Good morning all. It looked like the 2021 season was going to wrap up last night when Adam Duvall’s grand slam staked Atlanta to a first inning 4-0 lead. But, as Atlanta’s sports teams are wont to do, they coughed up an early advantage and lost Game 5 to the Astros. Atlanta still has two more chances to wrap this series up, but they’ll have to do it in Houston rather in their own friendly confines.
Today is mailbag day, and there are three questions to address this morning. As always, email your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com in order to be considered for future editions. Let’s jump in:
Rachel asks: What do you make of the team’s terrible 2021 day game record?
To be honest, I didn’t realize this was a thing until Rachel emailed us this question. Either I blocked it out of my memory or I didn’t notice it as the season went on. Nonetheless, it’s true, the Yankees were absolutely awful during matinées in 2021.
Before I directly answer the question, some numbers: the Yankees were 23-33 (a 67-win pace over 162) in day games this season compared to 69-37 (105-win pace) at night. No team had a larger differential in win percentage between day and night than the Yankees, and it’s not remotely close. Here are the bottom teams in differential:
|Team||Day Win%||Night Win%||Differential||Day/Night W% * 100|
Again, it’s not even close! The Yankees’ raw differential is a full .100 worse than the next closest team (Houston), though Baltimore and Pittsburgh catch up when I indexed the differential. How did this happen? Here’s how: both the team’s offense and pitching were significantly worse in the afternoon.
First, let’s look at the lineup. The Yankees’ had a league-worst (!) team OPS (.635) in day games. Meanwhile, they had the third-best team OPS (.778) in night games. By player, you’ll notice that every regular, sans Gary Sánchez,, performed much worse during day games:
|Player||Night OPS||Day OPS||OPS Differential|
It’s remarkable and bizarre how much this team preferred the night. I’m not really sure how Sánchez wound up bucking the trend among the club’s everyday players.
Now, to the pitching side of the equation. The Yankees’ daytime ERA (4.52) ranked 20th in the majors, whereas its night game ERA (3.32) stood 4th. This isn’t quite as drastic of a split as we saw on the hitting side, but it’s certainly stark.
|Player||Day ERA||Night ERA||ERA Differential|
|Nestor Cortes Jr.||2.51||3.08||-0.57|
The split here isn’t across the board like the position players, but the massive variance for the team’s two best starters (Cole and Montgomery) is jarring. Pretty hard to overcome 40 percent of the rotation being downright bad in afternoon games.
Now, to the crux of the question. I’m not making anything of this. I think it’s just a random thing. Game time doesn’t alter a players’ skill-level, unless you’re Josh Hamilton. Could it have been a product of a lack of preparedness for earlier start times? Maybe, but I don’t know. I’d be more concerned about this if recent teams under Aaron Boone performed similarly, but that’s simply not the case. Here are the Yankees’ yearly records in day games with Boone at the helm:
- 2020: 8-7
- 2019: 49-23
- 2018: 36-21
Based on those records alone, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see the team much more balanced between day and night next season.
Andy asks: We hear lots of speculation that the Yankees may be prepared to exceed the CBA tax threshold this year (whatever that number turns out to be under the new CBA). But let’s play it out the other way — suppose Hal refuses to exceed the threshold and it stays where it is or goes no more than $5 million higher. Given these spending constraints, how much might the Yankees reasonably spend on free agents?
If the luxury tax structure remains unchanged for the 2022 season, or only goes up a tad under Andy’s scenario, the Yankees are already over the mark. I outlined this a few weeks ago. Even with a few assumptions made therein, including trading/non-tendering arbitration-eligible players like Luke Voit, the Yankees luxury tax payroll is just north of $222 million before making any other moves. The current initial tax threshold is $210 million.
So uh, there’s really no other way to answer this other than saying that the Yankees wouldn’t be players in the free agent market, period, under Andy’s assumptions. The only way to create enough space under the first threshold to spend in free agency would be to significantly hurt the 2022 club’s hopes by trading away a number of arb-eligible guys. Namely, Aaron Judge ($17.1), Joey Gallo ($10.2), and Gary Sánchez ($7.9). Moving all three of those guys would effectively put the Yankees’ in a transition period, and I’m not sure how attractive that would be to some of the more notable free agents.
In any case, there’s still so much unknown about what the new tax structure will be. And given Brian Cashman’s recent press conference, it’s quite clear that the team is going to address the shortstop position, for which there are plenty of big ticket free agents out there. It’s hard to imagine the team not coming away with one of Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, or Trevor Story, and to do that will require a boatload of cash.
In any case, I think the team is going to spend regardless of what the tax situation is. Maybe there’s a reset in a future season (we know Hal likes to do that), but given that the front office hit the reset button in 2021, I’d like to think the team’s purse strings will loosen a bit over the coming months. It may take a while to see that given the upcoming labor negotiations, but I am optimistic.
Daniel asks: SS and CF are (rightfully) getting a ton of attention in the early offseason. I think that the rotation should be treated with the same level of urgency. Essentially we have Cole and a series of questions, right?
I’m not saying that I don’t want to improve the rotation, but I disagree with the idea that there are a bunch of questions behind Cole. Some notes on other starters on the roster:
- Jordan Montgomery just made 30 starts and recorded a 3.83 ERA. He’s a very solid mid-rotation starter.
- A healthy Jameson Taillon was very, very good, even if he won’t be ready at the very start of 2022.
- Luis Severino will have a fully healthy offseason in preparation for a starter’s workload next year.
- Nestor Cortes legitimately improved. He added the fourth-most horizontal movement to his slider, something the Yankees are clearly emphasizing within the organization, following the Dodgers’ philosophy. He also added velocity on his fastball.
- Domingo Germán is serviceable at the back-end of the rotation.
- Luis Gil flashed his potential, though he could use some more time to harness his command in the minors.
That’s a pretty decent starting point heading into 2022, no? I don’t feel overly concerned about the group, to be honest. The position player side of the team is a much bigger priority in my mind.
All that said, I fully expect another starter added this offseason. I can’t remember a time the Yankees went an offseason without adding a new pitcher to the rotational mix. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Yankees should stand pat here. They should add a starter or two. I’d love to see them poach Robbie Ray from Toronto or get one of Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman, or Marcus Stroman (among others). All I’m saying is that the team’s rotation already has a good foundation.