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Mailbag: Offensive projections, expectations for Severino and Kluber, and mic’d up Yankees

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Happy Friday, everyone. Tonight is an atypical off day for the Yankees as they travel from Iowa to Chicago to resume the series against the White Sox tomorrow. It’s a much needed reprieve, too. The Bombers just completed a 17 games in 17 days stretch with a number of players on the injured list and the bullpen stretched thin. Regardless, they went 12-5 during this portion of the slate, which is an unmitigated success. Were there a few blown games? Sure, but that’s par for the course with the 2021 Yankees. I’d have signed up for 12-5 before this part of the schedule, that’s for sure.

Today, we have a few good mailbag questions to address before we head into the weekend. As always, shoot your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll answer our favorites in future editions. Now, let’s get to this week’s best.

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Game 94: Sure, why not

I have to say, I’m a little delirious after watching that one. It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win. The Yankees topped the Phillies 6-5 in 10 innings and have now won 9 of 12 games as they head into a pivotal four game series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Once again, the Yankees got heroics from the places you’d least expect. Greg Allen had a big RBI double early in this one, Brooks Kriske pitched a scoreless 10th inning during Manfred-ball, and Ryan LaMarre walked it off in the bottom of the 10th. Hell, even Asher Wojciechowski was fine. There were some big moments from the regulars too, but still, the replacements stole the show. What a weird, wacky game:

To the takeaways:

Game 74: It’s Exactly What You Want

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Now that’s more like it! After last night’s crazy walk-off win, today was exactly what you want to see the Yankees do against the Royals with a nice, calm, and easy victory with great pitching and hitting. The Kraken hit a huge 3-run homerun in the 6th to put this one out of reach, giving the Yankees a 8-1 victory behind Jameson Taillon’s best start in pinstripes. This moves the Yankees to 40-34 on the year, and just 4 back on the Red Sox who play the Rays later tonight. It’s their 3rd straight series win and they have won 7 of their last 9. To the takeaways:

Needs

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Every team has needs. Sometimes big, sometimes small. Aside from size, they can be categorized temporally, too: immediate and future, short-term or long-term. Given that designation, the Yankees have both immediate and future needs.

In the short-term, the Yankees just need to hit better. Better at bats, better swings, better…something. Recent injuries haven’t helped, of course, but whatever the reason, whatever the process, the Yankees need better results.

For the long-term, meaning the rest of the 2021 season and playoffs, the Yankees need to figure out center field and the right side of the infield. Derek outlined some potential outfield trade targets recently and I agree with him; outfield is where the focus should be. Given the lack of internal options–barring a Brett Gardner rebound or dead cat bounce–going external is the only path to replacing Aaron Hicks with someone worthy of a playoff/World Series run.

The infield situation can be solved internally and the solutions may already be playing themselves out. That is to say there isn’t really a solution beyond the two-pronged approach on the field right now.

As it stands, the Yankees have at least two players who can man second in DJ LeMahieu and Rougned Odor and another who could if needed in Gleyber Torres, not to mention Tyler Wade. But the prolonged absence of Luke Voit has forced and will continue to force the Yankees’ hand in a less than ideal right side alignment. So, really, a first base issue has affected second base as well.

One ‘prong’ has them playing Mike Ford at first with DJ LeMahieu at second and Gio Urshela at third. The other has them playing LeMahieu at first with Odor at second and Urshela at third. Both options have warts, like DJ playing away from a position where he’s a premium defender and Mike Ford playing at all.

Even with some clutch hits and generally good defense, Odor isn’t exactly a shining option out there, either. Perhaps he could be hidden if others were hitting up to their potential, but they’re not and his flawed bat is becoming more and more exposed. The argument could be made that they should trade for an upgrade at second, but I doubt the Yankees will do that. Having already spent resources in the form of prospects to get Odor, I doubt they do it again for another second baseman (or shortstop to move Gleyber back to second).

However, either approach would more or less cement LeMahieu as a first baseman, which is, as mentioned, a waste of his defensive talent. And given his relatively low offensive output this year, LeMahieu looks a lot worse as a first baseman instead of a second baseman.

If the Yankees could find a solution at first–which is likely easier than acquiring a middle infielder–it would shift Odor back to the bench where he should be and let DJLM play his natural position.

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Before looking outside, the Yankees do have two more options in Scranton: Chris Gittens and Derek Dietrich. Our Derek discussed Gittens here and I, once again, agree. Dietrich, alternatively, offers the Yankees a little more assurance since he’s done it at the Major League level before, but there’s also some Odor potential in him.

Both choices let them kick the can down the road a bit, whether that road is waiting for Voit to get healthy or looking for an external upgrade. Again, I doubt the external road is taken; they have internal options and it’s not like Voit is going to be out the whole season.

If you asked me two months ago if I thought the Yankees would need to upgrade offensively in some way, I would’ve thought you were crazy. But, as a certain announcer might say…

The Yankees have nailed it, more or less, on the pitching front and find themselves in such a position that just modest improvement on offense would really complete them as a team. Whether they fill that need internally or externally remains to be seen. But they need to fill it.

Game 46: Yanks Win 5th Straight Behind Cole and Gleyber

Fresh off a tense walk-off win last night and tough first few innings, the Yankees jumped on Dylan Cease the 2nd time through to ultimately make this one a 7-0 laugher.

The Bombers have now won 5 in a row, are 8-0-2 in their last 10 series, and have gone 22-9 since April 20, which is the best record in the bigs. Let’s get to the takeaways:

Gerrit Cole battled through 7 scoreless with some help from the defense. Folks, this was far from Gerrit Cole’s best start, yet he still got through 7 scoreless. From the first inning, you could tell he didn’t have his usual stuff or command as seen by the pitch plot.

Everything was pretty much all over the place. With Cole, you usually want to see fastballs up and everything else down. Yet this here is a mess. After only walking 5 batters in his first 9 starts combined, Cole walked 3 on the afternoon. At one point, he even had more walks than strikeouts.

So, how did Cole manage to get through 7 scoreless? With some timely defense of all things. The Yankees reversed the script and instead of hitting into an unconscionable amount of double plays managed to turn four of their own to support their ace on a tough day for him. Here’s how they happened:

Cole did not have his typical swing-and-miss stuff today. He averages over a 30% whiff on all of his pitches, yet today his whiff% was only 27% and he did not get a single whiff on any of his sliders. Instead, he generated a ton of groundballs. He got 10 groundouts compared to only 1 flyout which unusual for him, yet needed on a day like today.

After being staked to a lead in the 4th, Cole shut the White Sox down over his last 3 frames. Take a look at his velocity chart to see how he got stronger as the game went on:

Those last few fastballs hummed in at 100mph or higher and led to striking out the side in the 7th. Great to end his day with a few FU fastballs.

Everyday is Gleyber day. After being the hero last night, Gleyber picked up right where he left off. Dylan Cease DOMINATED the Yankees the first time through, but things unraveled for him in the 4th. After a single by Aaron Judge (who is also on fire) and a great walk from Gio Urshela, up came Gleyber and here’s what he did:

Look at how he stays back on that curve and drives it into the gap. That gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead, and with the way Cole was “struggling” that hit was much needed. Up again with runners on in the 5th, Gleyber came through again:

Per Jack Curry, Gleyber only saw 1 fastball in those 2 at-bats. After a rough start to the season, it’s great to see Gleyber coming around. In his last 16 games, he’s batting over .300, and since coming off the COVID IL this week, he’s hitting over .500 with 6 RBI just this weekend.

Tack on runs are nice. In that majestic 4th inning, right after Gleyber’s 2-run double, Rougned Odor kept the Yanks foot on the Sox neck with a double of his own to extend the lead to 3-0.

Clutch hitting is nice.

Mike Ford got in on the action as well with a 447 blast:

Leftovers

  • The Yankees starting pitching is unreal right now. That’s 30 straight scoreless from the starters, and 4 straight games of 7+ IP without allowing a run.
  • Justin Wilson and Luis Cessa threw scoreless innings in relief to close this one out.
  • The only damper on this game is Kyle Higashioka. After a hot start, he’s 3 for his last 33. Might be time to rethink the catcher platoon.

The Yankees go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon. It’ll be Jameson Taillon against former Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel. The Yankees are 1-6 when going for the sweep this year, so let’s see them change that tomorrow. Catch the game at 1:05pm Eastern.

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