Saturday Night Open Thread

CC Sabathia pitched the Yankees to a win this afternoon and Nick Swisher is pretty much back in the organization. We’re out here partying like it’s 2009 again. Fun fun fun.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Extra Innings Package is still in a free preview right now, so find the channels and you can watch any game you want. Clayton Kershaw vs. Madison Bumgarner is a few minutes away. The Islanders are playing too. Talk about those games or any of today’s other goings on right here.

Game Five: Sabathia’s Season Debut


The Yankees said all throughout Spring Training the fifth starter’s spot was up for grabs, but when it was all said and done, the job went to the guy I think most of expected it would go to: CC Sabathia. The veteran southpaw beat out Ivan Nova despite inferior numbers because he finished the Grapefruit League season well, and also because he’s CC Sabathia and making $25M a year. Money talks, yo.

This afternoon the Yankees will have their normal middle of the lineup back in there, which is good because the offense looked pretty helpless yesterday. That’s usually what happens when you sit three of your best hitters. Even with that shutout loss yesterday, the Yankees currently lead in the AL in runs scored and are fifth in MLB overall. The offense is quite good when everyone’s on the field. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

This is going to be another cold one. Temperatures in Detroit are in the 30s and the wind is going to make it feel like it’s in the 20s. There is snow in the forecast later today, though it doesn’t look like anything that will impact the game. At least as long as it doesn’t go to extra innings. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 1pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Guest Post: On the nature of Fandom: A Family Story

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Tarik Shah, who wrote about the Yankee fandom in his family.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

As a new baseball season is upon us, I like many Yankee fans am excited. For the first time in a long time, the franchise seems to be building the roster by developing its own young talent, and augmenting it with other young players who have yet to fulfill their potential. Though it’s been repeated ad nauseum, the fact that the Yankees did not sign any major league free agents this past winter is staggering. These aren’t your father’s Yankees. But for me, no Yankees are “my father’s Yankees” because he doesn’t like baseball, or any sport for that matter. Still, his son became a devout fan, which is equally staggering to me. How did that happen?

My father immigrated here from Pakistan, and his relationship to professional sports can generously be described as ambivalent. He, like many immigrant parents, was more interested in making sure that his children succeeded in school, so they could go on to become doctors, lawyers, or engineers. Even if he had a greater interest in sports, Cricket and Men’s Field Hockey are the dominant sports in Pakistan, and they aren’t exactly featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. Assuming we spent Saturdays playing catch in the backyard, I’m not sure it would have helped much, as I was terrible at baseball. Ultimately, he was probably playing to his and my strengths at the time, by focusing on academics.

In many ways, my Yankee fandom stems from my maternal grandfather, whom I never had the opportunity to meet. My mother’s family immigrated to the Bronx from France and Eastern Europe. Long before the “Core Four” or the Bronx was burning, the Yankees were steamrolling the league in the 1930s and 1940s with players whose names are memorialized in Monument Park and Cooperstown. The Yankees were on top and it’s easy to see why they became so interwoven in the fabric of the city. You’d think that my grandfather’s devout fandom would have sparked generations of Yankee fans in my family, but team allegiances aren’t as hereditary as it might seem.

My uncle famously tells a story about how when he was a kid my grandfather asked him where he’d like to go for his birthday, and my uncle said he wanted to go to Coney Island (or out for Chinese food, depending on which version of the story he decides to tell that day), but my grandfather instead took him to Yankee Stadium. In fact, a recurring theme in my uncle and grandfather’s relationship was that whenever my uncle wanted to go anywhere, my grandfather would take him to Yankee Stadium. Predictably, as young boys rebel against their fathers, my uncle rebelled in the most visceral way he could, by becoming a Mets fan.

Somehow, my mom was not forced to go to Yankee Stadium anytime she wanted to ride the Cyclone or eat Chinese spare ribs, and as a result, she never held the same resentment towards the Yankees that my uncle did. Even though my mom never cared too much about baseball growing up, she recognized that being from the Bronx meant passing down to your children a love of the Yankees, and that this was as fundamental as passing down any religious or cultural tradition. In fact, that’s as important of a cultural tradition that has been passed down to me as anything else.

My mom would take my sister and I to games, and pulled us out of school to go watch the ticker tape parade in 1998. As it turns out, watching Paul O’Neill fist pump on Broadway is a healthier and more educational experience than learning about the Nitrogen cycle or getting teased in middle school gym class. Even as a young adult my mom got my family tickets through her job to go to see a few games. I remember we went to a game on a sticky August afternoon, and wouldn’t you know it, some intrepid young third baseman named Al Rodriguez hit a home run that day, his 500th I’m told. My sister and I cheered and hugged. And while I’m not sure what my brother-in-law’s reaction was at the time, I can imagine it fell somewhere between suspicion and disinterest.

You see, my brother-in-law is a good husband and a great dad, but he suffers from a major character flaw in that he’s a Red Sox fan. My sister and his jockeying over how to raise my 18-month-old niece plays out quite publicly on Facebook. One parent dresses my niece in preferred team apparel and posts about it, while the other is off running errands, and vice versa. I would be remiss in my duties as a proud uncle if I failed to mention that my niece smiles and giggles in her Yankee gear, and reacts with a look that says “Mommy is not going to like this,” when donning her Red Sox cap. In an effort to ease tensions, my brother-in-law’s mother, a highly skilled seamstress, bought both Yankees and Red Sox toddler sized jerseys, cut them in half and sewed two of the halves together. We won’t know for some time where my niece’s allegiances lay, and ultimately she may not end up liking or caring about baseball at all.

Yanks Sox jersey

As it turns out, ambivalence towards the sport isn’t exactly unheard of in my family. Not only is my uncle a die-hard converted Mets fan, but my aunt is from the Dominican Republic, which might be the most baseball-rich place on Earth. Her love for Robinson Cano is absolute and transcends team affiliations, and I think, is seconded only by her love of Marc Anthony, at least according to recent conversations. Nevertheless, their son, my cousin, has almost no interest in baseball whatsoever. It’s no surprise he’d much rather focus on swimming, a sport at which he excels.

I’m not sure my aunt and uncle did anything specific to turn him off of the sport. And, as much as “you can’t predict baseball”™ neither can you predict whether children will have the same allegiances as their parents or any interest in the sport at all. I have one parent who doesn’t like sports and another who doesn’t particularly care about them, and yet I turned out to be a rabid Yankee fan.

As this new season starts, I think about what it would have been like to talk to my grandfather about those great Yankees teams of the 30s, 40s and 50s, what it was like to watch the Bambino, the Mick, and Joltin’ Joe. I hope that one day I’ll get to talk about the baseball giants that I saw. “What do you mean he only threw one pitch, Grandpa?” “But wait, why would the shortstop even be positioned up the first base line for a relay through to the catcher?” Or maybe after this season, a story about the most improbable of Didi Gregorius playoff home runs. Hopefully, they don’t look at me as a senile elderly man, embellishing old stories, or worse, become Mets fans.

DotF: Clarkin throws five strong innings in Tampa’s win

Got two quick links to pass along:

  • Baseball America (no subs. req’d) published their annual list of the youngest players in each pro league. RHP Luis Severino is the third youngest player in the AL, behind Astros SS Carlos Correa and Blue Jays RHP Roberto Osuna. RHP Ronald Herrera is the fourth youngest player in the Double-A Eastern League, and SS Yancarlos Baez and SS Jorge Mateo are fifth and tenth youngest players in the High-A Florida State League, respectively.
  • Also, Cut4 ranked the top 100 minor league names, so that’s fun. RHP Icezack Flemming came in at No. 38.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (3-0 loss to Rochester) completion of yesterday’s game, which was suspended due to rain after four innings … since this is technically the Opening Day game, here is the full lineup

  • LF Ben Gamel: 0-4, 2 K, 1 SB
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 2B, 2 K — he struck out on a slider yesterday and a changeup today, per Donnie Collins and Shane Hennigan … that doesn’t tell us much of anything though
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding)
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 3-4, 1 2B — got picked off first … usually not good when one player has 75% of your hits for the game
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-4, 2 K — he threw a runner out at second from his knees according to Collins
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 0-3, 1 BB
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 0-4
  • DH Deibinson Romero: 0-3, 2 K
  • SS Pete Kozma: 0-2, 1 BB, 1 K — three years ago he was the starting shortstop for a pennant winning club, now he’s batting ninth in Triple-A
  • RHP Chad Green: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 5/2 GB/FB — 41 of 68 pitches were strikes (61%) … he started yesterday before the rain
  • RHP Tyler Cloyd: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 33 of 57 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K — eight of 13 pitches were strikes … he managed to give up five home runs in 10.2 innings in Spring Training, then gave one up to the first batter he faced in the regular season

[Read more…]

Friday Night Open Thread

Here is the open thread for the evening. The MLB Extra Innings package is still in free preview mode for a few more days, so find the channels and you can watch any baseball game you like tonight. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing as well. Talk about those games, today’s loss, or anything else here.

Offense no-shows as Yankees fall 4-0 to Tigers

On the bright side, Friday afternoon’s 4-0 loss to the Tigers was fairly quick. The game took only two hours and 44 minutes. The Yankees did their part to improve the pace by never once threatening offensively. There was nothing close to a rally.

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Rested For Saturday
The Yankees and Joe Girardi have been saying they plan to rest their regulars more often this season since the end of last year. I just didn’t think they would rest them all in the same game. Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran were all on the bench Friday afternoon, and Girardi cited the afternoon game following the late flight into Detroit as the reason. That makes sense, I guess.

Not surprisingly, the Yankees didn’t muster much against Jordan Zimmermann, who looked razor sharp in his first start with the Tigers. They had two hits and three walks in seven innings against Zimmermann — he walked three or more batters only four times in 33 starts last year — and they didn’t have a runner make it to second base until there were two outs in the seventh. At one point Zimmermann retired eight straight and eleven of 12 batters faced.

The Yankees did a little better against the bullpen — Austin Romine drew a walk against ex-Yankee Justin Wilson in the eighth and Brett Gardner led off the ninth with a single against Kyle Ryan — but not much came of it. It was a little late by then. Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mark Teixeira had the team’s three base hits. They were all singles. Teixeira advanced to second on a wild pitch and was the team’s only base-runner in scoring position.

I understand the importance of resting the veteran players, I do, and I’m all for it, but maybe stagger the rest going forward? That lineup didn’t stand much of a chance Friday afternoon. The pitching staff is not good enough to put a game in their hands like that.

Death By Soft Contact
In the fourth inning, the Tigers put together one of those annoying rallies in which Luis Severino‘s biggest mistake was allowing too much soft contact. I hate those. It’ll go into the records books as two hits on four singles and a fielder’s choice, but there was one hard-hit ball, and it should have been an out. J.D. Martinez lifted a high fly ball to center field that Ellsbury misread and turned into a base hit.

It’s kinda silly that plays like do not get ruled an error. It was a very catchable fly ball the outfielder misread, yet it counts against the pitcher. So silly. Anyway, regardless of the scoring, the ball fell in and the Tigers had a runner on first with one out instead of the bases empty with two outs. Nick Castellanos followed by pushing a ground ball single through the right side of the infield, then James McCann pulled a ball into the hole at shortstop for an infield single.

Didi Gregorius saved a run on McCann’s single — at least temporarily — because he kept it on the infield, but he had to dive and there was just no way he had time to get up and fire to first for the out. So the bases were loaded on a fly ball that should have been caught and two well-placed ground balls. Stupid baseball, man. Jose Iglesias then plated a run with a single on this not poorly located slider …

Luis Severino Jose Iglesias

… which was the second hardest hit ball of the inning. Anthony Gose grounded out to second to drive in the second run of the inning. I initially thought there was a chance for Starlin Castro to come home for the force out — Castellanos was chugging in from third — but he was playing far too deep, so he instead got the lead runner at second. There was no chance at a double play because Gose runs too well. Some innings, man.

Sevy’s Slider
In a weird way, the Tigers were not a great matchup for Luis Severino because they’re so right-handed. He has issues getting his slider down, and on Friday six of the ten hits he allowed came on sliders. When a right-hander is facing a lineup full of righties, he’s going to throw a lot of sliders. Very few of Severino’s sliders were as good as the one Iglesias singled off in that fourth inning.

Severino’s best secondary pitch right now is his changeup — to be clear, Severino’s slider typically has nasty movement, but he doesn’t command it consistently, so it’s a location issue more than a stuff issue — and he only threw eight of them Friday because the Tigers are so right-handed. That’s a pitch usually reserved for lefties. Also, Severino very rarely pitched inside …

Luis Severino location

… which didn’t help matters. (The plot is from the catcher’s point of view.) I’m not sure if that was the game plan — guys like Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and J.D. Martinez are going to punish an inside fastball if you miss even a little bit — but Severino didn’t make them move their feet at all. Little too predictable there, kid.

Severino was mostly fine overall. Certainly not overwhelming or dominant, but it was his first start of the year, and it was cold, and he was facing a good team. His final line was three runs on ten hits and no walks in five innings plus two batters. He struck out five and threw 95 pitches. My big takeaway: the slider location still needs work.

Luis Cessa became the final member of the Opening Day roster to get into a game this season. He made his Major League debut in the seventh and struck Justin Upton on four pitches. Not a bad way to begin your career. Cessa then allowed an opposite field home run to Cabrera, so yeah. He struck out two and allowed just the one run in two innings.

The Yankees got their first taste of the new neighborhood play rules. James McCann grounded into a 5-4-3 double play in the eighth, but the replay showed Castro was off the bag when he made the pivot, so the runner at second was ruled safe. It’s amazing MLB is going to such great lengths to make the game safer, yet they eliminated the neighborhood play.

Gregorius went 0-for-3 and saw four pitches total. Castro, in his first game as the No. 3 hitter, went 0-for-4. He banged into one double play and nearly hit into another, but was able to beat the throw at first. Ellsbury, Gardner, and Teixeira actually reached base five times in a dozen plate appearances. (Ellsbury was caught stealing after his single.) The rest of the team reached base twice in 20 plate appearances.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and for the game’s video highlights. Here are the updated standings, if you’re interested. We also have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The former is pretty useful. I’m still not sure why I bother with the latter. Now here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Tigers continue this three-game set Saturday afternoon. That’s another 1pm ET start. CC Sabathia will toe the slab for his first start of the new season. Mike Pelfrey will be on the bump for the Fightin’ Miggys.

Mailbag: Puello, Mitchell, Chapman, Gooden, Nicknames

The ultra-rare Friday matinee game screwed up our usual schedule today, so instead of posting the mailbag first thing, it had to wait until the afternoon. Anyway, I’ve got 14 questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the email address to use if you want to send us any questions throughout the week.

Puello. (Presswire)
Puello. (Presswire)

Chip asks: Ok Mike, I don’t know what to make of this situation so I come to you for your expert genius. Cesar Puello was a guy I predicted I would get irrationally excited about this spring, but the longer he has stuck around and the better he has performed against actual major leaguers I feel like my excitement may no longer be irrational so what’s the deal? Random guy having an awesome spring or former top prospect who got derailed due to injuries showing what he’s capable of when he stays healthy?

My head says random guy having a big spring, my heart says interesting prospect who was hindered by injuries the last few years. Puello played one (1) game last season due to a back injury, and he’s played a total of 263 games from 2012-15 due to injuries and a Biogenesis related suspension. (Puello is the only player suspended as a result of Biogenesis who has not played in MLB.)

Baseball America ranked Puello as the No. 77 prospect in all of baseball back in 2011, so he has natural ability. Heck, they ranked him as the No. 26 prospect in the Mets’ system prior to last season. It’s not like you have to look too far to see the last time he was a prospect. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report from the 2015 Prospect Handbook:

He has flashed every tool but one — the feel to hit … He has plus raw power and at least average in-game juice, but a wild, impatient plate approach inhibits his ability to get to it consistently. Righthanders with good breaking stuff are especially successful at retiring Puello. An average runner with the instincts to play all three outfield positions capably, he has a plus arm that will play in right field.

Aside from injuries, I’m not sure anything has derailed more talented players than the lack of “the feel to hit.” That’s a tough flaw to correct, especially when you’ve missed as much time as Puello has over the years. He’s worth a flier. Absolutely. And the Yankees should be able to give him Triple-A at-bats while Mason Williams is on the DL.

One thing to keep in mind: Puello is out of options. The Mets added him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft years ago, and he burned through his three option years. He has a year of service time too. The Mets outrighted him last year because he was out of options and wasn’t going to make the team, but then the back injury popped up, so they rescinded the outright and he spent the season on the MLB DL. Puello’s not a guy the Yankees can send up and down. Once he’s up, he’s up.

Chris asks: Do you know if Mitchell will get MLB pay now that the Yankees said he was going to make the Opening day roster?

Yes, he will. Bryan Mitchell is on the 40-man roster and he’s played in the big leagues in each of the last two years, so he’s currently on the Major League DL. They couldn’t send him to Triple-A and stick him on the minor league DL. Being on the DL is just like being on the active roster. Mitchell will get big league pay — the difference between the MLB minimum salary and even well-paid Triple-A players is hundreds of thousands of dollars — and accrue service time. No one wants to get hurt, but if you’re a guy like Mitchell and you get hurt, you want to spend your time on the big league DL.

Rubaiyat asks: Out of all the shuttle relievers, who do you think will stick around the longest in the majors?

This season or long-term? Johnny Barbato looks like he has a chance to stick around a while this year, and I base that on one regular season appearance and a bunch of Spring Training outings, so take it with a grain of salt. I’ve always felt Branden Pinder is a guy who will spent a lot of time in MLB because he does throw hard and have a good slider. He didn’t wow anyone last year, but the kid went up and down six times (!), and that couldn’t have been easy. I’d like to see what Pinder can do when he gets an extended chance to stay on the roster. Jacob Lindgren‘s the other one. His slider is so good. Aside from injuries, rarely do guys with a breaking ball that good become nothing.


Andrew asks: Assuming Chapman has a Chapman type year once he comes back from suspension, what do you think he gets on the open market?

I think he has a chance to set a new reliever contract record. The current record is Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $50M deal with the Phillies a few years ago. Papelbon was great, but Aroldis Chapman has been better …

2009-11 Papelbon 2.89 2.72 28.9% 7.5% +5.2
2013-15 Chapman 2.05 1.82 45.3% 11.7% +6.5

… he’ll be two years younger than Papelbon was at the time of his free agency, and salaries have inflated the last few years. Will teams try to ding Chapman for the domestic violence incident and subsequent suspension? Probably. They’ll use whatever they can to create leverage.

A lot of great relievers will be free agents next offseason — Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon, most notably — though I don’t think that will saturate the market. Teams always need high-end relievers. I could see Chapman winding up with a four-year contract at $13M or $14M per season, so $52M to $56M in total money. It’ll probably have an opt-out after two years or something too.

Richard asks: The BP farm rankings you linked to yesterday had the Red Sox at #5 and the Yanks at 16. Had the Yanks signed Moncada instead of the Sox, how would those rankings have changed?

Of course. Yoan Moncada is a legitimate top 15 prospect in all of baseball, maybe top ten, and guys like that are worth several spots in the farm system rankings all by themselves. Is he enough that the Yankees and Red Sox would switch spots? No way. But with Moncada, I think the Yankees would be much closer to the top ten, perhaps as high as No. 11 or 12.

Chris asks: Dwight Gooden. What was the biggest reason for his downfall: cocaine, overuse at an early age, or hitter figuring him out?

I definitely do not believe hitters figured him out. I think it was mostly overuse, and his physically issues were then exacerbated by the drug problems. Gooden threw 191 innings in the minors at age 18, 218 innings in MLB at age 19, and 276 innings in MLB at age 20. That is pretty insane. That’s a huge workload even back in those days. Those 218 innings are the fifth most by a 19-year-old in MLB history. (Three of the four guys ahead of Gooden started their careers prior to 1940.) The 276 innings are the fifth most by a 20-year-old in history. Doc threw a ton of innings at a very young ago, then he did even more damage to his body with the drug abuse. I was way too young to fully appreciate Gooden’s peak. He was incredible.

Brian asks: Who are your favorite non-Yankee announcers? I’m pretty lucky getting Gary Thorne down here in Baltimore and every once in a while like to switch up my feeds.

Thorne is pretty good. He’s in the top ten announcers for me. Vin Scully is still the best in the business in my opinion. There’s nothing better than chilling out at night, watching Clayton Kershaw pitch, and listening to Vin after a long day at the blog factory. Great way to unwind. The Giants (Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow) have a good booth and so do the Mets (Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez). Keith Hernandez is great because he might say something hilariously inappropriate at any time. Example:

Len Kasper (Cubs) and Brian Anderson (Brewers) are great play-by-play men in my opinion. I also really like the Glen Kuiper/Ray Fosse booth for the Athletics. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but Dave Sims, the Mariners play-by-play guy, has really grown on me. When I first purchased back in the day and started watching every team, I couldn’t stand Sims, but now I enjoy him. Go figure.

Ruby asks: Jack Cave was just returned to the Yankees. How common is it for a returned Rule 5 pick to become a significant major leaguer with their original club? What precedents are there with the Yankees?

It seems like it’s much more common for a player to be successful after being returned as a Rule 5 Draft pick than as an actual Rule 5 Draft pick. I guess these players aren’t quite big league ready when they get Rule 5ed, but a few years later, they’re ready to help. Ivan Nova is the most notable example with the Yankees. The Padres took Nova in the 2008 Rule 5 Draft, returned him at the end of Spring Training, and a few years later he became a mainstay in New York.

Other players who have gone on to have big league success after being returned as Rule 5 Draft picks include Ender Inciarte (picked in 2012 by the Phillies), George Kontos (2011 by Padres), R.A. Dickey (2007 by Mariners), Alfredo Simon (2006 by Orioles), and Shane Victorino (2002 by Padres). Victorino was actually a Rule 5 pick twice. He stuck the second time (2004 by Phillies). The success rate is still not very high, but it seems like the players who are returned and get more time to work on their skills in the minors have a better chance of becoming regulars down the line.

Brandon asks: Do you think Nova can perfectly replace Adam Warren? Not sure why but I have a good feeling he’s going to fill the role Warren played last year at the same level.

I don’t know about perfectly, but I do think Nova has a chance to fill that role. The only questions I have are can he a) warm up as quickly as Warren, and b) back as well on back-to-back days? One of Warren’s best attributes was the resiliency of his arm. He threw a few warm up tosses and was ready to go, and he was able to pitch effectively two days in a row. Can Nova do that, especially with Tommy John surgery in the not too distant past? The Yankees gave him almost an inning and a half to warm up the other night, after all.

Don asks: Beltran’s ground out in the first inning got me thinking. He grounded out with runners on second and third, but got the run in and moved the runner up from second to third, a very productive out. Yet, he starts 0-1. If he hit a fly ball and had the same productive result he would be 0-0 with the sacrifice. It’s understandable why a bunt would be a sacrifice because you are giving yourself up, but why the distinction between a Fly out and a ground out?

I’ve had this in the back of my mind for years and I’ve never found a satisfactory answer. Most things I’ve read say it’s because sacrifice flies are considering intentional. The batter was trying to hit the ball in the air to score the run. A run-scoring ground out is considered a ball that was mis-hit, so to speak. I’ve also seen the argument that an RBI ground out is considered a fielder’s choice, implying the fielder could have thrown home for the out but chose not to. I don’t have a good answer for this. I’m of the belief sacrifice flies should be considered at-bats and count against batting average because the hitter had a chance to get a hit and did not. How many hitters are truly up there trying to hit a sac fly? Most of them are up there trying to get a hit, and they settle for a sac fly. The hitter’s intent to give himself up is far more obvious with sac bunts.

Frank asks: I was looking at an article from Fangraphs’ author Cistilli, and I noticed that Didi had a WAR of 3.1 with a wRC+89 in 2015. While Wilmer Flores only had a WAR of 1.9 and he had a wRC+95. Both are good fielders but I am a little confused about the discrepancy in WAR. Can you explain this?

It’s the defense. Flores is not a good defender at all, which is why the Mets went with Ruben Tejada as their regular shortstop in the second half last year, and turned Wilmer into a bench player this year. Last season Gregorius had a +5 DRS and +7.4 UZR. Flores was at -10 DRS and -2.5 UZR at shortstop. That’s the difference right there.


Victor asks: Do you think the Yankees consider Teixeira on 1 year deal with a club option for a 2nd year?

Assuming Mark Teixeira doesn’t fall off a cliff this year — and assuming it doesn’t screw up the plan to get under the luxury tax threshold — I think the Yankees would strongly consider re-signing him to a one-year contract with an option regardless of Greg Bird‘s status. If Bird’s rehab comes along slowly for any reason, pursuing Teixeira on those terms is a no-brainer. And even if his rehab is going well, Teixeira is added depth and would give the team the luxury of sending Bird to Triple-A to knock off any rust. The Yankees aren’t spending like they once did, but I think it’s the big money long-term deals that scare them. A one-year deal for Teixeira, who they know very well, is something the team may be open to.

Paul asks: On a day after Nova pitches, who is most likely to be the guy to take one for the team and pitch 3-4 innings in the event of an emergency?

I have to think it’s Luis Cessa right now. He got stretched out to three innings in Spring Training, so the Yankees could probably send Cessa out there for four innings right now, as long as his pitch count doesn’t get out of control. Barbato and Kirby Yates are true short relievers. One or two innings at the most. Cessa is a starter by trade and he’s somewhat stretched out.

Sean asks: Do we know Girardi’s nickname for each guy on the 25 man roster? What % end in -y?

Oh this is a good one. Let’s build a table and try to fill in the blanks.

Player Nickname Player Nickname
Johnny Barbato  ? Brian McCann  Mac
Dellin Betances  ? Austin Romine  ?
Luis Cessa  ? Starlin Castro Starsky (yup)
Nathan Eovaldi  Evo Didi Gregorius  Didi
Andrew Miller  ? Chase Headley  Head
Ivan Nova  ? Mark Teixeira  Tex
Michael Pineda  ? Ronald Torreyes  ?
CC Sabathia  C Dustin Ackley  ?
Luis Severino  Sevy Carlos Beltran  ?
Chasen Shreve Shrevey? Jacoby Ellsbury  Ells
Masahiro Tanaka  ? Brett Gardner  Gardy
Kirby Yates  ? Aaron Hicks  Hicksy
Alex Rodriguez  Al

Much harder than I expected! I guess maybe that’s because there was so much bench and bullpen turnover this year. (No more Jonesy, for example.) I feel like I’ve heard Girardi call Shreve “Shrevey” before, but I wonder if I’m being confused by everyone joking around and calling him that.

Some guys, like Sabathia and Gregorius, don’t really need nicknames. Heck, Didi already is a nickname. (Didi’s real name is Mariekson Julius Gregorius.) Girardi calls A-Rod “Al” pretty much all the time. Al or Alex. So which ones am I missing? I feel like I’m blanking on a bunch of obvious nicknames here.