With Ronald Torreyes locked in at second, the Yankees should let Tyler Wade play everyday in Triple-A

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Last night, for the first time since last Thursday, Tyler Wade got into a game with the Yankees. He played one half-inning in the field at the end of a blowout. That’s all. Wade has not started a game since last Thursday and he’s played only one full game in the last ten days. He is the quintessential utility infielder right now. Use only when absolutely necessary.

Wade has been glued to the bench basically since that ugly 0-for-5 with three strikeouts game against the Rays, in which the big spot kept finding him and he couldn’t come through. Predictably, Joe Girardi has gone with Ronald Torreyes almost exclusively at second base since then, and hey, Torreyes has played well. He’s gone 12-for-42 (.286) in eleven games since Wade’s disaster against Tampa.

Starlin Castro is currently working his way back from his hamstring injury, and given the way things have gone the last week and a half, there’s no real reason to believe Girardi won’t continue to stick with Torreyes at second base in the interim. Torreyes is in the position player Circle of Trust™. Wade has been an overmatched rookie. It happens. The Yankee are trying to contend and Torreyes gives them a better chance to win.

That said, is sitting on the bench the best thing for Wade at this point of his career? I don’t think so. I totally believe being in the big leagues can be a great learning experience for a young player, even when he’s not playing, but is that experience so valuable that the lost at-bats don’t matter? Maybe it is. I’m not so sure. Wade is a 22-year-old kid who hasn’t played a full Triple-A season yet, and lately he hasn’t been playing at all.

Castro is tentatively scheduled to start a minor league rehab assignment next week, which means he’s probably two weeks away from the returning to the lineup, give or take. Unless Girardi reverses course and starts playing Wade — he hasn’t even been playing against right-handed pitchers — that’s another two weeks on the bench on top of the two weeks he’s been sitting on the bench already. That’s an awful lot of sitting.

The solution here is pretty clear. Send Wade down to Triple-A so he can actually play, and call up a different player to serve as the utility infielder for the time being. Someone with no real long-term future with the Yankees. Someone who won’t make you lose any sleep if he goes two weeks between at-bats. Donovan Solano, Jonathan Diaz, and Cito Culver are with Triple-A Scranton and they all fit the bill. (I’d go with Solano, but that’s just me.)

There are 40-man roster considerations that are relatively minor. The Yankees do have an open 40-man spot, so adding Solano or Diaz or Culver would be a piece of cake. They would have to be removed once Greg Bird is activated off the 60-day DL, and since Bird is reportedly ahead of Castro in his rehab, there’s some conflict here. You can’t not have a utility infielder. The Yankees might have  to call Wade back up for a few days in that case. Point is, the 40-man roster aspect of calling up a different utility infielder is workable.

Anyway, the point here is Wade has not played much at all, and there’s little reason to believe he will get much playing time going forward. Sitting on the bench for a month isn’t the best development plan for a 22-year-old prospect. I know Wade has looked overmatched, and he has been, but he’s awfully talented. He’s good defensively, he’s athletic, he’s fast, and he can really work an at-bat. We’re not seeing it right now, but it’s in there. The skills have to be honed.

My preference would be Wade playing second base against righties, but since that’s not going to happen, sending him down is the next best thing. Let someone else rot on the bench. A 22-year-old kid with a chance to be part of the long-term future shouldn’t be the one stuck sitting for weeks on end. Teams go out and get journeymen like Solano and Diaz for exactly this reason. So kids like Wade wouldn’t be in the position he’s currently in.

The Yankees are trying to add a bat, but the Mets keep taking lesser offers from other teams

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

Last night’s outburst notwithstanding, the Yankees have had a hard time scoring runs in the second half, and especially over the last week or so. They’ve scored no more than two runs in six of their last eight games, and since the All-Star break they are hitting .251/.316/.412 (91 wRC+) as a team. They’re averaging only 4.19 runs per game since the break. It’s not just Aaron Judge. Lots of guys haven’t hit.

The Yankees did try to get add some offense prior to last Monday’s trade deadline. They made a run at Lucas Duda — “The Mets just wouldn’t trade him to us,” said someone with the Yankees to Jon Heyman — and this week they tried to acquire Jay Bruce. Bruce was instead traded to the Indians last night in a pure salary dump. Cleveland took on the remainder of his $13M salary (roughly $4M) and sent the Mets a non-prospect.

Joel Sherman and Marc Carig report the Yankees were willing to meet the Mets’ asking price. They offered the two prospects the Mets wanted — there’s no word on who those prospects were, and I’m not really expecting the names to leak — but apparently the hangup was the money. The Yankees wanted the Mets to eat some of Bruce’s salary — Ken Rosenthal says they wanted the Mets to eat $1M — and the Mets opted to save money than receive actual prospects, so that’s that.

Bruce, an impending free agent, is hitting .256/.321/.520 (120 wRC+) with 29 home runs this season. The Yankees really need another left-handed bat and Matt Holliday‘s injury creates an opening at DH, so Bruce was an obvious fit for the offense. He wouldn’t have even had to change cities. The Yankees were reportedly on Bruce’s no-trade list, though I doubt he would’ve blocked a deal to a contender, especially when he wouldn’t have even had to relocate.

Anyway, the Mets opted for the salary dump and the Yankees still need offensive help. There are two ways to look at this. One, the Wilpons are cheap and petty, and would rather dump Duda and Bruce for payroll relief than trade them to the Yankees for actual prospects. The dynamics of a crosstown trade are complicated, though is it really that big a deal if Duda or Bruce helped the Yankees win? They’re impending free agents. Who cares?

And two, the Yankees should have upped the ante to make sure they got the bat needed. They could have offered more for Duda. They could have offered to take on Bruce’s salary. Heck, they could have claimed Bruce on trade waivers and backed the Mets into a corner. Their options would have been a) trade him to the Yankees for a prospect, b) dump him and his contract on the Yankees with no return as a waiver claim, or c) pull him back and keep him. I don’t see (c) happening. The Mets wanted to clear Bruce’s salary.

While I can understand the argument for overpaying to get make sure you get Bruce or Duda — the Yankees didn’t trade all those prospects to the Athletics and White Sox for nothing, after all — I don’t really agree with it. The money bothers me more than anything. You’re the Yankees, you got the pitching help you needed at the trade deadline, and these guys are rentals. Why not take on the extra cash to get a deal done? Then again, if you’re taking on Bruce’s entire salary, why are you giving up two actual prospects? There has to be some give and take here.

One thing to keep in mind: the Yankees are pretty annoyed with how the Bruce deal played out. They’re one of the quietest teams in the league when it comes to leaks, and yet, since Bruce was traded to the Indians, we’ve heard the Yankees met the asking price and offered two prospects. That’s coming from the Yankees, not the Mets. Why would the Mets leak something that makes them look bad? The Yankees aren’t happy so they’re letting this info out to make the Mets look petty, and hey, it’s working. Mets fans I know don’t like the straight salary dump.

Ultimately, Duda and Bruce were two of the better bats available, and the Yankees made offers for both. Could they have offered more? Yeah, of course, but at some point you have to stand your ground and not allow yourself to be taken advantage of. There are other bats out there (Jed Lowrie, Daniel Nava, Curtis Granderson). The Mets didn’t want to trade them across town and that’s fine. That’s their right. It still leaves the Yankees short a bat, but at least they’re trying. Hopefully they pivot elsewhere and pick up another hitter soon, because they still need one.

As the Yankees wait for players to get healthy, Garrett Cooper is earning a longer look

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Last night, during their win over the Blue Jays, the Yankees received a much-needed breakout from their offense. They scored eleven runs last night after scoring 15 runs total in their previous six games, and their 17 hits were one short of their season high. No, they didn’t face the best pitching, but who cares? The Yankees needed a night like that against any pitching.

Four of those 17 hits belonged to rookie first baseman Garrett Cooper, who wasn’t even supposed to be in the starting lineup. Joe Girardi uses Cooper as a platoon bat against left-handed pitchers, but when Clint Frazier felt something in his oblique during batting practice, he was scratched from the lineup and Cooper was inserted. A 4-for-5 effort with a double followed.

Cooper became the first Yankees rookie since Joe Collins in 1950 to record four hits in a game, and that came one day after a two-hit game. He was the only Yankee to put up much of a fight against J.A. Happ on Tuesday. Cooper is 12-for-33 (.364) during his brief big league career, and while he’s only walked once, I think his approach has been sound, especially the last two days. He hasn’t been hacking wildly at pitches out of the zone.

Last night’s outburst notwithstanding, the Yankees have had a real hard time generating offense the last week and a half — they needed Abe Almonte to misplay Jacoby Ellsbury‘s bases loaded line drive to get the big hit Sunday — and with Cooper starting to show signs of life, Joe Girardi should keep him in the lineup, even against righties. That’s obvious, right? He’s having some success and building confidence now, so keep running him out there.

Cooper is a first base only guy, which complicates things, but the DH spot is open with Matt Holliday on the disabled list. That pretty much takes care of that. Chase Headley has slotted in at DH the last two nights, and he could always play first or third on any given night, allowing Cooper or Todd Frazier to get the proverbial half a day off at DH. It would be nice if Cooper could play another position. That’s not possible, so first base and DH it is.

I’m not the biggest Garrett Cooper fan in the world — a 26-year right-handed hitting first base only guy who never hit double-digit homers until playing in Colorado Springs doesn’t excite me much — but my opinion doesn’t matter. The Yankees aren’t really in position to be picky right now. He’s had good at-bats and good swings the last two nights, and the Yankees need as much offense as they can get, so Cooper should keep playing until the reinforcements arrive.

Offense breaks it open late in 11-5 win over Blue Jays

Hooray for a blowout win. A blowout win that wasn’t a blowout until the late innings, but I’ll take it. The Yankees have been really struggling to score runs the last ten days, so getting runs at any time is appreciated. The offense broke out big time Wednesday night for an 11-5 win over the Blue Jays.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Score Early
Due to an injury to emergency fill-in start Cesar Valdez, the Blue Jays had to turn to super duper emergency fill-in starter Nick Tepesch on Wednesday night, and he seemed like someone a contending team should punish. Tepesch has a 5.58 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 49 Triple-A innings this season, and in his lone big league spot start, he allowed seven runs in 1.2 innings. That’s someone you have to beat if you want to get the postseason.

Things were looking good right off the bat. Brett Gardner started the game with a double down the left field line. Alright, okay. Good start. Pop-up, fly ball, ground out. Inning over, Gardner standed at second. Groan. Felt like it was going to be one of those nights again after that. Fortunately, the Yankees did what they had to do against Tepesch thereafter. Gary Sanchez and Todd Frazier strung together back-to-back homers in the second, and Didi Gregorius tacked on a solo shot in the third for a 3-1 lead.

The fifth inning is when the Yankees really got to Tepesch, and they very nearly blew that opportunity. An Aaron Judge walk and a Gregorius double set the Yankees up with runners on second and third with one out, though Sanchez struck out, and suddenly the rally was on life support. Fortunately Frazier came through with a big two-out double to score the two runs, and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a double to plate Frazier.

Two of those three fifth inning runs were charged to Tepesch — he finished having allowed five runs in 4.1 innings — even though reliever Leonel Campos gave up the back-to-back two-out doubles. The Frazier double was the biggest hit of the game. It felt like the team’s biggest hit in weeks, though I also said that after Ellsbury’s bases clearing triple in Cleveland over the weekend, so whatever. It was a big hit. That’s all that matters. That three-run fifth inning gave the Yankees a 6-2 lead.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Four & Fly
You could tell right away Wednesday night would be a grind for Masahiro Tanaka. He wasn’t locating in the first inning and he didn’t have a finish pitch working. The Blue Jays were spitting on his splitter like they knew it was coming. He threw that pitch 18 times and got one swing and miss. That’s not Tanaka. Not when he’s right. Tanaka had to go to battle without his best stuff or best location Wednesday.

The result? Five walks, a career high. Five walks in four innings plus two batters after five walks in his previous seven starts and 45 innings. Tanaka allowed a second inning run on a walk, a double, and a ground out. He allowed a third inning run on an error (catcher interference), two walks, and a sac fly. He then allowed a fourth inning run on a Jose Bautista solo homer. Too many free baserunners. The toughest two-hit outing you’ll see.

Tanaka’s final line: 4 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 2 K. He faced 20 batters and eight of the 20 saw at least five pitches in their at-bat. Joe Girardi was smart to pull Tanaka when he did, following the Bautista homer and a four-pitch walk to Josh Donaldson to open the fifth inning. His pitch count was elevated (88) and he was clearly laboring. With the bullpen rested, might as well go to the relievers, right? Right.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Broken Open
Of course the bullpen made it interesting. Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle combined to allow two runs in the sixth inning, so between those runs and the Bautista solo homer, New York’s lead had shrunk from 6-2 to 6-5. Of course. David Robertson restored order with a perfect seventh inning, and he offense was able to tack on insurance runs against rookie righty Taylor Cole in the eighth and ninth. Wednesday’s game was Cole’s big league debut, you know.

Anyway, a single (Frazier) and a double (Garrett Cooper) put runners on second and third for Ronald Torreyes in the eighth, and he drove in both runners with a first pitch single back up the middle. Classic Toe. Two singles (Gregorius and Sanchez) and a hit batsman (Frazier) loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth, and the Yankees brought all three runners home on an Ellsbury ground ball and a Cooper two-run single. That 6-5 lead became an 11-5 lead thanks to those eighth and ninth inning runs.

The offensive hero of the night? Well, the entire bottom two-thirds of the lineup, really. The 4-5-6-7-8-9 hitters went a combined 15-for-27 (.517) with four doubles and three home runs. Frazier had three hits, making this his best game as a Yankee. Cooper had four hits, making this his best game as a big leaguer. Eleven runs and 17 hits in one game after getting eleven runs and 17 hits in the previous 37 games combined, give or take.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Leftovers
Things got a little dicey for Kahnle in that sixth inning. Green allowed a run on a single and a double earlier in the inning, and Kahnle allowed the runner he inherited from Green to score on a Donaldson single. The score was 6-5 and the Blue Jays had the tying run at third and go-ahead run at first when Kahnle fanned Justin Smoak to end the frame. He threw back-to-back nasty splitters for the strikeout. Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Adam Warren each tossed scoreless innings to put the game to bed.

Like I said, 17 hits for the offense, one short of their season high. Four hits for Cooper, three hits each for Gregorius and Frazier, and two hits each for Sanchez and Torreyes. Everyone in the lineup reached base at least once and six of the nine starters reached base multiple times. The only hitless Yankee? Judge, who went 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout. As bad as he’s been in the second half, he’s still hitting .294/.422/.616 (171 wRC+) on the season.

And finally, the Yankees went 5-for-13 (.385) with runners in scoring position in the game, including 5-for-10 after stranding Gardner in the first inning. Oh, what’s that, we only mention RISP stats when the Yankees lose? My bad.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The box score and updated standings are at ESPN while the video highlights are at MLB.com. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees will wrap-up this seven-game road trip with the series finale against the Blue Jays on Thursday night. Sonny Gray and Marco Estrada are the scheduled starting pitchers.

DotF: Hicks goes deep in latest minor league rehab game

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Gwinnett)

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-5, 1 SB — back-to-back two-hit games after a 3-for-21 (.143) slump
  • RF Jake Cave: 2-5, 2 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB — 5-for-19 (.263) during his six rehab games
  • LF Billy McKinney: 0-4, 1 K
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 29 of 49 pitches were strikes (59.2%) … not sure why he was pulled so early … maybe they wanted to limit him to 50 pitches in case they need him to start for CC Sabathia on Sunday?
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 1 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — ten of 17 pitches were strikes (59%) … 66/17 K/BB in 47 innings down here this season

[Read more…]

Game 112: Runs, Plural

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So the Yankees need to figure out how to score some runs, huh? They’ve scored no more than two runs in six of their last seven games, and to make matters worse, they’ve been shut down by guys like Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann during that stretch. It’s not 2013 anymore. Those dudes are pretty terrible. There’s nothing worse than a struggling offense. Give me bad pitching over bad hitting every day of the week.

On paper, tonight’s pitching matchup is a mismatch. Masahiro Tanaka is not having a typical Masahiro Tanaka season, but he’s been much better over his last ten starts or so, and it looks like he’s figuring things out. Nick Tepesch, on the other hand, is an emergency spot starter who has a 5.88 ERA in 49 Triple-A innings this year. He allowed seven runs in 1.2 innings in his only other MLB start this season. Please score some runs against Tepesch. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. DH Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. 3B Todd Frazier
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 1B Garrett Cooper
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s another lovely day in Toronto, so the Rogers Centre roof will probably be open. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET. YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: CC Sabathia (knee) went for tests today and everything came back clean. There’s no new damage in his knee and he might be able to make his next start. Huh. Didn’t see that coming … Aaron Hicks (oblique) is tentatively scheduled to be activated off the disabled list Friday, so hooray for that … both Greg Bird (ankle) and Starlin Castro (hamstring) will begin minor league rehab assignments next week. Bird is ahead of Castro in their rehabs … Clint Frazier was a late scratch from tonight’s lineup with oblique tightness.

Chad Green and one of baseball’s most dominant fastballs

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees, thanks largely to young players like Aaron Judge and Luis Severino, have a chance to return to the postseason this year and a chance to win their first AL East title since 2012. Judge and Severino have been the headliners, though others like Gary Sanchez and Jordan Montgomery have been key contributors as well. The young kids are driving this bus.

Among those young players is 26-year-old right-hander Chad Green, who I suppose isn’t really that young by baseball standards, but is in his first full MLB season. He’s locked himself into a bullpen spot, and if not for the David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle trade, he’d be seeing much more high-leverage work. It’s a big time luxury to be able to use Green in the middle innings rather than saving him for the seventh or eighth.

So far this season Green has a 1.74 ERA (2.28 FIP) with 39.0% strikeouts and 7.0% walks in 46.2 innings, almost all out of the bullpen. (He did make one two-inning spot start.) He’s been as good as Dellin Betances was in 2014. Green relies heavily on his fastball like so many other relievers, though his fastball is not like most others. It’s unlike any other fastball, really. Check out the fastball swing-and-miss leaderboard. This is whiffs-per-swing, not whiffs-per-total fastballs thrown (min. 100 fastballs):

  1. Chad Green: 40.3%
  2. Justin Wilson: 38.7%
  3. Craig Kimbrel: 38.4%
  4. Dellin Betances: 37.3%
  5. Tyler Clippard: 35.8% (?!?)

Holy Yankees/ex-Yankees. Think they value the ability to generate swings and misses with the fastball? Of course they do. We’ve know that for a while now. The Yankees love their power arms. Anyway, the MLB average is 19.7% whiffs-per-swing on the fastball this year, and Green is the only pitcher in baseball to double that rate. The gap between him and Wilson, the guy he was traded for and the No. 2 pitcher on the list, is pretty significant.

The whiffs-per-swing rate is incredible and what makes it so interesting to me is the velocity. Green has very good velocity, though his fastball not an overpowering triple-digit heater like Betances’ or Kimbrel’s or Aroldis Chapman‘s. His fastball is averaging 95.7 mph this year and he’s topped out at 98.2 mph. Dellin’s average fastball is 98.4 mph this year. Kimbrel’s is 98.7 mph. Chapman’s is 100.1 mph. And yet, none get as many whiffs-per-swing as Green.

There is more to a fastball than velocity, of course. Location matters, as does spin rate. You want either a high spin rate or a low spin rate on a fastball. High spin equals swings and misses and low spin equals ground balls. When you’re in the middle, you get neither. Green’s fastball, as the whiffs-per-swing rate suggests, has one of the league’s highest spin rates. The 22nd highest among the 423 pitchers to throw 100+ fastballs this year.

  • Green’s fastball spin rate: 2,483 rpm
  • MLB average fastball spin rate: 2,258 rpm

One thing about Green we can’t quantify is the deception in his delivery, and I have no doubt that plays a role in his overall effectiveness and fastball dominance. He’s a big guy at 6-foot-3 and he lifts his leg up real high, and his arm action is pretty long in the back. There’s a lot going on before Green explodes forward and the hitter actually sees the ball. Good velocity plus good spin rate plus good deception equals a great fastball.

Also, the same way there’s more to a fastball than velocity, there’s more to a good fastball than swings and misses. If hitters are missing with 40% of their swings but squaring it up with the other 60%, how good is the fastball really? Not very. (That’s Clippard’s fastball, apparently.) According to expected wOBA (xwOBA), which is based on exit velocity and launch angle and things like that, hitters don’t do much damage even when they make contact with Green’s fastball. The fastball xwOBA leaderboard:

  1. Anthony Swarzak: .198 xwOBA
  2. Chad Green: .219 xwOBA
  3. Sean Doolittle: .219 xwOBA
  4. Seung-Hwan Oh: .227 xwOBA
  5. Tommy Kahnle: .228 xwOBA

Man, what in the world has gotten into Anthony Swarzak this year? Whatever got into Kahnle, I guess. Anyway, a .219 wOBA is “pitcher hitting” territory. The worst hitter with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, Alcides Escobar, has a .235 wOBA this year. Green’s fastball turns everyone into a worse version of Escobar, and boy does Escobar stink.

One thing I should note is that Green’s fastball didn’t suddenly get good this year. Most guys see their fastball tick up once they shift to relief, though that’s not necessarily what happened here. Green’s fastball showed similar traits last season, when he worked primarily as a starter:

  • 2016 average velocity: 95.4 mph (95.7 mph in 2017)
  • 2016 max velocity: 99.2 mph (98.2 mph in 2017)
  • 2016 whiffs-per-swing: 30.6% (40.3% in 2017)
  • 2016 spin rate: 2,471 rpm (2,483 in 2017)

Velocity and spin rate are similar — max velocity is down, weirdly enough — while the whiffs-per-swing rate was much lower last year, as a starter. It was still comfortably above-average, but not as good as this year. Also, last season’s Green’s fastball had a .346 xwOBA, which was almost exactly league average (.347 xwOBA). Not bad, not great, just … average.

I think the big improvements in whiffs-per-swing rate and xwOBA this year are entirely the result of the move into relief. The velocities and spin rates may be similar, but hitters aren’t seeing Green multiple times this year. He’s not turning a lineup over. He’s coming in for an inning or two at a time, airing it out, then leaving the game before the lineup turns over. There’s no second (and third) time through the order penalty.

Green throws his fastball roughly 70% of the time this season and I think he could even stand to throw it more, especially as a full-time reliever. He can’t thrown only fastballs, eventually hitters will catch on, but could he get away with, say, 80% fastballs? Maybe 85%? Green’s slider isn’t anything special. He dominates with his fastball. Either way, Green has found a home in the bullpen, where his elite fastball has made him into an overwhelming power reliever and a member of Joe Girardi‘s Circle of Trust™.