Wednesday Night Open Thread

I have to say, I still haven’t fully processed the Yankees being eliminated from the postseason. The one-game wildcard game is so weird. I still feel like there’s a Game Two coming at some point. Anyway, make sure you check out this Players’ Tribune piece by Francisco Cervelli, in which he discusses how he’s using everything he learned while with the Yankees with the Pirates now. Pretty great read.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Cubs and Pirates are playing the NL wildcard game tonight (8pm ET on TBS) and hockey seasons starts tonight too. The Rangers are playing the Blackhawks (8pm ET on NBCSN). The Devils and Islanders are off tonight. Talk about those games, the Cervelli article, or anything else here.

Quiz!: The 2015 Yankees roster Sporcle quiz is out. I did a lot better than I thought I would: 53 out of 56. I missed three non-obvious relievers but feel I should have gotten two of them. Good luck!

Update: Yankees give Jorge Mateo time at second during Instructional League

(Jerry Coli)
(Jerry Coli)

October 7th: The Yankees have indeed had Mateo take ground balls on the right side of second base during Instructional League, but only to get him used to playing the shift, reports King. “He’s over there but only working on shifts,” said Brian Cashman. That makes sense. Again, I don’t see any harm in having Mateo work out at second at Instructs. That’s the place to learn.

September 21st: According to George King, the Yankees are considering having top shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo spend some time working out at second base during Instructional League. The team isn’t giving up on Mateo as a shortstop, they just want to see how he handles the other side of the bag. The decision is not even final yet.

First things first: the good news is this indicates Mateo is healthy. He finished the minor league season on the DL, remember. Mateo hurt himself running the bases about a week before the end of High-A Tampa’s season and they stuck him on the DL, but apparently it’s nothing serious. The Yankees not only have him scheduled to play in Instructs, but may even try him at a new position. I doubt they’d do that if he was still hurting.

Anyway, one scout told King he likes Mateo better at second — “His hands are a little too nervous for short,” said the scout. “He is more suited for second base. He is a big league player. The bat is good, he can run and he will be able to play second base.” — but just about every scouting report indicates he has the athleticism, quickness, and arm to remain at the position for the foreseeable future.

That said, there’s no harm in giving Mateo some time at second base — he’s never played a position other than shortstop (and DH) in his four-year career — and Instructs is the perfect time to do it. The games are controlled, he can get extra attention from coaches, the works. It’s much easier to work on a new position there as opposed to trying to pick it up on the fly during the season.

The Yankees have been pretty aggressive with their prospects this year and I have no reason to think that won’t continue going forward. Mateo almost certainly won’t be big league ready next year, but he might be in 2017 if things go well, and the Yankees will need a place to play him. Didi Gregorius has been pretty awesome since May and is clearly the shortstop of the present and near future.

Instructional League started last week and runs through mid-October, according to Robert Pimpsner. Baseball America’s roster shows seven shortstop prospects headed for Instructs: Mateo, Angel Aguilar, Abi Avelino, Thairo Estrada, Wilkerman Garcia, Kyle Holder, and Hyo-Jun Park. My guess is Mateo will not be the only one to work out at second base in the coming weeks.

The 20-year-old Mateo hit .278/.345/.392 (114 wRC+) with two home runs and a minor league leading 82 steals in 99 attempts (83%) in 117 games at Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa this summer. I ranked Mateo as the fifth best prospect in New York’s system following the draft and he currently ranks 91st on’s top 100 prospects list. He’ll make all the usual top 100 lists next spring.

Sherman: Yankees were set to add Eovaldi to ALDS roster


According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees were planning to add Nathan Eovaldi to their ALDS roster had they beaten the Astros in last night’s wildcard game. That didn’t happen, so Eovaldi will go home for the winter like everyone else. For shame.

Why is this important? Because it means Eovaldi is healthy. His season ended on September 5th due to elbow inflammation. He was shut down for two weeks before starting a throwing program, and he faced hitters in a simulated game on Monday to prepare for the ALDS.

There wasn’t enough time left in the regular season to stretch Eovaldi back out into a starter, so the plan was to bring him back as a reliever. (I assume Adam Warren would have replaced CC Sabathia in the rotation.) That won’t happen now, but at least we know his elbow is 100% heading into the offseason and eventually Spring Training.

Eovaldi, 25, had a 4.20 ERA (3.42 FIP) in 27 starts and 154.1 innings this season. It was very much a tale of two seasons for him, however. Eovaldi had a 5.12 ERA (4.09 FIP) in his first 13 starts and 70.1 innings and then had a 3.43 ERA (2.86 FIP) in his final 14 starts and 84 innings. He was really good for much of the summer.

The splitter was the key to Eovaldi’s turn around. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild had him start the year with a traditional forkball grip just to get used to having his fingers so spread apart before switching to a splitter. The split was a major weapon for Eovaldi in those final 14 starts.

So the good news is Eovaldi’s elbow is healthy. He had Tommy John surgery as a high school junior eight years ago but had no other elbow trouble since, so this was his first scare. Who knows what the offseason will bring, but Eovaldi again figures to be a prominent piece of the rotation next season.

Cashman confirms Yanks rejected Refsnyder and Warren for Zobrist at trade deadline

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Given the way things played out this season, it’s only natural to sit here today and ask whether the Yankees should have approached the trade deadline differently. I wanted them to aggressively pursue upgrades because they were atop the division at the time, and also because 2015 might have been their last chance to win with the Mark Teixeira/Alex Rodriguez core.

Instead, the Yankees acquired Dustin Ackley and nothing else, and maybe the deadline inactivity wouldn’t have mattered at all. We’ll never know. Brian Cashman was asked about the trade deadline following last night’s game, specifically whether he regretted not making more moves. Of course he said no, but he did drop this interesting nugget. From George King:

“The only second baseman was [Ben] Zobrist and [Oakland] wanted a combo of [Adam] Warren and [Rob] Refsnyder,’’ said Cashman, who declined the offer, while Zobrist went to the Royals. “We tried to improve the bullpen and made a significant offer [to San Diego for Craig Kimbrel] and it was turned down. After the deadline, 75 percent of the players were claimed. There was nowhere to turn outside of [Triple-A] Scranton.’’

In a vacuum, trading Refsnyder and Warren for Zobrist is perfectly reasonable to me. I’m higher than most on Warren but am also probably the low guy on Refsnyder. He strikes me as a fine stopgap second baseman, but someone who has a team in contention constantly looking for an upgrade. In terms of talent and value and all that stuff, Refsnyder and Warren for Zobrist works fine.

The problem with that trade is the Yankees had no pitching depth to spare. No one was pitching deep into games in the first half and the rotation was stretched thin — Michael Pineda was placed on the DL immediately prior to the trade deadline, but Zobrist was traded two days earlier — so giving up Warren would have really hurt. They would have had to make another trade(s) for pitching help to compensate.

That would have been fine with me. I wanted the Yankees a pick up new second baseman and more pitching help at the trade deadline. Dealing Warren and Refsnyder for Zobrist, then flipping some prospects for arms would have made sense to me at the time. In the end, who knows. Maybe it doesn’t make a difference. Probably doesn’t. Warren and Refsnyder for Zobrist is a fair trade to me, but it wouldn’t have made sense without another deal for pitching.

Thoughts following the Wildcard Game loss to the Astros


The Yankees season officially ended last night when the Astros walked into Yankee Stadium and shut the so-called Bronx Bombers out 3-0 in the AL wildcard game. The lethargic, uninspiring play we saw at the end of the regular season carried over in the wildcard game. It was not fun. Anyway, way I have some thoughts.

1. It is going to get second-guessed like crazy but benching Jacoby Ellsbury rather than Brett Gardner was absolutely the right move in my opinion. It looks awful in hindsight — Gardner went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts — but that move was based on more than Joe Girardi‘s gut feel. Gardner was very bad in the second half! But so was Ellsbury. Worse, in fact (67 vs. 59 wRC+). Ellsbury also had much worse numbers against lefties (112 vs. 83 wRC+) and ended the season with three hits in his last 21 at-bats. Before the game, hitting coach Jeff Pentland told Dan Martin that Ellsbury’s swing hasn’t been right since he crashed into the wall against the Red Sox last week — I assume it was the play when he crashed back-first into the wall in front of the visitor’s bullpen and stayed down on the ground a few moments, remember that? —  so there was a physical (i.e. non-numbers) reason for the move too. Gardner was awful last night, just like most of his teammates. But in a winner-take-all game, Girardi had to put his best players on the field, and at this point Gardner is simply a better player than Ellsbury. (Also, the fact Ellsbury was not in the lineup in a game of that magnitude in year two of a seven-year deal is damning.)

2. The offense was very bad last night and has been bad for a few weeks now, and I suspect it will be a hot topic in the offseason. The pitching was the real problem though. Not last night, just throughout the season. The Yankees were second in baseball with 764 runs scored this year but were 16th with a 4.05 ERA and 13th with a 3.93 FIP. The rotation specifically was 18th with a 4.25 ERA and 14th with a 4.04 FIP. The starters also ranked 21st with 927 innings. That was a big, big problem. The bullpen seemed to wear down late in the season and that’s because they had to get 10-12 outs per game in the first half. The Yankees have six starters either under contract (CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka) or team control (Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, Ivan Nova) next season, but do they really have six starters? Is that the makings of a title-winning rotation? I don’t think so. Exactly two of those guys (Tanaka and Severino) were even league average this year. Offense was a problem late in the season. It couldn’t be any more obvious. The pitching, specifically the rotation, was a bigger problem all year though.

3. With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder if things would have turned out differently had Tanaka not hurt his hamstring a few weeks ago. He had a 2.79 ERA and held opponents to a .207/.234/.396 batting line in the nine starts and 61.1 innings immediately prior to the injury. Tanaka never seemed right after the injury. He wasn’t locating as well and his pitches didn’t have the same finish to them. Maybe if he never gets hurt, the Yankees clinch home field advantage earlier, the regular position players get more rest, and they head into the postseason much more refreshed. Who knows? Tanaka wasn’t the reason they lost last night — he wasn’t great but two runs in five innings is winnable — but his hamstring injury rally short-circuited that great stretch he’d been on. Blame the NL, I guess.


4. In hindsight, the turning point of the season was Mark Teixeira‘s injury. Greg Bird played very well in Teixeira’s absence, about as well as anyone could have expected, but he’s no Teixeira. The lineup was suddenly short its top power hitter and a big middle of the order switch-hitting presence. Teixeira adds balance, depth, and more thunder to the lineup. Then there’s the defense on top of it. The offense never really seemed to get on track after Teixeira went down, especially against left-handers. I don’t know if he would have made a difference against Dallas Keuchel last night, but boy, it’s hard to believe the Yankees wouldn’t have been better off with Teixeira in the lineup the last few weeks. He was sorely missed even with Bird playing so well as his replacement.

5. Whenever a team gets eliminated from the postseason, the natural reaction is “blow it up.” Trade all the players we don’t like, sign a bunch of free agents, call up some kids, the works. It’s not just Yankees fans, everyone does it. That’s not possible this offseason and it’s not even realistic anyway. The Yankees have problems to solve and roster holes to fill like every other team. That said, this basically amounted to a rebuilding year for the Yankees. They sought youth last offseason in Didi Gregorius and Eovaldi, and when they needed help during the regular season, they called up kids from Triple-A. Bird, Severino, Slade Heathcott, the relievers, whoever. The only outside help they added was Dustin Ackley. (And I guess Rico Noel.) This was as close to a rebuilding season as you’re going to see from the Yankees, and they still managed to make the postseason. That ain’t too bad. The ending was disappointing, no doubt. There was also a lot of positive to be taken from this season thanks to the young players. It’s been a while since the Yankees had a crop of youngsters like Didi and Severino and Bird. Players who look like they can legitimately be part of a winning core in the not too distant future.

Season Over: Yanks go out with a whimper in 3-0 wildcard game loss to Astros

In the end, the team-wide offensive inconsistency was too much to overcome. The limp to the finish line carried over into the postseason and the Yankees were knocked out by the Astros in the AL wildcard game Tuesday night. The final score was 3-0. The season is officially over. Everything sucks.


Runs? They Didn’t Even Get To Third Base
Offense has been hard to come by of late — the Yankees scored 44 runs in their final 14 regular season games, or 3.14 per game — and the struggles didn’t go away in October. Dallas Keuchel certainly didn’t help matters. The Yankees mustered only three hits on the night, all singles, and they drew two walks. They didn’t even have a runner reach third base. The offense was totally overmatched. This game was not nearly as competitive as the score may indicate.

The hits: Greg Bird with two outs in the second, Didi Gregorius leading off the sixth, and Carlos Beltran with two outs in the sixth. Chris Young drew a one-out walk in the first and Chase Headley drew a one-out walk in the seventh. That’s all. That’s all the base-runners. The sixth inning was the only time they had two runners on base at the same time. So they had the tying run on base! That’s good! And Alex Rodriguez was up! That’s also good! So was Keuchel’s climbing pitch count!

That sixth inning rally, which really wasn’t much of a rally, was by far the Yankees best chance to get back into the game. Keuchel was tiring — manager A.J. Hinch went out to talk to him before the A-Rod at-bat to see how he was doing, in fact — and, at the very least, the Yankees had a chance to get on the board. Instead, Alex missed a cookie of a cutter …

Dallas Keuchel Alex Rodriguez

… and flew out to center field to end the inning. That’s it right there. That’s the pitch that could have turned the entire game around. Instead, Alex flew out, and the Yankees had just one base-runner the rest of the game. That was Headley’s walk. The final eight batters they sent to the plate made outs and only one of those guys hit the ball out of the infield.

Give Keuchel credit, he pitched a helluva game on short rest, but the we’ve seen games like this too many times the last few weeks. Maybe not this bad — I mean, three singles and two walks? yeesh — but bad. The offense really sputtered down the stretch. Bird and Beltran were the team’s only reliable hitters over the last few weeks and that’s simply not enough. It was a team-wide disappearing act. From watching Tuesday, you would have never guessed this team scored the second most runs in baseball in 2015.


Obligatory Home Runs
Two runs in five innings is not a bad start by any means, but Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t great in the wildcard game when the Yankees needed him to be. The first inning was incredible. Yankee Stadium was electric — I haven’t heard it that loud since the 2009 postseason — and Tanaka struck out the first two batters before getting a fly out to end the inning. It was amazing. What a fun inning.

Then Colby Rasmus ruined the fun with a first pitch home run leading off the second inning to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Yuck. Houston actually loaded the bases that inning and could have really blown things open, but Tanaka was able to escape with just the one run allowed. Carlos Gomez hit Tanaka’s first pitch of the fourth inning out of the park for a solo homer to make it 2-0. Tanaka’s homer problem continued to be, well, a problem.

All told, Tanaka allowed just those two runs on four hits and three walks in five innings. He struck out three and got a healthy 13 swings and misses out of 83 total pitches (15.7%). This was a grind though. Tanaka had to battle in every inning but the first. He wasn’t great but he wasn’t terrible either. All things considered, I think I would have taken two runs in five innings from Tanaka coming into the game, especially with the bullpen ready to go.

The Bullpen
As planned, Joe Girardi went to his big three relievers. Justin Wilson walked a batter but got a double play and four outs total. Dellin Betances was summoned in the seventh and he allowed an insurance run on a walk, a stolen base, and a single. The walk wasn’t surprising at this point. Dellin’s had control problems for weeks now.

The steal shouldn’t be surprising either — Betances allowed 17 steals in 21 attempts this year. He is very slow to the plate and usually it doesn’t matter because he’s so good at preventing base-runners. The Astros were very aware of his problem holding runners though, so pinch-runner Jonathan Villar stole second and scored on Jose Altuve’s single. Look at this pitch Altuve hit:

Jose Altuve Dellin Betances

Baseball can be so stupid sometimes. Betances and Andrew Miller eventually got the final six outs of the game without incident. The plan was Tanaka to Wilson to Betances to Miller, and that’s exactly what happened. Too bad the offense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.

I’m not sure what’s left to add here. Both Gregorius and Headley had a great game in the field — Headley made an excellent barehand play for the final out of that messy second inning — and Brett Gardner also made a great play running down an Evan Gattis line drive into the right-center field gap in the second. The defense finally showed up!

Gardner and Ellsbury were booed tremendously after making outs in the eighth inning. I hope they were just booing the team’s general lethargy rather than Gardner individually. I know he had a brutal second half, but he was pretty awesome overall this year. Ellsbury? Let’s just say I have no trouble booing guys with Red Sox ties.

And finally, the final out of the season was a soft McCann ground ball to shortstop. I was hoping he’d pop-up one last time. Alas.

Box Score & WPA Graph
Here’s the box score and video highlights. I might as well link you to the season standings, Bullpen Workload page, and Announcer Standings page one last time. Here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Up Next? Up next is the offseason. The next time we see the Yankees will be roughly four months from now in Tampa, when they report to Spring Training. Every offseason is busy and exciting and this one will be no different. Thanks for reading this season. The ending sucked but it was still a fun year.

2015 AL Wildcard Game Thread: Astros at Yankees

AL Wildcard Game logoFor the first time franchise history, the Yankees are a wildcard team under the current system. They’ve been the wildcard team before, but not since this new two wildcard team plan was put in place. This is great and terrible at the same time. I’ve got the usual postseason butterflies, except cranked up to about ten. I guess that’s the point of the wildcard game.

If you’re trying to come up with a prediction for tonight’s game, just stop. It’s not worth the headache. Anything can happen in any game. I know it’s the oldest cliche in the book, but that’s because it’s true. Sometimes Aaron Boone comes off the bench to hit a pennant winning home run. Sometimes the other team decides to pitch to your best hitter even though Freddy Guzman is on deck. Sometimes lifting the best reliever in the history of the universe for Graeme Lloyd works. Baseball, man. You can’t predict it. It would be boring if you could. Just enjoy the ride.

Here are the starting lineups, which you’ve seen already. My guess is the lineups at the end of the game will look much different, especially for the Yankees. The starting lineups ain’t the ending lineups.

Houston Astros
1. 2B Jose Altuve (101 wRC+ vs. RHP)
2. RF George Springer (113 wRC+ vs. RHP)
3. SS Carlos Correa (128 wRC+ vs. RHP)
4. LF Colby Rasmus (108 wRC+ vs. RHP)
5. DH Evan Gattis (108 wRC+ vs. RHP)
6. CF Carlos Gomez (102 wRC+ vs. RHP)
7. 3B Luis Valbuena (121 wRC+ vs. RHP)
8. 1B Chris Carter (100 wRC+ vs. RHP)
9. C Jason Castro (92 wRC+ vs. RHP)

LHP Dallas Keuchel

New York Yankees
1. CF Brett Gardner (112 wRC+ vs. LHP)
2. LF Chris Young (162 wRC+ vs. LHP)
3. RF Carlos Beltran (99 wRC+ vs. LHP)
4. DH Alex Rodriguez (148 wRC+ vs. LHP)
5. C Brian McCann (108 wRC+ vs. LHP)
6. 3B Chase Headley (104 wRC+ vs. LHP)
7. 1B Greg Bird (110 wRC+ vs. LHP in a small sample)
8. 2B Rob Refsnyder (77 wRC+ vs. LHP in a small sample)
9. SS Didi Gregorius (73 wRC+ vs. LHP)

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The weather is New York this evening is damn near perfect. Not a single cloud in the sky or any threat of rain. Just a perfect night to puke over a baseball game. The baseline introductions are scheduled to begin at 7:44pm ET and the game itself will begin at 8:08pm ET. You’ll be able to watch on ESPN. Win it for CC.