Baseball America ranks three Yankees among best short season league prospects for 2016

Rutherford. (@MiLB)
Rutherford. (@MiLB)

A few days ago the crew at Baseball America started their annual look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league for the 2016 season. So far they’ve made their way through the various short season leagues — at least the ones relevant to the Yankees — which include the Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League, and NY-Penn League. The Yankees have two GCL teams plus one each in the Appy League and NYPL.

Starting with the Appy League (subs. req’d), Blue Jays OF Vladimir Guerrero Jr. claimed the top spot and was followed by two Yankees farmhands: OF Blake Rutherford and OF Estevan Florial are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. In the chat, Hudson Belinsky singled out 3B Dermis Garcia, SS Wilkerman Garcia, SS Oswaldo Cabrera, OF Leonardo Molina, OF Isiah Gilliam, and C Donny Sands as others who received consideration. RHP Rafael Lara was mentioned as a sleeper.

“Rutherford controls at-bats and has a sound understanding of which pitches he can drive. His swing is geared more for line drives than home runs, and he hits lots of hard doubles from gap to gap, projecting for more over-the-fence power as he matures,” said the write-up. They also note Rutherford has very good outfield instincts but may lack the straight line speed needed to remain in center field long-term.

As for Florial, the write-up says he “wowed evaluators with his raw tools this summer,” particularly his “plus bat speed … giving him plus-plus raw power in batting practice.” Florial also has true center field defensive skills. The biggest red flag is a very aggressive swing that led to a 29.1% strikeout rate. “When he does connect, however, the ball explodes off his bat,” added the scouting report.

The GCL prospects list (subs. req’d) was, predictably, lead by Phillies OF Mickey Moniak, the first overall pick in this summer’s draft. Tigers RHP Matt Manning and Nationals OF Juan Soto round out the top three. SS Diego Castillo is the only Yankees prospect on the list and he ranked 19th. Ben Badler said 3B Nelson Gomez has huge raw power in the chat, but also “the approach he showed this year is worrisome,” which is why he didn’t make the top 20.

“(Castillo) has great feel for the barrel with a short, simple stroke with good bat path. He is a high contact hitter with an inside-out approach, wearing out the opposite field,” said the write-up, which also noted Castillo doesn’t have much power. His defense at short is very good as well, enough that he projects to remain at the position long-term. “He’s a smart, instinctive player who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.”

The Yankees did not have a single player on the NYPL prospects list (subs. req’d), which isn’t surprising. The Staten Island Yankees weren’t a particularly deep prospect team this year. 2B Nick Solak was by far the best healthy prospect on the team, and he’s didn’t make the cut in a league loaded with first round picks and high profile international signees. Athletics LHP A.J. Puk, the sixth pick in this year’s draft, was the league’s top prospect.

You can see the complete top 20 lists without a subscription right here. You just can’t read the scouting reports. I’m not sure what the posting schedule is, but the next list relevant to the Yankees is the Low-A South Atlantic League. SS Hoy Jun Park and RHP Dillon Tate are the Yankees prospects most likely to appear on the list. Others like C Luis Torrens and RHP Domingo Acevedo won’t meet the playing time criteria and aren’t eligible.

Fixing Dellin Betances is a process that should start now, not next season

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

After five excellent months, Dellin Betances has hit a wall in September and hit it hard. He’s allowed 13 runs in 8.1 innings this month while also putting 19 guys on base. Two nights ago Dellin faced three batters and didn’t retire any of them before giving way to Tommy Layne. Opponents have hit .282/.404/.385 against Betances in September. Bad. Bad bad bad.

The biggest problem with Betances, as it often is, are the walks and an overall lack of control. He’s walked eight in 8.1 innings this month after walking 20 batters in his first 63.2 innings of the season. The other night Dellin threw three strikes out of eleven total pitches, and he wasn’t exactly missing just off the plate. It wasn’t a bunch of borderline calls going against him. From Brooks Baseball:

Dellin Betances Blue Jays

“Honestly, right now I just feel like my mechanics are off,” said Betances to Chad Jennings following’s Monday game. “I’m yanking a lot of pitches and falling behind; that’s what’s hurting me. I’ve said it all along. Earlier in the year, I wasn’t walking guys. Later part of this year, I’ve been walking a lot of guys and that’s what’s been hurting me.”

Control problems — extreme control problems at that — are nothing new for Betances, who flamed out as a starter in the minors because he couldn’t throw strikes. I don’t mean paint the corners. Basic get the ball over the plate stuff. Dellin walked 69 batters in 74.2 innings as Triple-A starter in 2012, then another 16 in 24 innings in 2013 before being moved to the bullpen full-time.

Why have Betances’ mechanics fallen out of whack? There are a million possible reasons. It could be fatigue. Maybe it’s because he’s 6-foot-8 with long limbs and isn’t the most athletic guy in the world. Or maybe he’s a mental wreck because the pressure of closing for the New York Yankees is just too much to take. I highly doubt it that’s last one, Dellin’s been getting huge outs for the Yankees for three years now, but you never know.

Whatever it is — my guess is it’s a combination of fatigue and being prone to mechanical lapses — this is something the Yankees and Betances have to figure out, and that process should start right now. Not next year. I understand wanting to shut him down for the season, I totally get it, but as long as he’s healthy, he should pitch and work on getting himself right. There are five games left this season. There’s no reason he can’t pitch in two or three of them.

“No, I don’t think (shutting him down is) a good thing to do. I think he needs to get out on some good notes,” said Joe Girardi to Brendan Kuty following Monday’s game. “I think he’s a little frustrated. But we’ll get that ironed out. He’s been through this before. I know I’ve said that, but he’s been through this. We’ll get it ironed out. We’ll give him a day off and we’ll get him back out there. ”

Now, if Betances goes to the Yankees and says he’s running on fumes, then yeah, shut him down. Pitching is inherently risky. Pitching while fatigued is even riskier. The Yankees want to get Betances right but they’re not going to risk injury in the process. If he’s dealing with nothing more than normal late-September fatigue, then fine, let him pitch. Learning to be effective when less than 100% is part of being a big leaguer.

Either way, Betances is a total mess right now, and to me it seems to be mechanical more than anything. He’s just out of sorts and needs to get himself back on track. It’s not the first time he’s gone through this — it’s the first time he’s done at the MLB level, but not in his life — and chances are it won’t be the last. He’s worked his way out of it before. Betances knows how this works.

I don’t see shutting down a struggling player as a way to deal with the problem. That’s avoiding the problem. As long as Dellin is healthy, get him out there on the mound and use these last five game as an opportunity to work on things and hopefully get him back on track.

Austin’s late homer leads Yankees to 6-4 win over Red Sox

Not dead yet! The Yankees, with an assist from the Blue Jays (groan), avoided elimination from postseason contention Tuesday night with a 6-4 win over the Red Sox in the series opener. Five games left in the season and this team still hasn’t been eliminated. Pretty wild.

Rookie of the Decade. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Rookie of the Decade. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Kid No. 1
The Yankees were led by four young players Tuesday night. Young players they hope will be part of the next great Yankees team. Right at the front of the line is, of course, catcher Gary Sanchez, who smacked his 20th home run of the season in the first inning. He jumped on David Price’s first pitch fastball for a two-run home run into the Red Sox’s bullpen for a quick 2-0 lead. Sanchez has four homers in eight career games against Boston. He’s a Red Sox killer already. Love it.

Kid No. 2
I don’t know about you folks, but boy do I like what I’ve seen from Luis Cessa since he moved into the rotation. He held the Red Sox to two runs in six innings overall Tuesday night, and he started the game with five scoreless innings on only 56 pitches. There were some just misses mixed in there — the Red Sox hit a few balls I thought had a chance to get out, but ultimately stayed in the park — but hey, five scoreless innings is five scoreless innings.

The messy sixth inning started after Cessa appeared to hurt his back during his warmup tosses. He made his eight warmup pitches, then flexed his back, which prompted a visit from the trainer. Cessa stayed in the game and didn’t even throw any test pitches. The Yankees were up 3-0 at the time, and that sixth inning started with an error — Cessa threw away a soft ground ball, allowing Andrew Benintendi to go to second — and two base hits to score a run and put runners on second and third.

Suddenly that 3-0 lead was very much in jeopardy. It was now 3-1 with the tying run on second, and of course David Ortiz was due up. Given Cessa’s home run problems and five innings worth of near misses, everyone expected Ortiz to put a ball into orbit. Instead, Cessa struck him out for the first out of the inning and his first strikeout of the game. Well timed, I’d say. Mookie Betts drove in a run with a ground out, then Cessa fanned Hanley Ramirez to preserve the 3-2 lead.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. Not too shabby for a rookie making his eighth career start, especially against a great hitting team that had just seen him two weeks ago. Cessa now has a 3.72 ERA in 46 innings as a starter this season. The home runs are a problem — this was only his second homer-less start — but I like everything else I’ve seen. Cessa throws four pitches, works quick, and showed some real gumption to escape that sixth inning jam with the lead.

Kid No. 3
Kid No. 3 isn’t a rookie, but he’s a young player who is important to the Yankees long-term. It’s Didi Gregorius. A half-inning after Cessa escaped that sixth inning with a 3-2 lead, Gregorius swatted his 20th home run of the season to give the Yankees another multi-run lead. It was a line drive into the short porch against Price. I have to say, getting 20 homers from a very good defensive shortstop is pretty awesome. Especially since he’s only 26 years old. Heck of a season for Didi.

Kid No. 4
Because these games are never easy, the Red Sox rallied to tie the game 4-4 in the seventh inning. Aaron Hill hit a solo home run against Tommy Layne, then later in the inning Dustin Pedroia poked a run-scoring single inside the first base bag to bring home the tying run. I’m not quite sure why Layne was facing Pedroia in that spot, especially with Blake Parker ready to go in the bullpen, but he faced him and it led to the tying run. Blah.

Luckily Tyler Austin came through in the next half-inning. Austin Romine opened the frame with a single to left — I was pretty surprised Eric Young Jr. didn’t pinch-run — then Price tried to get cute and blow Austin away with fastballs. The first was fouled off, the second was swung through for an 0-2 count, and the third was inside-outed into the right field seats for a two-run home run. The Yankees retook the lead, this time 6-4.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Austin has hit four home runs this season and all four have a) given the Yankees the lead, and b) been opposite field jobs at Yankee Stadium. His right field pop is very real. Austin has been glued to the bench for the last two weeks or so, but he got a chance Tuesday night, and he came through with yet another important home run. That must have felt good. The kids did some nice work against the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The B-Team Bullpen
Luis Severino‘s short start Monday night meant the Yankees went into Tuesday’s game with limited reliever availability. That’s why Layne, Parker, and Richard Bleier had to bridge the two-inning gap between Cessa and Tyler Clippard, the closer du jour. Those three guys each got two outs. Bleier got Chris Young to ground out to third and Jackie Bradley Jr. to strike out in the eighth, both while representing the tying run. He’s done some nice work this month.

Clippard came in for the ninth inning with the Yankees up 6-4, and again, these games are never easy, so of course Benintendi doubled to right with one out to bring the tying run to the plate. Clippard then walked Pedroia to put the tying run on base. Sure. Fine. Great. Clippard got Xander Bogaerts to pop up on the first pitch for the second out inning, which brought Ortiz to the plate as the go ahead run. Drama at the ballpark.

Ortiz at the plate in the ninth inning representing the go-ahead run meant we were all about to have our hearts broken. Especially with Clippard on the mound. He’s served up some pretty crushing home runs lately. The Red Sox buried the Yankees in Fenway Park two weeks ago and it was about to happen again. A weird thing happened though. Clippard struck Ortiz out to end the game. Who’d a thunk it? Here’s the at-bat:

Tyler Clippard David Ortiz

One fastball the entire at-bat, and it was way up and out of the zone. Clippard threw Ortiz a steady diet of changeups — PitchFX classified some of his changeups as a splitter for whatever reason, though it’s functionally the same pitch — and got him to swing through a mistake pitch up and out of the zone for strike three. Ortiz swung at four ball. How about that? No soul-crushing home run would come on this night. Hooray for that.

Leftovers
The Yankees had 13 hits as a team, including three each by Gregorius and Austin, and two each by Ellsbury and Romine. The 6-7-8-9 hitters went a combined 8-for-15 (.533) with four runs scored and three runs driven in. Always nice to get that kind of production from the bottom of the lineup. Especially from Austin after he was stuck on the bench.

This was Price’s fifth start against the Yankees this season, and the third time he allowed six runs. He allowed five runs in another start, and in the other one, he allowed three runs on eleven hits in 5.2 innings. All told, the Yankees scored 26 runs on 47 hits and six walks in 29.2 innings against Price this season. That’s the good stuff right there.

There was a pretty silly moment in the stands in the fourth inning. Some guy proposed to his girlfriend on the scoreboard, and he managed to drop the damn ring when he was about to pop the question. Other fans in the section and security guards spent an inning looking for it. They eventually found it and the guy made a proper proposal. Check it out:

If nothing else, those two have a pretty great engagement story. That had to be embarrassing and terrifying, and also a giant relief once they found the ring. Hope the couple has a happy life together.

And finally, the Blue Jays beat the Orioles, which means the Yankees are now only four games back of the second wildcard spot. Their tragic number remains two. It ain’t over yet.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, MLB.com has the video highlights, and RAB has Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph, which doesn’t accurately reflect the tension of that ninth inning:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game two of this three-game series. Bryan Mitchell and Clay Buchholz will be on the mound Wednesday night. There are only five games left this season, so head on over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of them live at Yankee Stadium.

Game 157: The Final Homestand

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees have six games remaining this season, all at home. Three with the Red Sox, then three with the Orioles. They are mathematically still alive in the postseason race, and for those final three games with the O’s to mean anything, they need some combination of Yankees wins and Orioles losses totaling at least five these next three days. If that happens, New York could sweep that final series and force a Game 163 tiebreaker. (Well, the Tigers and Astros and Mariners could throw a big wrench into this, but humor me.)

Of course, that means having to root for the small time Blue Jays these next few days since the Orioles are in Toronto. The Yankees’ tragic numbers is two, so even if they miraculously sweep the BoSox this week, they could be knocked out should the O’s win two of three from the Jays. One thing at a time though. Get a win over the Red Sox tonight and hope the stupid Blue Jays beat the stupid Orioles in stupid Rogers Centre. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Luis Cessa

It’s cloudy and cool and weirdly humid in New York today. There is no rain in the forecast tonight and that’s most important. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN2 nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) played catch today and “felt nothing at all.” He’s going to long toss tomorrow, and he wants to make his start Saturday regardless of whether the Yankees are in the race or not.

Red Sox Rotation Update: Drew Pomeranz has forearm soreness and won’t make his schedule start Thursday. Lefty Henry Owens will go instead. He hasn’t pitched in a game since September 5th.

9/27 to 9/29 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Matt Hazlett/Getty)
(Matt Hazlett/Getty)

I think we’ve all been waiting about 14 seasons for this: David Ortiz’s final series against the Yankees. The Yankees are planning a ceremony to honor Ortiz prior to Thursday’s game, and I can’t imagine anyone is seriously upset by that. If you are, maybe take a step back and take a deep breath or something. Anyway, the Red Sox are in the Bronx for a three-game set. The Yankees are 5-11 against the BoSox this season, though most of the damage has come in Fenway Park. The two clubs have split the six previous games in Yankee Stadium this year.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Red Sox are molten hot right now. They come into this series riding an eleven-game win streak, the first four of which were those four awful games in Fenway last week. The Yankees did hold the lead in three of those four games though, so … yay? Anyway, Boston swept the Orioles and Rays last week to open up a comfortable six-game lead in the AL East. They’re 92-64 with a +192 run differential overall, and their magic number to clinch the division is one. New York’s tragic number is two. Pretty good chance the Red Sox will clinch the division and the Yankees will be eliminated this series.

Offense & Defense

No team has had a more dominant offense the last few years than the 2016 Red Sox. They’re averaging 5.51 runs per game, the most by any team since the 2009 Yankees scored 5.65 runs per game. Boston needs to score 39 runs in their final six games to become the first team to score 900+ runs since those 2009 Yankees scored 915, so it’s within reach, but not a lock to happen. They have a team 114 wRC+ and are without 3B Pablo Sandoval (shoulder), C/OF Blake Swihart (ankle), and IF Josh Rutledge (knee), all of whom had season-ending surgery.

Betts. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Betts. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

The top of manager John Farrell’s lineup is set: 2B Dustin Pedroia (121 wRC+), SS Xander Bogaerts (111 wRC+), DH David Ortiz (167 wRC+), RF Mookie Betts (137 wRC+), and 1B Hanley Ramirez (127 wRC+) bat 1-5 every game. That’s one of the best lineup top fives we’ve seen in quite some time. Lately 3B Travis Shaw (89 wRC+) has been hitting sixth and it seems like the Red Sox want him to take hold of the third base job heading into the postseason, but he hasn’t obliged. He owns a 61 wRC+ in September.

OF Andrew Benintendi (134 wRC+) and OF Chris Young (125 wRC+) are platooning in left field while CF Jackie Bradley (121 wRC+) and C Sandy Leon (128 wRC+) play everyday. Leon has cooled down big time these last few weeks, which was entirely expected. IF Aaron Hill (88 wRC+) and UTIL Brock Holt (90 wRC+) are the frequently used bench players. C Ryan Hanigan, C Christian Vazquez, C Bryan Holaday, IF Deven Marrero, IF Marco Hernandez, and IF Yoan Moncada are the extra players.

The Red Sox are a good defensive team, especially up the middle with Leon, Pedroia, Bogaerts, and Bradley. Betts is very good in right as well, and both Benintendi and Young get the job done in left. The corner infield spots can be a problem. Shaw is a first baseman playing third and Hanley is a DH playing first. Generally speaking though, the Red Sox are a sound club in the field.

Pitching Probables

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
Oh wow, look at that, the Yankees are going to face David Price. Weird. You never see that. Price, 31, as a 3.91 ERA (3.38 FIP) in 218.2 and 32 starts in his first season with the Red Sox. Great strikeout (24.6%) and walk (5.1%) numbers, as usual, and middling home run (1.07 HR/9) and grounder (44.1%) rates, also as usual He makes up for that with a lot of weak pop-ups and fly balls. Price’s platoon split is small and his fastball still lives in the mid-90s. His cutter checks in at a tick below that and it’s an extremely effective pitch he likes to backdoor to righties. A mid-80s changeup in his primary offspeed pitch, and he’ll also throw a few low-80s curves per start as well. Four times the Yankees have faced Price this season. Four. He has a 7.71 ERA in those four starts and the Yankees are hitting .350/.387/.540 against him, so they have that going for them.

Wednesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (vs. NYY)
The overall numbers are ugly — Buchholz has a 5.00 ERA (5.18 FIP) in 133.1 innings in 2016 — but they don’t tell the whole story because he’s been bouncing back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. The 32-year-old has a 5.29 ERA (5.48 FIP) in 110.2 innings as a starter this year, though that includes a 3.97 ERA (4.72 FIP) in September. So, long story short, Buchholz has been a bit more effective recently than he has been for much of the season. His peripherals are mediocre at best (15.3 K%, 9.3 BB%, 40.7 GB%, 1.42 HR/9) and lefties have had much more success against him than righties. These days Buchholz sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his two non-fastballs. He’s faced the Yankees twice this year, once out of the bullpen (two-thirds of an inning) and once as a starter (two runs in six innings).

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Thursday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
For a guy who started the season in the NL West, the Yankees sure have seen a lot of Pomeranz this year. The 27-year-old southpaw has a 3.35 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 30 starts and 169.2 innings overall, though he had much more success with the Padres (2.47 ERA and 3.14 FIP) than he has with the Red Sox (4.68 ERA and 4.86 FIP). His overall strikeout (26.4%) and ground ball (46.4%) rates are good, though his walk (9.3%) and homer (1.17 HR/9) numbers are not good. He has a 1.87 HR/9 with Boston. Yikes. Pomeranz has a negligible platoon split thanks mostly to his big upper-70s curveball and mid-80s cutter. He throws the curve about as often as he throws his low-90s four-seam fastball, so he uses it a lot. For whatever reason he’s more or less abandoned his changeup since the trade to Boston. The Yankees have faced Pomeranz three times and have had more more success each time: one run in seven inning in July (with the Padres), one run in 5.2 innings in August (with the Red Sox), and four runs in 3.2 innings (with the Red Sox).

Bullpen Status

The bullpen was a big weakness for the Red Sox for much of the season, but things are starting to fall into place now, right before the postseason. They still lack a shutdown lefty. That’s about the only glaring need. Anyway, here is the bullpen Farrell is working with these days.

Closer: RHP Craig Kimbrel (2.65 ERA/2.59 FIP)
Setup: RHP Koji Uehara (3.60/3.43), RHP Brad Ziegler (2.24/3.00)
Middle: LHP Fernando Abad (3.66/3.97), RHP Matt Barnes (4.13/3.67), LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.21/3.14), RHP Junichi Tazawa (4.25/4.29)
Extra: RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Heath Hembree, LHP Henry Owens, RHP Noe Ramirez, LHP Robby Scott

With the Red Sox set to clinch the AL East title very soon, don’t be surprised if the take it easy on Kimbrel and Uehara this week and give high-leverage work to some of the kids. Their focus will shift from trying to win games to preparing for the postseason very soon.

The Red Sox had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get this late in the season. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, of which only about five guys are used regularly.

Yankeemetrics: Fighting ’til the end [Sept. 23-26]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Zeroes
The Yankees late September collapse reached full throttle on Friday night with an ugly defeat, 9-0, to the Blue Jays in the series opener. It was their second-worst shutout loss ever in Toronto, behind only a 14-0 whitewashing on Sept. 4, 2001.

The loss also officially eliminated the Yankees from contention for the division crown, their fourth straight season without a title. Before this streak, they had never gone more than two seasons without winning the division since the leagues were split into three divisions in 1994.

Even more depressing is that they never spent a single day in first place in the AL East. The last season the Yankees failed to get to the top of the division standings was 1997, when the Orioles dominated from start-to-finish, spending a whopping 181 days as the front-runner (including off-days).

(AP)
(AP)

Zeroes again
The Yankees offensive slump reached near-historic proportions with another demoralizing loss on Saturday — their third scoreless game in a row dating back to the series finale in Tampa. Let’s recap the gory details of this awfulness with bullet points:

  • It’s the first time the Yankees have been shut out three games in a row since 1975 and just the sixth time in franchise history (also in 1968, 1960, 1929 and 1908).
  • They’ve been shut out 13 times overall this season, their most since 1990 (15).
  • 11 of those shutouts have come away from the Bronx, the second-most road shutout losses the Yankees have suffered in a season in the Live Ball Era (since 1920), behind only the 12 in 1973.
  • This was their sixth time being shut out in September, their most shutout losses in a single month since they were blanked seven times in July 1975. Last year the Yankees were shut out six times the entire season! And the clincher …

Five of those seven shutouts in September have come on the road. The last time the Yankees were shut out on the road five times in a single month was August 1905. Welp.

(AP)
(AP)

Runs? Yes. Win? No.
At least they finally made the scoreboard operator do some work, right? That’s pretty much the only positive to come out of another heart-breaking loss on Sunday. The Yankees snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, rallying in the top of the ninth to take the lead before coughing it up in the bottom of the inning, and ultimately walking off the turf as losers yet again.

Thanks to Didi Gregorius’ seventh inning homer, the Yankees avoided the ignominy of being shut out in four consecutive games for the first time in franchise history, and becoming the first AL team to do it since the 1964 Washington Senators. The home run ended our long national nightmare, a 33-inning scoreless streak that was the longest by any Yankee team since August 27-30, 1968.

Sure, the Yankees might have avoided one historical footnote by finally scoring some runs, but the loss still made headlines, statistically speaking. It was their eighth straight defeat in Toronto, their longest road losing streak ever against the Blue Jays.

They fell to 1-8 at the Rogers Centre in 2016, which is horrible, but it’s not even their most losses at one ballpark this season — they went 2-8 at Fenway Park. This is the third time in the last 75 years the Yankees have lost at least eight games at two different road stadiums: it also happened in 1959 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium and Boston’s Fenway Park, and in 1944 at Fenway and Detroit’s Briggs Stadium.

Michael Pineda turned in another solid performance, holding the Blue Jays to one run in 5 2/3 innings while lowering his September ERA to 2.66 in five starts. And with seven strikeouts, the 27-year-old right-hander surpassed the 200-strikeout mark this season, becoming the youngest Yankee to strike out at least 200 batters since a 26-year-old Melido Perez in 1992.

fight
(Getty)

End of the road
The Yankees escaped Toronto — and punctuated their final road trip of the season — with an emotional win in the series finale, surviving a roller coaster ninth inning to temporarily halt their free fall and postpone their inevitable march towards playoff elimination.

The math says the Yankees are still alive in the Hunt for October, and their hearts are telling them to keep fighting … literally.

Luis Severino started the game but barely had a chance to make an impact, facing just eight batters before getting ejected after the second benches-clearing brawl of the game in the second inning. He allowed an earned run in the first inning, bringing his total to 42 earned runs in 43 innings as a starter this season, an unsightly 8.79 ERA.

That is on pace to be the highest ERA as a starter for any Yankee pitcher that made at least 10 starts in a season. The current franchise-worst mark is 7.89, set by Staten Island native Karl Drews in 1947.

Mark Teixeira kicked off the ninth inning comeback with a 416-foot solo homer — plus an epic bat flip — that tied the game at 3-3. It was his 205th longball as a Yankee, matching Dave Winfield for 13th place on the franchise list, and the 408th of his career, moving past Duke Snider for sole possession of 54th place on the MLB all-time list.

Aaron Hicks then delivered the game-winning shot, a two-run blast to put the Yankees ahead 5-3, which earned him our obscure Yankeemetric of the Week: Hicks is the second Yankee right-fielder to hit a go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later against the Blue Jays in Toronto; the other was some guy named Paul O’Neill, who had a similar clutch homer on Sept. 14, 1999.

A fearless and gutsy performance by Tommy Layne, who came into a bases-loaded, no-out situation and somehow got the final three outs, sealed the win for the never-say-die Yankees. It was his first save in pinstripes, making him the ninth different Yankee to record a save this season — a new single-season franchise record (since saves became official in 1969). The previous high was eight pitchers with at least one save, done by the 1979 and 1980 teams.

This Yankee team certainly has a flair for the dramatic, eh? It was the second game this season they hit game-tying and go-ahead homers in the ninth inning (also on June 29 versus the Rangers). You have to go back more than six decades — to August 24 and September 16, 1955 — to find the last time the Yankees had two such games like this in a single season.

Thoughts prior to the final homestand of the 2016 season

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

At some point soon, very possibly tonight, the Yankees will be officially eliminated from postseason contention. Their tragic number is a mere two. Last night’s dramatic win notwithstanding, the Yankees have tanked hard these last two weeks, ever since winning seven straight to climb to within one game of the second wildcard spot. I have some thoughts.

1. It’s pretty telling that as the Yankees were desperate for offense the last week or so, they were more willing to play Billy Butler at first base than Rob Refsnyder at second base, isn’t it? Starlin Castro has been out with his hamstring injury, so the playing time was available, yet those at-bats have gone to Ronald Torreyes and Donovan Solano. (Solano and Torreyes each started four of the last eight games at second.) Butler has started three games at first and already his defense has hurt the Yankees on two occasions. He wasn’t able to reel in CC Sabathia‘s wild throw in Boston on that would-be inning-ending double play, and he botched that routine ground ball last Friday in Toronto. Refsnyder hasn’t hit much lately, and we know he’s not good in the field, but it sure seems like the Yankees will go to great lengths to not give him extended playing time. His only real opportunities to play regularly were at second last year after Stephen Drew got hurt, at first this June after Mark Teixeira got hurt, and in right this month after Aaron Judge got hurt. Each time it was out of necessity, and both times this year the Yankees quickly turned to someone else. Perhaps the whole power-hitting thing will work out. Otherwise I don’t see how Refsnyder fits with the Yankees going forward.

2. I don’t understand playing Butler at first base over Tyler Austin either. I mean, yes, the Yankees were kinda sorta in the race a week ago, and Butler was hitting and Austin wasn’t hitting, but still. As soon as Butler, who should have zero future with the Yankees beyond this week, proved somewhat useful, the struggling young player went to the bench. Would something similar have happened if Gary Sanchez didn’t get off to such a hot start? Don’t get me wrong, I understand sitting a struggling player now and then, but Austin has been outright benched. He’s started one of the last ten games, during which the Yankees faced six left-handed starters. (Hilariously, Austin’s one start was against a righty.) Things very quickly went from “hey look, the young players are helping the Yankees get back into the race” in August to “ewww, Butler and Solano are trying to keep them alive” in September. For a team that is supposedly committed to a youth movement, the Yankees don’t seem very committed to it.

3. The last two points speak to the challenge the Yankees will face going forward: developing young players while trying to win. Those two things don’t always go hand in hand, and yes, the Yankees are absolutely going to try to win next season. There’s no reason to think Hal Steinbrenner won’t make the rounds this offseason talking about championship caliber rosters and expectations and all that. The odds are strongly in favor of the Yankees trying to win while they rebuild transition, and that can get messy if the kids don’t produce right away, which is often the case. Butler is playing over Austin and the young relievers have been pushed aside. Stuff like that can’t happen next year. The young players have to be the priority, even if it they don’t give the team the best chance to win in the short-term.

4. I noticed Luis Severino has started to vary the timing of his delivery slightly in his last two games. He’s added a little pause at the top of his left lift. To the RAB action news footage:

Luis Severino delivery

Severino hasn’t done that every pitch. It’s only been a handful of times in his last two games. Fewer than five. And as far as I can tell, there’s no real pattern. He doesn’t do it only in two-strike counts, or only when ahead in the count, or only when throwing fastballs, nothing like that. Pitchers changing the timing of their delivery seems to be a new fad around baseball. Johnny Cueto and his four deliveries get the most attention, though I’ve noticed a pretty drastic increase in quick pitches around the league the last year or two. Pitching is all about disrupting timing, and in this age with super advanced scouting reports, varying the timing of the delivery is a possible way for pitchers to gain an advantage. It adds an element of unpredictability. Severino is going to be suspended following last night’s ejection, it’s a certainty, so we might not see him again this season. This is something we’ll have to file away for next year to see if it continues.

5. With six days left in the regular season, my feeling right now is Michael Fulmer will be named AL Rookie of the Year and Sanchez will finish second. I also think the chances of Sanchez winning right now are the best they’ve been since he was called up. That’s even after going 2-for-16 (.125) in Toronto over the weekend. Nineteen homers in 48 games is ridiculous. He could have hit 19 homers across a full season as a starting catcher and been the Rookie of the Year favorite. Only ten other rookie catchers in history have hit 19 homers in a season, and they all had at least 400 plate appearances. Sanchez has 209. At the same time, Fulmer currently leads the AL with a 2.95 ERA, and he’ll need to throw at least 6.1 innings in his final start of the season tomorrow night to qualify for the ERA title. I don’t think that’ll matter though. You can’t support Sanchez for Rookie of the Year and discredit Fulmer for not having enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. They’ve both had tremendous rookie seasons and would be very deserving of the award. My guess right now is Fulmer’s sustained excellence over close to a full season will trump Sanchez’s historically great two months, but it’ll be close.

6. For whatever reason I’ve been thinking about right-handed hitters with opposite field power a lot lately. I guess because Sanchez and Austin have poked a few into the short porch. Anyway, via Baseball Savant, here are the right-handed hitters — including switch-hitters hitting righty — with the most opposite field home runs at Yankee Stadium since Opening Day 2013, when the Yankees stopped having a good offense:

  1. Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano: 6
  2. Starlin Castro, Wil Myers, Mike Napoli, Mike Trout: 4
  3. Tyler Austin, Carlos Beltran, Evan Longoria: 3

Eleven other righties have hit multiple opposite field home runs at Yankee Stadium over the last four seasons and only one of those eleven was a Yankee: Sanchez. Others include guys like Logan Forsythe, Desmond Jennings, and Yasiel Puig, who doesn’t even play in the same division or league. I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this. I just wanted to see the leaderboard. The Yankees haven’t had many good righty hitters in recent years. A-Rod and Soriano were by far the best power hitters, and now Castro is in that mix. Otherwise we’re talking about Derek Jeter, Vernon Wells, Francisco Cervelli, guys like that. Not exactly power hitters. Twenty different right-handed hitters have hit multiple opposite field home runs at Yankee Stadium since 2013, and only six actually played for the Yankees. That isn’t necessarily bad — there are a lot more non-Yankees than Yankees, after all — but some more righties with right field pop would be a welcome addition to the lineup going forward. Hopefully Sanchez, Austin, Aaron Judge, and Clint Frazier can provide that.

7. As poorly as these last two weeks have gone, that run in August and early-September was a lot of fun, and they Yankees won’t be mathematically eliminated from the postseason race until the final week of the regular season. That’s way better than I expected back in April and May. The Yankees were bad in the first half and they reacted appropriately by selling at the deadline and calling up MLB ready young players in the second half. That it led to a little run was gravy. This team still has a lot of problems to address going forward, especially on the pitching side, and there’s no guarantee things will be better next season. At least now it appears the Yankees have a plan and are executing it. For a few years the plan seemed to be hang on for dear life and hope to luck into a postseason spot. We can see the future of the lineup taking shape (Sanchez, Judge, Castro, Frazier, Greg Bird, etc.) and almost all of the big money contracts coming off the books. If things go according to plan, the Yankees will soon have a lot of young players in the lineup with their best years ahead of them, and an awful lot of money to spend. That’s pretty exciting.