The Yankees are playing well, but the wild card race is closer than it appears

Trout, Buxton and Machado (Getty Images)
Trout, Buxton and Machado (Getty Images)

For the past month, the focus for the Yankees has been on the AL East race. And rightly so, as they started July up a half game and are now just two back in the loss column. The division is still very much up for grabs.

But lost in the shuffle has been how the Bombers haven’t separated themselves rest of the pack in the AL Wild Card race. After play on Monday, the Yankees are up just three games on the Minnesota Twins, current holders of the second wild card spot. Just 1.5 games behind the Twins stand the Los Angeles Angels, four back in the loss column of the Yankees.

And despite the loss on Monday, the Baltimore Orioles are just 1.5 back of a playoff spot. The Texas Rangers are tied with them despite selling at the deadline. Further back are the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals, both within three games of the Twins and six in the loss column of the Yankees.

By taking 3 of 4 from Boston, the Yankees kept themselves in the division race and added some much-needed distance between them and the Twinkies. Yet we’re just a few days removed from the Twins being just a game back of the Yankees and the Angels and Orioles each had impressive second halves to stay in the race.

Sure, four games up in the loss column on a playoff spot is comfortable for the time being, but there are enough teams in striking distance to cause some uneasiness.

The Twins have an easy schedule for the last four weeks of the season, playing just six games against teams above .500. Three of those are at Yankee Stadium in two weeks. They also have seven against the last-place Detroit Tigers and two with the San Diego Padres. The Twins made up ground in part from playing an easy schedule, but it’s not as if their remaining competition is about to deter them.

The O’s, meanwhile, have 12 games left against current AL playoff teams while the Angels play a bunch with the Astros, Indians, Rangers and Mariners. The Rangers have three with the Yankees and then play in the AL West of the rest of the way. Each of these teams will be tested, but they’ll also have opportunities to move up, especially if the Yankees continue to play .500 ball.

While there are clear opportunities for the teams chasing the Yankees, there’s obviously no need to panic yet. Baltimore, Minnesota and Texas can use upcoming series against the Yankees to catch up, but the Yankees can create further distance with wins. Even splitting those contests is a win with time running out.

Despite lackluster pitching staffs, the Orioles and Angels have shown the ability to win games with their bats in the last month and each has added firepower (Tim Beckham and Justin Upton, respectively) since the All-Star break. The Rangers have shown resilience even with Adrian Beltre out and Yu Darvish dealt at the deadline.

What should keep Yankees fans sane is the talent gap in the Bombers’ favor. The Yankees have the best rotation and bullpen of any remaining WC contenders and likely have the best offense, too. None of these teams have a backend that can rival David Robertson and Dellin Betances, or a top four of Severino-Gray-Tanaka-Sabathia.

The Twins’ defense is impressive, particularly with Byron Buxton in centerfield every day and they boast strong young talent with Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jose Berrios. Berrios may be the one pitcher the Yankees least want to see in the Wild Card Game if it comes to that. However, their bullpen is highly beatable, as is the backend of their rotation. They even dealt their closer to the Nationals on July 31.

The Orioles and Angels have high-end talent in their everyday lineup (read: Manny Machado and Mike Trout, among others) to get hot, but, again, their pitching holds them back. The Yankees’ Labor Day comeback against Dylan Bundy and co. was a supreme example of this. Beyond the top contenders, the Mariners have the best lineup of any remaining WC hopeful, but they’ve used 39 pitchers and counting during a season full of injuries and disappointment from their pitching staff.

Beyond simply the high-end talent, the Yankees also have the most depth, even after Aaron Hicks‘ injury. It’s the same depth that can win them the division and make them a legitimate World Series contender if they make the postseason.

But they have to make the postseason first and after going 17-16 in their last 33, that’s no sure thing. So when you’re scoreboard watching over the next couple weeks, make sure to not just look at the Red Sox, but also the wild card contenders. They may be closer than they appear.

The Yankees’ late-season pinch runner is already on the roster

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

Most seasons, the Yankees would have had to look to the outside for that pinch running help down the stretch. But this year, they’ll only have to look a little further down their 40-man roster.

As you may remember, the Yankees tend to acquire a pinch runner every year around the end of August. That allows them to add the player in time to be eligible for the postseason while adding some small value in September.

There are plenty of past examples. Eric Young Jr. fulfilled the role last year. Rico Noel the year before. The one that sticks in my mind is Freddy Guzman during the 2009 World Series run. These players are easy to forget and wouldn’t be a useful part of a 25-man roster from April to August, yet they earn their spot once the roster expands in September or becomes more position player friendly in the postseason.

The thing is, the Yankees didn’t acquire anyone at the August waiver deadline this season.

That could mean one of two things. One possibility is that they can’t afford to take someone off the 40-man roster for someone in such a minute role. They’ll be able to put the extra relievers to good use and they already gave Erik Kratz a 40-man spot on Friday.

But the more likely explanation is that they have their pinch runner on the roster already. Two in fact.

Therefore, Tyler Wade is likely the Yankees’ late season pinch runner.

Wade was added to the active roster on Monday. He hit extremely poorly in his first cup of coffee with a .135/.211/.212 (10 wRC+) line. Yikes. And with Ronald Torreyes/Starlin Castro/Didi Gregorius ahead of him up the middle and plenty of depth on the corners, he won’t be seeing a start unless everything goes wrong or there are meaningless games at the end of the month.

He’s a fine defensive replacement, particularly because he can play almost anywhere, and he should be able to hit as he adjusts (second for International League batting title), but for now, he can just show off his blazing speed. He’s a 75 percent base stealer in his minor league career and has stolen 27 in 32 attempts (87 percent) this year. He’s third in the International League with 26 steals while swiping one base against the Astros two months ago.

He hasn’t had enough opportunities in the majors to place on Statcast’s sprint speed leaderboard, but suffice to say, he’s an above-average runner.

Jacoby Ellsbury, of course would have been the perfect pinch runner for October, but that’s not going to happen after Aaron Hicks‘ injury. Like it or not, he’s going to be playing center field an awful lot, even after Clint Frazier returns from injury. That’s just the way it is. Joe Girardi trusts him enough to give him those starts and Hicks’ oblique injury makes Ellsbury starting a potential playoff game a likely possibility.

Ellsbury had already been quite useful as a pinch runner this season. In seven pinch running appearances, he’s stolen four bases and been caught once. He even helped the Yankees tie up a game in the ninth inning with a clutch steal before scoring on a single vs. the Mariners in July.

Even though he’s looked overmatched at the plate and has lost a step, he’s still an efficient base stealer and that alone means he’s worth the roster spot down the stretch. His 28.1 ft/s sprint speed is over 1 ft/s above average. He’s not a 70-base stealer anymore, but he can still be a menace on the basepaths. Therefore, it’s a shame he’ll be in the lineup instead of lying in wait on the bench.

Ellsbury (Elsa/Getty)
Ellsbury (Elsa/Getty)

Before Saturday, Wade may not have even been a likely member of the playoff roster. He has the positional flexibility to make the 25-man roster, but Girardi certainly wouldn’t want him at the plate. Can you blame him? The first opportunity for the 22-year-old was uninspiring.

But Hicks’ injury bumps Ellsbury up from inch runner to everyday player. Wade was already essentially a lock for the Wild Card Game roster where you have room for 16-17 position players, but now he’s the best pinch running option for the ALDS and beyond. This assumes there will be room for a pinch runner, which there should be if the Yankees

This assumes there will be room for a pinch runner on the ALDS roster, which there should be if the Yankees carry 11 pitchers as would be expected if the Yankees get that far.

Wade is a much more dynamic player than just a pinch runner and you shouldn’t let 57 poor PAs in his first try at the majors define him. He has potential to be a solid everyday shortstop or a Ben Zobrist-type if he hits his ceiling.

But for 2017, the best way the 22-year-old can make an impact down the stretch will be solely with his legs.

Jacoby Ellsbury is hot at exactly the right time for the Yankees

(David Maxwell/Getty)
(David Maxwell/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees won their third straight game and for the fourth time in their last five games, and they’re now 29-22 with a +42 run differential in the second half this season. True story. I know it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, but the Yankees have collectively played well since the All-Star break. It’s kept them in the AL East race and atop the wildcard standings.

Starlin Castro and the bullpen led the way in yesterday’s win, though the resurgent Jacoby Ellsbury played a big role as well, going 1-for-2 with two walks. He drove in the game-tying run with a single and also came around to score an insurance run later in the game. That comes after a big game against the Red Sox and Chris Sale, in which Ellsbury went 3-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base, and saw 22 pitches in four plate appearances.

The overall numbers are still not great. Ellsbury is hitting .254/.335/.394 (95 wRC+) in 318 plate appearances this year which, when combined with his defense, makes him maybe a league average player. He missed time with a concussion and was also benched in favor of Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier (and I suppose Brett Gardner) for long stretches of time. And it wasn’t undeserved. Ellsbury has not played well most of the season.

Right now though, Ellsbury is in the middle of a hot streak that has seen him go 11-for-26 (.423) with two doubles, one triple, one homer, three walks, and only one strikeout in his last nine games. He’s started seven of the last ten games and the Yankees have needed him to. Hicks is back on the disabled list and Aaron Judge needed to sit out a few days last week, either for a mental break or to let his shoulder heal or both.

There’s never a bad time for a hot streak, but Ellsbury’s comes at an especially good time because Hicks and Frazier are both hurt, and because Judge still hasn’t completely snapped out of his second half slump. Judge has looked a bit better the last two days, and that’s encouraging, though it’s not nearly enough to declare him fixed. The fourth outfielder is Tyler Wade right now, so yeah. Ellsbury is going to play and play a lot.

The easy narrative here is getting demoted to the bottom of the order and later benched has lit a fire under Ellsbury. He’s playing with a big chip on his shoulder and taking it out on the baseball. And it absolutely could be true. Ellsbury, to his credit, took the lineup demotion and later the benching like a total pro. He never complained publicly and he did whatever the Yankees asked, including pinch-run late in several close games.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Ellsbury wasn’t irked by the demotion, of course. He should be upset. You want a player to be upset when he’s removed from the lineup for performance reasons. Ellsbury, like every other player, is a competitor and he wants to be in the lineup every single day. Now he’s back in the lineup and performing well. We’ve seen Ellsbury get hot in the past. When he gets hot, he gets really hot and can carry a team.

Frazier will begin a minor league rehab assignment tomorrow and the Yankees hope Hicks can begin swinging a bat within ten days, so help is on the way and that’s good. Until they return, Ellsbury is going to play, and the Yankees need him to produce because they’re trying to chase down the Red Sox in the AL East and trying to fend off basically half the AL in the wildcard race. The Yankees are, for all intents and purposes, playing playoff games right now.

Ellsbury is not going to validate his entire seven-year control in this final month. That is the wrong way to look at it. He could help make up for what has generally been an underwhelming season to date, however, and help push the Yankees into the postseason. Ellsbury has talent. That’s part of what makes his play so frustrating. He can be so much better than he has been. Ellsbury is clicking right now though, and it’s not a moment too late for the Yankees.

DotF: Austin goes deep twice on final day of the minor league regular season

SS Gleyber Torres has started swinging a bat as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. Matt Kardos shared Gleyber’s Instagram story. Torres is wearing a brace on his left arm, which is to be expected less than three months out from surgery, and it seems everything with his rehab is going well so far. Good news.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 loss to Lehigh Valley) their regular season is over … they went 86-55 and won the division … their best-of-five first round postseason series with Lehigh Valley (Phillies) begins Wednesday … RHP Domingo German and RHP Chance Adams are lined up to start the first two games of the series, though the rotation hasn’t been officially announced yet

  • CF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 K — finishes the year at .305/.350/.542 with 26 doubles, 20 homers, 6.4% walks, and 26.3% strikeouts in 103 games between Trenton and Scranton … the 20 homers tie 1B Mike Ford for the farm system lead
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-5, 1 K — he got off to a pretty slow start this season if you remember, yet he finishes at .277/.336/.483 with 29 doubles, 16 home runs, 7.8% walks, and 18.8% strikeouts in 124 games between Trenton and Scranton
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-4, 1 K — finishes his breakout season at .314/.352/.498 with 36 doubles, 16 home runs, 5.5% walks, and 13.6% strikeouts in 125 games between Trenton and Tampa … the 16 homers are a career high, and he led the system in doubles (36) and hits (151)
  • DH Tyler Austin: 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — hit one of the home runs against former big leaguer Henderson Alvarez … his ten days since being sent down are up tomorrow, so I think we’ll see him in Baltimore
  • RHP Jose Pena: 2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 Balk, 1 HB, 1/0 GB/FB — 31 of 57 pitches were strikes (54%) … up from Tampa to soak up some innings on the final day of the season
  • LHP Joe Mantiply: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 5/0 GB/FB — 19 of 32 pitches were strikes (59%) … had a 2.83 ERA with a 62/18 K/BB in 67 do-it-all innings

[Read more…]

Yankees hammer Bundy for 7-4 win in series opener with O’s


Source: FanGraphs

If the Yankees were tired after playing Sunday night in New York, it didn’t show Monday afternoon in Baltimore. The Yankees rallied from behind to pick up an important 7-4 win against the Orioles during the Labor Day matinee. The O’s are now 4.5 games back in the wildcard race. It’s a holiday weekend, so let’s recap this game with bullet points:

  • Monty’s Short Start: It’s very clear right now the Yankees either have Jordan Montgomery on a tight leash or they don’t want him going through the lineup three times, or both. I guess that makes sense considering how they’ve been working to control his workload. Montgomery threw only 67 pitches in 4.2 innings Monday. He allowed three runs — Tim Beckham hit a solo homer and Chris Davis hit a two-run homer — and Jonathan Schoop was at the plate representing the tying run when Joe Girardi came and got him. I don’t know if Montgomery’s hitting a wall or what, but the last few outings have been a grind.
  • The Comeback: Dylan Bundy surrendered only two walks in the first three innings, but the Yankees forced him to throw 55 pitches, and their at-bats were noticeably better the second time through the lineup. Starlin Castro opened the fourth with a single, and Didi Gregorius brought him home with a two-run home run over the high wall in right field. It hit the railing at the top of the wall, so it just barely cleared. Two walks (Aaron Judge and Todd Frazier) and a run-scoring single (Jacoby Ellsbury) followed to tie the game 3-3. Bundy threw 93 pitches in four innings. Buck Showalter sent him out to start the fifth, and a single (Chase Headley) and a homer (Castro) later, the Yankees had a 5-3 lead. The Yankees forced Chris Sale and Bundy to throw 207 pitches in 8.1 innings combined the last two games.
  • Insurance Runs: The Yankees drew ten walks in this game. Ten! Three walks led to two insurance runs in the seventh inning. Frazier and Ellsbury started the inning with free passes, Austin Romine bunted them up, and Brett Gardner got a run home with a ground out — Beckham had to move to his left to field it, and after a slight hesitation, Frazier broke for home — and following another walk (Headley), Castro singled in another run. I was surprised Headley didn’t score from second on the Castro single with two outs, but whatever.
  • Bullpen On Parade: Seven up, seven down, four strikeouts for Chad Green, who now owns a 41.7% strikeout rate and a 6.9% walk rate in 59.1 innings (1.97 ERA and 1.83 FIP). He’s been a monster all season. In games like this, when the starter goes short, Green is invaluable. David Robertson made things interesting with back-to-back walks leading off the eighth, but two strikeouts and a ground ball later, the inning was over. He broke out some nasty curveballs to escape the jam. Dellin Betances gave up a garbage time solo homer to Wellington Castillo in the ninth, but nothing else. The bullpen: 4.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K.
  • Leftovers: Three hits for Castro and one each for Headley, Gregorius, Judge, Frazier, and Ellsbury … Frazier and Ellsbury each drew two walks as well … tough day for Gardner and Greg Bird, both of whom went 0-for-5 … and finally, Judge drew his 100th walk of the season in the second inning, which is nuts. He’s the eighth rookie in history with 100+ walks and the first since Jim Gilliam in 1953. Judge drew his 101st, 102nd, and 103rd walks of the season in this game as well. He’s the first Yankee with 100 walks since Jason Giambi had 110 in 2006.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. The Yankees and Orioles will continue this three-game series with the middle game Tuesday night. CC Sabathia and Jeremy Hellickson are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Game 137: Quick Turnaround

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

Last night’s win was one of my favorite games of the season, but because baseball can be a real jerk, the Yankees have a quick turn around today and can’t enjoy it too much. They’re in Baltimore for a Labor Day matinee after playing a night game in New York last night. I’m sure Jordan Montgomery, today’s starter, flew ahead and got a good night’s sleep. The rest of the team? Not so much.

Anyway, this three-game set against the Orioles is pretty darn important. The Yankees currently sit in the first wild card spot and are two games up in the Twins, and 3.5 games up on both the Angels and Orioles. You know Buck Showalter wants to make up a lot of ground these next three days. The Yankees haven’t won a series at Camden Yards since September 2013. Seriously. Would be nice to get off the schneid this week. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. DH Chase Headley
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

Great baseball weather in Baltimore today, according to the internet. The sky is clear and it warm but not oppressively hot. This afternoon’s series opener will begin at 2:05pm ET. YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Suspension Update: Gary Sanchez‘s suspension was reduced to three games and he begins serving it today. He can work out with the Yankees and all that, but he can’t be in the ballpark during the game. There’s a pretty good chance Gary was going to sit today anyway — it’s a day game in Baltimore after a night game in New York, and he’d caught each of the last four games, including a day game Saturday after a night game Friday (plus Romine is Montgomery’s personal catcher) — so he’s really only missing two games. No word on Romine’s suspension yet, though I imagine he’ll begin serving it after Sanchez’s suspension ends.

Roster Move: Tyler Wade has been called up, the Yankees announced. They now have 31 players on the active roster. Wade is the de factor fourth outfielder until either Aaron Hicks or Clint Frazier returns from the disabled list. The minor league regular season ends today, so Wade finished with a .310/.382/.460 (136 wRC+) batting line and seven homers and 26 steals (in 31 attempts) in 85 games with Triple-A Scranton. Unless Twins journeyman Matt Hague can miraculously add 15 points to his batting average today, Wade won the International League batting title by a large margin. He’s also only three points off the OBP lead.

News: The Yankees announced today they are donating $100,000 to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and the Yankees players themselves have pledged $9,000 per win the rest of the season. That’s another reason to root for a great September and a run to the AL East title. Also, the Yankees and Red Sox will auction off autographed items from last night’s game — including all game-worn jerseys — with all the proceeds going to the relief effort. Here are the Yankees and Red Sox auctions.

9/4 to 9/6 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Schoop and Machado. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Schoop and Machado. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees swept the Orioles in Yankee Stadium way back in June, outscoring them by 30 runs over three games. By the time that series was over the Yankees were 37-23, and were in the running for the best team in baseball. Some notes from the series:

  • The Yankees hit twelve home runs in the series as a whole – Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro hit three apiece, Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez had two each, and Didi Gregorius and Matt Holliday both chipped in one.
  • Judge was leading the league in the Triple Crown categories at the end of the series, batting .344 with 21 home runs and 47 RBI. He also hit this home run, which is still the longest of 2017.
  • While the offense was the story of the weekend, the contributions of the Yankees young starting pitchers shouldn’t be overlooked. Jordan Montgomery (7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 8 K) and Luis Severino (7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K) appreciated all of the run support, but they pitched more than well-enough to win on most nights.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun statistics from the series.

Injury Report

The Orioles are relatively healthy right now. Craig Gentry just hit the disabled list with a fractured right finger, but the team is expected to otherwise be at full-strength for this series. J.J. Hardy has been on the DL since mid-June, for what it’s worth, but he’s expected to return today or tomorrow.

Their Story So Far

Baltimore is 70-67 and just 1.5 games out of the Wild Card game, despite a -23 run differential. They’ve won 8 of their last 10, a stretch that includes back-to-back sweeps of the Mariners and Red Sox, and they look far smarter for buying at the deadline than they did at the time.

Tim Beckham, of all people, was their big trade deadline acquisition. He’s batting .364/.385/.587 in 32 games with the Orioles, and he has slotted into the top of their lineup with gusto. Beckham is best known for being something of a bust with the Rays, posting a 97 wRC+ in his first three seasons in the majors, and never putting up the sort of jaw-dropping numbers in the minors that one would expect from a player of his stock. He’s still only 27, though, and he has a 115 wRC+ in 493 PA this year.

The Lineup We Might See

Buck Showalter has had a fairly steady hand with his lineup on a day-to-day basis, with the first six or seven spots in the lineup being incredibly consistent. He has utilized some platoons, but he seems to prefer to have defined roles for his hitters. Based on that:

  1. Tim Beckham, SS – .291/.335/.463, 18 HR, 6 SB
  2. Manny Machado, 3B – .271/.324/.497, 30 HR, 9 SB
  3. Jonathan Schoop, 2B – .309/.354/.543, 30 HR, 1 SB
  4. Adam Jones, CF – .281/.318/.475, 26 HR, 1 SB
  5. Trey Mancini, LF – .291/.338/.507, 23 HR, 1 SB
  6. Chris Davis, 1B – .224/.319/.437, 22 HR, 0 SB
  7. Mark Trumbo, DH – .246/.301/.415, 21 HR, 1 SB
  8. Welington Castillo, C – .300/.339/.512, 18 HR, 0 SB
  9. Seth Smith, RF – .269/.353/.459, 13 HR, 2 SB

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (2:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Dylan Bundy

Bundy’s season is something of a small miracle. The 24-year-old did not pitch in 2013, and threw a combined 63.1 IP between 2014 and 2015. He was mostly healthy last year, throwing 109.2 IP between the rotation and the bullpen, but he clearly tired down the stretch. And yet heading into today’s start he has 155.1 IP of 3.94 ERA (109 ERA+) ball, his velocity has remained steady, and he has been markedly better in the second half (4.33 ERA/7.0 K/9 before the break, 3.04 ERA/10.1 K/9 since). One can’t help but worry that he’ll wear down, but it’s a great story nonetheless.

Last Outing (vs. SEA on 8/29) – 9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

To Jimenez’s credit, he has stayed healthy throughout his career, and has been (as far as we know) gracious in accepting whatever role changes the Orioles throw his way. That’s about all the positivity one can muster on his accord, though, as he has a 6.11 ERA (70 ERA+) since the beginning of last year, and he has transitioned from flame-thrower to someone with average velocity over the last four seasons.

Last Outing (vs. SEA on 8/30) – 2.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 3 K

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): Sonny Gray vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson

The Orioles were mocked a bit for buying at the deadline, given that they were 50-54 at the time. They sport a 20-13 record since then, however, and have eked back into the playoff race. Hellickson, their “major” acquisition, has not contributed all that much to that success, pitching to a 6.55 ERA (66 ERA+) in 6 starts with his new team. He has been serviceable for the majority of his career, pitching to a 98 ERA in parts of eight seasons, but that’s a far cry from the expectations on a consensus top-ten prospect.

Hellickson is a true five-pitch pitcher. He throws a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, an upper-80s cutter, a low-80s change-up, and a mid-70s curveball. His change-up is generally his best pitch but, by FanGraphs’ reckoning, it has been his worst this year (and one of the worst in the game, at that).

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 8/31) – 4.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 4 BB, 2 K

The Bullpen

The Orioles have exceeded both expectations and Pythagoras over the last several years, and the bullpen has played a tremendous part in that. This year, however, the group has been largely mediocre, with several of their core relievers regressing heavily. That was to be expected, given that Zach Britton had a 0.54 ERA in 67.0 IP last year – but that made the team’s margin for error that much slimmer this year. It is worth noting that the bullpen has gradually rounded into form, pitching to a 3.09 ERA in the second-half, with most pitchers clustering within that range.

Britton is still the closer, and Mychal Givens and Brad Brach handle the set-up duties. Darren O’Day and Richard Bleier are both specialists, but Showalter will use both against most anyone. They also have Miguel Castro is a dedicated long-relief role, but Showalter has used him to get some big outs.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I enjoy every pitch that I get to see from Bundy, so he will have free reign of this section whenever he pitches against the Yankees. It amazes me that he came back from so many injuries and so much organizational turmoil to be a solid starter at the highest level.

Beyond that, this is yet another important series for the Yankees. They’re 3.5 games ahead of the Orioles in the standings, but we’ve seen how quickly things can shift – and these two teams will meet again next weekend.