Mailbag: Judge, Mateo, Hamels, Nola, Girardi, Taillon, Betances

We’ve got ten questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send us any questions. More than a few were rendered moot by the trade with the White Sox.

Man of the people. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Man of the people. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

A few people asked: What could the Yankees get for Judge?

Several masochists emailed in asking what sort of return the Yankees could expect if they traded Aaron Judge. Just about all of them made it clear they don’t want the Yankees to trade Judge, because duh. They’re just curious.

Anyway, because he’s already shown he can perform at an MVP caliber level and comes with five years of control beyond this season, Judge is one of the most valuable assets in baseball. FanGraphs ranked him the sixth most valuable trade asset in baseball behind basically the five best players on the planet. He carries some risk because his track record is limited and there’s so little precedent for a dude this size, but yeah, Judge is insanely valuable.

The way I see it, the Yankees have a strong young position player core (Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Dustin Fowler, Miguel Andujar, etc.), so if you’re going to trade Judge, you trade him for an ace-caliber starter with several years of control remaining. I’m talking four or five years of control, not two or three. Five names immediately jumped to mind:

  • Michael Fulmer, Tigers: A little unconventional because he doesn’t strike out a ton of batters (17.4%), but he’s been dynamite since being called up and is under control through 2022.
  • Jon Gray, Rockies: Coors Field makes it tough to appreciate how good Gray really is. He has three swing-and-miss pitches and he’s under control through 2021.
  • Carlos Martinez, Cardinals: Martinez has already pitched like an ace for two full years, and his recent contract extension will pay him $46.8M from 2018-21 with affordable club options for 2022 ($17M) and 2023 ($18M).
  • Lance McCullers Jr., Astros: Electric arm and team control through 2021. The only downside is McCullers has an injury history. He’s had both shoulder and elbow problems in the past.
  • Noah Syndergaard, Mets: Pretty much the perfect pitcher. Go into a lab to build a starter and you’d come out with Syndergaard. He’s under control through 2021, though this year’s injury problems are a red flag.

Among those five pitchers, Martinez is at the top of my list because he has the longest MLB track record and he also comes with the most team control thanks to his extension and the two club options. If you’re going to trade Judge, a bonafide middle of the order force under control through his peak years, you trade him for a guy like Martinez.

Pitchers are risky because they break, but Judge comes with a fair amount of risk himself, so in this hypothetical it balances out. And that’s all this is, a hypothetical. Never say never, but I don’t think trading Judge has even crossed the Yankees’ mind at this point. I say keep all those bats, build a powerhouse offense, and figure out a way to build a pitching staff around them. The Mets are a pretty good example why building around arms is so risky.

Jonathan Stewart: While it’s still a SSS, if Mateo’s keeps up his resurgence, could we see him this year?

It’s certainly more likely we see him this year, yeah. Jorge Mateo has been tearing the cover off the ball since his promotion to Double-A Trenton, hitting .357/.438/.619 (189 wRC+) through 20 games. Before, when he was hitting .240/.288/.400 (98 wRC+) for High-A Tampa, there was basically no chance at a call-up. Brian Cashman likes to say anyone at Double-A is a call-up candidate, and with Mateo performing, his chances of coming up this year have increased.

The Thunder went into yesterday’s game with a 64-31 record, the best record in all of Double-A, so they’re going to the postseason. I do think the Yankees would prefer to keep Mateo in Trenton through the postseason to get him at-bats and continue his development. I don’t think he will be a September 1st call-up to be a designated pinch-runner or something like that. We’ll see how Mateo performs from here on out. If he’s still playing well, yes I think he could get a token September call-up since he’s already on the 40-man roster, though I don’t think they’d yank him out of Trenton’s everyday lineup just to sit on the big league bench and pinch-run. He might have to wait until after the playoffs.

Matt asks: New rumor has Hamels potentially being available at the deadline if the Rangers sputter out of the gate. Thoughts?

That is an interesting one. Cole Hamels is 33 now and he went into last night’s start with a 3.05 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 59 innings around an oblique injury, so he has been effective, though the drop in strikeout rate is a definite red flag.

cole-hamels-strikeouts

Hmmm. Hamels is still getting ground balls and keeping the walks in check, but the swings and misses have been harder to come by, and that’s especially troubling because he has arguably the greatest changeup of his generation. The swing and miss rate on his changeup has declined noticeably in recent years. Hamels is in decline. He’s entering his mid-30s and losing some stuff. It happens to everyone.

Hamels is owed $22.5M next season, the final guaranteed year on his contract, and this year’s oblique injury ensures his $19M option for 2019 will not vest. He missed too much time and won’t reach the innings threshold to lock in the option year. If the Rangers are willing to trade Hamels as a salary dump, meaning the Yankees would take on that contract and not give up much in return, I don’t think it would be a terrible idea because he can still give you innings. The time to get Hamels was a few years ago though, then he was still in his prime and the Phillies were looking to move him.

Michael asks: What would it take to pry Aaron Nola from the Phillies? Under control through 2021, and he looks like a classic high strikeout guy the Yanks usually target. Seems like he’d fit with the trajectory of this team moving forward also. Thoughts?

Nola is probably someone I should have included in the Judge trade hypothetical earlier. The 24-year-old was the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft and he has a 3.54 ERA (3.42 FIP) with very good strikeout (24.7%) and ground ball (48.1%) rates in 86.1 innings this season. He’s also under team control through 2021. The run on his two-seamer is ridiculous.

aaron-nola-fastball

The big concern with Nola is his elbow. He missed the entire second half of last season with an elbow strain and that’s never good. The elbow has been fine so far this year — Nola did miss two starts with a back strain earlier this season — but still, a fairly significant elbow injury just last year? That’s a red flag and an ongoing concern. How could it not be.

The Phillies would presumably want top prospects for Nola and I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all. Parting with either Torres or Frazier, plus a bunch of quality secondary pieces, seems like a must to me. Nola is young and very good, and he’d fit what the Yankees need going forward. He also fits what the rebuilding Phillies need going forward, which is why I don’t think they’ll entertain a trade unless they get a huge offer.

Dan asks: Between the marriage of his relievers to certain innings, the fact that hitters are bunting when they should be hitting, and his marriage to pitching and hitting matchups based on handedness, do you think we can start to fairly question whether Girardi is being too rigid as a manager?

Oh sure. Joe Girardi‘s paint-by-numbers managerial style has been a problem for a few years now. The most obvious example is his bullpen roles. He lets the inning dictate his reliever usage, not the game situation (score, where the other team is in their lineup etc.). Girardi is also pretty strict with left-right platoons even when the numbers say they don’t make sense. He’ll split up the lefties in the starting lineup to avoid a potential matchup situation in the seventh or eight inning rather than putting the Yankees in the best position to do damage against the starter. Girardi is not the only manager who does this stuff. Hardly. But I feel like, in the year 2017, we should be getting away from these moves. It’s time to evolve.

Steve asks: Is it too early to think about what the 40 man roster will look like in November? With 11 MLB debuts this year, and the bevy of Rule 5 eligible prospects, it seems like some notable talent is destined to be lost. What prospects will be on the bubble?

Definitely not too early. The Yankees are certainly thinking about it. They know they’re going to face a roster crunch, so they’re doing what they can to clear things up. Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo will both be Rule 5 draft eligible after the season and neither guy was all that likely to be added to the 40-man roster, so they went to the White Sox in the trade. Here are the notable prospects due to become Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season:

Catchers: None
Infielders: Abi Avelino, Thairo Estrada, Gleyber Torres
Outfielders: Rashad Crawford, Billy McKinney
Pitchers: Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, J.P. Feyereisen, Zack Littell, Erik Swanson, Stephen Tarpley

Frazier, Fowler, Tyler Wade, and Jordan Montgomery were all going to be Rule 5 Draft eligible before getting called up to the big leagues this season. Torres, Abreu, and Acevedo will definitely be added to the 40-man roster. Littell probably will as well. Estrada and McKinney are on the fence and could be trade bait before the deadline. A guy like Tarpley, a lefty with good velocity, is prime Rule 5 Draft fodder. Inevitably the Yankees will leave some good players exposed. That’s what happens to teams with good farm systems.

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

Dan asks: Would you deal Clint Frazier for Jameson Taillon straight up?

Yes and the Pirates would not. They could get a lot more than Frazier for Taillon, despite all his pitching injuries over the years. Taillon is only 25 and he’s under team control through 2022. In 171.2 big league innings, basically a full season, he has a 3.25 ERA (3.56 FIP) with 21.1% strikeouts, 5.5% walks, and 52.4% grounders. That is really, really good. I love Frazier. He’s a blast. You also have to give something to get something, and pitchers like Taillon are a heck of a lot harder to find than corner outfield bats. Plus the Yankees are loaded with outfielders. The Pirates would say no because they could get more.

Austin asks: With the addition of Robertson and Kahnle, will the Yankees finally give Warren a look in the rotation? Surely he has more value there than as a 5th option out of the pen.

I don’t think so. The Yankees have never seemed all that eager to put Adam Warren in the rotation. Even in 2015, when he made 17 starts (3.63 ERA and 3.92 FIP), it was only because Chris Capuano hurt his quad in Spring Training. The biggest thing working against Warren right now is that he’s not stretched out. He could give you what, maybe 50 pitches his first time out? It’ll take a month to get him stretched out completely, so by time that happens, it’ll be near the end of August. I think the chances of Warren out-pitching Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, and Chance Adams the rest of the season as a starting pitcher are pretty darn good. My guess is the Yankees will stick with the kids, and use Warren as part of the super bullpen they’ve been trying to build.

Adam asks: What are the chances we use Betances as trade bait now that we added two strong options? Probably more likely if the Yankees continue to spiral down.

I believe the plan is to add David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to Dellin Betances, not use them to replace him. The more great relievers, the better. That said, having Robertson and Kahnle around makes it easier to part with Betances in a trade. The Yankees always listen to offers for everyone. Every team does. I don’t think they’ll be out there actively shopping Dellin, but I do think they’ll be a little more open-minded when fielding phone calls. Maybe this is something that happens in the offseason rather than at the deadline?

Paul asks: What has changed in the last few years that has teams open to trading highly rated prospects again? A few years ago, there was extreme prospect hugging going on.

Teams were definitely much more reluctant to trade their prospects a few years ago. That isn’t the case anymore. According to Baseball America’s midseason top 100, the No. 1 (Yoan Moncada), No. 3 (Gleyber Torres), No. 5 (Eloy Jimenez), No. 13 (Willy Adames), No. 16 (Lewis Brinson), and No. 20 (Michael Kopech) prospects in baseball have all been traded. Just eyeballing the rest of the list, I count 22 top 100 prospects who have been traded at some point.

I think two things are happening here. One, more teams are willing to go into a deep rebuild, so they’re making their best big leaguers available in trades, and those guys command top prospects. And two, more teams seem willing to acknowledge success can be fleeting, so they’re going all-in when it looks like they have a shot. Like the Indians last year, for example. It’s a bit of a Catch-22. More teams are rebuilding, meaning fewer teams are in contention, so those teams in contention are willing to trade their prospects to rebuilding teams to improve their chances.

Yankees 4, Mariners 1: Homegrown Yankees lead the way


Source: FanGraphs

This trip to the West Coast is already going better than the last. The Yankees started the four-game series in Seattle with a 4-1 win over the Mariners on Thursday night. They’re somehow 4-4 in the first eight games of this eleven-game road trip. Feels worse. Anyway, hooray for a win. Late night West Coast games get bullet point recaps, so let’s get to it:

  • Seven Strong From Sevy: Boy, Luis Severino is turning into one hell of a pitcher. This start was not an easy one — he had only one 1-2-3 inning — but great pitchers find a way to grind through games like this. Severino chucked seven scoreless innings and he faced his biggest jam in the fourth, when he had runners on the corners with no outs. Pop-up, pop-up, walk, ground ball. Inning over. Shout out to Mariners third base coach Manny Acta for not waving Kyle Seager home from second on a single to center that inning. Must not have the scouting report on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s arm. Severino’s line: 7 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K. Bravo.
  • Two Earned, Two Unearned: Zombie Felix Hernandez rose from the dead to regain his 2010 form Thursday night. He held the Yankees to one bloop single and two walks through the first five innings. It wasn’t until Brett Gardner jumped all over a 1-1 fastball in the sixth that the scoreless tie was broken. A single, an error, and a walk set up Aaron Judge for the inside-out RBI single to plate an insurance run in the eighth. The Yankees scored two more in the ninth when Embedded Yankee Robinson Cano threw away Chase Headley‘s inning-ending grounder. The ball rolled around and Todd Frazier was able to score all the way from second. The Yankees were long overdue for one of those. Severino pitched well, Gardner homered, Judge drove in an insurance run, Cano made a big error. Hooray homegrown Yankees.
  • Same Old Bullpen: We got our first look at how Joe Girardi will manage his new bullpen. David Robertson will be the seventh inning guy. I know this because he warmed up in the seventh inning, and even though he didn’t pitch, Dellin Betances came in for the eighth. I hate that. Robertson’s warm! Just use him! Sigh. Whatever. Betances hit a batter and allowing a seeing-eye single in the eighth but escaped unscathed. Aroldis Chapman labored through the ninth and allowed a run. He was warming when it was 2-0, before Cano’s error, so Girardi brought him in anyway. Robertson warmed up in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. /shrugs
  • Leftovers: Frazier picked up his first hit as a Yankee in the ninth. It was a clean single to left … Gardner has 16 homers now, one short of his career high with 68 games to play … Matt Holliday went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two double plays. He has been b r u t a l since coming back from the disabled list … two hits each for Didi Gregorius and Headley … Ellsbury went 0-for-4 and is down to .249/.324/.360 (86 wRC+). The Yankees are 51.14638% of the way through his contract … and finally, Severino threw a 101.2 mph (!) fastball to Jean Segura during that fourth inning jam. It’s the hardest pitch thrown by any starting pitcher this season. Goodness.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. This four-game series is just getting started. CC Sabathia and rookie Andrew Moore are the scheduled starting pitchers for the second game of the series Friday night. That’s another 10pm ET start.

DotF: Wade and Culver go deep in Scranton’s blowout win

Triple-A Scranton (13-2 win over Charlotte)

  • 3B Tyler Wade: 2-5, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 K — here’s video of the homer
  • DH Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB
  • LF Billy McKinney: 0-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • SS Cito Culver: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI — now hitting .248/.314/.461 with a career high tying nine home runs
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HBP, 10/2 GB/FB — 72 of 92 pitches were strikes (78%) … I wonder how high he is on the rotation depth chart?
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — eleven of 16 pitches were strikes (69%)

[Read more…]

Game 94: Back West

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are out on the West Coast for the first time since the start of this ridiculous collapse. They haven’t won a series since arriving in Anaheim in the middle of last month. The Yankees are 11-22 in the start of their last West Coast trip. Good grief. The season when south the last time the Yankees were in the Pacific Time Zone and hopefully things straight out this trip.

Anyway, for the first time in what feels like forever, the Yankees are playing their regular lineup tonight. Well, Clint Frazier isn’t playing, but eight out of nine ain’t bad. Better than what the Yankees have been trotting out there the last few days. You knew Joe Girardi was going to spend a week resting guys after the 16-inning game and doubleheader on back-to-back days. Please just win, dudes. Here is the Mariners’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  9. 1B Chase Headley
    RHP Luis Severino

It is cool and cloudy in Seattle tonight. I’m not sure whether the Safeco Field roof will be open. Doesn’t really matter. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 10:10pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Update: Girardi said Frazier will be the regular third baseman from here on out with Headley moving over to first. Given Headley’s inability to hit southpaws this season, I assume he’ll platoon with Garrett Cooper.

Thursday Night Open Thread

The Yankees are out on the West Coast for a four-game weekend series with the Mariners, which means 10pm ET starts tonight and tomorrow, and a 9pm ET start Saturday. A Saturday night game on the West Coast? The worst. It’s like they scheduled it specifically to annoy me. Groan. Anyway, check out Jeff Sullivan’s post on the Yankees’ new-look bullpen. This unit has a chance to be pretty great.

Here is an open thread to hold you over until the regular game thread comes along. Really light baseball schedule tonight. There’s one 7pm ET game (Rangers at Orioles) and one 8pm ET game (Tigers at Royals) before the West Coast games begin. MLB Network will have games all night. You folks know what to do with these threads by now, so have at it.

7/20 to 7/23 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Yankees have played staggeringly mediocre baseball since the All-Star break, splitting a four-game set with the Red Sox and dropping two of three to the Twins. Their lead for the second Wild Card spot stands at just half a game as a result, so the reinforcements could not have come at a much better time. Unfortunately, our first extended look at Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson will come on West Coast time, as the Yankees visit Seattle for four games.

The Last Time They Met

It has been almost a year since the Yankees faced the Mariners, as the two teams last met in August of 2016. The Yankees took two of three by a combined score of 15-8, moving to 66-61 in the process. Some notes from the series:

  • Gary Sanchez and Starlin Castro hit two home runs apiece in the first game, but it wasn’t enough as they lost 7-5. Anthony Swarzak took the loss and a blown save that day, allowing two inherited runners to score on a three-run home run by Mike Zunino. And, no, going with Swarzak didn’t make much sense at the time, either.
  • Sanchez was at the height of his August powers in that series, going 6 for 11 with 3 HR, 3 BB, and 0 K.
  • CC Sabathia had one of the best starts of his season in the second game, going 7 strong and allowing 3 hits, 1 run, and 1 walk, while striking out 7.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

The Mariners have battled the injury bug all year, with key players like Jean Segura, James Paxton, Mitch Haniger, Felix Hernandez, Drew Smyly, and Hisashi Iwakuma all spending time on the disabled list. They’re approaching full strength, but Smyly is done for the year, and there’s no real timetable for Iwakuma’s return.

Their Story So Far

Seattle is essentially the perfect .500 team – they’re 48-48 with a +1 run differential. They’re 5-1 since the break, which includes a series victory over the Astros this week. The Mariners offense has been the driving force behind the team’s limited success, and it currently ranks 6th in the majors in wRC+ and 8th in runs scored. They currently have 8 regulars or semi-regulars with a wRC+ of 100 or better, and their back-up catcher (93 wRC+) and fourth OF (90 wRC+) aren’t all that bad, either. In short, their lineup is almost always strong from top to bottom.

Their starting pitching has been less than stellar, though. Paxton has performed like a top of the rotation starter when healthy, with a 3.05 ERA (132 ERA+), 10.3 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9 in 94.1 IP. The pickings are fairly slim after that, with a mishmosh of average to well below-average guys making up the rest of the rotation. The declining Hernandez is their second-best starter right now, and he’s sitting on a 4.20 ERA (101 ERA+) in 55.2 IP, for comparison’s sake, and the group as a whole has a 4.79 ERA – good for 22nd in baseball.

For more on the Mariners, I recommend checking out Lookout Landing.

The Lineup We Might See

Injuries have force manager Scott Servais to tinker with his lineup quite a bit, but he seems to prefer this configuration when everyone’s available:

  1. Jean Segura, SS
  2. Ben Gamel, LF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz, DH
  5. Kyle Seager, 3B
  6. Danny Valencia, 1B
  7. Mitch Haniger, RF
  8. Jarrod Dyson, CF
  9. Mike Zunino, C

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Thursday (10:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Felix Hernandez

Three years ago, Felix Hernandez was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Two years ago, he saw a dip in velocity, and an overall drop-off in production, but remained comfortably above-average. Last year, his velocity backed-up again, and his numbers slipped even further into average territory (and his 4.63 FIP suggested that he was actually lucky). And this year, he’s simply rather average. His strikeouts and walks went in the right direction, but he’s more hittable and more gopher-ball prone than ever before, and his fastball no longer has much bite to it. This is what a decline looks like.

Hernandez focuses on four pitches nowadays – a low-90s fastball, a low-90s sinker, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s curve. He’ll mix in a mid-80s slider, as well, but that is oftentimes shelved unless something else isn’t working.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 7/15) – 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K

Friday (10:10 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Andrew Moore

The 23-year-old Moore was a second-round pick back in 2015, and he made his big league debut last month, going 7 IP and allowing 3 ER in a victory over the Tigers. His scouting report isn’t terribly exciting, as he’s a command/control type with a back-of-the-rotation ceiling, but he also qualifies as a “high floor” type due to his ability to limit walks and soak innings. It’s not a sexy profile by any stretch, but it feels an awful lot like the type of rookie that has plagued the Yankees in years past.

Moore is a four-pitch guy, with a low-90s fastball, low-80s slider, low-80s change-up, and mid-70s curveball. He’s earned praise for his change-up, which I’ve seen graded as high as a 60 on the 20-80 scale.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 7/16) – 3.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 1 K

Saturday (9:10 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Ariel Miranda

The Mariners acquired Miranda at last year’s trade deadline in a straight-up swap for Wade Miley, and it has paid dividends thus far. The 28-year-old Cuban has thrown 165.2 IP in 30 games for the Mariners, posting a 4.07 ERA (100 ERA+) along the way. His underlying numbers aren’t awe-inspiring (6.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 5.30 FIP), but he’s managed to stay healthy and mostly effective this year (97 ERA+), which is a boon for a team that has needed 13 starting pitchers already.

Miranda mostly utilizes three pitches – a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s splitter. That splitter is his best pitch, with a whiff rate just shy of 20%, and a batting average against of just .190.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 7/17) – 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 4 K

Sunday (4:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Cessa vs. RHP Sam Gaviglio

The 27-year-old Gaviglio is the second rookie the Yankees will face this weekend, having made his debut on May 11. He was a fifth round pick way back in 2011, and his journey to the show may best be described as methodical – he spent three years bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A, and always seemed to be the “next guy up;” it just took a long time for that need to arise.

Gaviglio is a pure junkballer. His fastball tops out in the upper 80s, and he complements it with a low-80s slider, low-80s change-up, and a curve in the upper-80s. His margin for error is razor thin, as his strikeout rate is a well below average 15.4%.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 7/18) – 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

The Mariners bullpen has been right around average in most respects this year, with its ERA, K%, BB%, and WPA all falling between 13th and 20th in the majors. That might be a bit misleading, though, as the bullpen’s overall numbers are dragged down by folk that are primarily used in mop-up situations. Edwin Diaz has been solid as the closer (134 ERA+, 12.9 K/9, 3.9 BB/9), and the late-innings trio of Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, and Steve Cishek is formidable. They also have Marc Rzepcyznski in a traditional LOOGY role – LHH are batting .171/.227/.244 in 45 PA against him this year.

It is worth noting that the bullpen has been stretched thin since the break. They’ve been called upon for 22.1 IP in six games, and Diaz and Vincent were both needed yesterday.

Yankees Connection

It’s all but guaranteed that we will see three former Yankees during this series. Seeing Robinson Cano in another uniform still saddens me, and I’ll have to suffer him starting everyday against the Yankees. I don’t think we need to recap his fantastic career in pinstripes.

Ben Gamel was a 10th round pick by the Yankees in 2010, and he was in the organization up through last August, when he was sent to the Mariners for Juan De Paula and Jio Orozco. It was a roster crunch that made sense at the time (and still does), but Gamel has done his damnedest to make Cashman and Co. look bad. He’s batting .319/.373/.444 (125 wRC+) with 5 HR and 3 SB in 309 PA as a regular in LF/RF, and he has shown no signs of slowing down.

And old friend James Pazos is there, too. He was drafted by the Yankees in 2012, and he tossed 8.1 subpar IP (84 ERA+, 1.50 K/BB) for the team between 2015 and 2016. He was dealt to the Mariners for Zack Littell this off-season, and he’s been very effective in their bullpen this year, with a 124 ERA+ in 36.2 IP. Littell, for his part, has been awesome in the Yankees system – he has a 1.71 ERA in 105.1 IP between High-A and Double-A.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Ben Gamel’s flowing locks.

Yankeemetrics: Different city, same ending (July 17-19)

(AP)
(AP)

Stranded on second
The road trip continued westward to Minnesota, and the result was a familiar one. An inconsistent offense on Monday night led to another gut-wrenching close loss, 4-2, droppping the Yankees’ record in games decided by two or fewer runs to 14-23 this season. The only team worse in MLB? The Phillies.

The most frustrating part of the game was that they had six doubles – setting themselves up to drive in a bunch of runs – yet scored only twice. Only once before in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) had the Yankees finished a game with at least six extra-base hits and no more than two runs scored – an 8-2 loss on August 12, 1965 to the …. Minnesota Twins.

The game still had its highlights, however, with a few notable performances by our Baby Bombers. Clint Frazier legged out two ‘hustle’ doubles, giving him eight extra-base hits in his short 11-game career, the second Yankee ever to with that many hits for extra bases in his first 11 career games. The other? Someone named Joe DiMaggio.

One night after getting his first big-league hit, Garrett Cooper went 3-for-4 and drove in a run, earning our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series: Over the last 100 seasons, he’s the only Yankee first baseman to have a three-hit game this early into his career (fourth game).

Caleb Smith pitched in his first major-league game, giving the Yankees the honor of being the first team this season to have 12 players make their MLB debut. Although he ended up allowing the game-winning runs, his performance was noteworthy: he’s the first Yankee since Jose Rijo in 1984 to make his debut as a reliever and strike out at least five guys in the game.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

One game, two wins
Tuesday was a win-win for Yankee fans on and off the field: the team beat the Twins 6-3 thanks to some rare clutching hitting, while the front office delivered some much-need bullpen and corner infield help via a blockbuster trade with the White Sox.

On the field, facing their ol’ buddy Bartolo Colon, the Yankees chased the 44-year-old in the fifth inning as they exploded for five runs to erase a 3-1 deficit. Here’s a #FunFact about Colon (with a shout-out to loyal Twitter follower and guest RAB writer @LFNJSinner): Colon has faced 500 different players in his career, and two of them were the two managers in the dugouts for this series – Joe Girardi (1-for-2 vs. Colon) and Paul Molitor (2-for-8 vs. Colon).

Let’s not forget amid this current collapse that this Yankees team doesn’t ever quit. It was their 14th comeback victory when trailing by at least two runs in the game; only the Diamondbacks and Astros (both with 15) had more such wins through Tuesday.

As for the big news off the field, the Yankees and White Sox completed their first major-league trade since they acquired Nick Swisher in exchange for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez in November 2008.

By adding David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle (welcome back, guys!) on Tuesday, the Yankees once again appear to be building a dynamic super-pen filled with power flamethrowers to dominate the middle and late innings.

Entering Wednesday, there were 18 relievers in the American League that had pitched at least 20 innings and boasted a strikeout rate of at least 32 percent. Five (!) of them will be wearing pinstripes for the rest of the season – Tommy Kahnle (42.6%), Dellin Betances (42.5%), Chad Green (37.4%), David Robertson (35.6%), Aroldis Chapman (32.7%).

At first glance, Todd Frazier‘s 2017 slashline doesn’t seem to be very encouraging: .207/.328/.432 in 280 at-bats. But their might be some bad luck baked into those numbers. His BABIP of .214 was the second-lowest among qualified hitters at the time of the trade. That includes an unfathomable .144 BABIP in 40 home games.

Statcast metrics tell a similar story: Using the launch angle and exit velocity of his batted balls, you can get a better picture of a hitter’s quality of contact and his true skill, independent of ballpark, defense, etc. That can be expressed in a metric called expected weighted on-base average (wOBA), which is just like OBP but gives a player more credit for extra-base hits.

Based on that method, Frazier had a spread of 29 points between his expected wOBA and actual wOBA, the 10th-largest differential among the 175 players with at least 250 at-bats this season. To put that into perspective, his actual wOBA of .333 ranked 109th in that 175-player sample — the same as Yunel Escobar — while his expected wOBA of .362 ranked 35th — on par with guys like Cody Bellinger (.365) and Robinson Cano (.367).

After a slow start, Frazier also has been heating up recently. Since June 17, he has a wRC+ of 140 in 96 plate appearances – a mark that ranks in the 80th percentile among all players and is better than any other Yankee in that span (min. 75 PA).

Deja vu all over again
If the Yankees were truly going to pull out of their never-ending tailspin and actually win a series, a trip to Minnesota to face the Twins would seem to be the perfect way to jumpstart an extended run. Consider these stats entering this series:

  • 19-6 (.760) at Target Field, the highest winning percentage for any team at any stadium since at least 1913 (min. 15 games).
  • Had never lost a series at Target Field, which opened in 2010.
  • Won five straight series overall against the Twins, tied for their longest active series-win streak versus any AL team (also won five in a row against the Royals).
  • Oh, and the Twins have the worst home record in the AL.

Welp.

Historical success couldn’t help the Yankees, as they lost Wednesday afternoon and fell to 0-8-2 in their last 10 series since sweeping the Orioles at Yankee Stadium June 9-11. It was their first series loss against the Twins since 2014 and their first in Minnesota since 2008.

If not for the second inning, the Yankees might have had a chance to actually break out of their slump. All six of the Twins’ runs came in the second frame and all six also came with two outs, a rare two-out implosion by Jordan Montgomery. Over his previous eight starts combined, the lefty had allowed just five two-out runs and had held hitters to a .180/.255/.340 line with two outs.

The Yankee offense couldn’t bail out Montgomery, either, as their struggles with runners scoring positioned deepened (1-for-7), resulting in another disappointing loss. Even more depressing than their lack of clutch hitting is the recurring nightmare of failing to close out series:

The Yankees have now lost their last nine games in which they had a chance to clinch a series win, and have also dropped 10 consecutive series finales, including eight straight on the road. Overall, this was their 10th loss in a “rubber game” (third game of a three-game series in which the teams split the first two games), which leads all MLB teams this season.