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Game 31: A Game Of Thrones-like Bad Finale

Let’s keep it short as it was a 1 pm start on a work day. The great Yankees bullpen couldn’t do the job today to get the sweep against the Astros. It happens and they will blow some games here and there. They are still awesome and will be awesome more times than bad. So it ends the winning streak, but let’s get another one going.

Game 29: Taking out the trash

Nothing can ever erase what the Astros did in 2017, but tonight was satisfying, at least. The Yankees beat Houston 7-3 and the crowd gave it to the Astros all night. It was wonderful.

Not only was this win cathartic, but it was also an exciting game. Giancarlo Stanton did big things on offense yet again (more on him coming) and there were a handful of dramatic plays. Some on defense, which was a pleasant surprise considering how ugly that had looked for the Yankees earlier this year. But the most exciting: how the Yankees took the lead for good on Alex Bregman’s throwing error in the sixth. Couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Anyway, let’s get to tonight’s takeaways:

Grounders, not strikeouts, have limited Giancarlo Stanton’s performance so far

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Like many other Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton is off to a slow start offensively. He went 0-for-4 last night, which brought his full season line down to .167/.231/.278 (43 wRC+) in 39 plate appearances. It’s a far cry from the Stanton we saw last October.

People love to point at Stanton’s strikeout rate when he’s struggling, but that’s not the issue for him right now. His 28.1 percent K-rate is in line with his career norms. Rather, Stanton’s batted ball profile is his biggest issue at the moment. Including last night’s game in which he hit three groundouts, Stanton now has 16 grounders on 25 batted balls (64 percent). We’re used to watching him hit lasers and majestic fly balls, not worm killers. It’s also worth mentioning that he has three pop-ups so far, too. Those are also no good.

Stanton’s lifetime ground ball rate is just north of 43 percent, making his current (extremely small sample) performance a major outlier. On the bright side, he’s still stinging the baseball. Giancarlo’s 60 percent hard hit rate is in the 92nd percentile of the league. So, it just seems like something is off with his swing. I couldn’t tell you whether that’s mechanical, timing, or both (or something else!), but it’s clear that something’s not right.

Game 4: Stanton and Montgomery make things look easy

Giancarlo Stanton’s reaction to hitting a no doubt grand slam in the fifth inning.

There’s nothing like having the Baltimore Orioles come to town in order to right the offensive ship. Yankees hitters have tormented Baltimore pitching over the years, and tonight was no different. After a little bit of a slow start to this one, the offense reached base fourteen times. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton delivered their first home runs of the season, too.

Another familiar refrain: a great pitching performance, namely from starter Jordan Montgomery. He tossed six shutout frames in his first start of the year. As a whole, the team’s staff has allowed just nine runs in the first four games of the season. That’ll do.

With the 7-0 victory, the Yankees move back to .500 early in the season. Let’s get to the takeaways after the jump:

The Deep and Talented Outfield [2021 Season Preview]

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The Unquestioned Left Fielder

I hope that it feels as good to read that as it did to write it.

After three years of bouncing between the majors, the minors, and the injured list, Clint Frazier became a fixture in the middle of the Yankees lineup last August. It may have only happened because of injuries and under-performance by others — but it happened nevertheless, and it was fantastic. Frazier hit .267/.394/.511 (149 wRC+) with 8 home runs in 160 PA and played elite defense in right field. What more could you ask for?

Sure, there are caveats aplenty given the very nature of the 2020 season. There were bizarre performances throughout the majors, good and bad and everything in between, and that wasn’t solely the result of a significantly shortened season. That said, Frazier was a top prospect for several years for a reason, and he’ll be 26 for the vast majority of this season; that means there are plenty of reasons to buy in, too.

So what’re the projections thinking?

SystemPAHRAVG/OBP/SLG (+)DefenseWAR
PECOTA50720.234/.321/.429 (104 DRC+)0.71.5
ZiPS47421.242/.325/.463 (106 wRC+)-8.21.2
Steamer52522.246/.324/.449 (103 wRC+)-9.71.0

PECOTA seems to think that Frazier’s a good defender now, that’s pretty neat. The rest? Not so much.

I find it rather interesting that all three systems are essentially ignoring 2020 entirely. His career slash line heading into 2020 was .254/.308/.463 (100 wRC+) with 16 HR in 429 PA. With the exception of an elevated walk rate, that’s really not that far off from the above chart. And I’m not buying it.

In my decidedly non-algorithmic opinion, I think a reasonable baseline for Frazier would essentially match his career to-date (which is conveniently exactly 162 games). That line? .258/.331/.475 (113 wRC+) with 24 HR in 589 PA. And I’d bet the over.

Now here’s hoping he stops running into walls.

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