Gary Sanchez among AL Rookie of the Year finalists

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Earlier tonight MLB and the BBWAA announced the three finalists for each of this year’s major awards. As expected, Gary Sanchez is among the AL Rookie of the Year finalists. He’s up against Michael Fulmer of the Tigers and Tyler Naquin of the Indians. No surprises there at all. Here are all the awards finalists.

Sanchez was not called up for good until early-August, but he’s in the Rookie of the Year race because he had a historically great two-month stretch. He hit .299/.376/.657 (171 wRC+) with 20 homer runs in 53 games, plus he showed off an insane arm behind the plate.

Your browser does not support iframes.In terms of games played, no player in history reached 11, 18, 19, and 20 career home runs faster than Sanchez. He led all AL rookies in fWAR (+3.2) and was second to Fulmer in bWAR (+3.0). Because he didn’t play a full season like Fulmer and Naquin, Sanchez’s Rookie of the Year case is built on his historically great two-month stretch.

I actually think Sanchez is going to win Rookie of the Year. I think voters will skew towards the historically great catcher over the starter who had a great full season, but didn’t do anything we haven’t seen before. Same with Naquin. Great season! But someone will do pretty much the same thing next year. We’ll see.

The Yankees did not have any finalists for the other awards, which isn’t a surprise. Masahiro Tanaka will surely get some Cy Young votes, though he’s not a finalist. Corey Kluber, Rick Porcello, and Justin Verlander are up for the AL Cy Young Award. Sounds right to me. You could argue Zach Britton and Chris Sale should be finalists.

Awards week is next week. The Rookies of the Year will be announced next Monday, November 14th. Cy Youngs will be announced Wednesday, November 16th. Joe Girardi will inevitably get some Manager of the Year votes, and there are always some weird down ballot MVP votes. We’ll see a few Yankees pop-up in the MVP voting.

Monday Night Open Thread

The first day of the GM Meetings came and went today with little action, though that’s not entirely unexpected. The GM Meetings are intended to cover various off-the-field matters around the league, and while there are some deals struck each year, it’s mostly about laying groundwork for transactions that happen later in the offseason. The offseason is young. Teams are still gauging the market.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Bills and Seahawks are the Monday Night Football game, and the Islanders are playing as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here. I know the election is tomorrow, but please, no politics. Thanks in advance.

King: Yankees planning to watch Greg Holland’s workout, because of course they should

(Jamie Squire/Getty)
(Jamie Squire/Getty)

According to George King, the Yankees will be among the teams on hand to watch former Royals closer Greg Holland throw for scouts in Scottsdale today. Holland, a free agent, is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. “He is back at it full steam,” said agent Scott Boras to Joel Sherman. “With the value of relief pitching being shown [in the postseason], he should be interesting.”

Holland, who turns 31 later this month, blew out his elbow late last season, one year before free agency, so the Royals non-tendered him. That’s basically what Nathan Eovaldi is going through right now. Holland had a 1.86 ERA (1.92 FIP) with a 35.2% strikeout rate in 256.1 innings from 2011-14 before slipping to a 3.83 ERA (3.27 FIP) with 25.4% strikeout rate in 44.2 innings in 2015, likely because his elbow was barking. I have some thoughts on this.

1. Of course Holland is worth a look. There’s no reason for the Yankees — or any other team, for that matter — to not go see what Holland looks like at his workout. Every club has scouts in Arizona. It’s not out of the way. Pop on by the workout and see what he looks like 13 months out from surgery. Even if you don’t sign him, it’s something for the ol’ information bank you can refer back to later.

(Coincidentally enough, the GM Meetings are in Scottsdale this week, so every team’s head honcho and his top lieutenants will be in the area. I’m guessing more than a few big wigs will stop by Holland’s workout if their schedules allow.)

Once upon a time Holland was a really great reliever, and there’s a chance he will still be a really great reliever after Tommy John surgery. Tommy John surgery is pretty risky — the procedure itself may be routine, but the rehab sure isn’t — and it’s possible Holland’s days as effective big leaguer are over. It’s worth finding out though. Get eyes on him at the workout, and if he looks good, try to sign him.

Update: Eric Longenhagen says Holland was 88-91 mph during today’s workout. That’s down from his peak, though it’s not terribly surprising for a guy still building arm strength after major surgery. Sherman says the Yankees had scout Dan Giese and pro scouting director Kevin Reese on hand. (Yes, that Dan Giese and Kevin Reese.)

2. The Yankees could, in theory, offer him the closer’s spot. Holland is a former All-Star closer, and I have to think he’s looking to return to the ninth inning as soon as possible. That’s where the glory is, and, most importantly, that’s where the money is. Two relievers could have the exact same season, but the guy who does it as a closer will get more attention that the guy who does it as a setup man, guaranteed.

The Yankees are actually in position to offer Holland their closer’s job. I absolutely believe Dellin Betances could close. Zero doubt about it. I also believe Betances is most valuable in a setup role, where Joe Girardi is more willing to extend him a bit and use him in the game’s most important situation regardless of inning. Holland could close while Betances returns to the fireman role he’s filled so well the last few years.

Now, does it make sense to trust a dude coming off Tommy John surgery in the ninth inning? That’s debatable. I guess it depends how Holland’s stuff rebounds following elbow reconstruction and how he looks in Spring Training. I honestly don’t think any team will guarantee Holland their closer’s job. Not so soon after elbow surgery. Obviously some teams are better positioned to quickly move him into the ninth inning though.

The other problem is the Yankees will reportedly go after one of the top available relievers, presumably Aroldis Chapman. Holland will figure out for himself which team offers the greatest opportunity to return to closing. Getting stuck behind Betances and possibly Chapman (or Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon) on the closer depth chart might not be so appealing.

3. Signing Holland shouldn’t deter the Yankees from sign another top reliever. Holland should be looked at as a lottery ticket. He’s not someone you can count on to be a key part of your bullpen so soon after surgery. I don’t doubt his stuff or anything. The guy has nasty, nasty stuff.

We just don’t know how Holland is going to rebound from Tommy John surgery, especially short-term. That applies to every pitcher ever. Because of that, I think you have to view him as a lottery ticket. An extra piece of depth. And if Holland can help out at some point in a high-leverage role, great. That makes the bullpen even more dangerous.

The Yankees are reportedly going to be in the market for a top reliever and that shouldn’t include Holland. He’s essentially a reclamation project. The master plan should be Chapman or Jansen and Holland, not Chapman/Jansen or Holland. Go add that big lockdown bullpen arm, then add Holland on top of that. That’s the best way to go about this. Don’t count on him for anything. It should all be gravy.

The Time the Yankees Traded the Best Relief Pitcher in Baseball [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

I can’t think of another player who became as beloved as a Yankee as Andrew Miller despite spending so little time with the Yankees. He didn’t even win a championship in New York or anything. Miller wore pinstripes for only a season and a half, yet he was a fan favorite, a clubhouse favorite, and one of the team’s best and most reliable players. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call him one of the greatest free agent signings in Yankees history.

Miller’s departure from the Yankees really had nothing to do with Miller himself. He went above and beyond the call of duty in New York, but the rest of the team was not ready to contend, so much so that they needed an infusion of young talent. The dominant and affordable Miller was one of the club’s most valuable trade chips, so when the trade deadline rolled around, the Yankees entertained offers. Eventually someone met their demands.

The Spring Injury

The trade deadline was not the first time the Yankees dangled Miller on the trade market. They listened to offers over the winter and reportedly discussed sending him to the Astros for a package similar to what Houston sent to the Phillies for Ken Giles, but things never came together. Miller remained with the Yankees and reported to Spring Training not really knowing what his role would be.

“Certainly, they felt like more firepower can help us reach the goals. And if that’s what it takes to get there, then I’m all for it,” said Miller after Joe Girardi declared the newly acquired Aroldis Chapman the team’s closer. “I came here to play for the Yankees. I had a choice to go there. My goal is to win … I’m not worried about some sort of milestone or Hall of Fame case or anything like that. I’m just trying to go out there and win.”

MLB announced Chapman’s suspension in early-March, which meant, once again, Miller would be the team’s closer. At least temporarily. He went about his business in Spring Training, got his work in, and prepared for the season as usual. Preparing to be a closer is no different than preparing to be a setup man. Then, on March 30th, right at the end of camp, Miller took a line drive to his right wrist.

That looked bad. It looked bad and it was bad, really. Tests showed Miller suffered a chip fracture in his right wrist, and after seeing a specialist, he was cleared to play through the injury. MLB rules would not allow him to wear a brace, even on his glove hand. He would have to gut it out for several weeks.

Thirty Games as Closer

If the wrist injury had a lingering effect on Miller’s performance, it didn’t show during the regular season. He went 6-for-6 in save chances during the first 30 games of the season — the Yankees didn’t give him many leads to protect, unfortunately — and during that time he allowed seven hits and one walk with 20 strikeouts in 11.2 innings. At one point Miller retired 22 straight batters with 14 strikeouts. Yeah.

Miller’s most memorable moment as the closer this year was his final save chance before Chapman’s suspension ended. The Red Sox were in town and the Yankees were nursing a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning. Girardi went to Miller for the four-out save, and after getting the final out of the eighth, he loaded the bases with one out on three singles (Josh Rutledge, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts) in the ninth. It was butt-clenching time. Then Miller did what Miller does (with some help from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa).

Three days later, Chapman returned from his suspension and took over as the closer. Miller did nothing to lose the job, but Chapman has been one of the best closers in baseball over the last few years, so the Yankees gave him the job. Miller could have made a big stink about it — more than a few players would have, I’m sure — but he didn’t. He slid back into the eighth inning and Dellin Betances took over the seventh.

“What do you want me to do? You want me to throw a fit?” said Miller the day Chapman returned. “The goal here is to win. I think if you go around and ask, there’s 25 lockers in here, and I think everyone is going to say that. We haven’t gotten off to the start that we want to. I think we’ve played well in the last couple of days, and the goal is to keep that going. Wins are what’s fun at the end of the day.”

Back to the Eighth

Weirdly enough, Chapman allowed a run before Miller this season. Chapman gave up a run in his first game back from the suspension. Miller didn’t allow his first run until the next day. He entered the eighth inning with a one-run lead against the Royals, then allowed a leadoff home run to Lorenzo Cain. (It was Cain’s third homer of the night.) The Yankees rallied to win that game, but still, Miller finally allowed a run, and some tried to make it a thing that he was unhappy about losing his closer’s job.

“There shouldn’t be (an adjustment). It should be the same,” said Miller after that game. “I’m out there trying to get outs, and unfortunately, I made a bad pitch and had to pay for it. Honestly, I’m just focused on the hitters. I’m trying as much (as I can) to concentrate on that.”

To the surprise of no one, Miller went right back to dominating as the setup man, and along with Chapman and Betances, he help form one of the most devastating bullpen trios in baseball history. In 30 games and 31.2 innings as the eighth inning guy, Miller pitched to a 1.99 ERA (2.55 FIP) with 54 strikeouts and six walks. That’s a 44.3% strikeout rate and a 4.9% walk rate, so yeah. He also had a 54.2% ground ball rate too.

Miller allowed eight runs (seven earned) in those 31.2 innings and five came on home runs. All solo shots. One was even a walk-off. I totally forgot about this:

That was basically the only way to score against Miller for those three months (or ever). You had to hope he made a mistake you could hit out of the park. Putting together a rally against him — stringing together singles and walks, that sort of thing — is basically impossible. He misses too many bats and he doesn’t beats himself with walks, which is sort of crazy because earlier in his career, Miller had a lot of problems throwing strikes.

For the first time in his career, Miller was an All-Star this season, and he actually had a tough outing in the All-Star Game itself. He entered the eighth inning with a two-run lead and it went fly out (Brandon Belt), single (Jonathan Lucroy), strikeout (Jay Bruce), single (Starling Marte), walk (Adam Duvall). Miller loaded the bases and threw 28 pitches in two-thirds of an inning. Will Harris had to come in to bail him out. (Harris struck out Aledmys Diaz to strand the bases loaded.)

The Yankees traded Chapman to the Cubs on July 25th, so for his final week in pinstripes, Miller returned to the ninth inning and served as the closer. He converted both save chances and struck out three in two scoreless innings that week. All told, Miller had a 1.39 ERA (1.78 FIP) in 45.1 innings with the Yankees in 2016. He struck out 77 (44.8%), walked seven (4.1%), and got a ton of grounders (52.9%). Miller also saved eight games in eight tries in his two short stints as closer. Total domination.

The Trade Deadline

On the morning of July 31st, the Yankees were 52-51 and 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot with four teams ahead of them. They’d lost their last three games as well. The Yankees had been spinning their wheels all season. Each hot streak was met with an equally long cold streak. It had been a struggle all season just to get over .500. Remember that? They didn’t do it for good until August 10th.

There was no real indication the Yankees were going to make any sort of run in the second half. Chapman had already been traded, so the team was ready to sell, though Miller was different. Chapman was going to be a free agent after the season. Miller is signed through 2018 at an affordable rate. The Yankees didn’t have to trade Miller the way they had to trade Chapman (and Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova). There was no reason not to listen to offers though.

Just about every contender in baseball had interest in Miller. The Indians, Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, Nationals, Red Sox, Cardinals … you name the team and they wanted him, understandably. The Yankees set the price high and let teams come to them. It was a bidding war, and when it was all said and done, the Indians stepped up and gave the Yankees what they wanted.

On July 31st, the day before the trade deadline, the Yankees shipped Miller to Cleveland for a package of four prospects: outfielder Clint Frazier, left-hander Justus Sheffield, and right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. Baseball America ranked Frazier and Sheffield as the 21st and 69th best prospects in baseball, respectively, in their midseason top 100 list earlier in July. They were the headliners.

“One of those two wouldn’t have been enough. We had to have them both,” said Cashman after the trade. “(There) was a pit in my stomach that I have the most difficult job of all in calling Andrew Miller. Andrew, he didn’t want to go anywhere. He loved playing here. Andrew was everything you want. Unfortunately, we had a lot of areas that need to be addressed, so unfortunately he was part of that type of solution.”

After the Trade

The Indians didn’t acquire Miller to get to the postseason. They had a 4.5 game lead in the AL Central on the day of the trade and FanGraphs put their postseason odds at 95.0%. Cleveland made the trade because they wanted to win the World Series, and they very nearly did that thanks in large part to Miller. The Indians pushed the best team in baseball to extra innings in Game Seven of the World Series, and they did it without Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco. They came so close!

Miller was Miller after the trade. He had a 1.55 ERA (1.53 FIP) with a ton of strikeouts (44.7%) and grounders (56.4%), and few walks (1.9%) in 29 regular season innings with the Indians. Coincidentally enough, Miller earned his first of three regular season saves with Cleveland against the Yankees.

Miller took it to another level in the postseason, allowing three runs in 19.2 innings with 30 strikeouts and five walks. He set new MLB records for strikeouts and innings by a reliever in a single postseason. Miller recorded at least four outs in all ten postseason outings and was named ALCS MVP in Cleveland’s five-game series win over the Blue Jays. The guy was marvelous. Miller gave the Indians everything they needed and then some.

Outlook for 2017

The Indians are a small payroll team and they did ride Miller hard in the postseason, so I suppose there’s a chance they will entertain trading him this offseason to replenish the farm system. That’s nothing more than my speculation though. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to listen. Teams may still be willing to pay through the nose for bullpen help like they did at the trade deadline.

As for the Yankees, the focus is on the four prospects they received in the Miller trade. Heller made his MLB debut after the deal and figures to be a bullpen factor next season. Frazier is slated to begin the season in Triple-A and could reach the show at some point during the summer. Sheffield will start next year in Double-A and Feyereisen will be in Triple-A. They’re all pretty close to the big leagues, so we’ll see what happens. Nothing we can do other than wait.

In his year and a half as a Yankee, Miller was essentially the perfect player. He was ultra-productive, he was willing to pitch in any role, and he was on a bargain contract. You wish you could have 25 guys like this on your roster. Miller was not the problem in any way. The rest of the team was the problem. I don’t think anyone didn’t love Andrew Miller. He’s awesome. It’s a shame he had to go, but it was the right move. Given their current state, the Yankees need the young talent more than they need a dominant reliever.

Fan Confidence Poll: November 7th, 2016

2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Weekend Open Thread

Friday: So, who’s ready for the first weekend without baseball since February? Blah, this stinks. This is the worst time of year, the time when I realize exactly how much baseball means to my everyday existence. This cartoon seems appropriate:

CharlieBrown

Fun fact: I played Charlie Brown in an elementary school play once. True story. Had a DIY yellow shirt with the zig zag and everything. Gosh that was a long time ago.

Anyway, the Yankees won the 2009 World Series seven years ago tonight, so that’s really cool. Use this open thread to talk about that, the upcoming offseason, tonight’s Knicks and Nets games, or anything else right here.

Saturday: Here is the open thread once again. The Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game is on tonight (8pm ET on MLB Network and MLB.com). Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, and Dillon Tate will all play at some point. Also, the three local hockey teams are in action, plus there’s college football on as well. Have at it.

Sunday: For the last time, here is the open thread. You’ve got all the day’s NFL action plus the Knicks, Rangers, and Devils are playing. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Why I Love Baseball

Hit lots of these today, please. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The most important question we can every ask is, simply, ‘why?’ When it comes to asking others, we’re usually pretty good at it. But, oftentimes, we fall short when it comes to asking ourselves that same question. That’s not to say we don’t self-examine about important things; however, how often do we really question why we love the leisure time activities we do? And when we do, the answers are usually pretty quick and with good reason; we’re resolute in our enjoyment of certain things and they’ve become second nature. This week, as the World Series ended, I found myself asking myself, “Why do I love baseball?” The question wasn’t meant to be an accusatory one; I’m not finding fault with myself or even the game–though I’m sure you could join me in some nitpicking about that. Rather, the question was meant as a reminder after a great Game 7 and a highly entertaining and enjoyable World Series.

FullSizeRender

The biggest reason I love baseball–and I’m sure this is the case for many of you–is that of the connection it facilitates between people. From my father and grandfather to my wife and (hopefully) my son, baseball has been a common link between all of us. Whether it was going to games with my dad (and mom and sister) or him watching me play or me going to his softball games or, eventually, us playing together a few times, the ball game has always been a strong link between us. When his father died in July of 2006, I dove into baseball as a coping mechanism and it led me to the intense love of the game that led me to writing. That writing led me to Twitter, where my wife and I first interacted and bonded over a love of baseball and the Yankees, and now five years later, we have a son whom we’ll do the best we can to raise in the “Yankees Only” lifestyle.

People are the most important things in our lives and the connections we have with them are at the base of that importance. For many people in my life, that connection is rooted in baseball. Even the game itself, not dictated by a clock or the passing of a clock, but the overlapping and transition of innings is about connection over time that so many of us find with the game from those that came before us and those that we will share the game with in the years to come.

As the years pass on, the connections I have to the game will remain based in the people around me, though in some sort of mirrored cycle in which I become my father and grandfather to my son (and any other kids we’re lucky enough to have) and eventual grandchildren. The connection, the cycle, will hopefully be unbroken because, dammit, I love baseball.