In waiting for baseball to begin again, I find myself asking “When will then be now?” Regardless of the actual time between the end of one season and the beginning of a new one, it seems to feel longer each year. Perhaps that’s especially true this year as my non-baseball diversions–college basketball and the New York Giants–have run into a rough patch, to put it mildly. Add in the fact that the Yankees had a surprisingly good year and things are looking up and it all equals a lot of baseball-related impatience for me. So, on with the thoughts to help keep us warm in this cold (though thankfully more mild of late), baseball-less hellscape.
Despite the fact that we’re less than a month away from pitchers and catchers, the relative inactivity of the offseason means the market isn’t necessarily out of its early stages yet. The Yankees could still grab an extra infielder, but it’s feeling more and more like they’re just going to roll with what they have, at least until Gleyber Torres is “ready,” whether that means he’s fully recovered from injury, hitting his way onto the team, or has stayed down long enough for the Yankees to get more service time out of him down the road. If they go with Miguel Andujar at third and Tyler Wade at second–which I’d be fine with–they would likely bat, in that order, eighth and ninth in the lineup. While that doesn’t necessarily ring to the tune of the 2009 batting order, it’s still a pretty potent combo in the bottom two spots. A right hander with power potential and a lefty who can walk and steal a bag? Sounds about right. Whatever struggles they have should be covered up by the top of the lineup.
Sonny’s Four-seam Four-baggers
Is it just me or have we all kind of collectively forgotten about Sonny Gray? It makes a bit of sense, I guess; he’s maybe the least interesting of the rotation members right now. He’s not as exciting as Luis Severino or a mystery like Jordan Montgomery is in his second year and Masahiro Tanaka might be after a strange 2017. He’s not (yet?) a fan favorite like CC Sabathia. He’s just…there. Anyway, his first stretch with the Yankees last year wasn’t bad, wasn’t spectacular, and there’s some room for improvement. It might be just a return to normalcy that he needs.
With the Yankees, Gray gave up 11 homers in just 65.1 innings. That’s a lot. The main culprit? His fastball. Up until the trade to the Yankees, Gray gave up a HR/LD+FB rate of 6.65 on his four seam fastball. With the Yankees, that skyrocketed up to 18.52! Why? It has to do with some extreme results on location. Check out the isolated power on his fastballs in the top part of the zone and down the middle. They’re high! A lot higher than his career numbers suggest they should. Gray also put more fastballs in those locations than he normally has. Improving the location on his fastball will hopefully cut out the homers for Sonny, which will definitely make him less nondescript going forward.
Pitch Clock and Pace of Play, Quickly
So, it seems that we’re gonna see a pitch clock this year along with some mound visit rules. When the idea was first introduced, I was wholly against a pitch clock. Now? I don’t really care so much. Sure, why not? It doesn’t seem to interrupt anything in minor league games, so why not? I think the league may be going a little too far with the mound visit stuff, but it’s not that serious at the end of the day.
Baseball seems deadset on cutting down dead time during games, which is completely understandable. But is it really gonna have that much of an impact? Are new fans going to see that games last 2:50 instead of 3:00 and come running? I doubt it.
The Luxury Tax
I never fully wanted the Yankees to get under the luxury tax. Sure, I accepted the fact that they were trying to do it, but it always seemed a bit unnecessary given their finances. I still think that. Forget the luxury tax. The only people served by getting under the luxury tax are the Steinbrenners. They have enough money, more than enough. It’s the players who should get to pocket that money, not the owners. The players are the game.