Tag: J.A. Happ Page 1 of 4

Thoughts Two Weeks Before Pitchers and Catchers Report to Camp

It’s Wednesday, and it is exactly two weeks before pitchers and catchers will report to Tampa for Spring Training. That is very exciting, to me. It’s simultaneously been a very long and very short offseason, if that makes any sense at all. I’m definitely ready for the season to get started. Here’s what’s on my mind.

1. Welcome Aboard, Josh Thole: If you had any doubts left that we’re mired in the depths of the offseason, I’m leading off this thoughts column with the signing of a Triple-A catcher. So, yeah. That’s where we are these days. Anyway, the Post’s Joel Sherman last night reported that the Yankees and Thole agreed to a $600,000 MiLB deal:

As Joel noted, the Yankees also added Erik Kratz and Chris Ianetta this offseason, so they’ll have some Triple-A depth here. Remember, Austin Romine signed a deal with the Tigers, so there’s a bit of a competition for the backup catcher position here. My money has always been on Kyle Higashioka in that competition and it’s still there today. Even more so, really.

Anyway, Thole — who brings back memories of R.A. Dickey’s tenure in Toronto — is a career .242/.313/.306 (73 wRC+) hitter who hasn’t played at the MLB level since 2016. He spent last year in the Dodgers’ and Angels’ farm system. (For what it’s worth, Statcast’s framing metrics have him pegged as a bad framer from 2015-16, though his sample is limited.) My guess is that he mans the Triple-A roster, which we will break down in detail before the season begins, and serves as much-needed depth at an important position. Welcome aboard, Josh.

2. Keeping J.A. Happ: You know, I’m now 100% convinced that the Yankees should just keep J.A. Happ. Sure, if there’s a chance that unloading Happ can bring someone back like Nolan Arenado — unlikely! — then you definitely do it. No doubt about it. But right now, the way I look at it is like this: the only reason to move Happ is to save money. That’s a fair concern! His salary isn’t peanuts for a 5th, 6th, or even 7th starter, but it’s not prohibitive money for the Yankees by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. (By now, you should all know where I stand on the CBT.) But I’m going to play with a much-repeated pitching prospect line and tweak it a bit: There’s No Such Thing As Too Much Pitching Depth.

Besides, I’m still oddly convinced that last year’s weirdness with the ball was a major factor in his struggles. I mean, look at his HR/fly ball rate over the last 5 seasons, with league averages in parentheses:

  • 2015: 9.2%
  • 2016: 11.1%
  • 2017: 12.3%
  • 2018: 13.4%
  • 2019: 18.3%

Now, let’s be real: that’s an actual bad trend. No amount of playing with the numbers can change that. He is an aging pitcher — the end can come really quickly and out of nowhere — with less velocity and spin on his fastball. Not to mention, this is not the most encouraging spray chart I’ve ever seen:

That is all true and can’t be waved away. However, with that said, that’s a huge jump. Huge! I think it would be irresponsible to say that the ball wasn’t a factor in that. (As for whether or not the ball will be the same next year, who can say? Another bang up job by MLB, that is.)

Finally, I think it’s pretty clear at this point that there’s not much coming back for Happ, which is to be expected because of the above paragraph. That’s why I think it makes sense just to hold on to him and see if there’s a dead cat bounce in there. If there isn’t, they can always trade him at the deadline after it’s clear next year’s option won’t vest. No harm, no foul.

3. Bring Me Nolan Arenado: The other day, The Athletic’s Jim Bowden wrote a piece (subs req’d) about the prospect of a Nolan Arenado trade, specifically mentioning the Yankees as a potential landing spot for the superstar 3B. Now, let’s be clear: this is definitely, 100% not happening. I will be shocked if it did. On the other hand, and bear with me here, what if it does?

You don’t have to squint that hard to see parallels to the Giancarlo Stanton situation back in December 2017. Arenado is owed a lot of money, though not quite as much as Stanton — $234 million over the next six seasons compared to $284 over eight seasons for Stanton — and also owns a full no-trade clause. To boot, he’s expressed his displeasure with the direction Colorado is taking, giving him a significant amount of leverage moving forward. That’s why I think so many of the trade proposals we’re seeing on social media, including from Bowden, are a bit absurd.

When was the last time one of these superstars commanded what we thought they would? Remember how the Stanton situation ended: with some low-level prospects and Starlin Castro being sent back to New York with $30 million for the reigning NL MVP. It’s not likely, but it is possible that, if Colorado feels that they have to move now, a similar filtering type situation may occur here, too, with only a few teams realistically positioned to take on that money and therefore mitigating the prospect drain. (The Yankees already have a huge payroll, so I repeat that it’s unlikely, but it’s January. Let me dream.)

Arenado is one of those players that you make space for, as a career .295/.351/.546 (120 wRC+) hitter with stellar defense. You just make room for a guy like that. I’m sure that there would be handwringing about his home/away splits, but it’s insane that we’re still doing that after DJ LeMahieu. Anyway, Nolan Arenado: bring him to me, please and thank you.

4. Mookie Betts and the Red Sox: So, it looks like the Red Sox are really going to trade Mookie Betts, huh? Here’s the latest from Jon Heyman:

Incredible. It’s hard to think of a more self-defeating move than Boston doing this right now (which, by the way, is coming a few weeks after ownership blamed the media for “playing up” the salary issue). Mookie is a bonafide superstar player who has a real argument for being baseball’s second-best player behind only Mike Trout. I mean, look at the fWAR leaderboard from 2017-19:

  1. Mike Trout: 25.2 fWAR
  2. Mookie Betts: 22.4 fWAR
  3. Christian Yelich: 20.0

Betts is incredible. It’s amazing to me that they’re considering moving him at all and not just locking him up. He’s a homegrown superstar who just formed the foundation of the best season* in franchise history, for crying out loud. Besides, I know they’re currently under investigation, but Boston is only one (1) year removed from the best season in their history. They could be good again this year!

Anyway, a people are saying that the Sox trading Betts is bad for the Yankees. To that I say: what? I guess you can make the argument that holding Mookie increases the likelihood that Boston loses him for nothing after the season, but I really don’t care about that. The other argument is that this will allow Boston to restock its depleted farm. I don’t see that happening — again, when was the last time these guys commanded what we thought they would in a trade — and even if it does, I don’t care. Mookie gone means the Yankees have a much, much better chance at winning the division this year. That matters a lot. It’s basically all that matters to me right now, actually.

The 2020 Yankees are, in my estimation at least, the best Yankees team heading into the season in a very, very long time. Their title window is right now. It will never get more open than this. If one of their biggest inter-divisional threats wants to blow it up, more power to them. No Yankee fan should lose sleep over that (unless, of course, you care about one of the league’s richest, most prestigious organizations trading a superstar over made-up financial concerns. But that’s a different story altogether.)

Right now, the only thing stopping me from buying Betts a farewell gift is the fact that the Boston media hasn’t completely committed to a character assassination yet. Once that happens, it’s all over.

5. Re-Litigating Robinson Canó and the 2013 Offseason: I missed the original article, but WEEI’s Lou Merloni had an interesting tweet yesterday. Check it out:

There’s a lot going on there for sure. As a reminder, the Yankees offered seven years and $170 million ($24+ million per year) and he signed a ten-year, $240 million deal with Seattle ($24 million per year). In other words, the Yankees were in the financial ballpark in some respects. It was the length with which they had an issue. Even before considering his decline, I think that was a reasonable decision. Less reasonable is the idea that Cano’s demands were outrageous. Check out his place in the history books for second basemen with 90% of their games logged there:

  • Home Runs: 324 (1st)
  • bWAR: 69.6 (5th)
  • Hits: 2,570 (5th)
  • OPS+: 125 (minimum 3,000 plate appearances)

I could go on and on. The point is that Canó was, at the time, on an inner-circle path to the Hall of Fame — a path he has absolutely continued, even now that he’s slowing down. And he had one of the prettiest swings I’ve ever seen:

The Yankees offered that guy, a homegrown superstar, $20 million and change more than they offered Jacoby Ellsbury. Let that sink in. (I know Canó tested positive for steroids. We can’t ignore that, of course.) Anyway, I am extremely happy with the way the Yankees are set up now. It’s not worth being very angry over this. That said, the Canó situation was absurd at the time and continues to be absurd now. He was worth that deal, and I still think the Yankees should have given it to him.

6. MiLB Coaching Tree: Finally, the Yankees announced their MiLB coaching tree yesterday. Check it out:

I don’t have anything to add to this right now. We’ll do a full preview of the system this year as Opening Day gets closer and that will include the coaching staffs for each level. For now, though, I just wanted to share this. Here’s the good news: this is yet another sign that Spring is just around the corner.

Yankees’ end of the regular season checklist

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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 155: Yankees cough up lead to Jays in one-run loss

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The Yankees suffered a loss in the game after clinching the division, blowing another late lead to the Blue Jays in a 4-3 loss. Tommy Kahnle gave up the decisive home run while Aaron Judge and Tyler Wade went deep for New York (Box Score). Meanwhile, Gleyber Torres left early with a potential injury.

To the recap!

Kahnle coughs it up

The Yankees held a narrow 3-2 lead on the Blue Jays in the seventh inning after J.A. Happ and Adam Ottavino combined for six strong innings. Kahnle, however, couldn’t hold the lead.

The right-hander got a strikeout before walking a batter and brining up Justin Smoak. Though Smoak has been struggling this month, that didn’t stop him from planting a fastball down Broadway beyond the Yankees’ bullpen.

Kahnle recovered for two more strikeouts, but the damage was done. The Yankees’ bullpen has held up against just about every challenge except the Jays this year. Of the Yankees’ eight losses to Toronto this year, six have come with the bullpen inheriting either a tie game or a lead.

Yankees’ rallies fall short

Despite trailing down to their final few outs, the Yankees had a chance to tie or take the lead late.

Cameron Maybin pinch hit in the eighth inning for Wade and singled off Derek Law. The Bombers tried to put something in motion with DJ LeMahieu up and a 3-2 count in a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play. Judge doubled the next at-bat, giving you a great what-if, but the inning continued. After a walk, Gio Urshela grounded out in his only at-bat.

In the ninth inning, Joe West came into play in a big way. He gave Ken Giles a strike each on Luke Voit and Brett Gardner that led to both hitters making outs. Gardner’s ball was in the other batter’s box and would have resulted in a walk. Instead, it was a 3-2 count and Gardy flew out. Mike Ford struck out to end things.

Aaron Judge and Tyler Wade: Bash Brothers

For the first three innings Friday, the Yankees looked like a team that had just celebrated a division title. Aaron Judge walked in the first inning, but Jacob Waguespack retired the rest of the order with relative ease.

But Waguespack’s luck turned the second time through the order when he tried to beat Judge inside.

Judge’s homer tied the game at one and was his first to the pull side at Yankee Stadium all season. He hit it over 105 mph, which is pretty normal for him. Between that and his walk, he looked pretty darn healthy at the plate after sitting Thursday.

However, with the Yankees again down by a run an inning later, an unexpected hero emerged. I mean, do you really expect Wade to hit a towering home run?

Wade has found his groove this month, just as he did at the end of last season. The utilityman could earn himself a postseason roster spot with improved hitting to go with his versatility and pinch running capabilities.

Wade hitting at end of seasons (Fangraphs)

2018 Happ rides again

J.A. Happ has been a different pitcher in the last month of the season, looking more like the adequate pitcher who helped the Yankees at the end of 2018 rather than the helpless starter of the first half.

On Friday, he allowed just two runs over 5 1/3 innings, keeping hard contact in the ballpark and holding the Jays to just four hits. He struck out four and walked zero. The southpaw showed no ill-effects from his biceps tendonitis.

As one would expect, both of Happ’s runs came in the second time through the order. Cavan Biggio hit a double off the right-center field wall and scored on a weak grounder up the middle where Gleyber Torres came up in pain (more on that below). An inning later, after Judge’s homer, he gave up a solo homer of his own to Danny Jansen.

Happ leads the Yankees with 34 home runs allowed this year, but he’s held opponents to just five in his last 36 1/3 innings over seven starts. That evens out to a more respectable 1.24 homers per nine, which is better than league average. He’s allowed just three in his last five starts.

Aaron Boone allowed him to start the sixth and get Cavan Biggio swinging for a strikeout before removing him before the middle of the order.

Gleyber Torres’ injury scare

In the fourth inning, Torres slipped on a ball up the middle and went down in pain on the outfield grass. The play looked scary, though Torres remained in the game for three more innings and his next two at-bats.

Torres, however, was removed before the top of the seventh inning. For the latest on his injury, check out this updating post.

Leftovers

Silent Offense

After they tagged Waguespack for three runs, the Bombers came up empty against the Jays bullpen. On the whole, outside of their two homers, they mustered just four more hits. One was an infield single for Brett Gardner that could have been an error. The others were a line-drive double off the right-field wall by LeMahieu, Maybin’s pinch-hit single and Judge’s double.

LeMahieu went 1-for-4 and is batting .328, eight points behind Tim Anderson for the AL batting title.

Bullpen Matches Up

While Kahnle gave up a two-run homer, the rest of the bullpen looked sharp Friday. Adam Ottavino relieved Happ and got two strikeouts with his best movement in weeks. His slider and two-seamer were incredibly crisp.

Boone went with Cory Gearrin as a righty-specialist to start the eighth, but the Jays pinch hit lefty Rowdy Tellez. No worries, Gearrin got an easy grounder. From there, Tyler Lyons struck out Biggio and Ben Heller came in to get Lourdes Gurriel Jr. before working his way through the ninth inning.

Boone doesn’t often go with LOOGYs or ROOGYs, in part because the Yankees don’t often employ them. We’re a long way from the days of Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada. With September rosters and 2020’s rules not in effect, he was able to matchup to the fullest extent.

Clint Frazier Struggles in Right

Frazier played right field tonight with Judge DH’ing. In the second inning, Teoscar Hernandez hit a high fly ball to the right field wall, one that hung long enough for a fielder to make the catch.

However, Frazier drifted to the wall and misplayed it into a triple. It was ugly.

While he make a nice play on a double later in the game, he didn’t look comfortable in the field. Whether it’s post-concussions fear of the wall, his inexperience in right field or something else, he’s a liability in the field.

Rest of the League

As of publishing, the Astros lead the Angels, 6-4, and the Twins are up on the Royals, 4-1. The Yankees trail Houston for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs while they’re ahead of Minnesota by five games (plus the tiebreak) for homefield in the first round.

Meanwhile, the Indians’ victory eliminated the Red Sox from playoff contention.


The Yankees resume their series Saturday with James Paxton (14-6, 3.88 ERA) starting against rookie T.J. Zeuch (1-0, 4.61). That game will be on YES and WFAN.

Game 147: Encarnacion injures oblique as Yankees start twin bill with win

Get well soon, Edwin.

Luke Voit and Edwin Encarnación hit early homers, Chad Green picked up J.A. Happ and Encarnación is now injured as the Yankees won, 10-4, to start Thursday’s doubleheader (Box Score). The Yankees now have a magic number of 7 to clinch the division and 15 to clinch homefield advantage.

Some brief takeaways before Game 2 is over:

1.Encarnacion’s oblique injury a big blow

Ugh. The Yankees can’t go a series without bad injury news. Encarnación hit a two-run homer in his second at-bat to extend the Yankees’ lead to 4-0 and then walked to load the bases in the fifth. Throughout his AB in the fifth, he grimaced and was apparently feeling the oblique injury that he’d felt earlier in the game.

He would be lifted for a pinch hitter — Mike Ford — before his next at-bat as the DH, so that was his day. After the game, Aaron Boone relayed that Encarnación said he didn’t feel it when swinging.

As Boone said, this could be just a minor injury, but there are just 22 days until ALDS Game 1. If Encarnación has an injury equivalent to an IL stint (With September rosters, no need for an IL move), then he would be left with little time and only the Arizona Fall League or instructs to get rehab games. That, or late season regular-season games if he’s back in time.

The Yankees can adjust with Luke Voit or Gio Urshela DH’ing and allowing the Bombers to put their entire rest of the infield rotation in the starting nine. It could also open up DH for Giancarlo Stanton if Encarnacion can’t return by the playoffs, putting Cameron Maybin in left field. Therefore, this injury might leave a postseason roster spot open for one of Tyler Wade, Mike Ford and Clint Frazier.

Hopefully, this is truly minor and the Parrot will be walked again in short order. Encarnación doesn’t have to play the field or do much running anyway. But this is a major concern.

2. Fine Happ and Great Green

J.A. Happ got himself into and out of trouble for 4 2/3 innings today, allowing 10 baserunners. It wasn’t pretty.

He didn’t have a single 1-2-3 inning and allowed multiple baserunners in every frame but one. Still, he held the hapless Tigers without a run until his second-to-last batter, ending his scoreless at 20 1/3 innings. What a run!

After the game, it was revealed that Happ has been pitching through biceps tendonitis for multiple starts and will go for testing to New York while the rest of the team goes to Detroit. He convinced the team he could pitch today and he did fine.

Boone says he’ll be fine moving forward, and he’ll get extra rest before his next start. With a bullpen day Sunday and day off Monday, Luis Severino moves into the rotation Tuesday, pushing back his next start until Wednesday at the earliest.

Meanwhile, there was a game to be played and Happ left with the tying run at the plate. Green came in and served in what will likely be his postseason role: The early-game fireman. He easily got a pop out, pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning and allowed a run after a leadoff triple in the seventh.

That triple was the only hit allowed by Green, who threw 22 strikes out of 31 pitches. He struck out two and overpowered the Tigers. Good stuff.

3. Oh right, the offense

After all that from Encarnación, Happ and Green, we haven’t gotten to the 10 runs the Yankees scored.

Matthew Boyd was on the hill, and he’s allowed the most home runs of any pitcher since the All-Star break. The Tigers’ defense put him in a bad spot with two errors in the first inning to have a man on (one was a dropped foul pop out) for Luke Voit. Voit … well, he blasted one to center field. 2-0

The Yankees loaded the bases in the fifth and got Boyd out after five after giving up two homers and four runs. The Bombers then took their licks against the Tigers’ bullpen, putting the game away.

In the seventh, Voit and Maybin came up with the big hits around a few walks. They each doubled as the Yankees extended the lead to 7-2 before Green allowed a run.

An inning later, Austin Romine, Aaron Judge and Voit each singled to add a run before Didi Gregorius put things away with a two-run triple.

4. Leftovers

  • Ben Heller gave up a solo homer, a single and a walk while striking out a batter in his first game back from Tommy John surgery.
  • Cory Gearrin put two guys on and got one out in the ninth before Tyler Lyons cleaned up his mess with two easy outs to end it.
  • Maybin stole two bases back-to-back to give him nine for the year.
  • I barely mentioned him here, but Romine went 3-for-4 with a double, run and walk. Voit also had three hits while Judge went 1-for-2 with three walks, four runs and reaching on a hard-hit error.
  • DJ LeMahieu took an 0-for-6, falling further behind Tim Anderson in the batting title race.

Game 143: Happ, Encarnación Guide Yankees to Easy 5-1 Win

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Now THAT is more like it. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 5-1 (box score) on Saturday afternoon, improving to 93-50 on the season. Their magic number is now 11. Today was all about Edwin Encarnación and J.A. Happ as the Yankees cruised to an easy victory. Most of the action in this one occurred in the big 4th inning, but, being a Yankee-Red Sox game, it still took over 3 and a half hours.

Let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. J.A. Happ Is Looking So, So Much Better: J.A. Happ is a fastball pitcher in a breaking ball pitcher’s world. His reliance on the straight stuff has, in my mind, played a significant role in his struggles with the long ball this year. Well, suffice to say, that dynamic was not at play today. Happ was in complete control from the very first pitch.

Happ threw 55 fastballs, per BrooksBaseball, and generated 12 (!) swings and misses. All of those swings and misses came on his straight 4-seamer, meaning he had a pretty 38% whiff-per-swing rate on the pitch. And here is where those were located:

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Beautiful. Up in the zone, which meant he was aggressive and getting results. Here was his entire strike zone plot for the day, which bears this out:

Really, this has been the story of the last few starts for Happ. As YES’ stats guru James Smyth noted, batters have been struggling to catch up with Happ’s fastball throughout his last 5 starts. Check it out:

I doubt you’ve forgotten this, but today’s 6.1 scoreless innings now raise Happ’s scoreless innings streak to 15.1 after last start’s 6 scoreless. How about that? His ERA has plummetted to 5.12. Good for him. Hopefully, he builds on the recent successes (today’s final line: 6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K) and keeps it rolling. Maybe he’ll even get his ERA under 5.00, which would be nice for vanity reasons.

I’ll leave you with this incredible nugget from the indispensable Katie Sharp:

2. The 4th Inning Was Very Fun: Let’s just say it again: the 4th inning of this one was very, very fun. It’s probably worth putting it in context, though. The Yankees mustered just three hits against 7 Boston pitchers last night and looked generally lifeless. That’s exactly how today started, too: through 3 innings against 2 pitchers, the Bombers had 0 hits and 0 walks. That all changed fast.

It began with a DJ LeMahieu single up the middle (obviously), and 8 more men would come to bat. Let’s break this one down:

  1. DJ LeMahieu: Single
  2. Aaron Judge: Strikeout
  3. Didi Gregorius: Double
  4. Gary Sánchez: 2-RBI Ground Rule Double
  5. Edwin Encarnación: 2-Run Home Run
  6. Gleyber Torres: Lineout
  7. Brett Gardner: Single (he then stole 2nd base)
  8. Luke Voit: Walk
  9. Mike Tauchman: Lineout

Of course, it’s never quite that simple. Let’s start with the Didi Gregorius “double.” That one easily could have been ruled an error, and either way, it wouldn’t have happened without the fact that the sun decided to wear pinstripes today. Now, he did hit it hard–really hard, actually, at over 107 mph. It had an expected batting average, per StatCast, of .660. This is an example of where the analytics can be misleading, though.

For unclear reasons, this highlight contains both Didi’s double and Gary’s, but whatever. As you can clearly see, the ball was hit hard but also hit right at J.D. Martinez…who promptly lost the ball in the sun, allowing Didi to reach 2nd and the Yankees to have 2nd and 3rd with one out in the inning. Just great stuff, really.

Now, onto Gary Sánchez’s double. This one, unlike Gregorius’, was hit neither hard nor was it expected to be a hit. In fact, it was hit just 87 mph and carried an expected batting average of .010. .010! Wild. Luckily for us, it was perfectly placed and also may have been sun-aided as well. Either way, that made it 2-0 Yankees. It wasn’t pretty per se, but they capitalized on J.D.’s misplay and took the lead. Good stuff.

That left Sánchez on 2nd for Encarnación, who absolutely unloaded on Colten Brewer’s pitch. On the first pitch of the at-bat, no less, and it’s easy to see why:

That was a curveball, too. That is a ball Encarnación should absolutely demolish and, well, he did this:

106+ mph and an absolute blast over the Monster. (As you’ll see later, this was especially satisfying given the fact that Boston made 2 great plays on other balls Edwin hit. He also added an RBI double in the 9th, which he absolutely smashed off the left-center-field wall)) You just love to see it. In the blink of an eye, the Yankees had gone from hapless on offense to up 4-0 in the span of 4 batters. This offense is dangerous. Even though they didn’t plate any runs after this, every ball put in play was absolutely smashed. I told you this was a fun inning.

3. The Success of The Formula™ (Mostly): After Happ’s masterful performance, the Yankees turned it over to their bullpen, which did exactly what it was supposed to do (mostly). Here were their lines:

  • Adam Ottavino: 0.2 IP, zeros, 1 K
  • Tommy Kahnle: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K
  • Zack Britton: 0.2 IP, zeros, 1 K
  • Aroldis Chapman: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R

Now, Kahle struggled a bit (he surrendered back-t0-back hits after retiring his first man) but Britton was there to pick him up. The final out he recorded was struck hard–a 101 mph lineout to Judge in right–but he got the job done. No harm, no foul. Chapman did what Chapman does, including giving up a solo shot to J.D. Martinez with 2 outs in the 9th because it wasn’t a save situation. But oh well. It didn’t matter in the end.

Leftovers

  • A Wasted Opportunity 6th Inning: Gleyber Torres (still 22!) hit a double to lead off the 6th and Brett Gardner (still red hot!) worked a walk, but the Yankees would waste the scoring chance. Luke Voit would strike out following a pitching change ahead of a Tauchman walk. That left the bases loaded with one out for DJ LeMahieu, who promptly grounded into a double play. Womp womp.
  • Friendly Banter from Torres To Sánchez: In the bottom of the 6th inning, with one out, Brock Holt popped up to 2nd base. Torres easily recorded the out. It was uneventful…except that it wasn’t. The ball traveled past the pitcher’s mound, which didn’t stop Gary Sánchez from trying to catch it anyway, before Torres waved him off. After making the play, Torres dismissively flipped his glove at him and told him to stay where he belongs. The budding bromance/friendly rivalry from Torres and Sánchez is one of my favorite subplots of the season. This was just another example.
  • Good Defense From Boston Kept it Close: This one could have been a laugher were it not from some annoyingly good defense from the Red Sox. With 2 out in the 5th inning and two on (the Yankees had worked two walks), Encarnación popped up behind the plate. Boston catcher Christian Vazquez made a nice play against the backstop that promptly ended that rally. Oh well. There’s no video online, but I promise to you, dear reader, that it was an annoyingly good play. As was this one by Mookie Betts, also against Encarnación. I’ll just leave this one here:
  • Xander Boegarts Logged His 1,000th Hit: I feel like I need to take a shower for including this in a Yankee blog’s takeaways, but it still feels notable! After our very own fun 4th inning, Xander Boegarts hit a soft grounder through the shift that was his 1,000th career hit. Here is the video, if you for some reason care to see it:

Up Next

The Yankees and their big rivals will meet again tomorrow for the Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN. Who cares if the Red Sox are all but eliminated? When has that ever stopped Yankees-Red Sox from being on ESPN? Anyway, Mashiro Tanaka (10-8, 4.42 ERA) will take on Rick Porcello (12-11, 5.63 ERA) in a game that the Red Sox decided to list their starting pitcher a day in advance. How nice of them.

Enjoy the rest of your Saturday, everyone. It’s a nice one out there.

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