2017 Midseason Review: The Infielders

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

In the weeks leading up to Opening Day, our expectations surrounding the infield were fairly high. Greg Bird was raking in Spring Training, and it seemed as though he hadn’t missed a beat; and, in the event that he did, Chris Carter was around as an overqualified back-up. Starlin Castro had shown flashes of brilliance in 2016, and had been hyped-up by some as a potential breakout player. Chase Headley … well, his defense had improved, and he was better after a calamitous first month. And Didi Gregorius was coming off of a great all-around season. What could possibly go wrong?

The First Basemen

Expectation: Bird and Carter would form a more than competent platoon, of sorts, with Carter playing first against tougher LHP, and allowing Bird to rest a bit more often than a normal team composition would dictate. ZiPS projected a .234/.307/.449 line for Bird, and .223/.316/.509 for Carter.

Reality: Bird is on the disabled list for the second time in his career, as the result of an ankle injury. He’s played just 19 games, and is hitting on a .100/.250/.200 slash line. And Carter has earned himself two DFA’s by hitting .201/.284/.370 and absolutely brutal defense at first. The starter is currently Ji-Man Choi.

I almost don’t want to write more about first base, as it’s rather depressing. Bird’s injury (and the resulting fallout from the front office) has cast a shadow over the team’s season, and it has only grown darker as the team struggled over the last few weeks. His return is still up in the air, and surgery is a distinct possibility. And it is that uncertainty that is most frustrating.

And Carter – the should-have-been safety net – failed catastrophically. We always knew that he was a feast or famine hitter, but that had still resulted in a .221/.318/.474 slash line (116 wRC+) in five seasons as a regular. There was some sentiment that he was struggling as he adjusted to playing part time, but that excuse went out the window once he became the full-time first baseman. His 73 wRC+ ranks dead last among first basemen.

Choi is the starter for the time being, and he has made a decent impression in a four games. He’s hitting .182/.308/.727 in 13 PA, with 2 HR and 2 BB, and there’s no real challenger for his position in the organization right now. And, for what it’s worth, he does have a career .853 OPS in 851 PA at Triple-A.

Second-Half Forecast: The Yankees will acquire a first baseman via trade, and shut Bird down sooner rather than later.

The Second Basemen

Expectation: Castro would continue to be a competent yet frustrating presence at the keystone. ZiPS projected a .272/.305/.419 slash line, which isn’t too far off from his career norms (in 4000-plus PA).

Reality: Castro is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, which was a major blow to the team’s lineup. He’s currently slashing .313/.348/.486 (121 wRC+) with 12 HR in 313 PA.

The 27-year-old Castro absolutely raked in April, batting .352/.362/.549 (154 wRC+) with 5 home runs. He also had a 7.1% walk rate, which is impressive for the free-swinger. His performance dipped in May (97 wRC+, 3.4 BB%), but he showed improvements in June (117 wRC+, 4.2 BB%) prior to hitting the DL. Castro earned an All-Star nod for his first-half, but had to be replaced due to that injury.

Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes have filled-in since the injury. I’ll have more on them in a bit.

Second-Half Forecast: Castro will be back soon, and his numbers will continue to fluctuate. With so much strong production in the bank, however, we may end up seeing a career year.

The Third Basemen

Expectation: Headley would be a warm body at the hot corner, with competent defense. And maybe, just maybe, he’d be a bit better with the bat. ZiPS had him at .247/.324/.376.

Reality: Headley has been a warm body at the hot corner, but his defense has regressed. His offense (91 wRC+) is right in-line with 2015 (92 wRC+) and 2016 (92 wRC+), even with a blistering hot start.

This is who Headley is at this point. He’s batting .254/.329/.373 (92 wRC+) since Opening Day of 2015, and his highs (142 wRC+ in April) are always met with ridiculous lows (15 wRC+ in May). That’s fine when he’s playing strong defense, as he did in 2016, but he has been a borderline disaster out there in 2017. DRS has him at -5 runs already, and he has already surpassed last year’s error total.

Second-Half Forecast: More of the same, unfortunately. Though, I could see a Miguel Andujar cup of coffee happening down the stretch.

The Shortstops

Expectation: Gregorius would continue to win our hearts with his surprising power, slick defense, and top-notch Twitter game. ZiPS was bearish on the power spike, projecting a .262/.308/.404 line.

Reality: Pretty darn close, albeit with nearly a month lost to a shoulder injury suffered at the World Baseball Classic. He’s hitting .291/.321/.458 with 10 HR (104 wRC+) on the year, and nearly made the All-Star team.

Gregorius is one of the most likable players in baseball, as evidenced by the fun he had trying to garner that final vote. The fact that he has proven that last season wasn’t a fluke helps, too, and he is currently a top-10 shortstop by both WAR (7th in MLB) and wRC+ (9th). And keep in mind that WAR is a counting stat, so the fact that he’s 26th among shortstop in PA helps to bring that number down. He may not be a Hall of Fame talent, but that’s perfectly acceptable – he’s still really, really good.

Second-Half Forecast: Gregorius will keep it up. He’s the safest bet among the infielders to be an above-average player for the remainder of the season, and I’m confident that he will.

The Reserves

Expectation: Ronald Torreyes and Co. would be perfectly adequate bench players.

Reality: Torreyes and Co. have been perfectly adequate – but they’ve had too play more often than anyone would have wanted.

Torreyes spent most of April as the team’s starting shortstop, and he was surprisingly competent. He posted a .313/.313/.433 slash line (95 wRC+) while Gregorius was on the mend, and his defense was more than passable. He has been overextended and a bit exposed since then, though, as he has already surpassed last year’s PA mark, and stands to play more as the season wears on. He’s another fun player, but he shouldn’t be counted on for much more than what he’s done already.

Wade was called upon to shore up the bench when Castro landed on the DL, and he has picked up five starts at second in those two weeks. He has yet to get on-track (.107/.219/.179 in 32 PA), but his versatility and speed should earn him more opportunities in the coming months. Wade hit .313/.390/.444 (134 wRC+) with 5 HR and 24 SB at Triple-A this year, and he might just be the best reserve the team has right now.

Rob Refsnyder is still around, too, but the Yankees seem to have decided that he’s a 1B/LF/RF. He’s batting .135/.200/.216 in 40 PA, and he hasn’t played since July 2.

Second-Half Forecast: This may be optimistic, but I’m hoping that we’ll see more of Wade, and less of Torreyes (and Refsnyder, if such a thing is even possible). The Yankees have been grooming him for this exact role for some time now; it’s his time to shine.

DotF: Sensley’s big game helps Pulaski to a win

Triple-A Scranton is off until Thursday for the All-Star break. The All-Star Game itself is Wednesday night. LHP Caleb Smith will represent the Yankees. OF Dustin Fowler was selected to the game as well, but won’t participate due to the fact he’s both hurt and in the big leagues right now.

Double-A Trenton is also off until Thursday for the All-Star break. Their All-Star Game is Wednesday night as well. LHP Nestor Cortes, SS Thairo Estrada, RHP Yefry Ramirez, and OF Zack Zehner will represent the Thunder. LHP Justus Sheffield and 1B Mike Ford were also selected for the All-Star Game but won’t participate. Sheffield is hurt (oblique) and Ford was recently promoted to Triple-A.

High-A Tampa was rained out. They’re going to make this one up as part of an August 28th doubleheader.

Low-A Charleston (5-4 loss to Columbia)

  • SS Hoy Jun Park: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 2B Diego Castillo: 0-3, 2 BB — threw walks in his last two games after zero walks and his previous 25 games
  • LF Blake Rutherford: 1-5, 1 K
  • CF Estevan Florial: 0-5, 4 K — maybe he should have taken a day before coming back from the Futures Game
  • C Donny Sands: 0-4, 1 K
  • RF Isiah Gilliam: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Rony Garcia: 5 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1/6 GB/FB — 60 of 91 pitches were strikes (66%) … he’d walked three guys in his first three starts and 16.1 innings

[Read more…]

Aaron Judge wins 2017 Home Run Derby, all our hearts

If you don't know now you know. (Presswire)
If you don’t know now you know. (Presswire)

Monday night at Miami, Aaron Judge stole the show and won the 2017 Home Run Derby. He beat Justin Bour 23-22 in the first round, Cody Bellinger 13-12 in the second round, and Miguel Sano 11-10 in the third round. Judge was on another level. The last two rounds were actually anticlimactic.

The first round matchup with Bour was the highlight of the night. The hometown Marlin clubbed an incredible 22 home runs and had the crowd going nuts. Judge came back to hit 23 with time to spare. It was amazing. Bour had an amazing and fun round, and Judge knocked him right out.

In the second round Judge socked home runs measuring 504, 507, and 513 feet. He also hit one off the Marlins Park roof that didn’t count, so he really socked 24 against Bour. Judge also went opposite field into the second deck a few times, where the lefty power guys were hitting bombs. It was insane. Here’s some video:

Judge is the fourth Yankee to win the Home Run Derby, joining Tino Martinez (1999), Jason Giambi (2003), and Robinson Cano (2012). His 47 home runs are a Yankees record for the Home Run Derby. He could have topped Stanton’s record of 61 homers had they allowed him to hit until time expires. (As the higher seed, his round ended as soon as he topped his opponent’s total.)

As for Gary Sanchez, he knocked off Stanton in the first round 17-16 before losing to Sano in the second round 11-10. Sanchez seemed to run out of gas in the second round. Oh well. Nice try, Gary. Not bad for the second most awesome young Yankees slugger.

2017 Home Run Derby Open Thread

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

This is the first time that I have ever been excited for the Home Run Derby. I’ve enjoyed watching it before, to be sure, and I will never cease to be amazed by the towering shots that most of the competitors are capable of hitting on a year-to-year basis – but it has never before felt like must-see TV. And, despite my own Yankees fandom, it isn’t just because of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.

Well, to be fair, it is mostly because of Judge and Sanchez. At the same time, though, I’m excited to see Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Sano, who were jockeying for the “most impressive batting practice” crown before Judge arrived on the scene. I’m similarly stoked to see Cody Bellinger come to the plate, as he has essentially played the role of Aaron Judge West this year. And seeing MLB use this event as an opportunity to market three young, blossoming stars in NYC and Los Angeles is basically a feather in its cap.

Here is tonight’s bracket:

bracket

This sets up the possibility of a Judge vs. Bellinger semi-finals, and a Judge vs. Stanton (or Sanchez) finals. It’s rare that something as simple as a bracket is intriguing, but here we are.

The Home Run Derby will begin at 8 PM EST, and will be broadcast on ESPN. Feel free to discuss the derby and anything else (that isn’t religion or politics) here.

Trade Deadline Rumors: Buyers, Hand, Maurer, Phelps, Ramos

Maurer. (Hunter Martin/Getty)
Maurer. (Hunter Martin/Getty)

The 2017 trade deadline is exactly three weeks away, which means the trade rumor mill is really going to start to heat up soon. Pretty much right after the All-Star break. Here’s the latest on the Yankees.

Yankees will be “careful buyers”

All the recent losing has complicated the Yankees’ deadline plans. A few weeks ago they were clear cut contenders with the motivation to buy. Now they’re on the postseason bubble — they are 3.5 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East and essentially one game up on a wildcard spot — and it’s unclear whether buying would be a smart move. During a YES Network interview yesterday (video link), Brian Cashman said the Yankees will be “careful buyers.”

“I think our interest would be buyers, but I think we’re gonna be careful buyers. We have a long-term plan that I think people are seeing excitement from. We’re definitely not gonna deviate from that. But also, part of that long-term plan is, in the short term, winning now and putting out the best effort possible, but not at the expense of what we feel can lead us to more championships … In the next three weeks, Hal Steinbrenner and myself and our entire staff will be trying to do a better job of legitimately plugging holes, if possible. So far I can tell you that sticker prices are pretty high and we’re saying no to a lot of (trades) that have currently been presented to us. But you keep working through it.”

One thing to keep in mind: Hal didn’t want to sell last year. He only gave the okay after Aroldis Chapman turned down a contract extension. I suppose the Yankees could sell again if they keep slipping in the standings, but the trade deadline is only three weeks away, and I don’t think they’ll fall that much. My guess is the Yankees will buy, but not buy big. Maybe a stopgap first baseman and some bullpen arms. I would be surprised if they trade a top prospect.

Yankees, Padres have talked Hand, Maurer

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees and Padres have talked about relievers Brad Hand and Brandon Maurer. San Diego did ask about Gleyber Torres recently but Sherman says it’s understood they’re not getting a prospect of that caliber for a reliever. One Padres official told Sherman the Yankees have enough pieces to do a deal even without their top prospects. “They had a real good system last year, and it has taken another step up this year,” said one executive.

Here’s my Scouting The Market post on Hand. I’ll refer you to that. As for Maurer, the 27-year-old has a 5.60 ERA (2.95 FIP) with 24.3% walks and 4.9% walks this year. He’s been hurt by a shockingly low strand rate (52.9%) and the fact he’s always been a bit more hittable than his upper-90s fastball and two mid-80s secondary pitches (slider, changeup) would lead you to believe. Maurer, like Hand, is under team control through 2019 as an arbitration-eligible player. I prefer Hand. I’ve had my fill of these “more hittable than his stuff would indicate” guys.

Yankees have asked about Phelps, Ramos

Phelpsie. (Matt Hazlett/Getty)
Phelpsie. (Matt Hazlett/Getty)

The Yankees have contacted the Marlins about righty relievers David Phelps and A.J. Ramos, reports Sherman. The Marlins are starting to sell off pieces — Adeiny Hechavarria was traded to the Rays a few weeks back — and as relievers with one year of control remaining and not cheap salaries, Phelps ($4.6M) and Ramos ($6.55M) are obvious trade chips. I think both will be moved before the deadline, but what do I know?

Phelps, 30, has a 3.68 ERA (3.54 FIP) with 26.4% strikeouts and 8.8% walks in 44 innings this year. He really broke out in a true short relief role last year — Phelps had a 2.31 ERA (2.75 FIP) out of the bullpen in 2016 — before the Marlins moved him back into the rotation out of necessity. The 30-year-old Ramos has a 3.51 ERA (3.60 FIP) with 29.6% strikeouts and 12.7% walks in 33.1 innings this season. He’s always been a cardiac closer. Ramos isn’t shy about putting guys on base, though because he misses so many bats, he can get out of jams more often then not. I don’t really have a preference here. I think the Padres guys would probably provide more bang for the buck.

Padres, Marlins scouting Yankees heavily

The Padres and Marlins are currently scouting the Yankees’ farm system, report George King and Clark Spencer, which obviously ties back into those Hand/Maurer and Phelps/Ramos rumors. King says the Padres have sent assistant general manager David Post to watch Triple-A Scranton recently. Spencer says the Marlins are simply “focusing heavily” on New York’s system. (And several other teams too.)

I’m kinda curious to know when Post was scouting the RailRiders because the Yankees have called up many of their best prospects within the last two weeks. Chance Adams and Miguel Andujar are still down in Triple-A, but others like Tyler Wade, Dustin Fowler, and Clint Frazier are all in the big leagues. Hmmm. Maybe the Padres will be really sold on Billy McKinney’s recently hot streak or something. Anyway, potential sellers are scouting the farm system of a potential buyer. News at 11.

2017 Midseason Review: The Catchers

With the world of baseball enjoying the All-Star break, this week is as good a time as any to look back and review the first half of the Yankees’ 2017 season. It was a really interesting first half, wasn’t it? Let’s begin today with the two catchers.

Yo soy Gary. (Adam Hunger/Getty)
Yo soy Gary. (Adam Hunger/Getty)

The history of the Yankees is littered with excellent offensive catchers. Back in the day there was Bill Dickey, then Yogi Berra, then Elston Howard, then Thurman Munson, then Jorge Posada. Now the Yankees have Gary Sanchez, a homegrown 24-year-old All-Star in his first full season as the starting catcher. He gives the Yankees yet another excellent offensive catcher to anchor the lineup. His backup, Austin Romine, is homegrown too. Let’s review the first half of their season.

Gary Sanchez: Nearly repeating 2016 in 2017

What Sanchez did last year, smashing 20 home runs in 53 games en route to being named AL Rookie of the Year runner-up, made it impossible to estimate his true talent level coming into the 2017 season. Expecting him to sustain a 60-homer pace was unrealistic. The question is how much would his production fall?

Turns out, not much. At least not until Sanchez hit the skids a bit the final week before the All-Star break. His numbers through the same number of plate appearances as last year are freakishly similar:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR K% BB% BABIP
2016 229 .299/.376/.657 171 20 24.9% 10.5% .317
2017 229 .289/.376/.517 139 13 23.1% 10.0% .333

Sanchez has gone 1-for-13 since his 229th plate appearance to drag his overall season batting line down to .276/.360/.591 (127 wRC+), which is still pretty awesome. Only Salvador Perez has more home runs among all catchers. (He has 18.) Among the 24 catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, only Alex Avila (156) and Buster Posey (142) have been more productive overall in terms of wRC+.

As for the straight 229 plate appearances comparison, it’s kinda freaky, no? The AVG, OBP, BABIP, strikeout rate, and walk rate are nearly identical to last year. The difference falls within the error bars of baseball randomness. The similarities go beyond those numbers too. Sanchez’s hard contact rate (41.8% vs. 37.2%) and pull rate (54.1% vs. 52.6%) are nearly identical. So is his chase rate (32.9% vs. 30.8%) and contact rate in pitches in the zone (83.7% vs. 85.0%).

This season Sanchez is hitting fewer ground balls (49.3% vs. 42.6%), which is a good thing! You want him hitting the ball in the air. At the same time, his HR/FB rate has dropped from 40.0% to 26.0%. That was to be expected though. No one can hit two out of every five fly balls out of the park. That was never going to last. The fewer grounders is good though. The more Gary hits the ball in the air, the more damage he’ll do. He’s not hitting at a 60-homer pace anymore. It’s more like a 35-homer pace. And that is pretty cool.

One thing I think everyone has noticed about Sanchez’s season to date is that he’s had an awful lot of hard-hit outs. I mean, he hits the ball hard a lot, so it’s bound to happen, but it seems like Gary has had more line drives find gloves than any one player reasonably should. Here are the numbers:

% Batted Balls at 100+ mph AVG on 100+ mph balls BABIP on 100+ mph balls
Sanchez 36.6% .561 .432
MLB AVG 19.4% .650 .564

Okay, so we’re not imagining things. Sanchez has had an inordinate number of hard-hit batted balls — I used 100 mph exit velocity as my cutoff because humans are obsessed with round numbers — for whatever reason. Part of it is probably his pull rate, right? Sanchez pulls the ball a lot so teams shift their defenses to that side. Some of it is probably plain ol’ bad luck too. Hopefully that luck pendulum swings back in Gary’s favor in the second half.

On the defensive side, Sanchez has had a bit of a rocky season, I’d say. He’s especially had trouble blocking pitches in the dirt. We saw Joe Girardi pull him aside in Chicago after he failed to block a Masahiro Tanaka splitter two weeks ago. The catcher defense stats at Baseball Prospectus say Sanchez was 1.4 runs below average blocking balls in 316 innings last year. This year he’s at 0.5 runs below average in 400.2 innings. Hmmm.

The numbers say Sanchez has been a bit better this year blocking balls but still below average overall. The eye test tells me he’s been worse this year, but who knows. Your eyes lie. Perhaps I was too distracted by all those glorious dingers last season to notice his blocking deficiencies. Point is, blocking pitches has been an issue for Sanchez this year and it’s something he needs to improve going forward.

In terms of throwing, Gary has been great. He’s thrown out eleven of 30 would be basestealers, or 37%, well above the 27% league average. Last year he had a 41% caught stealing rate, so he’s not too far off that mark. Not enough to be a red flag. Baseball Prospectus rates his pitch-framing as a tick above average too (+1.7 runs). The same was true last year (+1.6 runs). Not great, not awful. Good enough.

Aside from the biceps injury, which thankfully has not lingered, Sanchez’s sophomore season has gone about as well as we could have hoped. His power numbers have taken an expected step back but he’s still a force at the plate. Add that to average-ish defense (above-average throwing, average framing, below-average blocking) and you’ve got one of the top catchers in the league and a deserving All-Star. Sanchez’s sophomore season has been pretty awesome.

Austin Romine: A competent backup who shined in April

Catcher at first base. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Catcher at first base. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

In the fifth game of the season, Sanchez felt a tug in his biceps taking a swing and had to be placed on the disabled list. The Yankees were 1-4 at the time and their star offensive player — this was before Aaron Judge‘s ridiculousness — just suffered an injury that would require a month’s rest. Not ideal! Especially when that guy is your starting catcher and your options to replace him are fairly limited.

With Sanchez sidelined, the Yankees turned to Romine as their starting catcher because they really didn’t have much of a choice, and holy cow did he deliver. The 28-year-old Romine hit .316/.349/.456 (111 wRC+) with two doubles and two homers in 63 plate appearances while Sanchez was out, including going 4-for-6 with two walks and no strikeouts with runners in scoring position. Hot damn!

Not even the biggest Austin Romine fan expected him to do that when Sanchez’s injury pressed him into everyday duty. The pitching staff performed well that month as well and Romine received a lot of credit. (Probably too much.) Sanchez is the clear No. 1 catcher for the Yankees and he took over as the starter as soon as he returned from the disabled list, as he should have. Romine did an incredible job filling in those four weeks though.

Since returning to backup duty, Romine has hit a weak .183/.245/.215 (23 wRC+) overall, dragging his overall season batting line down to .231/.284/.306 (57 wRC+). He’s also played some first base, including starting three straight games at the position two weeks ago. Romine has handled first base well defensively — he’s made a few plays look a little more difficult than they actually were, though he made them, and that’s what counts — and he’s even gone out of his way to help tutor Sanchez with his blocking.

Romine is what he is at this point. He’s a hard-working backup who does his best work behind the plate and will occasionally surprise you with a clutch hit. When the Yankees needed him to step up during Sanchez’s injury, he did it in a huge way. The Yankees wouldn’t be hanging around the postseason race without him. Romine is a role player now and going forward. His 2017 season is already a success thanks to April.

Yankeemetrics: Massive skid extends into break (July 7-9)

(AP)
(AP)

Groundhog Day in July
Another series, another bullpen failure, and the epic freefall continued with an embarrassing 9-4 loss on Friday night against the Brewers. The all-too-familiar late-inning implosion led to the Yankees 17th blown save, tying the Rangers for the most in MLB, and officially passing their total from last year. Yup, it’s July 10th.

Tyler Clippard once again was the conductor of this bullpen trainwreck, surrendering the game-losing runs in the seventh inning on a tie-breaking grand slam by Jesus Aguilar. Getting pummeled in key late-inning situations is nothing new for Clippard. Batters are slugging .711 against him in high-leverage plate appearances, the highest mark among major-league pitchers this season (min. 50 batters faced). And, for reference, Aaron Judge was slugging .701 after Friday’s game.

Clippard now has 11 Meltdowns – a metric at FanGraphs which basically answers the question of whether a relief pitcher hurt his team’s chance of winning a game. Those 11 Meltdowns are the most for any AL pitcher and tied with Blake Treinen (Nationals) and Brett Cecil (Cardinals) for the major-league lead.

And if the late-inning self-destruction wasn’t depressing enough, the Yankees also failed to take advantage of a sloppy five-error defensive performance by the Brewers.

You have to go back more than five years to find a team that lost a game despite their opponent committing five errors – the Giants against the Diamondbacks on April 8, 2012. And the last time the Yankees suffered such a mistake-filled loss was July 9, 1995 vs. the Rangers.

The one thing that salvaged this game from being another W.L.O.T.S. (Worst Loss of The Season) was – no surprise – another record-breaking performance by Aaron Judge. He hammered his 30th home run of the season in the fifth inning, becoming the first Yankee rookie ever to hit 30 homers. Forget the rookie qualification, Judge is only the third player in franchise history to hit 30-or-more homers before the All-Star break, joining Alex Rodriguez (30 in 2007) and Roger Maris (33 in 1961).

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Boom goes Frazier!
With the Yankees down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth and staring at another soul-crushing defeat on Saturday afternoon, Clint Frazier came to the rescue and stunningly flipped a near-disaster loss into a rousing walk-off party, drilling a 97-mph fastball over the left field fences for the win.

Showing off his “legendary bat speed,” Frazier made a serious dent in the Yankee record books:

  • Before Frazier, the last Yankee to hit a walk-off homer against the Brewers was Roberto Kelly on Sept. 18, 1991.
  • He is the youngest Yankee (22 years, 305 days) with a walk-off dinger since a 21-year-old Melky Cabrera on July 18, 2006 versus the Mariners.
  • Frazier is the first Yankee rookie to hit a walk-off homer that turned a deficit into a win since Bobby Murcer on Aug. 5, 1969 against the Angels.
  • And, he is the youngest Yankee ever to launch a walk-off home run with his team trailing.

frazier-walk-off-gif

Frazier’s historic game-winning hit capped off a three-hit, four-RBI day by the red-headed rookie:

First, his single in the bottom of the fifth inning broke up Brent Suter’s no-hit bid and also completed the “career cycle” – Frazier’s first three hits in the majors were a home run, triple and double. Then, his run-scoring triple in the seventh inning cut the Yankees deficit to 3-2, and made him the youngest Yankee with a triple in back-to-back games since a 22-year-old Don Mattingly on July 30-31, 1983.

Finally, let’s hand out our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series to Mr. Frazier: He is the first Yankee to be a double short of the cycle in a game since Derek Jeter on April 30, 2010, and the youngest to do that since Mickey Mantle on May 22, 1954.

As the late-game struggles have become a recurring nightmare in recent weeks, it’s easy to forget that we had anointed this team as the Comeback Kids during the first two months. Saturday was the third time the Yankees won a game in which they trailed entering the ninth inning, matching their entire total from all of last season.

Luis Severino struggled out of the gate when he put the Yankees in a 3-0 hole after giving up a three-run bomb in the first inning. Aside from that rocky start, the 23-year-old right-hander was brilliant in blanking the Brewers for six more frames. He finished with 10 strikeouts, the fourth time this year he’s struck out double-digit guys. Severino is the youngest Yankee ever with four 10-strikeout games this early into the season (game number 85).

Aaron Judge didn’t give us any home run heroics, but still added to his unprecedented statistical rookie season on Saturday with his 60th walk – highlighting his rare combo of patience, power and production. Judge is the first player in major-league history age-25-or-younger to pile up at least 30 homers, 60 walks and 95 hits before the All-Star break.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Bad Tanaka is back
There would be no inspiring comeback, no walk-off magic, no wild celebration in Sunday’s rubber game as the Yankees headed to the All-Star break on the heels of another disheartening loss. They ended the unofficial first half of the season with one of their worst extended slumps in the last quarter century, going 0-7-1 in their final eight series and losing 18 of their last 25 games.

The last time the Yankees went eight straight series without a series win — and lost at least seven of them — was August/September 1991. Before this season, they hadn’t endured a 25-game stretch that included at least 18 losses since May/June 1995. And then there’s this sobering fact … the last time the Yankees actually won a series (June 9-11), the Cleveland Cavaliers were still the reigning NBA champions.

The most frustrating part of the game was the Yankees endless string of bad clutch hitting, as they went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. It was their worst single-game performance in that situation (min. 15 at-bats) since a 1-for-17 effort on June 8, 2014 against the Royals.

Aside from the pathetic Yankee bats, the biggest culprit in Sunday’s loss was Masahiro Tanaka, who put the Yankees in an early 4-0 hole after the Brewers crushed two homers in the first two innings off him. That brought his dinger total to 23, one more than he coughed during the entire 2016 season.

While much has been made of his weird day/night splits (7-3, 3.10 ERA in night games; 0-5, 14.81 ERA in day games), the more troubling split is his performance versus teams with a .500 or better record compared to a losing record. He’s now 1-5 with a 10.87 ERA in six starts against winning teams, and 6-3 with a 3.66 ERA in 12 starts vs losing teams.

For the second straight day Clint Frazier did his best to rally the troops, belting a two-run opposite-field homer in the fourth inning to cut the Yankees deficit to one run. It was his third home run in seven career games, the fourth Yankee to go yard that many times within their first seven major-league contests. It’s quite an eclectic list: Shelley Duncan, Jesus Montero and Steve Whitaker are the others.

Aaron Judge went 1-for-4 with a walk and heads to the All-Star festivities with an unreal batting line of .329/.448/.691. Since the first Mid-Summer Classic in 1933, Judge is the only Yankee right-handed batter to enter the break with at least a .320 batting average, .440 on-base percentage and .690 slugging percentage (min. 200 at-bats).