Tag: Matt Blake

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.

News & Notes: BP’s Top NYY 10 Prospects, DeGagne, Award Season, Gregorius, Cole, Germán

Happy Saturday, everyone. It’s a cold one out there. The last few days have really felt like the offseason, haven’t they? Nobody is playing baseball in 30-degree weather. Next week (November 11-14) will be the GM Meetings, where team executives get together and talk about the business of the game…and also about transactions.

Last year, for example, Brian Cashman learned that James Paxton would be available. It’s also when the Aaron Hicks extension went down. So we could get some real news soon. Hooray for that. Anyway, here’s the latest and the greatest from Yankeeland in the last few days.

Baseball Prospectus’ Top NYY Prospects

It’s prospect ranking season, everyone. We’re working on compiling our own list internally here at Views, but why not see what the experts have to say? Baseball Prospectus released its Top 10 NYY Prospect List yesterday, which is available to basic (free) members of Baseball Prospectus.

Friend of the Blog Jarrett Seidler was responsible for much of the work here, so definitely check it out. Here is their Top 10:

  1. Deivi Garcia, RHP
  2. Jasson Dominguez, OF
  3. Albert Abreu, RHP
  4. Luis Medina, RHP
  5. Luis Gil, RHP
  6. Anthony Volpe, SS
  7. Estevan Florial, OF
  8. Ezequiel Duran, 2B
  9. Clarke Schmidt, RHP
  10. Kevin Alcantara, OF

High on Abreu, low on Schmidt, but a very good list overall, in my opinion. A few of those guys had great seasons last year, and, of course, our son Deivi Garcia sits atop the list. Seems right.

I noticed that some folks were surprised to see Jasson sit at number two here, but you shouldn’t be. He’s only 16, sure, and few have seen him play, but the Yankees did use up all of their IFA money (upwards of $5m) on him. That tells you something. Plus, as we’ve covered here before, those who have seen him, love him.

The BP staff goes in-depth into each of these players with their take on each of them. They also profile prospects 11-20, who just missed the cut, highlight some of their other favorites from the system, and rank the Top 10 Under 25 talents in the system. (Hint: Gleyber is Number One)

The verdict: the Yankees have a number of high-ceiling arms in the lower minors who miss a ton of bats but struggle with command. Sounds about right. The Yankees have graduated so much talent in the last few years–it’s forming the core of their championship-caliber team–that you can’t expect anything else. The next few years will be big for a number of these guys.

Welcome Aboard, Brett DeGagne

As I noted a few weeks ago after the team parted ways with Larry Rothschild, the Yankees also made sweeping changes to their MiLB pitching coach tree, too. We now have our first (public) hire to fill that gap: Brett DeGagne, by way of North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC). He announced it himself on Twitter last night:

Pitching Coordinator Sam Briend confirmed the news and player development guru Desi Druschel weighed in as well. This should be obvious at this point, but that tells us that DeGagne is analytics-friendly and a forward thinker. Briend and Druschel are viewed as cutting-edge in that regard. One would think their overhaul of the MiLB pitching infrastructure was to bring in other coaches cut from their cloth, so I’m excited to find out more about the DeGagne hire and what level he’ll be coaching. We’ll keep you posted as more develops on that front.

Here’s what we do know: DeGagne was recently an Assistant Coach with the NIACC system in the 2019 season. Before that, he was Pitching Coach at St. Cloud University in 2017 and 2018, and he coached in the Northwoods League collegiate summer program. He pitched five seasons himself at the University of North Dakota. Welcome aboard, Brett.

In related news, new MLB Pitching Coach Matt Blake was chosen in part because he is “ahead of his time”, according to a profile in the New York Post. Exciting stuff happening across the team these days. As I noted above, there are a number of exciting arms in the system, and it’s great to see the team equipping them with cutting-edge coaches. I look forward to seeing how it all shakes out next year.

Award Season for DJLM and Judge

Two Yankees won some notable awards in the last few days. They both deserved them. First, DJ LeMahieu won the Silver Slugger Award for second base. No surprises. Our guy hit .327/.375/.518 (136 wRC+) and was a force at the plate day-in and day-out for the Bombers. He can now add the Silver Slugger Award to his resume, which includes three All-Star appearances, an NL batting crown, and three Gold Gloves. Not bad!

Second, Aaron Judge won Wilson’s Defensive Player of the Year for right field. This is recognition for Judge that I’m really happy to see him get. I truly believe Judge is underrated, which feels insane, but I think it’s true. He’s certainly underrated as a fielder, that much is for sure. I noted this during the ALDS, but the defensive metrics are favorable to our guy. Check out his Statcast “Outs Above Average” metrics:

  • 2019: 6 OAA (24th out of 92 qualified)
  • 2018: 1 (42nd of out 87)
  • 2017: 10 (12th of out 90)
  • All years (16-19): 18 (22nd out of 565)

And his (take with a huge grain of salt) UZR ratings:

  • Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR): 27.2 (2nd)
  • UZR/150: 13.2 (2nd, next closest is Billy Hamilton at 9.5)

I don’t like defensive metrics–especially not zone-based ones–but I sure do love singing the praises of one Aaron Judge. But I also think these figures track well with what we see in right field each night with Judge. The man is a great fielder, and it’s about damn time someone who doesn’t watch the Yankees every night noticed it, too.

The End of the Age of Gregorius?

Ok, dramatic header there, but now we know the obvious: other teams are interested in the services of one Sir Didi Gregorius. Per Jon Heyman:

Gregorius, of course, came up with the Reds as a 22-year-old shortstop back in 2012. He only made 21 plate appearances with the big league club, but we do know the organization there likes him. Gregorius is probably the best middle infielder on the market this offseason, so get ready for more rumors like this as the offseason progresses. For what it’s worth, I expect Didi to fully rebound next season. Also, interestingly enough, MLBTR predicted Gregorius would ultimately land with the Reds. We’ll keep you posted as things develop on this front, of course.

Here’s his grand slam in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Twins because why the hell not:

Yankee (Players) Recruiting Gerrit Cole

No, there’s nothing really to report here (do you think it would be buried here if there was?) but there was one really hilarious thing that I wanted to highlight. On last week’s R2C2 podcast, CC Sabathia had this to say about Gerrit Cole: “you offer that motherfucker enough money, he’s going to want to come here.” I agree, CC. I agree.

He also noted that he’s had “many” conversations with Cole about pitching in the Bronx as a West Coast guy, which I thought was interesting. There’s nothing to read into there, but it’s interesting. He also compared Cole’s free agency to his after 2008, which is fitting. Give it a listen, if, for some reason, you haven’t yet. One final note: it is physically impossible for me to love an athlete more than I love CC Sabathia.

Also, Giancarlo Stanton told TMZ that he wants the Yankees to sign both Cole and Stephen Strasburg, to which I say:

Very good, Giancarlo. Very good. I agree.

Domingo Germán Update

Ken Davidoff and Dan Martin of the New York Post report that MLB’s investigation into Domingo Germán’s alleged physical altercation with Mara Vega, the mother of his children, is expected to wrap up in a few weeks. Germán himself hasn’t spoken to the MLB yet but Vega has, per the reports.

Players don’t get paid while suspended for domestic violence, but Germán was paid while on administrative leave–meaning he’d owe the Yankees money when this is all wrapped up. We will keep you posted as this develops further.

Reports: Yankees hire Matt Blake as new pitching coach

There’s a new pitching coach in the Bronx.

The Yankees have hired Indians MiLB pitching coordinator Matt Blake as their pitching coach, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. Blake, 33, previously worked in the Yankees organization as an area scout.

Blake replaces Larry Rothschild, who held the position from 2011 until this past October. The Holy Cross graduate has worked in the Indians system since 2016 and had just been promoted to the director of pitching development.

Before joining the MLB ranks, Blake worked as the pitching coordinator for Cressey Sports Performance, a training facility in Massachusetts that has worked with players such as Corey Kluber and Oliver Drake. He also served as pitching coach at a New England high school and worked for the Cape Cod League’s Yarmouth-Dennis squad.

The Yankees had interviewed multiple college pitching coaches as well as former starter and current YES broadcaster David Cone. They appeared to be looking for a new-school, analytics-fluent communicator. The Indians have developed a reputation as forward-thinking and have produced a cadre of young arms in recent seasons. Terry Francona credited Blake and Cleveland’s MiLB staff for helping develop arms such as Zach Plesac, Jefry Rodriguez and Adam Civale to be ready to contribute for the 2019 season.

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