Yankeemetrics: Stayin’ Alive (Aug. 31-Sept. 3)

(Getty)
(Getty)

Old Man Ace + Baby Bombers = Win
The Yankees kicked off the Most Important Series of the Season® with a 6-2 romp over the Red Sox on Thursday night.

While other pitchers on the team have better pure stuff than CC Sabathia, there isn’t a guy the Yankees would rather have on the mound trying to halt a three-game slide while facing their hated division rival:

  • Sabathia is now 8-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 10 starts following a Yankee loss this season. That’s the best ERA among all MLB pitchers with at least six such starts through Thursday.
  • He went 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox this season. That’s tied for the fifth-lowest single-season ERA by a Yankee against the Red Sox, among the nearly 200 guys that have made at least four starts vs them.
  • Only four other starters in franchise history won at least four games in a season versus Boston with an ERA as low as Sabathia’s: Spud Chandler (1943), Lefty Gomez (1934), Bob Shawkey (1923).
  • Sabathia has won five straight starts against the Red Sox dating back to September last year. Over the past 50 years, Mike Mussina (2001-02) and Sabathia are the lone Yankee pitchers to beat the Red Sox five starts in a row.

Gary Sanchez capped off another stellar August by going 2-for-5, hammering a game-tying solo homer in the third and then delivering a game-winning RBI single in the fifth. He finished with 12 homers in the month, producing a slew of cool statistical nuggets:

  • Sanchez is the fifth player under age 25 in franchise history to hit a dozen homers in any calendar month, joining Don Mattingly (Sept. 1985), Mickey Mantle (three times), Joe DiMaggio (twice), and Lou Gehrig (June 1927).
  • The only Yankee right-handed batters in the last six decades with 12-or-more dingers in a month are Sanchez and Alex Rodriguez (August 2005, April 2007).
  • Sanchez and Yogi Berra (1952) are the only catchers in franchise history with a dozen homers in a calendar month.
  • He is one of six Yankees to reach 12 homers in August. You might have heard of the other guys: A-Rod (2005), Mantle (1955, ’56), DiMaggio (1939) and Babe Ruth (1929).

Combined with his awesome August last year, Sanchez now has a 1.133 OPS in 52 career games in the month. Here’s a list of MLB players with the highest career August OPS (min. 100 plate appearances) over the last 100 seasons:

Name OPS
Babe Ruth 1.134
Gary Sanchez 1.133
Lou Gehrig 1.111

Slipping away
One up, one down …. the Yankees rollercoaster season kept chugging along on Friday night as they followed up an encouraging win with another lackluster loss.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Red Sox got only five hits off Sonny Gray, but three of the them went over the fence and resulted in all four of the runs Boston scored in the game. That snapped Gray’s streak of 11 straight starts with no more than two earned runs allowed, the longest in the majors this season.

That the streak ended because he got burned by the longball was stunning: Gray entered the game with the majors’ lowest home run rate allowed (0.71 per 9 IP) among pitchers with at least 120 innings. Also prior to Friday, the Red Sox had hit the fewest homers in the AL and ranked 29th in MLB in percentage of runs scored via home runs (34.7%).

Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi continued his assault on Yankee pitching with a solo homer. It was his fifth dinger at Yankee Stadium in 2017, joining Jim Rice (1983) as the only Red Sox players to hit five homers there in a single season. More impressive, the 23-year-old became the youngest visiting player ever to go deep five times in a season at either version of the storied ballpark.

(AP)
(AP)

Ace ‘Hiro
In full desperation mode and facing perhaps their most critical game of the season so far on Saturday, the Fighting Spirit kicked in and the Yankees pulled off their latest and greatest Biggest Win of the Season®.

Masahiro Tanaka‘s transformation from dud to stud over the last two-plus months has been remarkable. His seven-inning, five-hit, one-run gem against the Red Sox gave him a 2.77 ERA over his last 12 starts, a massive turnaround from the 6.34 ERA he posted through his first 14 starts of the season.

He dominated the Red Sox by pounding the bottom of the zone with a well-located mix of sharp sliders and splitters, generating a ton of weak contact and grounders. Per Fangraphs, half of the 22 balls in play against Tanaka were classified as “soft contact,” the highest rate in any of Tanaka’s 101 career starts. And Statcast tracked those batted balls with an average exit velocity of 78.8 mph, the lowest that Tanaka has allowed in the 81 starts he’s made in the Statcast era (since 2015). As you can see in the spray chart below, nearly everything the Red Sox hit was either in the infield or a weak fly ball:
masahiro-tanaka-9

Matt Holliday‘s overall numbers are well below his career standards, but he still has been a difference-maker in the lineup because of his ability to consistently deliver big, clutch hits. His tie-breaking, three-run homer in the sixth inning increased his slugging percentage with RISP to .671 this season, the fourth-best mark in the AL (min. 90 PA).

(AP)
(AP)

Victory with an exclamation point
The Yankees kept alive their dreams of an AL East title with an emphatic 9-2 win on Sunday night, cutting Boston’s division lead to 3 1/2 games with one month left in the season.

Chase Headley sparked the offensive explosion with a line-drive homer in the third inning. The wallscraper came on an 0-2 pitch from Chris Sale, making it one of the unlikeliest homers of the season. It was the 129th career homer allowed by Sale but just the fifth one that came on an 0-2 pitch. And it was just the third time in Headley’s career that he homered off an 0-2 pitch from a lefty, and the first since 2013.

The Yankees continued to pummel Sale in the next frame when Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier homered in consecutive at-bats to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. It was the first time ever that Sale has allowed back-to-back homers in a game. Each of the three longballs that Sale coughed up came in a two-strike count — a remarkable feat by the Yankees considering that entering Sunday, Sale had allowed a slugging percentage of .167, the second-lowest mark in the majors (min. 200 batters faced).

Aaron Judge joined the homer party when he crushed a 469-foot bomb to left-center in the sixth inning. It was his 38th home run of the season, matching Wally Berger (1930) and Frank Robinson (1956) for the second-most ever hit by a rookie in major-league history; the only player with more is Mark McGwire with 49 in 1987.

Luis Severino bolstered his own Cy Young case with another dominant gem, holding the Red Sox to one unearned run on two hits while striking out nine. It was his 14th start surrendering no more than one run, the most such games by any pitcher in MLB this year.

Sevy also reach a significant milestone when he whiffed Sandy Leon for the final out of the fifth inning. It was his 200th strikeout of 2017, as he joined Al Downing (1964) as the only pitchers in franchise history to strike out at least 200 batters in a season at age 23 or younger.

Yankeemetrics: Rocked and rolled by Cleveland (Aug. 28-30)

(Getty)
(Getty)

Kluber’d
Monday’s lackluster 6-2 loss to the Indians was not the way the Yankees wanted to kick off perhaps the toughest week of their schedule so far – a grueling seven-games-in-seven-days stretch against two first-place teams.

Cleveland’s ace, Corey Kluber, put on a masterful performance in silencing the Yankee bats, which is hardly surprising given his history of shutting down the Bombers (and the way he’s dominated the rest of the league this year).

He’s made two starts against the Yankees this year, and in each of those games has pitched eight-or-more innings while allowing no more than three hits. Before Kluber, the last pitcher on any team to have two such outings in a season against the Yankees was Roger Clemens in 1991. Kluber’s success goes back further than this year, too. He’s riding a streak of five straight starts against the Yankees with at least seven strikeouts and two earned runs or fewer. The only other pitchers in baseball history to do that are Roy Halladay (2001-02) and Nolan Ryan (1973-75).

Kluber has also won each of those five starts, earning an Obscure Yankeemetric award for this stat: he is the only guy ever to win five consecutive starts against the Yankees, while striking out at least seven and allowing no more than two earned runs in each game.

The Yankees had their ace on the mound, too, but Luis Severino was ultimately outdueled in the matchup of Cy Young contenders. It was a confusing performance by Sevvy, who mixed some good (9 strikeouts), a little bad (3 walks) and too much ugly (3 homers).

The only other time in his big-league career he allowed three longballs in a game was May 8 last year vs the Red Sox, and it’s just the ninth time in 59 career appearances that he’s allowed more than one home run. The Yankees are now 0-9 when Severino surrenders multiple homers in a game.

via GIPHY

The good news is that there’s some statistical evidence that this was just a rare blip in what has been a fantastic season for Severino. He did a reasonably solid job of limiting hard contact and dangerous flyballs, aside from the three that went over the fence, indicating some random bad luck.

  • Per statcast, only five of the 108 pitches he threw (4.6%) were hit with solid contact. This season, he allowed a higher rate of hard contact in 18 of his 25 other starts.
  • His average exit velocity on batted balls was 85 mph, his sixth-lowest mark in a game this year.
  • He gave up only three flyballs that were hit beyond the infield; and somehow all three of them went over the fence!
  • According to ESPN’s Hit Tracker, Jose Ramirez‘s first-inning homer to right-center would have been a home run in only three other ballparks besides Yankee Stadium.

Bad luck aside, the three home runs were real, and the freezing-cold Yankee bats couldn’t overcome those three mistakes.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

One is the loneliest number
Did I mention freezing-cold bats? Trevor Bauer and the Indians bullpen kept the Bronx Bombers’ bats on ice in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader and the Yankees added to their growing list of frustrating games lost by one run.

The tally is now at 23 one-run losses, the most in the American League and the third-most in baseball. They fell to 15-23 (.395) in 1-run games, putting them in danger of posting just the fifth sub-.400 record in such games in a season in franchise history (also 1981, 1966, 1935, 1925).

Jaime Garcia (with some help from Gary Sanchez) put the Yankees in an early hole when he gave up two runs on three singles and a passed ball in the first inning. While Sanchez has been above-average in framing pitches and throwing out baserunners this season, he continues to struggle with his blocking. This was his 13th passed ball (in 699 innings caught), the most by a Yankee since Jorge Posada also had 13 in 2007 (1,111 innings caught).

While Garcia threw his best game so far in pinstripes, Chad Green was the true pitching superstar on Wednesday afternoon. He replaced Garcia in the sixth and then tossed 2⅔ scoreless innings, allowing one hit with seven strikeouts.

Green has been a strikeout machine all season, and in this game he etched his name in the franchise and MLB record books:

  • His seven strikeouts are the most for any Yankee who pitched fewer than three innings in a game.
  • He is the only major-league pitcher ever to strike out at least seven guys in an outing where he faced eight or fewer batters.
(AP)
(AP)

A new low
The Yankees capped off a miserable day in the Bronx with another uninspiring loss, 9-4, as the Indians completed a rare series sweep of the pinstripers.

This was just the third time in the last 50 years that the Yankees were swept by the Indians in a series of at least three games – it also happened April 7-9, 1989 and September 11-13, 1970. And entering this week, the Yankees had only been swept once the entire season, which was the second-fewest in the majors; the Dodgers are the lone team that hasn’t yet been swept in a series this year.

It was deja vu all over again for the hometown team to start the nightcap of the twinbill. Before they even swung a bat, the Yankees faced another insurmountable deficit, as Jordan Montgomery coughed up four runs on five hits in the opening frame. That snapped a streak of 16 straight games in which Yankee starters had allowed no more than three earned runs, their longest such streak since June/July of 1988.

Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks were a two-man offensive show, with Bird driving in all four of the Yankees runs and Hicks getting half of the team’s eight hits. There was little to celebrate from this game (and the series), so let’s end with a couple #FunFacts:

  • Hicks is the first Yankee since Bernie Williams on October 5, 1991 with at least four hits and a run scored in a loss to the Indians.
  • Bird’s three-run homer in the bottom of the inning kept them from getting “blown out” and preserved this obscure stat: the Yankees are still the only team in the majors that hasn’t lost a game by a margin of eight or more runs this season.

My birthday tribute to Gritty Gutty Brett Gardner

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Hi everyone. You know me from Yankeemetrics, which I think you know is my favorite Yankees thing in the world.

But I want to tell you about my favorite current Yankees player and why I root so hard for him.

I like Brett Gardner because he displays all the five tools – baserunning, fielding (throwing too), the hit tool and now his newfound power tool. He plays hard all the time.

I liked him right when he came up. I knew the backstory of how he was a walk-on at the College of Charleston. I was looking forward to him being called up because I had been following him in the minors. Within the first month he was up, he had two walk-off hits.

And my niece shares a birthday with Gardner. She just turned 10.

He’s very convenient and accessible for the media. He speaks his mind. He recently spoke his mind saying he wanted to wear Yankees pinstripes or wear a blank name on the back of his jersey for Player’s Weekend. That’s pretty hilarious and awesome at the same time.

Players Weekend is a prop that generates revenue. It’s a one-weekend thing. It does nothing to denigrate the legacy of the Yankees. MLB needs a weekend like this for marketing the game. I think it’s just not a big deal to him. I think he just doesn’t care.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

I am horrible at picking favorite moments. I react to all of the incredible ones the same. So my favorite for Gardner is probably his most recent walk-off moments (July 27 and 29 against the Rays). One of my friends jokes that when I get excited, I do a “Sharp Shriek.” But for that one, it was probably a “Sharp Peep” because my husband was asleep on the couch next to me. I save the “Sharp Shrieks” for daytime.

But I do have some favorite Gardner stats. In nine seasons, he’s averaging 3.5 WAR per season. Not bad. He has more career WAR as a Yankee than Rickey Henderson and Roger Maris, and he just moved into the top 25 Yankee WAR leaderboard, too. I also like this list — Yankees with 150 steals, 50 triples and 80 home runs: Derek Jeter, Roy White, Mickey Mantle and Brett Gardner.

He had four hits and an RBI on his birthday. Three Yankees have had four hits and an RBI on their birthday: Jerry Mumphrey, Brett Gardner and Lou Gehrig. It was the only thing of value to come out of the brawl game, which was probably the most infuriating game of the season to watch.

Brett just turned 34. He’s signed through 2018 and he has a $12.5 million team option for 2019. I think they would be silly to trade him before his contract is up. He brings leadership and chemistry, and he still plays fantastic, even though he’s not as dynamic at the plate. They’ve passed the point where they could get something of equal value back in a swap.

The Yankees should stick with him through the end of his contract, pick up the option and then decide. He could play until he’s 45. He’s so confident in himself. I would be heartbroken if he ever played for another team. I hope he retires a Yankee. That’s what he’s always wanted to do.

Previewing the Yankees’ upcoming September call-ups

Matty H. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Matty H. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

This coming Friday, on September 1st, all 30 big league teams will be allowed to expand their active rosters from 25 players up to 40 players. Most teams end up going with 30-35 players in September. Maybe two or three clubs a year actually go with the maximum 40 players. Either way, rosters are going to expand in a few days and every club has reinforcements coming.

The Yankees have been fairly aggressive with September call-ups in recent years. Aggressive in the sense that they call up a lot of extra players in general, especially on September 1st. Last year they called up six players on September 1st. The year before it was seven players. The year before that it was nine players. Nine call-ups on September 1st! Good gravy. The Yankees tend to call up plenty of help the first day possible. I’m surprised more teams don’t do the same.

So, with September call-ups only a few days away, there’s no better time to look ahead at who the Yankees could bring to the big leagues once rosters expand. Let’s take a trip through the organizational depth chart. Come with me, won’t you?

The Injured Guys

Might as well start here. The Yankees currently have five players on the MLB disabled list: Luis Cessa, Garrett Cooper, Clint Frazier, Matt Holliday, and Michael Pineda. Pineda’s done for the season following Tommy John surgery. I’m not really sure what’s up with Cessa. We haven’t heard any updates on him since he was sidelined by rib cage issue on August 15th. Should Cessa get healthy before the end of the season, he’ll join the Yankees, I’m sure.

Both Holliday and Cooper are on minor league rehab assignments right now and in all likelihood both will be activated Friday, the first day rosters expand. Frazier recently started taking swings and going through some other baseball activities, so he’s a little further behind Cooper and Holliday. Once he gets healthy and goes through the requisite minor league rehab assignment — assuming there are still minor league games being played at that time — Frazier will be activated and join the Yankees for the rest of the season. Pretty straightforward here.

The September Locks

Monty. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Monty. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

As always, the safest bets for September call-ups are guys who were up earlier this season. There are eleven such players on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues right now: Miguel Andujar, Tyler Austin, Gio Gallegos, Domingo German, Ben Heller, Ronald Herrera, Kyle Higashioka, Jonathan Holder, Bryan Mitchell, Jordan Montgomery, and Tyler Wade. All eleven of those guys have seen big league time this year. Some more than others.

Like I said, the Yankees have been fairly aggressive with their September 1st call-ups in recent years, so I expect several of these players to join the Yankees on Friday. Montgomery is an absolutely lock. He’s going to get a September call-up and step right back into the rotation, I suspect. Mitchell, Holder, and Gallegos have been the primary up-and-down relievers this season, and since the Yankees like to load up on pitching reinforcements whenever possible, my money is on all three guys showing up to Yankee Stadium this Friday.

Austin and Wade are all obvious September call-ups candidates as well, though there is a catch here. They were both sent down recently and need to wait out the ten-day rule first. Wade was sent down Friday, when Starlin Castro was activated, so he can’t come back up until Monday. Austin was sent down Saturday to make room for Greg Bird. He can’t come back until Tuesday. The ten-day rule is a bit of a hassle. It is what it is.

The Guys Who Might Have To Wait

As noted, there are eleven players on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues right now. I expect four to be called up on September 1st: Mitchell, Montgomery, Gallegos, and Holder. That’s all. The other seven will have to wait a little bit for different reasons. Austin and Wade have to wait because of the ten-day rule. Here’s my thinking on the remaining five guys.

1. Higashioka and Herrera are both hurt. Pretty good reason for not calling them upright away, I’d say. Herrera is currently pitching in rookie ball rehab games and is expected to join the Double-A Trenton rotation (or maybe Triple-A Scranton rotation) for the postseason next week. Herrera was called up twice this year as an emergency fill-in. It was one of those “crap we need a long man and he’s the only guy lined up” situations. Well, two of those.

Higashioka, meanwhile, is currently out with a shoulder injury that is not believed to be serious. There’s even some talk he could be ready to go by time rosters expand Friday. That would be cool. A third catcher is a September staple, and keep in mind Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine have suspensions pending. They’re appealing, though at some point they’re going to have serve at least part of their suspensions, and having Higashioka on the active roster will make it much easier to get by without those guys. He has to get healthy first though.

2. The Yankees have mostly avoided Andujar and Heller. There have been plenty of opportunities to call up both guys this year, and they have seen big league time. Andujar had the one great game against the White Sox. Heller has made two appearances with the Yankees this season, most notably throwing two scoreless innings in the 16-inning win at Fenway Park right after the All-Star break.

Andujar. (Times Leader)
Andujar. (Times Leader)

The Yankees could have easily — and justifiably — called up Andujar and/or Heller on several other occasions this season, but choose to go in another direction. With Andujar, he’s a bonafide prospect who needs to improve his defense, so keeping him in Triple-A to work at the hot corner rather than play sporadically at the MLB is understandable. Heller? I’m not sure. The Yankees seem to prefer Gallegos and Holder for whatever reason. I’m a Heller guy. The Yankees aren’t.

Point is, because these two have been passed over for call-ups these last few weeks, I don’t think they will be September 1st call-ups when rosters expand. Both will likely have to wait until the Triple-A postseason ends, which could be as early as next weekend or as late as September 19th. There aren’t going to be many at-bats available for Andujar, and with Heller, how many mop-up relievers does a team need? I think both will have to wait until the RailRiders are done playing.

3. German needs to pitch. From June 6th through July 28th, a span of 52 days, German made eight appearances and threw 350 total pitches. That’s all. This kid’s a starter! But he spent so much time with the Yankees as their seldom used eighth reliever that it took a few Triple-A outings to get stretched all the way back out. German has thrown 115 total innings this season and that’s not much at all. This is his first full season since Tommy John surgery, so I imagine the Yankees are monitoring his workload closely. I still think they want German to log more innings this season. That’s why I think he’ll stay with Scranton, start every fifth day through the end of their season, then come up to sit in the bullpen.

Non-40-Man Roster Guys

Every once in a while the Yankees will take a player who will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, add him to the 40-man roster, and call him up September. Rather than wait to add the player to the 40-man at the November deadline, they get a head start on things and call him up in September. Romine received his first taste of the big leagues that way in September 2011. The Yankees did the same thing with James Pazos in 2015.

That does not happen often, however, and I do not think the Yankees will do it this September. Gleyber Torres is hurt, Domingo Acevedo has been shut down due to his workload, and Albert Abreu missed a big chunk of the season with injuries and has yet to pitch above High-A. They’ll all be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season and the Yankees will add them to the 40-man roster prior to the November deadline, no doubt. Not a second earlier, however. Torres and Acevedo are unavailable and Abreu is a Single-A kid. Calling them up would be pointless.

Other 40-man roster hopefuls like Jake Cave and Billy McKinney wouldn’t have a defined role in September. Romine was the third catcher. Pazos was the third lefty. Cave and McKinney would be … the seventh and eighth outfielders? Not exactly a big priority. I suppose the Yankees could add Cave to the 40-man roster — he’s going to be a minor league free agent this winter, so the Yankees will have to add him to the 40-man pretty much right after the World Series to avoid losing him — as a reward for his great season, but nah. Roster space is at a premium.

E-Rod. (Scranton Times Tribune)
E-Rod. (Scranton Times Tribune)

Now, that all said, there are two non-40-man players who I think could get a September call-up. One is Eddy Rodriguez, and he will only get called up if a) Higashioka doesn’t get healthy reasonably soon, and b) both Sanchez and Romine have their appeals heard and must serve their suspensions. So basically only if the Yankees run out of eligible catchers. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. If it does, the Yankees will have no choice but to clear a 40-man roster spot to call up Rodriguez.

The other non-40-man call-up candidate? I don’t know. It’ll be the designated September pinch-runner, whoever that ends up being. Last year it was Eric Young Jr., the year before it was Rico Noel, and the year before that it was Antoan Richardson. Back in 2009 it was Freddy Guzman. Guzman was on the postseason roster all three rounds that year. True story. The Yankees have made it clear they value the designated September pinch-runner.

Jorge Mateo has been traded and I don’t think the Yankees would use Jacoby Ellsbury as their designated pinch-runner — besides, he’s starting to hit a little bit now, so I imagine he’ll find himself in the starting lineup a little more often going forward — so they don’t have an obvious in-house candidate for that role. If the Yankees are willing to open a 40-man roster spot, they’ll likely go out and get someone to come off the bench and run in September. Not a big trade — they got Young for cash last year — but a trade nonetheless.

* * *

As is often the case, this year’s batch of September call-ups is fairly straightforward. Holliday and Cooper will return from the disabled list Friday while Montgomery, Mitchell, Holder, and Gallegos figure to came up from Scranton, giving the Yankees six extra players on the first day rosters expand. Others like Andujar, Austin, German, Heller, and Wade are likely to come up shortly thereafter. Cessa, Frazier, and Higashioka will join the Yankees once they’re healthy, and if Higashioka doesn’t get healthy soon, Rodriguez figures to come up instead. Herrera and a pinch-runner are other possibilities.

I am pro-September call-ups — there are a lot of weirdos out there who don’t like expanded rosters — and it’s always fun to see the young guys come up, but here’s something to keep in mind: the Yankees are fighting for a postseason spot. They’re not going to play Andujar (or Cave) for the heck of it. Joe Girardi is going to stick with his regulars because the Yankees need to win, and the regulars give them the best chance to do that. The call-ups are around for blowouts and emergencies. That’s about it.

Yankeemetrics: Ending with a win, finally (Aug. 25-27)

(AP)
(AP)

Extra awful loss
The uniforms might have looked different, but the result was a familiar one for Yankee fans in the Bronx on Friday night – a frustrating and gut-wrenching 11-inning, 2-1 loss. While another late meltdown by the bullpen was the trigger point, the lack of clutch hitting and numerous wasted scoring opportunities gave the Yankees virtually no chance to win the game.

Let’s recap the ugliness:

  • It was their 22nd one-run loss of the season, the most in the American League through Friday, and 10(!) more than they had all of last season.
  • It was also their sixth extra-inning loss, twice as many as they suffered in 2016.
  • And it was the 22nd time the bullpen was charged with a loss, the third-highest total in the AL through Friday, behind the Rays and Rangers.

Aroldis Chapman‘s miserable season continued as he coughed up the game-winning homer to Yonder Alonso in the top of the 11th inning. Chapman wore the goat horns, and also gets stung with our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series:

He is the second Yankee ever to give up an extra-inning go-ahead homer at Yankee Stadium against the Mariners. The other one happened on June 14, 1978 when Leon Roberts took Sparky Lyle deep in the top of the 10th, a shot that was rendered meaningless when the Yankees rallied in the bottom of the frame to win the game.

Alonso is also the second left-handed batter this month to homer off the Cuban Missile. That is a mind-blogging fact considering Chapman had surrendered only one home run to a lefty in his career before Rafael Devers took him deep two weeks ago (Luke Scott was the other on June 26, 2011).

To sum it up: he allowed one homer to the first 418 lefty batters he faced in the majors, and since has allowed two homers to the last 12 lefty batters he’s faced in the majors.

With Alonso hammering a 100.1 mph pitch from Chapman into Monument Park, it’s becoming more and more likely that his blazing fastball is no longer a weapon of intimidation in the pitcher-hitter duel. Batters are squaring up on his triple-digit heater more often than ever. Look at these numbers for the 100-plus mph pitches he has thrown in this career.

Year Pitches Slug pct Home runs Whiff rate
2017 253 .324 2 15%
2010-16 2,330 .150 3 22%

The Yankees wasted a gem from CC Sabathia, who was brilliant in his second start since coming off the DL, going seven innings and allowing just one run. Sabathia’s late-career resurgence is reminiscent of another Yankee legend who had a couple strong seasons after reaching the midpoint of his 30s, Mike Mussina. And so it was fitting that the two pitchers had a cool statistical convergence on Friday night:

When Sabathia took the mound at the start of the game, it was his 249th start as a Yankee, breaking a tie with Mussina for sole possession of 11th place on the franchise’s all-time games started list. And when Sabathia struck out Kyle Seager in the sixth inning, it was his 2,814th strikeout, passing Mussina for 19th place on the Major-League all-time strikeout list.

(AP)
(AP)

Sonny skies all day
The crushing losses have been piling up, but the resiliency of this team hasn’t waned. That toughness was on display again this weekend when the Yankees bounced back from Friday’s devastating loss to beat the Mariners 6-3 on Saturday. They’ve now won seven of their last 10 games following a one-run loss, dating back to the last week of June.

Sonny Gray delivered his finest performance as Yankee, striking out nine and allowing just one run in seven stellar innings. He’s pitched at least five innings and allowed no more than two earned runs in each of his first five starts with the Bombers, becoming the first pitcher to begin his Yankee tenure with a streak like that since Tommy John in 1979.

This excellent stretch extends even further back to his final month in Oakland too; Saturday was his 11th consecutive start giving up fewer than three earned runs, the longest streak by any pitcher in the majors this season. In that span – since June 25 – he’s compiled an ERA of 1.95, the lowest by any American League pitcher (min. 30 IP) over the last two months.

Gray dominated with his two breaking pitches, as the Mariners swung at 18 curves/sliders and whiffed on 11 of them, including five for strike three. But perhaps more impressive was how he repeatedly froze batters with his two-seamer. He got a career-best 15 called strikes among the 54 two-seam fastballs he threw, and most of those takes were in the heart of the zone (orange dots below):

sonny-gray2

While Gray shined on the mound, Jacoby Ellsbury had a rare starring role as the offensive spark plug, with an RBI single and a tie-breaking three-run dinger. Ellsbury’s blast was a Yankee Stadium special, just barely clearing the short porch in right field. According to ESPN’s Hit Tracker (and based on calculations if the ball had been hit in ideal weather conditions of 70 degrees and no wind), Yankee Stadium is the only ballpark it would have been a home run.

(New York Post)
(New York Post)

Sloppy Seattle, Magnificent Masa
The Yankees’ inability to close out series had become a recurring nightmare … until the Bad News Mariners showed up to Yankee Stadium. Entering this weekend, the Yankees had dropped their previous 11 rubber games — a streak that reached back to early June — and were 5-14 in rubber games overall this season, easily the worst record and most losses of any team. On Sunday afternoon the Yankees took advantage of a historically sloppy Seattle defense to snap that inexplicable streak, en route to a 10-1 victory.

They raced out to an early 6-1 lead thanks to five Mariners errors in the first inning, the most errors committed by one team in a single inning since the Cubs on July 2, 1977 against the Cardinals. If you’re curious, the modern record (since 1900) for the most errors committed in one inning is seven, by the Cleveland Naps against the Chicago White Sox on September 20, 1905.

Thanks to all those free outs, a cavalcade of hits, and some timely at-bats (6 hits with runners in scoring position), the Yankees were able to win without the benefit a homer — an extremely rare win for this power-happy team. It was just their fourth win this season in a game they didn’t go deep, which is now tied with the Tigers for the fewest such wins in the majors.

Masahiro Tanaka made sure the Yankees offensive outburst wouldn’t be wasted as he shut down the Mariners lineup after a shaky first inning. He struck out 10 in seven innings, allowed one run, and has now quietly posted a 2.92 ERA over his last 11 outings. This was also his 100th career start, and with those 10 strikeouts, Tanaka became the first pitcher in franchise history to reach 600 strikeouts in his first 100 major-league games.

Yankeemetrics: Rolling through Motor City (Aug. 22-24)

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

El Kracken Show
It’s been quite an emotional rollercoaster for the Yankees and their fans over the past month, making the drama-free night on Tuesday in Detroit even sweeter. Backed by a relentless and powerful attack combined with solid starting pitching, the Bombers pummeled the Tigers, 13-4.

This was their 14th game scoring more than 10 runs, which led the majors through Tuesday’s slate, and incredibly, it’s also twice as many such games as they had all of last year. Over the last six decades, 1998 and 2000 were the only other seasons that the Yankees had 14 games scoring at least 11 runs at this point in the schedule (before game number 125). Boom-tastic.

The offensive onslaught was fueled by Gary Sanchez‘s red-hot bat as he crushed a monstrous 493-foot homer in the first inning to put the Yankees up 2-0. It was the second-longest homer by any player in 2017, and tied for the fourth-longest that Statcast has recorded over the past three seasons.

Name Distance Date
1. Giancarlo Stanton 504 Aug. 6, 2016
2. Aaron Judge 495 June 11, 2017
3. Kris Bryant 495 Sept. 6, 2015
4. Gary Sanchez 493 Aug. 22, 2017
5. Michael Taylor 493 Aug. 20, 2015

But Sanchez wasn’t done lighting up the scoreboard. He drilled an opposite-field blast into the right field seats in the ninth inning, his 25th homer of the season, and a nice round number for the record books. He is the …

  • Third catcher in American League history to hit at least 25 homers in his age-24 season or younger, joining a couple Tigers backstops, Matt Nokes (1987) and Rudy York (1938).
  • First Yankee since Don Mattingly (1985) with 25-plus dingers in a season before age 25.
  • And the third right-handed batter in franchise history to reach the 25-homer milestone in his age-24 season or younger. The others? Hall of Famers Joe Gordon and Joe DiMaggio.

El Gary also deserves a cool #FunFact: He joined Yogi Berra (June 19, 1952) as the only Yankee catchers to hit at least two homers and drive in at least four runs in a game in Detroit.

The other Baby Bomber that shined in this rout was Aaron Judge, who reached base four times in four plate appearance with three walks and a single. Yes, you did the math correctly, he didn’t strike out, ending his streak at 37 games, the longest ever by a position player. And thankfully the last time we’ll ever mention it.

The stat that’s most important is the three walks. It’s not a shocking number even during his slump, during which he’s maintained mostly the same approach at the plate since the break. Did you know that after Tuesday’s game … Judge had a higher walk rate in the second half (20.1%) than the first half (16.7%); or that only Joey Votto (41) had more walks among all MLB players in the second half than Judge (32).

(Getty)
(Getty)

Sharp Sevy, Scorching Sanchez
The offensive fireworks were on display again Wednesday as Yankee bats delivered another lopsided win, 10-2.

It’s the first time in more than 20 years that they’ve lit up the Tigers for 10-plus runs in consecutive games within the same series, since a blowout-filled three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium on May 6-8, 1996. A 21-year-old rookie named Derek Jeter went 6-for-13 (.462) with a triple and 3 RBIs, while veteran outfielder Paul O’Neill reached base nine times in 15 plate appearances and drove in five runs during that three-game romp.

Gary Sanchez ignited the offensive fireworks again on Wednesday, with a solo homer in the first inning and two-run bases-loaded single in the third. That gave him 10 homers and 21 RBIs in 20 games this month, a nearly unprecedented encore to the amazing August that he produced last season (11 homers, 21 RBIs in 24 games).

Only four other players in franchise history have put together multiple months of at least 10 dingers and 20-plus RBIs before age 25: Don Mattingly, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig.

While El Gary extended his August Assault, Luis Severino bolstered his resume as the staff ace and legit Cy Young candidate with another gem. He pitched into the seventh inning, holding the Tigers to a single run while striking out eight. It was his 13th start this season allowing one run or fewer, which led all major-league pitchers through Wednesday.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the 23-year-old’s season is the poise and consistency he’s shown pitching in hostile environments. He’s put up video-game-like numbers in his last five road games — 0.80 ERA, 38 strikeouts and eight walks – and is the first Yankee since Whitey Ford (1964) to pitch at least six innings while giving up no more than one run in five straight road games.

Overall, he’s surrendered one or fewer runs in 10 of his 14 outings away from the Bronx, becoming the only Yankee pitcher in the last 100 years with 10 such road starts in a single season.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Basebrawl in Detroit
Amidst the boxing match between the Yankees and Tigers on Thursday at Comerica Park, an actual baseball game broke out, and the Yankees lost, 10-6.

The final tally from the chaotic, brawl-filled afternoon was eight ejections between the two teams and a whole lot of ugliness. It was the most total ejections in a game since the infamous Blue Jays-Rangers slugfest on May 16 last year.

Back to baseball.

Gary Sanchez and Brett Gardner did their best to make up for a horrid performance by the Yankee pitching staff, combining to go 6-for-9 with three RBIs while the rest of the lineup had two hits in 23 at-bats.

Mr. August continued his ridiculous power binge with another mammoth home run in the fourth inning and an RBI single in the seventh. He is the first Yankee since Tino Martinez to homer in three straight games in Detroit. And if you’re looking for a definition of a hot streak, he now has …

– six homers in his last 7 games,
– eight homers in his last 10 games,
– nine homers in his last 12 games,
– 10 homers in his last 15 games

The solo blast was also the 47th of his big-league career, making him one of two players in the last 100 years (along with Tigers catcher/first baseman Rudy York) to hit 47 homers before their 150th career game.

Gardner celebrated his 34th birthday in style with a season-high four hits, earning himself the coveted Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series and a place on one of the most unique lists we’ve ever produced. Three players in franchise history have gotten at least four hits and drove in a run on his birthday: Gardner, Jerry Mumphrey (1981) and Lou Gehrig (1931).

Todd Frazier has turned things around following a slow start to his Yankees career

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Last night the Yankees routed the Tigers for the second straight night — they’ve outscored Detroit 23-6 in the two games — and one player who didn’t get in on the fun was Todd Frazier. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts. There always seems to be that one guy who gets left out in a blowout win, you know? Frazier did go 3-for-5 with a triple in Tuesday’s game though, so that’s good.

It has now been five weeks since the Yankees acquired Frazier (and David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle) from the White Sox, and those five weeks have been eventful. Both for the Yankees and Frazier. The Yankees have gone 20-13 since the trade (for real) and Frazier has hit .231/.356/.404 (106 wRC+) with five home runs in 32 games. That’s … okay. Not great, not awful. League average-ish.

Frazier’s production has gone through some peaks and valleys since the trade. Few good games followed by a few bad games. He was on an extended hot streak prior to the trade then bam, it stopped right after the deal. So much for getting a player while he’s hot, huh? A graph:

todd-frazier-wrc1

Game 82 was Frazier’s first game with the Yankees. Remember when he took a pitch to the hand in his first game in pinstripes? That gave everyone a good little scare. Fortunately Frazier was okay. Didn’t even miss a game.

Anyway, as you can see in the graph, Frazier’s production really cratered immediately after the trade, though it’s crept back up over the last few weeks, so much so that he’s been a legitimate weapon near the bottom of the lineup. Check it out:

  • First 16 games as a Yankee: .196/.328/.314 (80 wRC+) with two homers (24.6 K% and 11.5 BB%)
  • Last 16 games as a Yankee: .264/.375/.481 (144 wRC+) with three homers (21.9 K% and 10.9 BB%)

Even with the 0-fer last night, Frazier has reached base nine times in his last five games, including hitting two home runs against the Red Sox over the week. There is probably 100% confirmation bias, but Frazier does seem to have a knack for digging in and putting together quality at-bats in big situations. The numbers don’t really bare that out — he has a 90 wRC+ with runners in scoring position and a 73 wRC+ in high-leverage spots — so I’m probably wrong. That doesn’t take away from the fact Frazier has been pretty great the last 16 games.

Since the trade Frazier has done pretty much exactly what the Yankees hoped he would: improve the offense and defense. Remember how little production the Yankees got from first base this year? That’s the bat in the lineup Frazier effectively replaced. Even though his overall numbers with New York are okay at best, he’s been a heck of a lot better than the guys they were running out there at first base. I’d seen enough Chris Carter and Austin Romine for one season. I think we all did.

Frazier is a solid defender at third base with a knack for flashy scoops on short hops, and Chase Headley has looked surprisingly nimble at first base. That’s pretty great. Carter was a butcher over there. Frazier pushed Headley to first with little (if any) defensive downgrade at the hot corner, and Headley has been an improvement over Carter et al at first. Maybe Headley deserves the credit for that and not Frazier. Either way, it happened. The Yankees added Frazier and now they’re a better defensive (and offensive) team.

Because he’s always had an all-or-nothing element to his swing, I’m not sure Frazier is ever going to hit for decent average over an extended period of time. He was miscast as a middle of the order guy with the Reds and White Sox. With the Yankees, Frazier has hit toward the bottom of the lineup and been a complementary player, not a center piece, and it suits him well. His offense is starting to tick up lately, which adds that much more depth to the lineup. Frazier’s first few weeks with the Yankees were disappointing. Late though, he’s really helped solidify things on both sides of the ball.