Tuesday Links: Attendance, Latest Mock Drafts, Netting

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Later tonight the Yankees and Orioles will play the middle game of their three-game series at Camden Yards. A win would be cool. It seems like the Yankees have forgotten how to win in Baltimore the last few seasons. Anyway, here are some stray bits of news and notes to check out in the meantime.

Ticket revenue down $166M from 2009

According to Billy Witz, ticket and suite revenue at Yankee Stadium is down an insane $166M since the ballpark opened in 2009. That represents a 42% loss over the last seven seasons. Keep in mind that’s just ticket and suite revenue. The Yankees still make a killing through advertising, the YES Network, national broadcast rights, and all that. From Witz:

“When the Yankees went into the new building and set pricing, it was clear to me that they priced a perennial contending team into their tickets and suites,” said Vince Gennaro, the director of the Columbia University graduate program in sports management. “They’ve come off that some, but I was always a firm believer that if the Yankees faltered on the field with this economic formula, there’s no question attendance would drop more than another team because of the aggressive pricing.”

So far this season the Yankees are averaging 34,455 fans per home game, down from 37,820 last year and 45,918 in 2009. To be fair, the Yankees have only played 25 home games so far, and two of them were part of a single admission doubleheader. Plus school’s not completely out yet. And the Red Sox haven’t come to town yet. Once that happens, attendance will tick up a bit.

Clearly though, attendance is down in the Bronx, and it’s no mystery why. The Yankees were mostly mediocre the last four seasons and have played just one postseason game since 2012. They’re winning now and have a lot of young and exciting players in the organization, though it typically takes time for that stuff to translate into increased attendance. It probably won’t be until next season that the youth movement really starts to draw more fans to the ballpark.

Latest mock drafts

Over the last few days the various scouting publications have released their latest 2017 mock drafts. Here’s who they have the Yankees selecting with their first round pick (No. 16 overall) with the draft less than two weeks away:

Here’s my Pratto profile. Spoiler: I have one on Peterson coming later today. I’ve been planning to get to Beck at some point this week as well. Law says the Yankees have also been connected to New Mexico LHP Trevor Rogers (RAB profile) as well as Georgia HS LHP D.L. Hall. So far this spring the Yankees have been connected to Pratto more than anyone, though the mock drafts have been all over the place. At this point in previous years the Yankees were tied pretty heavily to James Kaprielian and Eric Jagielo. Things still seem to be a bit more up in the air right now.

Yankees have considered extended netting

During the homestand last week, a young boy was hit in the head by a broken bat at Yankee Stadium. He was bloodied and had to leave for medical attention, though as far as I know, he escaped without serious injuries. Despite the incident, the Yankees are in no rush to extend the netting at Yankee Stadium, though it is a consideration. From Dan Martin:

Teams, including the Yankees, have considered different options that would extend the netting from behind home plate to all the way past each dugout, though the netting could vary depending on the ballpark.

According to a source, the topic has been raised among MLB officials at various league meetings and will be brought up again in the future, while teams also seek input from fans.

I am pro-extended netting. Extend it from foul pole to foul pole for all I care. Players are bigger and stronger than ever before, and the game moves so fast. We all marvel at Aaron Judge‘s exit velocities, right? It’s only fun until he rips one foul at you and you have a fraction of a second to defend yourself (or your children).

“Pay attention to the game!” is in no way a practical solution, and there’s basically no good argument against extended netting. Sight lines? Please. You’ll barely notice the netting. Autographs? Add some windows to the netting that can be opened before the game. The longer the Yankees and MLB wait to extend the netting, the more likely it is someone will die from a hard hit foul ball or broken bat. If they think it’s too expensive to extend the netting now, wait until they see the lawsuits.

Chase Headley’s miserable slump shouldn’t change the plan for Gleyber Torres

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

After two days on the bench, Chase Headley returned to the starting lineup yesterday afternoon in the series opener against the Orioles. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and is now 21-for-121 (.174) with a 28.9% strikeout rate over his last 31 games, dating back to the series against the Cardinals. Calling this a miserable slump would be an understatement.

Headley, as you know, was excellent to start the season. He was a big reason why the Yankees won eight straight games in the middle of April. Since then though, it’s been all downhill. See?

chase-headley-wrc

Yeesh. Headley has struggled on both sides of the ball too. He had a stretch a few weeks ago in which he committed seven errors in the span of 13 games. Headley has straightened things out defensively the last two weeks or so, but not with the bat. Maybe yesterday’s game was a sign he’s turning things around. I’m not buying it yet.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the Yankees promoted top prospect Gleyber Torres to Triple-A last week, and he played his first three games at the level at third base. (As well as his last two at Double-A.) The Yankees have been working to increase Gleyber’s versatility this season and playing the hot corner is part of that.

Torres, who is going to spend this entire season at age 20, has gone 5-for-21 (.238) in six Triple-A games so far, and is hitting .275/.376/.472 (138 wRC+) overall in 2017. He’s doing pretty much everything you’d want a top prospect his age to do at the upper levels of the minors. Plus he’s doing it while playing relatively new positions in second and third bases.

Given Headley’s awfulness, it’s only natural to wonder when Torres will be called up to take over at third base. Why not now? He couldn’t be worse. Specious logic aside, it is only a matter of time until Gleyber replaces Headley, partly because Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro sure as heck aren’t going anywhere. Third base is the obvious spot for Torres, at least in the short-term.

Fans want Torres to replace Headley right now and I imagine it’s awfully tempting for the Yankees to make the change, especially since they’re surprisingly atop the AL East. It would be pretty easy to justify the move. It would be one thing to bench Headley in favor of, say, Ruben Tejada, a journeyman having a good year in Triple-A. Doing it for a top prospect like Torres is another.

That said, the Yankees have to keep the big picture in mind here, and I do believe they will. We’ve already gone through something like once already this season, right? Gregorius went down with a shoulder injury during the World Baseball Classic and everyone and their mother wanted Torres to play shortstop in the meantime, especially since he was tearing the cover off the ball in Spring Training.

Gleyber. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Gleyber. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

The Yankees didn’t do that though. They had a development plan in place for Gleyber and they stuck to it. The same should be true now despite Headley’s terrible play. Headley being bad doesn’t make Torres more big league ready. (He is closer to MLB ready now than he was during the spring by virtue of playing Double-A and Triple-A games, of course.) The Yankees, despite being in first place, are still a team in transition, and Gleyber’s long-term development has to be the priority, not a quick fix at third base.

“I’m not looking at Gleyber right now on the Major League side,” said Brian Cashman to Dan Martin last week. “I’m just looking at Gleyber taking the next step at Triple-A. Just like when we were faced with, ‘Are you going to bring Gleyber up because Didi is down?’ The answer was, ‘No, we aren’t going to interrupt his player-development process.’ And currently he’s earned the right to go Triple-A.”

Keep in mind the Yankees are moving Torres very quickly already. Prior to this season he’d never played above High Class-A. Thirty-two Double-A games later, he was in Triple-A. Not normal! Not for a 20-year-old, anyway. The Yankees clearly have Torres on an accelerated timetable, which means we could see him in the Bronx later this season. Players this talented have a way of shooting through the minors quicker than expected.

Two conditions have to be met when Torres is called up, in my opinion. One, the Yankees have to believe he’s truly ready for the big leagues and not simply being rushed to patch a hole at the hot corner. And two, he has to play everyday. They can’t call Gleyber up and play him once or twice a week. That would defeat the purpose. There is definitely something to be said for learning while on the big league bench, but Torres is too good to sit more often than not.

This is what I think will happen: the Yankees are going to stick with Headley for the time being, perhaps working in more Ronald Torreyes starts, to give Torres at least a month in Triple-A. That feels like the bare minimum. Keeping him there until the All-Star break wouldn’t be a bad idea. Then, in a few weeks, they’ll reevaluate things. See where Headley is at, see where Torres is at, and make a decision. Perhaps they won’t have to do anything! Who knows?

In my mind, everyone from Double-A on up is eligible for consideration in the big league if we have any needs,” said Cashman to Martin. “I check on what he’s doing everyday like I do all our prospects, but not how he’s going to fit on the big league club in the near-term. I’m not looking at that. Let him get baptized at Triple-A and let’s see how that treats him.”

Point is, the Yankees have to stick to their plan with Torres, whatever it is. Maybe their plan is to call him up in two weeks. I doubt it, but hey, stranger things have happened. The Yankees shouldn’t alter the development plan of their top prospect — arguably the best prospect in all of baseball, at that — because of a slumping big leaguer. Gleyber is going arrive at some point, likely later this year. Headley’s struggles shouldn’t dictate his timetable though.

The two Aarons and thinking about a new top of the lineup

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once upon a time, I was a lineup complainer. The lineup would be posted each day at 4pm-ish and I’d complain about it. So and so is hitting too low, this guy is hitting too high, why is bench player flavor of the week not playing, that sort of stuff. A few times a year the Yankees would play the “ideal” lineup. Otherwise it was the same story, day after day. The lineup stinks and I was Mad Online.

I’ve outgrown that, thankfully. Daily lineup complaints are no way to go through life. As long as Joe Girardi doesn’t do something crazy like bat his best hitter ninth (which he never does and would never do), whatever lineup he runs out there is fine with me. So this post shouldn’t construed as me complaining about the lineup. This is more of a rational discussion about the batting order nearly one-third of the way through the season.

For the most part, I think we can all agree on one thing regarding the lineup: Brett Gardner should lead off, and Chase Headley and Chris Carter should bat eighth and ninth, really in either order. I guess that’s three things. Anyway, that stuff is straight forward. Gardner is, yet again, one of the team’s best on-base players and count-workers. Headley and Carter have been terrible and should get the fewest at-bats. Simple, right? Right.

The few spots beyond Gardner are what I really want to discuss. This is my ideal top of the lineup right now, given the available personnel:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge

The three outfielders, left to right. Gary Sanchez has been hitting second most of the season and I am totally cool with that. It works for me. Sanchez has looked a little jumpy at the plate the last few days, but I’m not worried. Hitters go through their ups and downs. Sanchez is one of the team’s best hitters, so by all means, hit him second. Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant won MVPs hitting second in recent years. Power hitters can hit there too.

That said, I like Hicks hitting second over Sanchez right now because, well, Hicks has been the better hitter this season. The better overall hitter and, more importantly, the better on-base threat. Hicks has a .426 OBP this year. Sanchez has a .356 OBP. That’s still good! But it’s not .426. Batting Hicks second means more runners on base for Judge, who has inarguably been the Yankees’ best hitter this season.

Judge started the season hitting lower in the lineup and understandably so, but he’s forced his way up, and now he is in entrenched as the No. 5 hitter. Moving Judge up even further to the No. 3 spot means more at-bats. More at-bats over the course of the season, and a better chance to get Judge that one extra at-bat in an individual game. Through 48 team games the No. 3 spot has 14 more plate appearances than the No. 5 spot for the Yankees. That’s 14 more times Judge would have come to the plate in the late innings. It’s not nothing!

We’re not splitting atoms here. Hicks (.426), Judge (.419), and Gardner (.363) have the three highest OBPs on the Yankees. They make fewer outs than anyone else. Judge is also one of the game’s top power threats. Batting Gardner and Hicks first and second is, by far, the best way to get men on base for Judge. Batting these three atop the lineup also means they get the most at-bats, therefore giving the Yankees more chances to score.

Going with Gardner-Hicks-Judge atop the lineup and Headley-Carter at the bottom leaves you Sanchez, Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday, and Didi Gregorius for the 4-5-6-7 spots. What’s the best way to order them? I’m not sure there’s a wrong answer. I’d prefer hitting Sanchez fourth because I think he’s most likely to be an impact bat the rest of the season, but if you said the same thing about Castro or Holliday, I wouldn’t argue (much).

The important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is getting Judge more at-bats because because the guy is a monster, and the more he plays, the better the Yankees’ chances to win. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s concussion — Girardi said yesterday Ellsbury is still experiencing headaches, so he remains shut down indefinitely — ensures Hicks will be in the lineup everyday, and as long as he’s hitting like this, Hicks is the perfect No. 2 hitter. On-base ability, power, speed, switch-hitter, the whole nine. Perfect.

The lineup almost seems to write itself from there. Gardner leads off, Hicks hits second, Judge hits third. Your two best on-base players and your most devastating hitter. Sanchez, Holliday, Castro, and Gregorius add quality lineup depth through the No. 7 spot too. I get why Girardi hits Sanchez second, Holliday third, and Castro fourth. I do. But nearly 50 games into the season, it’s the clear the more Aaron Judge hits with men on base, the better. The lineup should be built in such a way that maximizes those opportunities.

DotF: Fowler, Estrada, and Andujar stay hot in losses

LHP Jordan Montgomery has graduated to the big leagues, so RHP Gio Gallegos has slid into MLB.com’s top 30 Yankees prospects list. Montgomery is at 50.1 big league innings following today’s start, one out beyond the rookie limit. He exceeded the rookie limit for service time earlier this month.

Triple-A Scranton (5-0 loss to Toledo)

  • 3B Tyler Wade: 1-4, 2 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 2-4, 1 CS — 11-for-22 in his last five games
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 K — first time he’s played a full nine innings during his rehab stint
  • LF Mason Williams: 0-2, 1 BB
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 10/3 GB/FB — 63 of 93 pitches were strikes (68%) … back on track after three ugly starts

[Read more…]

Offense can’t pick up Montgomery in 3-2 loss to Orioles


Source: FanGraphs

Bah, that was an annoying game. One of the more annoying games of the season. The offense went back to sleep — turns out it’s not as easy to score when the A’s aren’t kicking the ball all over the place — in Monday afternoon’s 3-2 loss to the Orioles. Remember when the Yankees used to dominate at Camden Yards? Good times. Let’s recap this mess of a game with bullet points on the final day of the holiday weekend.

  • Montgomery Struggles: Was the strike zone a little tight? Yeah, it was, but that’s not the only reason Jordan Montgomery needed 34 pitches to complete one inning, 56 pitches to complete two innings, and 73 pitches to complete three innings. O’s hitters fouled off 21 (!) pitches and eight of the 23 batters he faced saw a three-ball count. The big blow was Jonathan Schoop’s two-out, two-run double to right in the third inning. Starlin Castro‘s error on Mark Trumbo’s weak grounder earlier in the inning set that up, but still. Sometimes the pitcher has to pick up his fielders, and Montgomery didn’t. Three of his last four starts have kinda stunk.
  • Two Token Runs: The Yankees scored their first run on an Aaron Hicks sac fly only after Castro failed to score on a Didi Gregorius infield single. The ball deflected off the defender’s glove and rolled away from everyone, yet Castro didn’t score from second. He could have walked home. At least Hicks picked him up. The Yankees scored their second run in the seventh inning, on Aaron Judge‘s league leading 17th dinger. It was a rocket into the center field seats. Love that guy. Two runs ain’t enough though.
  • Sloppy Play: Really ugly afternoon on both sides of the ball. Castro didn’t score on Didi’s infield single. Brett Gardner was thrown out trying to go second-to-third on Gary Sanchez‘s fly ball in the third. Castro misplayed the Trumbo grounder that contributed to two runs in the third. Sanchez ran right into the second baseman on Matt Holliday‘s double play ball in the fifth rather than stop and make the defender come to him. Real lack of fundies on display.
  • Leftovers: Nice work by the bullpen to keep it close. Jonathan Holder escaped the two on, one out jam he inherited from Montgomery and retired all five batters he faced. Chasen Shreve issued a walk in two otherwise flawless innings … Gardner (single, double) and Chase Headley (single, walk) were the only Yankees to reach base twice … Holliday made six outs in four at-bats (0-for-4 with two double plays) … even with Sunday’s nine-run outburst, the Yankees are averaging only 3.36 runs scored in their last eleven games. Gross.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees and Orioles will continue this series Tuesday evening. Luis Severino and Chris Tillman are the scheduled starters. Can the Yankees avoid their eighth (!) consecutive series loss in Camden Yards? I sure hope so. This is getting annoying, especially since this game snapped the O’s seven-game losing streak.

Memorial Day Open Thread

Here’s an open thread for the rest of Memorial Day, our most solemn holiday. The best way to honor the men and women who gave their lives so idiots like me can complain about baseball online is to help those still here.

The Mets are playing and ESPN has the Nationals and Giants, both right now. MLB Network will air a regional game later tonight. There’s also Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals, so that’s cool. Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend.

Fan Confidence Poll: I screwed something up and there was a problem with this morning’s poll. Please go back and vote. My bad. And thanks.

Yankeemetrics: Smallball, longball down A’s (May 26-28)

(Getty)
(Getty)

Welcome back, Masa-Hero
Friday’s game may have been a 4-1 loss in the standings, but it was a victory in the minds and eyes of the Yankees and their fans thanks to the spectacular performance by Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka looked like an ace again as he mowed down Oakland’s lineup, dominating them with his devastating signature splitter/slider combo. He set career-highs in strikeouts (13) and swinging strikes (26), displaying the top-of-rotation stuff that had been missing in the first month and a half of the season.

The 26 swings-and-misses were the second-most by any Yankee pitcher in the past decade, one shy of the 27 that CC Sabathia got on June 7, 2012 against the Rays. Each of the 13 punchouts were via a strike-three whiff, matching Sabathia (June 30, 2012 vs. Brewers) for the most swinging strikeouts in a game by any Yankee pitcher over the last 10 years.

Eight of the 13 strikeouts came on his sharp, late-breaking slider, and the other five were on filthy splitters that dropped out of the zone:

masahiro-tanaka-13-k

The improved depth of his splitter was one of the biggest keys to Tanaka’s domination on Friday night. He threw 25 splitters and located those pitches an average of 1.82 feet below the middle of the strike zone. That was his lowest vertical location for the splitter in any game this season, netting him 10 whiffs and silly swings like this one from Ryon Healy in the seventh inning:

halfelectricfoal

So that was the good news from Friday night.

Unfortunately, there was some bad news too. The Yankee bats went cold once again and the bullpen suffered another inexplicable meltdown, allowing three runs plus an inherited runner to score. Tanaka’s final line of 7 1/3 innings, 13 strikeouts, no walks and one run made him not only a hard-luck loser, but also etched his name in the record books.

It was just the third time a Yankee pitcher struck out at least 13 batters in a game and got the loss. The other two were done by Roger Clemens: June 17, 1999 against the Rangers and May 28, 2000 against the Red Sox in an epic duel with Pedro Martinez.

Even more incredible is this #FunFact: Tanaka is the first pitcher in Yankee history to get the loss in a game where he had at least 13 strikeouts, no more than one run allowed and zero walks.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Two close for comfort
Thanks a third straight solid outing by CC Sabathia and justenough offense, the Yankees bounced back to win the middle game of this three-game series, 3-2.

This was only the second time in the last 60 seasons that the Yankees won a game in the Bronx with no more than two hits. It also happened on Sept. 9, 1988, when Claudell Washington hit a walk-off homer to beat the Tigers (the other hit was a Rickey Henderson triple in sixth inning).

The decisive blow on Saturday was delivered by Matt Holliday, who ended Jharel Cotton’s no-hit bid and broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with one swing of the bat, crushing a two-run homer to left. It was his ninth homer of the season and team-best sixth dinger that either gave the Yankees a lead or tied the game.

Sabathia pitched into the seventh inning, allowing two runs while striking out a season-high nine batters. Four of the nine strikeouts — including three that were looking — came with his slider, which has routinely frozen hitters this season. He’s gotten called strikes on 23.2 percent of his sliders thrown, the fourth-best rate among starters (min. 100 pitches).

Dellin Betances was the end-of-game hero as he escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the eighth inning by striking out the next two batters, and then easily retired all three guys he faced in the ninth. The last Yankee to inherit at least two baserunners and get a perfect save of at least five outs? Mariano Rivera on April 23, 2008 vs. the White Sox.

(@Yankees)
(@Yankees)

Your Honor, the Grand Jury is in session
The Bronx Bombers returned to form on Sunday afternoon in 9-5, series-clinching win that pushed their AL East lead to a season-high three games. This is just the fourth time in the Wild Card era that the Yankees have entered play on Memorial Day in sole possession of first place in the division. The other three times it happened – 1996, 1998, 2001 – they made the World Series and won it twice.

On the mound, Michael Pineda struggled with his command (season-high three walks) but showed his toughness in limiting the A’s to three runs in six innings. It was his ninth straight start allowing three earned runs or fewer, one shy of the longest streak by an AL pitcher this season (both Michael Fulmer and Derek Holland have 10-start streaks).

Aaron Judge provided the power with his first career grand slam in the third inning to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead. He was the first Yankee right-fielder to go yard with the bases loaded against the A’s since Paul O’Neill on April 5, 1997. And the 25-year-old slugger is the youngest Yankee to hit a grand slam at Yankee Stadium since Nick Johnson (24 years old) on Aug. 8, 2003 vs. Mariners.

While it’s hard to believe that a rookie can keep up this pace – with 16 homers in the team’s first 47 games – let’s have some fun with numbers …

  • 1921 Babe Ruth through 47 team games: 16 homers (finished with 59)
  • 1927 Babe Ruth through 47 team games: 17 homers (finished with 60)
  • 1961 Roger Maris through 47 team games: 15 homers (finished with 61)