Tag: Zack Greinke

ALCS Game 1 Starter Preview: Zack Greinke

Greinke’s Slider (MLB.tv)

To start off the ALCS, the Yankees will have Masahiro Tanaka going against 2009 Cy Young winner and six-time All-Star Zack Greinke.

The Basics

In 33 starts between the D-backs and Astros this season, Greinke threw 208 2/3 innings (6.32 IP per start) and produced a 2.93 ERA with a 3.22 FIP and 3.20 DRA. His strikeout rate went down from 24 to 21 percent after his trade to Houston, some of which is likely from no pitchers spot in the lineup. Still, he maintained his impressively-low 3.6 walk rate after the trade.

The 35-year-old right-hander is coming off a dud in ALDS Game 3 in which he allowed six runs (three homers) in 3 2/3 innings as the Astros lost to the Rays.

His Stuff

Greinke no longer possesses anything resembling elite velocity, yet he produces ace-level numbers with guile and veteran know-how. According to Statcast, he threw eight different pitches this season. That includes an eephus pitch, which is essentially the slower classification of his curveball.

The right-hander employs his high-80s, low-90s fastball about 40 percent of the time. Behind that, he goes to his changeup, slider and curveball as his primary offspeed offerings while throwing a few sinkers and the eephus about once a start. He mostly shelved the sinker at the end of the season.

MPHwOBAWhiff%% to RHP% to LHP
Four-seamer89.9.29518.138.143.7
Changeup87.4.22427.810.233.9
Slider83.7.31327.225.96.0
Curveball70.6.17932.115.613.6
Sinker90.4.4587.49.01.5

Against right-handed hitters, he attacks with the fastball and a mid-80s slider, mixing in the curve and a few more sinkers. He adjusts to southpaws by upping his hard-changeup, which averages just two mph slower than his four-seamer.

Underneath all of this is the curveball, his secret weapon. It a slow curve, registering around 70 mph and often settling in nicely below that. He doesn’t throw it often enough (15 percent) for hitters to sit on it, and the extreme change in speeds leads to some ugly whiffs.

The slow curve gets Hicks (MLB.tv)

The pitch registers as the second slowest curve among qualified starters and the slowest for those who threw the pitch at least five percent of the time.

With a dominant changeup (fourth-best change in Fangraphs Pitch Values), Greinke actually has a reverse platoon split. Even so, don’t sleep on his fastball, which was also hard to hit despite its low velocity.

Overall, despite allowing plenty of balls in play, he mixes and matches well enough to induce weak contact and befuddle hitters. He won the last five Gold Gloves in the National League and is a cerebral pitcher who thinks well ahead of the opposition. If he weren’t facing the Yankees, he’d be a joy to watch.

History vs. NYY

Greinke faced the Yankees twice while in Arizona this year, though the lineups are going to be significantly different. Aarons Judge and Hicks as well as Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Didi Gregorius and Gio Urshela were all out of the lineup the first go-around, while Stanton, LeMahieu and Brett Gardner were missing the second time.

The right-hander tossed 12 2/3 innings and allowed just seven hits to the Bombers while fanning 14 and walking four. However, ask him and he’ll throw those numbers right out.

“Not much,” Greinke said of what to take away from those starts. “Their whole team was hurt both times that I faced them pretty much.”

That’s a pretty succinct answer from the famously laconic veteran.


The Rays hit Greinke hard after a long rest, but he’ll be on a more normal schedule heading into this start, and he’ll be at home. Beating Greinke at least once is imperative for the Bombers to take the series, and he hasn’t faced as talented a lineup all year.

While Tanaka could struggle with Houston’s starting nine, Greinke has the same combustibility in Game 1.

Mailbag: Trade Deadline, Waiver Wire, IFA Money, Clarke Schmidt, Astros Payroll

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Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees are set to take on Boston for a 4-game set tonight, and you know what? I’m really excited for it. I think even splitting this series all but finishes Boston. I am here for that. Enough with the Red Sox, please. It’s always great when they lose but even better when it’s the Yankees doing it. Let’s just hope our Bombers bring the heat.

It will also be nice to have real games to focus on again, as the last few days have been fairly exhausting. The discourse! Folks, sometimes it gets old. But hopefully not too old: as you can imagine, this week’s mailbag is defined by deadline questions. For good reason! So all 5 chosen questions today focus on the deadline, the new rules, or the fallout from the deadline.

Mark Asks: The Yankees passed on Keuchel, who they could have had for nothing but money (prorated at that, and only through the end of the season) because they wanted to get an impact starter in a trade. But then they refused to pay the price in prospects for an impact starter. The latter is a valid strategy — and I support keeping prospects and bringing in a SP for dollars alone — but you can’t have it both ways. Either you spend the money, or spend the prospects. Instead, the Yanks did neither and let the Astros blow right by them in terms of AL championship odds. I guess I need to ask a question, so here it is: How mad should I be?

It is certainly frustrating, and I think I’ve said everything I can say about their process already on this here website. I do think it’s really annoying, and I spent the 4-5 pm hour on Wednesday extremely irritated. I won’t deny it. It’s clearly true of many Yankee fans, frankly. And for good reason: we all just want the team to put itself in the best position to win.

But I also think that some of the reaction (including from yours truly) was a bit hyperbolic. The Yankees are extremely good and will likely win the division for the first time since 2012. That means no Wild Card game for once. Rejoice! And remember, once you get into the playoffs, literally anything can happen. A dominant rotation like Houston seems impossible to beat, but we know from watching the 2014 Tigers, the Braves throughout the 1990s, and the 2010s Phillies that it really is just a crapshoot. Anything can happen.

I remind myself of this constantly these days. It’s not worth it. The 2019 Yankees are a fun ride, and sports are supposed to be entertaining. We have it really freaking easy as Yankee fans. The last time they were under .500 for a full season was 1992. More than a quarter century of success, and that’s not counting the multiple titles, pennants, division championships, playoff runs, and individual performances that have made this fandom so rewarding. We are extremely spoiled. Can things be better? Of course. Obviously. But as I said, the 2019 Yanks are a fun ride. Just enjoy going on it with them and hope we all get to celebrate in late October.

Matt Asks: What’s the DFA process look like now that there’s no August trade deadline?

This is the first year of the new trade deadline, and it does impact the waiver wire in August. Players can still be placed on waivers/DFA’d, but the process is a bit different. Any team that claims a player on the waiver wire is responsible for a straight waiver claim. In other words, they take on the full remaining salary for that player and they cannot receive financial incentive or send another player to the original team. That’s it. We might see a few of these happen across the league, but I highly doubt they’ll impact the Yankees, who are so far down the waiver wire as to essentially make this irrelevant for their planning.

Paul Asks: Did they at least trade for international money to sign the folks they have a deal with?

No, the Yankees did not trade for IFA money, which surprised me…until I learned that the deadline for that is actually a bit softer. Teams, believe it or not, can still trade players on MiLB contracts. News to me! What does that mean? Essentially, it means that a team could swap a prospect for IFA pool space or something like that. So it’s true that the Yankees used most of their $5.4m allocation on phenom Jasson Dominguez, but there’s still a change to open up more space.

For what it’s worth, it’s really not worth criticizing the Yankees for this–it’s just an interesting observation. They know what they’re doing. If they need more IFA pool space, they’ll get it. You can take that to the bank.

Mark Asks: Why aren’t we talking more about Clarke Schmidt as a possible future rotation piece and/or trade chip? First round pick who would have been top 5 (probably, MLB draft is weird but still) had he not gotten hurt pre-draft.  He’s got a sub 3 FIP, and is striking out 9.5 per 9 at high A. One would think that means he’ll get promoted to AA in the next few weeks. If he continues to pitch well at AA he could be in the major league rotation by next year. Is he just having his shine stolen by Garcia? Does he have flaws we haven’t discussed?

Funny you mention Clarke Schmidt, because as it happens, people were talking about Clarke Schmidt. And by people, I mean Brian Cashman and Arizona Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen. According to Jon Heyman, the Diamondbacks requested Schmidt as a part of a package that would have bene headlined by Clint Frazier for Robbie Ray. The Yankees, quite obviously, did not find that deal worth it.

Schmidt is having a good year in the minors, to be sure, but there are still serious question marks surrounding him. He has been plagued by injury his whole career. I mean, he has only thrown 85 professional innings . So, yeah. He’s someone to keep an eye on for sure. The Yankees loved him enough to draft him despite the nasty injury, so definitely keep following him. But we will all need to see more before having a real, honest evaluation.

Jose Asks: In light of the oh-so-relevantly-disappointing trade deadline and constant narrative about the Yankees staying under the second luxury tax tier all while posting historic revenues, I can’t help but wonder about the Astros financial situation. With their recent acquisition of Greinke, Sanchez, and Biagini (not to mention Verlander 2 years ago, Cole, and even signing Michael Brantley this past offseason) I’m curious of what their payroll currently sits at? Are they in a luxury tax tier? If so, which one? And what percentage of their revenue goes to payroll?

Per Spotrac, the Astros now have a payroll totaling $168,256,950, which falls $22,029,310 short of the first luxury tax threshold ($206 million). The Greinke contract is a big one–his annual salary is $32 million–but Houston did get relief in the move and owes Greinke only $53 million between now and the end of his contract in 2021. I don’t think this should take away from the fact that the Astros added a huge contract to their roster, but it’s worth keeping in mind: they have more so-called “flexibility” under the soft cap. They used it. Good for them.

I understand why Yankee fans are frustrated, though, because if you peel back the layers a bit you see that no two franchises are the same. It’s apples to oranges. Percentage of revenue spent on payroll is an imprecise and yet still useful (in my opinion) metric to judge teams’ willingness to spend, but it’s an imprecise science. We have access to rough figures estimating 2018 revenue for the clubs, but obviously not yet for 2019. So if you excuse some back-of-the-envelope math and understand that there are assumptions underpinning all of this, here is how the Astros payroll as a percentage of their revenue compares to the Yankees in 2019 alone:

So, yeah. Again, this is an imprecise science. It’s likely that both teams percentage figures are actually a bit lower than what I listed there. That’s because the trend is that teams are generating more revenue overall and it stands to reason that the two best teams in the AL are among those. It is absolutely fair to say that this is frustrating.

Now, I harp on this constantly, so I do want to say that the Yankees do have a lot of debt and bonds owed to the City of New York. That’s how the team financed the construction of Yankee Stadium. Hal is absolutely, 100% correct when he says so. It is an empirical fact that they took out $1.3 billion to pay for Yankee Stadium. Moreover, in 2017, Crain’s New York Business reported that the Yankees pay $92 million a year to service that debt (and also that they failed to refinance their debt as they’d hoped). That is a lot of money!

As for whether or not the team spends enough money on payroll, well, it’s just another thing to keep in mind. But remember, payroll hasn’t changed in real terms in 15 years. That’s worth keeping in mind, too.

Mailbag: Trade Deadline, Waiver Wire, IFA Money, Clarke Schmidt, Astros Payroll

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Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees are set to take on Boston for a 4-game set tonight, and you know what? I’m really excited for it. I think even splitting this series all but finishes Boston. I am here for that. Enough with the Red Sox, please. It’s always great when they lose but even better when it’s the Yankees doing it. Let’s just hope our Bombers bring the heat.

It will also be nice to have real games to focus on again, as the last few days have been fairly exhausting. The discourse! Folks, sometimes it gets old. But hopefully not too old: as you can imagine, this week’s mailbag is defined by deadline questions. For good reason! So all 5 chosen questions today focus on the deadline, the new rules, or the fallout from the deadline.

Mark Asks: The Yankees passed on Keuchel, who they could have had for nothing but money (prorated at that, and only through the end of the season) because they wanted to get an impact starter in a trade. But then they refused to pay the price in prospects for an impact starter. The latter is a valid strategy — and I support keeping prospects and bringing in a SP for dollars alone — but you can’t have it both ways. Either you spend the money, or spend the prospects. Instead, the Yanks did neither and let the Astros blow right by them in terms of AL championship odds. I guess I need to ask a question, so here it is: How mad should I be?

It is certainly frustrating, and I think I’ve said everything I can say about their process already on this here website. I do think it’s really annoying, and I spent the 4-5 pm hour on Wednesday extremely irritated. I won’t deny it. It’s clearly true of many Yankee fans, frankly. And for good reason: we all just want the team to put itself in the best position to win.

But I also think that some of the reaction (including from yours truly) was a bit hyperbolic. The Yankees are extremely good and will likely win the division for the first time since 2012. That means no Wild Card game for once. Rejoice! And remember, once you get into the playoffs, literally anything can happen. A dominant rotation like Houston seems impossible to beat, but we know from watching the 2014 Tigers, the Braves throughout the 1990s, and the 2010s Phillies that it really is just a crapshoot. Anything can happen.

I remind myself of this constantly these days. It’s not worth it. The 2019 Yankees are a fun ride, and sports are supposed to be entertaining. We have it really freaking easy as Yankee fans. The last time they were under .500 for a full season was 1992. More than a quarter century of success, and that’s not counting the multiple titles, pennants, division championships, playoff runs, and individual performances that have made this fandom so rewarding. We are extremely spoiled. Can things be better? Of course. Obviously. But as I said, the 2019 Yanks are a fun ride. Just enjoy going on it with them and hope we all get to celebrate in late October.

Matt Asks: What’s the DFA process look like now that there’s no August trade deadline?

This is the first year of the new trade deadline, and it does impact the waiver wire in August. Players can still be placed on waivers/DFA’d, but the process is a bit different. Any team that claims a player on the waiver wire is responsible for a straight waiver claim. In other words, they take on the full remaining salary for that player and they cannot receive financial incentive or send another player to the original team. That’s it. We might see a few of these happen across the league, but I highly doubt they’ll impact the Yankees, who are so far down the waiver wire as to essentially make this irrelevant for their planning.

Paul Asks: Did they at least trade for international money to sign the folks they have a deal with?

No, the Yankees did not trade for IFA money, which surprised me…until I learned that the deadline for that is actually a bit softer. Teams, believe it or not, can still trade players on MiLB contracts. News to me! What does that mean? Essentially, it means that a team could swap a prospect for IFA pool space or something like that. So it’s true that the Yankees used most of their $5.4m allocation on phenom Jasson Dominguez, but there’s still a change to open up more space.

For what it’s worth, it’s really not worth criticizing the Yankees for this–it’s just an interesting observation. They know what they’re doing. If they need more IFA pool space, they’ll get it. You can take that to the bank.

Mark Asks: Why aren’t we talking more about Clarke Schmidt as a possible future rotation piece and/or trade chip? First round pick who would have been top 5 (probably, MLB draft is weird but still) had he not gotten hurt pre-draft.  He’s got a sub 3 FIP, and is striking out 9.5 per 9 at high A. One would think that means he’ll get promoted to AA in the next few weeks. If he continues to pitch well at AA he could be in the major league rotation by next year. Is he just having his shine stolen by Garcia? Does he have flaws we haven’t discussed?

Funny you mention Clarke Schmidt, because as it happens, people were talking about Clarke Schmidt. And by people, I mean Brian Cashman and Arizona Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen. According to Jon Heyman, the Diamondbacks requested Schmidt as a part of a package that would have bene headlined by Clint Frazier for Robbie Ray. The Yankees, quite obviously, did not find that deal worth it.

Schmidt is having a good year in the minors, to be sure, but there are still serious question marks surrounding him. He has been plagued by injury his whole career. I mean, he has only thrown 85 professional innings . So, yeah. He’s someone to keep an eye on for sure. The Yankees loved him enough to draft him despite the nasty injury, so definitely keep following him. But we will all need to see more before having a real, honest evaluation.

Jose Asks: In light of the oh-so-relevantly-disappointing trade deadline and constant narrative about the Yankees staying under the second luxury tax tier all while posting historic revenues, I can’t help but wonder about the Astros financial situation. With their recent acquisition of Greinke, Sanchez, and Biagini (not to mention Verlander 2 years ago, Cole, and even signing Michael Brantley this past offseason) I’m curious of what their payroll currently sits at? Are they in a luxury tax tier? If so, which one? And what percentage of their revenue goes to payroll?

Per Spotrac, the Astros now have a payroll totaling $168,256,950, which falls $22,029,310 short of the first luxury tax threshold ($206 million). The Greinke contract is a big one–his annual salary is $32 million–but Houston did get relief in the move and owes Greinke only $53 million between now and the end of his contract in 2021. I don’t think this should take away from the fact that the Astros added a huge contract to their roster, but it’s worth keeping in mind: they have more so-called “flexibility” under the soft cap. They used it. Good for them.

I understand why Yankee fans are frustrated, though, because if you peel back the layers a bit you see that no two franchises are the same. It’s apples to oranges. Percentage of revenue spent on payroll is an imprecise and yet still useful (in my opinion) metric to judge teams’ willingness to spend, but it’s an imprecise science. We have access to rough figures estimating 2018 revenue for the clubs, but obviously not yet for 2019. So if you excuse some back-of-the-envelope math and understand that there are assumptions underpinning all of this, here is how the Astros payroll as a percentage of their revenue compares to the Yankees in 2019 alone:

So, yeah. Again, this is an imprecise science. It’s likely that both teams percentage figures are actually a bit lower than what I listed there. That’s because the trend is that teams are generating more revenue overall and it stands to reason that the two best teams in the AL are among those. It is absolutely fair to say that this is frustrating.

Now, I harp on this constantly, so I do want to say that the Yankees do have a lot of debt and bonds owed to the City of New York. That’s how the team financed the construction of Yankee Stadium. Hal is absolutely, 100% correct when he says so. It is an empirical fact that they took out $1.3 billion to pay for Yankee Stadium. Moreover, in 2017, Crain’s New York Business reported that the Yankees pay $92 million a year to service that debt (and also that they failed to refinance their debt as they’d hoped). That is a lot of money!

As for whether or not the team spends enough money on payroll, well, it’s just another thing to keep in mind. But remember, payroll hasn’t changed in real terms in 15 years. That’s worth keeping in mind, too.

Assorted Thoughts After the Yankees Make No Moves At The Deadline

At least Clint Frazier is here to give us this.

So, that was a whole lot about nothing, huh? It’s not strictly accurate to say that the Yankees did nothing–they did flip Joe Harvey for 20-year-old Alfredo Garcia, but that’s not a 25-man move. As far as the Yankees title chances go, the Yankees did not accomplish anything yesterday. As you can imagine, I have quite a bit to say about that. Here are some assorted thoughts about what happened.

1. No Additional Upgrade is Coming: Alright, so what we see is what we get with the Yankees. There is now no way that the team can make a significant upgrade to its pitching staff in 2019. I think it’s fair to say that this inactivity comes as a surprise, and probably not just to fans.

First things first: the Yankees are good. They’re really good. Really, really good. Yesterday was a bit of a rough day despite the win, so I do think it’s important to hammer that point home. The Yankees will likely win the American League East for the first time since 2012 and they will enter the postseason as one of the few teams who can win it all.

Their rotation and overall pitching staff, until very recently, is a big reason for that. Their historically bad 10 days or so really helped to obscure that fact for fairly obvious reasons. It sure would have been nice to get an upgrade–I was very mad yesterday–but I do think it’s important to remember that the team the Yankees currently have is one of the best in baseball. They’re good enough to win.

Also worth remembering: the team was not stagnant this season in terms of trading. There were just no deadline trades. They did, of course, essentially acquire Edwin Encarnación for free–and thank goodness they did that. With Luke Voit on the shelf for potentially 6 weeks or more (we’ll find out his prognosis today, I believe), that was one non-deadline trade the Yankees made that has surely helped their chances in 2019.

However, I am a bit stunned that there isn’t a starting pitcher or even a high-leverage reliever coming the Yankees’ way. Maybe I should not be, for reasons I’ll get into below, but I am stunned by it. Even if it was just an innings-eater like Tanner Roark, I’d expected someone to come provide a security blanket in case of injury or something else. Alas, not happening. I also predicted yesterday that if no SP came, they’d get a reliever. They didn’t do that, either. Shows what I know.

Finally, they also, unless I’m mistaken (correct me if I am), did not acquire any international free agency money, either. That may be the biggest surprise of all. Jasson Dominguez, the 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic that one brave anonymous scout compared to Trout, commanded a $5.1 million signing bonus, which is essentially all of the Yankees  $5,398,300 pool. As Robert Pimpsner pointed out at the excellent Pinstriped Prospects back in May, the Yankees could have traded for an additional 60% of bonus pool space, which would have brought them over $8 million. Instead, it looks like the Yanks didn’t do that, although maybe we’ll learn more about the Colorado trade. Worth noting, at least.

2. Brian Cashman Says Why: More of less, Brian Cashman said that the price on each individual pitcher was too high, even accounting for a mid-season overpay, and aside from Stroman, I do believe him. But the more important point got buried yesterday, but Brian Cashman had some incredibly revealing comments for The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler at his press conference. She asked him about how the decision not to sign Patrick Corbin in particular had come back to bite the Yankees. Cashman gave a very sanitized answer that also had the benefit of revealing a critical truth. Here’s the full quote:

And here’s what I want to focus on for a second: “if you turn the clock back on Corbin, then there’s a lot of guys currently sitting in that locker room that wouldn’t be here because, again, all that money woulda gone in one direction which therefore takes away from other directions.” He predictably went on to specifically point out DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino as two of those players.

I have said it before, a million times probably, but I am going to just say it again: that makes me want to pull my hair out. It is infuriating–absolutely infuriating!–that this is the case for the richest and most successful team in baseball history. The difference between Corbin and, say, J.A. Happ is $11 million on a purely annualized basis (I know some of Corbin’s money is deferred, as is Washington’s way, but the Yanks don’t do that so play along), and you’re really going to tell me that the Yankees can’t afford that $11 million?

Maybe they can’t afford it under the salary constraints ownership imposed. That’s almost certainly true. Cashman wouldn’t say it otherwise. But, as usual, remember that those constraints are artificial and arbitrarily-imposed by the Steinbrenners. The Yankees payroll has barely increased at all over the last 15 years despite the game drowning in money–a fact that a lot of people scream at me when I point out, but has the unfortunate benefit of being true, as does their now long-standing tradition of passing on big-money starting pitching acquisitions. And that payroll figure is in raw terms, not even adjusted for inflation. The Yankees simply don’t spend like they used to, and their GM basically admitted out loud that his deck of cards is severely restrained and he has to make significant sacrifices during a legitimate title window.

In other words, the Yankees had positioned themselves, by choice, to have to upgrade at the deadline and risk exactly this happen. Now, have Ottavino and DJLM worked out? Obviously. But the Yankees could have signed them and also signed Corbin. Don’t believe it when they say otherwise. Maybe that’s why other teams asked for the moon and more in negotiations with the Yanks–they realized that the team needed the upgrade but boxed itself into a corner by passing, time and time again, on available starting pitchers in free agency because the team won’t spend over a certain amount. It’s infuriating.

3. James Paxton/Masahiro Tanaka: Hoooooo boy does a lot rest on the arms of Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton, though. The Yankees really need those two guys to snap out of some mid-season funks and deliver the results that everyone expects from them. The Yankees will need top-of-the-rotation performances from both of them down the stretch to finish the division, fight for home field advantage, and, of course, in the postseason itself.

The good news is that both are clearly top-of-the-rotation talents. Tanaka in particular has had a strange season, where he’s been actually quite good except for a handful of starts where he has not been able to get anyone out. He has clearly been impacted by the new MLB ball, which has altered his ability to grip his trademark splitter. Good news is that recently made a “significant change” to his grip on the pitch, which he deployed for the first time yesterday. The results? 28 splitters, 16 swings, and 6 swings-and-misses. That’s a 37% whiff-per-swing rate. He allowed 2 hits on the pitch, but this was very clearly a step in the right direction. So that’s very nice to see.

As for Paxton, I don’t think anyone doubts him or his stuff (okay, a lot of people do, but a lot of people are very reactionary). For him, the problem has obviously been the first inning–after that, with a few exceptions, he’s been pretty damn good. Derek explored his first inning woes the other day, so check that out. He’ll need to course correct to deliver the results the Yankees now need from him.

The bad news is that there is almost no security blanket should these two guys fail to step up. The addition of a Marcus Stroman or another quality MLB starter would help mitigate any potential struggles–it’s easy for me, a moron, to write “fix your splitter!” or “stop getting crushed in the first inning!” but a different thing to actually do–and provide a cushion. That cushion isn’t there and there isn’t one coming. These guys are going to have to step up. Domingo Germán, as good as he’s been, isn’t going to pitch this team to number 28 by himself.

4. Stop Killing Aaron Boone: After yesterday’s win, Boone told reporters, more or less, that he looked around the clubhouse and saw a group of guys in that room that are capable of doing special things. I am paraphrasing, but I think you can all hear Boone saying it. And I saw countless people, on Twitter and otherwise, just ripping him for saying that. But honestly: why? What do you expect him to say? Our rotation is trash, these guys suck, and Cashman blew it? Come on now. He’s the manager. Of course he’s going to support the guys he’s got in the room.

Despite his reputation, Boone is quite good at many things as Yankee skipper, and one of them is remaining positive and supportive. That was true last year when the Yankees struggled, it was true last week as the team had a historically-awful stretch of pitching, and it will be true if they win 20 games in a row. His demeanor simply doesn’t change. I think that’s a good thing, and I’d wager that the 25 guys in the Yankee clubhouse do, too.

5. Clint Frazier Remains a Yankee: Well, if there’s one piece of good news out of all of this, it’s that Clint Frazier is still in Scranton. Here was his reaction to the trade:

Hilarious. I find it tough not to love the guy, myself. We all know about his defensive struggles, but he did perform in New York this season, as well. Anyway, yesterday’s inactivity and injury news means that there’s now an opening at the DH slot in New York that Clint Frazier may get to fill. Will he get called up? I’m not so sure. Before the deadline, I thought that the Yankees didn’t like Clint as much as I do, and while that still may be true, the reality is that he’s still here. He has survived every trade rumor so far. That tells us something.

But back to the matter at hand. Clint’s season in Triple-A has been not as dominant as you might expect offensively, even though he’s been much hotter of late. I think a good bit of that can be chalked up to good ol’ human nature. He just doesn’t want to be in Scranton. Here’s what he told the irreplaceable Conor Foley last night:

Yeah, that sounds like a guy who’s frustrated and in his own head. Probably trying to do too much. You have to think he’s going to get called up today or tomorrow anyway, though. There’s a spot, he can hit and the Yanks can limit his time in the outfield. Win win win. If they don’t, well, I think we’re in service time manipulation territory. I haven’t done the math in a while, but I think it’s early-to-mid August where the Yankees gain another year of team control. This is just Something To Watch for now and hopefully Something To Forget About when the Yanks call him up in the next 36 hours.

6. Luis Severino/Dellin Betances Made Progress: Hooray, Luis Severino and Dellin Betances both threw from 90 feet yesterday. That is…good news. No, it is. I mean, it’s August and Severino hasn’t thrown a pitch in a professional baseball game all season, exhibition or otherwise, and Betances barely pitched in Spring Training, but hey. Progress. Yesterday I noted how Severino was the best SP acquisition the Yanks could make, which, while an annoying Yankee brass talking point, also has the unfortunate benefit of being true. Let’s do that for Betances, shall we? Check out Betances’ statistics among key metrics from 2014-2018, with his rankings among the 273 qualified relievers in parentheses:

  • ERA: 2.22 (8th)
  • FIP: 2.26 (4th)
  • Strikeouts per 9: 14.63 (3rd)
  • Strikeout percentage: 40.3% (4th)
  • Home Runs per 9: 0.60 (29th)
  • Innings Pitched: 373.1 (1st)
  • Average Leverage Index When Entering Game: 1.44 (44th)
  • fWAR: 11.3 (2nd)

Getting anything close to that guy back this season is the single-best addition that the Yankees can make to their bullpen. I wish they didn’t have to count on him miraculously getting healthy and also being effective and instead had him as a safety blanket, but hey. What can you do. Good news is good news, right?

But much like with Paxton and Tanaka above, the Yankees are now counting on these guys. They really are. I don’t care what they say. No matter what else happens, if these two guys come back healthy, the Yanks are way, way better and increase their odds of beating a team like Houston tremendously. The Yankees know that, too. Let’s just hope the medicals are all clear and the Yanks know something we don’t. That’s usually the case. Hopefully we see these guys soon.

7. Zack Greinke/Astros: And finally, the one bullet point here I did not want to write. The Astros, because of course it was the freaking Astros, traded for Zack Greinke yesterday. Greinke, of course, is dominant and the Yanks just saw him yesterday, so no need to repeat his stats. A rotation of Verlander/Cole/Greinke sure looks formidable, and it’s extremely annoying that two of those guys have been deadline acquisitions and the other was a guy the Yanks passed on in an offseason trade, but what can you do?

In terms of Greinke specifically, the Yankees were never an option. Greinke and the Yankees both have been open and honest about the fact that New York would not be a great fit for him or his mental health, and we have to respect that. He wouldn’t have accepted the trade to New York. Please, please, please do not argue on this point. Both parties have said so, openly. It is the smart decision for both parties. These are people, after all, not robots, and Greinke deserves the right to choose not to play in New York.

However, the Greinke trade is a perfect example of how the Yankees leave themselves shortchanged and vulnerable. Cashman and the Yankees simply never budge from their internal SP valuations and seem terrified of “overpaying” for a guy. Each decision in a vacuum might make sense and be justifiable–Yanks weren’t good when Scherzer was out there, Cole didn’t seem as good as he has been, too many years for Corbin, etc.–but when you add them all up, you get to 3:50 pm on July 31, boxed into a corner, while the only actually available dominant SP is a guy that just isn’t a match. A total non-option. Instead, he ends up on the team’s biggest threat this season while the Yanks do nothing.

Now, anything can happen come October–remember the 1990s Braves or the early 2010s Phillies?–but as of right now, this sucks. This one would sting a whole lot less had the Yankees simply ponied up the cash for Patrick Corbin last offseason, but I suspect you already knew that.

Arizona Diamondbacks Series Preview: 7/30-7/31

Snakes in the grass. Diamondbacks to be specific. The Yankees host a two-game interleague series just before the trade deadline.

Their Story Thus Far

At 53-54, the D-backs are one of many teams caught in the middle. They’re too good to sell off a ton of pieces, yet not good enough nor do they have a strong enough farm system to buy. They’re far behind the Dodgers in the division race and are 4.0 games back of the second wild card, and they’d have to leapfrog four teams to reach that WC spot.

They’re middle-of-the-pack offensively with a 97 wRC+, though they make up for some of that on the bases, coming in second to the Rangers’ in Fangraphs’ baserunning metric. Arizona steals at an efficient rate and could take advantage against the Yankees’ slow-to-the-plate relievers, let alone their non-Sanchez throwing arms behind the plate.

The D-backs have a similarly OK pitching staff, placing 12th in ERA at 4.32 (and 10th with 4.27 FIP). As a staff, they’re good at limiting walks and home runs. They have Zack Greinke to head their rotation and no one who stands out as an elite reliever, though they aren’t weighed down by anyone dreadful in big spots.

They’ve been tied to the Yankees in trade rumors, centering around starter Robbie Ray. Peter Gammons also mentioned reliever Archie Bradley.

Injury Report

The D-backs’ pitching has been limited by injuries with starters Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery) and Luke Weaver (UCL sprain, flexor strain) are the key players missing for Arizona.

Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. is out for the season with knee surgery, as is reliever Silvino Bracho (Tommy John). Former Red Sox C/OF Blake Swihart is on a rehab assignment for his oblique injury while reliever Matt Andriese is on the IL with a foot contusion.

Player Spotlight: Ketel Marte

Who leads the National League in hits? Well, it’s first-time All-Star Ketel Marte, who has been a breakout star for the D-backs at age-25. The second baseman/center fielder has both benefitted from the new ball and changed his approach to hit more home runs this season (23) than he had in his career (22) beforehand.

Overall, Marte is hitting .320/.378/.576 with 23 home runs and 25 doubles. Unique for this age of power hitters, he still hits for a lot of contact and strikes out in just 15 percent of appearances. Locked up to a cheap extension before his breakout, he’s under contract through 2024 (including team options) and could anchor Arizona’s core.

As mentioned above, the Arizona star handles both second and center for the D-backs depending on the matchup as he’s learned the outfield this year. His above-average speed has made him a natural with 11 defensive runs saved and a 7.2 UZR already this year.

He hurt the Yankees in the two-game series in Arizona three months ago, taking Masahiro Tanaka deep.

Potential Lineup

  1. Jarrod Dyson, CF (.251/.336/.358, 84 wRC+)
  2. Ketel Marte, 2B ( .320/.378/.576 , 143 wRC+)
  3. Eduardo Escobar, 3B (.284/.342/.535, 121 wRC+)
  4. David Peralta, LF (.281/.346/.461, 107 wRC+)
  5. Adam Jones, RF (.266/.316/.425, 90 wRC+)
  6. Christian Walker, 1B (.251/.333/.476, 107 wRC+)
  7. Jake Lamb, DH (.235/.380/.444, 116 wRC+)
  8. Nick Ahmed, SS (.266/.325/.425, 91 wRC+)
  9. Carson Kelly, C (.268/.357/.541, 123 wRC+)

Off the bench, Arizona has backup catcher/potential DH this series Alex Avila (107 wRC+), speedy fourth outfielder Tim Locastro (90 wRC+, 9-for-9 SB attempts), OF Yasmany Tomas (0-for-3 this year) and INF Wilmer Flores (86 wRC+).

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7:05 PM ET) J.A. Happ (vs. D-Backs) vs. Taylor Clarke (Never faced NYY)

A rookie right-hander, Clarke has struggled when he’s been pressed into duty this season. Over 51.2 IP, he has an ERA of 6.10 and an even-worse FIP of 6.33. He has a below-average strikeout rate and allows 69 percent more home runs than average. He has thrown five or fewer innings in all but three of his 11 starts and hasn’t had homer-less start in his last seven outings.

Clarke attacks with a plethora of pitches, though none of them have gotten him results. He has a 93 mph fastball which he throws about 40 percent of the time while mixing in a slider, changeup, sinker and curveball each at least 10 percent of the time.

Clarke (Baseball Savant)

Wednesday (1:05 PM ET) Masahiro Tanaka (vs. D-backs) vs. Zack Greinke (vs. Yankees)

Greinke is an ace and the type of pitcher the Yankees would be wise to pursue at the trade deadline, though his large contract makes that unlikely. His 2.87 ERA is ninth in baseball and his 3.15 FIP is 11th. The veteran righty avoids walks like the plague and gets strikeouts when he wants, soft contact otherwise.

Greinke often goes deep into games, as the Yankees already saw when he limited them to one run over 7.2 IP in April. He has thrown at least six innings in each of his last nine outings and his 141 innings overall are tied for fifth in baseball.

Though his fastball tops out in the low-90s, the wizard uses it effectively and plays off of it with a slider, changeup and a slow curveball. Oh, that slow curveball. It’s the closest thing to an eephus that anyone throws these days and it’s a beauty. Therefore, I’m going to subject you to two minutes of Greinke curveballs to prepare you for Wednesday afternoon.

As a final note, he’s also the best fielding pitcher in baseball by my estimation and is the 5-time reigning Gold Glove winner in the NL.

Greinke (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

Veteran Greg Holland lost his closer job in recent days after a blown save/loss to the Marlins before allowing four runs in 1/3 inning yesterday. Manager Torey Lovullo indicated that he’ll play matchups at the back-end, which leaves him plenty of options.

Archie Bradley emerged as a top option two years ago, though he’s taken a step back and isn’t always their fireman option this year. Righties Yoan Lopez and Yoshihisa Hirano get some high-leverage work, while Andrew Chafin is of a dying breed among LOOGYs.

Behind them stands Zack Godley, a swingman who lost his rotation spot early in the season. You may remember left-hander T.J. McFarland from his Oriole days. He’ll likely see lower-leverage work after getting five outs Monday.

Yankees Connections

Locastro, a speedy fourth outfielder, was on the Yankees’ roster two months this offseason. They traded Single-A pitcher Drew Finley to get him from the Dodgers, then traded him for 17-year-old pitcher Ronald Roman.

On the coaching side, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske won the 2009 World Series with the Yankees while bench coach Jerry Narron made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 1979. Manager Torey Lovullo played all of 22 games on the 1991 Yankees.

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