Here is tonight’s open thread. In addition to the AzFL game, you’ve also the Thursday NFL game (Jaguars and Titans), and the Islanders are playing as well. Talk about those games or whatever else here.
For the second straight year, Brett Gardner is among the three finalists for the AL Gold Glove award in left field, MLB announced. He was a finalist back in 2011 as well. Gardner is up against Alex Gordon and Colby Rasmus. No other Yankees are among the Gold Glove finalists, which isn’t surprising. You can see all of this year’s finalists right here.
Gardner had a typical Brett Gardner season in left field this year, I thought. Both DRS (+12) and UZR (+3.5) liked his work out there, for what it’s worth. Gardner did make his fair share of highlight reel catches throughout the summer as well. These are the two most notable, I’d say:
Gold Gloves are voted on by managers and coaches around the league — they’re not able to vote for their own players — plus there’s now a statistical component as well. Gordon missed some time with an injury, so if he gets dinged for that, Gardner just might sneak in and win himself a Gold Glove.
The Gold Glove winners will be announced Tuesday, November 8th. I’m pretty sure they’re announced during a live television broadcast these days. The other major awards (MVP, Cy Young, etc.) will be announced the following week.
We’ve been waiting a long time for this. For the Yankees to call up a tippy top prospect and get instant high-caliber production. Jesus Montero had a big September in 2011 and Joba Chamberlain did well out of the bullpen in 2007, but otherwise you have to go all the way back to Robinson Cano in 2005 for the last time the Yankees called up a young player and watched him dominate.
This season, Gary Sanchez did exactly that. The Yankees called him up after selling at the trade deadline, shifted Brian McCann to designated hitter to clear playing time, and watched Sanchez rake. It wasn’t just immediate success either. It was immediate success above and beyond anything anyone could have reasonably expected. Sanchez’s first few weeks as a full-time big leaguer were positively Ruthian.
Losing The Job That Was His To Lose
“I’d like to unleash the Kraken,” said Brian Cashman at the GM Meetings in mid-November after trading John Ryan Murphy to the Twins for Aaron Hicks. Murphy had a very nice season a year ago as McCann’s backup, and while we all know anyone can be traded at any time, I don’t think many folks saw that trade coming. Murphy was gone and Cashman all but declared Sanchez ready for the job.
One small problem though: Sanchez lost the job that was his to lose in Spring Training. He went 2-for-22 (.091) during Grapefruit League play, and while pitchers didn’t overpower him (only two strikeouts), Sanchez didn’t play as well as the Yankees hoped. “I was too anxious. I wanted to impress the Yankees and show that I was ready to play in the big leagues,” he later said.
Austin Romine did play well, and since Sanchez had minor league options while Romine didn’t, Romine got the backup job. Disappointing? Oh sure. But the right move? Well, based on the way things worked out this year, it’s hard to think they could have gone better for Romine or especially Sanchez had the Yankees done things differently in Spring Training.
The Final Tune-Up In Scranton
You know, it’s funny. Sanchez performed worse in Triple-A Scranton this year than he did last year. A season ago he hit .295/.349/.500 (145 wRC+) with six homers in 146 plate appearances and 35 games for the RailRiders. This year he hit .282/.339/.468 (131 wRC+) with ten homers in 313 plate appearances and 71 Triple-A games. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still really good, especially for a catcher. It’s just that when a guy repeats a level, you expect him to do better the second time around.
To be fair, Sanchez missed about three weeks with a fluke thumb injury. He was hit by a foul tip and suffered a small fracture. One of those catcher injuries. An occupational hazard. It took Sanchez a little time to get back on top of his game following the thumb injury. Even still, he had a very good Triple-A season, especially when you consider he was a 23-year-old full-time catcher. It ain’t easy to play that position everyday and still rake. Sanchez went back to Scranton and did everything he needed to do.
Back In The Big Leagues, For Good
In mid-May, with the offense struggling and a bunch of left-handed starters coming up, the Yankees briefly recalled Sanchez to be the DH. It was supposed to be a two-game cameo against Chris Sale and Jose Quintana on May 13th and 14th. Sanchez started at DH against Sale, went 0-for-4, then was sent down the next day. Not because of the 0-for-4, but because the pitching staff was stretched thin and they needed another arm.
It wasn’t until early-August, a few days after the trade deadline, that the Yankees brought Sanchez back for good. Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded away, but more importantly Carlos Beltran had been dealt, which opened up DH at-bats. (Alex Rodriguez was firmly glued to the bench by this point.) Step One was moving veterans for prospects. Step Two was calling up MLB ready prospects and playing time.
Sanchez started his first two games after being recalled at DH, went 3-for-8 with a double, then took over as the regular catcher. It wasn’t subtle either. Sanchez caught 18 of the team’s next 25 games. The Yankees cast McCann aside and made him the DH. Sanchez was their guy behind the plate, and he rewarded them. Holy crap did he reward them. From August 10th through August 27th, he hit eleven homers in the span of 15 games.
When it was all said and done, Sanchez authored a .299/.376/.657 (171 wRC+) batting line with those 20 homers, a 24.9% strikeout rate, and a 10.5% walk-rate in 53 games. Only Brian Dozier (22) hit more home runs than Sanchez following the date of his call-up. In terms of games played, Sanchez became the fastest player in history to 11, 18, 19, and 20 career home runs. Again: as a catcher!
The historic showing — Sanchez led Yankees’ positions players in fWAR (+3.2) and was second in bWAR (+3.0) despite playing one-third of a season — is going to earn Sanchez serious Rookie of the Year consideration, and I do think he’s going to win. Michael Fulmer had an excellent season, no doubt about it. But basically no one has come up and done what Sanchez did in the second half. It’s excellence vs. historic greatness, and I think the voters will lean towards history. We’ll see. Either way, holy cow was Sanchez awesome.
Power & Plate Coverage
One thing we learned about Sanchez in the second half is that the kid can do damage on just about any type of pitch in any location. He is close to a dead pull hitter — Sanchez did pop two opposite field home runs — but that’s okay. When you hit for that kind of power, you call pull the ball as much as you want.
Look at the pitches on which Sanchez did his most damage this year. I’m going to use 100 mph exit velocity as my completely arbitrary cutoff point here. It’s a nice round number. Here are the locations of the pitches Sanchez hit at least 100 mph this year, via Baseball Savant:
All over the zone and all types of pitches. He doesn’t live on fastballs inside, or breaking balls up in the zone. Nothing like that. Sanchez covers the entire strike zone — heck, he even covers outside the strike zone too — and he’s able to drive the ball with authority regardless of where it’s pitched. He doesn’t have a traditional wheelhouse. The strike zone is Sanchez’s wheelhouse.
Despite the late call-up, Sanchez finished sixth on the Yankees with 55 batted balls of at least 100 mph, more than guys like Mark Teixeira (54), Didi Gregorius (54), and Brett Gardner (52). His average home run distance was 398 feet as well, so it’s not like Sanchez hit a bunch of wall-scrappers. Hit Tracker classified only five of his 20 home runs as “Just Enoughs,” meaning five cleared the wall by fewer than ten feet. Bombs. He hit bombs.
We all knew Sanchez had huge power. That was the book on him coming up through the minors. The kid could hit the ball a long way, it was just a question of whether he’d put in the work required to be a big leaguer, and he’s done that the last two years. Sanchez has admitted that becoming a father two years ago helped put his career in better perspective, and helped him understand he couldn’t coast on talent. This year, for the first time, he was rewarded for all his hard work.
A Work In Progress On Defense
For years and years, the concern with Sanchez was whether he’d improve enough defensively to be a passable catcher. He is blessed with a rocket arm, and holy geez, we saw it a bunch of times this year. Sanchez threw out 13 of 32 basestealers this season, or 40.6%, plus he picked five runners off first base and two off second. We saw throws like this on the regular:
Depending on who you ask, Sanchez was either an above-average (Baseball Prospectus) or a slightly below-average (StatCorner) pitch-framer. I thought he looked fine. He didn’t stab at everything but he wasn’t exactly catching pitches and presenting them with baby soft hands like Yadier Molina. Sanchez was fine at framing pitches. The one glaring weakness in his game seemed to be wild pitches and passed balls. More than a few got by him.
In fact, Sanchez allowed 15 wild pitches and six passed balls this year. His 21 combined passed pitches were 41st most in baseball even though he ranked 58th in innings caught. There were times that yes, Sanchez seemed to get a little lazy behind the plate and let a catchable ball scoot by. That’s something that will have to be improved going forward. An excellent arm and average-ish framing make for a good defensive catcher. If Sanchez can improve the passed pitches, he could be a real asset behind the plate.
Outlook for 2017
Sanchez is in the big leagues for good. As if his bat didn’t make that clear enough, he is out of minor league options, so the Yankees can’t send him back to Triple-A anyway. Well, they could, but they’d have to put him on waivers, and there’s a better chance of the team signing me than that happening. It’s time to stop thinking about Sanchez as the catcher of the future. He’s the catcher of the present.
“Gary Sanchez is our starting catcher next year,” said Cashman during his end-of-season press conference. “That’s his position to lose. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose it. We saw (Luis) Severino last year helping us get to the postseason. This year, he struggled. We’re very excited about Gary, who always projected to be (a middle of the order bat).”
It’s impossible to expect Sanchez to do what he did in 2016 again in 2017. He’s not going to repeat his 60-homer pace. He’s not going to slug close to .700 again. Chances are he probably won’t hit close to .300 again either. If Sanchez hits, say, .270/.330/.450 with 20-something dingers next season, it would be phenomenal for a young catcher in his first full season. And yet, it would represent a big step down from what his did this year.
Sanchez set the bar awfully high this year. The Yankees will count on him to again be a middle of the lineup force — he batted third in his final 40 games of the season — and provide power. They’ll have to carefully balance his playing time too. Catchers need regular off-days to rest, but Sanchez’s bat is so good that you don’t want him out of the lineup. A lot of DH days are in his future and that’s okay. Gary finally arrived this season, and now he’s here to stay.
Yesterday we relived the five biggest hits recorded by the Yankees this season, using win probability added. It’s not a perfect measure, of course, but it does a nice job for an exercise like this. Now it’s time to turn things around and look at the biggest outs record by the Yankees this past season. Not by the hitters, silly. No one cares about those. By the pitchers and the defense.
The Yankees played more than a few nail-biters this season, especially down the stretch in August and September, so there are no boring ground outs or pop-ups here. These outs were all recorded in pretty intense late-inning situations. It should no surprise then who was on the mound for most of them. So, once again with an assist from the Baseball Reference Play Index, here are the five biggest outs recorded by the Yankees this past season.
5. Shreve vs. Salvador Perez
The Yankees had some awful luck with rain delays this year. They had an inordinate number of ninth inning rain delays that threw a wrench into their bullpen plans and cost them games. It stunk.
On August 30th, the Yankees were in Kansas City playing the second of three games against the Royals. A 59-minute rain delay forced Masahiro Tanaka out of the game after five effective innings — he only threw 71 pitches too — and of course the bullpen blew the 4-2 lead after that. Lorenzo Cain doubled against Adam Warren and Kendrys Morales had a sac fly against Dellin Betances.
The game went to extra innings, and the Yankees took a 5-4 lead on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s run-scoring single off Joakim Soria. Brian McCann and Chase Headley started that rally with singles. With his key relievers already used, Joe Girardi went to Ben Heller for the save opportunity in the bottom of the tenth. It didn’t go well. Hit batsman, stolen base, single, stolen base, strikeout, intentional walk loaded the bases with one out.
That was it for Heller. Girardi went to Chasen Shreve to face Morales, and he managed to strike him out on three pitches. Unexpected! The strikeout pitch was maybe the best splitter Shreve has thrown since last year. That was only the second out of the inning though. There was one more out to go, and thankfully Sal Perez didn’t square up a splitter left up in the zone. He hit a fairly routine game-ending fly ball to center. To the video:
4. Betances vs. Eric Hosmer
Because one extra innings game against the plucky Royals wasn’t enough, the Yankees played another one the very next day following Shreve’s save. This game was also 4-4 heading into extras, but rather than end in the tenth, it went all the way to the 13th. Shreve, Tommy Layne, Warren, Blake Parker, and Heller combined for six hitless innings in relief of Luis Cessa. How about that?
The Yankees manufactured a run in the top of the 13th — a single (Didi Gregorius), a double (Starlin Castro), and a sac fly (McCann) did the trick — allowing Girardi to give the ball to Betances for the save chance in the bottom of the 13th. Betances, naturally, walked the leadoff man. Sigh. Never easy.
Because Betances can’t hold runners, a leadoff walk usually turns into a double, but that didn’t happen. Hosmer hit a tapper back to Dellin that he grabbed between his damn legs, then turned into a rally killing 1-6-3 double play. Check it out:
3. Miller vs. Carlos Gomez
July 25th was a pretty monumental day for the Yankees. That was the day they officially shifted gears and starting selling at the deadline. Aroldis Chapman was shipped to the Cubs in the afternoon, and later that night, Andrew Miller got into a bit of a jam in his first game back in the closer’s role.
The Yankees managed to take a 2-1 lead over Dallas Keuchel (!) on Austin Romine‘s eighth inning run-scoring double, but to start the bottom of the ninth, the left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena managed to bloop a leadoff single to left. Miller allowed 13 hits all season to lefties — I’m surprised it was that many, to be honest — and that was one of them. The Astros were in business.
Miller bounced back to strike out rookie Alex Bregman, then he coaxed what could have been a game-ending 5-4-3 double play from Evan Gattis, but the Yankees instead got zero outs. Zero. Replays showed Castro stepped off second base a little too early when he made the pivot, and Gattis beat out the back-end of the play. Could have been game over! Instead, Houston had the tying run at second and the winning run at first with one out.
Thankfully, Miller is insanely good, and he got the punchless Carlos Gomez to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play. This one the Yankees turned perfectly. Here’s the video of the two double plays, the failed one and the successful one:
2. Chapman vs. J.D. Martinez
Ugh, this game. It was June 2nd and the Yankees were in Detroit to play a makeup game against the Tigers. Remember that snow-out in April? This was the makeup game. The Yankees went from Toronto to Detroit to Baltimore in a three-day span.
In this game, the Tigers did something no other team did this season: they scored against Betances, Miller, and Chapman. The Yankees had a 5-1 lead thanks to their four-run seventh inning — Ellsbury’s two-run triple was the big blow — but Detroit chipped away, scoring a run against Betances in the seventh and another against Miller in the eigth. Girardi handed Chapman a 5-3 lead in the ninth.
The ninth inning did not go so well. I mean, the Yankees won, but still. In the span of 12 pitches, Chapman loaded the bases with no outs on a single (Mike Aviles), a walk (Jose Iglesias), and a single (Cameron Maybin). There was a wild pitch mixed in there too. Not great, Bob. That brought Martinez to the plate and he’s the kind of hitter who could have easily won the game with one swing.
Chapman executed pretty much a perfect pitch, a 101 mph fastball at the knees. Martinez did the only thing he could do with it, and that was beat it into the ground. Gregorius ranged to his left to start what was probably New York’s prettiest double play of the season. Check it out:
1. Betances vs. Edwin Encarnacion
This was the best game of the season that I completely forgot about. It was August 15th, and the Yankees earned a 1-0 win over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium (!) because Chad Green struck out eleven in six innings (!!!). How did I forget that? Also, the Yankees scored the game’s only run on Aaron Judge‘s double. I feel stupid for forgetting this one.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Yankees-Blue Jays game without some serious late-game drama. Betances started the ninth inning by walking No. 9 hitter Josh Thole. Annoying! Devon Travis popped up in foul territory for the first out of the ninth inning, but Josh Donaldson followed with a ground ball single back up the middle, which put runners on the corners with one out. The tying run was a sac fly away.
The ninth inning meltdown suffered a quick death. On the very next pitch after the Donaldson single, Encarnacion hit into a game-ending 5-4-3 double play that was as pretty as it was clutch. To the very necessary video:
* * *
In case you’re wondering, and I know I was, the final out of that crazy September 6th game against the Blue Jays, registered at +0.230 WPA, making it the team’s ninth biggest defensive out of the season. This was the Brett Gardner catch at the top of the left field wall. You know what I’m talking about, right? Of course you.
Here is tonight’s open thread. Despite a less than stellar weather forecast, they’re going to play Game Two of the World Series tonight. Trevor Bauer and Jake Arrieta are the scheduled starters (7pm ET on FOX). The Islanders, Rangers, and Nets are all playing tonight too. Talk about those games or whatever else here.
Last year, the Yankees qualified for the postseason thanks largely to Mark Teixeira‘s resurgent season. He rebounded from brutal second half in 2014 to hit .255/.357/.548 (143 wRC+) with 31 home runs in 111 games in 2015. Unfortunately, a foul ball to the leg ended Teixeira’s season in August. He suffered a small fracture in his shin and had to be shut down.
Greg Bird filled in capably for Teixeira down the stretch, but once Bird went down with his shoulder surgery in February, the Yankees were going to have to lean on Teixeira even more this year. Their backup plan at first base — and DH, for that matter — was gone. The Yankees needed Teixeira to stay on the field and provide power from the middle of the lineup. Neither of those things happened.
Getting Old Fast
Teixeira has a reputation for being a slow starter, and since he was coming off a serious lower body injury, it wasn’t completely unexpected when he started the 2016 season poorly. The Yankees took it easy on him during Spring Training following the leg injury, understandably so. And because he’s a veteran, no one really thought twice about his poor Grapefruit League numbers. We’ve seen him struggle in the spring only to come out of the gate strong during the regular season before. Teixeira knows what he has to do to get ready. No big deal.
The sad thing is Teixeira hit .224/.352/.355 (98 wRC+) with three home runs in April and it was his best month as a full-time player this year. It wasn’t until the Yankees reduced his playing time and went young in the second half that Teixeira again started to contribute with the bat. Check out his offense this summer:
Teixeira bottomed out at .176/.271/.259 (46 wRC+) on June 25th. That was the day he returned from the knee injury that sent him to the disabled list for three weeks. Two years ago we saw Alfonso Soriano go from hitting like an MVP candidate in the second half one year to being totally unplayable the next. Skills erode with age and it can happen very fast. Add injuries to the mix and they could erode even quicker.
The Yankees continued to play Teixeira at first base on an everyday basis until mid-August, when Tyler Austin was called up. Teixeira’s offense did improve slightly, but on the day Austin was recalled, he was still hitting .201/.289/.337 (70 wRC+) with 10 home runs in 332 plate appearances. Alex Rodriguez was released that day as the Yankees cut ties with an unproductive veteran. It wasn’t unreasonable to think Teixeira may face a similar fate.
Neck & Knee Problems
The last few years of Teixeira’s career have been hampered by injuries. It hasn’t been one thing either. This wasn’t David Ortiz with his chronic foot/ankle problems. Teixeira seemed to have a new injury every year. In 2012 it was a sore left wrist and a calf problem. In 2013 it was right wrist surgery. In 2014 it was hamstring trouble. Last year it was the shin fracture.
This season Teixeira was bothered by nagging neck and knee problems. He missed several games with neck spasms in May and they were far more serious than anyone let on. Teixeira’s pregame preparation for much of the season involved two hours of treatment on the neck (massage, acupuncture, heat, etc.) just to get ready for that day’s game. The neck never did send him to the disabled list, but it sidelined him for a few days throughout the season, and it bothered him all year.
The knee injury did send Teixeira to the disabled list, however. He missed three weeks with torn cartilage in his right knee in June, and rather than undergo season-ending surgery, he opted for treatment and rehab. After returning, the knee limited Teixeira from time to time — he was never a quick runner anyway, so we barely noticed it on the bases — but he played through it.
“We don’t really know what to expect,” said Teixeira when he came back from the disabled list. “We’re going to do a couple more shots over the All-Star break, and if we need another round at the end of the season we can. But it’s really just to keep it from locking up … I’m going to keep my fingers crossed obviously. I’m hoping for the best, expecting to have a good second half and be productive like I’ve always been. That’s the goal.”
The Farewell Tour
The good second half never came. Sure, Teixeira’s performance did improve after the All-Star break, but not enough to be a difference-maker. The hope coming into the season was Teixeira would play well enough to earn a qualifying offer after the season, but that didn’t happen. Not close. Any thoughts of re-signing him to serve as Bird’s caddy following shoulder surgery were crushed too.
On August 5th, a few days after the Yankees ostensibly threw in the towel on the season by trading their most productive veterans for prospects at the trade deadline, Teixeira announced he planned to retire after the season. His body was no longer up for the grind of the 162-game season.
Teixeira said he was willing to do whatever the Yankees needed the rest of the season. He was very unselfish about it. The team reduced his playing time drastically in August and September — at one point Teixeira started only 21 games in a 40-game span — and Teixeira worked behind the scenes with Austin and Rob Refsnyder at first base. That’s what the Yankees needed from him and that’s what he did.
The start of September went about as poorly as possible for Teixeira. He went 5-for-35 (.143) in his first 15 games of the month, dragging his season batting line down to .197/.289/.343 (71 wRC+). Austin wasn’t playing well either, and with the Yankees still hanging around the wildcard race, Girardi stuck with the veteran Teixeira, who he knew was at least going to play good defense.
On September 26th, Teixeira rewarded his manager’s faith by clubbing a game-tying home run off Jason Grilli in the ninth inning. He flipped his bat too. Teixeira never flips his bat. It was the final road game of his career and likely the final road at-bat of his career, and he enjoyed the crap out of it, especially after the benches cleared (twice) earlier in the game.
The YES Network cameras caught Teixeira yelling “Blown save!” at Grilli from the dugout too. “I was like, ‘Oh, sorry, the ball went a long way.’ I was just letting him know that he blew the save,” said Teixeira after the game. Awesome. Just awesome.
Had that been the final homer of Teixeira’s career, it would have been pretty great. A game-tying ninth inning homer against a mouthy division rival in a game where the benches cleared twice and the Yankees went on to win in dramatic fashion? Hard to top that. And yet, Teixeira managed to do it.
Two days after the homer against Grilli, Teixeira hit a walk-off grand slam against Joe Kelly and the Red Sox with New York’s season on the line. A loss that night would have officially eliminated the Yankees from postseason contention. They were able to stave off eliminate for another day thanks to Teixeira’s heroics. It was the biggest hit of the season.
The walk-off grand slam was indeed the Teixeira’s final home run of his career. He played sparingly the next few days, and prior to Game 162, the Yankees honored Teixeira with a quick but thoughtful pregame ceremony.
Teixeira hit .204/.292/.362 (76 wRC+) with 15 homers in 438 plate appearances this season and was basically a shell of his former self. He retires as a career .268/.360/.509 (127 wRC+) hitter with 409 home runs, fifth most ever by a switch-hitter, and as a career .248/.343/.479 (120 wRC+) hitter with 206 homers, +18.3 fWAR, and +20.6 bWAR with the Yankees. On top of the offense, he was phenomenal defensively. Just outstanding at first base.
In his eight years in New York, Teixeira had one MVP caliber season and a few other very good years. He also helped the team to their most recent World Series championship, so that’s cool. Teixeira played hard and was funny in a dad humor sorta way. It was a good eight years.
Outlook for 2017
For Teixeira? Who knows. At his retirement press conference he talked about non-baseball business interests and continuing to work with the Harlem RBI program. Teixeira also indicated he has interest in coaching but not full-time. Seems like he’d rather be a guest instructor. Someone who pops in at Spring Training and Instructional League. That sorta thing.
Because he’s good for a laugh and can be very insightful when talking about baseball, it wouldn’t surprise me if Teixeira winds up broadcasting at some point. Maybe not next year, but down the road. Also, he totally seems like the kind of guy who will show up to Old Timers’ Day soon. Like next year. And absolutely love it. The Yankees need to figure out first base long-term — hopefully Bird makes this easy — and now Teixeira has to figure out what he’s going to do during life after baseball.
For the third time in the last four seasons, the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2016. They did stay in the race longer than I expected, which I guess is better than nothing. Despite another postseason-less season, the Yankees recorded several memorable moments in 2016, including more than a few walk-off home runs. Those are always cool.
Let’s take a look back at the five biggest hits of the season for the Yankees. To make life easy, let’s use win probability added. WPA goes a good job factoring in the game situation and all that, though it’s not perfect. Important context like the players — a Ronald Torreyes walk-off homer against Craig Kimbrel will feel bigger than a Gary Sanchez walk-off against Brad Boxberger, you know? — and the standings are left out, however.
With an assist from the Baseball Reference Play Index, here are New York’s five biggest hits of the season according to WPA. There were a lot of big ones and one massively huge one this summer.
5. Austin vs. Aaron Sanchez
Tyler Austin was not with the Yankees very long this year, only 47 games overall, and he played in only 31 of those 47. And yet, Austin had plenty of impact in his limited playing time. He hit more than a few important home runs — four of his five dingers gave the Yankees the lead and the other tied the game — and all of them were to right field at Yankee Stadium. His opposite field power is real.
On September 6th, with a postseason spot 3.5 games away, the Yankees were home against the Blue Jays, one of the teams they were chasing in the standings. This was wild back and forth game, at least in the late innings. Toronto was nursing a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning when Aaron Judge poked a ground ball single up the middle with two outs. Austin, the next batter, took advantage with a go-ahead two-run home run. On his birthday! To the action footage:
The homer gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead but it was far from the end of the scoring. The Yankees went on to win this game 7-6. It was the Brett Gardner catch game. You know the one I’m talking about. The score was 2-1 through six and a half innings, then the two clubs combined for ten runs in the final four half-innings. No mas. WPA: +.458
4. Gardner vs. Erasmo Ramirez
The start of the season did not go well for the Yankees. Well, that’s not true. They did win four of their first six games, so hooray for that. Before you knew it though, that 4-2 record turned into a 5-9 record. The worst.
The Yankees were home against the Rays on April 23rd, and they were trying to win consecutive games for the first time in nearly three weeks. Gardner tied the game 2-2 with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning, then, two innings later, he untied the game with a walk-off home run to right field:
3. Austin vs. Erasmo Ramirez
Austin again, Erasmo Ramirez again. I wonder how many non-closers have allowed multiple walk-off home runs to one team in a single season. Can’t be many, right? However many it is, Ramirez is on the list. He gave up two walk-off bombs to the Yankees in 2016.
Two days after his big home run against the Blue Jays, Austin came through with another clutch home run, this one the game-winning solo shot against the Rays. The score was 4-4 at the time and most of the runs came early; it was 3-3 after three. Austin won the game with another one with his made for Yankee Stadium inside-out strokes.
2. McCann vs. Sam Dyson
The Yankees had a nine-game homestand in the middle of June and they had three walk-off wins in the nine games. The first was Starlin Castro‘s walk-off homer against Jason Motte and the Rockies. That was one of the longest home runs of the season.
The second of those three walk-offs came on June 29th, and the walk-off was made possible by an incredible ninth inning comeback. The Rangers pushed the Yankees around early in the game — it was 6-1 after five and a half innings — and the score was 7-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
The six-run ninth inning started with a Rob Refsnyder single, of all things. Then Jacoby Ellsbury walked. That prompted Texas skipper Jeff Banister to go to his closer Sam Dyson. Gardner followed with a single to score a run, and suddenly the Yankees had the tying run at the plate. Hey, at least they were making it interesting.
That tying run at the plate? Alex Rodriguez. He lined out to second for the first out of the inning. The next batter, Brian McCann, got a sinker slightly up in the zone from Dyson, and he deposited it into the short porch for a game-tying home run and the second biggest hit of the season by WPA. To the video:
The Yankees beat the Rangers the next night with another walk-off. That one was a little less eventful though. Catcher Robinson Chirinos let a Tony Barnette pitch scoot by for a walk-off passed ball. Chase Headley scored from third. Quite an eventful 24 hours. WPA of McCann’s homer: +.479 (would have been higher had the homer won the game and not just tied it)
1. Teixeira vs. Joe Kelly
The biggest hit of the season for the Yankees was also the final home run of Mark Teixeira‘s career. It was totally unexpected too. I watched the game with my own eyes and I still didn’t believe it.
It was September 28th and the Yankees were on the brink of elimination. The Orioles came back to beat the Blue Jays in Toronto that night, which dropped New York’s tragic number to one. A loss to the Red Sox meant season over. And for much of the game, a loss felt inevitable. The offense was nonexistent against Clay Buchholz, and Boston took a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning when Mookie Betts chopped a double over Headley’s head at third.
The score remained 3-0 into the bottom of the ninth and it felt like only a matter of time until the Red Sox celebrated their AL East championship on the Yankee Stadium field. Sucks. Then Kimbrel came in and forgot how to throw strikes. Gardner started the inning with a single, then Kimbrel threw 14 of his next 23 pitches out of the zone. He walked the bases loaded with no outs and then walked in a run. How about that?
Suddenly the Yankees were in business. They were still down two runs, but the sacks were full and there were no outs. Castro and Gregorius then followed two terrible at-bats. Three-pitch strikeout and three-pitch foul pop-up. Geez, guys. Thankfully, Teixeira picked them up when Kelly left one of his arrow straight fastballs up in the zone. Walk-off grand slam. Ballgame over. Season still alive.
- July 18th: Adam Lind three-run walk-off homer vs. David Robertson (+.917 WPA)
- July 25th: Adrian Beltre walk-off two-run homer vs. Ryan Madson (+.896 WPA)
- May 24th: Leonys Martin’s two-run walk-off homer vs. Ryan Madson (+.866 WPA)
- September 28th: Teixeira’s walk-off grand slam vs. Joe Kelly (+.827 WPA)
Rough year for Ryan Madson, huh? Also, WPA says Teixeira’s grand slam was the second biggest hit by a Yankee since 2008. The biggest was Carlos Beltran‘s three-run walk-off home run against Zach Britton in 2014 (video). That checked in at +0.84 WPA. The biggest before that was Jason Giambi‘s three-run walk-off homer against B.J. Ryan in 2008 (+.890 WPA). I remember this like it was yesterday: