Guest Post: The Other Guy: The Yugoslavian Shortstop of 1944

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, Jerry Kenney, the Copacabana incident, Mark Koenig, Earle Combs, and Urban Shocker.

(Baseball Birthdays)
Milosevich. (Baseball Birthdays)

The 1944 season for Major League Baseball was a strange one when it comes to the players who were participating. Because of World War II in Europe, many Major Leaguers were overseas fighting. Famously, Yogi Berra participated in the D-Day invasion at the beaches of Normandy, France; Bill Dickey served at the Navy Hospital in Hawaii until his discharge in January of 1946; Joe Gordon served for the United States Army as a member of the Air Corps; Spud Chandler enlisted for the Army as well. At home, the war effort was also important. On June 26, 1944, the Yankees, along with the crosstown Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants had a three-way baseball game to raise money in war bonds. The three-way game raised over $55 million in war bonds for the Roosevelt administration.

New players were needed to replace the players who were serving in the war effort. Aside of this writer’s favorite player, Frankie Crosetti, most of the team in 1944 was backup players. The 80-tool name that the 1944 Yankees had was infielder Snuffy Stirnweiss, who came in fourth for the Most Valuable Player Award. That season he batted .319/.389/.460/.849 and had 16 triples and 55 stolen bases (the highest in the league). He scored the most runs (125) and got the most hits (205) in the most plate appearances (723). Nick Etten, the Yankees first baseman, hit 22 home runs and was the home run king for the season. He led the league in walks with 97 and finished 23rd in the MVP vote. By 1947, Etten was out of the league after 14 games with the Athletics.

While Etten and Stirnweiss held down the right side of the infield, the other side was a platoon. Crosetti was the starting shortstop, but on a downward trend from his peak in the 1930s. With regular shortstop Phil Rizzuto out serving for the Army, the now utility infielder would have to take care of the job until the war ended. At the same time, the Yankees promoted a nine-year minor leaguer from the Kansas City Blues, their AAA affiliate.  This 30-year old rookie would end up becoming the stalwart at shortstop over Crosetti for 1944.

Michael Milosevich was born on January 13, 1915 in the city of Zeigler, Illinois, a two-hour drive southeast of St. Louis. He was one of seven kids born to Rados (“Rado”) and Kata (“Katie”) Miloseovich, natives of Slune in Yugoslavia. The Milosevich children were all very athletically-inclined. Mike, along with his siblings, George, Daniel, Paul, Nicholas and Samuel, represented the sports of Zeigler from 1929-1944. All of them would move on to colleges, such as Samuel, who attended the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and played football and basketball. Paul attended the University of Illinois and was one the varsity football team, varsity baseball team, and the varsity basketball team. (Paul died in a plane crash in Florida in 1943.)

However, Michael had a different calling. At age 20, the eldest brother decided to leave his job at a steel mill as a puddler and a soft coal miner in Zeigler to make it into professional baseball. In 1935, when he made the decision, he was playing semi-professional baseball for a team in Steubenville, Ohio (west of Pittsburgh). Milosevich decided that he would head to Washington, Pennsylvania and talked to the manager of their Pennsylvania State League team, 1927 Yankees backup catcher, Benny Bengough to get on the team. Milosevich asked Bengough to give him a chance and soon he became a shortstop. The known statistics of the Washington Generals for 1935 are limited, but Milosevich appeared in 107 games and batted .294 and slugged .383 with no home runs, five triples and 24 doubles in 112 hits.

The next season, 1936, the Yankees promoted Milosevich and his manager, Bengough to the Joplin Minors C-league team in Joplin, Missouri. In his first season at Joplin, Milosevich batted .269 and slugged .367 with 151 hits in 562 at bats during 141 games. He hit his first two professional home runs at Joplin in 1936. The numbers showed improvement during a second stint at Joplin in 1937. That season he hit .274 and slugged .363 with 22 doubles, 7 triples and three home runs in 139 games.

In 1938, the pairing of Milosevich and Bengough were split as the former was sent to the C-team in Akron, Ohio (the Akron Yankees), managed by Pip Koehler. In 107 games at Akron, he managed to attain 117 hits in 107 games with 409 plate appearances. His home run power continued to go up, reaching six in 1938, where he batted .286 and slugged .430. In 1939, he was promoted to A-league Binghamton in the Eastern League. At this time period, the Binghamton team was named the Triplets. (The name is based on the Triple Cities of Endicott, Binghamton and Johnson City in Broome County.) In the team, Milosevich batted .272/.387 (average/slugging) in 103 games and 346 at bats.

However, the Yankees tried to play Milosevich in the Norfolk Tars playoffs during the 1939 playoffs. This was a disaster. Piedmont League President Ralph Daughton ordered on September 6 that the team was eliminated for using Milosevich. This decision vacated their four wins and gave teams in Asheville, Durham, Portsmouth and Rocky Mount, North Carolina the opportunity to participate for the President’s Cup.

In 1940, the Yankees kept Milosevich with Binghamton, and he hit a bland .250/.327 with 120 hits. The 1940 season would begin to mark a decline in the minor league performance for Milosevich. In 1941, he ended up splitting time between Binghamton and Norfolk, appearing in 63 games for both teams and batted .213/.258 with no home runs and just 89 hits. Despite the lackluster performance in 1941, the Yankees placed Milosevich in the AA Kansas City Blues of the American Association. In 1942, the shortstop appeared in 153 games, batting .286/.370/.362 with 146 hits and 27 doubles with 52 runs batted in. The next season, 1943, he also returned to Kansas City as a 28-year old. Then, he only appeared in 139 games and batted a paltry .243/.285/.304. Milosevich had only 42 RBI and got 127 hits.

The Yankees entered 1944 with Oscar Grimes as their starting shortstop with Crosetti on the bench. Grimes had a horrendous start to the 1944 campaign. He managed to hit only .125/.222/.167 in seven games. (That is what you call small sample size.) On April 30, they called up Milosevich to the Yankees and benched Grimes. (To tell you the Yankees’ opinion of Grimes, he did not appear in another game until May 30 against the Tigers.) In the first game of the doubleheader against the Washington Senators on April 30, Milosevich went 0 for 4 against Mickey Haefner. In the third inning of the second game, Milosevich got his first big league hit against Early Wynn with a double.

Milosevich’s numbers after his debut were outright terrible. They were not Kyle Higashioka-terrible, but he did not reach the Mario Mendoza Line until May 19, when it peaked at .211 in batting average. By the doubleheader on May 21, he was below it again. Aside of a quick jump above .200 on May 30, Milosevich remained there until July 6, when he finally got the average above for good. His 1944 season would be considered a tale of two seasons as he managed to continue going on a rake during the latter half of the season. At the end of the 1944 season, the Yankees finished third in the American League and batted .247/.313/.308 with 77 hits, 11 doubles, four triples and 32 RBI in 94 games.

The damage was done, however. The next season, 1945, Grimes was moved to third base and Crosetti became the starter with Milosevich as the backup. Milosevich did not make his 1945 debut until May 19 and would not appear in another game until July 1. He played sporadically during the months of July and August and early September. His last appearance on the 1945 Yankees came on September 15, when he participated in a doubleheader. By that point, he hit .217/.280/.246 as the backup shortstop. His time as a major leaguer was done as in 1946, Rizzuto returned from the service and Crosetti went to the backup. His final statistics as a Major League player were a .241/.309/.297 line with 92 hits om 391 AB and 124 games.

The Yankees did not cut the infielder from their organization in 1946, but instead, he played for the Newark Bears of the International League and the Blues in Kansas City. In 103 games, his completely tanking numbers showed themselves in a .195/.308/.246 batting line with 61 hits and 23 RBIs. The next season, 1947, he joined the Red Sox organization and played for the Atlanta Crackers and New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association.

By 1949, Milosevich became a D-league player/manager. That season, he managed the Hazlehurst-Baxley Red Socks of the Georgia State League. In 1950, he moved onto the Lumberton Auctioneers of the Tobacco State League as a player (and not a manager). His final season as a player manager was the 1951 season with the Americus Rebels of the Georgia-Florida League. For his minors careers, Milosevich appeared in 1,566 games and had 1,475 hits, 47 home runs, 57 triples, along with 282 doubles. He managed to walk more than he struck out: 145 to 129.

Milosevich’s career was over. Milosevich moved to East Chicago, Indiana, where he died on February 3, 1966 due to heart disease. He was buried in the family plot at Zeigler Cemetery. All of the Milosevich Six have since passed away, with the final brother, Samuel, passing in 2015 at the age of 94. The story of Mike Milosevich is a short one given his short career, but the 1944 Yankee deserves air time because he was a stalwart of the 1944 team despite his poor performance. Hidden behind Etten, Stirnweiss and others, he managed to beat out Crosetti and earned his chance in 1944. While he is never remembered by anyone but the obscure Yankee historians, River Avenue Blues gets a chance to read about him.

Guest Post: Can Ernesto Frieri return to prominence in the Yankees’ bullpen?

The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, who has previously written guest posts on Austin Romine, Chris Capuano, Ike Davis, the bullpen, and a pair of former Yankees.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

When Ernesto Frieri was last seen in the big leagues, the once-dominant Angels closer was serving up meatballs for the Tampa Bay Rays during a 22 game stint in 2015. Frieri didn’t even play affiliated baseball last year and the 31-year old hasn’t posted a positive fWAR since 2013.

Frieri pitched in this year’s World Baseball Classic for his native Colombia, where he threw two scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic. PitchFX clocked his fastball average at 95.0 mph and Yankees scouts decided that he was worth a minor-league contract, which included an invitation to major league camp.

The move came out of nowhere, but it’s an example of how participating in the WBC can help out of sight free agents looking for jobs catch the eyes of major league clubs. In four spring innings, Frieri allowed four runs, including two homers. But he struck out nine and walked only one batter. He was assigned to Scranton and seemed set on proving himself once again.

“I just want to come here and throw in front of big-league hitters,” he said when he signed in March. “First, prove to myself that I’m ready and that my stuff is back and prove to the Yankees that I can get big-league hitters out. I know a lot of guys have been here longer than me.”

Frieri, who signed as a free agent with the San Diego Padres as a 17-year-old in 2003, made his debut in 2009 and pitched for the team until he was traded in May of 2012 to Anaheim. After taking over as the Angels’ closer following the trade, Frieri converted 60 of 67 save opportunities over two seasons and established himself as one of the best closers in baseball. But then 2014 happened.

After recording an unsightly 6.39 ERA in 34 games with the Angels, Frieri was shipped off to the Pirates in June. The struggles continued and he was demoted to the minors, eventually being released in September. In total, the right-hander recorded a 7.34 ERA in 48 games.

He surfaced with Tampa Bay the following season, cobbling together a 4.63 ERA in 23 1/3 innings. The Rays designated him for assignment in June and he cleared waivers. He was then sent down to Triple-A Durham, where he recorded a 2.40 ERA in 15 appearances. Frieri attended Spring Training with the Phillies last year but didn’t make the roster after allowing nine earned runs in seven innings.

No other major league team called and he was limited to a cameo in winter ball in Venezuela. With his delivery in need of repair, Frieri traveled home to Columbia during his time away from the game and went back to the basics with Manuel Ezquivia, who is now a Cubs scout and has known the right-hander for twenty years.

“I got my delivery back. I got my deception back,” Frieri told reporters during the spring. “I proved myself in the WBC; good hitters couldn’t hit the fastball. They didn’t look that good. Even they talked to me after and they said, ‘Dude, man, you’re back. I can’t pick the ball up. ‘ That’s the old Ernie, like three years ago, so I’m really happy about that.”

This isn’t the first time that he’s claimed to be ready for a career “revival.” Back in 2015, Frieri was convinced that Tampa’s famed pitching coach Jim Hickey would get him straightened out. Even during his heyday with Anaheim, he walked plenty of hitters – career 10.9% walk rate. But Frieri, who has a June 1 opt out in his deal, has been nasty of late.

Dating back to April 19, he’s allowed just 2 earned runs in 17 innings. During that span he has walked just 6 batters and recorded 20 punchouts. In 16 games for Scranton, Frieri has a 2.25 ERA and he has yet to allow a homer. He’s also converted six of seven save opportunities.

With his reputation as a quality late-inning reliever long gone, its no guarantee that Frieri will help the Yankees. But New York has a long history of making use of retreads and he’s worth a shot while Aroldis Chapman continues to heal up.

Guest Post: Yankees Outcasts Ben Gamel And James Pazos Thriving For Seattle

The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, who has previously written guest posts on Austin Romine, Chris Capuano, Ike Davis, and the bullpen.

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

With a 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night, the Yankees became the last team in the majors to reach double-digit losses at 21-10. Through the early goings of the regular season, New York is one of the best teams in baseball and the youth movement is only going to continue as the Bronx Bombers boast the second best farm system in baseball, according to MLB.com.

General manager Brian Cashman has done a tremendous job rebuilding on the fly and restocking the team’s minor league system. But the one problem that comes with this is keeping enough room on the 40-man roster for everyone, and trying to avoid losing guys via the Rule 5 draft. The clogged roster led to two small trades that Cashman made a few months back, which seemed trivial at the time and were perhaps the cost of having too much talent in the farm system.

Last August, the Yankees traded outfielder Ben Gamel to the Mariners for right-handed pitchers Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula. In November, the two teams agreed on a second low-key transaction. In this deal reliever James Pazos, who was once deemed untouchable by Hal Steinbrenner, was shipped off in exchange for minor league right-hander Zack Littell, an 11th round pick in 2013 who will not be Rule 5 eligible until after this season. After looking at the 40-man crunch the Yankees were faced with last fall, it’s easy to see why they dealt Gamel and Pazos away.

What wasn’t easy to see was the duo becoming important contributors for Seattle during the first few weeks of 2017. This spring, the two youngsters were fighting for big league jobs. Pazos made the team and Gamel was beat out by Guillermo Heredia for the forth outfield spot. But the long-haired Gamel was called up two weeks ago from Triple-A Tacoma to take fellow rookie Mitch Haniger’s place.

Last night in Philadelphia, Gamel went 4-for-5 with a homer and threw out a potential go-ahead run at home in the eighth inning. The 24-year old outfielder, who hit .200 in 40-at bats for Seattle last September, is slashing .362/.455/.596 with a 200 wRC+. In that same game, Pazos pitched a scoreless 7th inning and lowered his ERA to 2.40. The 26-year old southpaw is second on the team among relievers in innings pitched and he’s regularly hitting 99 mph with his fastball. He has whiffed 20 batters in 15 innings and he’s becoming a fairly reliable option for manager Scott Servais.

At the time of his trade to Seattle, Pazos had logged just 8 1/3 big league innings, making a few cameos in pinstripes over the last two seasons. The big lefty, who was drafted by New York in the 13th round in 2012 out of the University of San Diego, mostly dominated in the minors, but was ineffective in the majors. He cobbled together a 1.79 ERA with 78 punchouts in 60 1/3 innings during his time at the Triple-A level with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But he also battled command issues,  posting an unsightly 6.26 BB/9 last season while with Scranton.

Meanwhile, the 24-year old Gamel, who is the younger brother of former Brewers top prospect Mat Gamel, was drafted by the Yankees in the 10th round of the 2010 draft and made his big league debut with the team last May. He appeared in just six games, but was quite productive during his time at the with Scranton. In 533 plate appearances, the sweet-swinging lefty hit .308/.365/.420 with six homers and 19 stolen bases while appearing at all three outfield spots.

At worst, Gamel figured to profile as a fourth outfield candidate and he was rated 24th among Yankees prospects according to MLB.com prior to being dealt. He won’t dazzle anyone with displays of power, but both his hit tool and speed were rated as above-average, drawing comparisons to Brett Gardner. Working against Gamel was the fact that the Yankees possess a talented core of young outfielders coming through the system as well. Most notably Clint Frazier and Blake Rutherford. And to a lesser extent, Dustin Fowler.

The Yankees 40 man roster crunch was subject of much debate during the fall. Gamel and Pazos were two casualties of that problem. The two former Yankees prospects current success is simply a testament to how loaded the Yankees farm system has become. Having the best or second best minor league system in baseball is great, but the truth is that not all the prospects will succeed and some will succeed elsewhere.

Guest Post: Aaron Hicks in August

The following is a guest post from Carlo Macomber, who goes by CoryWadeDavis in the comments. He’s previous written guest posts about Masahiro Tanaka, Didi Gregorius, and Jacoby Ellsbury.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

From April through July, Aaron Hicks struggled mightily in his first season with the Yankees. There are no two ways about it. Hicks hit .187/.251/.287 (41 wRC+) in 232 relatively sporadic PAs. That is unacceptable for a Major League player, but, to the disappointment of most fans, the Yankees stuck with Hicks through all of his struggles.

The Yankees have been rewarded for their patience as Hicks hit .280/.330/.439 (107 wRC+) in 88 PAs during the month of August. By no coincidence, Hicks’ much improved hitting has matched up perfectly with the Carlos Beltran trade that has allowed him to play regularly. However, all players are constantly making adjustments at the plate, and surely Hicks is no different.

Unfortunately, Hicks suffered a hamstring injury on the last day of the month. Nevertheless, let’s look to see what other differences there have been this month for Aaron Hicks other than simply playing regularly, while of course keeping in mind that this is only a small sample size.

Unsurprisingly, Hicks hit the ball harder in August than he had the first four months of the season. His hard contact rate in August is at 30.3%, up from 25.6% from April-July. His soft contact rate also dropped to 13.6% from 20.2%. This is clearly good news, especially because it shows that Hicks’ improved batting line is not entirely BABIP driven. His BABIP has increased significantly, from .220 in April-July to .306 in August, but the latter number is not absurdly high and seems to be the result of Hicks making much better contact.

Along with hitting the ball harder, Hicks has also managed to hit the ball in the air with more frequency this month. Check out this batted ball data:

Months GB% LD% FB%
April-July 49.4% 15.7% 34.9%
August 35.4% 21.5% 43.1%

While the drop in GB% is certainly noticeable, Hicks’ August LD% is quite encouraging. If Hicks had a 21.5% LD% on the entire season, he would be nearly tied with Buster Posey and in the vicinity of players like Miguel Cabrera. Of course, this is not to say Hicks will ever be remotely close to Posey or Cabrera offensively, but it is certainly encouraging that he is capable of putting up a similar LD%, even in the small sample of a single month.

Also, as baseball fans know, players with elite speed can thrive with high ground-ball rates, the vast majority of players are better off hitting the ball in the air with frequency. Didi Gregorius, a player somewhat similar to Hicks in terms of speed, has managed to drop his GB% from 44.7% last year to 42% this season. This has, of course, coincided with Didi’s breakout offensive season. Hicks’ April-July GB% was simply too high for him to have sustainable, non-BABIP driven offensive success. While his August GB% may not be completely sustainable given where has was for much of the year, if he could maintain a ground-ball rate around Didi’s 2016 level, Hicks could notice more continued success in the future.

Now, let’s take a look to see how Hicks has done more damage offensively based on pitch selection. Because Hicks only had a small number of PAs from the right side of the plate in August, the following comparison is going to focus on Hicks’ PAs from the left side (against right-handed pitching). With that being said, the graphic below shows (from the catcher’s point of view) Hicks’ swing rate on four-seam fastballs against right-handed pitching from April through July.

Aaron Hicks1

Hicks was quite aggressive on fastballs just about anywhere in the zone as well as fastballs up and out of the zone for the first four months of the season. Being aggressive on fastballs in the zone is generally a positive, but considering that Hicks pulled the ball at a 46.4% clip during this time frame, he probably would be better off attacking pitches on the inner-half of the plate only. (For reference, Brian McCann pulls the ball 49.8% of the time so far this season.)

Additionally, while Hicks struggled mightily overall during this time, he did minimal damage on fastballs up and out of the zone, which is not particularly surprising given the location, but is quite poor considering how often he chased those pitches. Hicks struggled so much from April-July, that it would seem difficult to find one particular issue. His fastball selection, however, certainly stands out as contributing to his struggles. Now, let’s take a look at the same chart except with the time period being the entire month of August.

Aaron Hicks3

While keeping in mind that one month is obviously a smaller sample size than four, Hicks was much more successful at laying off fastballs up and out of the zone. Those types of fastballs can be challenging to do much damage with, so this stands out as a clear improvement for Hicks! Another noticeable difference between the two charts is that Hicks has also been more selective within the strike zone. While still swinging at some fastballs in the outer part of the zone, Hicks has taken more of them, while looking to attack fastballs on the inner-half of the plate. He has even been slightly more likely to swing at fastballs in and off the plate. Given his tendencies to pull the ball, Hicks has improved greatly in August by being more selective with fastballs and looking to attack ones located on the inner-half of the plate.

Of course, the sample size of pitches that meet these criteria is quite small, but Hicks has done quite a bit of damage in August on fastballs on the inner-half of the plate. The increased selectivity has been paying off, as Hicks was an above-average offensive player for the month of August. However, it is, of course, unknown whether Hicks can sustain this kind of success over a longer period of time. Perhaps, he simply had a good month. The increased hard contact rate, increased line drive rate, and better fastball pitch selection, among other improvements, do provide a little bit of evidence that Hicks may have made real gains in his development. His recent injury obviously creates another obstacle on his path to sustaining this success, but it is certainly fair to say the month of August provided hope for Aaron Hicks as a hitter.

Guest Post: The Five Stages of Rebuild Grief

The following is a guest post from a longtime reader and commenter who goes by Robinson Tilapia in the comments. Enjoy.

Frazier. (Presswire)
Frazier. (Presswire)

In 1969, psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published the classic “On Death and Dying,” which introduced the world to her Five Stages of Grief.  Even if you only took a high school elective on psychology, you’ve probably come across the five stages.  They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Throughout the years, Kubler-Ross later expanded her model in order to incorporate other sorts of losses that were not necessarily related to death, such as divorce, displacement, and loss of job.

As a mental health professional in my non-RAB life, I began toying with the idea of whether these five stages applied to baseball fans after their favorite team completing taking part in the selling-off process that frequently accompanies rebuilds.  Does this not constitute, after all, a form of loss for the fan?

I gave up pretty quickly on making the comparison once I looked at Kubler-Ross’s stages.  I really couldn’t relate to “denial” as the first thing you experience after trading away Andrew Miller, nor am I sure “bargaining” has a place there at all.  Instead, I spent an entire drive to work trying to name my own five stages for the process, which I’m sharing here.  While I doubt these will bring me anywhere near the acclaim Kubler-Ross received for her stages, perhaps they’ll be remembered about half as much as Ben’s (or was it Joe’s?) theory on Zen Baseball.

The Five Stages of Rebuild Grief are as follows:

Elation – The names are announced.  You’ve read comment after comment repeating these names: Clint Frazier! Justus Sheffield! Gleyber Torres!  They’re Yankees now!  You Google any scouting report you can get your hands on, damn the source.  You read about how Frazier has elite bat speed, how Sheffield is holding his own in A-ball despite being two years underage, and about how Ben Heller can dial it up to 100 at times.  Ben Heller, you ask?!?!  I hadn’t heard of him … and he’s ours now?!  You watch as MLB quickly updates their prospect rankings in order to include all the new guys, and you begin to write out that 2018 lineup.  Nothing can go wrong.

Doubt – You’ve now sat down for a few minutes, and have begun to digest them all.  You’ve done your fair share of reading.  Perhaps you even stumbled upon that rascal, Dave Cameron, giving you all these lovely comparisons on Clint Frazier.  Perhaps Freddie Freeman is on them.  Unfortunately, Wily Mo Pena may also be there (Note: I am making these comps up.  I figured Wily Mo Pena is as good a boogeyman as any.  Cameron has said none of this that I know of.)  You begin asking yourself why Texas would give up last year’s number four pick in the entire draft, even though everything points to a hamstring injury messing with their mechanics.  What else would they know, and does that mean Chicago knew something about Torres as well?  You wonder why Frazier, when Joey Gallo remained untraded at the deadline.  You start to ask yourself whether these were actually the right moves.

Justification – You log on to your favorite website’s comment section.  Others seem to be vocalizing the same doubts you’ve begun to have.  Could they be right?  Nonsense. THIS is what the fans wanted all along.  THESE are the players we wanted.  WE are getting younger.  Not only do I have zero doubts, but I’ve never been happier as a fan!  I will watch every game the rest of the way.  As a matter of fact, I think there’s a pretty good chance they make the playoffs.  Who are you to think otherwise?  GET ON BOARD.

Despair – You’re now on board, but there’s no turning back, is there?  Your favorite team is committed to having a Frazier/Aaron Judge/whoever-someone-else-wants-less outfield in the near future.  You begin to think about how Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Drew Henson, and Eric Duncan broke your heart.  You had visions of Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams shagging down fly balls in the outfield, but they’ve stalled out in AAA due to injury.  That can’t all be on the individual, can it?  No … it must be the Yankees, who are now entrusted to develop these guys too.  This was a bad idea, and there’s no way out now.  Are the St. Louis Cardinals looking for new fans?

Acceptance – The only overlapping stage with Kubler-Ross.  You’ve taken that deep breath, and now realize that all those options are possible outcomes and, know what?  It all sounds like fun.  It’s new.  It’s different.  You don’t know where this is going, but you’re willing to be taken for this ride.  You’ve reached that peace.  Go Yankees.

When you read what others have to say, no matter how negative or “Pollyanna” they may appear, they are simply on this same ride with you.  They’re just at a different marker.

Enjoy the ride.

Guest Post: Austin Romine’s transition from top prospect to trusty backup

The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, whose work can be found at Double G Sports, among other places. He’s previously written guest posts on Chris Capuano, Ike Davis, and the bullpen.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Andrew Romine is a 30-year old light-hitting middle infielder for the Detroit Tigers. The switch-hitting Romine is hitting a paltry .230 in 74 at-bats this season and has only hit five homers since making his debut in 2010 for the Angels. However, to his younger brother Austin, Andrew is more than just a middling backup infielder.

“He was my hero for a while, forever, still is,” said the younger Romine, who has resurrected his career this season with the Yankees. “I owe him a lot, especially the last couple of off-seasons, getting my career back on the map. He’s really just been the guy for me to just listen to him and he’s got my work ethic back going hard and he’s one of the big reasons why I’m having success in the game right now.”

The Romine brothers are both trying to stick in the family business – their father, Kevin, played in the majors from 1985-91, a reserve outfielder for the Red Sox who hit .251 in 331 big league games. Just fourteen families have sent a father and two sons to the major leagues, including noteworthy baseball families such as the Stottlemyres, Boones and the Alomars.

The Yankees took Austin in the second round of the 2007 draft, 94th overall and 84 places before his big brother was picked by Anaheim in the fifth round. He was handed a million dollar signing bonus out of high school and back in the winter of 2010, Baseball America ranked Austin as the Yankees’ sixth-best prospect. But he could never find the major league consistency to stick and blew chances in Spring Training to seize the backup catcher role. He has also battled various injuries, notably two bulging disks in his back in 2012 and a concussion suffered in September of 2013.

Romine had just 13 plate appearances in 2014 for New York and was cut two days before Opening Day last year, losing his spot to then-Yankee John Ryan Murphy. He was designated for assignment and slipped through waivers unclaimed. His days in pinstripes looked to be numbered. But he spent the next five months at Triple-A Scranton and made the most of his time there, when he really seemed to have no future in the organization.

“Well when they pull you in the office and they tell you that you’re not hitting and you need to hit, you need to show that you can handle hitting at the big league level, it kinds of puts something on your shoulder, not necessarily in a negative way, in a positive way — I wanted to show them that I can hit, I wanted to show them that I can do it, that I’m still a catcher that people want,” said Romine. “So I mean I went down there with the right mindset, I had gone down there before, years before angry, upset with myself and really taking it in a bad direction. But last year I went down and I wanted to prove that I can hit, not only to the Yankees but to everybody else in baseball so I went down there with a positive mindset and I know what I wanted to do and I put in a lot of work and it came out good.”

Romine was a key part in the RailRiders’ run to the International League North Division championship. He hit .260 with seven home runs, 49 RBIs in 92 games and was named to the midseason All-Star team. Romine received a promotion to the big club when rosters expanded in September but he played in just one game with the Yankees. Out of options, Romine came to Spring Training as a backup catcher candidate along with top prospect Gary Sanchez and veteran Carlos Corporan.

“I mean to tell you the truth, I figured it was going to be my last look,” Romine admits. “I kind of been passed over and put down on the list a little bit but every time you get in the lineup there’s a chance to show something, there’s a chance to prove something and that’s how I took it. I was relaxed and been there, like you said it’s my tenth time going around so I’ve been in this situation before, knew what to expect, just really relaxed and let what I can do take over.”

No one seemed to think Romine would actually win the job after Sanchez’s monster 2015 season and standout performance in the Arizona Fall League, but he said that he had finally slowed the game down and felt more comfortable than he’s ever been. Sanchez struggled, Corporan hit just .167 and Romine hit a respectable .289 in 38 at-bats. He won the job.

“I had an opportunity to win a job again even in a rough spot,” said Romine, who is now in his tenth season in the Yankee organization. “I had Gary, I had Corporan, I had a lot of catchers that might have been in front of me in camp and I just went in with the mindset that there’s always a chance and I had to hit to be noticed and that’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to hit.”

Romine is trying to hit and he’s done just that. The 27-year-old is slashing .259/.276/.422 in limited time as Brian McCann’s backup. He has hit three homers and he’s batting .455 (10-22) with three doubles, 2 homers and 12 RBIs with runners in scoring position, the third highest average in the majors. In 169 major-league at-bats before this season, he had a .201/.244/.278 slash line with one home run and 11 RBIs.

Long considered the best defensive catcher in the Yankees’ system, Romine has also seemed to work well with the pitching staff, so much so that he may find himself becoming a personal catcher for Masahiro Tanaka, who is 5-0 with a 1.79 ERA in seven starts with Romine behind the plate.

Last Monday, Romine hit his first career go-ahead RBI in 8th inning or later off of Dallas Keuchel and he has performed better than anyone could have reasonably hoped. Backup catchers have remarkable staying power in the major leagues and Romine is making good on what was his last best chance to make it as a Yankee.

“There’s not very many chances in this game so to be passed over the year before for the job and to be able to get another chance to win it back and come back to New York is huge,” Romine said. “And I told myself I was going to take advantage of every opportunity that I got and that’s all I’m really trying to do.”

Guest Post: Adam Warren: The Once and Future Yankee

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Tarik Shah, who wrote about new old Yankee Adam Warren. Tarik previously wrote a guest post about the Yankee fandom in his family.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Ever since the departure of Robinson Cano to the Pacific Northwest, the Yankees have gotten cute trying to fill the gaping hole in their middle infield. First, in 2014, the ghost of Brian Roberts was given a shot, which predictably required the Yankees to acquire Martin Prado midseason. Prado performed admirably (147 wRC+ in 37 games), but it was not to be, as he was included in the trade that brought Nathan Eovaldi to the Bronx.

The 2015 season brought the great Stephen Drew experiment. The experiment, I believe, wasn’t to discover whether Stephen Drew could be a capable second baseman, but whether he could consistently hit a home run at the exact moment when the front office, coaches, and fans had exhausted their patience with his subpar play, thereby securing more playing time. By that metric at least, the experiment was a success.

Ultimately, this past offseason Brian Cashman made a risky move in acquiring the talented but enigmatic Starlin Castro from the Cubs. The new Yankee second baseman’s play thus far has been uninspiring. Castro accumulated 0.2 fWAR through his first 96 games. For reference, the much pilloried Stephen Drew accumulated 0.2 fWAR in 132 games. Of course, the cost to acquire this thus far unimpressive infielder is the subject of today’s article, Adam Warren. As has been widely reported, Mr. Warren is set to return to the Bronx as part of the trade that will send Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs.

When Warren was traded away, many fans were concerned as Warren had pitched well as a Yankee (2015: 3.29 ERA/3.59 FIP/3.89 xFIP in 131.1 IP). In particular, he occupied the often referenced, but rarely filled, Ramiro Mendoza slot. Such a player would be valuable to a team that had trouble in the back-end of its bullpen and rotation, so when the back-end of the Yankees bullpen and rotation stumbled, Warren’s loss was acutely felt.

However, casual fans, or those who only follow the Bombers, might be surprised to find out that Adam Warren has not performed well this year. In fact, his performance had been so poor, the Cubs recently demoted him to AAA (2016: 5.91 ERA/5.83 FIP/5.23 xFIP in 35 IP).

K% BB% HR/9
2015 19.5 7.3 0.69
2016 17.8 12.5 1.80

Giving up more walks, hits, home runs, and striking out fewer batters is no recipe for success. So what has changed for Warren, and what might he be able to tweak upon return to Yankee Stadium? The first thing that jumps out at you when looking at his batted ball profile is that he’s giving up more fly balls, and of those, more are going for home runs. The league average HR/FB is around 10%, so hopefully Warren can benefit from some regression to the mean. Even so, Warren’s xFIP sits at 5.23, which is not that far off from his 5.83 FIP. So, regression there will only help so much.

LD% GB% FB% HR/FB%
2015 22.8 45.2 32.0 8.3
2016 16.3 43.3 40.4 16.7

Warren has also not been as proficient at stranding runners this year, as he has throughout his career. His LOB% this year sits at 64.7% whereas it’s 75.8% for his career. Perhaps this too is an area where Warren can benefit from some regression.

As far as his pitch selection is concerned, so far in 2016 it seems that the only thing that Warren has changed is that he’s scaled back on sliders and curveballs, while going to his changeup more often. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help us explain why Warren has been struggling, as his change up has actually been worth 2.47 runs per 100 pitches.

FB% SL% CB% CH%
2015 44.8 29.0 11.1 15.1
2016 44.9 25.5 7.5 22.1
Career 45.5 27.3 10.3 16.9

Has the velocity of his pitches decreased or changed significantly? It seems not. In fact, if you were to look at any number of Warren’s metrics you’d find that there has not been much of difference between what he did last year, and what he’s done this year, save for the results.

FB (MPH) SL CB CH
2015 92.5 87.2 79.4 84.3
2016 92.8 87.4 79.9 84.5

Unfortunately, this comes to an incredibly foreseeable and unsatisfying ending. Adam Warren has thrown 35 poor innings this year, not a very significant sample size. Reliever performance is volatile and subject to the effects of small sample sizes.

As far as can be told from the information available, Adam Warren the Cub is not much different from Adam Warren the Yankee, and yet, Adam Warren the Cub has not performed well. Brian Cashman knows this, and is hoping that with a little help from the cruel goddess of reliever volatility, Adam Warren can once again pitch like the Yankees version of Adam Warren.