Tag: sam briend

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.

Thoughts after the Yankees Fire Larry Rothschild

Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

After nine successful years, the Yankees have moved on from longtime pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey is now the last holdover from the Girardi regime and is also the longest-tenured member of the coaching staff.

If you listened closely to Brian Cashman’s end-of-year press conference last week, you could hear in the subtext that there were some major changes coming to the coaching staff. When asked whether or not the entire coaching staff would be back for 2020, Cashman had this to say in response:

“I’m not in a position to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on that because we haven’t gone through that process.”

Not so subtle in hindsight. (Nor was it particularly subtle at the time, really.) Anyway, the change in direction comes amid an organizational shift in pitching philosophy. As you can imagine, I have a bit to say about all of this. Here’s what’s on my mind.

1. What’s a Pitching Coach, Anyway?: I know this is heretical coming from someone like me, who writes a lot of opinionated words about the Yankees in my free time, but I never managed to get too worked up about Larry Rothschild. That seemingly counts me among minority, or at least among the silent majority. It seems like every fan wanted him gone and/or thought he was bad at his job, but I just couldn’t muster that energy. That’s because there’s absolutely no way for us to evaluate a pitching coach from our vantage point.

I know that’s boring, but so much of what a pitching coach does is behind-the-scenes. It is literally impossible for us to determine if one is good at his/her job or not. Believe it or not, there’s much more to the job than just trotting out to the mound during the games. That’s all we can see, though.

This is all a long way of saying that you should take the Larry criticism with a grain of salt. His critics were quick to point to the fact that Chad Green had to be demoted to be “fixed” earlier this year, that Special Advisor Carlos Beltran was the one to identify James Paxton’s pitch tipping in Houston, or that Sonny Gray never lived up to his potential. They’ll even hand-wave the development of Luis Severino and attribute his success to Pedro Martinez. All of this sounds good in theory but there are simple explanations to each scenario, most notably that none of these things necessarily happened in a vacuum.

I highly doubt, for instance, that Chad Green’s mechanical tweaks in Triple-A occurred without Larry knowing. More likely, getting away from the pressure of the MLB helped Chad hone in on those changes. Ditto Severino’s workouts with Pedro. I’m not saying that Larry was perfect by any means (the initial handling of Paxton was weird), but pointing to Nate Eovaldi or Michael Pineda as definitive proof of his ineptitude always seemed like a stretch to me. Pitching is hard, and those guys never had the career they were expected to. Eovaldi, of course, did have a really nice run twelve months ago. You may be surprised to hear to whom he gave the credit for that run, but you shouldn’t be: the Yankees are an extremely smart and forward-thinking organization. They wouldn’t have kept Larry around for nine years if he was not that himself.

2. Don’t Fall for Revisionist History: With all of that said, there is one straightforward way to evaluate a pitching coach: the performance of his pitching staff. By that measure, Larry’s tenure in the Bronx was an unmitigated success. Yankees pitchers threw 13,038.0 innings with Larry at the helm (2011-2019), not counting the postseason. Here is how that staff compared to the league during that time:

  • Average Four-Seam Velocity: 93.8 mph (T-1st)
  • Strikeout Rate: 22.9% (2nd, behind LAD)
  • Strikeout-Walk Rate: 15.3% (2nd, behind LAD)
  • Average Fastball Velocity: 92.9 mph (2nd)
  • Walk Rate: 7.6% (T-3rd)
  • fWAR: 169.5 (4th, behind LAD, CLE, and WAS)
  • ERA-: 93 (T-4th)
  • Ground Ball Rate: 44.7% (T-6th)
  • FIP: 3.95 (8th)

You get the idea. All of this is to say that, for a heavily-criticized man with a staff that many people (including many of us here at VF314) passionately argue has consistently not had enough quality pitchers, that’s a pretty damn impressive track record. The data show that Yankees have been a much better team on the mound than they’re frequently given credit for. It’s indisputable. To not give Larry any credit for this sustained run is willful ignorance.

Now, this only tells part of the tale, of course. Those numbers above are the cumulative figures for everyone who threw a pitch in pinstripes during Larry’s tenure here. Split them up by starting pitcher or reliever and you can see the discrepancy. Really briefly:

  • fWAR, Bullpen: 53.9 (1st, next closest is TB with 38.4)
  • fWAR Starters: 116.0 (9th)
  • ERA-, Bullpen: 85 (T-1st)
  • ERA-, Starters: 98 (6th)
  • Strikeout Rate, Bullpen: 26.3% (1st, 10% better than 2nd-place LAD)
  • Strikeout Rate, Starters: 21.0% (7th)

So, yeah. That’s where the discrepancy always was, and I think that also explains why so many fans have been repeatedly frustrated with the pitching staff. The starters–while even they, might I whisper, were quite good–haven’t been as good as the relief corps. Starters are much more visible, though, so I think that explains that. If you’re going to knock Larry for anything, it has to be for the performance of the starting pitchers. But, again, that goes hand-in-hand with the argument that the Yankees have long-lacked a true ace atop their staff. Takes some of the sting out of that criticism, doesn’t it? Like I said before, I’m not sure how much of this was Larry’s work, per se. We just don’t know. But the numbers sure don’t hurt his case.

3. What Gives, Then?: And yet, despite all of this, I’m not upset to see Larry go. As a good friend mentioned to me on Twitter (behind a locked account), the situation with Larry felt reminiscent of the situation with Girardi after 2017. He is most likely a very good coach–one of the best out there, really–but one who is just a step behind where the Yankees are right now as an organization. His 45 years in baseball, the last 18 of which were spent with just two organizations, are surely a testament to his aptitude. But it was time to move on.

Like with Girardi, nine years is a long time with one organization. Things are a lot different in 2019 than they were in 2011. It felt like an appropriate time for a change here, and I’m sure Larry will be back on his feet very soon. Even though Cashman was the one behind his original hire–and keeping him prior to hiring Aaron Boone–Girardi just took a job in Philly. It wouldn’t shock me to see him land there.

4. The Winds of Change: As I said yesterday, the Yankees recently made a major change atop their organizational pitching structure a few months ago by hiring Sam Briend as Director of Pitching. Shortly thereafter, the team’s highly-regarded MiLB Pitching Coordinator, Danny Borrell, departed the team for Georgia Tech. Since then, there have been a number of additional changes to the team’s MiLB pitching flow chart. Those departures include:

  • Scott Aldred: Pitching Coordinator, High-Minors
  • Tim Norton: Pitching Coach, Double-A Trenton Thunder
  • Gabe Luckert: Pitching Coach, Low-A Charleston Riverdogs
  • Justin Pope: Pitching Coach, Gulf Coast Yankees

That’s five notable departures plus the recent change with Larry. I think it’s pretty clear that there are major changes happening organization wide. As I noted above, viewed in this context, it is not all that surprising to see Larry move on.

On a broader level, it’s also pretty clear that Briend is a man with influence with the Yankees. I’m sure this is not happening independent of Cashman or other team gurus, of course, but Briend is the man at the top here. He’ll likely play a major role in filling out the now-vacant positions and we may even see a visible shift in approach/philosophy. Remember, the Yankees have thrown the 3rd fewest fastballs by percentage in the league since 2011 (40.9% of all pitches compared to a 46% league average) but have recently targeted pitchers who rely on fastballs in recent years. Lance Lynn, J.A. Happ, and James Paxton all immediately come to mind.

Smart teams throw more breaking balls, but I do wonder if some of the rigidity here will shift. Something to watch, at least. I’m sure there will be other, way more subtle changes, too. Briend comes from Driveline, which is a lab for pitcher’s mechanics and maximizing velocity and spin rates, so my guess is that instruction/mechanical tweaks will be happening across the organization. I’m curious to see how that shakes out.

5. Possible Replacements: I have no idea who will replace Larry Rothschild, but I have a hard time imagining that David Cone won’t be in serious consideration for the post. Think about it: he’s young, a former player with championship pedigree, and loves analytics. More importantly, as a former player, he can translate those analytics into player-speak. He has no coaching experience but I don’t think that matters as much anymore. He strikes me as someone cut from the Boone cloth, who would buy in to the Yankees’ philosophy and then help implement it with players. I sure would hate to lose him in the booth, though.

There are other names already floating about, such former NYY reliever and current Brewers bullpen coach Steve Karsay. Internal candidates mentioned for the job include Desi Druschel, current NYY pitch development manager; Dan Giese, pro scouting director; and Matt Daley, assistant director in the pro scouting department. All of these seem like reasonable choices for candidates to at least get an interview.

As for who it will be, who the hell knows? After moving on from Girardi, I would never have guessed in a million years that Aaron Boone would get the job, but here we are. I could see it being someone high-profile like Cone, an experienced external candidate, someone from within the organization, or even someone we’ve all never heard of. I have absolutely no idea. For an official guess, I’ll go with Cone for the reasons I outlined above.

One thing I do know, though: whoever it is, Yankee fans will hate him after six months. You can bet the farm on that.

Yankees Moving on from Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild

For several years now, Yankee fans have been predicting that the team would move on from long-time pitching coach Larry Rothschild, but he always made the cut. That was true even when the team didn’t renew Joe Girardi’s contract after the 2017 season and ceded the ship to Aaron Boone. But Larry’s time, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, has finally come. Here’s what Sherman had to say on Twitter a few moments ago:

There’s a long joke on Yankee Twitter about no news being true until Sherman or Jack Curry report it, so as far as I’m concerned, this is as good as done. The Yankees and Larry will part ways soon and probably today, as Joel indicated. (I’ll update this post when the news is confirmed by the team.)

Sherman’s tweet follows an initial scoop by ESPN‘s Buster Olney, who reported that the Yankees were “discussing” making a change at pitching coach:

Rothschild became pitching coach after Dave Eiland was fired and assumed his duties prior to the 2011 season. He’d been here ever since. He was not the most popular of Yankee coaches, with blame laid at his feet for the struggles of good pitchers like Sonny Gray. Whether or not that’s fair is hard to say given our vantage point as we really have no insight into whether a pitching coach is good or not. For that reason, I usually stay out of those arguments.

In any event, I personally am not surprised to see this move. Back in June, the Yankees hired Driveline Baseball’s Sam Briend to take over as their organizational Director of Pitching. Driveline is a lab for pitching mechanics and is considered to be at the forefront of advanced analytics. Larry was always reportedly open to analytics and definitely wouldn’t have lasted this long if he wasn’t, but Driveline is a different animal altogether.

The Briend hire was a signal that change was coming and that change has come. The Yankees also moved on from Scott Aldred, an organizational pitching coordinator and staffer since 2007, following the conclusion of the MiLB season. So I’m not sure there was anything Larry could do about it. Remember, Girardi took the Yankees within one game of the World Series in 2017 and he still wasn’t welcomed back. My guess? Larry finds a home just down the road to team up with Girardi, who is now managing the Phillies.

I’ll have more complete thoughts on this tomorrow, but the winds of change appear to be here with the Yankees and their pitching philosophy. We’ll see where they go next, but I very much expect there to be mutual interest between the Yankees and David Cone for the role. We’ll see.

UPDATE (11:54 am): The move is official. The Yankees have fired Larry.

News & Notes: CC/Gardner Friendship, Wild Card Preview, Driveline, World Series Rematches, TV Schedule, League Parity

Embed from Getty Images

One day without baseball was enough, wasn’t it? I think so. The National League Wild Card Game will take place tonight with first pitch at 8:07 EST on TBS. I’m personally very excited about this one and am firmly on team Nationals. The prospect of Ryu, Kershaw, and Buehler lining up against Corbin, Strasburg, and Scherzer is just too good to pass up. Obviously, that means that the Brew Crew will win now. Sorry, Nats fans.

As expected, there wasn’t that much out there by way of Yankee news today. In Yankee adjacent news, the Angels fired Josh Paul, who was a part of the Yankee organization from 2008-2017. As for current Yankees, Brian Cashman was open about this when he joined the YES crew in the booth on Sunday. There’s no point in disclosing any information earlier than they’re required to for strategic reasons, and it’s tough to disagree. Even if the strategic gains are minimal, you take what you can get. I expect we won’t hear much about health, rotation lineups, or anything interesting until 10 am on Friday. Same as it ever was.

MLB did release its annual postseason promotional video, and I am here to tell you that the video rules. Check it out here:

Anyway, to the roundup!

CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner’s Friendship

George King III has a great piece in today’s Post about the unlikely friendship that’s developed between CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner. It’s exactly the heartwarming read that you’d expect it to be given the two subjects, and it’s a stark reminder to enjoy the Yankees as they enter their October run. It is the end of CC’s run in pinstripes (until he dons a Yankee cap in Cooperstown) and may even be the end of Gardner’s tenure, too. I doubt that last part, but it’s possible.

Anyway, I am a sucker for behind-the-scenes stories like this, so check it out. My favorite part came as King asked the two of them what would happen if they faced each other in a game–something that’s never happened. Here’s what Gardner said:

“I would try to bunt and piss him off. He would probably hit me and I would go to first base,’’ Gardner said with a straight face.

Check the whole thing out. It’s worth it.

Driveline Baseball

Back in June, the Yankees hired Sam Briend away from Driveline Baseball to be their new Director of Pitching. I covered that here, and Briend has already has an impact with some fairly significant changes in the Yankees’ MiLB affiliates. Well, his former boss Kyle Boddy was just hired by the Reds, with an interesting caveat:

That’s…interesting. Not that they’d be interested in Boddy–a number of teams were–but that he’s allowed to stay in charge of Driveline, which consults with a number of players and teams. You’d think there’d be a conflict of interest there, and one that benefits the Reds. Boddy will have inside info on players not in his organization. Huh. Who knows. Just something I found interesting.

NL Wild Card Preview

Now, as you’d expect, there’s a ton of coverage out there about tonight’s Wild Card Game. I’m a stats nerd at heart, though, so I’d especially recommend Dan Szymborski’s preview of the matchups over at FanGraphs. You can read it here. Interesting stuff. The electric Max Scherzer will be taking on Brandon Woodruff. Mad Max is must watch stuff in my opinion. Ah, what could have been. If only the Yankees ponied up the cash when they had the chance.

Anyway, like I mentioned before, I’m firmly on Team Nats. One interesting question: if the Nats win today, does that mean they’ve finally won a postseason series? The answer, of course, is no. They will not have. They’ll have won a postseason round, sure. They will not have won a series. They’ll have to win tonight and then defeat Los Angeles next week for that to count. Seems obvious.

World Series Rematches

FiveThirtyEight had a really interesting feature today about the likelihood that we see a World Series rematch. I find the “odds” as calculated to be a bit lacking and also completely devoid of all fun despite my analytical bent, but it was a really great survey of the recent historical context in which a lot of these teams are operating. Check it out, though bear in mind it’s limited to “relatively recent history) Here’s the relevant Yankee rematches, some of which you undoubtedly knew without me telling you:

  • Yankees-Dodgers, 14 percent: Rematch of 1977, 1978, and 1981 (plus a bunch of others). This is easily the most historic of all options.
  • Yankees-Braves, 6 percent: Rematch of 1996 and 1999. Those were two great World Series, would watch again.
  • Yankees-Cardinals, 5 percent: Rematch of 1964, which was an all-time classic. If they meet this time, may it be a better outcome.
  • Yankees-Brewers, 1 percent: Rematch of the 1981 ALDS, which, hey. It’s a rematch!

MLB Postseason Schedule

Will Leitch at the New Yorker had a piece in which he discusses how, each and every year, media analysts make fun of baseball for drawing low ratings during the playoffs. He analyzes why–the late start times–and also explains that, due to the daily nature of baseball, there aren’t many options. I thought it was a much more nuanced analysis and thought experiment than the headline or promotion on Twitter made it seem, but hey. Doesn’t matter what I think, really. Check it out for yourself here.

It’s certainly true that baseball appeals to the die-hards, but I think that’s true of the sport overall. Baseball isn’t football; it is a regional sport with deep local allegiances. The playoffs won’t change that and that’s a-ok with me. Baseball rules.

One thing, though: Leitch wonders when else the World Series could be played if not at night. I’d love to see some weekend daytime matchups myself. I don’t care about trying to fight against Texas-Texas Tech’s dumb college football game. It’s the World Series, and I think it would be cool to pay homage to the game’s history by having some games end before midnight. Not that it matters to me; I’ll be up regardless, and if it’s the Yankees, I’ll probably be too amped either way to sleep after the game anyway. I’m one of the die-hards. I bet you are too.

League Parity

Here’s a stat for you:

Woof! That’s bad. The American League East was the only division in the AL that had 3 teams over .500, which feels insane (the NL Central and East both did as well, to be fair) but seems to be the state of the game these days, but I already ranted about that last night.

But it’s interesting. So many of the playoff teams are juggernauts, but when you play 57 games against the Royals, White Sox, and Tigers, it can be hard to evaluate a team. At least to me. Not that it means anything going forward for the next 5 games, of course. It’s just…something. I just think tanking is a horrible problem–4 teams won 100 games, sure, but 4 teams also lost more than 100. Seems bad.

I can’t even believe I am typing this right now, but ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser has a good idea! Here it is:

This will never happen, of course, and it’s embarrassing that the league needs to incentivize winning even further, but hey. It could work. But enough kvetching from me. There’s baseball to watch tonight. Let’s all enjoy it, okay? I know I will.

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