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New Year’s Resolutions

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.

Achieving lineup balance doesn’t mean making a painful trade

Trade me? Really?

It’s no secret that the Yankees’ lineup is dominated by right-handed hitters. Great righties, without a doubt. But at the same time, Kevin Cash’s Rays had no problem matching up against the Bombers’ bats in the ALDS. The offense still had some good performances in the series and is far from the only issue facing the Yankees’ roster, but it’s clear that it could use some balance. Aside from switch-hitting Aaron Hicks, the Yankees really lacked a threat from the left side this season. It’s something that should be addressed this winter. Randy and I discussed it on the podcast, too.

Inserting another good left-handed hitter is easier said than done, of course. From top to bottom, the Yankees’ lineup is built with some of the best righties in the sport. Trading Luke Voit for the sake of lineup balance is not a good idea. He’s been an elite hitter ever since the Yankees acquired him from St. Louis. Really, the Yankees are backed into a corner in terms of starters. The only open position this offseason is second base (or shortstop, if you want to move Gleyber Torres over), but at the same time, this team needs to bring free agent DJ LeMahieu back. I suppose catcher too if you really want to dump Gary Sánchez, but get back to me when you find a good left-handed catcher available. So, the Yankees will have to attack this balance issue differently.

Game 59: Deivi and the offense bounce back

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The Yankees toppled the Marlins today, 11-4. Deivi García pitched excellently in spite of some bad luck and the offense finally woke up after an inauspicious start. Let’s get right to the takeaways:

After an ugly start, we were reminded of this offense’s potency. The Yankees hit into five double plays yesterday and hit into another in the first inning today. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge reached base to start the game, but Giancarlo Stanton bounced into a 6-4-3 DP thereafter. From there, Marlins’ starter Trevor Rogers retired six of the next seven Yankees he faced to end his outing. It was an ugly start and had the feeling of “here we go again”, especially after the Marlins scored three fluky runs in the third (more on that momentarily).

That sentiment was erased in the fifth and sixth innings, thankfully. As you’d expect, Tyler Wade got the Yankees on the board with a two-run dinger against Ryne Stanek.

Again, just as you’d expect. But the run scoring didn’t end there. The Yankees tied it with a two out rally from Judge and Stanton. Judge walked, and after Don Mattingly summoned James Hoyt from the bullpen to replace Stanek, Stanton drove in Judge.

The offense blew this one wide open in the next inning against old friend Stephen Tarpley. The lefty faced six batters and recorded just one out: a sacrifice bunt by Wade (the team’s first sac bunt this season, by the way). The big blows: Aaron Hicks’s two-run homer to make it 5-3 and and LeMahieu’s 2-run double to make it 7-3.

Later, with Nick Vincent in to relieve Tarpley, Voit tallied his league leading 22nd homer of the season to make this one a laugher.

It was good to see this offense break out even if it wasn’t against some of the best pitchers a team has to offer. The Yanks had scored just five runs in the last three games, all losses. A lineup this deep, especially now at full strength, can only be held down for so long though. I’d love to see today be the catalyst for a hot run of hitting into the playoffs.

Deivi García is unshakeable. Another really impressive start from the 21 year-old righty today. Deivi finally took some lumps in his previous start, but bounced back nicely in this one against Miami. Hell, Deivi had to overcome some adversity today too. The Marlins got a ton of breaks in the third inning and scored three runs against García. All you really need to see is this:

That’s a lot of weak contact for three runs to score on. The only ball hit remotely hard was Miguel Rojas’s RBI double, which made it 1-0. But even that wasn’t struck too hard. In fact, it probably should have been a lineout and a double play. Take a look:

The Marlins called for a hit-and-run with Monte Harrison on first. You typically see the second baseman cover second with a right-handed hitter up, but the Yankees had shortstop Tyler Wade break to second instead. I guess they were banking on Rojas trying to go to the right side. But uh, his spray chart for grounders and line drives says otherwise:

It was frustrating to watch the Yankees fall behind 3-0 on a bunch of seeing eye hits, but it clearly didn’t bother García. Deivi pitched into the seventh inning of this one before getting pulled due to a pitch count (103).

The rookie’s final line: 6 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 1 walks, and 7 strikeouts. That 4th run came with Adam Ottavino on the mound, who gave up back-to-back singles upon Deivi’s exit. Anyway, that’s a good line for Deivi although he pitched better than it reflects. He was getting whiffs and soft contact against all of his pitches and had good command too.

Pitch TypeUsage (%)Exit Velo (MPH)Whiffs / Swings
4-Seamer55.389.87 / 30
Changeup14.646.51 /6
Curveball18.477.93 / 9
Slider11.781.82 /5

I’m very happy with how Deivi pitched even with Miami not running out its best lineup. Yes, the Marlins sat Starling Marte, Corey Dickerson, Brian Anderson, and Jesús Aguilar, but you have to like this kind of response from a rookie after his first bad start. It’s no wonder that the team is prepared to hand him the ball for a postseason start. Now it’s just a matter of what game it will be. He’ll be on regular rest for Game 3 of the Wild Card round.

Leftovers

  • Keep your eyes on the scoreboard tonight. The Yankees can clinch the fifth seed if the Orioles beat the Blue Jays tonight. If not, the Yankees will need either another victory or a Blue Jays loss tomorrow.
  • Nice job by Miguel Yajure in the last two innings. He struck out three batters in a row after a walk and single to lead off the eighth inning. He then finished the game off with a scoreless ninth.
  • Every Yankee hitter had a base hit except for Judge, Clint Frazier, Gary Sánchez. Even so, the Judge and Sánchez combined to reach base five times via base on balls. Judge has struggled since returning from the injured list and Gary’s season has been a mess, but it’s good to see them find some way to contribute.
  • Clint’s in a bit of a slump, by the way. He entered today with one hit (a single) and four walks in his last 21 plate appearances. Today: 0-for-3 with a hit by pitch and stolen base.
  • The season finale is tomorrow at 3:05 p.m. EDT. See you then.

Game 48: That was easy

This one was over pretty early. The Yankees put up crooked numbers in the second, third, and fourth innings en route to a 20-6 victory. Rookie Deivi García was great again, the offense socked a bunch of homers, and Toronto’s gaffes in the second inning opened things up. The winning streak is up to six and the Bombers are back in second place in the AL East. To the takeaways we go:

But first, we interrupt this recap to bring you a few words from David Cone and Michael Kay:

Yes, yes, we agree. Now, back to your regularly scheduled recap.

The Yankees are finally catching some breaks. It wasn’t that long ago when the Yankees couldn’t help but trip over themselves. Remember that awful loss to the Mets in extras? Those were the bad times when the team was making tons of sloppy plays and players were hitting the injured list on a daily basis. The tides have turned of late, though. Tonight, especially.

If not for Derek Fisher, the Yankees might have not scored in the second inning. Instead, one error and a misplay scored a single really allowed things to unfurl. Jays’ starter Taijuan Walker couldn’t stop the bleeding and pick up his outfielder, either.

First, with Gio Urshela (welcome back!) on second and one out, Clint Frazier hit what should have been a routine fly out to right:

Brett Gardner followed with a fly ball in the gap that Fisher couldn’t track down:

Two brutal miscues, but Walker still had a chance to get out of this with just one run allowed. After the Gardner hit, Walker struck out Gary Sánchez for the second out of the frame. That left just Tyler Wade between Walker and a trip to the dugout with the score just 1-1. Walker got to 0-2 on Wade, but couldn’t finish him off. A few pitches later, Wade delivered:

That’s just inexcusable for Walker. Wade, a lifetime .188/.264/.293 hitter coming into this game, should be an easy out especially when he’s behind 0-2 and is the final batter before the top of the order. Instead, after the Wade knock, DJ LeMahieu singled in another run to make it 3-1. That’s when things really snowballed.

Those back-to-back homers knocked Walker out of the ballgame. The offense continued to pour it on against Toronto’s next two arms, Shun Yamaguchi and Anthony Kay. The bats wound up scoring 20 runs, though this one was effectively over after the second inning.

All this happened as a result of a few things going the Yankees way. It’s nice to be the beneficiary of fielding gaffes and poor execution, isn’t it?

Deivi García was up for the challenge. This was the rookie’s second straight start against the Blue Jays. I wrote about the adjustments that he or the Jays could make for today’s game. Whatever either side did, Toronto didn’t do much better this time. García gave up 3 runs in 7 innings after he allowed 2 in 7 in Buffalo.

There were a couple of differences in Deivi’s approach against Toronto tonight, though I’m not so sure they were voluntary. First, He threw just 3 curveballs all night, which indicates that he didn’t have great feel for the pitch. It’s typically his most-used breaking ball, as you know. He threw one in the second, one in the third, and one in the fourth inning. The last one was a hanger that Lourdes Gurriel hit for a two-run homer. At that point, García probably had seen enough of the pitch.

The other difference: fastball command. Take a look at where he spotted his heater tonight:

Now, take a look at where he put it last week:

He was much more over the middle with that pitch tonight and Toronto made plenty of hard contact against it. Most notably, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. took Deivi deep on one of his heaters down the middle. Toronto had a 95.8 MPH average exit velocity on the pitch.

In spite of not having his best fastball command, it’s pretty impressive that Deivi was able to still use it 58 percent of the time (he used it 59 percent last week). It might sound as if he was fortunate considering the high exit velocity, but keep in mind that Deivi tends to generate a lot of harmless pop ups and fly balls. Toronto recorded six outs on fastballs hit between 92 and 100 MPH off the bat. Five were fly outs, none with an xBA above .230. The other was a groundout. Clearly, it’s hard to square up the righty even when he’s missing his spots.

What more can you say about García? He’s been impressive in all four of his starts with the Yankees and is just 21 years-old. Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff (i.e. tonight) he’s able to succeed. Can’t wait to watch him pitch next.

Leftovers:
  • Welcome back Gio Urshela. The third baseman went 3-for-4 with 2 doubles and a walk.
  • Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-4 in his return, but he did draw a walk. He also scalded a 111 MPH lineout. He was the only starter to go hitless in this one.
  • Toronto wound up using infielder Santiago Espinal to pitch in the eighth inning. He gave up a solo homer to DJ LeMahieu, but otherwise left unscathed. He was probably the team’s best pitcher all night!
  • A few other home runs to note: Voit delivered his second of the night in the sixth inning. It came against Ken Giles, who was getting some work in after returning from the injured list. Voit leads the league with 18 homers. Gary Sánchez and Clint Frazier also contributed homers of their own.
  • Michael King pitched the eighth and ninth innings for the Yankees. He gave up a few runs in the ninth, but they were harmless.

The series resumes tomorrow. Same time, same place. Have a good night everyone.

Mailbag: Game 3 starter, voids from 2019, James McCann in free agency, and short-season evaluations

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Another week, another mailbag to open. Four questions to address today. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We answer our favorites each week. Let’s get to it.

Kenny asks: James Paxton being shut down again is disappointing. If the playoffs started tomorrow, is it absurd to have Deivi García be the third starter after Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka? This would be in lieu of a resurgent JA Happ and a struggling Jordan Montgomery.

To be precise, Paxton won’t throw again for a couple of days after feeling some soreness Wednesday. I wouldn’t say he’s shut down, though things certainly aren’t looking good for him. It’s probably not worth counting on him to contribute much, if at all, the rest of the way.

Now to the question. I’m not so sure the Yankees would go with a traditional starting pitcher in a hypothetical Game 3 in the first round. Remember, it’s a best-of-three series to open up the postseason. There’s a distinct possibility that the Yankees (or any other team) go the opener/bullpen game route instead. Of course, a lot of that depends on how much the ‘pen is used in the first two games of the series. Or, even better, the Yankees would just win those first two games and call it a series.

If the bullpen game isn’t an option, I’d strongly favor Deivi at this point. So no, it’s not absurd to think he’s deserving of it over Happ or Monty. It sure sounds like Aaron Boone believes García can do it too:

“I know he wouldn’t flinch at the opportunity…I’m totally confident, forget the pitching part of it, that he can handle any situation you throw him in. Hard to predict where we’ll be three weeks from now and just what exactly we’ll look like. But he’s certainly putting his name in those conversations because of his performance.”

Happ certainly has pitched better lately (2.59 ERA in last four starts), but I do not love the idea of putting the season in his hands. I’m still scarred from his 2018 ALDS performance, I guess. But it’s not just that. We’ve seen far more bad than good since last year with Happ, and even with a good run of late, who’s to say that he doesn’t have another dud?

Montgomery has pitched himself out of the conversation thanks to his last two outings. He still has time to turn the ship around, but there’s no way he’d get the ball if the season ended today. So, it pretty much comes down to Deivi or Happ in the traditional starter route.

All this isn’t to say that García wouldn’t have a bad game. He’s not invincible, of course. But at the same time, I’d rather lose with a more talented pitcher on the mound. Not a 37 year-old who’s mostly struggled over the last two seasons.

Andrew asks: Not having Encarnación, Maybin, and Didi really hurt the depth of this lineup. Would it be safe to say Didi would be the player that would currently help this lineup that’s been decimated by injuries?

I think that’s pretty safe to say. The combination of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Jordy Mercer have hit .177/.266/.248 in 128 plate appearances this season. Didi, meanwhile, has hit .273/.333/.469 in 160 opportunities for the Phillies. That’s a massive difference! The Yankees middle infield depth is putrid and its something we’ve discussed on this here blog since the offseason. So of course, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu missed time with injuries which forced inferior players to get opportunities.

While Maybin and EE would be nice to have right now, they aren’t missed as much as Gregorius. As bad as Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford have been this year, I wouldn’t say it was totally unreasonable for the Yankees to believe they were good depth for this season. They performed well last year when called upon. Would I have preferred some extra insurance in those spots? Yes, but it’s not as egregious as doing nothing to shore up the middle infield after letting Didi go. Also, consider this: if the Yankees brought back Maybin (or brought in someone else as outfield depth), there’s a chance Clint Frazier is still toiling away at the Alternate Site.

We’ve never seen Wade or Thairo exhibit any success at the big league level. To count on either of them as insurance up the middle was a big mistake. And again, that’s not in hindsight. Wade came into 2020 with a lifetime .197/.268/.298 (53 wRC+) in 241 big league trips to the plate. Estrada carried a .250/.294/.438 (91 wRC+) line last season in 69 opportunities. Even if the Yankees liked those two more than most, to not grab some sort of big league insurance was foolish. If you’re not willing to spend $14 million to bring back Gregorius, OK, but at least do something. How about Cesar Hernandez? José Iglesias?

Richard asks: Do you think the Yankees might have an interest in signing James McCann as insurance this offseason with how Gary Sánchez has struggled the past two years? If so, what would a hypothetical contract look like?

I do think the Yankees will strongly consider adding another catcher this winter. I wrote about this my thoughts piece a few days ago. McCann will probably come at a price above the team’s comfort level, though. I think he gets something along the lines of the Travis d’Arnaud contract. Atlanta signed him for two years and $16 million last offseason.

d’Arnaud got that deal thanks to a strong finish with the Rays last season. He started off slowly with the Mets, got DFA’d, was with the Dodgers for literally one plate appearance, and then was shipped to the Rays. In Tampa Bay, d’Arnaud hit .263/.323/.459 (107 wRC+) with solid defense. That brought him into free agency as a 30 year-old, the same age McCann is for his impending trip to the open market.

McCann’s bat has been really good since last year, but it wasn’t until this year that his defense (particularly framing) vastly improved. That’s quite possibly the result of having elite defensive backstop Yasmani Grandal as a teammate now. Anyway, McCann posted a 109 wRC+ in 476 plate appearances last year and has a 163 mark in 79 this season, so the bat seems pretty good. Pair that with improved glovework and you’re probably looking at the d’Arnaud deal. I don’t think the Yankees will spend that on a catcher to play three times a week. McCann probably wants a full-time gig anyway.

As an alternative, I wonder if the Yankees can pry Tyler Flowers away from Atlanta. He’s been terrific for them since 2016, albeit never really playing much more than 50 percent of the time. Flowers has put up at least 2 WAR annually, mainly from the glove, but the bat isn’t a total zero. He’s got a 118 wRC+ this year in 54 plate appearances, though he’s probably closer to the 88 and 95 marks he put up in the last two seasons. And at 34, he’s probably looking at something similar to the $4 million he signed for this season. The Yankees should be in on something like that.

Eric asks: If you were the front office trying to figure out how to improve the team over the offseason, what are the metrics (or other indicators of performance) that you would take seriously despite the weird season?

You know what: I’m not so sure this short season changes the way teams evaluate players as much as we might think. In this day and age, teams are looking at health, Trackman/Hawkeye/Statcast/Rapsodo data, and scouting evaluations to support decision-making. I don’t think 60 games vs. 162 games changes that.

For example, the Yankees have seen James Paxton without his best velocity all season and he’s now dealing with a flexor strain. That’s got to be a huge red flag for his impending free agency. I presume that’ll be enough for the team to walk away from him this winter.

Then there’s someone like Sánchez, whose .121/.230/.327 line has so many people wanting him out of the organization. And yet, the elite underlying exit velocity, barrel percentage, and hard hit percentage numbers still exist. Is that enough for the Yankees to try to get him right for 2021? Probably.

Ultimately, everything boils down to talent level. Now that teams have metrics that are intended to be a proxy for talent, that’s what they’re gonna keep on using.

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