Game 86: End the Half on a High Note

Welcome to the Bronx, Clint. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Welcome to the Bronx, Clint. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Within a span of thirty seconds yesterday, Clint Frazier made much of the annoyance and consternation of the last four weeks feel, at the very least, a bit less severe. Yes, the Yankees are still 3.5 games out of first; and, yes, one moment does not erase one of the most disappointing stretches in recent memory. However, watching Frazier round the bases as the team crowded home plate reminded us of two things – one, this team is capable of greatness, and, two, the Yankees are still fun.

Let’s see more of that today.

The pitching match-up could be described as a battle of aces, with the recently resurgent Masahiro Tanaka squaring-off against Jimmy Nelson. Here’s the Brewers lineup that Tanaka will face. The Yankees will trot out:

  1. Brett Gardner, LF
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Didi Gregorius, SS
  4. Gary Sanchez, C
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  6. Chase Headley, 3B
  7. Clint Frazier, DH
  8. Ji-Man Choi, 1B
  9. Tyler Wade, 2B

The first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM, and you can catch it on the YES Network.

Selling Points

brian-cashman-deadline
(Getty)

What a difference a month makes, huh? Through June and early July, the Yankees have suffered both injuries and insults–mostly in the form of bullpen meltdowns–on their way out of first place in the AL East. Still, they’re in playoff position as they lead in the wildcard spot, which is of comfort; they are also within striking distance of the now first place Red Sox with plenty of baseball left to play. In a vacuum, this team would be in buy-like-crazy mode, especially given the problems its had at first base all year and the bullpen recently, not to mention the rotation. Like always, though, there isn’t a vacuum and there’s a big mitigating factor at play.

This success–however tempered by the last five weeks or so–is unexpected. 2017 was not the year the Yankees were supposed to compete for anything more than a shot at the second wildcard. Now, the playoffs seem a real possibility. While that’s great for obvious reasons, it does somewhat betray the long term plan the organization had going into this year. Once again, the team will have to strike the delicate balance that defines the Yankees: win now AND later. They’re finally set up to do the latter more than the former, but they’ve also managed to do the former.

How the Yankees could buy is obvious. By all accounts, their farm system is–at worst–top five in the league. Even with Gleyber Torres injured, they have a blend of depth and upside in the minors that is (likely) the envy of many around baseball. Should they choose to, the Yankees could deal from a position of strength and depth by upgrading the major league roster at the expense of the minor league one.

But what happens if the Yankees continue to slip? It’s not likely as they’ll soon have players like Starlin Castro and Matt Holliday rejoining them from the disabled list, but let’s play what if. What if the Yankees find themselves in a position to sell again? Ask this a month ago–which was unthinkable at the time, really–and things would’ve seemed a lot better. Despite that, the Yankees do have some valuable pieces they could auction off.

The cons of trading all of these players are obvious–the Yankees need them for the stretch run. Each may have his own reasons, too, but that’s the overarching one.

First up are those two who’ll be returning: Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro. Both have obvious value as bats in any lineup, especially contending ones. Holliday, though, would likely be limited to AL teams. As for Castro, many might recognize this as the absolute top of his market–despite the injury–and avoid paying said cost.

Tyler Clippard would be next, but he completely demolished his own value over the last month plus, pitching like someone who hardly belongs in the big leagues.

Then there’s the real wildcard, Masahiro Tanaka. While he was shaky to start the year, that’s clearly atypical of him; he’s proven his mettle and worth over the last three plus seasons and on talent alone, he’s probably the Yankees’ best Major League trade piece not named Judge, Sanchez, or Frazier. But with his opt out, his trade value is diminished. No one likes uncertainty.

In all likelihood, the Yankees will not be sellers at this deadline. They’re going to be close and they’re going to owe it to their players to give an honest shot at things, even if this is ahead of schedule. If they’re lucky, they can maybe pull off the best of both worlds: improve the major league team by dealing prospects and selling off a major league piece to help replenish the minor league depth. That’s probably a pipe dream, but this season has sort of been one itself, hasn’t it?

Yankees 5, Brewers 3: Frazier’s walk-off homer saves the day


Source: FanGraphs

Things weren’t looking too good the first seven or eight innings Saturday afternoon. The offense was pretty lifeless against Brewers finesse lefty Brent Suter. Then the Fighting Spirit kicked in, and the bats woke up against the Milwaukee bullpen. Clint Frazier turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 win with one swing of the bat. The Yankees really needed a win like that. We all did. It’s a Saturday, so let’s recap this game with bullet points:

  • Sevy Settles Down: It took the Brewers five batters to build a 3-0 lead. Domingo Santana poked an opposite field three-run home run into the short porch one batter after Travis Shaw was allegedly grazed by a pitch. Replays were inconclusive at best. After that tough first inning, Luis Severino settled down beautifully and fired six scoreless innings. He struck out ten. Severino’s final line: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K. Tough first inning. Everything after that was great.
  • Quiet Bats: It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Yankees registered a hit and it wasn’t until the seventh that they got on the board. Suter lulled them to sleep with 88 mph fastballs all afternoon. Frustrating. A ground rule double (Chase Headley), a single (Jacoby Ellsbury), and an error (Suter) plated the first run. Suter threw away a pickoff throw. The Brewers are so bad defensively. So, so bad. Frazier followed with a triple to bring the Yankees to within 3-2. Signs of life!
  • Battle of the Bullpens: The Yankees won a battle of the bullpens! That hasn’t happened much lately. Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman finally looked like Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. Six up, six down, five strikeouts. Thanks for that, guys. The ninth inning rally was pretty straightforward. All-Star closer Corey Knebel walked Didi Gregorius and Ellsbury, then left a 97 mph fastball middle-middle to Frazier. Frazier legendary-bat-speed-ed the hell out of it into the left field seats for a walk-off homer. Awesome. Just awesome. Here’s the video.
  • Leftovers: Frazier went 3-for-4 and was a double short of the cycle. He drove in four of his team’s five runs. The rest of the Yankees went 3-for-27 (.111) … Frazier is the first Yankee with triples in back-to-back games since Robinson Cano in 2011 … Aaron Judge and Ellsbury both had a single and a walk … Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez both went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. We also have a Bullpen Workload page. This series and the first half of the season comes to an end Sunday afternoon. Masahiro Tanaka and Jimmy Nelson are the scheduled starting pitchers. Maybe the Yankees will give us one last win before the All-Star break. That’d be cool.

Minor League Update: I have neither the time nor the energy for a full DotF tonight. Sorry. Here are the box scores. Peruse at your leisure. Matt Holliday is scheduled to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton tonight.

Saturday Open Thread

Well this suddenly became a pretty great day. Can Clint Frazier hit or what? Sure, he’s a little rough around the edges, but so is every 22-year-old. There’s some serious thunder in that kid’s bat though. Can’t wait to see him in the lineup more often going forward.

Anyway, MLB Network will have a regional game this afternoon, so talk about that or anything else here. Just not religion or politics.

Game 85: Stand perfectly still, the bullpen’s vision is based on movement

Still here. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Still here. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

So. Another tough loss last night. The Yankees have had a bunch of those lately. Too many. Maybe their fortunate is turning. Prior to last night, the Yankees won their previous four series openers yet failed to win the series. Maybe losing last night’s series opener means they’ll win this series? A man can hope.

Today’s mission is simple: avoid the bullpen at all costs. A crisp complete game from Luis Severino would be lovely. I’m not counting on it, but again, a man can hope. Hopefully the offense can give the pitching staff some breathing room. They’re going to need it. Here is the Brewers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. DH Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. LF Clint Frazier
  8. 1B Austin Romine
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Severino

It is cloudy, hot, and humid in New York today, otherwise the weather is perfect. The bullpen is a disaster, the offense struggles to score when Judge doesn’t homer, and the rotation has been hit or miss, otherwise the Yankees are perfect. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES and MLB Network. Try to enjoy.

Roster Moves: The Yankees have called up both Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder, the team announced. Luis Cessa and Jordan Montgomery were sent down. Montgomery will be back in ten days and won’t even miss a start thanks to the All-Star break. Also, assuming he comes up the first day he’s eligible, he’ll still be credited with service time during his stint in the minors because it is the minimum ten days.

Brewers 9, Yankees 4: Bullpen has a good night, allows only seven runs

Things just keep getting worse. Friday night’s series opener with the Brewers was competitive for about six innings. Then the Yankees’ bullpen did its thing, and that was that. The final score was 9-4. The Yankees are 6-17 in their last 23 games and are now tied for the second wildcard spot. What a midseason collapse.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Drunk In The Field
Wow are the Brewers bad defensively. They rank statistically near the bottom of the league defensively and it showed in the first four innings. Five errors in four innings! Two of them contributed to three runs. Didi Gregorius ripped a one-out single to right field in the second that Domingo Santana played into a triple. He misplayed the hop, the ball got by him, and Gregorius made it to third. Clint Frazier drove in him with a sac fly for a quick 1-0 lead.

Then, in the fourth, Gregorius reached when Jonathan Villar bobbled a ground ball to second base. Ji-Man Choi made Villar and the Brewers pay with a two-run home run two batters later. In between the Frazier sac fly and the Choi homer, Santana committed another error when he got turned around on Austin Romine‘s fly ball, and Villar was also charged with an error because he was unable to knock down Aaron Judge‘s liner up the middle. Lots and lots of free baserunners. Only three runs as a result of the errors, however.

You're still cool with me, Monty. (Presswire)
You’re still cool with me, Monty. (Presswire)

Monty In The Rain
I was a bit surprised Joe Girardi brought Jordan Montgomery back out for the fifth inning after a 51-minute rain delay. I’m sure Montgomery was throwing down in the batting cage and whatever, but it just seemed like enough time had passed, and he wouldn’t pushed a young pitcher like that. Then again, the bullpen has been so bad lately, I don’t blame Girardi for wanting to squeeze as many outs from his start as possible.

Montgomery did his “wiggle in and out of jams” act in the first few innings, though, to his credit, not too many of the seven hits he allowed were hard-hit. His two biggest mistakes came in the same inning. Montgomery left a pitch up to Ryan Braun leading off the fourth, which Braun hammered into the left-center field gap for a double. Then, two batters later, Montgomery lost an eight-pitch battle to Jesus Aguilar when he left a slider up, a pitch Aguilar promptly depositing into the short porch for a two-run home run and 2-1 Brewers lead.

After the rain delay, Montgomery lasted three batters. A diving catch by Frazier and two singles later, Montgomery was out of the game. He went back out to face three batters and throw 12 pitchers. Tyler Webb came out of the bullpen to escape that jam with a line drive double play. Montgomery’s final line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K and 74 pitches. This was only his second walk-less outing in 16 starts.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

A Lopsided Battle Of The Bullpens
One team brought their strikeout heavy top pitching prospect out of the bullpen. The other tried to squeeze two innings from Tyler Clippard. That’s the story of the game right there. One team has the best arms in the organization on the big league roster and the other is putzing around with journeymen and fringe prospects. The bullpen has been a disaster for weeks now and yet the same personnel remains.

In the sixth, Webb and Clippard teamed up to blow the 4-2 lead. Webb allowed a walk and a double to put runners on second and third, and Clippard allowed both runners to score on a wild pitch and a sac fly. The game got out of hand in the seventh. Clippard remained in the game and the inning went fly out, walk, walk, fly out, intentional walk, grand slam. Amazing. Aguilar already had a homer and a long sac fly in the game. Girardi intentionally walked the bases loaded so a fatigued Clippard to could face him, and Aguilar hit the grand slam. Bad pitching, bad decisions.

The final line on the bullpen: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 1 K. Webb, Clippard, Chasen Shreve, Luis Cessa. Josh Hader, the aforementioned top pitching prospect the Brewers brought out of the bullpen, struck out seven in three innings. He allowed one run on one hit and two walks. The run came on an Judge solo homer. That has more to do with Judge being awesome than Hader being bad. Hader blew the Yankees away. It’s too bad the Yankees don’t have any young arms who might be able to do that.

Remember when the Yankees had fun? (Presswire)
Remember when the Yankees had fun? (Presswire)

Leftovers
How about some good news? Judge’s home run was his 30th (31st*) of the season, the most ever by a Yankees rookie. The most ever! Do you know who’s played for this franchise? There are still 78 games to play this year too. Judge is only the second rookie in baseball history to hit 30 home runs before the All-Star break. Mark McGwire hit 33 before the break in 1987. He set the rookie record with 49 homers that season.

Now, the bad stuff: Chase Headley went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, a walk, and a double play hitting second in front of Judge. Not Girardi’s finest lineup decision. Just let Judge hit second. I know he doesn’t fit the typical No. 2 hitter profile, but the alternative is squeezing a bad hitter between him and Brett Gardner. No. Just no. Gardner drew four walks in the game, by the way. Would have been cool to have Judge hitting right behind him.

Four total hits for the offense: Judge’s homer, Choi’s homer, Didi’s single, and a Frazier triple. Frazier is still looking for his first big league single. He has a double, a triple, and a homer already. Choi and Headley each drew one walk and Gardner had four. Those are all the baserunners.

And finally, Choi is the first player to go deep in each of his first two games with the Yankees since … Judge last year. Between Triple-A and MLB, Choi has hit eight home runs in his last 13 games. He hit two homers in his first 45 games of the season.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. MLB.com has the video highlights and we have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Brewers will continue this three-game series with the middle game Saturday afternoon. That’s a 1pm ET start. All-Star Luis Severino and non-All-Star Brent Suter are the scheduled starting pitchers. The Yankees won’t be home until July 25th after this weekend, so if you want to catch a game before the All-Star break and long road trip, RAB Tickets can get you into the ballpark.

DotF: Mateo extends hitting streak in Trenton’s win

Got a bunch of notes to get us started:

  • Baseball America released their midseason top 100 prospects list earlier today. Seven Yankees made it: SS Gleyber Torres (3rd), OF Blake Rutherford (36th), OF Clint Frazier (48th), RHP Chance Adams (55th), OF Estevan Florial (70th), LHP Justus Sheffield (72nd), and OF Dustin Fowler (88th). I’ll have some thoughts on this next week.
  • The Yankees signed Alabama-Birmingham RHP Garrett Whitlock (18th round) to a $247,500 bonus, reports Jim Callis. That is over the $125,000 slot for each pick after the tenth round, so the remaining $122,500 counts against the bonus pool. The signing deadline was 4pm ET today. Here is our Draft Pool tracker.
  • 1B Mike Ford (hamstring) and RHP Ronald Herrera (shoulder) were placed on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, the team announced. Ford isn’t expected to be out long. Also, RHP Bryan Mitchell was sent from Triple-A Scranton to High-A Tampa. That allows him to make a start next week during the Triple-A All-Star break.
  • Two Yankees made Baseball America’s Prospect Team of the Month for June and they are not among the team’s top prospects: 2B Nick Solak and RHP Zack Littell. Hooray farm system depth! Solak hit .392/.453/.595 (204 wRC+) with three homers in June. Goodness. Littell had a 0.58 ERA (1.92 FIP) in 31 innings.
  • A bunch of Yankees made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet: SS Jorge Mateo (7th), RHP Dillon Tate (8th), RHP Jorge Guzman (11th), and OF Billy McKinney (16th). That’s a good sign. Mateo, Tate, and McKinney are trying to rebuild prospect stock right now while Guzman is trying to establish his.

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-4, 1 K
  • RF Billy McKinney: 0-3, 1 K
  • SS Abe Avelino: 0-3
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 3/4 GB/FB — 62 of 95 pitches were strikes (65%) … he’s walked at least three batters in seven of his 17 starts this year, which is a few too many
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 28 of 44 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 14 of 21 pitches were strikes

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