to convince me that catching him over Higgy in Game 1 is the right move. It’s a bit easier to stomach Higashioka in the lineup now that the offense is at full-strength, too. This situation can be reassessed next year, but for now, it’s time to pair Higashioka and Cole for the rest of 2020.

Game 48: That was easy

This one was over pretty early. The Yankees put up crooked numbers in the second, third, and fourth innings en route to a 20-6 victory. Rookie Deivi García was great again, the offense socked a bunch of homers, and Toronto’s gaffes in the second inning opened things up. The winning streak is up to six and the Bombers are back in second place in the AL East. To the takeaways we go:

But first, we interrupt this recap to bring you a few words from David Cone and Michael Kay:

Yes, yes, we agree. Now, back to your regularly scheduled recap.

The Yankees are finally catching some breaks. It wasn’t that long ago when the Yankees couldn’t help but trip over themselves. Remember that awful loss to the Mets in extras? Those were the bad times when the team was making tons of sloppy plays and players were hitting the injured list on a daily basis. The tides have turned of late, though. Tonight, especially.

If not for Derek Fisher, the Yankees might have not scored in the second inning. Instead, one error and a misplay scored a single really allowed things to unfurl. Jays’ starter Taijuan Walker couldn’t stop the bleeding and pick up his outfielder, either.

First, with Gio Urshela (welcome back!) on second and one out, Clint Frazier hit what should have been a routine fly out to right:

Brett Gardner followed with a fly ball in the gap that Fisher couldn’t track down:

Two brutal miscues, but Walker still had a chance to get out of this with just one run allowed. After the Gardner hit, Walker struck out Gary Sánchez for the second out of the frame. That left just Tyler Wade between Walker and a trip to the dugout with the score just 1-1. Walker got to 0-2 on Wade, but couldn’t finish him off. A few pitches later, Wade delivered:

That’s just inexcusable for Walker. Wade, a lifetime .188/.264/.293 hitter coming into this game, should be an easy out especially when he’s behind 0-2 and is the final batter before the top of the order. Instead, after the Wade knock, DJ LeMahieu singled in another run to make it 3-1. That’s when things really snowballed.

Those back-to-back homers knocked Walker out of the ballgame. The offense continued to pour it on against Toronto’s next two arms, Shun Yamaguchi and Anthony Kay. The bats wound up scoring 20 runs, though this one was effectively over after the second inning.

All this happened as a result of a few things going the Yankees way. It’s nice to be the beneficiary of fielding gaffes and poor execution, isn’t it?

Deivi García was up for the challenge. This was the rookie’s second straight start against the Blue Jays. I wrote about the adjustments that he or the Jays could make for today’s game. Whatever either side did, Toronto didn’t do much better this time. García gave up 3 runs in 7 innings after he allowed 2 in 7 in Buffalo.

There were a couple of differences in Deivi’s approach against Toronto tonight, though I’m not so sure they were voluntary. First, He threw just 3 curveballs all night, which indicates that he didn’t have great feel for the pitch. It’s typically his most-used breaking ball, as you know. He threw one in the second, one in the third, and one in the fourth inning. The last one was a hanger that Lourdes Gurriel hit for a two-run homer. At that point, García probably had seen enough of the pitch.

The other difference: fastball command. Take a look at where he spotted his heater tonight:

Now, take a look at where he put it last week:

He was much more over the middle with that pitch tonight and Toronto made plenty of hard contact against it. Most notably, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. took Deivi deep on one of his heaters down the middle. Toronto had a 95.8 MPH average exit velocity on the pitch.

In spite of not having his best fastball command, it’s pretty impressive that Deivi was able to still use it 58 percent of the time (he used it 59 percent last week). It might sound as if he was fortunate considering the high exit velocity, but keep in mind that Deivi tends to generate a lot of harmless pop ups and fly balls. Toronto recorded six outs on fastballs hit between 92 and 100 MPH off the bat. Five were fly outs, none with an xBA above .230. The other was a groundout. Clearly, it’s hard to square up the righty even when he’s missing his spots.

What more can you say about García? He’s been impressive in all four of his starts with the Yankees and is just 21 years-old. Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff (i.e. tonight) he’s able to succeed. Can’t wait to watch him pitch next.

Leftovers:
  • Welcome back Gio Urshela. The third baseman went 3-for-4 with 2 doubles and a walk.
  • Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-4 in his return, but he did draw a walk. He also scalded a 111 MPH lineout. He was the only starter to go hitless in this one.
  • Toronto wound up using infielder Santiago Espinal to pitch in the eighth inning. He gave up a solo homer to DJ LeMahieu, but otherwise left unscathed. He was probably the team’s best pitcher all night!
  • A few other home runs to note: Voit delivered his second of the night in the sixth inning. It came against Ken Giles, who was getting some work in after returning from the injured list. Voit leads the league with 18 homers. Gary Sánchez and Clint Frazier also contributed homers of their own.
  • Michael King pitched the eighth and ninth innings for the Yankees. He gave up a few runs in the ninth, but they were harmless.

The series resumes tomorrow. Same time, same place. Have a good night everyone.

Mailbag: Game 3 starter, voids from 2019, James McCann in free agency, and short-season evaluations

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Another week, another mailbag to open. Four questions to address today. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We answer our favorites each week. Let’s get to it.

Kenny asks: James Paxton being shut down again is disappointing. If the playoffs started tomorrow, is it absurd to have Deivi García be the third starter after Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka? This would be in lieu of a resurgent JA Happ and a struggling Jordan Montgomery.

To be precise, Paxton won’t throw again for a couple of days after feeling some soreness Wednesday. I wouldn’t say he’s shut down, though things certainly aren’t looking good for him. It’s probably not worth counting on him to contribute much, if at all, the rest of the way.

Now to the question. I’m not so sure the Yankees would go with a traditional starting pitcher in a hypothetical Game 3 in the first round. Remember, it’s a best-of-three series to open up the postseason. There’s a distinct possibility that the Yankees (or any other team) go the opener/bullpen game route instead. Of course, a lot of that depends on how much the ‘pen is used in the first two games of the series. Or, even better, the Yankees would just win those first two games and call it a series.

If the bullpen game isn’t an option, I’d strongly favor Deivi at this point. So no, it’s not absurd to think he’s deserving of it over Happ or Monty. It sure sounds like Aaron Boone believes García can do it too:

“I know he wouldn’t flinch at the opportunity…I’m totally confident, forget the pitching part of it, that he can handle any situation you throw him in. Hard to predict where we’ll be three weeks from now and just what exactly we’ll look like. But he’s certainly putting his name in those conversations because of his performance.”

Happ certainly has pitched better lately (2.59 ERA in last four starts), but I do not love the idea of putting the season in his hands. I’m still scarred from his 2018 ALDS performance, I guess. But it’s not just that. We’ve seen far more bad than good since last year with Happ, and even with a good run of late, who’s to say that he doesn’t have another dud?

Montgomery has pitched himself out of the conversation thanks to his last two outings. He still has time to turn the ship around, but there’s no way he’d get the ball if the season ended today. So, it pretty much comes down to Deivi or Happ in the traditional starter route.

All this isn’t to say that García wouldn’t have a bad game. He’s not invincible, of course. But at the same time, I’d rather lose with a more talented pitcher on the mound. Not a 37 year-old who’s mostly struggled over the last two seasons.

Andrew asks: Not having Encarnación, Maybin, and Didi really hurt the depth of this lineup. Would it be safe to say Didi would be the player that would currently help this lineup that’s been decimated by injuries?

I think that’s pretty safe to say. The combination of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Jordy Mercer have hit .177/.266/.248 in 128 plate appearances this season. Didi, meanwhile, has hit .273/.333/.469 in 160 opportunities for the Phillies. That’s a massive difference! The Yankees middle infield depth is putrid and its something we’ve discussed on this here blog since the offseason. So of course, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu missed time with injuries which forced inferior players to get opportunities.

While Maybin and EE would be nice to have right now, they aren’t missed as much as Gregorius. As bad as Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford have been this year, I wouldn’t say it was totally unreasonable for the Yankees to believe they were good depth for this season. They performed well last year when called upon. Would I have preferred some extra insurance in those spots? Yes, but it’s not as egregious as doing nothing to shore up the middle infield after letting Didi go. Also, consider this: if the Yankees brought back Maybin (or brought in someone else as outfield depth), there’s a chance Clint Frazier is still toiling away at the Alternate Site.

We’ve never seen Wade or Thairo exhibit any success at the big league level. To count on either of them as insurance up the middle was a big mistake. And again, that’s not in hindsight. Wade came into 2020 with a lifetime .197/.268/.298 (53 wRC+) in 241 big league trips to the plate. Estrada carried a .250/.294/.438 (91 wRC+) line last season in 69 opportunities. Even if the Yankees liked those two more than most, to not grab some sort of big league insurance was foolish. If you’re not willing to spend $14 million to bring back Gregorius, OK, but at least do something. How about Cesar Hernandez? José Iglesias?

Richard asks: Do you think the Yankees might have an interest in signing James McCann as insurance this offseason with how Gary Sánchez has struggled the past two years? If so, what would a hypothetical contract look like?

I do think the Yankees will strongly consider adding another catcher this winter. I wrote about this my thoughts piece a few days ago. McCann will probably come at a price above the team’s comfort level, though. I think he gets something along the lines of the Travis d’Arnaud contract. Atlanta signed him for two years and $16 million last offseason.

d’Arnaud got that deal thanks to a strong finish with the Rays last season. He started off slowly with the Mets, got DFA’d, was with the Dodgers for literally one plate appearance, and then was shipped to the Rays. In Tampa Bay, d’Arnaud hit .263/.323/.459 (107 wRC+) with solid defense. That brought him into free agency as a 30 year-old, the same age McCann is for his impending trip to the open market.

McCann’s bat has been really good since last year, but it wasn’t until this year that his defense (particularly framing) vastly improved. That’s quite possibly the result of having elite defensive backstop Yasmani Grandal as a teammate now. Anyway, McCann posted a 109 wRC+ in 476 plate appearances last year and has a 163 mark in 79 this season, so the bat seems pretty good. Pair that with improved glovework and you’re probably looking at the d’Arnaud deal. I don’t think the Yankees will spend that on a catcher to play three times a week. McCann probably wants a full-time gig anyway.

As an alternative, I wonder if the Yankees can pry Tyler Flowers away from Atlanta. He’s been terrific for them since 2016, albeit never really playing much more than 50 percent of the time. Flowers has put up at least 2 WAR annually, mainly from the glove, but the bat isn’t a total zero. He’s got a 118 wRC+ this year in 54 plate appearances, though he’s probably closer to the 88 and 95 marks he put up in the last two seasons. And at 34, he’s probably looking at something similar to the $4 million he signed for this season. The Yankees should be in on something like that.

Eric asks: If you were the front office trying to figure out how to improve the team over the offseason, what are the metrics (or other indicators of performance) that you would take seriously despite the weird season?

You know what: I’m not so sure this short season changes the way teams evaluate players as much as we might think. In this day and age, teams are looking at health, Trackman/Hawkeye/Statcast/Rapsodo data, and scouting evaluations to support decision-making. I don’t think 60 games vs. 162 games changes that.

For example, the Yankees have seen James Paxton without his best velocity all season and he’s now dealing with a flexor strain. That’s got to be a huge red flag for his impending free agency. I presume that’ll be enough for the team to walk away from him this winter.

Then there’s someone like Sánchez, whose .121/.230/.327 line has so many people wanting him out of the organization. And yet, the elite underlying exit velocity, barrel percentage, and hard hit percentage numbers still exist. Is that enough for the Yankees to try to get him right for 2021? Probably.

Ultimately, everything boils down to talent level. Now that teams have metrics that are intended to be a proxy for talent, that’s what they’re gonna keep on using.

Thoughts after the Yankees fall to .500

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How’s everyone feeling about the Yankees this season? Great, right? Yup, feels wonderful to be 21-21 after a 16-6 start. The Yankees are in the midst of as terrible of a run as I can recall, though I’m also spoiled as a person born in 1990. It’s hard to be optimistic about the current team turning things around, by the way. Here’s what’s on my mind now that the Yankees are barely hanging on to a playoff spot.

The Yankees may need to accelerate the returns of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and/or Gio Urshela. There are 18 games remaining and it’s increasingly likely that the Yankees only chance at a playoff spot is the 8th seed. There are still a ton of games left against Toronto, so I suppose the Yankees could still sneak into second place division spot (currently three games back), but it’s getting more difficult to imagine that working out. So, who would have thought the Yankees would have to hold off the Orioles, Mariners, and Tigers to make the playoffs this year?

Just incredible. And that brings me to the players on the injured list. I think Yankees (reasonably) assumed that the current roster would have no issues holding off these teams. That’s why we’ve seen patience in bringing back guys like Stanton (who’s way past his original timetable). But now we’re at the point where the team can’t be much more patient. The Yankees need the likes of Stanton, Judge, and Urshela back in this punchless lineup. This current roster *should* be able to maintain the 8th seed, but it’s officially too close for comfort.

Of course, there is the risk of aggravating an injury by bringing back a player too soon. We’ve already see that with Judge this season. That very well could happen again. That said, would you rather miss the playoffs without getting Stanton/Judge/Urshela back within the next week? Or would you rather miss the playoffs taking getting them back as soon as possible?

Mike Tauchman should not hit sixth. I really do not understand why Aaron Boone penciled in Tauchman sixth in the lineup last night. I get that there are a lot of guys not hitting in this lineup, but Tauchman looks terrible at the plate. Naturally, he came up in a couple of big spots yesterday.

The Yankees had Taijuan Walker on the ropes in the first inning. Tauchman came up with the bases full and two outs and worked the count to 3-1. Here’s what he did:

That’s an eminently hittable fastball in a fastball count. Tauchman could do nothing but hit a soft fly ball to left center.

He came up again with the bases loaded in the fifth. He lifted a sac fly to left for the Yankees’ only run of the game.

I’ll give him a little credit for going with that splitter away to left, but man, I would have rather had a more dangerous hitter up. Miguel Andújar, anyone? At least he’s shown some life of late.

Again, I just can’t fathom hitting Tauchman sixth. He has shown absolutely no power (.063 ISO) this season and constantly misses hittable fastball. He’s literally batting .000 on fastballs over the heart of the plate. It’s not like he’s been that unlucky either with a .192 xBA and .336 xSLG in that location.

Reaction to Brian Cashman’s team meeting. I gotta say, I didn’t love the idea of Cashman addressing the team before a JA Happ start. It’s preferable to do so with a better pitcher on the mound. But hey, credit to Happ for pitching well yesterday. The offense was yesterday’s letdown.

It sounds like Cashman struck the notes you’d expect him to. Per Cashman’s press conference, he emphasized his belief in the current roster and reminded them that everyone in the room was brought in for a reason. What else is he gonna say?

The GM also noted that there’s no help coming (duh). The trade deadline has passed and the Yankees stood pat. Similar to what he said a little over a week ago, Cashman noted that the prices were just too high and would have subtracted current big league contributors (i.e. Clint Frazier, Deivi García, and/or Clarke Schmidt). But even if he won’t admit it, I’m sure Cashman would like a mulligan. I can’t imagine all trade possibilities required one of the three mentioned above to be sent packing. We can’t know for sure, though.

In any event, talk is cheap and this roster just isn’t performing. A pep talk is nice and all, perhaps needed, but it can only do so much with the likes of Tauchman, Tyler Wade, Mike Ford, and Thairo Estrada needing to play so much. It’s not gonna snap Gary Sánchez, Gleyber Torres, or Brett Gardner out of their slumps.

I feel like I’m rambling a bit here, but I guess I’m just trying to reiterate the frustration about this team’s depth. We often point to the absence of Didi Gregorius this year, but let’s not forget that this team also had Cameron Maybin and Edwin Encarnación around last summer. Those are three big losses that Cashman did absolutely nothing to address. It’s great to have confidence in who’s on the roster already, but sheesh, it sure would have been nice to have a little more cushion. It’s too late the fix that now. Literally all Cashman can do is try to light a fire under the guys currently in the clubhouse.

On the future at catcher and following the Dodgers. There really are no excuses to make for Sánchez. He’s been atrocious at the plate and his defense has taken a step back. Save for a hot start last year, Gary’s been mired in offensive problems since 2018 and it’s concerning. His bat has always been his carrying tool, but it’s been a while since his incredible run from 2016-2017. Unsurprisingly, there’s plenty of clamoring to find someone new to replace him long-term. I’m sure the cries for impending free agent J.T. Realmuto will be loud this winter.

Don’t count on Realmuto coming aboard, though. We have heard his name come up in rumors with the Yankees over the years, even when Gary was playing well, but I don’t expect the Yankees to pay up after splurging on Gerrit Cole last winter. That said, I do expect the Yankees to bring in some catching insurance. I know the team likes Kyle Higashioka, but I think they need something more. It would behoove the team to have two starting-caliber catchers kind of like the Dodgers do (Will Smith and Austin Barnes). They more or less split duties and I think it allows the two of them to stay fresh all season. It’s not lost on me that there are not many starting-caliber catchers available, of course. Getting another is much easier said than done.

It just may not make sense for catchers to play, say, 120 or 130 games anymore. It’s too much on their legs. That’s why such a move might be good for Gary too, especially if he can rediscover his offensive ability and be useful at DH on days he doesn’t catch. Here’s what’s out there other than Realmuto in free agency:

  • Alex Avila
  • Jason Castro
  • Robinson Chirinos
  • Tyler Flowers
  • James McCann
  • Yadier Molina
  • Wilson Ramos
  • Austin Romine
  • Kurt Suzuki
  • Stephen Vogt
  • Mike Zunino

Not particularly exciting! But a lot of these guys are probably better than Higashioka and would be playable 3-4 days a week. Tyler Flowers and James McCann are first to mind for me, personally.

Now, as for Higgy: he’s out of options so the Yankees would risk losing him unless they carry three backstops. It’s a tricky situation, but something the Yankees should consider. They need a little bit more insurance behind Gary.

Mailbag: Gary Sánchez’s defense, Matt Blake’s performance, Miguel Andújar, and Tyler Wade’s hitting

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Labor Day weekend is here. Hope you all are able to take some time off and enjoy yourselves. Maybe the Yankees can win a few games this weekend for us, too. That’d be nice after last night’s atrocity. Anyway, it’s mailbag day and we have a few questions to respond to. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We answer our favorites each week. Let’s get to it.

Todd asks: Is it safe to say that Sánchez’s one-knee down experiment this year is a bust? Especially with RISP? The dude isn’t the most agile of backstops, and limiting his mobility while in this position does not seem to be optimal. With his arm strength and pop time, he should easily be able to make the throw on any steal attempt. But he has to get better at stopping those pitches in the dirt and holding runners. The one-knee down set up is simply not working, and IMHO, it’s time to move on.

I think it’s far too soon to throw in the towel. Has Gary’s blocking been frustrating this season? Yes, without a doubt. He’s already recorded 4 passed balls and 16 wild pitches this season. Baseball Prospectus’ EPAA ranks him the worst blocker in the game at the moment. Remember, Sánchez had just 7 passed balls and 30 wild pitches in 2019. That came after 18 and 45 a year prior and 16 and 53 in 2017. So it feels like he’s taken a step back. Here are all four of his passed balls this season:

Those are just flat out whiffs. They don’t have anything to do with actually blocking a pitch. That doesn’t excuse anything, of course.

As for the wild pitches allowed, I wonder if the knee-down position does make it more difficult to move laterally and get in position to block pitches in the dirt from side-to-side. For example:

It’s like he’s stuck and has no chance to save some of those pitches from getting passed him. Look, I’m the last person to ask for catching defense advice, but maybe Todd is on to something with regard to this stance while runners are on base. Does the benefit of a few extra framed strikes outweigh the greater risk of wild pitches? My instinct is that the framing is not necessarily worth it in these situations.

By the way, I should note that Sánchez’s framing has improved compared to last year. Per Statcast, his strike rate is up nearly 2 percent from last year. At 48.3 percent, his strike rate is also the second highest of his career (2018, 50.0 percent). He’s exhibited his biggest gains just below the zone, as I think was expected with this new stance.

To bring this full circle, the hope was that bringing in catching guru Tanner Swanson would allow Gary to be good at blocking and receiving at the same time. We haven’t quite seen that happen just yet. Maybe he can’t have the best of both worlds, but I wouldn’t give up on it after just 36 regular season games.

Now, for all the talk about catcher defense, the most frustrating part of Sánchez’s season has been his hitting. We can talk about Gary’s difficulties behind the plate until we’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter if he’s going to hit .130/.245/.337 (59 wRC+). I can’t help but wonder if the constant emphasis on tweaking his catching style has taken away from his offensive development. Maybe just let him play without giving him too much to think about? I don’t know.

Jack asks: I know it’s one of the most difficult things in baseball to quantify, but how do you think Matt Blake has done as pitching coach? For me, this was one of the thing I was most interested to follow during the season (back when we thought this was going to be a normal season). It feels like basically all of the pitchers on the team have either regressed or gotten worse. Paxton was the perfect case – can a pitching coach come in and help a star pitcher fix his mechanical problems? The small sample size results are not inspiring.

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It’s way too soon to evaluate Blake. Yes, it’s been frustrating to watch James Paxton struggle, but his missing velocity can’t be pinned on Blake. Paxton’s on the injured list now, after all. Has Gerrit Cole struggled of late? For sure, and Blake is undoubtedly working to get him back on track. By the way, Cole has nothing but good things to say about working with the team’s new pitching coach:

“I think (Blake’s) got a large tool belt,” Cole said Tuesday before the Yankees’ 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. “He’s been around enough people to be able to talk simple pitching like stay back or get to the baseball. And he’s also there to say how or why a pitch is breaking a certain way, or how or why a pitch has a predictive value, or why you would put more weight on this pitch in this situation or not.

“He touches kind of all atmospheres to the realm, I guess. Maybe he might be a bit behind in terms of mound visits and time one-on-one with the pitchers and game management and kind of reading how his guys are operating through the game, but of course (manager) Aaron (Boone) is there to lend his set of eyes during that, too.

“But (Blake’s) going get that experience sooner or later, and he’s getting that experience at a premium level. So he’s getting premium knowledge, and I think by and large when it’s all said and done, he’ll have a really unique tool belt in the sense that he can really kind of do everything.”

Aaron Boone basically confirmed what Cole said:

“Everything I’ve seen suggests makes me think he’s gonna be really good at this,’’ Boone said. “I think he gets tagged with the analytical, new-age stuff, but there’s a lot of old-school in him, too, with how he looks at things and approaches things.

I know that Cole nor Boone are going to throw him under the bus in public, but at the same time, it’s especially good to hear Cole elaborate on why Blake has potential to be good at this gig. There may be some things that he’s still adjusting to, such as mound visits as Cole suggests. But to this point, there’s not much else we can do other than take the team’s word on Blake.

Iron Mike asks: Are we reaching the point where we should consider accepting Andújar’s defensive liability for his offensive upside in LF? The Gardner/Tauchman showing has been abysmal offensively.

I’ll make this one quick: yes, but he also doesn’t have to play left field right now either. Andújar can be the full-time designated hitter while we wait for Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to return. Mike Ford (.169/.265/.339) is really struggling and has played almost everyday of late. Truck Month was fun last September, but I’m concerned that a lot of his production last year came against inferior pitching during expanded rosters. Maybe that’s worth investigating separately. Now, I know Miggy looked dreadful in his limited time with the Yankees this season, but we also know how good he can be at this level. Remember when he hit .297/.328/.527 as a rookie? Good times.

Of course, Tauchman nor Gardner should be in the lineup everyday either. Gardner’s age may finally be catching up to him, whereas Tauchman is probably just flat-out bad:

Gross. There’s a big risk in putting Miggy in left field though. Remember this?

Eek. That’s me just cherry-picking one really bad play out there, of course. He really hasn’t gotten a ton of run out there, though I assume he’s been working on his outfield play at the Alternate Site.

Considering how the offense is sputtering, it could be worth playing Andújar in left field. You’d still have to run Ford out at DH, but at least Ford is still hitting the ball hard this year in terms of exit velocity. Come the sixth or seventh inning, Tauchman or Gardner can replace Miggy in the field. Whatever the case may be, I want to see Andújar get regular at-bats at this point. I’m over watching other guys fail.

Andrew asks: I’ll preface this by saying I have no illusions of Wade ever becoming a starting caliber player and I’m very much looking forward to Torres coming back and pushing him back to the bench. However, my naked eye assessment and memory (albeit spotty) have led me to believe that Wade has suffered from some bad luck this season and his slash line may look a bit worse than he’s actually fared at the plate. Can you examine some of his underlying metrics (Hard Hit %, BABIP, etc.) and see if there’s actually something to my theory or if I’m just talking nonsense?

Unfortunate timing to discuss this one after Wade’s brutal and inexplicable baserunning mistake last night. But yes, Wade has actually hit into some bad luck this season even with a .167/.255/.271 triple-slash to date. Per Statcast, his expected batting average is .276 and xwOBA is .325 (vs. .234 actual wOBA). It just so happens that we tweeted about this yesterday before the game:

So yeah, his .200 BABIP appears to be a product of bad luck. Maybe he wasn’t wrong in saying that he feels “unbelievable” at the plate (lol). Regardless, I can’t wait for Gleyber Torres to return this weekend and get Wade out of the lineup.

No matter how unlucky Wade has been, he can’t afford to make a gaffe like he did last night. He was given a role on this team based on his speed and reputed defensive chops. Without making the most of either of those two, Wade could be gone regardless of good or bad fortune with the bat.

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