Thoughts following the series opening loss to the JaysBy
This is my twelfth “thoughts following” post, and eight of the first eleven have come after losses. I swear that is just a coincidence, I usually decide to do these things a day or two ahead of time. Maybe I should stop? Is it all my fault? I dunno. Two of the other three came after wins, including the doubleheader sweep of the Blue Jays last week. The other one came after a rain out.
1. What a miserable second half for Ivan Nova. It’s easy to forget that he carried a 3.92 ERA (4.20 FIP) into the All-Star break, but since the Midseason Classic he’s pitched to a 7.05 ERA (4.97 FIP). He’s allowed one fewer earned run in the second half than he did in the first half in 50.1 (!) fewer innings. It’s awesome that his strikeout rate (8.08 K/9 and 20.5 K%) jumped so much from last year (5.33 K/9 and 13.9 K%) while his walk rate (2.96 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%) dropped a smidge, but holy crap man, he’s getting pounded when he’s not striking guys out. Opponents have hit .288/.348/.511 with 28 homers off Nova this season, which is basically Adam Jones (.292/.340/.517 with 32 homers). I wanted to believe that he was going to exceed expectations after last year, but right now he’s the guy he was projected to be coming up through the minors: a back-end starter who gets hit harder than his stuff says he should because he lacks deception.
2. If the Yankees were going to lose one game in this series against the Blue Jays, it was going to be last night’s. New York was starting their worst pitcher while Toronto was throwing their best. It would have been nice to steal that one heading into the weekend, but at least the pitching matchups for the next three games strongly favor the Yankees. It’s too bad that doesn’t guarantee anything, but I sure feel better knowing that than I would if the matchups were lopsided in the other direction. The magic number to clinch a postseason berth is just three, and I will be sorely disappointed if the Yankees return home on Monday without at least a playoff spot in the bag.
3. I’ve gone back and forth on this in my head over the last few weeks, but which would you rather be heading into the LDS: the one-seed or the two-seed? The one-seed gets to play the wildcard play-in winner, who will have theoretically burned their ace pitcher. The two-seed gets to know who they’re playing ahead of time, allowing more time for scouting and preparation. At one point I thought being the one-seed was the way to go, at another I thought the two-seed was where it’s at. Now I’m leaning back towards the one-seed. As I mentioned in the mailbag this morning, the Yankees are two back of the Rangers for the best record in the league and they hold the tiebreaker.
4. Going to step away from the Yankees for just one bullet so I can talk about the league MVP awards. Miguel Cabrera has had an amazing season, but I think Mike Trout should win the AL award rather easily. The NL is much more up for grabs. Ryan Braun is having a huge year (.319/.392/.602 with 41 homers) but I bet the voters hold last year’s PED stuff against him. Andrew McCutchen is a worthy candidate (.332/.403/.558 with 30 homers) and Buster Posey is also having a big year (.333/.405/.539 with 23 homers). He’ll generate a lot of buzz because the Giants ran away with the division, but I actually think Yadier Molina may be the NL MVP. He’s having a big year with the bat (.320/.377/.507 with 21 homers) and he’s the best defensive catcher in the game. Catcher defense is a tough thing to quantify, but just compare him to Posey — Posey has started 107 games behind the plate (28 at first and three at DH), allowed two passed balls, and thrown out 36 of 121 base-stealers (29.8%). Molina has started 128 games behind the plate, allowed four passed balls, and thrown out 34 of 72 base-stealers (47.2%). Yadi has played 168.1 more innings at catcher and opponents have attempted 49 (!) fewer steals. I doubt he wins, but I think the Cardinals’ backstop has a very strong case for being the most valuable player in the so-called senior circuit.