Counting the Opening Day rainout, the Yankees enjoyed their fourth off-day in the span of two weeks yesterday. They only have two off-days in the next five weeks though, so the day in, day out grind is about to begin. Here are some thoughts.
1. I’m not sure anyone on the roster needed a good start to the season more than Jacoby Ellsbury. Yeah, you could argue it was Brett Gardner after his second half swoon, or Mark Teixeira after his broken leg, or Starlin Castro since he’s new to the team, but I think it was Ellsbury. He didn’t hit at all following his knee injury last season, and the Yankees owe him roughly $110M through 2020, so the team needs him bounce back strong this season. It’s imperative if they want to contend. Instead, Ellsbury has owns a .213/.260/.298 (56 wRC+) batting line and has made a number of notable misplays in the field. It’s still super early in the season — the Yankees have played 6.8% of their schedule — but yeesh. Anytime you feel like getting it going, Ells.
2. The propagation of runner in scoring position stats is easily my least favorite recent baseball trend. RISP success fluctuates wildly from game to game, series to series, month to month, and year to year — the 2013 Cardinals hit .330 with RISP and the 2014 Cardinals hit .254 with RISP even though they had the same damn team — and it has zero predictive value. Everyone thinks their team sucks with runners in scoring position. Know why? Because baseball is a game of failure, and the league right now is hitting .248 with runners in scoring position overall, which means fans are annoying more than 75% of the time. (No one seems to care about walks with RISP.) The Yankees did a terrible job with RISP against the Mariners. It was hideous. But it doesn’t mean much of anything. The constant updates (0-for-1, 0-for-2, 0-for-3, etc.) are the worst. There’s so much more going on.
3. Good gravy how awesome have Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller been? They’ve struck out 27 of 41 batters this year, or 65.9%, which is ridiculous. Major League hitters are the best ballplayers in the world. Even the guys we complain about all the time. The ones who aren’t very good relative to their peers. They’re still in, like, the 99.9999th percentile of humans athletically. Big league hitters are so good, and yet Betances and Miller completely overwhelm them. Did you see Sunday’s game? That was not a fair fight. Those Mariners hitters had no chance at all. Mariano Rivera was dominant in a unique way. He was all about precision and avoiding the barrel of the bat. (The career soft contact rate leaderboard is a personal favorite.) Betances and Miller just overpower hitters. It’s unreal. This is so fun. Just wait until Aroldis Chapman returns three weeks from yesterday.
4. The rest of the bullpen has been pretty good too. There were some questions about the middle relief, remember, but Johnny Barbato has been awesome and Chasen Shreve has bounced back well. Ivan Nova got rocked for that one inning in Toronto and Tyler Olson had a few forgettable innings over the weekend, and that’s about it as far as meltdowns go. Trading away Justin Wilson and Adam Warren created some very real holes — especially since Chapman was going to be out of action for a still undetermined length of time when the trade went down — and that was kinda scary. None of the shuttle relievers impressed in camp either. And yet, Shreve’s been great and Barbato has emerged as a weapon. The Yankees seem to be pretty good at this bullpen building thing, huh?
5. The first two turns (plus one start) through the rotation have not gone too well. To wit:
That’s the five starters, and I’ll let you try to guess who is the proud owner of each of those sets of numbers. Point is, the rotation has generally been not very good. There have been some flashes of excellence — Nathan Eovaldi was dominant before hanging a splitter to Josh Donaldson, CC Sabathia was solid in Detroit, etc. — but that means nothing. The Yankees need to start seeing some sustained success out of their starting five. Quality starts are pretty dumb — what’s so good about a 4.50 ERA? — but it would be cool if the starters ran off a string of, like, eight of them in a row right now.
6. I’m in the minority, but I’m not too worried about Chase Headley. I don’t expect him to hit for much power, even in tiny Yankee Stadium, though he’s always taken his walks (seven walks and six strikeouts so far) and eventually his .190 BABIP will go back to normal. Especially since his soft contact rate (14.3%) has returned to his career average (14.8%) after last year’s spike (17.4%). Longtime RAB readers, especially those who frequent the chats, know I’ve been on Headley for years. Since his prospect days. His throwing seems to be back to normal, and I think he’ll settle in around .260/.330/.380 when it’s all said and done. That’s something like a 90-95 wRC+ these days. Not great, but not the end of the world either. I have a hard time thinking the No. 7 hitter is going to sink the season.