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Game 57: It’s Not What You Want

I’m pretty sure most of the Yankees players and staff would like the last three hours back, thank you very much.

After showing signs of life in the last two games against the Rays, the Yankees imploded this afternoon, taking a 9-2 loss and dropping back to 4.5 games out of first place with a 31-26 record.  Particularly painful was that the Yankees seemed poised for a series win against their division rival, with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound, but it was not to be.  To the takeaways:

Gerrit Cole uncharacteristically struggles.  For his last few starts Gerrit Cole, while mostly still good, has not seemed to be his best self, and today culminated in probably his worst start of the young season. For the first few innings it appeared as though Cole would grind through another solid performance without his best stuff, but a two-run home run in the top of the 4th and a few two-out RBI singles in the top of the 5th left him with a 5 inning, 5 earned run performance, bringing his season ERA from 1.78 to 2.26.  Cole walked two, and has now walked batters in four straight starts after a stretch of five consecutive starts where he didn’t issue a base on balls.  Cole would likely tell you he has not been happy with his recent performances – he’s posted a 4.30 ERA over his past four starts after starting the season at 1.37 in his first eight.  Although his overall numbers are still excellent, today was a particularly bad day for him to be “off,” as the bullpen was stretched thin from two taxing games. Nick Nelson allowed four more runs in an inning and two thirds before Luis Cessa and Brooks Kriske finished out the game.

Yes, the umpiring was that bad.  This game would have been a lot more frustrating if it were closer, because Chad Whitson’s strike zone was both terrible and biased.  Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, who wound up throwing a complete game, got eight pitches significantly out of the zone called strikes, while Cole got zero.  A picture is worth a thousand words here, so I’ll leave it at that.  Would the Yankees have won this game with better umpiring? Probably not.  Is it still maddening?  Absolutely.

The Yankees continue to struggle with situational hitting.  Before the game got out of hand, it appeared for a while as though the Yankees were actually positioning themselves for another win.  After Cole gave up a two-run home run to Austin Meadows in the fourth inning, the Yankees, down 2-1, opened the fifth by putting runners on second and third with no one out after back to back hits from Gio Urshela and Aaron Judge.  Rougned Odor popped up, and Yarbrough then struck out Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar.  

The caveat here is that in no universe should Clint Frazier have struck out – in a six-pitch at bat, only one pitch from Yarbrough was actually in the zone, and Whitson called three of them for strikes.  The Yankees should have had the bases loaded and one out instead of second and third with two outs after that at bat.  Andujar’s strikeout was legit, though, and the Yankees have struggled all season to score runs when they have runners on third and less than two outs – in 79 plate appearances in that scenario, coming into this afternoon, the team has 18 strikeouts and has grounded into 10 double plays, only recording 14 hits and 33 RBIs. Good umpiring or bad umpiring, they’re going to lose games if they can’t cash in on opportunities like this.

Brett Gardner had a good day. Probably the only Yankee to have a legitimately good day today was Brett Gardner.  He put the Yankees on the board in the third inning with a home run, his first since Game 1 of the Wild Card series against Cleveland last September, and ripped a double in the fifth.  He is inching back up towards the Mendoza line, bringing his batting average up to .197.

Leftovers

  • Gio Urshela attempted a 4th inning imitation of Derek Jeter in 2004, hurling his body towards the left field stands on a foul pop up.  Unlike Derek Jeter, however, he bounced off the netting and did not catch the ball.
  • The Yankees sat Giancarlo Stanton today after only playing him for one game (he had a pinch hit at bat on Tuesday but did not start).  Stanton made some good contact yesterday, and the Yankees should want to get his bat going and get him into a groove, so the decision to sit him was a bit surprising unless he’s dealing with lingering injury.
  • Miguel Andujar hit a solo home run in the 7th inning; he’s now hit 3 in the Yankees’ last 4 games.
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Game 20: A couple of Bombs and an Ace

The Yankees have now won 4 of their last 5 games, and are looking like the talented team they are (Shocking, I know). They’ve now ensured the series win against Cleveland and this game can be summarized in the above title. Just like a couple of beers and a burger, this combination is pretty darn good. To the takeaways:

  1. A pitchers duel, as advertised.

First of all Gerrit Cole is ridiculous, he once again dominated. Going 7 innings striking out 11 batters while allowing just one walk and 3 hits. The first time through the order he went fastball heavy (67%), and the Indians could do nothing about it. For the next inning he started mixing up his slider, curve and change evenly; ending with almost equal fastball and non-fastball percentages (51.4% and 48.6% respectively).

Cole did all of that WHILE he was battling for command the first few innings and was visibly PISSED at himself for it. His stuff is just that good. The evidence:

Our Ace did run into some trouble in the 4th after hanging a curveball that José Ramírez almost homered if it wasn’t for Judge who just missed an amazing steal and instead turned the play into a triple. A single later brought Ramírez in and that was it because pissed off Gerrit struck the next two guys out. The whole highlights:

Shane Bieber on the other side, matched him inning for inning. He finally managed to do well against the Yankees and honestly it was due, he is an amazing pitcher an he showed it today. The Yankees put a threat in the first inning when he was battling for command but other than that he was cruising. He executed his plan to almost perfection, throwing his fastball high and in, the curve down and away and the slider to the outside part of the plate for righties. He went really breaking ball heavy, throwing the slider and curveball for a combined 61.4 % of his pitches.

Bieber’s pitch locations taken from Basebalk Savant

This allowed Bieber to go 7 innings with 9 k’s while allowing 4 hits and 3 walks, the homers were the only blemish in a really good start for Bieber. Unluckily for him (and luckily for us), the other dude in the mound is even better.

2. The Bronx Bombers are back.

It seems like the Monstars finally stoped taking the literal power of our hitters. You might say “Well those were only two runs” and you are right, but they were against 7 innings of reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber.

Remember when the Yankees couldn’t even hit cookies right the middle of the plate? Well now they are hitting bombs off good pitches, the two HRs against Bieber were not even bad pitches, specially Odor’s, to bear:

Pitch results for Bieber taken from Baseball Savant, take a look at those two pink locations.

Maybe they are just a little bit to outside for both lefties to extend their arms, but still much better pitches than the ones they were missing earlier. This is absolutely logical, Monstars jokes aside, this team has way too many talented hitters to keep them quiet specially for power. Even though today’s bombers were not the usual suspects, it’s still good to see the fireworks starting to go off.

I’ve certainly missed the bombs, and am glad they are back.

3. Jonathan Loaisiga the closer.

I’m sure Bobby was doing his best Black Panther’s Killmonger “It’s beautiful” representation when Loaisiga was brought in for the last four outs. Just as I was writing this, I saw the following tweet:

Yeah, that was definitely coming hahahaha.

The dude has been absolute nails this season and is being rightfully rewarded with high leverage situations. He came in with 2 outs and a runner on second in the 8th to face Amed Rosario, who shortly popped out on a high 96 mph sinker to quickly extinguish that situation.

In the 9th he was set to face César Hernández, José Ramírez and Eddie Rosario. Those may not be Murderer’s Row but they are definitely the toughest part of the Indians lineup. Loaisiga then proceded to get a soft groundout from Hernández, a Ramírez ground out to Rougned Odor in the short right field because of the shift, and a soft fly out to Tauchman in left from Rosario. 4 out save: Completed!

Also quite interesting to highlight, Loaisiga threw exclusively Sinkers and Changeups (58.3% and 41.7% respectively), further reinforcing the early signs that the changeup is becoming a really important weapon for him.

We are in the middle of a breakout season ladies and gentleman.

Leftovers

  • Cole got a 1-2-3 inning in the 6th, but all three outs had exit velos over 96 mph. I thought the best option was to take him out for the 7th after 93 pitches. Cole’s response for the 7th: strikeout, pop out, strikeout. Yeah, don’t mind me. Cole, you are an absolute beast.
  • DJ LeMahieu is definitely struggling with his swing. His average exit velo is a couple of miles down and he is grounding out a ton of balls to the left side of the infield for the season. Today, he had four ground outs to the shortstop (although one was a 100 mph rocket right at him). More analysis on this soon from Matt.
  • The Yankees got two outs from José Ramírez’s hot shots to the shor RF because of the shift. The exit velo’s: 103 and 108 mph. Rally nice job from the Yankees analytics team and from Odor who perfectly handled both situations.
  • Also we had a really cool shot of LeMahieu fielding a pop out right in front of Cleveland’s dugout. The video:
  • Had quite a laugh from the Michael Kay call on Hicks homer, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the landing spot (It was a no doubter) and the “guy with big glove” call made me look and laugh at it. The homer and the call:

The Yanks and Cleveland will round this series out tomorrow, with the Yanks turning to Jameson Taillon (0-1, 5.40 ERA) to complete the sweep. Cleveland will turn to Triston McKenzie (0-0, 3.55 ERA). Have a good night, everyone.

Game 6: Let’s Remind The Red Sox That They Are Bad

Friends, the Boston Red Sox are bad. Their record doesn’t really reflect this, as they come to the Bronx for the home opener at 3-4. We have the Mets to thank for that. In my humble opinion, the Yankees should do what they do best: remind the Red Sox that they are bad. That begins tonight and, hopefully, will continue all weekend.

Here are the lineups for the first series in the Bronx in 2020:

Boston Red Sox (3-4)
1. Kevin Pillar, RF
2. J.D. Martinez, DH
3. Rafael Devers, 3B
4. Xander Boegarts, SS
5. Christian Vazquez, C
6. Alex Verdugo, RF
7. Michael Chavis, 1B
8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
9. José Peraza, 2B
Ryan Weber, RHP

New York Yankees (4-1)
1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Gleyber Torres, SS
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Aaron Hicks, CF
6. Luke Voit, 1B
7. Gio Urshela, 3B
8. Brett Gardner, LF
9. Kyle Higashioka, C
Jordan Montgomery, LHP

Looks like a routine off-day for Gary, though I’m sure that many fans are very excited to see it. The big news, of course, is that Gleyber is in there. He exited last night’s game after being hit with a pitch in the first inning. Good to see that his “contusion” is actually, well, a contusion. Always pays to be skeptical these days but some optimism was good.

Jordan Montgomery is back on the bump for the Yanks! Let’s hope he can keep up his 2017 success. Check out my 2019 primer on him and/or Derek’s season preview for a refresher on the Yanks’ lefty.

News & Notes

  • Tommy Kahnle is on the IL with “forearm tightness.” That is not good. Hopefully, Tommy Tightpants is back in action soon and this isn’t a precursor to Tommy John, which would really suck for everyone’s favorite changeup extraordinaire. Jordan Montgomery is his replacement. (Lindsey Adler)
  • In better news, Aroldis Chapman is cleared to return to the team. It seems like he is already in the Bronx, too. He wasted no time. (Brendan Kuty) He’ll be playing catch soon and the Yanks will evaluate him from there. (Meredith Marakovits)
  • Gleyber Torres is in the lineup, as noted above. But he may not be if he has any issues in pregame. (SNY)
  • Suzyn Waldman, an actual national treasure, is fulfilling an old promise to Gerrit Cole: she is singing the national anthem tonight. (Bryan Hoch) She is great. Another great person is CC Sabathia, who is throwing out the first pitch tonight. (Yankees)
  • John Sterling will miss this weekend’s series against the Red Sox. He’s feeling under the weather but does not have COVID, apparently. Rickie Ricardo, who is great, will be on the call. (WFAN)
  • Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association agreed that each game in double-headers in 2020 will be 7-innings each. (James Wagner) I think it’s dumb, but whatever. Aaron Boone, on the other hand, likes it. (Lindsey Adler)
  • As expected, the Phillies are coming to the Bronx on Monday and Tuesday of next week. The two teams will then travel to Philly for another two-game set. No idea why they don’t just do all four in the Bronx, but that’s why I’m just a blogger. (Jon Heyman)
  • A cool 20% of the league is off tonight because of COVID. Seems bad! (Ben Nicholson-Smith)

First pitch tonight is at 7:05 pm EDT. The game will be on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. WFAN and WADO will have the radio broadcast.

Expectations

Expect the unexpected and you’ll never be surprised, right? Although if you’re expecting it, is it unexpected? Regardless of that philosophical quandary, it’s safe to say that when the Yankees played their final game of 2019, none of us would have expected the situation we’re in now. But here we are now, unsure of what to expect going forward.

There are some things laid out for us: an expanded roster (which was coming anyway), a universal DH (thank the baseball gods), and a condensed, sprint of a schedule against a limited spate of opponents.

Given what we know about baseball in general, combined with these unique circumstances, here are a few things I expect, some more serious than others.

I expect that the pitchers will be ahead of the hitters. This is a baseball truism that, like all baseball truisms, doesn’t always hold, uh, true, but for now, I certainly expect it. Gerrit Cole is reportedly already up to the mid-high 90’s with his fastball and I’d imagine a lot of other pitchers are pretty geared up. It’s likely been easier for them, generally speaking, to ramp up to their game shape than it has been for hitters. Despite the universal DH–more on that shortly–I think the beginning of the season, league-wide, will be a little lower scoring than normal.

As for the universal DH, I expect that fans of the NL will finally come around. First, they’ll see it’s not the unholy abomination they think it is. Second, they’ll realize how much more appealing it is to watch nine real hitters instead of eight. Third, they’ll realize that the double-switch is not the be-all, end-all of baseball strategy.

But, unfortunately, what I expect is actually…nothing. And by that I mean I don’t expect a single meaningful pitch to be thrown this year. There are still a few weeks until the start of the season, but with news trickling in every day about players testing positive for COVID and with David Price deciding to sit out the year, I feel like things are coming to a head. We even got one hell of an omen yesterday with Masahiro Tanaka taking a line drive to the head (all well wishes to him for a speedy recovery, of course). Every day, holding a season feels more and more irresponsible and less and less ethical or likely.

Do I want there to be a baseball season? I used to say yes but that I knew there shouldn’t be. At this point, I don’t even think I really want it anymore. The risks are too great and the rewards too small.

And one last expectation, though this is more for you: I’m about to be a dad a second time over, so I’ll likely be gone from this space (and the podcast) for a little bit. Please don’t miss me too much.

The Views From 314ft Podcast Episode 16: Pandemic Baseball

Randy and Matt join forces to discuss the big news that MLB will have a 60 game season for 2020. We jump into the conversation asking how comfortable we are with baseball returning as COVID-19 infection rates spike in many states throughout the country. Beyond that, we go through some of the proposed rule changes that will definitely make this season unlike any other we’ve seen before.

Despite New York City entering Phase 2 this week, we are still recording remotely. We are operating over Skype so we apologize in advance for any sound quality issues.

The podcast is now available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher so please subscribe, drop a five-star rating, and spread the word. We hope this gives you some distraction from all the craziness in the world right now. 

Again, we apologize for any sound quality issues. We’re making the most of a tough situation as all of you are. Please don’t forget to subscribe to the pod and spread the word.

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