Fan Confidence Poll: September 25th, 2017

Record Last Week: 4-2 (29 RS, 24 RA)
Season Record: 86-69 (822 RS, 643 RA, 95-60 pythag. record) 5.0 GB in ALE
Opponents This Week: vs. Royals (one game, Mon.), vs. Rays (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Blue Jays 9, Yankees 5: Judge homers twice in final road game


Source: FanGraphs

If the Yankees play another road game this season, it’ll be in the ALDS. The closed out their road regular season schedule with a 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon. The Yankees looked very much like a team still hungover from celebrating Saturday’s postseason clincher. Let’s recap this one with bullet points, shall we?

  • Bad Jaime, Bad Bryan: Starter Jaime Garcia and reliever Bryan Mitchell combined to retire eight of 21 batters faced. Mitchell retired just one of the seven batters he faced. Those two were charged with all nine runs (four for Garcia in 2.1 innings and four for Mitchell in 0.1 innings) and the game was out of reach early. The other four relievers combined for the following line: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K. At least some pitchers were good Sunday.
  • All Rise x2: Aaron Judge is now one home run away from tying Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record. He swatted homers No. 47 and 48 on Sunday, the first a solo shot and the second a two-run shot. Both snuck over the wall. They weren’t typical Judge bombs. That’s now eleven homers in the last 19 games for Judge. He’s hit 48 home runs, been robbed of two others (Melky Cabrera and Jackie Bradley Jr.), and had one incorrectly called a triple. His batting line: .281/.416/.610 (166 wRC+). Too late to get back in the AL MVP race, or is it all Jose Altuve at this point?
  • Leftovers: Dellin Betances hit a batter and struck out a batter in his scoreless inning. He was very clearly working on his fastball. He threw 15 pitches and ten were heaters. He usually throws more breaking balls than fastballs … Judge drove in three of the team’s five runs. Didi Gregorius (single) and Greg Bird (double) drove in the others … two hits for Judge and Starlin Castro and one each for Chase Headley, Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury, Bird, and Austin Romine.

Here are the box score, video highlights, postseason odds, and updated standings. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page. The Yankees were supposed to have an off-day Monday, but they’ll instead play a makeup game against the Royals at Yankee Stadium. That’s the makeup game of their May 25th rainout. CC Sabathia and someone named Jake Junis are the scheduled starters. That’s a 1pm ET game.

Game 155: Post-Clinch

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Yankees have completed step one of their ultimate goal this season. They want to win the World Series, and yesterday’s win clinched a postseason spot. The next goal: secure homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game. The goal after that: win the division. That one probably won’t happen, but the magic number to clinch a Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium is only two. That should be in the bag.

Anyway, the Yankees will play their final road game of the regular season this afternoon. They are 40-40 despite a +66 (!) run differential on the road this year, so today will determine whether they finish with a winning record away from Yankee Stadium. Here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. DH Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jaime Garcia

Another nice and sunny day in Toronto. This afternoon’s road schedule finale will begin a bit after 1pm ET, and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Looking Ahead to the 2018 Roster

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

First of all, let’s take a moment to congratulate the Yankees on securing a playoff spot in 2017. This team was expected to maybe compete for the second wild card spot if everything broke their way, and now they’re on track to win 90 games. That’s fantastic. Much to what I’m sure is the chagrin of fans of other teams and organizations, the Yankees’ rebuild lasted about as long as it takes to microwave a burrito. For exceeding expectations and cementing their spot as one of the last standing after the marathon that is the baseball season, this team deserved every drop of beer and champagne last night. To see a team that was this fun achieve something so unexpected is a delight and I’m beyond ecstatic for the players.

Now, let’s look ahead for a bit, hopefully into a future that includes raising a 28th World Series banner. On Friday, Mike looked at the payroll and budget situation for 2018. Using his template, let’s examine the potential 2018 roster as it ‘stands’ now. Like Mike, I’m going to assume Masahiro Tanaka will opt out of his current deal, bad start Friday night and all.

In his post, Mike listed the players needing to be replaced as Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Todd Frazier, and Matt Holliday. Of those, Tanaka is obviously the hardest to replace. If he does go, that task may be impossible because no free agent starters are of his caliber. The rotation would be in an okay spot considering they’d be leading with Luis Severino and Sonny Gray. A bit of improvement from Jordan Montgomery makes him into a third starter. Between the minor league system and some small time deals on the (not so hot) free agent market could round out the rotation decently. Considering how much of a question the rotation was this time a year ago, the Yankees could afford to go in with one that isn’t great and ride the lineup and bullpen like they did for a lot of this year.

Of the pitchers they’re (probably) losing, Sabathia is more likely to return on a small contract, maybe with some innings incentives. He’s said he wants to pitch for a winning team, and the Yankees are likely to be one. Tapping him to anchor the back of the rotation means the Yankees could take some innings risks with others in the fourth spot between CC and Monty.

To replace The Todd and Arms Holliday, the Yankees may be able to kill two birds with one stone…in the person of Todd Frazier. As good as Holliday looked at the beginning of the year, he’s looked much less so lately and given their experience with him and Chris Carter this year, I think the team’ll look to be more flexible at DH. That is, they won’t opt for a strictly DH type; they don’t have one in house and unless Carlos Santana somehow leaves Cleveland (doubtful), an elite option doesn’t exist on the free agent market.

The best option, I think, is to re-sign Todd Frazier. I wasn’t wild about that idea when he was brought on, but having him on the team gives the Yankees insurance for both Greg Bird‘s health and Chase Headley‘s performance. Those three guys can rotate between third, first, and DH until someone really grabs the job by the horns. While Bird may be limited to first, Headley and Frazier can both play the corner infield spots and the combination of all three could lead to upwards of 100 walks and 60 homers in some combination; that would be well worth it.

It’s likely that the 2018 Yankees will look incredibly similar to the 2017 Yankees. A lack of turnover can be a bad thing–see the 2017 Mets–but this team doesn’t have many major holes to fill–outside of Tanaka–and there’s a solid base of talent in each facet of the roster. Things are looking up for next year. Now, let’s see how they take care of this year.

Postseason Bound! Yankees clinch at least a wildcard spot with 5-1 win over Blue Jays

The Yankees are officially going back to the postseason. Saturday afternoon’s 5-1 win over the Blue Jays means the Yankees will be, at worst, the second wildcard team. The magic number to clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game is just two. October baseball, I’ve missed you so.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Don’t Hit It At Them, Hit It Over Them
In the first few innings Saturday, the only way the Yankees were not going to hit into a bad luck double play was by hitting the ball over the fence. Three times in the first five innings the Yankees had into a stupid double play. Three times! To recap:

  • In the second, with Chase Headley trying to steal second, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a hard-hit grounder up the middle and right at shortstop Ryan Goins, who was running to second to cover on the steal. He stepped on the bag and threw to first in the blink of an eye.
  • With runners on first and second in the fourth, Didi Gregorius hit a line drive at second baseman Darwin Barney, who doubled Aaron Judge off second base. The ball was hit too hard and Barney’s throw was too quick for Judge to get back in time.
  • In the fifth, Todd Frazier broke for second in a 3-2 count, and Brett Gardner hit a line drive right at Goins. He made the catch and casually threw to first to double up Frazier. Todd was basically at second base when the catch was made. So dumb.

Those double plays were the only reason Joe Biagini escaped with three runs allowed in five innings. The Yankees threatened in nearly every inning, yet it took them not hitting a ball into the field of play to score three runs. Headley drew a walk to start the fifth and stole second, then Starlin Castro worked a one-out walk to put two men on base. That’s when Greg Bird hit the go-ahead three-run home run.

That made all those stupid bad luck double plays worth it. Well, no, they were still annoying as hell, but at least the Yankees scored some runs along the way. That was Bird’s third homer in his last seven games. His last six hits: home run, home run, double, single, double, home run. Would be nice to really get Bird going before the postseason.

Six Strong For Sonny
For the eighth time in his ten starts as a Yankee, Sonny Gray did not allow more than two earned runs Saturday afternoon. And for the seventh time in those ten starts, he completed six full innings, even though there seems to be this idea floating around that he’s been a five-and-fly pitcher. Gray did have to wiggle out of some jams Saturday, including out two runners on base in three of his six innings, though the only damage was a Teoscar Hernandez solo home run in the third.

Gray’s final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K on 96 pitches. I thought maybe he would start the seventh and do the batter-to-batter thing against the bottom of the lineup, but nope. Joe Girardi went to the bullpen with a chance to lock down a postseason spot. Two of Gray’s three walks went to two of the final five batters he faced. He walked Josh Donaldson to start the sixth and Kendrys Morales with one out to put the tying run on base, but a great Gardner running catch and a ground ball later, the inning was over. Solid. Unspectacular. Sonny.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Leftovers
Seven hits for the offense, the biggest of which was Bird’s dinger (duh). Frazier drove in an insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth, and Castro brought in another insurance run with an infield single in the ninth. Doubles for Judge and Gary Sanchez, homers for Bird and Frazier, and singles for Headley, Ellsbury, and Castro. Sanchez, Castro, Sanchez, and Headley (two) had the walks.

Nine up, nine down, four strikeouts for the bullpen. Chad Green had the seventh, David Robertson the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman the ninth. The Rogers Centre crowd gave Jose Bautista a huge standing ovation in the eighth inning as he plays what is likely his final home series as a Blue Jay. Robertson struck him out. Love it. Also, the final out to clinch a playoff spot? Rob Refsnyder. Perfect. Just perfect.

aaron-judge-didi-gregorius

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, MLB.com has the video highlights, and FanGraphs has the postseason odds. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The final road game of the regular season. Possibly the final road game of the season overall! I hope not. That would be lame. The Yankees and Blue Jays will wrap up this three-game series Sunday afternoon. That’s a 1pm ET start. Jaime Garcia and Marcus Stroman are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Game 154: A Win And They’re In

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Even though the Yankees lost last night’s series opener to the Blue Jays, the magic number dropped to one because both the Angels and Rangers lost. Thanks for that, Astros and Athletics. The clinching scenario is very simple now. With their next win, the Yankees clinch a postseason spot. They’d also clinch with one loss each from the Angels and Rangers, but that’s lame. Winning to clinch your spot is so much cooler.

Last night’s loss combined with the Red Sox’s win essentially puts the AL East title out of reach — FanGraphs put New York’s division odds at a mere 3.0% — which means it’s wildcard or bust. Win Saturday, clinch a postseason spot, then party like hell. Then go out and win three more to clinch homefield advantage in that Wild Card Game. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. DH Chase Headley
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. 3B Todd Frazier
    RHP Sonny Gray

Another nice and sunny day in Toronto, so the Rogers Centre roof figures to be open. Today’s game will begin a little after 4pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Luis Severino was hit by a line drive in the back of his left shoulder during batting practice. He was down on the ground for a bit before he resumed playing catch. The Yankees say he’ll ice is down and is otherwise fine. Good gravy … Adam Warren (back) threw another bullpen session today and is slated to throw a simulated game Tuesday. He’ll be activated after that if all goes well … Aaron Hicks (oblique) played in an Instructional League game today, according to Antonio Mendes. The Yankees hope to get him back sometime next week so he can play in a few big league games before the postseason.

Saturday Links: Otani, Top Double-A Prospects, Robertson

Dingers. (Getty)
Dingers. (Getty)

The final road series of the 2017 regular season continues this afternoon with the middle game between the Yankees and Blue Jays in Toronto. That’s a 4pm ET start. Here are some links and notes to check out in the meantime.

Manfred doesn’t expect any side deals with Otani

While speaking to Jim Hoehn earlier this week, commissioner Rob Manfred said he doesn’t expect teams to get away with any sort of side deal with Shohei Otani, should he come over to MLB this offseason. There’s been plenty of speculation that whichever team signs Otani could agree to a massive contract extension in advance, then sign him after some predetermined length of time. Here’s what Manfred said:

“With respect to the speculation about what clubs are going to do, in today’s basic agreement structure, there’s only so much that you can do in an effort to avoid the rules and I have an outstanding staff in New York,” Manfred said. “If you’re talking about doing something with a 14-year-old kid in the Dominican Republic that nobody’s ever heard of, you might get past us. Given the focus on Otani, not only by our office, but by the clubs as a group, I think that it’s very, very unlikely that a club is going to be able to avoid the rules and not be caught.”

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes language targeting potential international hard cap circumvention. Ben Badler has a breakdown. Among other things, teams can not agree to sign players to an MLB contract at a set point in the future, or give him non-monetary compensation. Masahiro Tanaka‘s contract, for example, included moving allowances and an interpreter and round trip flights between New York to Japan.

MLB wants to treat Otani like any other player, meaning when he inevitably signs a big extension, they want it to be in line with other players at that service time level. The largest contract ever given to a player with one year of service time is the seven-year, $58M deal the Braves gave Andrelton Simmons. That was five years ago, so inflation has to be considered. If Otani comes out and throws 170 innings with a 3.50 ERA and hits .280/.350/.450 in 400 plate appearances next year, how would MLB be able to argue he is not at least a $150M player?

Three Yankees among top Eastern League prospects

Baseball America (subs. req’d) continued their look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league this week with the Double-A Eastern League. Red Sox 3B Rafael Devers sits in the top spot. Three Yankees farmhands made the list, not including Athletics SS Jorge Mateo, who placed eighth on the list based on his time with Trenton before the trade. Here are the three Yankees:

  • 10) 3B Miguel Andujar: “Andujar has above-average raw power and should have the bat to profile at third base … His hands are soft enough and his arm is strong enough, but he has a tendency to lower his arm slot, which leads his throws astray.”
  • 11) LHP Justus Sheffield: “He couples his fastball with a slider and changeup that waver in their consistency but project as plus for some scouts … Some see him as a No. 2 starter, while others see a back-end starter or a potentially dominant reliever based on his shorter stature and durability questions.”
  • 12) RHP Domingo Acevedo: “Opposing managers marveled at the way Acevedo can place his fastball, which parks in the mid-90s and can touch as high as 98 mph …He tends to throw mostly fastballs, so the Yankees mandated he go offspeed in certain counts, even against his instincts.”

That Acevedo mandate is pretty interesting. It’s certainly not uncommon for teams to mandate pitchers throw, say, a certain number of changeups per start. But go offspeed in specific counts? That’s a new one. I wonder whether that shows up in the stats at all. Acevedo had a 2.38 ERA (3.19 FIP) in 79.1 innings for Trenton, but did he get predictable because he was throwing offspeed in certain counts? Hitters could’ve keyed in on that.

Anyway, Sheffield and Acevedo are the two highest rated pitchers on the list. Also, SS Gleyber Torres was not eligible for this list because he only played 32 games with Trenton before being promoted, otherwise I’m sure he would’ve ranked first or second. The conflicting scouting reports on Andujar are kinda funny. This report says his hands are “soft enough” while the Triple-A International League list said his “hard hands could be too much to overcome.” Hmmm.

Also, in the chat, Josh Norris said SS Thairo Estrada was very close to making the list. “Managers around the league paid him plenty of compliments for his ability to get on base and play solid defense at both second and shortstop (once Torres left for Scranton) as well as his leadership abilities on the field and work ethic behind the scenes,” said the write-up.

Robertson a Marvin Miller Man of the Year award finalist

MLBPA announced this week that David Robertson is the AL East finalist for this year’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year award. Eduardo Escobar, Mike Trout, Steven Matz, Anthony Rizzo, and Buster Posey are the finalists for the other divisions. Each team nominates a player and the six finalists were chosen through fan voting. The winner will be decided by a player vote. The Marvin Miller Man of the Year award goes to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community most inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” MLBPA makes a $50,000 donation to charity on the winner’s behalf. Mariano Rivera won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award back in 2013, so Robertson is trying to follow in Mo’s footsteps (again).