Game 120: Going for the Subway Sweep

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Subway Series has been pretty enjoyable so far this season, has it not? The games have been close and exciting, and of course the Yankees have won all three, so that’s fun. The Mets swept all four Subway Series games back in 2013, remember. Time to return the favor. Here is the Mets’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 3B Todd Frazier
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. RHP Luis Severino

Very nice weather in New York today, and it’ll continue tonight. The rain isn’t coming until early tomorrow morning. Tonight’s Subway Series finale will begin at 7:10pm ET, and you’ll be able to watch on YES and WPIX locally, and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the ballgame.

Injury Updates: Garrett Cooper was placed on the 10-day DL with left hamstring tendinitis, the Yankees announced. That’s why Austin is back and in the lineup … Aroldis Chapman (hamstring) threw a bullpen session today and everything went well. He won’t be available tonight. The hope is he’ll be available tomorrow … Matt Holliday (back) and Starlin Castro (hamstring) will both begin rehab assignments tomorrow. Castro is going to Triple-A Scranton and Holliday is going to High-A Tampa.

Joey Votto, the Yankees, and the reasons it won’t happen

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Over the last week or so, all the talk about streaks has involved Aaron Judge and strikeouts. Last night he struck out in the 33rd consecutive game, breaking Adam Dunn’s record for position players. Pitcher Bill Stoneman holds the overall record at 35 games. Judge is hitting .291/.420/.614 (170 wRC+) with an AL leading 37 home runs this year, so the strikeouts haven’t stopped him from being productive, but they are an eyesore.

Eight hundred miles away in Chicago, another record streak was on the line Wednesday night. Reds first baseman Joey Votto had reached base multiple times in each of his last 20 games, one short of the record held by Ted Williams. Votto went 1-for-4 against the Cubs and would’ve led off the tenth inning had the Reds not lost on a walk-off wild pitch, so his streak came to an end. Judge broke Dunn’s record last night. Williams’ will live on.

Votto’s streak, coincidentally enough, started against the Yankees. Remember when Luis Severino dominated the Reds at Yankee Stadium last month and Votto was the only player able to work a quality at-bat against him? That was the first game of his 20-game multiple times on base streak. During those 20 games Votto hit .424/.596/.712 (234 wRC+) with 26 walks and nine strikeouts. Overall this year he’s hitting .315/.447/.597 (165 wRC+) with 31 home runs and far more walks (98) than strikeouts (61).

At this point, there’s little doubt Votto is not only one of the best hitters in baseball — managers, coaches, and scouts named him the best hitter in the NL in Baseball America’s recent best tools survey (subs. req’d) — but also one of the best hitters of his generation. He’s one of the best hitters of the last half-century, really. Here is the career wRC+ leaderboard since the mound was lowered in 1969 (min. 3,000 plate appearances):

  1. Barry Bonds: 173 wRC+
  2. Mike Trout: 170 wRC+
  3. Joey Votto: 158 wRC+
  4. Mark McGwire: 157 wRC+
  5. Frank Thomas: 154 wRC+

No, Votto has not yet entered his decline phase yet, so that number will come down in the future, but it goes to show just how great he’s been in his career so far. At a time when strikeouts are rapidly increasing because pitchers are throwing harder and relievers are getting more and more specialized, Votto decided it would be best if he stopped striking out, so he did:

joey-votto-strikeouts

Votto is a hitting savant. He hits for average, he hits for power, and he gets on base, all at elite clips. He hits righties, lefties, fastballs, breaking balls, to left field, to right field, he chokes up, whatever. Votto is a brilliant offensive force and he is absolutely perfect for the Yankees. I mean, he’s perfect for every team, but especially the Yankees. They have openings at first base and DH going forward, and he’d balance their righty leaning lineup.

As always, there’s more to the story than simply taking a player and plopping him into your lineup. Put Votto in New York’s lineup right now and they go from postseason hopeful to no-doubt contender pretty quickly. He’s the kind of player who could change the balance of power in a division race. The Yankees adding Votto is a dream scenario and there are three reasons it won’t happen.

1. He’s entering his mid-30s. As great as he is and has been, Votto will turn 34 next month and at some point his skills will begin to erode. It happens to everyone and it’s unavoidable. Votto is undeniably great now. How great will he be in two years? We’ve seen more than a few truly great players go from productive one year to basically out of baseball the next. Votto is as smart as any hitter in the game and he keeps himself in great shape. That doesn’t mean he’ll be productive forever.

2. His contract is massive. Votto is owed $150M from 2018-23, his age 34-39 seasons, then there’s a $7M buyout of his $20M club option for 2024. Paying a hitter of this caliber $25M a year is a bit of a bargain these days — Miguel Cabrera will make $30M annually from ages 34-39, for example, and who knows how much Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign for next offseason — though that’s still a ton of money for a player that late in his career. You’re going to be paying premium dollars for a player who is going to spend most of the remainder of his contract over 35.

3. Votto doesn’t want to leave Cincinnati. Even with the Reds rebuilding and a few years away from contention, Votto has said, repeatedly, he doesn’t want to leave. And he has a no-trade clause, so he controls his own destiny. “I don’t think of myself as anything but a Cincinnati Red. That’s one of the really cool things about having a no-trade clause, being one of the rare players that has that, I get to stay a Cincinnati Red,” he said to C. Trent Rosecrans last year. (For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman says Votto has already cleared trade waivers.)

* * *

Anonymous comments from a gutless “Yankee insider” aside, the Yankees seem to love Greg Bird and are intent on giving him every opportunity to be their long-term first baseman. Hopefully he’ll be back within a week or so. If not, they’ll try again next year. Dumping Bird to replace him with a soon-to-be 34-year-old first baseman making huge dollars, even one as great as Votto, is an old Yankees move. It doesn’t fit with the youth movement at all. There’s always DH, but we’ve seen what it’s like to have an older player on a huge contract tying up the DH spot. It’s not pretty.

That all said, a guy can dream. Basically no other player in baseball combines this level of natural talent with ultra-high baseball smarts and a non-stop desire to get better. Votto also genuinely loves baseball and has fun messing around with fans, so he brings some personality to the table too. That’s a plus in my book.

Votto should’ve been a Yankee back in the day and the baseball fan in me wishes he could be a Yankee today for many reasons. It’s not going to happen though. Not given his age, his contract, and what the Yankees are trying to do as far as building around young players. Who knows, maybe in a year or two trading for Votto as the final “get us over the hump” piece will make sense. It doesn’t right now though. Votto’s greatness and New York’s timetable don’t really match up at the moment.

Even though he hasn’t yet made his MLB debut, the Yankees already miss Gleyber Torres

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Regardless of how the rest of the season plays out, 2017 will be remembered as a stepping stone for the Yankees. They’ve incorporated so much high-end youth into the roster this year. Luis Severino is emerging as a top of the rotation starter and both Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have established themselves as middle of the order hitters. Chad Green and Jordan Montgomery have become key contributors as well.

Others highly touted youngsters like Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, and Tyler Wade have made their big league debuts this summer and will get more opportunities going forward. One prospect we haven’t (and won’t) see this season is Gleyber Torres, who MLB.com and Baseball America currently rank as one of the two best prospects in the minors. Torres blew out his non-throwing elbow sliding into home plate in June and needed Tommy John surgery. What a dumb fluke injury.

Torres, who won’t turn 21 until December, hit .287/.383/.480 (141 wRC+) with 14 doubles and seven home runs in 235 plate appearances split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year before hurting his elbow. He’d never played above High-A prior to this season, yet he was quickly promoted from Double-A to Triple-A this year because he adjusted so well. A 20-year-old kid doing what he did this year is pretty damn impressive. Impressive and rare.

Had he not gotten hurt, chances are Torres would be in the big leagues right now. He was moving that quickly and it seemed the Yankees were preparing him for a big league call-up by moving him around the infield. Think about the playing time opportunities that have existed the last few weeks:

  1. Starlin Castro has spent two stints on the disabled list with hamstring problems. He’s played in only six of the team’s last 45 games. Torres could have stepped right in to play second base.
  2. First base has been a black hole most of the season. The Yankees could’ve called up Torres, played him at third, and moved Chase Headley to first. Maybe that means no Todd Frazier trade?
  3. Matt Holliday has been ineffective and/or hurt since mid-June. Holliday’s playing time could have been scaled back in favor of Torres, or, at the very least, Gleyber could have been part of the DH rotation.

Earlier this season, when Didi Gregorius was on the disabled list with his shoulder injury, I thought the Yankees did the right thing having Torres start the year in Triple-A. He’d not yet played above High-A at the time and the last thing you want to do with a prospect this talented is rush him before he’s ready. That could do more harm than good. As I’ve said, the Gregorius injury didn’t make Torres more big league ready.

Midseason is a different story. Gleyber showed he could handle Double-A and Triple-A, and he worked hard on his defense at new positions. Perhaps he wasn’t MLB ready the day he hurt his elbow, but it sure felt like he would’ve been shortly thereafter. The Yankees have had more than a few lineup openings these last few weeks and Torres has been unavailable to fill them because of the injury. Talk about terrible timing, huh?

Now, who’s to say Torres would’ve come up and had an immediate impact a la Sanchez last season? Maybe he would’ve struggled out of the gate like Judge. ZiPS projected Torres for a .221/.279/.344 (73 OPS+) batting line at the MLB level coming into the season, so the completely objective computer system wasn’t convinced he could be a difference-maker right out of the gate. But who knows. Crazy talented players like Torres can do special things early in their careers.

The Yankees have survived all their injuries and their general lack of first base production to this point and remain very much in the postseason race. They have slipped in the standings though, going from first place in the AL East to trying to hang on to a wild card spot, and a healthy Torres could have made a difference these last few weeks. He hasn’t played an MLB get yet and already the Yankees miss him. If nothing else, Gleyber has missed out on some big league time this year, which would’ve helped prepare him for next season.

Ronald Torreyes has been the right guy at the right time for the Yankees this season

(Stephen Brashear/Getty)
(Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Last night the Yankees ran their Subway Series winning streak to three games, which allowed them to keep pace with the Red Sox in the AL East and keep basically the rest of the league at bay in the wildcard race. Aaron Judge cranked a monster home run and Didi Gregorius came up with a big go-ahead two-run double. Adam Warren was great too. He really covered for the worn out bullpen.

That go-ahead two-run rally in the seventh inning started with a Ronald Torreyes double down the third base line — he kept it just fair inside the bag and it rolled all the way to the wall — and he also added an eighth inning single. That one didn’t lead to a run(s). The double sure did though. Torreyes got the rally started and Gregorius finished it off. The two have a little post-win hug celebration now too, and I am 100% here for it:

Torreyes is, of course, in the starting lineup these days because Starlin Castro is on the disabled list. Castro is due to begin a minor league rehab assignment later this week, so chances are he is still a week away from returning, maybe even longer. Point is, Torreyes doesn’t have to look over his shoulder just yet. Castro’s return is not imminent and Tyler Wade sure as heck isn’t going to play, so the second base job is Toe’s.

Right now the Yankees need Torreyes to fill in at second base, and earlier this season, they needed him at shortstop while Gregorius was on the disabled list with his shoulder injury. The Yankees could’ve gone with Wade then or even Gleyber Torres, or perhaps a boring proven veteran like Pete Kozma, but they went with Torreyes and he was pretty great. His performance in April landed him the second base job in July and August.

  • Torreyes at short while Gregorius was hurt: .308/.308/.431 in 19 games
  • Torreyes at second while Castro has been hurt: .301/.316/.382 in 37 total games

Add in his reserve infielder work between the Gregorius and Castro injuries and you get a .293/.313/.379 (83 wRC+) batting line. Is it an empty .293 batting average? Oh yes. Torreyes never walks and he doesn’t have much power, and he doesn’t really steal bases either. You’re getting singles and that’s it. And you know what? Torreyes has provided the Yankees with enough singles this year to hold down the fort while Gregorius was hurt and Castro is hurt.

You know who Torreyes is? He’s the 2017 version of 1996 Mariano Duncan, only without the catch phrase. The Yankees signed Duncan to be their utility infielder that year and Tony Fernandez’s injury pushed him into the starting lineup. It’s a common misconception that the Fernandez injury opened the door for Derek Jeter. No. Jeter was slated to start at shortstop all along. The Fernandez injury meant no veteran safety net for the rookie, Duncan at second, and Andy Fox on the bench.

Anyway, Duncan stepped into the lineup for Fernandez and inexplicably hit .341/.352/.500 (114 wRC+) in 417 plate appearances. He hit .272/.297/.407 (89 wRC+) in his previous 2,100 plate appearances. And yet, when the Yankees needed him to cover for the injured Fernandez, Duncan went out and did more than anyone could have reasonably expected. That’s what Torreyes is doing now. He’s younger than Duncan was in 1996 (33) and isn’t hitting for the same power, but he’s moved into the lineup and contributed.

“The routine that I have, that allows me to prepare every day. It doesn’t matter what base, but if I follow the routine every day, it keeps me ready to play any base everyday,” said Torreyes to Chris Ryan. “My job here is to be the utility player here. To be ready to play any base here. We need Castro back, we need his bat in the lineup. You have to know what your job is, and my job is to be the utility player on this team.”

A few days ago I said I thought Torreyes was playing too much and I’d like to see Wade play against righties, and I still do, but that’s a me problem. Not a Torreyes problem. He’s done everything the Yankees could’ve asked him to do, first when Gregorius was sidelined and now with Castro on the disabled list. Would I want to go into a season with Torreyes penciled in as a starting infielder? No way. He’s a very good utility player though, someone who has delivered when the Yankees needed him to cover for an injured regular for weeks at a time this year.

Yankees 5, Mets 3: Yankees win third straight behind Judge’s dinger, Didi’s double

Different ballpark, same result. The Subway Series shifted to Citi Field on Wednesday and the Yankees won yet again, this time by the score of 5-3. They’ve won three straight games, all against the Mets, and seven of their last eleven games overall.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yes In-Didi
Might as well start with the late innings. The Yankees and Mets traded runs through six innings, so when the Yankees came to the plate in the seventh, the score was tied 3-3. The game-winning rally started with a Ronald Torreyes leadoff double. He yanked it fair inside the third base bag and it rolled all the way to the wall. A Brett Gardner pinch-bunt followed. A pinch-bunt. Gotta love NL ball.

Anyway, the pinch-bunt moved Torreyes to third with one out, and two walks later, the bases were full of Yankees and the batter’s box was full of Aaron Judge. Alas, our large adult hero popped up on the infield for the second out, and the rally was on life support. Fortunately, Didi Gregorius was able to get himself into a fastball count, and he hooked a Paul Sewald offering into the right field corner for a two-run double. Torreyes and Jacoby Ellsbury scored, and Aaron Hicks stopped at third. How could anyone not love Didi?

Underrated moment of that seventh inning really: home plate umpire Chad Whitson totally blowing a strike three call on Hicks. Look at this thing:

aaron-hicks-ball-four

What should’ve been strike three was called ball four. Of course, it was called ball four because Sewald missed his spot by the entire width of the plate. Catcher Rene Rivera set up outside, the pitch was way inside, and he had to reach across the plate. Usually the umpire calls it a ball when that happens. Blame Sewald and Rivera, not Whitson. The walk loaded the bases and set up Gregorius for the game-winning double.

Long Leash For Jaime
Kind of a weird start for Jaime Garcia, who allowed two runs through the first five innings, but was behind almost every batter. Only eleven of the 22 batters he faced saw a first pitch strike — I’m surprised it was that many — and seven of those 22 saw a three-ball count. Somehow Garcia only walked three. Two runs in five innings is fine. I’d take that from my fifth starter any day.

The problem is Garcia was sent back out for the sixth inning even though he was about to go through the lineup the third time. Batters against him the third time around this year: .329/.404/.573. Yeah. I mean, Garcia’s pitch count was sitting at 80 when he went out for the sixth, plus his lineup spot was due up in the bottom half of the inning, so I understand why Joe Girardi sent back out. I was hoping he’d take the two runs in five innings and go to the bullpen.

Garcia did not retire a batter in the sixth inning. Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a single, then was thrown out trying to advance on a ball in the dirt. Yoenis Cespedes worked a walk, and Michael Conforto followed with a double into the left-center field gap. That gave the Mets runners on second and third with one out, and ended Garcia’s night. The Yankees led 3-2 at the time. Garcia’s final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. Meh. Next time don’t try to squeeze one more inning out of Jaime, Joe.

All Rise (And Watch The Ball Sail Over Your Head)
Is Judge coming out of his slump? He reached base multiple times for the fourth straight game, and one of his times on base Wednesday was a classic Aaron Judge jaw-dropping home run. He put a ball into Citi Field’s third deck in left field. To the director’s cut:

Good gravy. I’ve seen players hit balls up there in batting practice, mostly Cespedes and Giancarlo Stanton, but in a game? I’ve never seen that before, either on television at the ballpark. The official distance: 457 feet. The exit velocity: 117 mph. Been a while since we’ve seen Judge hit a bomb like that. Since he nearly hit a ball out of Safeco Field, right? Judge just put his head down and ran the bases too. Didn’t look to see where it landed. The next homer I see him admire will be the first.

The Judge home run gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning. They tied the game 1-1 in the third inning thanks to some shoddy defense. Chase Headley drew a walk, moved to second a wild pitch, and then moved to third on a passed ball. Garrett Cooper brought Headley home with a run-scoring ground out. I prefer monster homers into the third deck, but to each his own.

The B-Team Bullpen
The Yankees did not have Aroldis Chapman (hamstring) or Dellin Betances (workload) on Wednesday, and presumably not Chad Green (workload) either, which meant Girardi had to rely on his B-Team relievers. Those guys are pretty good too, fortunately. Tommy Kahnle replaced Garcia and allowed a sac fly to tie the game, but otherwise limited the damage after being brought in with runners on second and third and one out.

Adam Warren handled seventh and eighth inning duties like a boss. He retired six of seven batters faced — the one baserunner was a Juan Lagares bunt single — including striking out Brandon Nimmo, Cabrera, and Cespedes. Warren is now sitting on a 1.73 ERA (2.56 FIP) this season and he is maybe the fourth best reliever in the bullpen. David Robertson served as the closer du jour and slammed the door in the ninth. He’s the third different Yankee to record a save in their last five wins.

Just like old times. (Elsa/Getty)
Just like old times. (Elsa/Getty)

Leftovers
Two hits for Judge, two hits for Headley, and two hits for Torreyes. Ellsbury and Gregorius each had one hit as well. The Yankees went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and the one hit was Didi’s two-run double. Timing is everything. Ellsbury, Hicks, Gregorius, Headley, and Gary Sanchez drew the walks. Ellsbury stole a base. Turn back the clock game for him.

I am Mad Online the Yankees did not bunt towards Travis d’Arnaud. The Mets had to scratch both Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes before the game, forcing them to play d’Arnaud a third base, a position he’d never played before. I was expecting Ellsbury to bunt at him the first pitch of the game. Alas. The Mets had Cabrera and d’Arnaud swapping positions all game. Cabrera played second against left-handed hitters and third against righties, so if the hitter pulled the ball with authority, it’d be hit at the experienced infielder. Smart!

And finally, Judge struck out in his final at-bat, and has now struck out in 33 consecutive games. That breaks Adam Dunn’s record for position players. (Bill Stoneman holds the overall record at 35 games.) Am I the only one who doesn’t care? Did anyone even know who held the “most consecutive games with a strikeout” record until, like, last week?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. We have a Bullpen Workload page that may or may not be relevant to your interests. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are going for the Subway Sweep. They’ve already clinched the series win and now it’s time to get greedy. Luis Severino and Steven Matz are the scheduled starters for Thursday night. The Yankees head out on the road for a week after that, so check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch them live for the last time for a little while.

DotF: Bird begins rehab assignment in Scranton’s loss

Josh Norris caught up with RHP Nolan Martinez, who confirmed he missed the start of the season with a rotator cuff issue. He’s also changed his changeup grip, going from a split-finger grip to a circle grip, which gives him better control of the pitch.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (9-4 loss to Gwinnett) completion of yesterday’s game, which was suspended due to rain in the middle of the fifth inning … they faced former Yankees farmhand RHP Manny Barreda, who is still kicking around … he’s spent the last few seasons pitching in Mexico before hooking on with the Braves as a depth arm earlier this year

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-4, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB, 1 E (throwing) — had been in a 4-for-24 (.167)
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — third homer in ten games since coming back from the hamstring injury
  • LF Billy McKinney & RF Jake Cave: both 1-4 — McKinney struck out and Cave scored a run
  • RHP Domingo German: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 HB, 6/2 GB/FB — 50 of 80 pitches were strikes (63%) … he pitched yesterday, before the rain
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — eleven of 20 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 119: Home on the Road

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2017 Subway Series now shifts to Citi Field. The Yankees won the first two games at Yankee Stadium, and that’s always fun, but they need wins against everyone regardless of venue right now. The AL East title is within reach and roughly half the AL is trying to catch the Yankees for a wildcard spot. Beating the Mets and staying in postseason position is the best of both worlds.

Of course, the shift to Citi Field means no designated hitter the next two days, and that’s no fun. I take no pleasure in watching pitchers hit. What can you do? As long as no one gets hurt, I’ll live with it. Get a win tonight, clinch Subway Series bragging rights, and, more importantly, stay in a good place in the postseason races. Here is the Mets’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Garrett Cooper
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. LHP Jaime Garcia

Little bit cloudy in New York today, otherwise it’s a good night for a ballgame. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:10pm ET, and you’ll be able to watch on YES and SNY locally, and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Aroldis Chapman (hamstring) is not available tonight, though he did play catch today and will apparently avoid the disabled list. Joe Girardi said Chapman remains his closer … CC Sabathia (knee) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session today as scheduled, and remains on track to be activated Saturday … Masahiro Tanaka (shoulder) played catch for the second straight day. He’s going to throw a bullpen session tomorrow and the plan right now is to have him rejoin the rotation next week, pretty much as soon as he’s eligible to be activated.