The Five Longest Home Runs of the 2015 Season

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

The Bronx Bombers returned in 2015. The team’s power production slipped big time from 2013-14, mostly due to personnel (Ichiro Suzuki, Brian Roberts, etc.) and injuries (Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, etc.), but they rebounded in a big way this year. The Yankees hit 212 home runs this season, fourth most in baseball behind the Blue Jays (232), Astros (230), and Orioles (217).

Naturally, some of those 212 home runs were very long. The Yankees hit some bombs this year, and in this post we’re going to look back at the five longest. Because Statcast data is not fully available yet — the Statcast leaderboard only runs 50 players deep and is not sortable by team for whatever reason — we’re going to rely on good ol’ Hit Tracker for home run distance data. Maybe next season the Statcast leaderboard will be a bit more user friendly. Anyway, on to the Yankees’ five longest homers of 2015.

5. July 25th: A-Rod‘s third homer ties the game. (box score)
There’s a lot to unpack with the fifth longest home run of the season. First, it tied the game in the top of the ninth. Second, it was Alex Rodriguez‘s third home run of the game. Third — and spoiler alert — it was only A-Rod’s second longest home run of the game. This was one of those “it’s the Twins, of course the Yankees are going to find a way to win” games, and, sure enough, Alex tied things up with this dead center bomb off Glen Perkins.

The Yankees won the game later that inning on John Ryan Murphy‘s three-run dinger. The A-Rod home run measured a healthy 438 feet. It had distance and impact. Alex tied that game with authority. That it was his third home run of the game made it even cooler.

4. October 1st: Refsnyder almost reaches the left field bleachers. (box score)
There’s a whole lotta A-Rod in this post, and Refsnyder is not the player I would have guessed to break up the monopoly. If you’d asked me to predict the longest non-Rodriguez homer of the season, I would gone with Teixeira or Brian McCann. Maybe Carlos Beltran or Greg Bird, but Teixeira or McCann seem like better guesses. But nope, it’s Rob Refsnyder, with this 439 foot blast against the Red Sox:

Refsnyder’s home run gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eventual win, a win that clinched the team’s first postseason berth since 2012. I didn’t think Refsnyder had that in him. He really turned on that Heath Hembree fastball. When you see something like that, it’s easy to understand why the Yankees are “leaning towards” using Refsnyder (and Dustin Ackley) at second base next year.

3. July 25th: A-Rod goes third deck at Target Field. (box score)
I think my favorite part of this home run was John Flaherty’s call. Flaherty was talking about A-Rod and how he had never hit a home run at Target Field when Alex launched this Tommy Milone pitch into the third deck in left field. Check it out:

That’s great. It was the first of A-Rod’s three home runs that game and it measured 450 feet off the bat. Notice the score in the video: the Yankees were losing 5-0 at the time. A-Rod and his three home runs got the Yankees back in the game.

2. July 22nd: A-Rod takes Gausman to the bleachers. (box score)
This is the inevitable forgotten homer. The one I forgot about completely. Seems to happen with each and every one of these top five play posts I put together each year. Anyway, the Yankees were home against the Orioles, and A-Rod turned around a hanging 85 mph changeup from Kevin Gausman. It landed in the left field bleachers.

The unofficial but good enough for our purposes measurement: 453 feet. Aside from A-Rod’s monster home run, this was one of those nondescript midsummer games that blends into the blob of baseball we watch then forget each year.

1. April 17th: A-Rod goes way deep at the Trop. (box score)
I remember this game and this home run specifically as the moment it became clear Alex still had something left in the tank and was going to help the Yankees. There were a ton of questions about him coming into the season given his age and suspension and all that, and while the early returns were promising, we still wanted to see more evidence A-Rod could contribute. Then he did this:

That home run traveled 477 feet. It was the longest by a Yankee since A-Rod hit a 488 foot home run off Cliff Lee back in 2006 (video). Yeah, it’s been a while. It was also the longest home run by an American League player this season and the sixth longest in baseball overall. Only Giancarlo Stanton (484 twice), Paul Goldschmidt (482), Joc Pederson (480), and Michael Taylor (479) hit balls farther in 2015. Three of those five were hit at Coors Field, by way. (Pederson’s, Taylor’s, and one of Stanton’s.)

The season-long home run was the highlight of A-Rod’s monster game, in which he went 3-for-4 with two home runs and four runs driven in. He tied the game with a two-run blast in the sixth and drove in the go-ahead run with an eighth inning single. Huge home run and a huge game from Rodriguez.

Monday Night Open Thread

Just one more night without baseball. The Mets and Royals open the World Series tomorrow night in Kansas City. I don’t really care who wins, I just want the series to go seven games. The Mets’ pitching against a Royals team that never strikes out should be fun. Until then, make sure you check out this Tom Verducci article on the Royals’ advance scouting and how they exploited some of the Blue Jays’ weaknesses in Game Six of the ALCS last week. Really great stuff.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Ravens and Cardinals are the Monday Night Football Game, plus the Islanders are playing as well. The NBA season starts tomorrow, apparently. You folks know how these threads work by now, so have at it.

Reports: Yankees tab Tim Naehring to replace Billy Eppler

Naehring back during his playing days. (Getty)
Naehring back during his playing days. (Getty)

Trusted scout Tim Naehring has received a “major promotion” and will replace departed assistant GM Billy Eppler, according to multiple reports. Eppler left the Yankees to take over as the Angels GM earlier this month. An official announcement is expected soon. Apparently the Yankees may also shuffle some other front office personnel into new roles as well.

Naehring, 48, will hold the title of Vice President of Baseball Operations — not Assistant GM like Eppler — and assume all of Eppler’s responsibilities. That essentially means he will take over as Brian Cashman‘s right hand man. Cashman indicated he would look outside the organization for Eppler’s replacement but preferred to promote from within.

The Yankees hired Naehring back in 2007 after he spent time working for the Reds. He has had a trusted voice in the organization for a few years now — Naehring was the first to recommend Didi Gregorius, for example — but reportedly turned down promotions in the past so he could remain close to his family in Cincinnati. I guess this promotion was too good to pass up.

Naehring, a former Red Sox infielder, was one of three internal candidates to replace Eppler. Scout Jay Darnell and player personnel head Kevin Reese were also in the mix, reportedly. I don’t know anything about Naehring’s front office skills, so I have nothing to offer. Sorry. All I know is Cashman trusts him enough to make him his top lieutenant.

Heyman: Yankees looking to add a right-handed bat this offseason

Refsnyder. (AP/Steven Senne)
Refsnyder. (AP/Steven Senne)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are looking to add a right-handed bat to their lefty heavy roster this offseason. They really struggled against southpaws down the stretch — they hit .248/.320/.345 against lefties as a team in September — and part of that was missing Mark Teixeira. Greg Bird was great, but the Yankees really missed Teixeira.

Adding a right-handed bat makes perfect sense — four regulars are left-handed and two others are switch-hitters with considerable platoon splits — the question is where does this player fit on the roster? The Yankees are locked into players at every position other than second base, where they’re said to be “leaning towards” playing Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley.

Assuming Refsnyder and Ackley share second base duty, the Yankees will have the backup catcher (John Ryan Murphy), a backup middle infielder (Brendan Ryan?), the other second baseman (Ackley or Refsnyder), plus a fourth player on the bench. That fourth player figures to be an outfielder, and Chris Young mashed lefties this year, so that won’t help the team improve against southpaws.

Ideally the Yankees would replace Ryan with a true platoon right-handed bat — Joe Girardi used Ryan against lefties this summer, but please, no more of that — except I’m not sure who fits the role. The player needs to be able to play shortstop, otherwise the Yankees won’t have a backup for Didi Gregorius. Someone who can play shortstop and hit half-decently will be hard to come by.

Unless there’s a surprise trade this offseason, which is always possible, the Yankees could add another righty hitting fourth outfielder and hope for more help from others like Murphy and Refsnyder, who figure to see even more time against southpaws this year. The Yankees do need another righty bat, I agree with that completely, but looking at the current roster, fitting that player on the team will take some creativity.

The Very Good then Very Bad Chasen Shreve [2015 Season Review]


Last offseason the Yankees focused on trades more than free agency, and to me, the most surprising trade was the one that sent Manny Banuelos to the Braves for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve on New Year’s Day. Trading Banuelos seemed unlikely only because his stock was at an all-time low, and the Yankees figured to hang on to him another year to see what happened as he got further away from Tommy John surgery.

Instead, the Yankees cut bait, and acquired an established big league reliever and a little known left-hander — I am a total baseball nerd and even I had never heard of Shreve — to bolster their bullpen. Shreve, who gained extra exposure as an amateur at the College of Southern Nevada because scouts flocked to see one of his teammates (some kid named Bryce Harper), appeared to be a throw-in. He turned out to be much more.

When Spring Stats Don’t Matter

Shreve, 24 at the time, was pretty much an unknown heading into Spring Training. He did reinvent himself last summer by simply throwing harder — Shreve decided to air it out instead holding back for the sake of location. The result was across the board improvement. The Yankees were convinced the new version of Shreve was here to stay, hence the trade.

The Grapefruit League was not too kind to Shreve. The Yankees used him more like an established reliever than a guy trying to make the team — Shreve was often the first guy out of the bullpen so he could get his work in and head home, that sort of stuff — and he allowed eight runs in 11.1 innings. He was especially bad at the end of camp, when back-to-back-to-back ugly outings in late-March seemed to cost Shreve his Opening Day roster spot.

The Yankees never did see it that way, apparently. Shreve survived every round of cuts and was indeed included on the Opening Day roster, as the third lefty reliever behind Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson. His specific role — lefty specialist? full inning guy? long man? — had yet to be determined, but it always takes time to sort that stuff out anyway.

The main takeaway from spring was that the Yankees thought very highly of Shreve. They didn’t treat him like a kid with only 12.1 big league innings to his credit.

The Last Man out of the Bullpen

Understandably, Joe Girardi used Shreve like a rookie early in the season, wanting him to prove himself before trusting him in important innings. He made his season debut on Opening Day and faced five batters. They went: fly out to center, fly out to center, fly out to left, home run to left, fly out to center. Five fly balls, one of which left the yard. Inauspicious? Perhaps. But it was five batters, so who knows.

Shreve’s next appearance came four days later in that 19-inning marathon loss to the Red Sox. He held the high-powered Red Sox offense — or at least what everyone expected to be a high-powered Red Sox offense — scoreless over 3.1 innings. Shreve struck out four, didn’t walk anyone, and allowed three singles. He was marvelous.

Shreve threw a season-high 56 pitches that night and was so good the Yankees had to send him to Triple-A Scranton after the game. They needed a fresh bullpen arm after the marathon, and Shreve both had options and was the low man on the bullpen depth chart, so down he went. That’s the life of a rookie reliever.

The Yankees brought Shreve back ten days later, as soon as they could, and Girardi continued to use him as the last guy out of the bullpen despite that performance against the Red Sox. Six of his first ten appearances came with the score separated by at least five runs. Two of the other four appearances came deep in extra innings, when no one else was available.

Shreve pitched to a 2.61 ERA (3.18 FIP) with a 25.5% strikeout rate and a 13.2% walk rate in 20.2 innings through the end of May. He was pitching quite well in low-leverage work, and when Miller landed on the DL in early-July, Shreve’s role expanded considerably.

Emergence as a Setup Man

Girardi loves his bullpen roles, and when Miller went down, his eighth inning guy (Dellin Betances) became his closer and his seventh inning guy (Wilson) became his eighth inning guy. That left a void in the seventh inning, and with Carpenter proving unreliable, Shreve got an opportunity to pitch high-leverage innings.

While Miller was on the DL Shreve allowed just two runs in 9.1 innings across ten appearances. He struck out eleven and eight of those ten appearances were scoreless. His best outing came on July 1st in Anaheim, when he inherited a bases loaded situation with one out, escaped without allowing a run, then tossed another scoreless inning as well. As far as seventh inning guys go, Shreve was good as it gets during his month long audition.

Shreve had pitched his way into high-leverage work, which meant when Miller returned in early-July, the bullpen was that much deeper. Girardi has his seventh, eighth, and ninth inning guys, plus another option in Shreve who showed he could pitch in all sorts of situations. Throw in Adam Warren, who had just lost his rotation spot, and the bullpen was mighty deep for a little while there.

Through the end of August, Shreve posted a 1.89 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 52.1 innings across 49 appearances. He struck out 28.1% of batters faced while walking 11.9%. That is pretty damn awesome. Shreve wasn’t Betances or Miller, but he was an excellent setup option. He went from unknown to an integral part of the bullpen in pretty short order. The Yankees like whatever they saw out of Shreve last year and their faith was being rewarded.

Limp to the Finish

The last month of the season was a total mess for Shreve. Actually, it dated back to the start of August, when Shreve’s walk rate spiked big time.

Chasen Shreve walk rate

Shreve walked ten batters in 11.2 innings in August — 18.2% of batters faced, which … eek — though he managed to pitch around the danger. He allowed just three runs in those 11.2 innings. The walks were bad but he was getting out of danger, mostly because he was still striking out a ton of batters. Shreve fanned 16 batters in those 11.2 innings.

That was not the story in September. Shreve continued to walk batters in the season’s final month (eight in six innings, and 19.5% of batters faced) and now the home run ball was starting to catch up to him. After allowing six home runs in his first 52.1 innings of the season, Shreve allowed four homers in those six innings in the final month.

All those walks and homers plus a little bad BABIP luck — Shreve had a .522 BABIP (!) in September, leading to 16 hits in those six innings — resulted in nine runs allowed in six innings. Furthermore, Shreve allowed eight of ten (!) inherited runners to score. In his worst outing of the season, Shreve inherited a bases loaded situation and walked in three (three!) runs against the Blue Jays on September 12th.

That was a disaster. It was also the last time Shreve entered a game with either the Yankees winning or the score tied. His final six outings came with the Yankees trailing, usually low leverage spots. The walks and dingers and bad BABIP luck understandably caused Girardi to lose faith in Shreve. The bullpen took a huge hit without him too. Warren returned to the rotation and suddenly the Yankees were short a few reliable middle relievers.

Even with the disastrous finish, Shreve finished the season with a solid 3.09 ERA (4.92 FIP) in 59 appearances and 58.1 innings. His strikeout rate was very good (25.5%), though he did walk too many (13.2%), especially late in the season. Shreve did generate an average amount of grounders (46.0%) but was crazy homer prone (1.56 HR/9). No bueno.

Split Means Reverse Split

It’s fairly easy for left-handed relievers to get shoehorned into a left-on-left matchup role, especially early in their careers, though Shreve showed he could retire right-handed batters thanks to his nasty split finger fastball. He held righties to .207/.321/.418 (.320 wOBA) line with most of the damage coming late in the season. Shreve was not as effective against lefties (.256/.355/.383, .329 wOBA) but again, most of the damage came late in the year.

None of the scouting reports indicated the splitter was a key pitch for Shreve prior to the season. He was billed as a low-90s fastball guy — that’s after deciding to air it out last year — with an okay slider. Shreve’s splitter averaged 83.2 mph this summer — that’s a 9 mph separation from his 92.2 mph average heater — and both the pitch’s swing-and-miss (19.5%) and grounder (66.7%) rates were above the league average for splitters (14.9% and 47.8%, respectively).

The splitter was nasty but hitters did start to pick up on it later in the season, either because the league adjusted to him or because Shreve simply stopped throwing good splitters. After peaking in May, the swing-and-miss rate on the splitter declined every month of the season:

Chasen Shreve splitter swing and miss rate

Shreve’s splitter was a dynamite pitch for the first four months of the season and above average over the course of the full season, but it abandoned him down the stretch and his performance suffered big time. He was fantastic for much of the season before crashing at the end. Story of the 2015 Yankees.

Looking Ahead to 2016

During his end-of-season press conference, Girardi said figuring out what happened to Shreve down the stretch was a priority heading into the offseason. He nearly pitched himself off the postseason roster — Shreve was on the wildcard card game roster, mostly because the Yankees lacked alternatives — and I don’t think he’s assured a spot on the 2016 Opening Day roster right now. Shreve will certainly get a long look in Spring Training and be in the bullpen mix, but, after the late season slide, he’ll have to show he’s back to being reliable before getting a roster spot.

Fan Confidence Poll: October 26th, 2015

2015 Season Record: 87-75 (764 RS, 698 RA, 88-74 pythag. record), lost wildcard game

Top stories from last week:

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

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Weekend Open Thread

After a one-day hiatus, the postseason returns tonight with Game Six of the ALCS between the Royals and Blue Jays. If the Royals win, they move on to play the Mets in the World Series. If the Blue Jays win, there will be a Game Seven tomorrow night. Game Sevens are fun, though I wouldn’t be opposed to a Kansas City win tonight.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. RAB will be back to normal next week — I’ve been both busy and not feeling well the last few days — with season reviews and the usual. Game Six (Price vs. Ventura) begins at 8pm ET and can be seen on FOX Sports 1. The Islanders are playing as well. Talk about whatever.

Sunday: Going to use this as the open thread one more time. You’ve got football throughout the afternoon plus the Eagles and Panthers as the late NFL game tonight. The (hockey) Rangers are in action too. So talk about those games or anything else.