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Here is the open thread for the night. Every local hockey and basketball team in action except the Rangers. Talk anything here as long as it’s not religion or politics.
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Here is the open thread for the night. Every local hockey and basketball team in action except the Rangers. Talk anything here as long as it’s not religion or politics.
If you’re a fan of home runs, boy was this the season for you. MLB teams combined to hit 6,105 home runs in 2017, by far the most in history. The previous record was 5,693 homers set back in 2000. The record was broken by 412 homers (!) and with 12 days to go in the regular season. That is insanity. MLB insists the ball is not juiced. I have a very hard time believing that.
Anyway, the Yankees contributed greatly to that record home run total this season. They smashed 241 home runs in 2017, the most in baseball. One-hundred-and-sixty-one, or almost exactly two-thirds of those 241 homers, were hit by players age 27 or younger. The Yankees play in a home run ballpark and in a division with other home run ballparks, plus they’re getting younger and more powerful. Fun!
As a big fan of dingers, I’ve been putting together these “five longest homers of the season” posts since way back in 2010. Those posts covered 35 different home runs from 2010-16. Exactly one (1) of those 35 would have appeared in this year’s top five longest homers list. The Yankees didn’t just hit a lot of home runs this season. They hit a lot of long home runs this season. Let’s break down the top five.
Get ready for an awful lot of Aaron Judge, folks. He is featured in this post prominently. New York’s fifth longest home run of the season was No. 46 of his record-breaking rookie season. It came in the first inning too. Judge hit Estrada’s fifth pitch of the game, an 89.1 mph fastball up in the zone, into the Rogers Centre second deck for a missile solo homer on September 22nd.
I remember this home run as the end of Judge’s ugly second half slump. He hit .176/.337/.340 (82 wRC+) in 199 plate appearances from the start of the second half through the start of this game, September 3rd against the Red Sox. And in his first three at-bats of this game, Judge went strikeout, strikeout, ground out. Yuck.
The Yankees took an early lead against Chris Sale in this game, and worked him hard too. He threw 109 pitches in only 4.1 innings. Yikes. The Yankees were in the process of breaking the game open in the sixth inning, and had already stretched their lead to 7-1 when Judge came to the plate against Addison Reed with a man on base. This home run came on another high fastball, though Reed (93.7 mph) throws quite a bit harder than Estrada.
I told you Judge would be featured prominently in this post. This is another September homer too. In fact, this was his 52nd and final regular season home run. It came on September 30th. Judge really locked it in during the season’s final month, following his slump.
As with the Stroman and Reed homers, this was another fastball up in the strike zone. The game was scoreless in the fourth inning when Marcus Stroman’s little 2-0 count 93.1 mph two-seamer ran right into Judge’s bat path. You almost can’t see the ball leaving his bat it got out so quick.
@TheJudge44 is creating history. He hits baseballs extremely far too. Lol looking forward to competing against him the rest of my career!
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) September 30, 2017
Judge is crushing dingers so far opposing pitchers have to praise him after the game. What a season. Distance: 484 feet.
By the way, remember when I said just one home run from 2010-16 would’ve made this list? It would’ve slotted in fourth behind this Judge blast. Alex Rodriguez swatted a 477 foot homer back in 2015. No other Yankees homer from 2010-16 topped even 460 feet. Pretty crazy.
Hey, it’s not Aaron Judge. It’s the Yankees other young slugger. Most teams hope to have one guy like this to build an offense around. The Yankees have two powerful 20-somethings with one full season under their belt.
Gary Sanchez went on a ridiculous home run tear in mid-August, hitting ten homers in the span of 15 days. The seventh of those ten homers came in Detroit on August 22nd, two days before the brawl game. Lefty Matt Boyd left an 80.4 mph cement mixer changeup up in the zone in the first inning, and Sanchez hit it to the concession stands beyond the left field bleachers. Look at this thing:
Ho hum, another Judge homer. He hit baseball’s longest home run this season, two of baseball’s four longest homers this season, and five of the Yankees’ six longest homers this season.
The year’s longest home run came on June 11th, during the blowout series against the Orioles, in which the Yankees won all three games by the combined score of 38-8. It was the final game of the series, and the Yankees were up 7-3 in the sixth, so Baltimore’s spirit was already broken. Up-and-down arm Logan Verrett was soaking up innings in the eventual blowout, and he threw Judge the hangiest of hanging sliders. It was 84.7 mph and it just spun into nothing.
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Sanchez and Judge have a monopoly on the longest Yankees homers this season and I get the feeling it’s going to stay that way for a few years. Those two plus Greg Bird figure to hit plenty of long dingers in the coming years. So, for the sake of variety, here are the Yankees’ five longest homers hit by players other than Judge and Sanchez this season.
Shout out to Estrada and Stroman for appearing in this post twice. I remember being surprised Holliday still had that kind of power when he hit that home run against Holland. Who knew he could still hit a ball 460-ish feet at age 37? Also, that May 3rd homer was No. 300 for Holliday in his career.
And how about Choi? He wasn’t with the Yankees long, but he did manage to hit a very long dinger while in pinstripes. Frazier’s legendary bat speed was on full display with that July 28th homer. I’m looking forward to a full season of the Clint experience in 2018.
At this point, the best thing the Yankees can say about the Jacoby Ellsbury contract is that they’re finally closer to the end than the beginning. Year 4 of the Ellsbury era played out very much like Years 1-3. There were months of poor production, an injury, and a hot streak that had everyone wondering whether Ellsbury would finally provide some bang for the buck.
In the end, Ellsbury hit .264/.348/.402 (101 wRC+) with seven home runs and 22 steals in 25 attempts in 112 games in 2017, which isn’t bad by any means. It is a bit deceiving though, because Ellsbury bunched all the good into a four-week hot streak from August 26th through September 20th, in which he hit .397/.494/.616 (194 wRC+) in 89 plate appearances. In his other 320 plate appearances, he hit .230/.303/.346 (~77 wRC+).
Now, don’t get me wrong, those 89 great plate appearances from August 26th to September 20th count. Ellsbury was phenomenal those weeks! He helped the Yankees win a lot of games. The season is not four weeks long, however. There was a lot of bad sandwiched around those four weeks, bad enough that Ellsbury was relegated to fourth outfielder duty for long stretches of time, including in the postseason.
Following the end of the 2016 season, both Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman hinted at a lineup change for the 2017 season. The Brett Gardner/Ellsbury tandem would be broken up atop the lineup. The Yankees signed Ellsbury hoping he and Gardner would form a dynamic one-two lineup punch with speed and sneaky power. It never really materialized.
The question was who would be demoted, the more productive Gardner or the more highly compensated Ellsbury? Money talks. In a perfect world teams wouldn’t consider salary in making roster decisions, but they do. They all do. The Yankees are no different. In this case, Ellsbury salary didn’t matter. Girardi dropped him from second in the lineup all the way down to … fifth. He even batted fourth for a few games.
On one hand, dropping Ellsbury from the second spot in the lineup was the right move. On another hand, dropping him to fourth and fifth meant he was still hitting in the premium lineup spot, and would still be a significant part of the offense. And for the first few weeks of the season, it was fine. Not great, not terrible. Fine. Ellsbury hit .277/.333/.410 (99 wRC+) in April and even swatted his first career grand slam.
On May 24th, with his batting line sitting at .281/.349/.422 (108 wRC+) through 153 plate appearances, Ellsbury crashed shoulder-first into the center field wall making a catch against the Royals. He initially stayed in the game, but was removed one inning later with a concussion.
The first few weeks back from the concussion did not go well, and while that is understandable — again, concussions are a serious matter — it also fit a career-long pattern for Ellsbury. He has a history of getting hurt and not hitting once he returns. We’ve seen it in pinstripes a few times, most notably after he tweaked his knee in 2015. In his first 41 games back from the concussion, Ellsbury hit .186/.289/.297 (60 wRC+) in 136 plate appearances. Yeesh. At one point he went 3-for-29 (.103) during a 13-game span. That dragged his season batting line down to .237/.320/.364 (85 wRC+).
That ugly 41-game slide ended August 25th, a cherry-picked date. The very next day, Ellsbury started his monster four-week hot streak, a 38-game stretch in which he was not only New York’s most dangerous hitter, but also one of the best hitters in the game not named Giancarlo Stanton. Those four weeks were incredible.
Those four weeks were so great they represent Ellsbury’s best four-week stretch as a Yankee, bar none. He hit .397/.494/.616 (194 wRC+) those four weeks. His next best four-week stretch in pinstripes is a .324/.366/.539 (150 wRC+) batting line back in August 2014. Here is Ellsbury’s tenure with the Yankees:
More valleys than peaks, though some of the peaks are quite high. None are as high as his second half this season. Ellsbury was the Yankees’ best player during those four weeks late this season and the Yankees needed him to step up, because Hicks was hurt again and Judge was still working his way out of his second half slump. The Yankees were noticeably short a bat down the stretch. Ellsbury helped pick up the slack.
The hot streak was the very best of Ellsbury. He was a contact machine — he drew 13 walks and struck out only nine times in those 38 games — who sprayed the ball all around and used his speed. There is always going to be some element of luck involved when a player hits .397 across 38 games — Ellsbury did have a .444 BABIP during the hot streak — but Ellsbury created his own luck by putting the ball in play so often. He saw 375 pitches during the hot streak. He swung and missed only 28 times.
The biggest moment of Ellsbury’s torrid hot streak came during Players Weekend, when he swatted a go-ahead three-run home run against the Mariners. The Yankees suffered a tough extra-innings loss the night before and basically half the AL was trying to catch them in the wildcard race. Ellsbury’s homer contributed to an important win.
The hot streak didn’t last, of course. They never do. Ellsbury went 5-for-30 (.167) in his final eight games of the regular season, and with Hicks back from his second oblique injury, Ellsbury again found himself on the bench. It was Hicks, not Ellsbury, who played center field in the postseason. The Yankees played 13 postseason games this year and Ellsbury appeared in six of them. He started four, all at DH. In those six games he went 0-for-9.
There were stretches throughout the season in which Ellsbury was dropped down into fourth outfielder duty, though the Hicks injury and the general day in, day out nature of the regular season meant he still played a few times a week. In the postseason though, with every game meaning so much, Girardi and the Yankees determined Ellsbury did not give the Yankees the best chance to win. Not at the plate and not in the field. He was a pinch-runner, basically.
As things stand, the Yankees are deep in outfielders going into the 2017-18 offseason. Ellsbury, Gardner, Hicks, and Judge are all under control for at least two more years, and Clint Frazier is very close to ready for full-time MLB action, if he isn’t already. Ellsbury is the one outfielder who clearly deserves less playing time going forward, not more. That the Yankees already scaled back on his playing time this summer leads me to believe Ellsbury’s days as a starter are close to over, at least when he’s not in the middle of a hot streak.
For the first time since Ellsbury joined the Yankees, I feel like the team will make a very serious effort to unload him this offseason, to clear room for Hicks and Frazier and the other outfielders. It’s going to hurt to trade Ellsbury, and it should hurt. The signing seemed completely crazy at the time, and when you make a decision that bad, you deserve to deal with the consequences. The Yankees will have to eat a lot of money to move Ellsbury. There are four questions now:
That’s what this is about, right? Opening a roster spot for a younger player (Frazier) and saving as much money as possible. The contract is a sunk cost. Right now the Yankees have to pay all of it no matter what. Saving some of it, even a few million a year, to open the roster spot and create a more flexible roster makes sense given where the Yankees are. It’s hard to see Ellsbury as a meaningful piece of the next great Yankees team.
Trading Ellsbury won’t be easy nor will it yield any sort of meaningful return. It’ll be a reverse Vernon Wells trade, basically. The Yankees get non-prospects in return for saving some cash. Ellsbury is better than Wells, sure, but his contract is more onerous. If the Yankees can unload Ellsbury, I think they’d jump at the chance this winter. And if not, they’ll have no choice but to go into next season with him penciled into a bench spot.
Free agency is now underway. The five-day exclusive negotiating period is over and, as of 12:01am ET this morning, free agents are free to negotiate and sign with any team. MLB isn’t the NFL, NBA, or NHL though. There aren’t a flurry of Day One signings because there’s no salary cap. MLB free agency, like the regular season, is a marathon rather than a sprint.
Although the free agent signing period has opened, the No. 1 offseason target on every team’s list is still not available. Nippon Ham Fighters righty/slugger Shohei Otani has not yet been posted for MLB teams, and depending who you ask, he might not be posted at all this winter. MLB, MLBPA, and NPB are haggling over the posting system. It’s clear Otani wants to come over this winter. Now he just needs all parties involved to let him.
The 23-year-old Otani is basically the coolest baseball player on Earth. He’s a 100 mph throwing starter with wicked breaking stuff who also socks dingers on the days between starts. Otani hit .332/.403/.540 in 231 plate appearances with a 3.20 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 25.1 innings around ankle and quad injuries in 2017. Last year, when fully healthy, he hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers and had a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 140 innings.
The Yankees scouted Otani during the season (duh) and they’re expected to pursue him aggressively this offseason — Joel Sherman recently reported “they plan to push as hard as possible” to land Otani — which makes perfect sense. They have a fun up-and-coming team and Otani would fit right in with the exciting young core. He’s five months younger than Luis Severino! Of course this guy should be their No. 1 offseason target.
At the same time, the Yankees can’t — and shouldn’t — focus on Otani this winter. They need to proceed with their offseason as if they won’t sign Otani. That means filling out the rotation and coming up with a solution for the designated hitter spot (one set player? revolving door?), among other things. There are two reasons for this.
1. Otani might not come over. Back when Masahiro Tanaka was coming over, there were weeks and weeks of “he’s coming over/he’s not coming over/posting system negotiations could hold it up” talk. The same thing is happening here. I expect everyone to come to their senses and to get it worked out in time. But, until it happens, there’s always a chance Otani won’t be posted this winter. You can plan your offseason around a No. 1 target who might not actually be available. The Yankees don’t want to miss out on other players because they’re waiting for Otani.
2. It’s a minimal financial investment. This is the big one to me. Unless MLB, MLBPA, and NPB completely rewrite the international hard cap rules, which is possible but extremely unlikely, signing Otani will involved three financial commitments:
MLB and the NPB already agreed Otani would be grandfathered in under the old posting agreement, meaning the (Ham) Fighters will set the maximum $20M release fee. Whichever team signs him, pays it. Every single MLB team can cut a $20M release fee check for Otani right now. Don’t let the owners trick you into thinking otherwise.
The signing bonus is a relatively small investment. Otani is subject to the international hard cap and teams only have so much international bonus money left to spend. Mark Feinsand says the Yankees have as much available international money as any team.
Eight teams have the ability to pay Ohtani a signing bonus of more than $1 million: the Rangers ($3.535M), Yankees ($3.5M), Pirates ($2.27M), Twins ($1.895M), D-Backs ($1.87M), Marlins ($1.74M), Tigers ($1.072M) and Mariners ($1.056M).
Conversely, 12 teams are prohibited from giving a signing bonus of more than $300,000 as a penalty for exceeding their bonus pools under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement: the A’s, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, Padres, Reds, Royals and White Sox.
Otani’s salary next season is an important consideration for the Yankees given their luxury tax plan. Because of the international hard cap rules, Otani can only sign a minor league deal, and he has to be treated like any other rookie. That means three pre-arbitration seasons and three arbitration seasons before qualifying for free agency. Otani will earn the $545,000 minimum salary in 2018. That’s nothing. It won’t complicate the luxury tax plan at all.
So the financial investment boils down to the league minimum salary that is a drop in the bucket for every club, international bonus money every team is planning to spend one way or another, and the $20M release fee every team can afford. The financial playing field is level. That means the Yankees won’t be able to blow everyone away with a big offer like they did for Tanaka. That lowers their odds of signing him some degree.
The more important factor here is Otani’s league minimum salary in 2018. That won’t have much impact on the Yankees’ plan to get under the luxury tax threshold. They can go about their offseason, get the pieces they need, and if they land Otani at some point along the way, great! His salary won’t blow up the luxury tax plan. Treat him almost like a luxury item. Build your team as if you won’t get him, and if you do, it’s the icing on the cake.
The Yankees have added outfielder Jake Cave and right-hander Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster, the team announced earlier today. Both players were due to become minor league free agents this offseason. The Yankees now have two open spots on the 40-man roster.
Cave, 25 next month, broke out this season, hitting .305/.351/.542 (145 wRC+) with a career high 20 homers — his previous career high was eight homers set last season — in 103 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. Cave attributed his breakout to some mechanical changes designed to get the ball airborne more often, and, well:
This is the second time Cave has been on a 40-man roster. The Reds grabbed him in the 2015 Rule 5 Draft, gave him a look in Spring Training 2016, then returned him to the Yankees. He replaces Mason Williams as the up-and-down spare center fielder next season. This also gives the Yankees a chance to see whether Cave’s breakout this year is for real.
The 26-year-old Rumbelow has some big league time under his belt, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in 15.2 innings with the Yankees in 2015. He blew out his elbow in his very first appearance of the 2016 season and needed Tommy John surgery. Rumbelow returned with his new elbow ligament this summer and posted a stellar 1.12 ERA (1.89 FIP) with 29.4% strikeouts and 7.2% walks in 40.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
It was reported a few weeks ago Cave would be added to the 40-man roster, though the Rumbelow decision is a bit of a surprise, at least to me. The Yankees must’ve really liked what they saw in his 40.1 innings back from Tommy John surgery this year. The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft is coming up. The Yankees have a large class of eligibles and will have to open some spots between now and then.
Earlier this evening MLB and the BBWAA announced three finalists for each of the major 2017 awards, and, as expected, Aaron Judge is a finalist for both AL MVP and AL Rookie of the Year. Luis Severino is a finalist for AL Cy Young as well. That is pretty damn awesome. Here are all the awards finalists.
Judge will undoubtedly be named AL Rookie of the Year when the awards are announced next week. He should win unanimously. Judge will be the Yankees’ first Rookie of the Year since Derek Jeter, and the ninth Yankee to win the award overall. He’ll join Jeter (1996), Dave Righetti (1981), Thurman Munson (1970), Stan Bahnsen (1968), Tom Tresh (1962), Tony Kubek (1957), Bob Grim (1954), and Gil McDougald (1951).
As for AL MVP, I think Judge will have a tough time beating out Jose Altuve for the award, even though he has the edge statistically in basically everything except batting average and stolen bases.
Judge’s second half slump will almost certainly cost him the AL MVP award. Altuve had a consistent year from start to finish, and when you have the big dip in the middle like Judge, it’ll hurt. Then again, you could argue the Yankees wouldn’t have made the postseason without Judge whereas the Astros would’ve cruised to AL West title even without Altuve. Whatever.
Judge may not win AL MVP, but he will be on the cover of MLB The Show 18, and that’s pretty damn cool. He was announced as the cover athlete today.
— MLB (@MLB) November 7, 2017
Severino, meanwhile, is going to finish third in the Cy Young voting behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. You can take that to the bank. Those two likely received the first and second place votes on every Cy Young ballot, in either order. No shame in finishing third behind those two. Severino beat out Justin Verlander, Marcus Stroman, Ervin Santana, and Craig Kimbrel, among others, for the third finalist spot.
The award winners will be announced next week and the BBWAA and MLB already know who won. The votes have been tallied up. They’ve been announcing finalists the last few seasons to drum up interest. I have no idea why they even call them finalists. They don’t vote again. Shouldn’t they just be finishers? Anyway, congrats to Judge and Severino. Being up for these awards is an incredible accomplishment.
Anyway, here is an open thread for the night. The Lions and Packers are the Monday Night Football game, plus the (hockey) Rangers and Nets are both in action. Talk about those games or anything else here, as long as it’s not politics or religion.
(Self-Promotion: I made ten bold offseason predictions for CBS. You don’t have to read it. Just click it and leave the tab open for a few minutes.)