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Thoughts after the Yankees’ 40-man roster shakeup

A blast from the past.

The Yankees make the 40-man roster protection deadline an event last night by adding over a half-dozen players and jettisoning some big names to make room for them. ICYMI, here’s the summary of their moves:

Added: Deivi García, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Estevan Florial, Nick Nelson, Miguel Yajure, Brooks Kriske
DFA’d: Nestor Cortes Jr., Greg Bird
Released: Jacoby Ellsbury

Here are my thoughts on the whole sequence of moves, starting with who the Yankees added:

1. The Easy Adds: As Derek so eloquently detailed Tuesday, the Yankees had four players perceived as locks to add by Wednesday’s deadline: García, Gil, Medina and Florial.

It’s well-known how electrifying Deivi can be, and he nearly earned a spot on the roster last September. With the 40-man spot secured, he could get strong consideration for the Opening Day roster in 2020, though it’s more likely he gets further reps in Triple-A after he struggled with the MLB ball and tired down the stretch in 2019.

Meanwhile, Gil, Medina and Florial are further away from the Majors. Gil and Medina raised their profiles with strikeout-laden 2019 seasons for Single-A Charleston, followed by brief stints with Single-A Tampa. Gil, funny enough, was acquired via trade in March 2018 when the Yankees needed to clear room on the 40-man roster. Medina doesn’t turn 21 until May while Gil will be 22 in June.

Florial had his second consecutive down year, both hampered by wrist/hand injuries in Spring Training. That’s part of why he didn’t make Baseball America’s top 10 Yankee prospects. His chances of reaching the Majors in 2020 are slim (as they are for Gil and Medina), but the outfielder would have easy to keep on a 26-man roster for a rebuilding team. Now, he has to find a way to cut down on strikeouts and tap into his potential before it’s too late.

2. The borderline additions: Yajure and Nelson were mentioned by most outlets as bubble players with some favoring Yajure as a “must add.” Kriske, though, came as a surprise even if his name was mentioned.

All three are right-handed pitchers who spent time in Double-A last season, but that’s where the similarities end. Yajure specializes in control, issuing just 30 walks in 138 2/3 innings across High-A and Double-A last season. Though just 21, he has missed development time with Tommy John surgery that knocked out his 2017 season, but he’s fully recovered and has hit 97 on the gun.

However, unlike the four locks, Yajure didn’t make either Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10s. He should start in Trenton after making two starts there in 2019 and could rise from there.

Nelson, meanwhile, reached Triple-A briefly after excelling in the Eastern League. High strikeout rate, high walk rate, the 2016 fourth-rounder has potential to make the Majors in 2020, though that would most likely come in relief as he’s behind García and Michael King for now.

Kriske was the lone full-time reliever of the bunch. Another pitcher who has gone under the knife for TJ, he’s the oldest player added at 25 and is a former sixth-round pick as a senior sign from USC. He could be the latest homegrown college reliever to find his way up the Yankees pipeline. The Bombers wouldn’t have added him to the 40-man as a 25-year-old reliever if he weren’t MLB ready in the near future.

The right-hander added a splitter after joining Trenton, and it appears to have worked wonders for him. Look at his funky motion (and the swings and misses).

3. Yankees not nearly done: So the Yankees are now at 40 men exactly with their 40-man roster. That leaves them no room for Domingo Germán when he’s eventually reinstated from the Commissioner’s exempt list, nor for retaining free agents like Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances, Cameron Maybin or Austin Romine. Or, if this is your cup of tea, Gerrit Cole.

The Yankees had to add the seven players above by Wednesday or else they would have been ripe for the Rule 5 draft in a couple of weeks. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be used as trade bait between now and the start of 2020. In fact, the Bombers might have added one or two players to maintain leverage in ongoing trade talks.

As mentioned above, the Yankees acquired Gil in March 2018. They did so after adding Jake Cave to the 40-man roster the previous fall, only to need room for Brandon Drury in Spring Training. A similar fate could befall Nelson, Kriske or one of the other recent additions, or one of the higher-end prospects (Deivi, Gil, Medina Florial) could be packaged in a larger deal.

I thought the Yankees were going to swing a trade, hence why they went up until the 8 p.m. deadline. They could have been working on one and just didn’t find one that made sense. The Rays, meanwhile, dealt Jose De Leon and Christopher Sanchez to alleviate their own logjam, though they also DFA’d Matt Duffy.

4. Current 40-man roster composition: The Yankees are far from done and they’ll need to excise players currently on their 40-man to make any further MLB moves. But as they stand right now, they have 24 pitchers and just 16 hitters on the roster, with Germán still in the organization as a de facto 41st man while awaiting suspension. While that split remains lopsided, it’s because the Yankees like their pitching prospects. They had enough good ones that other teams would have snapped up, and now they’ll have to sort them out.

Chances are, not all 24 pitchers will make it through the next three months until pitchers and catchers report. Here’s how I see the current chopping block, in order:

  1. Stephen Tarpley
  2. Jonathan Holder
  3. Chance Adams
  4. Brooks Kriske
  5. Albert Abreu

Holder and Tarpley are each fine up-and-down arms, but they haven’t proven themselves more than OK middle relievers in a team full of pitchers. Holder is arb eligible for the first time and is projected to make $800K in 2020, but he also had a 6.31 ERA over 41 1/3 innings last year. Even with a strong 2018, he might struggle to make it through, as could Tarpley. Both had injuries that hampered their 2019 seasons.

Adams hasn’t taken as a starter, so it’s probably time to move him to relief full time and see if a healthy version of him can make it as a reliever. Kriske and Abreu, though both in Double-A and near the Majors, each have an injury history and could be expendable.

Luis Cessa, meanwhile, could fit on that list as he’s out of options, and the Yankees have that glut of pitchers on the roster. If J.A. Happ, Jonathan Loaisiga or Germán are moved to long relief in 2020, Cessa’s spot becomes tenuous, as it does if Adams breaks through.

Key date to watch out for: Dec. 2. That’s the non-tender deadline, which could be Holder, Cessa or Tarpley’s last stand.

5. Bird’s likely exit: Though the Yankees could potentially retain Bird after designating him for assignment Wednesday, I wouldn’t count on it. As he has more than three years of service time, he can elect free agency if he clears waivers.

With Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu and Mike Ford all on the roster, the Yankees scarcely have room for a first base-only player like Bird that can barely stay on the field. His one-week stint in the Dominican Winter League was encouraging but not enough to save his roster spot.

If he hits free agency, maybe New York could work a Minor League deal with their erstwhile first baseman. The organization has certainly believed in him enough to keep him through a laundry list of injuries, and they were rewarded briefly in the 2017 postseason.

Ah, well. At this point, Bird is better off seeking greener pastures with an organization that has more of an opening at first. The talent has always been there, so hopefully his body can hold up wherever he ends up in 2020.

6. The end of the Ellsbury Era: It was time for the Yankees to move on from the veteran outfielder, even if it meant eating $26 million in the process. It’s been 25 months since Ellsbury donned Yankee pinstripes and Brian Cashman didn’t seem confident in Ellsbury’s renewed health during the GM’s end-of-year press conference.

“It’s hard to say based on how things have played out,” Cashman said of Ellsbury’s availability after Aaron Hicks’ surgery. “Right now he’s not someone in a position health-wise where I can answer anything in the affirmative.”

Ellsbury had $21 million due his way in 2020, though the New York Post reported that was uninsured. The Yankees had previously been able to insure his contract, so they weren’t on the hook for all of his 2018 and ’19 salaries. (To clarify, Ellsbury got all the money owed to him, but an insurance company partially compensated the Bombers.) He also is due $5 million to buy out his option for 2021.

The seven-year, $153 million contract is a notable blemish on Cashman’s strong history of signing position players in free agency. In the same offseason, Shin-Soo Choo earned a similar seven-year deal from the Rangers and was an All-Star in 2018. He was worth 14.1 WAR to Ellsbury’s 9.5 ove the last six seasons, and he still has another year to go.

Meanwhile, the Ellsbury signing came on the heels of Robinson Cano’s exit to Seattle. The Yankees reportedly offered him $175 million over seven years, but the second baseman signed for less AAV ($24 million) over 10 seasons. After a lackluster 2013 season where the Bombers’ offense cratered, the team might have felt it needed to make a splash on offense when they signed Ellsbury in addition to Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.

Ultimately, the signing did not work out at all, outside of Ellsbury’s single-season, career and postseason catcher’s interference records, all set with the Yankees. OK, I guess I’m the only one who cares about that last part. It was time for the Yankees to close this chapter.

7. Bye to Nasty Nestor: Lastly, the Yankees removed Cortes from the 40-man roster. He doesn’t have as big a name as Ellsbury or Bird, but baseball’s Mr. 305 should be remembered fondly for his contributions to the 2019 Yankees.

The final numbers are ugly. He had a 5.67 ERA/5.57 FIP and a 79 ERA+, allowing 16 home runs over 66 2/3 innings. The soft-tossing left-hander rarely topped 90 mph, but he got by on guile and an advanced pitching acumen.

Cortes was the bulk guy to form an impressive tandem with opener Chad Green from May well into the summer. The duo helped the Yankees stave off rotation armageddon. Green obviously deserves more of the accolades when it comes to the Yankees’ opener success, but Cortes kept it going. As the bulk pitcher, he helped the Yankees get wins over the Rays (x2), Indians, Astros and Twins, among others.

As the Yankees have previously DFA’d him and the Orioles sent him back in the 2018 Rule 5 draft, I’m pretty certain he can elect free agency. Another team could use him in a bulk/opener role. For whatever reason, I feel as if he’d fit the Seattle Mariners well.

Long relief: Another Chance for Adams, Nasty Nestor, and David raises Hale [2019 Season Review]

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It’s a mostly thankless role, but someone has to do it. Chance Adams, Nestor Cortes, and David Hale were all summoned from the minors at various points this season to serve as extra arms in the Yankees’ bullpen. Let’s take a quick look at how each pitcher did and what lies ahead for them in 2020.

Chance Adams

The Yankees recalled Adams from Triple-A four separate times this season. In each instance he never stuck for an extended period until September callups. Around all of those promotions and demotions, Adams had an ugly 8.53 ERA (6.53 FIP) in 25 1/3 innings, all in relief. He pitched better in Scranton’s rotation, but it wasn’t anything special either. In 18 games (15 starts), the 25 year-old righty had a 4.63 ERA (5.07 FIP) in 81 2/3 innings. 2019 is now Adams’ second consecutive poor season.

After ascending the minor league ranks with relative ease after being the team’s 5th rounder in 2015, Adams seemed like a potential back of the rotation arm. 2017 was his peak — he threw just over 150 frames between Double and Triple-A and had a 2.45 ERA (3.70 FIP).

Now, Adams is running out of time to recover with the Yankees. He still has one more option remaining, so he could split time between Triple-A and the majors next year. However, because of back-to-back rough years, he could be on the 40-man cutting block. The Yankees probably would have a hard time keeping him if they tried to slip him through waivers because Adams has an somewhat interesting Statcast profile, particularly his curveball:

(Baseball Savant)

Nestor Cortes

Nasty Nestor came out of nowhere this season. The Yankees previously left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft before the 2018 season and the Orioles gave him a shot. Baltimore returned him and there was really no threat of him getting picked again in 2019. And, there was seemingly little chance of him being in the majors at all this year. Then, the injury plague struck the Yanks. The Bombers sent him up and down between the majors and minors seven times by late July, but his eighth promotion proved to be the charm.

Between the numerous callups, Cortes was pretty effective for an extended stretch. A lot of it was surely smoke and mirrors, as his end of year stat line is not so great. But, there was a stretch of 41 1/3 innings in which had a 3.81 ERA from May 26th through August 9th. And as you know, there were a number of shuttle trips between the Bronx and Scranton during that period. Much of that success occurred as the bulk innings guy for Chad Green, who was oft-used as an opener.

Unfortunately, Cortes lost his magic touch to close the year. He allowed at least one run in 10 of his final 13 appearances, which helped balloon is end of year ERA to 5.80. The crafty lefty isn’t someone who blows hitters away, so it was a matter of time until the league figured him out. At least it was fun to watch him succeed while it lasted, though. He arm angles, quick pitch, and slow windups were a treat when he was on.

And for good measure, check out all these release points from his last outing of the season:

(Baseball Savant)

Cortes is another fringe 40-man roster guy who could lose his spot over the winter. However, there’s a chance the Yankees may be able to hold on to him. His upside isn’t so high that a number of teams would try to claim him. The Yanks would have to pass him through outright waivers to keep him in the organization should they cut him from the 40-man.

David Hale

Saved the best of this post’s crew for last. Hale bounced between the Yankees, Twins, and back to the Yankees in 2018, but was able to settle in with the Bombers this year. The righty was a non-roster invitee to spring training and began the season in Triple-A’s rotation. But by mid-May, the big leagues came calling.

Hale only pitched 37 2/3 innings with the Yankees. Like the rest of the roster, he wasn’t impervious to the injury bug. But those innings were quite effective: he had a 3.11 ERA and 3.32 FIP despite only striking out 5.5 batters per nine. How? Thanks to good control (1.67 walks per nine) and his ability to keep the ball in the yard (0.48 homers per nine), he limited damage. He also only allowed an 86.5 MPH exit velocity and .277 xWOBA. A lumbar spine strain put him on the shelf in late July and he never returned.

The Yankees designated Hale for assignment when Aaron Hicks returned for the postseason. In lieu of accepting an outright assignment, the righty elected free agency. Still, I’d assume there’s a decent chance he’s back with the team next spring on another minor league deal. It doesn’t seem likely he can land a guaranteed major league job despite his success in 2019.

Game 161: When Do The Playoffs Start?

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The Yankees dropped the penultimate game of the 2019 regular season to the Texas Rangers by the score of 9-4. With the playoff match ups set, this game was virtually meaningless. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an important storyline to follow. Luis Severino was on the bump tonight. He gave some mixed results, which in the big picture isn’t totally a bad thing. Here is the box score for tonight’s game. Let’s get to the short takeaways.

1. A Nice Test for Louis Cefarino: Luis Severino made his third and final regular season start tonight. His first two went about as well as you could imagine for a pitcher coming off a serious injury. At this point in the season, you want Sevy to face as many different scenarios as possible heading into the postseason. This was his first road start so it posed a nice challenge. It doesn’t hurt that it took place in a hitter friendly stadium.

Severino struggled in the first inning. His velocity sat at 94-95, so a few ticks lower than his starts back in New York. He was having trouble finding his command. Just like in the first inning of his start against the Angels, Sevy was also struggling to finish batters off with two strikes. There wasn’t a pitch that he could really trust to put a hitter away. Here is a chart of Severino’s pitch selection and its location:

Sevy’s fastball was all over the place in the first inning. The change up wasn’t all that effective and the slider didn’t have enough arc to really entice hitters. He was fighting himself a bit. And in all honesty, that was fine. This game didn’t have any real consequence and it was an opportunity to see if Sevy could make in game adjustments.

The most encouraging part about this is start is he did in fact make some adjustments. His command improved as his start went on and he was able to rack up some strike outs. There was one inning where he struck out the side. It was also nice to see his velocity tick up to the 96-97 range throughout the rest of the start.

It wasn’t one of the best starts of his career, but it was an important one. Cefarino is going to face a seriously potent lineup in the Minnesota Twins and it was important to see how he handled in game adversity. I would say he passed the test and the Yankees staff should be encouraged by how his night finished. His next start will be in the ALDS.

2. Cessa and Cortes Jr. Combine Fight Over Being More Terrible: Luis Cessa and Nestor Cortes Jr. have pitched well in spots over the season. In fact, Cessa is having a nice season as a long man/mop up reliever. His numbers are solid. Earlier in the season, Cortes Jr. was a nice contributor as the pitcher to follow Chad Green’s opener innings. Neither guy will save tonight’s highlights in the vault.

After giving up two walks and hitting a batter in the bottom of the 5th, Cessa promptly gave up two singles to start the 6th inning. He followed the two hits with two consecutive walks to bring in a run. Cessa struck out Danny Santana and was taken out of the game with the bases loaded for Nestor Cortes Jr.

Apparently Nestor had very little interest in keeping this game close because he gave up this bomb to Rougned Odor:

This ball was hit about 2 miles. Cortes Jr. clearly isn’t going to wow you with his stuff. He relies on deception and command. When he doesn’t hit his spots, it can get real ugly. Nestor hasn’t been good at all lately and I think it is worth wondering if he keeps his 40 man spot this winter. The team will be in a roster crunch and these performances matter when evaluating which players should stay and which should go. Cortes Jr. is not making a good case for himself lately.

In regards to Cessa, he just had one of those nights. This won’t impact his chances of making the postseason roster. He will be on the ALDS squad, but I certainly don’t want to see him in a big spot in the playoffs. Cessa has his supporters and he is enjoying a solid season. He just doesn’t have the command that makes me feel comfortable against the elite offenses in the league. If there are any low leverage situations that arise in the playoffs, I have no problem seeing Luis. I have no interest in seeing him in any other scenario.

3. No One Got Hurt: This is probably the most important news of the day. No one got a tight ass. No one broke a bone. There wasn’t a pulled groin. The Yankees actually survived a late season game without a new injury. This is a victory within itself.


The final game of the 2019 regular season is tomorrow afternoon. This season flew by didn’t it? The game will start at 3:05pm along with the rest of the major league slate. The Yankees may start with an opener and then turn to Masahiro Tanaka in an abbreviated outing. Enjoy your night everyone.

Game 160: Yanks Slug Their Way to 14-5 Victory Amid Paxton Injury Scare

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Well, that was a scary game! At least a scary start. Paxton left the game with an injury (he’s fine, apparently precautionary, phew). After that, though, it was all Yankees all of the time. They mashed and mashed and mashed, and they destroyed the Rangers 14-7 (box). That was their 103rd win of the season, tying the 2009 team. One more and they’ll have won more than any Yankees team in recent memory aside from the mythical 1998 team. Not bad! Now just please stay healthy, for the love of all that is holy.

Let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. A Short Night From Paxton: James Paxton got hurt. We don’t have a whole lot of info on this yet, but check that link for more details. In the interim, though, it’s worth exploring the night that Paxton had on the mound. We all know how dominant he’s been recently, and honestly, I’m too bummed to get into it right now anyway. Anyway, he went 1.0 IP, surrendering 2 R on 3 H including this bomb to Danny Santana:

He didn’t look sharp and needed 21 pitches to complete the inning, but there were no real red flags that I could see. He didn’t really look to be in rhythm, but it’s hard to say from my couch if that was just because he didn’t really have it or due to any injury. Anyway, in 2019, Paxton’s average fastball velocity would be 95.4 mph. Here is his velocity chart from his one brief inning tonight:

His last two fastballs of the night? 95 and 94.8 mph, so I don’t think velocity was an issue. Ugh. Get well soon, James.

2. Have Yourself A Night, Giancarlo: The Yankees are in a race for the all-time single-season home run record and Giancarlo Stanton has just three of them. Baseball is a wild sport sometimes. He added that third one tonight, and boy was it a beauty. Check it out:

The Statcast data on this one is just as pretty as you’d think it is:

When Stanton hits them, he really hits them. It’s really a huge bummer that Stanton didn’t get to feast on the juiced ball all season because our guy may have touched 500 feet. Oh well. There’s still time yet. That was the 300th home run of the season for the Yanks, which is pretty damn cool. More on that in a minute, though.

Stanton really had himself a nice night tonight even beyond the majestic blast. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs in the 4th, Giancarlo had a nicely placed bloop single to drive in two more. Here is the video:

He would add two walks, and he went 3-3 on the night. He looked downright terrible on Wednesday, but overall I think it’s pretty hard to be disappointed with how Stanton has looked since coming back from his injury. I feel about as good as I would have hoped with Giancarlo at the plate (and in the field) going into October. Hooray for that.

3. A Great Night From the Bullpen: Well, that sure was a performance from the Yankee bullpen, wasn’t it? After James Paxton left tonight’s game with a tight left glute, there was a real chance for this game to turn into a real pain in the ass. But the bullpen stepped up and did its job across 8 innings. Here is the breakdown, pitcher-by-pitcher:

  • Ben Heller: 1.0 IP, 1 H, zeros, 1 K
  • Stephen Tarpley: 1.0 IP, zeros, 2 K
  • Jonathan Loaisiga: 1.0 IP, zeros, 1 BB, 1 K
  • Cody Gearrin: 1.0 IP, 1 H, zeros, 1 K
  • Tyler Lyons: 1.0 IP, zeros, 2 K
  • Michael King: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K
  • Chance Adams: 0.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R (1 HR), 1 K
  • Nestor Cortes Jr.: 0.2 IP, zeros
  • Total: 8.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R (2 HR), 1 BB, 9 K

That’ll do! Can’t say I love the one-man, one-inning approach from an aesthetic standpoint (Tuesday’s game in Tampa was really rough to watch) but hey, it worked tonight. And this was the very back end of the Yankee pen. Okay, so I’ll be honest. I wrote this before Chance Adams absolutely imploded in the bottom of the 9th inning, which completely ruined this narrative. Goodness was that frustrating. Whatever. It happens and they won.

Anyway, really nice to see Mike King get a chance on the mound in the big league game. King has been one of my favorite prospects to follow, and he’s really battled injuries this year, so that was a nice moment.

I would also be remiss not to note that my son Jonathan Loaisiga once again looked good. I still expect to see him as the 25th man on the playoff roster, and he’ll belong to be there.

4. It’s a Homer Party: Isn’t it wild to think that, as good as the Yankees have been at home this year, they are hitting so much better on the road, isn’t it? It’s even wilder to think that Yankee Stadium has been playing like a pitcher’s park (the 2nd most friendly pitcher’s park, in fact). Check out the home/road splits for the Yankees as a team, coming into tonight:

  • At Yankee Stadium: .263/.334/.474 (.809 OPS), 143 HR
  • On the Road: .271.343.502 (.845), 156 HR

I bring this up because wow did the Yankees crush the ball in the 3rd to last game in Texas’ park tonight. They hit 6 home runs! You already saw the first one above, which was Giancarlo’s moonshot. That was the 300th home run for the team on the season, which is wild. I am of the mind that Yankee home runs are fun so I am going to post each and every video highlight of them here. Why the hell not?

Here is Cameron Maybin’s, which tied the game at 2:

Here is Brett Gardner’s, which gave the Yanks a 3-2 lead (and it was also his 28th home run of the season!):

Here is the slumping Gio Urshela’s home run, which made it 6-2 Yanks:

And here is Mike “September is still Truck Month” Ford’s 2-run blast that made it 8-2 (he also added a 2-run double):

Here is Austin Romine’s 430 foot homer, LOL:

That is a lot of home runs in one game, and as YES’ Jeff Quagliata points out, this is the ridiculous 10th time in 2019 that the Yankees have hit 5 or more home runs in a single game:

The Yankees are also in a tight race with the Twins for the most home runs in a regular season history. I’m sure it will change fifty times by the time this post is actually ready to publish, but here is the leaderboard for now:

  1. Yankees: 305
  2. Twins: 303

I would prefer it if the Yankees won this race and then also outslug the Twins 15-0 in a 3 game sweep next weekend. Sound good? Good.

Leftovers

  • Gary Sánchez’s Return: Jeez, does Gary have an absolute cannon of an arm or what? Two non-notable plays early in the game involved Gary making snap throws behind runners at first, but I was too distracted by the Paxton injury to actually note when they were. Sorry about that. Anyway, I wish that we still had access to velocity stats on catcher’s throws because I’m telling you, those were two impressive ones. Gary is a hell of a player and it was nice to see him back behind the dish. (He left the game after 3 AB, exactly as planned.)
  • Luke Voit Is Struggling: Luke Voit had a really rough night, going 0-5 with 3 strikeouts. My man Luke has really struggled since returning from the DL, hitting just .222/.341/.375 (95 wRC+) since returning from injury on August 30. Now, he’s still getting on base, but that’s just about it. He’s not hitting for any power at all nor is he hitting the ball for average. Time is running out for him to turn it around before the ALDS. (He’ll make the roster, but playing time is right now far from a given.)
  • DJ LeMahieu, Hitting Extraordinaire: What, you think I could do one of these without bringing up DJ LeMahieu? Come on now. You know how this works by now. Our guy, who still has a tiny chance of winning the AL batting crown, went 3-5 with 3 RBI tonight. His batting average is up to .331 and he has 102 RBI on the season. What else can I say about him that I haven’t said already? What a player. Here’s a bases-clearing, bases-loaded triple double for DJLM:

Up Next

The Yanks and Rangers will play the penultimate game of the season tomorrow night at 8:05 pm EST. Luis Severino (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will take on a yet to be announced pitcher for Texas. You can catch that one on YES or on WFAN, as usual. Have a great night, everyone.

Game 157: Luis Severino is Brilliant as Yankees Dismiss Jays 8-3

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Another day, another extremely encouraging Yankees game. Luis Severino continued to defy expectations. Aaron Judge mashed. Giancarlo Stanton is looking really comfortable at the plate. And on and on and on. You have just got to love it. Here is the box score from the Yankees 8-3 thrashing of the still annoying Blue Jays.

That was the Yankees’ 102nd win of the season. Win two more and they surpass the 2009 team and become the winningest Yankee team since the all-time 1998 team. How fun. (Houston, for what its worth, is demolishing the Angels as of writing, so they’ll remain 2 games off-pace for HFA. That ship, I think, has sailed. And that’s fine.)

Let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. Holy Hell, Luis Severino: I am going to say it again. Holy hell, Luis Severino. Had you given me the chance to script out Severino’s first two starts of the season, I don’t think I could have drawn them up much better than this. Here is his line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K. He threw 80 pitches–exactly his limit–and 54 of them were strikes (68%). Here was his pitch usage:

  • Fastball: 46
  • Slider: 18
  • Change: 16

As expected, he mixed it up all day as he tries to regain his stuff. If there was *anything* bad you could have said about his first start, it’s that his slider wasn’t quite as sharp as you’d like. That wasn’t the case today, as he did get two swings-and-misses on the pitch (including 2 strikeouts, one of which was looking). It was a mighty impressive performance. The pitch just looked sharp, too.

But the story of the day was the fastball. I cannot say enough positive things about it. Per Brooks Baseball, the Blue Jays swung at 24 of them–and came up empty 12 times. That’s a 50% whiff-per-swing rate! Check this out:

Small sample obviously, but gosh is it encouraging to see Severino blowing his fastball by guys. Bad lineups and all, but our man has straight-up dominated two consecutive lineups with his fastball–and it still isn’t even up to full velocity. He has yet to surrender a run in 2019.

His average velocity was just a hair under 97 mph and he topped out at 99 mph. Yet again, he maintained that velocity throughout. Check it out:

That is a beautiful image right there. He kept his velocity constant and was sitting 98 mph in the 5th inning. There are other beautiful images from this game, too. Here is one of them:

Here is another one:

See pitch number 7 there? That was a 98 mph fastball on the black with two strikes. McKinney was completely frozen on it. Here is the video, which is even prettier:

I could go on and on about Severino, honestly. I am so damn encouraged and amped up by these performances. It’s pretty incredible to think that the Yankees just won their 102nd game of the year despite this being Severino’s second start of the season.

It is going to be so cool to have him fully-rested and healthy going into October. He is so, so good, and at this point, I don’t see how Severino doesn’t get the ball for Game 2 of the ALDS. How awesome.

2. Aaron Judge is Underappreciated: I am not sure if you know this, but Aaron Judge is incredibly good at baseball. But I am here to say that, despite being on this Yankees team, he is somehow underrated. Hear me out. Coming into today, Judge was hitting .290/.377/.710 (172 wRC+) in 122 plate appearances since August 21. In that span, he hit 13 home runs with a walk rate north of 11%. He had hit a home run in 3 of his last 5 games. I know that we’re partially to blame here, with a website and all, but it does feel like this ridiculous run is flying under the radar, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s because Judge is one of those players that everyone just expects to be good. But it sure does feel like DJLM, Gardner, Gio, etc. have all gotten tons of praise while Judge just keeps on keepin’ on.

Anyway, speaking of, here is what he did in the first inning today:

That is a majestic–and I mean majestic–home run right there. Per Statcast, that was a 102 mph blast that traveled 420 feet. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

There are a lot of good players on the Yankees, especially on this version of the team, but let me extremely clear about something: none of them are as good as Aaron Judge. I don’t think it is even close. There is a narrative–you see it on Twitter and hear it from guys like A-Rod– that other players like Gary Sánchez are better “pure” hitters or whatever. It is nonsense. Utter nonsense.

There are 228 qualified hitters since the start of 2017, Judge’s coming-out party. Here is the fWAR leaderboard in that period with games played in parentheses:

  1. Mike Trout: 25.1 (388)
  2. Mookie Betts: 22.0 (435)
  3. Christian Yelich: 20.0 (433)
  4. Anthony Rendon: 20.0 (422)
  5. Alex Bregman: 18.8 (461)
  6. Francisco Lindor: 17.9 (453)
  7. Aaron Judge: 17.7 (364)
  8. Jose Ramirez: 17.5 (435)
  9. Nolan Arenado: 17.2 (465)
  10. Jose Altuve: 15.9 (408)

Look at our man. There he is, sitting 7th on that list, with 24 fewer games played than the next closet in the top 10. He and Trout, who is a literal machine, are the only two players with fewer than 400 games played. He’s played 90 (!) fewer games than Lindor and has been just as valuable.

Staying on the field, of course, is a skill in-and-of-itself, but I think the point is clear: Aaron Judge is a hell of a player. I’m not sure we talk about it enough. We are lucky to root for him. He went 2-4 with that mammoth blast today, so just another day at the park. Ho-hum.

3. Auditioning for the Playoff Roster: Before today’s game, Aaron Boone noted that while Montgomery was going to pitch again, there was no set plan for his usage because the team wants to check out certain guys before October. I think that makes sense. It was therefore interesting to see Stephen Tarpley, Tyler Lyons, and Nestor Cortes come on in relief of Severino. There is some reading of the tea leaves involved there but that suggests that they could be an option? I doubt it. But remember, Tarpley did make the roster for both the Wild Card Game and the ALDS last year. It’s not impossible. Here are their lines:

  • Stephen Tarpley: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 K
  • Tyler Lyons: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 HR), 1 K
  • Cortes Jr.: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R (1 HR), 1 BB, 2 K

Personally, I think the last 2 bullpen spots will go to Cessa and Loaisiga. This was not a banner day for any of these guys. I don’t want any of them anywhere near October.

Leftovers

  • Brett Gardner Forever: Brett Gardner is having himself a hell of a season. I have written about everything I can about him right here in these takeaways over the last few months. You’re probably tired of reading it. The long and short of it is that I love him and you probably do too. He did two notable things today. In the 5th, he hit a soft grounder up the line….and then ran to the dugout rather than allow the Blue Jays the pleasure of tagging him. Hilarious. He also did this:
  • Stanton Tracker: Stanton went 0-1 with a walk, a sac fly, and a run scored today. My man Big G continues to impress in his return back from the IL. He also fielded a base hit in the top of the 6th, which was the only defensive play I made note of. It’s possible I missed some, even though I meant to track this. Oh well. Here is the video of the sac fly:
  • Another Multi-Hit Day for DJLM: Another day, another two-hit game for DJLM. He leads the league in that category this year. He went 2-4 with two runs scored today, including one on this blast:
  • Luke Voit With A Nice Game: Luke Voit was 1-3 with an RBI single, which feels like it’s worth noting only because people seem to think he is going to sit in the playoffs. Dear reader, he will not sit, nor should he. Anyway, here’s the single:
  • Get Your Tissues Ready: The Yankees honored CC Sabathia before the game today, and, well, it got REAL dusty up in my apartment for some reason. Weird. I’ve included video of the ceremony, including the two prepared videos they played on the scoreboard. They’re all worth watching. Nothing but love for CC.

Up Next

An off-day! Today was the final game of the final homestand of the season, which is insane. There won’t be another game in the Bronx until October 4, when the Yankees will host Game 1 of the ALDS. I’m ready for it.

The Yankees will play next on Tuesday against the Rays in the Trop for the final week of the regular season. That’ll be a 7:10 pm start. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, folks. It’s another gorgeous one out there.

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