Good morning and happy Friday, everyone. MLB’s final four teams are set with the Dodgers-Giants NLDS matchup coming to an end last night. We’re down to the Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers, and Braves. Uh, go National League, I guess?
What a disappointing end to a mostly exciting game last night, by the way. Hate to see a game end on a check-swing judgement call (and a bad judgement, at that), but so it goes. Max Scherzer probably finishes off Wilmer Flores on the next pitch anyway, but who knows? Nonetheless, I’d be apoplectic if I was a Giants fan.
Now, to the subject of today’s post: your mailbag questions. As a reminder, send your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We’ll pick our favorites for the next edition. Here’s what we have this week:
Bob asks: Will changing batting coaches make a difference if the team philosophy doesn’t change?
The philosophy is changing, though. At least I think it is. Of course, I’m assuming by team philosophy, Bob means the emphasis on high-OBP hitters with power while tolerating strikeouts. A few signs of changes in the works:
- Acquiring Anthony Rizzo (lefty, low-strikeout bat) midseason while looking to trade away Luke Voit (oft-injured, but led team in HRs a year ago).
- There have been some Joey Gallo trade rumors already.
- A few of the free agent shortstops (discussed in the next question) are high contact guys.
- This response from ex-hitting coach Marcus Thames on Sweeny Murti’s podcast:
Murti: Is there a disconnect in philosophy in approach to hitting, is it about the information that is delivered on a daily basis and how it’s used, how does that break down?
Thames: I don’t think the information — I think we had a really, really good connection with our analysts and through the players…I think [there’s] some drill stuff that maybe some guys are doing down in the minor leagues that we weren’t quite doing at the major league level.
Now, at the same time, letting Thames and PJ Pilittere go isn’t just about team philosophy. I think it’s pretty clear they do want to align some things between the minors and majors, based on Thames quote. I suppose that makes sense from our vantage point given how many offensive breakouts we saw in the minors this year, particularly juxtaposed to the Yankees’ offense. However, I also think a big part of moving on from Thames and Pilittere has absolutely nothing to do with the team’s bevy of three-true outcome hitters. It also has to do with some of the performances of the team’s more contact-oriented hitters, like DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres.
In fairness to Thames and Pilittere, regression from players like LeMahieu and Torres isn’t wholly the coaching staff’s fault. A big part of that is on them too. At the same time, it’s hard to watch LeMahieu turn into a league average hitter and Torres drastically fall from grace over the last season or two. At some point, something has to change if the status quo isn’t working. LeMahieu’s here for five more seasons and Torres, barring a trade, is under team control too.
Daniel asks: What are the likeliest outcomes for shortstop in ‘22 (Star FA/Low tier FA/Internal)?
I really have no idea what the Yankees are going to do here, but they can’t stand pat, that’s for sure. The Yankees should spend big on one of the star free agents out there, but will they? I can’t say I’m confident. The Yankees have not been big players in free agency for a while now, with Gerrit Cole the exception to the rule. Perhaps this winter’s free agent class will result in another exception, because like the Cole situation, the Yankees badly need a shortstop like they needed a frontline starter that winter.
Here are the tiers that Daniel asked for:
- Stars: Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien
- Next rung: Javier Báez, Chris Taylor
- Low tier: José Iglesias, Freddy Galvis, Andrelton Simmons
- Internal: um, Gio Urshela?
If I haven’t made it clear in recent posts or on Twitter, I want Correa. But since the question is looking for most likely outcomes, I’ll say Seager is the most likely signee from the top tier. He’s not the best defensive shortstop out there, that’s for sure, but he’s the one lefty and I have a feeling that could sway things. He’s also the second-youngest shortstop free agent (Correa is the youngest).
The pessimistic side of me says that the Yankees will go the stopgap route while waiting for Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza to progress. There’s nothing wrong with those two prospects, but ugh, more good players please. The positioning can be reshuffled in a later year when they’re ready — no need to hold down the fort temporarily. Anyway, the Yankees have been connected to Simmons a lot over the years, which makes him feel like a distinct possibility (please no, he’s terrible).
Josh asks: I don’t mind the one game Wild Card as it’s great entertainment and gets one more team into the playoffs, however I cannot stand the five game Division Series. There are so many ups and downs with baseball, don’t you think a 7 game series makes more sense for the DS?
Yes, absolutely with regard to the Division Series. I don’t really agree with Josh on the Wild Card game, but at least it does incentivize winning the division.
Aside from a personal desire to have more playoff baseball to watch, a longer first round makes more sense given how MLB structures its season and the volatility of individual game outcomes. This isn’t like the NBA playoffs, where I’d argue it’s not necessary for every series to be a seven game format (although it can make for great drama!). Generally, the cream rises to the top in the NBA postseason. That doesn’t always happen in MLB’s postseason, even in seven game series. But at least a seven gamer is more likely to reward the better team than five games.
I bet the Rays and Brewers wish they had a couple of more games available to them. They may not have overcome Boston or Atlanta anyway, but they had far better regular seasons than their opponents in the division series. To see a great 162 game regular season fall apart in a short series is painful, even if there’s a strong argument that those losing clubs (namely, the Rays) weren’t well-structured for the postseason format.
Further, who else wishes there could have been a Game 6 and/or 7 between the Dodgers and Giants? I feel like we got shorted on what will ultimately be remembered as the best series of this postseason (and not merely because of that awful check-swing call to end the series).
Aside from simply having more games to watch, a longer series should reward the better team more often than not. Isn’t that the goal of the MLB postseason? To reward the best team? As long as there aren’t trophies given out for the best regular season teams and the postseason is treated like the End All Be All, then we should have a 7-7-7 format.