Saturday Links: Jeter, Postseason Schedule, Players Weekend

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

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game weekend series with the middle game later today. It’s a 4pm ET start. Here are some links and notes to check out until game time.

Jeter agrees to purchase the Marlins (again)

A few weeks after his agreement to purchase the Marlins with Jeb Bush fell through, Derek Jeter has another deal in place to buy the team, reports Barry Jackson. Jeter teamed up with rich dude Bruce Sherman and several other minority investors (including Michael Jordan) to buy the team. The sale price is $1.2 billion — that’s the second most ever paid for an MLB franchise, behind the $2 billion the Dodgers sold for a few years back — and Jeter is kicking in $25M.

Jackson says Sherman will be the “control person” while Jeter will run the business and baseball sides of the organization, so he’s going to have a lot of responsibility. The sale is not yet final — two other potential Marlins sales have already fallen through this year, so this isn’t a formality — but Jeter and Sherman do have all the money in place and everything else is order. Now MLB needs to give their approval and the other 29 owners have to vote. That’s going to happen at the quarterly owners meetings in October, apparently.

2017 postseason schedule announced

It’s getting to be that time of year. Earlier this week MLB announced the 2017 postseason schedule, and since the Yankees are in the race this year, this information is pretty damn relevant. Much better than being on the outside looking in like three of the last four years. Here is the full postseason schedule and here are the dates potentially relevant to the Yankees:

  • AL Wild Card Game: Tuesday, October 3rd
  • ALDS (both of ’em): Thursday, October 5th through Wednesday, October 11th
  • ALCS: Friday, October 13th through Saturday, October 21st
  • World Series: Tuesday, October 24th through Wednesday, November 1st

The regular season ends Sunday, October 1st, so there’s only one off-day between the end of the regular season and the AL Wild Card Game this year. That could cause some headaches for teams trying to line up their ace for that winner-take-all game. The NL has two off-days between the end of the regular season and the Wild Card Game this year.

Also, homefield advantage in the World Series is no longer decided by the All-Star Game. That’s good. I hated that. (Even though the AL won this year.) Now homefield advantage will go to the pennant-winner with the best regular season record. That’s how it should be, I think.

MLB releases Players Weekend jerseys

A few weeks ago MLB announced that, later this month, the first (annual?) Players Weekend will be held from August 25th to the 27th. The Yankees will be home playing the Mariners that weekend. Teams will wear unique uniforms (hats, jerseys, socks, etc.) and the players will be allowed to wear nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. It’s pretty awesome. Here are the Yankees:


This is so great. All-Starlin! A-A-Ron! Head and Toe! Aaron Judge told Erik Boland he was originally planning to put “AJ” or “Judge” on his jersey, but Todd Frazier talked him into All Rise, so here we are. Love Judge, but he could use a little more personality. Maybe pimp a homer every once in a while. (Looking at you too, Brett Gardner. “Gardner” on the jersey? Really?)

Anyway, as someone who may or may not have already purchased KRAKEN 24 and SIR DIDI 18 shirts, I love this whole Players Weekend idea. It’s fun. Baseball’s supposed to be fun. I couldn’t be any more tired of hearing about tradition and the way things have always been. Give me Players Weekend, The Judge’s Chambers, Clint Frazier‘s bright red hair, finger points into the dugout, give me all of it.

Yankees have not pursued Granderson

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees have not pursued Curtis Granderson this month. He cleared trade waivers last week. The Yankees did try to acquire Jay Bruce from the Mets a few days ago, though that didn’t work out because the Mets wanted full salary relief. Granderson, like Bruce, is a left-handed power hitter, but he can only play the outfield. Bruce has some first base experience.

Granderson, 36, is in the final season of his four-year, $60M contract. He’s making $15M this year and it stands to reason the Mets will look to unload his salary at some point. Granderson is hitting .221/.327/.452 (105 wRC+) with 16 home runs overall this season, but since May 1st, he’s put up a .261/.384/.548 (143 wRC+) batting line with 15 of those 16 homers. The Yankees have an opening at designated hitter and could really use another lefty power bat, which Granderson would provide. Doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen though.

Saturday Links: Playoffs, Tebow, Garcia, Yankee Stadium


The Yankees and Orioles will continue their ultra-important three-game series at Camden Yards later tonight. Saturday night games are just the worst, aren’t they? Blah. Anyway, here are some links to help you pass the time.

MLB announces postseason schedule

A few days ago MLB announced the 2016 postseason schedule, and despite the first four months of the season, the Yankees are still hanging around in the wildcard race. Here’s the portion of the postseason schedule potentially relevant to the Yankees:

  • AL Wild Card Game: Tuesday, October 4th (on TBS)
  • ALDS A: Thursday, October 6th through Wednesday, October 12th (on TBS)
  • ALCS: Friday, October 14th through Sunday, October 23rd (on TBS)
  • World Series: Tuesday, October 25th through Wednesday, November 2nd (on FOX)

The AL has homefield advantage in the World Series this year, remember. I assume a tiebreaker game would be played the day before the Wild Card Game. What happens if there’s a three or four-team tie? Not sure. Kinda hope we find out. I explained the tiebreaker procedures in yesterday’s mailbag. Here’s the full postseason schedule.

Yankees attended Tebow’s workout

According to multiple reports, the Yankees had a scout on hand for Tim Tebow’s workout at USC earlier this week. Ken Davidoff says there were 42 scouts representing 28 teams in attendance — the Cubs and Athletics were the only no-shows — but no high-ranking evaluators. Just area scouts. Tebow did the usual. Running, throwing, live batting practice, the works. Here’s a little bit of video:

I don’t have any problem with Tebow or anyone else giving baseball a try. If he can do it, more power to him. He played in high school and is obviously a great athlete, and based on the video he didn’t seem completely out of place on a baseball field. I just wonder about things like pitch recognition and outfield/baserunning instincts, the stuff that gets honed through repetition. This guy’s been away from the game for 12 years now. Also, how will his minor league teammates receive him? I don’t see this as Tebow taking someone’s job, but the players might.

Jose Garcia leaves Cuba

Outfielder Jose Adolis Garcia, brother of ex-Yankees farmhand and current Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia, has defected from Cuba, reports Ben Badler. The 24-year-old still has to go through the process of being declared a free agent and all that, which could take months. Badler ranked Garcia as the 20th best prospect in Cuba last year (subs. req’d). Here’s a piece of his most recent scouting report:

(Garcia) was one of the most tooled-up players in Cuba, with 60 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale and a plus-plus arm … he has played center field during international tournaments and looked comfortable there, with the tools and athleticism that should allow him to play center field in pro ball … At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Garcia has quick bat speed from the right side of the plate  … his long swing, free-swinging approach and struggles to recognize offspeed pitches are significant concerns about his ability to perform against better pitching.

Meh. That sounds almost exactly like a right-handed Leonys Martin, though, if I’m remembering correctly, there weren’t a ton of questions about Martin’s bat when he defected. No one expected him to be an MVP or anything, but he could hit. The Yankees haven’t been all that active on the big money Cuban market since Jose Contreras, and while up-the-middle players are always worth checking out, this tiny little bit of information makes Garcia seem like a non-priority.

Yankees looking to refinance stadium payments

The Yankees are looking to refinance about $1 billion worth of debt from the construction of Yankee Stadium, report Josh Kosman and Lois Weiss. They’re trying to get a better interest rate, basically. Happens all the time. Businesses do this regularly and so do regular folks. They refinance their mortgages, their car loans, whatever. The team’s stadium debt payments are $73M a year. They’re slated to rise to $76M in 2018.

“He’s always looking for ways to cut expenses,” said one of Kosman’s and Weiss’ sources, referring to Hal Steinbrenner. That’ll be misconstrued as Hal being cheap, but it just means he’s like every other business owner on the planet. Kosman and Weiss say the Yankees are breaking even financially right now, but that’s just the team itself. They’re still making a boatload of cash from YES and Legends Hospitality, among other things. Don’t worry, the Yankees won’t go broke anytime soon.

Yankees split $1.05M in postseason money, issue 59 full shares

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Earlier today MLB announced the 2015 postseason shares for each team. The World Series winning Royals split a pool of $25.2M or so and issued 58 full shares plus several partial shares. The Mets split $16.8M. Not a bad consolation prize, I’d say.

As the wildcard game loser, the Yankees received a postseason pool of $1,048,262.24. They issued 59 full shares plus 15.98 partial shares. Each full share is worth $13,979.99. That’s not all that much in baseball dollars but it’s a nice chunk of change for one night of work in real world dollars.

The players vote on postseason share distribution and I’m not sure how they divvy it up among guys who, for example, rode the bullpen shuttle all summer. For those guys this is a really nice payday. The coaching staff and trainers get shares as well.

A record $69.8M was split between the ten postseason teams this year. You can see the full postseason pool breakdown right here.

2015 AL Wildcard Game Thread: Astros at Yankees

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

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

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

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

LHP Dallas Keuchel

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

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

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

Guest Post: American League Wild Card Umpires Preview

The following is a guest post previewing tonight’s wildcard game umpires from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, and Miller Huggins.

Eric Cooper was behind the plate for that stupid little incident with Carlos Gomez earlier this year. (Presswire)
Eric Cooper was behind the plate for that stupid little incident with Carlos Gomez earlier this year. (Presswire)

Well, here we go. The first postseason since I started these umpire reviews in the comments of River Ave. Blues. Major League Baseball Communications tweeted out the roster of umpires for the Wild Card games and the American/National League Division Series last night. Generally, in the postseason, we have six umpires, including one in left and right fields. Famously the right field umpire in 1996 came into play with the Derek Jeter/Tony Tarasco fly ball-home run incident in the 1996 American League Championship Series with Jeffrey Maier. The right field umpire that day was Richie Garcia (American League – No. 19) who called it a home run and dealt with Tarasco, Davey Johnson and Armando Benitez at the same time.

The Wild Card game and outfield umpires also reared their ugly heads in the 2012 National League Wild Card game when Andrelton Simmons popped up to left field and the infield fly rule was called by Sam Holbrook (No. 34), which caused poor behavior by the fans of the Atlanta Braves. The left field umpire, Holbrook, decided the IFR was needed despite Pete Kozma being out 75 feet into left field. The call, before the days of review, basically was upheld.

That being said, let’s take a look at who will be umpiring tonight’s game at Yankee Stadium.

Eric “Car Wreck” Cooper (No. 56 – HP)

The Des Moines, Iowa native, Eric Cooper, is our home plate umpire for tonight’s game. Cooper, who was with the crew run by Gary Cederstrom (Crew Q), called home plate for 17 games in the 2015 season, logging a 3.79 umpire’s ERA and a 1.20 umpire’s WHIP. The former is good enough for 46th of the 89 umpires in Major League Baseball this year. Hitters with Cooper behind the plate have had 8.1 hits per 9 innings, a 2.7 walk per 9 innings, and 7.8 strikeouts per 9 innings rate, numbers that would lead you to believe he is a hitter’s umpire. However, his tendency is to have a large strike zone and it shows. Cooper has called three no-hitters, including Hideo Nomo’s 2001 over the Orioles and both of Mark Buerhle’s in 2007 and 2009. Hitters are hitting a mere .241/.296/.401 with Cooper behind the plate and only a 1.04 HR per 9 innings, which also corresponds well to the size of the zone.

As for his ejection tendencies, Cooper is a hothead. His most famous incident comes in 2013, when A.J. Burnett and Russell Martin were arguing with him over a call, and Cooper got out from behind the plate, charged toward Burnett and point at him for warnings about his “behavior,” leading to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle coming in and arguing with Cooper. No one was ejected that day, but that being said, Cooper has a grand total of 61 ejections since he joined MLB on June 17, 1996 as an umpire for the American League. Somehow, in that time period, none have been of the Yankees, but there have been couple for the Mets (Bobby Valentine in 1999 and Mike Piazza in 2005).

Finally, the “Car Wreck” nickname comes from Cooper’s World Series assignment last year, when Joe Torre called from New York to tell Cooper he would be umpiring the Fall Classic. He and his wife were in West Des Moines coming back from a showing of Gone Girl, and he nearly wrecked his car in amazement with his wife in it. They ended up switching positions in the car after the call. He ended up calling one of his fellow veteran umpires, and one of my favorites, the great Tim McClelland about the decision, who told him to “soak it all in.”

Paul Emmel (No. 50 – 1B)

Emmel. (Presswire)

Ergh, we go from a car wreck to another hothead. Paul Emmel also is a massive hothead. However, we will get to that later. Emmel worked on Jerry Meals’ crew in the regular season and had to manage 19 games behind the plate, logging a 4.02 ERA (best for 27th of 89 in the league). Hitters are also hitting at a 1.26 WHIP (higher than Emmel). The 4.02 ERA would open the door to a hitter’s umpire, as well as the rest of the numbers: 8.3 hits per 9, 3.0 walks per 9 and 7.5 strikeouts per 9. Those are all absurdly hitters umpire numbers, but yet, the .244/.309/.386 slash line would care to disagree, as well as the 0.87 home runs per 9 innings. Emmel averages a large strike zone from time to time and sometimes might find a small strike zone.

As for the ejection rate, Emmel, the Midland, Michigan native, has a grand total of 56 ejections since his hiring in July 1999. Most famously for Yankee fans, he threw out Joe Girardi (his 9th as Yankee manager at the time) and Brett Gardner on back to back days in July 2010. That Brett Gardner ejection led to Colin Curtis inheriting the at-bat with an 0-2 count and taking Anaheim’s Scot Shields deep for his first big league home run on a full count. There was much enjoyment out of that home run wasn’t there? Emmel, who started wearing glasses this year, also had the honors of ejecting Brian Matusz in May for illegal substance during a game with the Miami Marlins.

Ted Barrett (No. 65 – 2B/CC)

Did anyone hear a buzz behind plate? Oh, so no one is shaving behind home plate. It is just Ted Barrett’s strike call. Ted Barrett is our second base umpire and crew chief for this series. He was the crew chief for Crew C (Angel Hernandez, Scott Barry and Chris Conroy) and is one of the tallest umpires in MLB at 6ft 4in. A general rule to keep in mind with taller umpires is that they tend to have a hard time with lower strike calls, but Barrett is definitely not that type, as he’s a pitcher’s umpire true and true. He has a 3.22 ERA (best for 81st of 89!) and a 1.21 WHIP (pretty average actually). However, also weird is the 8.1 hits per 9, 2.9 walks per 9 and 7.8 strikeouts per 9, the latter of which support the idea of tall umpire issues. Here’s the kicker however, hitters are slashing a pathetic .237/.298/.359 with Barrett behind the plate. To make things even more blatant, Barrett is the only MLB umpire in history to call two perfect games (Matt Cain’s in 2012 & David Cone’s in 1999). He also has the Ervin Santana no-hitter in 2011 to his credit.

As for his temper, Barrett is one of the best umpires in baseball when giving players, coaches and managers time to vent. Since hired by the American League on May 27, 1994, the Pasco, Washington native has only 58 ejections and one of the few this season with none! This marks the 4th season Barrett has not thrown anyone out (1995, 2009, 2010 and 2012 being the others). He has only ejected one Yankee in 21 years, and that was Ivan Rodriguez on September 8, 2008 for fighting with Torii Hunter when the latter played for Anaheim. The Umpire Ejection Fantasy League, which I am a member of, rated Barrett the best umpire in the league in 2014, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s up again in 2015 for the same award. He’s that good.

Bill Miller (No. 26 – 3B)

If you see a ball from Bill Miller, you best take it, because you probably won’t see it again before the at bat is over. Miller is notorious for possibly having a strike zone and a half, and I mean a half. There’s almost 2 strike zones when Miller is behind the plate and it’s not unknown that he’ll call ANYTHING a strike. Just ask Brett Lawrie in 2012 about that one. Miller worked 19 games behind the plate as a crew chief for Crew P (Doug Eddings, Jim Wolf, & Adrian Johnson) and somehow managed a 3.55 ERA and 1.23 WHIP (both very average numbers). That said, he has an 8.5 hits per 9 rate, a 2.5 walks per 9 rate and a 8.2 strikeouts per 9, the latter two are pitcher’s umpire. Hitters are slashing a pure .249/.304/.375 with him behind the plate and not hitting home runs at all (0.67 per 9). If you’re going to enjoy 0-0 games, enjoy Bill Miller, if not, yuck.

As for his temper, he’s definitely not the worst out there, and you can see how he got to crew chief status. That said, lord does he have ejections around everywhere for balls and strikes and called third strikes. Since being hired by the AL on July 28, 1997, Miller has 45 ejections, most of which are for the strike zone. His only one with the Yankees is Johnny Damon on September 18, 2006 against the Toronto Blue Jays, in which Damon was ejected for balls and strikes from the on deck circle. It is absurdly rare that the on deck player gets ejected, so Damon accomplished quite a feat. But those who know Miller well know the escapade in Toronto with Brett Lawrie, in which Miller called 2 strikes in the 1.5 strike zone and Lawrie threw his helmet at Miller. A fan got revenge later by throwing a beer at him.

Conroy. (Presswire)
Conroy. (Presswire)

Chris Conroy (No. 98 – LF)

Now that the veteran umpires have been tackled, we get to deal with the two who will be working the left field and right field positions, and honestly, I wish we had veteran umpires here, because the newbies for postseason work are doing them. The first is the North Adams, Massachusetts native Chris Conroy, who was promoted to the full-time staff in June 2013 after Brian Runge failed a drug test. (Yes, umpires get tested too!) Conroy has only been in the league since 2010 and I don’t have much to say. This season, as part of Ted Barrett’s crew, Conroy worked 18 games behind the plate, and came to a 3.70 ERA (52nd of 89 in the league) and a 1.31 WHIP (higher end). The rest of the numbers scream hitter’s umpire however, with a 9.1 hits/2.7 walks/7.2 strikeouts per 9 innings this season, as well as a .263/.318/.387 slash line. He is basically a hitter’s umpire.

Conroy, having only been in the majors since September 29, 2010, has a low ejection total, with a grand total of 9, including 3 this season. He has not ejected anyone in the city of New York and only one in the NL East (DeMarlo Hale) for bench jockeying on April 28, 2013. Not much to see here, move on.

Manny Gonzalez (No. 79 – RF)

Finally, we get the other youngin’ for this crew and that is Manny Gonzalez. The Caracas, Venezuela native is our right field umpire and is quite possibly one of the biggest hitter’s umpire in the game, with an insane 4.51 ERA (8th of 89) and a 1.48 WHIP (highest in the league for anyone worked at least 10 games). These numbers speak for themselves in his 22 games behind home plate as a member of Crew O (Fieldin Culbreth’s). Hitters have a 9.9 hits/3.4 walks/7.7 strikeouts per 9 innings slash line and that alone screams tight zone with the propensity to hit. Hitters average 1.05 home runs per 9 and a .280/.347/.438 slash line. If you want a slugfest, this is your man, because he’ll produce one real quick with those numbers.

As for Gonzalez’s temper, there’s not much detail to work with. He only has four ejections since his hiring on May 17, 2010. His very first ejection was of Ike Davis on September 26, 2012 on a call at first (which I remember quite clearly); the others are of Jhonny Peralta, Jeff Banister and Ian Kinsler, the latter two of which were this year. He’s had ejection free seasons three times now (2010, 2011 and 2014) and this season will be his first with two ejections.


I mean, the hitting stats are pointless in the fact that only Eric Cooper’s is whose matters, but the ejection rates matter, and while the Commish usually asks umpires to be more reasonable in the playoffs, it’s not like they don’t eject people in the playoffs either. We have the tale of two crews (3 hitter’s umps and 3 pitcher’s umps, including Lord deStrike, Bill Miller) and hopefully there’s no blasphemous calls that requires Barrett, Torre and [insert umpire here] to hold a press conference after the game, which has been in the case in recent years.

2015 Wild Card Game Lineup: Ellsbury sits against Keuchel

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

The starting lineups for tonight’s winner-take-all wildcard game have been posted. As expected, Chris Young is in the starting lineup. Brett Gardner is not sitting, however. Jacoby Ellsbury finds himself on the bench.

Here’s the lineup board (via me at @CBSSportsMLB):

2015 Wild Card Game LineupsEllsbury has not been good this year, hitting .257/.318/.345 (83 wRC+) overall and .253/.327/.325 (83 wRC+) against lefties. Gardner has slumped in the second half as well, but he was better than Ellsbury this year, both overall (105 wRC+) and against lefties (112 wRC+). It’s a ballsy move by Joe Girardi but the right one.

The rest of the lineup is pretty self-explanatory. Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran flipped spots, but no big deal. I assume Ellsbury and Dustin Ackley will come off the bench at some point in the later innings.

Attacking Altuve: Tanaka has to get the ball down and in

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Only the Blue Jays hit more home runs than the Astros this season, yet Houston’s most important offensive player is a 5-foot-6 contact machine who never hit more than seven homers in a season prior to 2015. Second baseman Jose Altuve is a catalyst from the leadoff spot, so, needless to say, Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees will focus on keeping him off base in the wildcard game tonight.

Altuve, 25, hit .313/.353/.459 (120 wRC+) this season and broke out as a power threat with 15 homers, though it’s his insane bat-to-ball skills that make him so dangerous. Altuve struck out in only 9.7% of his plate appearances this year, the fifth lowest strikeout rate among 141 qualified hitters this year, and his 89.4% contact rate was the fifth highest. If he swings the bat, chances are he will make contact.

Combined with his speed, that bat-to-ball ability makes Altuve a BABIP machine — he had a .329 BABIP in 2015, which was actually below his career average (.331) — and a straight up pest. He is not a comfortable at-bat for a pitcher or fans watching at home. That said, Altuve does have a weakness, because all hitters have a weakness. Against right-handed pitchers like Tanaka, Altuve’s weakness is down and in (click the image for a larger view):

Jose Altuve Heat Maps

The heat map on the left shows Altuve’s runs above average per 100 pitches, which in English means the brighter the red, the more damage he does on pitches in that location. The brighter the blue, the less success he has. The heat map on the right is his swing rate, so the brighter the red, the more he swings. The brighter the blue, the less he swings.

The RAA/100 heat map shows Altuve had no success against pitches down and in from right-handed batters this year. He could do nothing with those pitches, and, to be fair, not many righty hitters can do damage with a pitch in that location. At the same time, the swing rate heat map shows Altuve can’t lay off those down and away pitches. He swings at them more often than not despite the lack of results.

The Yankees already know Altuve struggles against pitches down and in. Look at where they attacked him during their two regular season series this year, via Baseball Savant:

Yankees vs. Jose Altuve

The Yankees really went after Altuve inside. Not so much down and in, but inside in general. They threw him plenty of pitches off the plate away because, well, you have to do that too. If you keep pitching a hitter in the same spot, he’s eventually going to catch up and make an adjustment, especially a hitter as good as Altuve. The outside pitch sets up the inside pitch and vice versa.

Tanaka may be able to exploit Altuve’s down and in weakness thanks to his splitter, which has that natural fade down and in to righties. Again, you can’t throw him nothing but splitters down and in, but that’s the potential out pitch. Altuve can be beat there. He’s been a below average hitter against down and in pitches all season and he has trouble laying off them as well.

Altuve is pretty much the polar opposite of the rest of the Houston offense. He doesn’t have a ton of power but he gets the bat on the ball and puts it in play seemingly at will. The rest of lineup? They’ll swing and miss a lot. Keeping Altuve off the bases will be imperative tonight, and the best way to do that appears to be attacking down and in, under his hands.