Thoughts after the Yankees Advance to the ALDS

Well, that sure was a wild ride. The longest game 9-inning in MLB history ended with a Yankee victory past 1:00 am ET and it was worth every second. The Yankees are now off until Monday, when they’ll be in San Diego taking on the rival Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS. I’m sure that series won’t be stressful.

I have a lot of thoughts about the last two days, so let’s get right to them.

1. The Offense Reminds Us of Who They Are: Let me just get this out of the way immediately: phew. There was a moment in the 8th inning when it sure felt like the Yankees were about to head into a do-or-die matchup in which J.A. Happ, Jordan Montgomery, and Deivi Garcia would be the primary options. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a great feeling.

That obviously didn’t happen and the biggest reason why is because the offense was an absolute juggernaut all series from the very first pitch they saw. It is hard to stress how impressed I am with (basically) every Yankee batter. They forced Cleveland pitchers to throw 384 pitches in 18 innings of work. Yankee batters had a clear plan of attack for Shane Bieber – spit on the offspeed stuff and attack the fastball – that paid off and they kept up the same impressive approach last night. I mean, look at this:

It’s a bit tough to see because of how many pitches there are, but there is virtually no purple outside of the strike zone. That’s what you want to see: they didn’t swing at balls outside of the strike zone in Games 1 or 2. Last night, the Yankees were selective in their approach and worked 12 (!) walks. It kept the pressure on Cleveland all night and I can’t say enough about good things about it.

This approach only works when you are similarly aggressive with pitches you can hit, though, and the Yankees sure were that as well. Look at the locations of the pitches the Yankees drove out of the park last night.

Here’s the first one, from Giancarlo Stanton:

Here is Gary Sánchez:

And here is Gio Urshela’s grand slam, about which I will have a lot more to say in just a minute:

That is what I am talking about right there. Lay off the junk. Absolutely punish the mistakes. That is how you win playoff games right there. That they did it against both of Cleveland’s best pitchers in Shane Bieber and James Karinchak on back-to-back nights is even more impressive. It was a reminder of the fact that the Yankees are a well-oiled machine from top-to-bottom.

In fact, the Yankees got homers from up-and-down the lineup in this series, and everyone – barring a few outliers from Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier – had a great at-bat virtually every time up. It’s a new series next week, but it’s hard not to feel great about the state of the Yankee offense right now. There are basically no holes.

2. Gio Urshela is Incredible: I don’t know what more we can even say about Gio Urshela at this point. The Yankees picked him up off baseball scrapyard for $25,000 and now he is one of the most reliable and effective players in their organization. I mean, the dude is smacking go-ahead grand slams in the playoffs while the Yankees are down 3 runs against the other team’s best reliever. A guy who struck out just about 50% of every batter he faced in 2020. It is so good and great. Let’s watch it again:

God. It’s so good. Gio worked the count full, which led to this pitch:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-10-01-at-8.59.52-AM-1024x516.png

Without context, this might look like a tough mid-90s fastball. It’s low and it’s in on the hands. Hard to hit, right? Wrong. Look at a map of Gio’s slugging percentage in 2020, overlayed over the strike zone:

That’s why you work the count, ladies and gentlemen. You force the opposing pitcher – even great ones – to make a mistake and put the ball in your happy zone. And then you punish them. And, as he showed in the 9th inning, sometimes you just hit balls like this…

…for singles up the middle to put the go-ahead run on base in the 9th inning of an elimination postseason game. (Gio, of course, came around to score later in the inning on the DJLM go-ahead hit.) I legitimately cannot believe how good Gio Urshela is and I’m not sure I ever will.

This leads us to his defense. We all know that it’s controversial because the advanced stats don’t rate him well. As a reader of this site, you probably know I think that’s hogwash. That’s because it is. Look at this magnificent play, which came in the bottom of the 8th inning with Cleveland threatening to tack on insurance runs:

That is an incredible, incredible play. And it’s not one any third baseman can make. I’m sorry, but it’s not. Neither play was even particularly close. I mean:

Yeah. Sheesh. Gio had a +.302 WPA (which doesn’t even count defense) last night and, as I said, I don’t think I will ever get over how good of a player he’s become. It’s just incredible.

3. Aaron Boone, Overmatched: Alright, so that’s the good stuff. Now onto the bad. There was plenty of that last night, which a nice, come-from-behind victory in an elimination tends to paper over (as it should). Let’s start at the top, with Aaron Boone, who I thought looked overwhelmed at three points in this game.

First, the decision to roll with Masahiro Tanaka into the fifth inning made absolutely zero sense to me. I was first guessing even sending Tanaka out for the 2nd and 3rd, so maybe I’m crazy, but the fifth made absolutely no sense to me at all. It was the third time through the order, after two (2) rain delays and a spotty (at best) performance from Tanaka. Sure enough, it bit the Yankees. Both batters Tanaka faced in the 5th came around to score, which tied the game. This was predictable.

Second, the decision to remove Zack Britton from the game in the 7th inning in favor of Jonathan Loaisiga. Now, Britton had lost the zone – he inexplicably walked two guys with two outs in the inning – but it felt like Boone got out-managed here. Cleveland removed Hottest Hitter in the Game™ Josh Naylor in what felt like bait for Boone to remove Britton. That is because of the lefty/righty split – Luplow is terrible against righties – but it was the wrong move. I get it to some degree, but I would rather have Britton out there. Righty batters hit .196 against him in 2020, so it’s not like he’s a platoon pitcher. In fact, he’s been the team’s best and most consistent reliever!

Sure enough, it backfired. Both of those runs scored, largely because Loaisiga did not look ready for the moment. A 1-2 curveball in that situation just cannot be left here:

Finally, the decision to send Loaisiga back out there for the 8th inning was also baffling. And then, after he walked the leadoff guy, Boone let him do it again. Truly inexplicable stuff. Chapman replaced him right away, so it wasn’t like the Yankees wouldn’t use Chapman in the 8th. (One of the runs scored.) Boone just didn’t want to. It was an unacceptable lack of urgency and it was the second time that Boone tried to steal outs from a pitcher who didn’t have it in this game. It’s easily his biggest weakness as a manager and it has to stop now if the Yankees want to do this thing.

I know that the relievers have to get the job done, and they didn’t. That is a real thing and I don’t want to discount it. I also took issue with some of their approaches – why was Loaisiga throwing a curve in that 1-2 and why did Chad Green use his curve so much – but that’s a story for another day. The fact is that the vaunted Yankee bullpen blew several leads in a crucial game last night and that is not good. But I don’t think their manager put them in the best position to succeed. In fact, these three mistakes – again, all of which were first-guessed in real-time by countless fans – led to five (5) runs, all of which when the Yankees had the lead or the game was tied. Five!

It felt a lot more like 2018 Aaron Boone than 2019 Aaron Boone. Let’s not let this become a thing again, please.

4. The Playoffs Feel Real: I woke up on Tuesday morning unsure how the playoffs would feel. This season was a bit of a slog and felt especially joyless at times. I really didn’t know what the playoffs would feel like, especially in an empty ballpark. The answer: pretty damn real. I wasn’t thinking about it at all last night. I was engaged as I ever have been in a Yankee game, riding the highs and sinking to the lows right alongside the team. Dare I say it, but it was probably the most “normal” I’ve felt since March. I’d be curious to hear how it felt for you all.

The only two times I really, really missed the crowd – or, more accurately, noticed it – was during Judge’s home run in Game 1 and Gio’s grand slam last night. Those are two “suck the life out of the opposing fanbase” moments and I wish we got to enjoy them. Oh well. I’ll take what I can get these days, and this felt extremely real to me. I’m super pumped for the ALDS to start now.

5. Bring on the Rays: Speaking of which, bring on the damn Tampa Bay Rays. I am not scared of them. This is the matchup I’ve wanted all season. I really, really wanted the Yankees to get a chance to exact some revenge on them and end their season. The Rays have been in the Yankees’ face all season and talking a frankly unearned level of smack at the Yankees, a more successful franchise in every single way. The Yankees are healthy now, their offense is clicking, and they have Gerrit Cole starting in Game 1. This is what you want in a playoff matchup. I expect it to be intense and exhilirating. I also expect the Yankees to win.

The only complaints are that we have to wait four days for it to begin and that it’s not the ALCS (why didn’t MLB reseed after this dumb round?) but whatever. If that’s the tradeoff for not having to watch the Yankees play postseason games in the Trop, I will certainly take it.

We’ll have much more to come on the Rays and the Yankees’ performance in the days to come. For now, I’m just enjoying the hell out of the last two nights, and I recommend you do the same.

Previous

“We Have Seen Too Much” Yanks Win Topsy-Turvy Game 2 to Advance

Next

ALDS Mailbag: Gerrit Cole, Bullpen Usage, Roster Changes, & Aaron Hicks

23 Comments

  1. Yanks317

    I know I’m in the minority but thought Boone was mostly fine. Did he try to steal outs with Tanaka? Yeah, because he had 5 innings left and 3 relievers he trusts. One of those guys comes in and doesn’t have it and he is capital S screwed. Wade PRs for Voit – we are up 8-6 against a team that has a weak offense, getting an extra run is huge there. This was was the ultimate “the outcome will decide whether people say it was wrong/right” move. It was also just as much about replacing him on DEFENSE as it was about replacing him on the base paths. Up 2 with your ground ball machine pitcher in the game is the time to get your IF defensive replacements in the game. Britton lost the zone, he needed to be removed regardless of it were Naylor or Luplow. Don’t judge the decision by the outcome. It was a huge spot and they were spitting on his pitches, he lives on getting guys to chase and this team does not do that. Loaisiga in the 8th – they didn’t want to throw chappy for 40 pitches and burn him for the potential next game. This is the move that was not good, i think if not for the 3 batter rule they would have given Otto a chance to steal the out or two they wanted to steal. Given that rule they stuck with a guy who clearly didn’t have it to try to steal the out. No point just go to Chapman there then. He’s lost the zone in the past, but has been dominant recently. But also he has been dominant, so I’m comfortable with assuming he can pitch out of a little trouble *shrugs*

    You mention 2018 Boone, that’s so unfair. 2018 Boone wouldn’t have brought in Green that early, he wouldn’t have brought in Britton that early. He would have brought in lesser relievers to the big spots, and for the heart of the lineup, because the game plan didn’t dictate using the high leverage guys yet.

  2. Boone has a bad habit of leaving pitchers in to try and get extra outs when the reliever is ready to come in. Please Aaron, start the inning with the reliever you already have warmed up and not when two runners are already on base with no outs. This is easily his biggest and worst flaw

  3. Jack Helmuth

    The other great move Boone made was bringing Britton in in the 6th inning. That is not traditionally “his” inning, or even particularly close to it, but that was the exact guy to have in that situation, against those hitters, with the game on the line. Sometimes games are won or lost in the 6th and not the 9th, so hats off to that.

    Also, the Gardy decision was spot-on, and I love Clint. I think that’s a platoon for the rest of the playoffs. Boy does Gardy look as good as he ever has! Even his strikeout was a fantastic AB.

    Can’t argue with the other criticisms of Boone. I like him very, very much as a person and as a leader. Some of the in-game managing decisions, however, are worrisome.

  4. Mungo

    Not directed at your commentary, but it’s funny to listen to so many people in the Yankee universe pulling their hair out over Boone’s moves in what was one of the “best” games of the year. Best in quotes because the game went on for an eternity, but certainly enjoyable for many great moments in a big game.

    Some is deserved, but I think agonizing over removing Voit, bad foot and all, late in the game for improved defense and speed with the goal of holding the lead is entirely defensible. The Yankees are built to have a shut-down bullpen. Maximize that with the strongest defense late in the game. Don’t assume one of your greatest strengths is going to fail.

    The removal of Britton? I would have kept him in too, but also don’t know how he was physically feeling at that point, and also don’t have access to any of the in-game metrics the Yankees do. I’m not buying that Cleveland somehow outmaneuvered Boone by removing their hottest hitter and bringing up a batter who sucks against RH’d pitching. Luplow getting a hit was actually an example of Cleveland getting lucky and not being burned by a questionable move. Loaisiga normally would dispatch Luplow. Imagine if Britton stayed in after those two walks and Luplow then crushed one of his pitches? Everyone would be questioning leaving him in.

    No, the moves that I DO question Boone on is leaving in his pitchers too long, and having his relievers being forced into games with runners already on base. This has been a consistent issue with Boone. Too much faith, perhaps trying to map the game to a set strategy and not veering from it when conditions change. In his mind, he wanted Tanaka to go 5, so he tried to force him to go 5. He had Tanaka, Green, Britton and Chapman slotted for certain outs, but was slow to alter that plan. To me that’s legitimate. The first two? Nah.

    • Yanks317

      Expecting those 3 to cover 5 innings is a stretch tho… Tanaka made Lindor look bad the prior AB, after the double he shoulda been out of there. I don’t blame him for trying to steal the Lindor out though. It’s about Otto being bad, not really wanting to use Lo, and Kahnle being gone. They don’t have a dominant and lengthy pen like years past.

  5. MikeD

    I believe the advanced fielding metrics have “caught up” with Gio this year, giving him positive ratings for the most part. I still think they underrate him, but the eye test and the talent evaluators all have him rated as a plus defender.

    It’s a bit peculiar that MLB still won’t allow the broadcasters in the park. I understand why the decision was initially made, but MLB is about to allow fans attend some of the Championship Series and the World Series. We can’t let broadcasters in to actually do a better broadcast? It shows, such as on the great play by Gio. Vasgersian sounded nonchalant at first because he couldn’t see the play unfold. It wasn’t until the ball reached 1B on the DP that he began to show some emotion as he absorbed the level and significance of the play. Once again, I get why they want to restrict the number of people at the park. That was fine in June. It’s October and fans are about to arrive. Let the broadcasters in.

    • Mungo

      I’d guess that at minimum they will allow the broadcast teams in for the World Series. It would strange to have fans but no broadcasters. Maybe it’s because it’s not a case of bringing in two or three announcers. Perhaps it’s the support staff that comes with them? Regardless, it doesn’t make much sense if they’re planning on loosening restrictions to allow fans.

  6. Did anyone else hear on the postgame when Buck said something like “I think it’s an advantage the Yankees get to play the Rays in San Diego instead of Tampa in that place they play baseball in”. I’ve called the Trop a Port Authority or Airport bathroom but “that place they place baseball in” is probably the best description of that travesty I’ve ever heard.

  7. Cleveland grooved too many fastballs over the plate in this series. Thank god we don’t have to play at the Trop next week.

    • MikeD

      They grooved a lot of pitches because the Yankees hitters were incredibly disciplined laying off the breaking pitches out of the zone. That forced the Indians pitchers into the zone.

  8. The only time I missed the fans was when Chapman struck out the final batter because Matt V and ARod were in a studio watching like us and not in real time. I wasn’t clear if he swung until I saw the coaches hugging in the dugout. With fans you’d hear that collective groan. That’s really the only time I missed the crowd. I didn’t care for the piped in crowd noise from the PA, but I get. I don’t care for continuing expanded playoffs but these games have been good so it feels inevitable. I’m just curious as to how they keep teams motivated over 162 games if they do, better yet how do you keep us fans invested.

    • dasit

      i hate the expanded hockey-style format but i love no off-days. whatever happens from here on they should keep the mon-to-fri 5 game series

      • Yanks317

        Meh give me one off day per round. Everyone leave your 5 starter at home please… I think it’s a little irresponsible by MLb in this year where pitchers are going down like flies to pressure all the aces into pitching on 3 days rest multiple times in a row. But yeah 2 off days per series is too many.

  9. dasit

    rays have a better rotation, bullpen, and manager and no off-days is a huge advantage for them. yankees will have their hands full. luckily, this season is one big asterisk so if they lose i will be pissed off but not devastated

  10. Gerreddardit Cole

    1. They’re the best lineup in baseball for a reason, Bobby. They reminded me of Yankee lineups of old how they worked counts, drew walks and hit for power. Gary is a pleasant surprise. Stanton is too. Both of those guys looked awful all season and now they’re working counts and hitting dingers. Gardy over Frazier was absolutely the right decision. Gardy works counts better than Clint. There’s not a soft spot in this lineup but they’ll need to keep it going if we’re going to beat the Rays staff.

    2. Yes he is. That DP he started catching the ball that was already past him and then throwing it to 2nd from his butt was the greatest play I’ve ever seen. And he added a grand salami at the plate. And to think Cash got him for a box of crackerjacks. We haven’t had a player this clutch at 3B since Scotty Brosius.

    3. If we do lose this postseason it’ll be because of Boone and not the players. Cash is going to manage circles around him next series and that worries me more than anything else. Pinch running for Voit after an out had been made in the 7th was horrendous. You know Voit is going to come back up in the 9th and if you’re going to PR why not do it with 0 outs? I know he had the lead and wanted to put better defense in but that’s too early to do it with how many runs were being scored and the shaky Yankee pen. Last year he had quick hooks on guys and that put too much on the pen. This year he’s overcompensated and he doesn’t have as good a pen this year. He left Tanaka and Lasagna in too long. I don’t blame him for riding Britton. Britton shouldn’t have walked 2 bad hitters. But in the next series we can’t run Britton and Chapman out there for 4 innings because there are no off days.

    4. The stadium silence was deafening. Didn’t have the same feel but it was still an all time classic ballgame. The fake crowd noise they pump in is lame. I like Alex as a studio host but he’s a bad in game color analyst and Matt V is one of the worst play by play. I laughed when they called Naylor the hottest hitter in baseball when he was 5-5. They acted like Alomar was pitch hitting Tyler Wade for Babe Ruth.

    5. It’s going to be a tough series but an all time great. If we can keep the hitting going we’ll win. Wish it would start this weekend. The off days will hurt our momentum but give Voit some time off his feet. There are no off days in the series so Happ, Deivi, Monty are going to have to step up. Holder, Crappavino and Lasagna will have to pitch in big spots and that scares the hell out of me.

  11. I don’t need advanced stats to explain why the Yankees won this amazing game last night.

    Here are some not so random thoughts, most of which align with what’s written here:
    1. Gio Urshela was (and has been) incredible, particularly last night. That DP could be the best infield play I’ve ever seen (and have played and watched baseball for 65 years), not only the grab of the hot shot but the perfect throw to DJ from a sitting position at a most critical part of the game. The single in the 9th inning, behind in the count, might have even been better than the grand slam.
    2. Between Green and Loaisiga they gave the Indians 4 runs because they doubled up on secondary pitches in a key AB, that is just a terrible decision. The funny thing is that I saw in coming, particularly from Green to Ramirez. I don’t know if Green shook off Sanchez to throw it or it was Sanchez making the decision but either way it’s 100% wrong. It’s the same thing with the 2 strike split thrown by Chapman to Mercado that got past Sanchez. Mercado couldn’t have hit hit heat from Chapman with a tennis racket, just dumb.
    3. Many of the ‘stat heads’ seem to think that those of us who appreciate ‘small ball’, like the way the Yankees rallied in the 9th last night, means we don’t want the team hitting home runs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What it does mean is that baseball isn’t one dimensional and sometimes you have to move runners, sometimes you have to make contact, sometimes you have throw the bat at the ball and hit it to center field (like Gio did last night) and sometimes you need a 15 bounce ground ball through the middle (like DJ’s last night) that would have been an out with any kind of shift because you can’t shift on him. And, when you get something in the zone that you can handle, you hit it out of the park as well.
    4. There was an intensity in this series from the Yankees I haven’t seen all season. It’s been a very strange 60 games for sure and now that things seem to have changed the series with the Rays (away from the Top house of horrors) will be very interesting. I think you can throw out the Rays 8-2 season record because of this.

  12. JG (Ben Francisco)

    It still doesn’t feel like the real playoffs but at least I felt something last night.

    “I also took issue with some of their approaches – why was Loaisiga throwing a curve in that 1-2 and why did Chad Green use his curve so much”- yeah, totally agree there. Some baffling pitch selection.

    Boone left Tanaka and Loaisiga a batter too long and overmanaged with the pinch running. The lack of depth in the pen makes things a lot harder to manage, though, and Green, Britton, and probably someone else will have to step up for them to have any chance at winning it all.

  13. CountryClub

    If you’re going to give Boone crap for his pitching decisions yesterday, you have to give him credit for starting Gardy in game 1 and Sanchez last night. Starting gardy was certainly controversial to a big portion of the fan base. And he easily could have stuck with Higgy yesterday.

    • Bobby

      That is fair about Gardner, who was great. I loved that decision in real-time as well. A great move.

  14. Boone has been overmatched from the moment Cashman hired him. And, it is not his fault. He has never managed or coached at any level. No experience, just a postion player in the “Show”. He was told where to play, what to hit and when and where to run. He never had to decide only prepare for what’s next.

    He does not prepare his teams/players to prepare physically for the game. That is why they are hurt so often. Sometimes you have demand, push and force players to prepare because they are after all the best of the best and think they know better. Boone is a players manager.

    He is what he is. He is here for the duration, imo, Cashman’s ego is too big to let Boone go.

  15. Mike you 2007

    As much as I hated the bullpen management, it’s hard to stay with Britton when he couldn’t find the strike zone himself…… pushing Tanaka is what you do when he is a FA – use up every bullet you can….. Hicks continues to disappoint….trying to milk outs pre-Chappy is helpful because he is like a box of chocolates… never know what you are going to get the deeper he gets into his pitch count….
    The fact Cashman didn’t try to get another reliever during the deadline- or tried and failed- is something he is going to regret

    • JG (Ben Francisco)

      Yeah, it was odd they didn’t try for another reliever.

    • Wire Fan

      They definitely could have used a reliever. Between kahnle’s injury (a massive hit to the pen) and Ottavino’s struggles they clearlycould have used another arm. Not necessarily a great reliever,but a decent one to bridge things to Britton and Chapman (Beyond Green,who when not falling in love with his curve, is still pretty damn good)

      I think Cashman assumed Loaisiga might be that guy,but I don’t think he is there yet.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén