Fan Confidence Poll: October 9th, 2017

Regular Season Record: 91-71 (858 RS, 660 RA, 100-62 pythag. record), second in ALE
Postseason Record: 2-2 (17 RS, 17 RA), won AL WC Game, down 1-2 in ALDS
Opponents This Week: ALDS Game Four vs. Indians (Mon.), Tues. OFF, ALDS Game Five @ Indians (Weds. if necessary)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results

Fan Confidence Poll: October 2nd, 2017

Record Last Week: 5-2 (36 RS, 17 RA)
Season Record: 91-71 (858 RS, 660 RA, 100-62 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Monday OFF, Tuesday vs. Twins (AL Wild Card Game)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results

Poll: The Wild Card Game pitching plan

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

In all likelihood the Yankees will host the Twins in the 2017 AL Wild Card Game next Tuesday. The Yankees are still alive in the AL East and the Angels are still alive in the wildcard race, sure, but everything is pointing toward Yankees vs. Twins at Yankee Stadium next week. It would be an upset if the Wild Card Game featured a different matchup.

Tonight Luis Severino will make his final regular season start in preparation for that Wild Card Game. The Yankees haven’t officially announced him as the starter yet — he could start a potential Game 163 should the Yankees and Red Sox tie for the division title — but again, everything points in that direction. Severino will start the Wild Card Game with Sonny Gray, tomorrow’s starter, the backup plan.

Severino has of course been brilliant this season, throwing 187.1 innings with a 3.03 ERA (3.08 FIP). His 29.0% strikeout rate and 4.42 K/BB ratio are both eighth best among the 57 pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Severino is going to finish in the top five of the AL Cy Young voting. He might even finish third behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale (in whatever order). He’s been outstanding all year.

In the winner-take-all Wild Card Game, of course you want your best starter on the mound, and when you have someone as good as Severino, it’s an easy call. With all due to respect to Gray and Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees are absolutely right to give the ball to Severino next Tuesday. There is, however, another line of thinking in the Wild Card Game. Instead of using a starter, just use relievers. Make it a bullpen game.

Dave Cameron first championed the idea back in 2012, when the Wild Card Game first became a thing, and since then more and more folks have mentioned it as a viable Wild Card Game plan. A few days ago Brian Kenny did a whole MLB Network segment on the Yankees going with a bullpen game in the Wild Card Game next week.

The idea, if you didn’t watch the video, is that relievers in short bursts are generally more effective than starters going through the lineup multiple times. The Yankees are loaded with power bullpen arms. Tommy Kahnle has been outrageously good all season and especially the last few weeks. He’s finally settled into a nice groove in pinstripes and is what, the fourth best reliever in the bullpen? Maybe the fifth best?

Come the Wild Card Game, Joe Girardi is going to be itching to go to the bullpen, especially if the Yankees take a lead early in the game. The Yankees are built to smother teams in the late innings with all those power relievers. So, rather than start Severino and hope he pitches well, why not just go straight to that bullpen? That’s the idea. Here’s what a bullpen game could look like for the Yankees:

  • First Inning: Chad Green
  • Second Inning: Green
  • Third Inning: Green or Dellin Betances if Green’s pitch count is elevated
  • Fourth Inning: Betances
  • Fifth Inning: Betances or Kahnle
  • Sixth Inning: Kahnle or David Robertson
  • Seventh Inning: Robertson
  • Eighth Inning: Robertson or Aroldis Chapman
  • Ninth Inning: Chapman

That would still leave a hopefully healthy Adam Warren in reserve. And, if the game goes to extra innings, the Yankees could always turn to Severino then. They’d let their top bullpen arms, all those strikeout heavy relievers, air it out for an inning or two in the must-win game. Then, if that works, Severino is available for Game One of the ALDS and he could potentially start two games that series rather than one.

It sounds like a wonderful and amazing plan that would increase New York’s chances of winning that Wild Card Game. It also sounds — to me at least — like one of those things that is great on paper but not quite as easy to put into practice. The more relievers you use, the more likely it is you run into someone who doesn’t have it working that day. And what happens when you ask two or three relievers to go two innings when they’re not used to doing it? What happens when you break their routine and ask them to warm up a few innings earlier than usual?

Severino, meanwhile, is really freaking good! It’s not like the Yankees are limping into the postseason and will have to start Jaret Wright in an elimination game. They clinched early and Severino has been one of the three best starters in the AL all season, and they were able to line him up for that game. That’s what every team wants to do going into the Wild Card Game, right? Line up your best starter and have the bullpen ready to go at the first sign of trouble. The Giants did it with Madison Bumgarner in 2014 and 2016, the Astros did it with Dallas Keuchel in 2015, and the Cubs did it with Jake Arrieta in 2015. Pretty solid plan, handing the ball to an ace.

For what it’s worth, Joe Girardi told Bryan Hoch he is not a fan of the bullpen game idea in the Wild Card Game. The Yankees are one of the most statistically inclined and forward-thinking teams in baseball. I’m certain they’ve at least entertained the idea of a bullpen game. I mean, how could you not at least kick the idea around when you have this bullpen? Like I said, Girardi is going to be itching to turn the game over to his bullpen. Green is going to be warming up at the first sign of trouble. I know it, you know it, Girardi knows it, everyone knows it.

No matter what you or I think, the Yankees are going to start Severino in the Wild Card Game, not roll with a bullpen game. I don’t think we’ll see any team go with the bullpen game idea anytime soon, to be honest. This hypothetical scenario is begging for a poll, however, so let’s get to it.

What should the Yankees do in the Wild Card Game?
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Fan Confidence Poll: September 25th, 2017

Record Last Week: 4-2 (29 RS, 24 RA)
Season Record: 86-69 (822 RS, 643 RA, 95-60 pythag. record) 5.0 GB in ALE
Opponents This Week: vs. Royals (one game, Mon.), vs. Rays (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results

Better matchup for the Wild Card Game: Angels or Twins?

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

With a week and a half left in the season, the Yankees appear set to host the American League Wild Card Game.

The team is still in hot pursuit of the division crown, but the Red Sox’s extra-inning escapes against the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays in recent weeks have kept the Yankees from catching up.

Therefore, it’s time to look at the two likely potential opponents for the Wild Card Game: the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins. The Yankees are 4-2 this season against the Twins and 2-4 against the Angels. While these are very different teams from past iterations of the Angels and Twins that the Yankees faced in the postseason, those records certainly mirror recent history between each franchise.

So which team is a better matchup for the Yankees in a one-game scenario? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for each matchup.

Pros for facing the Twins

We’ve seen the case for why the Yankees would want to face the Twins this week. With Minnesota visiting Yankee Stadium, the Bombers were able to beat both of their top starters — Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios — while holding the Twins’ hot lineup at bay. Budding star Byron Buxton went 0 for 10 with a walk and was a non-factor in the series.

Perhaps the best reason to face the Twins is their bullpen. The Yankees got into the bullpen quickly against Berrios, who has significant home-road splits and therefore may not be the choice for a WCG. Rookie Trevor Hildenberger has been a revelation in recent weeks, but the rest of the bullpen is highly beatable. Matt Belisle is their closer and has converted just 7 of 12 save opportunities.

Their best reliever was Brandon Kintzler. He was traded at the deadline to the Nationals. That deal shows what the front office expected this team to do in the second half. Instead, they’re 28-20 since Aug. 1 and appear to be playing over their heads, although they’re 11-24 this season against the current AL playoff teams. The Angels are a more respectable 14-19.

They’ve had a lot of their success without slugger Miguel Sano. Sano struggled with injuries and is now on the 10-day DL with a stress fracture in his left shin, which likely has him out for the year. That should be a relief for Yankees fans: He’s the type of player that can turn a single game with his bat and is objectively Minnesota’s best hitter.

Cons for facing the Twins

There’s a lot to make the Twins a good matchup, but there’s also plenty of reasons to not to face them. A big reason to avoid them? Power. Even without Sano, the team has power up and down the lineup. They have five players with at least 15 home runs. They’ve hit the fourth most home runs in baseball since the All-Star break. And in the second half, they’re fourth with a 109 wRC+. They’re third in WAR thanks to a strong defensive unit.

Buxton epitomizes their resurgence. He returned from the disabled list on Aug. 1 and has batted .302/.348/.581 with 11 home runs and 21 total extra-base hits in 190 PAs. He’s still struck out 51 times, but he’s been a better hitter. What makes Buxton special is how he affects the game on both ends. He may be the best defensive center fielder in the game and he ranks at the top of the Statcast leaderboards for sprint speed.

In a WCG, the Twins could eschew their normal bullpen and simply use Santana followed by Berrios or vice versa, limiting the need for their parade of sub-par middle relievers. The Yankees can get to both, but they’ve each been special at times this year. Of any pitcher on the Angels and Twins, I would least want to face Berrios, who has a fastball-curveball combo that is unhittable when he’s rolling.

Pros for facing the Angels

Why would you want to face the Angels? Pitching, pitching, pitching. This team doesn’t have a clear starter for a one-game playoff, let alone a staff that you could see an easy path through nine innings. Three of their best starters — J.C. Ramirez, Matt Shoemaker and Alex Meyer — are out for the year. Their closer, Huston Street, threw four innings this year and is out for the season.

So who do the Angels turn to for a winner-take-all game? Parker Bridwell?? Bridwell is 8-2 with a 3.71 ERA through 102 innings, but his peripherals indicate he isn’t that good. He also has a 4.69 ERA over his last nine starts. Bridwell did hold the Yankees to three runs in 8 2/3 innings in two June outings, but he allowed nine hits and walked five to just four strikeouts.

Yusmeiro Petit has been the key cog in their bullpen and could throw multiple innings in a one-game playoff. Former Yankee Blake Parker has been solid this season with elevated strikeout numbers. But if the Yankees face anyone else in that bullpen, they should feast.

In the lineup, Albert Pujols still bats in the middle of the lineup despite batting just .242/.287/.392 (79 wRC+) and is an enormous negative on the basepaths. Teams have begun using extreme shifts to limit him further. The more he bats in the middle of the order, the worse things go for the Angels.

Cons for facing the Angels

Mike Trout? Mike Trout!!!! Why would you want to face Mike Trout in a one-game playoff?!?!

Having a stud starting pitcher is the best weapon for a one-game playoff (Luis Severino!). Outside of that, having a once-in-a-generation type talent that can dominate with his bat and glove is paramount. Trout is that. It’s like having a right-handed hitting Mickey Mantle for a one-game playoff. I’m not going to reel off his stats because Trout’s name should be synonymous with otherworldly success at this point in his career.

Unlike recent seasons, there is actually offensive talent around Trout. The Angels acquired Justin Upton at the August waiver deadline and he’s been mashing for three weeks in Anaheim. You’ll still want to avoid Trout beating you, but Upton makes you think twice before pitching around him.

Andrelton Simmons, the best fielding shortstop in baseball, has also turned back into an above-average hitter with power and helped turn one of the Yankees-Angels games earlier this season with a home run. The presence of Simmons extends their lineup, as does Brandon Phillips and the power of C.J. Cron and Luis Valbuena. It’s not exactly murderer’s row, but it’s more than the nothingburger the Angels had flanking Trout since their 2014 playoff appearance.

Ultimately, the Yankees should win a one-game playoff if they get there. They have the best lineup, the best starting pitcher — perhaps the top four starting pitchers — and the best bullpen of any wild-card contender. However, anything can happen in a one-game playoff.

My take? While Twins look to be a more complete roster, I’d rather not face Mike Trout and co. in a one-game playoff. It’s kind of irrational because one player can’t beat you unless you let him. And in a five- or seven-game series, I feel like the better overall roster is a bigger advantage. Yet in a one-game series, having the best player on either side could be magnified, particularly if that player can do what Trout does.

Which team is a better Wild Card Game matchup?
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Fan Confidence Poll: September 18th, 2017

Record Last Week: 5-2 (43 RS, 21 RA)
Season Record: 82-67 (793 RS, 619 RA, 91-58 pythag. record) 3.0 GB in ALE, 6.0 GU on WC
Opponents This Week: vs. Twins (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results

Poll: The best way to use Chad Green

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Sunday afternoon ace fireman Chad Green allowed one run on four hits and threw 47 pitches in 2.1 innings against the Rangers. That’s a poor outing by his standards. Throwing 2.1 innings and 47 pitches is not unusual for Green — it was his 11th appearance of at least 2.1 innings and ninth of at least 40 pitches — but doing so with a seven-run lead is. He entered with a seven-run lead and exited with an eight-run lead.

That happened three days after Green entered a game against the Orioles with the Yankees leading by seven. Once again, they were up by seven when he entered and up by eight when he exited. That’s … unusual. Green has been truly outstanding this season (2.00 ERA and 1.73 FIP) and using him in blowout games is suboptimal. Teams bring up hordes of September call-up relievers to mop up games like that.

Of course, context is necessary. In Thursday’s game against the Orioles, Green entered the sixth inning with an 8-1 lead, yes, but also with two on and two outs. One swing of the bat makes it an 8-4 game. And on Sunday, he entered the fourth inning with 9-1 lead and two on with two outs, so one swing could’ve made it a 9-4 game. Overkill to use Green like that? Yeah, maybe. But the Yankees also let a four-run lead and five-run lead slip away last week, so you can understand Joe Girardi‘s desire to snuff out those rallies.

Green’s usage Sunday left him unavailable for last night’s series opener against the Rays and probably for tonight’s game as well. Maybe even tomorrow’s game too. He threw six innings and 104 pitches across three appearances last week. Green could probably use a little breather. David Robertson bailed the Yankees out in the middle innings last night. Hopefully a situation doesn’t arise tonight where Green is needed in a close game but not available because he threw so many pitches with huge leads the last two times out.

There are only 19 games remaining this season and one of Girardi’s balancing acts the rest of the way will be maximizing Green’s usage. No, he doesn’t want to keep using him with seven-run leads like his last two outings. He’d prefer to use Green in close games and let the mop up guys mop up. What’s the best way to use Green going forward? These are some different options.

Multi-Inning Setup Guy

This is essentially what Green has done most of the season, save these last few outings. Green would enter a close game, fire two or three innings, and hand the ball off the late-inning guys while giving the offense a chance to add runs. He would then be unavailable for a few days, but that’s life. The upside here is multiple innings of dominance that allow the Yankees to take control of a close game. The downside is Green can only do this once every few days. The days of a multi-inning setup guy throwing 100+ innings like Mariano Rivera in 1996 are pretty much over.

Traditional Short Reliever

(Rick Yeatts/Getty)
(Rick Yeatts/Getty)

This is so very tempting anytime a young reliever has instant success. Bottle him up and assign him an inning, and move on. Instead of letting Green continue to do the multi-inning thing every few days, the Yankees could shorten his outings and use him as a traditional setup man, say as their seventh or eighth inning guy. The upside here is Green will be available for more games. He won’t necessarily need two or three days off after each appearance.

The downside is no longer having that dominant multi-innings presence out in the bullpen, so when the starter goes four or five innings — that seems to be happening more and more frequently, by the way — the Yankees would be stuck cobbling together the rest of the game with five or six relievers. And hey, maybe that’s no big deal with expanded rosters. Then again, if Girardi trusted the call-ups, he wouldn’t have used Green with a seven-run lead the last two times out.

Also, we have no idea how Green will handle pitching back-to-back days, which is something short relievers are asked to do quite often. He’s done it once this season. Green threw 14 pitches in a perfect inning against the Mariners on July 22nd, then came back to throw 37 pitches in 2.1 perfect innings the next day. So maybe back-to-back days won’t be a problem? I dunno. There is definitely some merit to the “he’ll be available to impact more games as a one-inning reliever” idea.

Montgomery’s Caddy

In each of his last two starts, and in three of his last four starts overall, the first guy out of the bullpen to replace Jordan Montgomery was Green. Montgomery’s starts are mighty short these days — he hasn’t gone six innings since July 25th and he hasn’t complete five innings in any of his last three starts — either by design (workload control) or by performance (getting hit hard). Green has picked up the slack.

The downside here is obvious. Saving Green specifically for the days Montgomery pitches means he won’t be used as often the other days. The upside? Well, it better allows the Yankees to control Montgomery’s (and Green’s?) workload, I suppose, and it also theoretically improves their chances of winning on the days he starts. Montgomery to Green might be the team’s best hope for six solid innings every five days.

* * *

Keep in mind the season is winding down. The marathon is over. Now we’re in sprint mode now. The best way to use Green right now, over the final 19 games of the season as the Yankees try to secure a postseason berth, may be different than the best way to use him over the first 143 games of the season. I know how I want the Yankees to use Green. Now it’s time for you all to vote.

How should the Yankees use Chad Green the rest of the season?
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