Good morning everyone. And it is indeed a good morning — the Yankees have won the first two of this week’s series against the Rays at Tropicana Field and go for the sweep tonight. It’s really nice to finally see the team win a couple of games at that awful excuse of a ballpark. With that out of the way, let’s get to some of my Yankees-related thoughts.
On the catcher situation. I understand why the Yankees turned to Kyle Higashioka more than Gary Sánchez toward the end of last month, but at this point, we’re starting to see Higgy’s limitations as a near-everyday player. Keep in mind that this is someone who hasn’t caught a significant workload since 2016, when he caught 102 games split between Double-A and Triple-A.
Well that one stunk. The Yankees dropped the weekend series opener to the Rays, 10-5. Playing baseball at Tropicana Field simply continues to be the worst, folks.
Tampa Bay unveiled their 2020 American League Pennant banner today and played like it was last season all over again. The Rays scored just 23 runs in 6 games to start this season, paired with a not so good 5.87 ERA. So naturally, Tampa Bay’s bats broke out this afternoon to an extent that it didn’t matter that the Yankees plated five.
Both the Yankees and Rays are now 3-4. Let’s get to the takeaways from this loss after the jump.
Happy Friday, everyone. Today’s the day we learn if Aaron Judge is actually hurt or not. In a few hours, we’ll find out if he’s in the lineup for today’s 3pm game against the Rays. I’m sure the reactions will be measured either way.
But before that, it’s time for a mailbag. Four good questions today. As always, please send yours to email@example.com. We answer our favorites every Friday. Let’s get to it.
Yankees fans everywhere exhaled a collective sigh of relief on the morning of January 15. On that day, which will hopefully not live in infamy, represented the end of a too-long tango between the team’s front office and DJ LeMahieu, when the 32-year-old re-signed for 6-years and $90 million. The idea of an offense without LeMahieu – who led the team in batting average, on-base percentage, wRC+, and WAR over the last two years – was the baseball equivalent of existential dread, so the news of his return may well have been the best possible news for Yankees fans this off-season.
LeMahieu’s excellence in pinstripes cannot be overstated, either. He’s 12th in the majors in fWAR since the beginning of 2019, sandwiched between Ronald Acuña Jr. and JT Realtmuto. His 146 wRC+ is 10th, just behind reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. And his .336 batting average, passé as it may be, is the best in the business. LeMahieu has been nothing short of elite in pinstripes, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.
Speaking of, let’s check-in on the projection systems:
.295/.360/.450 (122 DRC+)
.306/.357/.463 (117 wRC+)
.294/.353/.453 (114 wRC+)
All three projection systems are essentially splitting the difference between LeMahieu’s last season in Colorado (87 wRC+) and his first season in the Bronx (135 wRC+), and I’m not all that surprised. After all, he’s 32 and has more than four times as many plate appearances in Colorado. And, given that 2020 was heavily abbreviated, his back-to-back career years involve just 871 PA. I would be at least a bit disappointed in any of those lines – though, all three would be rock solid.
Like it was for my holiday wish list post, it’s that time of year again. Let’s make some New Year’s resolutions for the Yankees. On a personal note, I’d like to finally stop procrastinating so much, but I’ll get to it later.
Let’s start with Giancarlo Stanton. The playoffs showed us how things are supposed to go with G: a slugger whose bat can change the game and carry the team. When healthy, he’s performed. While it’s not necessarily in his full control, let’s have him resolve to be fully healthy in 2021.
From the lineup to the bullpen we go. Aroldis Chapman. I know this isn’t fully in his control either, but, please, can he resolve to not give up a back-breaking, season-killing home run in the playoffs again? Two years in a row is more than enough.
Now onto a bench player after two star cogs in the machine: Tyler Wade. On paper, Tyler Wade should be perfect for the Yankee bench. He’s a speedy lefty who can play the middle infield positions and fake the outfield, and who walks a lot. He just needs to hit better. If he could up his contact and cut his strikeouts, he’d been a boon to the roster, not a drag on it. A resolution for Wade? Just make more contact.
To make this brief, my last one will be for the front office. If they’re not going to play in free agency, then they need to resolve to improve the team at the deadline when needed. That might mean a tweak or an extra piece, which I’m sure they’d be willing to do. But it could also mean a big splash to push them over the edge, which they’ve been relatively reluctant to do. If they’re going to limit themselves when they shouldn’t, they need to do the opposite later on.
Happy New Year, folks. Thanks for reading in this wild and crazy year.