Mailbag: Darvish, Judge, Cole, Gray, Profar, Bullpen, Castro

There are 15 questions in this week’s mailbag. Remember to use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything throughout the week.

Darvish. (Ron Jenkins/Getty)
Darvish. (Ron Jenkins/Getty)

Vismay asks: Cole Hamels is out for at least 8 weeks. Things are going bad for the Rangers, and Darvish is a FA after this season. Could Yankees trade for Darvish? What could the Yankees offer?

There’s already been plenty of speculation the Rangers could move Yu Darvish at the trade deadline if things don’t turn things around soon. Texas went into yesterday’s game in last place in the AL West at 11-17 with a -6 run differential. That’s the third worst record in the AL. Last season the Rangers did win 95 games, but they did it with a +8 run differential. +8! There were signs this team is not as good as last year’s record indicated, and we’re seeing it now.

Two things about Darvish. One, if the Rangers do make him available, it’ll be because they don’t think they can sign him to an extension, and if that’s the case, you have to assume he’s dead set on testing free agency. He’ll be a pure rental. And two, Darvish returned from Tommy John surgery less than one year ago. He has a 3.30 ERA (3.23 FIP) in 139 innings since coming back, though his walk rate has climbed to 8.5%, which isn’t unusual for a pitcher returning from elbow reconstruction. There is some risk here.

Every contender in baseball is going to want Darvish should the Rangers make him available. The Yankees will be competing with the Dodgers, Cubs, Astros, Nationals, Red Sox, etc. Of course, they have the prospects to make a big offer, so that’s not a problem. No other team can offer a Gleyber Torres. The Yankees probably aren’t going to do that though. As I seem to say every mailbag, if they’re going to dip into their farm system to get a pitcher, I think it’ll be someone they can control long-term, not a rental. Not even a rental as good as Darvish.

Frank asks: Judge currently has a 1.024 OPS and is on pace for 50 plus homers. Both metrics are most likely unsustainable. However given his outstanding start and very solid defense, what would he need to do (maintain) in order to become a true 4/5 WAR player this year?

This question was sent in early in thes week. Aaron Judge now has a 1.251 OPS and is on pace for 81 home runs. We’ve seen no signs of slowing down thus far. It’s pretty incredible. Going into last night’s games Judge led all players, both position players and pitchers, with +2.5 bWAR and +2.2 fWAR. He’s on pace for roughly +15 WAR and no, that won’t happen. You know it’s still early in the season when numbers extrapolate out like that.

Anyway, given his refined approach at the plate and solid defensive work, I don’t think a +5 WAR season is out of the question at all for Judge. (I feel like the baseball gods won’t let us get through the season without him going through a .125/.200/.250 with 49.0% strikeouts month though.) ZiPS projects Judge at .241/.318/.515 (120 wRC+) the rest of the season, which seems low based on what he’s doing now, but is still pretty great. Doing exactly that the rest of the way should be plenty good enough to get him to +5 WAR, possibly even +6 WAR.

William asks: Considering Romine’s performance while stepping in for Sanchez, what do you think he has increased his trade value to? What teams might be interested? Does he have more value as the Yankees back-up?

Nah. I don’t think 60-something plate appearances are nearly enough to change a team’s mind about a player these days. At least not smart teams. This sort of thing happens every year, doesn’t it? A fringy player has a great April and folks start saying his trade value has gone up, as if the rest of his career doesn’t matter. What did we learn about Austin Romine these last few weeks that he didn’t know before? That he can fill-in as a starting catcher for a month? Okay, what’s that worth, exactly? Not much. The Blue Jays need a backup catcher, though I can’t see an intra-division trade happening. Given their catching depth chart, I believe Romine has more value to the Yankees on their roster than anything he could realistically fetch in a trade. Backup catchers aren’t hot commodities, even coming off a good month as a fill-in starter.

Luiz asks: Thoughts on Kyle Higashioka‘s first big league experience?

Fans in the RAB comments and on Twitter and other spots are running out of players to hate because the Yankees are playing so well. It’s kinda funny. The usual suspects (Jacoby Ellsbury, Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, Michael Pineda, etc.) are all playing well, so down the line fans have gone, and apparently they’ve settled on the temporary backup catcher. Always gotta hate someone, it seems.

Anyway, Higashioka went 0-for-18 with two walks at the plate and several cross-ups behind it in his four weeks as the backup catcher, which hasn’t changed by opinion of him at all. Why would it? Twenty plate appearances scattered across 25 days in his first taste of the show? That’s nothing. It would have been cool if Higashioka had picked up a few hits, though he had some good at-bats recently and hit some rockets right at people. He’ll be fine. Tough debut, no doubt, but Higashioka’s been through worse.

Brian asks: If both Yankee catchers are injured in a single game, who goes behind the plate? I have looked at the various depth charts online, and they don’t show the third-string catcher. Does this happen very often? I can’t remember a position player behind the plate, but it must happen sometimes.

Joe Girardi has said Ronald Torreyes is the emergency third catcher. Greg Bird is injured now, but he started his pro career as a catcher, so I guess that would make him the super duper emergency fourth catcher once he’s healthy? As best I can tell, the Yankees have never used an emergency catcher in their history. They certainly have not since 1980. They’ve had catchers go out an play other positions (Jorge Posada at second base!) but never a player go from another position to catcher without previous experience at the position.

The last time any team used a player as a true emergency catcher was 2013, when the Astros stuck utility player Jake Elmore behind the plate for 4.1 innings. Elmore managed to both pitch and catch in a blowout. Don Kelly, another utility guy, caught six innings for the Tigers in 2011. I remember Pedro Feliz having to catch for the Giants in 2007, though I can’t find video. It definitely happened though:

pedro-feliz-catcher

It’s very rare that an emergency third catcher actually has to go behind the plate. It is something teams have to plan for, of course. I wish managers would be more aggressive using their backup catcher, either to pinch-hit or to replace the starter after he’s lifted for a pinch-runner, that sort of thing, but managers are collectively terrified of running out of catchers.

Chris asks: So if the Pirates do make Gerrit Cole available at the deadline, are we in and at what cost? He’s got 2 years of control left so his value is probably at its highest if he is preforming well at the deadline.

The Pirates are in last place in the NL Central at 12-15 with a -17 run differential, and they’re going to be without Starling Marte, their best player, for a few months. They’re pretty screwed. It’s still early enough in the season that they can climb out of it, but yeah. The Pirates are in trouble. They went 78-83 last year and nothing seems to be better this time around.

Cole can become a free agent after the 2019 season, so get him at the deadline and you’re getting three postseason runs out of him, not just two. He’s the kind of pitcher I think the Yankees would be willing to trade top prospects to acquire. Cole is young (26), really good (3.10 ERA and 3.00 FIP last three years), and not a rental. I can’t imagine the whole 2008 draft thing will be an issue. Holding a grudge helps no one. If the Pirates make Cole available, there will be a lot of competition for him, but the Yankees definitely have the pieces to make a substantial offer.

Michael asks: how would you value Gerrit Cole and Sonny Gray as trade targets this July? Both have had serious-ish health issues in the past and Cashman seems to avoid guys like that (CC, Tanaka, Kuroda, Eovaldi, Pineda, etc. all had mostly clean bills of health at the time of acquisition).

I just answered a question about Cole, so I’ll focus on Gray here. I’m a big Sonny Gray fan but the injuries are disconcerting. He had lat and forearm problems last season, then started this year on the disabled list with more lat problems. Gray came off the disabled list earlier this week and allowed four runs in six innings, including three homers, in his first start. Eh. I need to see more before getting all gung-ho about trading for him again. More health, more innings, more … uh, better performance. More better performance. Unless the A’s give Gray away (why would they?), I’m not comfortable giving up a big package to get him right now. Like I said though, I’m a big fan when he’s healthy. Great pitcher, great competitor.

Kevin asks: Profar from the Rangers looks like a classic Cashman buy low player with tons of untapped potential. Cost, value, do you want him as much as I do?

This is where Jurickson Profar’s career is at right now: he was send down the other day to make room on the roster for Pete Kozma. Seriously. Profar is still only 24! He also hit .239/.321/.338 (78 wRC+) last year after missing 2014 and 2015 with shoulder surgery, and was hitting .135/.289/.135 (31 wRC+) at the time of his demotion. Also, in 2013, his last healthy season before the shoulder injury, he hit .234/.308/.336 (75 wRC+). We’re talking hundreds of plate appearances too.

The Yankees have asked about Profar in the past, and I’m sure they’d love to buy super low on him while his value is down. The last few years have not been good to him between injuries and poor performance. I’m definitely open to bringing him aboard because hey, why not? Maybe Profar just needs a change of scenery. Busted prospect for busted prospect? Say, Mason Williams for Profar? I can’t see Texas selling that low though. Might as well hang on to the kid and hope he figures it out rather than trade him while his value is in the dumps.

Bill asks: It was mentioned last week about the team being able to blow games open more, it also feels like the main bullpen guys aren’t pitching in more games as a result which could lead to them being more fresh later in the season. Any data to back this up through the 1st month?

It’s true for Dellin Betances and pretty much none of the other main bullpen pieces. Here are the workload numbers so far:

2017 Pace 2016 Totals 2015-16 Average
Dellin Betances 68.5 G and 60.3 IP 73 G and 73 IP 73.5 G and 78.5 IP
Aroldis Chapman 68.5 G and 64.4 IP 59 G and 58 IP 62 G and 62.2 IP
Tyler Clippard 81 G and 72.7 IP 69 G and 63 IP 69 G and 67 IP
Adam Warren 49.5 G and 89.3 IP 58 G and 65.1 IP 50.5 G and 98.3 IP

Keep in mind Chapman was suspended to start last season, so his 2016 and 2015-16 numbers are skewed a bit. Ditto Warren’s 2015-16 average since he was starter for a chunk of 2015. Betances is on pace to throw fewer innings than ever before as a full-time big leaguer while Chapman and Clippard are near their averages.

Reliever usage is a weird thing. We’ll see Chapman and Betances pitch four times in five days or something like that, then go a week between appearances. I don’t always agree with Girardi’s bullpen usage — the rigid assigned innings thing irks me to no end — but he tends to be pretty good at keeping guys rested. Perhaps Dellin’s low early season workload is part of a plan to avoid having him fade like the last two Septembers?

Pete asks: What is the single most surprising (positive or negative) thing about the Yankees this year? Could be one player, group of players (starting pitching), etc. How about in the majors? Again, overall team production, one player hot/cold start, etc.

My biggest surprise for the Yankees so far is the strength of the rotation over Bird being awful because Bird has apparently been hurting. Pineda, Luis Severino, and also Jordan Montgomery have been better than I expected so far. And I expect Masahiro Tanaka to be better going forward as well. CC Sabathia? Eh. We’ll see. The early effectiveness of Pineda, Severino, and Montgomery has been the biggest surprise for me. I wasn’t too comfortable with that back of the rotation at all coming into the new season.

As for the rest of the majors, Ryan Zimmerman is the biggest surprise to me for sure. I thought he was toast last year after hitting .218/.272/.370 (67 wRC+). He’d been declining steadily for years and it seemed like he’d fallen off a cliff. Instead, Zimmerman is hitting .424/.468/.859 (238 wRC+) with eleven home runs. I mean, what? He has eleven homers in 109 plate appearances after hitting 15 in 467 plate appearances last year. Did not see this coming. At all. Not even close.

Joe asks: Castro’s been great this year. Besides looking at his walk rate, is it possible to check the amount of hits that have come in a hitters count and see if he is raising that rate compared to last year? That may show that he’s swinging at better pitches even if he isn’t taking more walks.

Castro is hitting .362/.402/.543 (167 wRC+) overall this season, though eventually that will come back to Earth because he’s not a true talent .407 BABIP hitter. No one is. Not even peak Ichiro. That doesn’t mean Starlin has not improved as a hitter, however. He sure looks better to me. Here are the numbers Joe asked about:

2016 Castro when ahead in the count: .351/.438/.649 (116 OPS+)
2017 Castro when ahead in the count: .435/.567/.565 (137 OPS+)

2016 Castro with pitcher ahead: .207/.209/.286 (91 OPS+)
2017 Castro with pitcher ahead: .171/.171/.229 (60 OPS+)

OPS+ is the number to focus on because it tells you how Castro has performed relative to the league average. That .435/.567/.565 line in hitter’s counts this year looks great! And it is! But the league average in hitter’s counts is .283/.467/.488, not your standard .250-ish/.310-ish/.410-ish batting line.

Anyway, Castro has been better in hitter’s counts and worse in pitcher’s counts so far this year, though I wouldn’t read too much into it at this point. The season is still young and we’re talking only a handful of plate appearances here. Maybe Starlin really is doing a better job attacking in hitter’s counts. That’d be cool. I think it’s still too early to say that definitively though.

Blastro. (Adam Hunger/Getty)
Blastro. (Adam Hunger/Getty)

Nathaniel asks: Whose first two months in the majors do you find more impressive? Gary Sanchez who came up and dominated, or Aaron Judge who struggled tremendously in September, adjusted and has been one of the best Yankee hitters early on this season?

They’re both very impressive accomplishments, obviously. Sanchez did what he did despite the physical demands of being a starting catcher. Judge made some big time adjustments to get to where he is today. I’m going to go with Judge because I’m a sucker for a redemption story. He’s heard for years his size is a detriment to making contact, failed miserably last year, but still worked hard and turned himself into a monster. Lots and lots and lots of folks were down on Judge over the winter. Lots. He’s worked hard to get to where he is. So has Gary! But I think making the adjustments Judge has is more impressive than playing through more bumps and bruises like Sanchez did a year ago.

Steve asks: I know it is only 14 home games but attendance is down about 3,600 people a game from last year. Stadium is only be filled to about 74% capacity. With a winning and exciting team I was surprised to see this continued downward trend in attendance.

Attendance does not change nearly as quickly as so many people seem to think. When the Yankees win three straight games, a flock of 7,000 people do not rush out and buy tickets. There is always a lag between team performance and attendance changes, and it’s usually months. It takes time for teams to reel fans back in and also create new fans willing to spend their money on baseball games. The Yankees were bad and boring the first four months last season. Ditto the entire 2013 and 2014 seasons. One great month — as excited as I am, that’s all this is right now, one great month — isn’t enough to bring everyone back. A few more months like this will create more excitement and get people back to the park.

Joseph asks: What kind of package would it take to land somebody like James Paxton? He’s still under team control until 2021 and obviously has great stuff. However, his injury history should obviously bring down his value as well.

A year or two ago I said a Gardner-for-Paxton trade didn’t make sense for the Yankees — it was rumored the Yankees asked about Paxton at the time, but were rejected — and welp. Shows what I know. Paxton has a 1.43 ERA (1.53 FIP) with a 30.0% strikeout rate and a 7.3% walk rate this year. He’s also a lefty who throws hard and can’t become a free agent until the 2020-21 offseason, and that’s pretty cool. Paxton’s injury history is very ugly though. That’s the drawback.

Trading for Paxton would be a wonderful idea. But why would the Mariners do it? Unless they’re planning to start a rebuild while guys like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager are productive and owed big money, Seattle is more likely to add pieces that subtract their best pitcher. (Sorry, Felix.) Their window to win is right now and they have baseball’s longest postseason drought. I can’t see them throwing in the towel now. They’re trying to win and need Paxton to do that. And, if the Mariners do dangle Paxton, they wouldn’t be wrong to ask for Torres and more.

Michael asks: Do you think there’s a realistic chance the Yanks re-sign Pineda? Assuming he has a good 2017 (it’s still early), is there a precedent set for someone with 5 years of underwhelming performance and inconsistency who figures it out one year before FA?

Yeah, I think there’s a chance because Pineda is still on the right side of 30 and it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to sign him. Ivan Nova got three years and $26M this past offseason. How much more will it take to bring Pineda back, realistically? I guess that depends how the rest of his season plays out. The Yankees know Pineda better than anyone. They know his stuff, the statistical info, his personality, his health, everything. All of that will factor into the decision. The Yankees do need pitching, so I imagine bringing Pineda back at the right price will be on the table.

DotF: Sanchez doubles, finishes rehab stint in Scranton’s win

Brendan Kuty spoke to Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique about some of the top prospects on his team, so make sure you check it out. Pedrique is always candid. It’s refreshing to read.

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 K — hitting .298/.362/.340 through 23 games, which is pretty much the quintessential Tyler Wade batting line
  • DH Gary Sanchez: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — he’s on his way to Chicago to join the Yankees, according to his Twitter feed … Sanchez went 3-for-8 (.375) with a double and a home run in his three rehab games
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 1 E (fielding)
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 HBP — now hitting .239/.340/.477 through 24 games, and it’s only a matter of time until the batting average climbs given his bat speed
  • RF Mason Williams: 0-4
  • RHP Brady Lail: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, 2 WP, 1 Balk, 6/2 GB/FB — 62 of 101 pitches were strikes (61%) … 22 runs (20 earned) with an 11/11 K/BB in 27.2 innings this year
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 25 of 31 pitches were strikes (81%) … 23/5 K/BB in 13 innings this year after a 106/17 K/BB in 78 innings last year

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

The Yankees have an off-day today and will start a three-game series with the defending World Series champion Cubs at Wrigley Field tomorrow afternoon. That should be fun. Here are a couple links to check out on the off-day:

Here’s an open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing and MLB Network is showing a regional game, likely Red Sox vs. Orioles for those of you in the Tri-State Area. That series has been such an embarrassment for baseball. Also, the (hockey) Rangers are playing Game Four of their second round playoff series, and there are a pair of NBA playoff games on as well. Talk about anything here that is not religion or politics. Thanks in advance.

(The YES Network’s farm system documentary Homegrown: The Path to Pinstripes debuted earlier this week and clips are slowly making their way online. One video is embedded above. Others are here.)

2017 Draft: Nick Allen

Nick Allen | SS

Background
The 18-year-old Allen is currently hitting .357/.471/.589 in 17 games at Francis Parker High School in San Diego. He’s committed to Southern California.

Scouting Report
At a listed 5-foot-8 and 158 lbs., the biggest knock on Allen is his size. There has long been a bias against players that small regardless of position. Allen is a no doubt shortstop long-term with great range and a strong throwing arm. He regularly makes difficult plays look routine. At the plate, he’s a right-handed hitter with gap power and more of a slash-and-dash approach, which better allows him to use his very good speed. Not many expect Allen to hit for much power. That’s not surprising given his size. In addition to the defensive skills and contact ability, Allen gets top of the scale grades for his baseball instincts and makeup. He works extremely hard and knows the game.

Miscellany
In their latest draft prospects rankings Keith Law, MLB.com, and Baseball America all ranked Allen in the same basic spot: 27th, 28th, and 29th, respectively. Put a few more inches on him and he’d probably be a slam dunk first rounder. My guess is Allen ends up going in the second round, or maybe to a team with multiple first round picks (Cubs, Rangers, Blue Jays), because clubs won’t want to roll the dice with their top pick on a kid Allen’s size. The Yankees have the 16th (first round) and 54th (second round) overall picks. Allen seems more likely to be a target at 54 than 16.

Introducing the Yankees’ All-Revenge team

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Plenty of players throughout baseball, but particularly in the American League East, develop the reputation as Yankee killers. Certain guys just play especially well when opposite the pinstripes. Howie Kendrick with the Angels comes to mind. So does the mysterious contributions of Pedro Ciriaco with the Red Sox.

But there is a special breed of Yankee killer: The former Yankee turned Yankee killer. The group I call the All-Revenge team. The guys who the Yankees let go, trade or otherwise give up on and have turned into a thorn in their sides, a few meetings a year.

So I unveil the All-Revenge lineup, former Yankees who have turned their former employers into a most despised adversary. (Note: I chose to use only active players and focused on players who have performed well vs. NYY since leaving the team).

C: Russell Martin

Why does Martin make the team? Martin is perhaps the most obvious thanks to the 2015 division race. He left the Yankees after the team chose to let him walk and instead go with Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli as his immediate replacements. When Martin came back to the AL in 2015 and was in a race with the Yankees, he was ready to pounce.

Over the course of 16 games (13 starts) in 2015, he hit .300/.362/.660 vs. NYY, hitting five home runs with a whopping 18 RBI. Particularly stinging was a two-homer game in September followed up by a go-ahead walk in the 11th inning the next day. He followed that up with four homers, nine RBI and a much more modest .207/.319/.431 line in 2016. He also tried to fight Gary Sanchez last September and extract his pound of flesh from the Yankees. The Bombers held him in check this series, but he’s been a menace in the past.

Signature game: The two-home run game vs. the Yankees on Sept. 11, 2015 was a masterpiece for Martin. He singled home a run to knock Luis Severino out of the game, hit a solo home run off Andrew Bailey and then hit a two-run shot off Chasen Shreve that all but finished off the Yankees. Honorable mention goes to his two-homer game last Aug. 16, which included a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning off Adam Warren. I’ll take the first one because of the division race implications.

1B: Steve Pearce

Why does Pearce make the team? Pearce has played for every team in the AL East except the Red Sox and he has more home runs against the Yankees (10) than any other team except the Rays (10). Pearce has a solid .293/.397/.579 line vs. the Yankees, a tOPS+ of 152, which indicates he’s much better against the Yankees than vs. other teams.

The Yankees gave Pearce just 30 PA in 2012, and he’s had 148 PA to pay them back over the last four years, picking up 34 hits, 14 of which have gone for extra bases. Five of his 25 career HBP are from Yankees pitching. He does special damage at Yankee Stadium with seven home runs with a .338/.419/.692 mark.

Signature game: Pearce has a plentiful number of performances for this list. He had a go-ahead homer off Adam Warren in an Orioles win on Sept. 9, 2015. He almost single-handedly beat the Yankees with a three-hit game last Aug. 28 with a home run and two-run single off CC Sabathia and Warren, respectively. (Man, Warren’s getting beat down in these games). His four-hit, two-homer game Tuesday would be a surefire winner if the Jays had won.

But his most clutch anti-Yankee moment came Sept. 14, 2014, again with the Orioles. With the O’s trailing 2-1 in the ninth inning at Camden Yards on Sunday Night Baseball, Pearce lined a game-tying double off David Robertson. He’d come home to score on a walk-off double from All-Revenge team honorable mention Kelly Johnson.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

2B: Robinson Cano

Why does Cano make the team? Cano leads the rest of the All-Revenge team infield, which has had less experience facing the Yankees, having done so only in the last three seasons. However, Cano did quick work to get onto this list. He’s batting .324/.377/.479 vs. his former squad and has three home runs. His batting average jumps up to .363 when you take out his 3-for-16 struggles against Masahiro Tanaka

Signature game: His highest Win Probability Added in his first two seasons with the Mariners came against the Yankees. He had two two-run homers against Michael Pineda on July 18, 2015, knocking in all four runs during the Mariners’ 4-3 win over the Yankees. Both home runs came with the game tied and one-upped his former squad.

3B: Yangervis Solarte

Why does Solarte make the team? The No. 1 reason Solarte is here? There aren’t many third basemen to work with. Thanks to Alex Rodriguez for holding down the position for so long. Solarte still made a big impact in his three games vs. the Yankees last July. Six hits in 10 at-bats with two walks, a home run and two doubles. Batting .600 with a 1.767 OPS against a team, even in one series, still has merit.

Signature game: Even though the Padres lost, 6-3, Solarte had one of his four career four-hit games last July 3, scoring two runs and hitting a solo shot. Solarte turns 30 this July, so there’s a solid chance he gets more games to get further revenge for the Yankees trading him.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

SS: Eduardo Nunez

Why does Nunez make the team? Again, a lack of shortstops. But Nunez has still performed well. 15 hits in 48 at-bats vs. the Yankees. Only two extra-base hits, but one went for a home run. All of his 14 games against the Yankees were with the Twins, and now he’s playing a bevy of positions for the Giants.

Signature game: Nunez had a clutch double off the bench in 2014 but it came with the Twins already leading and Matt Daley in the game. He also had a two-hit game with a home run last June. But his top anti-Yankee moment came in a game where he went 1 for 4 with a walk in 2015. On Aug. 17, his one hit was lined off Bryan Mitchell‘s face, ending the rookie’s night early and turning the game into a bullpen affair. I get wanting revenge, but that was ugly!

Getting reacquainted (Getty Images)
Getting reacquainted (Getty Images)

OF: Melky Cabrera

Why does Cabrera make the team? If Martin isn’t the captain of the All-Revenge squad, Melky would do just fine in the role. He’s batting .302/.350/.527 in 198 plate appearances against his former club. He’s actually played more seasons out of NY (8) than with the Yankees (5) at this point. In 2014 alone, he faced the Yankees 15 times, had hits in all but two games and racked up six multi-hit games.

Signature game: Cabrera’s first ever series against the Yankees came in 2011 with the Royals and he helped KC win the series in the clincher on May 12 with a two-hit night. Both his hits went for extra bases, including an RBI double (before getting picked off second) and a home run off Ivan Nova in a 11-5 Royals win.

OF: Curtis Granderson

Why does Granderson make the team? Granderson is the one player on this list with experience playing vs. the Yankees both before and after coming to the Bronx. He had four HR and 15 extra-base hits vs. the Yankees during his Tigers days (not including the ’06 playoffs). He’s 12 for 46 with four home runs and eight walks since joining the Mets.

Signature game: In his second game vs. the Yankees since moving crosstown, Granderson came through big time. He went 2 for 3 with two walks, a home run, three RBI and two runs scored. This game (May 13, 2014) was highlighted by both Vidal Nuno and Zack Wheeler exiting early and Daisuke Matsuzaka outdueling Alfredo Aceves in the battle of the bullpens. 2014 was a weird time.

P.S. If I was willing to include pre-Yankee days, this is the obvious winner.

OF: Austin Jackson

Why does Jackson make the team? Capping off the list is a player who never actually played for the Yankees. Jackson was a top prospect but was traded for the man above him on this team, never giving him a chance to don the pinstripes. In 158 plate appearances over 37 games against his ex-organization, he has a respectable .289/.361/.444 batting line with nine doubles, two triples and three home runs. Not to mention five stolen bases. In classic Jackson fashion though, he does have 48 strikeouts.

Signature game: Flash back to mid-August 2013, when Jackson was center fielder for the AL Central-winning Tigers. He led off an Aug. 10 game vs. Phil Hughes with a triple and scored, then later hit a solo dinger in the top of the fifth, helping knock Hughes out of the game. The Tigers would go on to win 9-3 after Jackson drew a walk and scored later in the game.

Disagree with a player making the team? Have someone else in mind? Or suggestions about current pitchers who have made good on their sweet sweet revenge against the Yankees? Let me know. The All-Revenge team can change series to series with one or two standout performances or with a trade. But for now, this is the lineup that prevails.

Yankeemetrics: Rising Legend of Aaron Judge (May 1-3)

(AP)
(AP)

Blue Jays at home in the Bronx
Looking to get back on track after dropping the final game of their weekend set against Baltimore, the Yankees were hardly thrilled to see the Blue Jays as the next opponent on their homestand this week.

After beating the Yankees 7-1 on Monday night, Toronto improved to 13-7 in the Bronx since the start of the 2015 season, the only visiting team with double-digit wins at Yankee Stadium over the last three years.

Luis Severino was coming off the finest performance of his career — seven shutout innings vs. Boston last week – but he produced his worst outing of the season on Tuesday, an unsurprising result given the opponent. Severino entered the game with a 5.89 ERA vs. the Blue Jays, his highest against any team he’d faced more than once, and that mark grew to 6.38 after he allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees were down only a run through five frames, but the Blue Jays broke the game open with a three-run sixth inning that included the rare 2-RBI sacrifice fly, on an acrobatic catch by Jacoby Ellsbury near the wall.

This was just the fifth time since the statistic was first tracked in 1954 that the Yankees had surrendered a multi-RBI sac fly in a game. The others: Sept. 16, 2014 vs Rays (also the last time it happened in MLB and also involving Ellsbury); July 24, 1990 vs Rangers; May 15, 1983 vs White Sox; July 9, 1961 vs Red Sox.

(AP)
(AP)

Aaron Judge, probably human?
The Yankees first losing streak since the opening week of the season ended nearly as quickly as it began thanks to an easy 11-5 win on Tuesday night, snapping their mini-two-game skid.

The Bronx Bombers lived up to their famous nickname, scoring those 11 runs on 16 hits, including five homers. This was their second five-homer game in 2017 (also on April 28 against Baltimore), making it the first season in franchise history that the Yankees produced multiple five-homer games within the team’s first 25 contests.

The homer barrage was led by the starting outfielders, with Aaron Hicks contributing a solo shot while Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner belted two homers each. It was just the second time in the last 50 years that two Yankee flycatchers each hit multiple homers in the same game. The only other instance was when Mel Hall and Jesse Barfield went deep twice on May 27, 1991 against the Red Sox.

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

It was Gardner’s second multi-homer game in the past four games, a notable feat considering that Gardner had only two multi-homer performances on his ledger in his first 1,085 career games.

Even more improbable is the fact that G.G.B.G. had yet to record his first RBI this season prior to the start of this power outburst on April 29 – in fact, his 76 plate appearances through April 28 were the most by any zero-RBI player in MLB.

Despite the huge contributions up and down the lineup in this game – six players had multiple hits and five players drove in at least one run – of course it was Judge that stole the show with his 11th and 12th home runs of the season.

Judge’s first one in the third inning was a 337-foot wall-scraper that just made it over the fence in right field, the shortest home run he’s hit so far in his career. The second one was a moonshot with a launch angle of 38.7 degrees, the highest for any home run he’s hit so far in his career.

After Tuesday’s two-homer, four-RBI night, Judge’s numbers reached historical proportions for a player this early into the season. He is the:

  • Third Yankee ever to hit at least 12 homers in the team’s first 25 contests, joining A-Rod (14 in 2007) and Babe Ruth (12 in 1921). Notably, A-Rod finished that 2007 MVP season with an MLB-best 54 homers while the Great Bambino led the majors with 59 homers in 1921.
  • Second player in MLB history at the age of 25 or younger to compile at least 12 homers and 25 RBI within the team’s first 25 games of the season. The other was Eric Davis in 1987, who went on to have an All-Star campaign with 37 homers and 100 RBI for the Reds.

Judge also etched his name in the record books with his singular performance at the plate on Tuesday night. He is the:

  • Third Yankee right fielder to have at least two homers, two walks and four RBIs in a game, a list that also includes a couple franchise legends in Dave Winfield (1985) and Joe DiMaggio (1936).
  • Youngest Yankee (at the age of 25 years, 6 days) with a multi-home run, multi-walk game since a 24-year-old Mickey Mantle in 1956.
(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Judge re-writes record books, again
No deficit is too big for this team, which celebrated yet another improbable come-from-behind victory on Wednesday night. Down 4-0 before they came to bat in the first inning and 6-3 after two frames, the Yankees rallied to win 8-6 and reclaim sole possession of first place in the AL East. This was their fifth comeback win when trailing by at least three runs this season, matching the Cubs and Astros for the most in the majors.

Matt Holliday got the scoring started early, crushing a three-run, 446-foot bomb in the first inning. It was the 300th career home run for the 37-year-old veteran, a milestone blast that confirms Holliday as one of the game’s rare sluggers with an elite hit tool: He is one of three active players to have at least 300 homers and a .300 career batting average, along with Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.

Aaron Judge added to his ever-growing legend with his 13th dinger of the season in the third inning. The unprecedented 435-foot blast to dead-center made the 25-year-old power-hitting cyborg the youngest player in major-league history to hit at least 13 homers within the team’s first 26 games.

Looking for another impressive #AaronJudgeFact? Here’s the short list of right-handed batters since 1950 to match Judge’s 13 homers within the season’s first 26 games: Nelson Cruz (2015), A-Rod (2007), Pujols (2006), Mark McGwire (1992), Mike Schmidt (1976) and Willie Mays (1964).

Thoughts before the Yankees begin a five-game NL road trip

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have an off-day today and it’s a good off-day because they won yesterday. It’s always nice to spend an off-day riding the high of a win, especially a come-from-behind win like last night’s. This team sure is fun, isn’t it? Anyway, I have some thoughts on things, so let’s get to ’em.

1. I know we spend a lot of time talking about Aaron Judge, but this can’t be said enough: he looks like a completely different player this season. Two recent at-bats really drove home that point for me. The first was last Friday night, in the ninth inning of that huge comeback win against the Orioles. Starlin Castro had already tied the game when Judge stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases empty. Judge hit two home runs earlier in the game, and with the score tied and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, it can be real easy to go into hero mode and try to hit a walk-off homer. Instead, he remained patient and took the five-pitch walk because the pitcher didn’t give him anything to hit. The other at-bat came in the seventh inning Tuesday night. Judge fell behind in the count 0-2 to Jason Grilli, worked it back to 3-2, fouled off four two-strike pitches until he got something he could punish, then clocked a three-run homer. Last season Judge was close to an automatic strikeout in two-strike counts. Now he’s spitting on pitcher’s pitches, working counts, and hammering the pitches he should hammer. Love this guy so much. It’s hard to believe he’s turned into this after what we saw last year.

2. As great as Judge as been — and he’s been awesome — the story so far this season has been more about the veterans than the rookies. The Yankees are where they are despite getting basically nothing from Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez, mostly because veterans like Castro, Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Matt Holliday have started the season well. Holliday is new to the team, but the other three guys were with the Yankees last season and they all underperformed. Now they’re big time contributors. I wonder how much of that, if any, has to do with the farm system being so strong. The veterans saw all the talented young players in Spring Training, the Gleyber Torreses and Clint Fraziers and Dustin Fowlers and everyone else, and it pushed them to be better. Think about it. Castro has already been traded away by one rebuilding team. Now he’s with the Yankees and sees what a kid like Gleyber can do? It can be easy to think that kid is coming for your job. Players always say they worry only about their game and things they can control, but it’s human nature to look over your shoulder a bit. Perhaps a byproduct of this total awesome farm system is the prospects pushing the veterans to be better. That’d be neat.

3. Boy, the Red Sox aren’t nearly as scary offensively without David Ortiz, are they? It was really noticeable when the Yankees played those two games up in Fenway Park last week. Don’t get me wrong, guys like Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez are dangerous hitters, but Ortiz changed the entire dynamic of that offense. In the past I was always aware of where the Red Sox were in the lineup and kinda do the math to see how far away Ortiz was, and what the situation could be when he got to the plate. Know what I mean? The Red Sox are still a very talented team. Without Ortiz though, there’s just a very different feel to their lineup. That big scary bat who tormented the Yankees for more than a decade isn’t there anymore. And if I feel this way, I imagine the pitchers and Joe Girardi and everyone else with the Yankees feels the same way too. How could you not? Ortiz was an undeniable presence not just in the batter’s box, but even in the on-deck circle. You knew where his lineup spot was at all times. It’s nice not to have to worry about that anymore.

4. Not so bold prediction: we’re going to hear rumors about the Yankees looking for a left-handed reliever at some in next few weeks. They looked for another bullpen lefty pretty much all winter, took a flier on Jon Niese that hasn’t really worked out — Niese is still in Extended Spring Training building arm strength — and now Tommy Layne is getting knocked around. Left-handed hitters are 5-for-13 (.385) with two walks (.429) against him. Small sample size, yeah, but journeymen like Layne usually don’t get the benefit of waiting for their numbers to correct. There’s a reason he’s been with four organizations the last six years. The Yankees still have Chasen Shreve on the roster and some non-40-man roster southpaws like Tyler Webb and Jason Gurka stashed in Triple-A, so they have (less than stellar) options to cycle through. Maybe they’ll get lucky with one of them. My guess is they’ll look outside the organization for lefty relief help before long. Who will they target? I have no idea. I expect it to be a small move though. Nothing exciting that requires giving up good prospects.

5. You can’t win a postseason spot in April, but you sure can lose one, and that’s pretty much what happened to the Yankees last season. They went 8-14 in April and never really recovered. And, in the long run, it was the best thing for them because it led to the trade deadline sell-off. This year the opposite has happened. The Yankees are off to a great start, and while there is still a long way to go this season, their early season success has had a real impact on their playoff odds. From FanGraphs:

postseason-odds-050317

The Yankees have gone from a 15.9% chance to play in October on Opening Day to 57.7% following last night’s win. That’s a jump of 41.8 percentage points in basically a month. That’s a huge increase. By no means are postseason odds the be all, end all. At the end of the day, no one knows anything in this game, so why buy into the postseason odds? The point is the great start has significantly improved the Yankees’ chances of playing in October, whether it’s 41.8 percentage points or some other number. The improvement is real. The Yankees have helped themselves quite a bit these first four weeks or so.

6. And finally, it’s fun to feel like the Yankees truly have a homefield advantage again. That’s how I feel, anyway. The Yankees were 48-33 at home last season — that record surprised me — despite a just okay +23 run differential. In 2014 they were 43-38 with a -22 run differential at home. In 2013 it was 46-35 and a -14 run differential. So far this season the Yankees are 12-4 at home and have outscored their opponents by 38 runs. That’s more like it. I want the Yankees to dominate at home. Opposing pitchers should be terrified to pitch in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have kicked some serious butt at home early this year because of the power in their lineup and because their bullpen makes leads stand up. That wasn’t always the case the last few years, especially that part about the power.