Tanaka gets shelled and offense can’t come up clutch in a 5-4 loss to Boston

The Yankees are a good team. However, this game was a microcosm of the team’s weaknesses – their ace slumping and the struggling hitters failing to deliver in big spots. They did show some of that Fighting Spirit towards the end, gathering a few runs against the Sox bullpen, but came up short. The Yankees are only up by one game in the division – the Red Sox and Orioles trail by 1.o and 2.5 games respectively.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Bad Tanaka, again

The fall of Masahiro Tanaka so far in 2017 can be described as “mystifying.” After a great 2016 season and Spring Training, Tanaka just hasn’t looked like himself at all this season. Of course, I might have said this before – players go through slumps, but what Tanaka is going through seems more than that. It is now more than two months into the season and a pitcher who was supposed to be the ace has been a liability.

As David Cone suggested during the broadcast, the Yankees are probably going to keep Tanaka in the rotation. Maybe that’s the solution. Maybe not. It is a finicky situation that the Yankees have with Tanaka right now. You take a guy with a big contract who’s been pretty great for the past three seasons, see him in an unseasonable slump… what do you do? Many on Twitter have pointed out that Chance Adams is lined up perfectly with Tanaka in starts but would the Yankees call him up? I don’t know. It’s only June, but I don’t know how worse Adams would pitch than Tanaka right now. As Jack Curry said, I don’t think it is going to be right now.

Again, the downfall of Tanaka came with the home runs. He has allowed 11 home runs in the past 22.2 IP, which is extremely not what you want. It also didn’t help that he wasn’t exactly fooling a lot of hitters tonight, generating only 3 whiffs all night (one on fastball, two on splitter) per Brooks Baseball.

The backbreaker happened in the top of the fourth inning. With a 1-1 tie, Tanaka walked Xander Bogaerts to begin the inning. Mitch Moreland followed it up with a massive 434-feet home run off a hanging 85-mph slider to give Red Sox a 3-1 lead. Hanley Ramirez, not to be outdone, hit a 90 mph fastball down the middle just over the left field fence to extend the lead to 4-1. At that point, Yankee fans were collectively thinking somewhere in the line of “not again” and “what the heck is really going on with Masahiro??” That didn’t improve when Tanaka, once again, gave up another Red Sox dinger in the fifth – this time, to Andrew Benintendi, on a 90 mph fastball inside.

While Tanaka did finish the fifth inning, he left the game with another bad line: 5 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 1 BB and 2 K’s. His season ERA has risen to 6.55 and so has his FIP (5.60). He has a HR/9 rate of 2.32. His 2017 implosion has been something to behold, but in a very painful way.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Failed rally attempts

To the Yankee offense credit, they did make Drew Pomeranz work. The lefty battled and threw 123 pitches in only five innings Meanwhile, the Yankees squeezed only 2 runs off of him. In fact, in 10 AB’s of RISP chances, the Yankees failed to gather a base hit. The only time that they got something out of a runner in scoring position was in the eighth inning, when Craig Kimbrel struck out Didi Gregorius, but the ball got past Christian Vazquez and Matt Holliday scored. It didn’t help that the ball was in the court for two coldest hitters in the lineup – Chase Headley and Chris Carter – twice each. Had they came through at least once, we could be talking about a different ballgame. The Yankees had opportunities to break open several times but they merely gathered four runs. That is annoying.

While Headley and Carter have been futile (well, Carter did have a solo HR), it also doesn’t help when the first two hitters of the lineup also becomes quiet. Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez combined for 0-for-9 with 5 strikeouts. While the no. 3 to no. 7 hitters each had at least a base hit and helped engineered the rallies, the top and bottom of the lineup failed to cash in. Gardner and Sanchez have flashed offensive brilliance this season but Headley and Carter… man, they have continually become liabilities.

Leftovers

How about Chad Green? He kept the Yankees in the game coming into relief for Tanaka and looked pretty strong. Green went 3.1 IP, allowed zero baserunners and struck out six out of ten hitters – not an easy feat against that Red Sox lineup. Always makes me wonder if Green keeps it up, if the Yanks will look at him at the rotation again or they’ll stick him there as a solid relief arm.

In a frustrating day for the lineups, Aaron Judge continued to shine, hitting 2-for-4 and drawing a walk. The current AL All-Star voting leader is hitting .328/.433/.683 for the season.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will have C.C. Sabathia on the mound against last year’s AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. Hopefully a new win streak starts tomorrow. If the Yanks lose, then the Sox will claim tie with New York atop the AL East 1st place. Imagine that. The Red Sox are a good team and their surge isn’t unprecedented. It’s up to the Yankees to try to hold them off.

DotF: Andujar’s hitting streak hits 14 games in Trenton’s win

Here are the day’s notes:

  • The Low-A South Atlantic League All-Star Rosters were announced today. C Donny Sands, SS Hoy Jun Park, OF Blake Rutherford, and RHP Brian Keller were all selected. Congrats to them. I’m surprised OF Estevan Florial didn’t make it. He could still be added to the roster if someone gets hurt or promoted though. Here are the Southern Division and Northern Division rosters.
  • RHP Chance Adams made Baseball America’s Prospect Team of the Month for May. He had a 1.50 ERA (3.06 FIP) with 37 strikeouts and 12 walks in six starts and 36 innings last month. Adams made four of those starts with Triple-A Scranton.
  • RHP Mark Wotherspoon has been bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. The RailRiders lost RHP Ernesto Frieri and LHP Jason Gurka over the weekend. Wotherspoon gets them back to full strength.

Triple-A Scranton (8-1 loss to Rochester) they faced old pal LHP Nik Turley again, and he struck out 15 (!) in six innings

  • 3B Tyler Wade: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — 9-for-22 (.409) during his little six-game hitting streak
  • CF Dustin Fowler & SS Gleyber Torres: both 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • DH Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 BB, 2 K
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-4, 1 R, 3 K — in a 4-for-26 (.154) slump
  • RF Mason Williams: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Chance Adams: 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 8/2 GB/FB — 62 of 102 pitches were strikes (61%) … gave up his first hit with one out in the fifth … his sixth inning went grounder, double, walk, homer, walk, double play … things unraveled a bit there
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB, 1 E (pickoff) — 12 of 22 pitches were strikes (55%)

[Read more…]

Game 55: Can the good Tanaka come back? Pretty please?

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Once upon a time, Masahiro Tanaka was a good pitcher. Crazy, I know. It can be easy to forget that given how terrible three of his last four starts were. We’re talking 22 runs and eight homers in 17.2 innings terrible. And that includes his 13-strikeout game against the A’s two weeks ago. Tanaka has legitimately been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this year, and man, that sucks so hard.

On the bright side, Tanaka’s best start of the season came against the same Red Sox team he’ll face tonight. Gosh, I sure would love a repeat of that complete game shutout performance tonight. I’ll settle for a quality start. Please come back, good Masahiro. We all miss you. Here is the Red Sox’s 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. CF Aaron Hicks
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Not a great weather day in New York. It’s overcast and it was raining earlier today, though there’s none of the wet stuff in the forecast tonight. At least not enough of it to delay or postpone the game. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:05pm ET. You can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) expects to throw one more bullpen session with the Yankees before heading to Tampa on Friday to continue his rehab. If all goes well, it could be a quick minor league rehab assignment, and he could rejoin the team in the middle of next week … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) remains “status quo,” according to Joe Girardi. He is still experiencing symptoms and there is no timetable for his return … Greg Bird (ankle) will join Triple-A Scranton on Thursday to continue his rehab assignment.

All-Star Voting Update: MLB released the second AL All-Star Game voting update earlier today, and Judge has taken over as the league’s leading vote-getter. Pretty cool. His 1,251,543 votes are second only to Bryce Harper (1,459,235) among all players. Here’s the full voting update. Castro has predictably fallen behind Jose Altuve at second base. Holliday is second at DH, Gregorius is third at shortstop, and Sanchez is fourth at catcher.

2017 Draft: Alex Faedo

Alex Faedo | RHP

Background
Faedo, 21, was a 40th round draft pick by the Tigers out of a Tampa high school back in 2014. He followed through on his commitment to Florida, where he has emerged as one of the top right-handers in the country. Faedo has a 2.80 ERA with 113 strikeouts and 32 walks in 15 starts and 96.1 innings this season. For his career, he has a 3.06 ERA with 305 strikeouts and 69 walks in 262 innings. It’s worth noting Faedo had minor arthroscopic knee surgery last year, which caused him to miss fall ball and get off to a bit a slow start this year.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-5 and 225 lbs., Faedo has a big league frame, and as he’s gotten further away from knee surgery, his fastball has ticked back up into the 93-94 mph range. He was down around 90-92 mph earlier this year. His out pitch is a hard slider he’ll throw at any time. There’s some thought Faedo throws the slider too much. A decent changeup is his third best pitch. Even though he’s a good athlete, Faedo’s delivery can get out of whack and his command is below average. Between the heavy slider usage, the less than pretty delivery, and lack of command, more than a few folks see Faedo as a reliever long-term, potentially a very good one.

Miscellany
In their latest draft prospect rankings Baseball America (10th), MLB.com (11th), and Keith Law (13th) all ranked Faedo as a top half of the first round talent. The Yankees have the 16th overall pick. I think the odds are pretty good Faedo, warts and all, will be off the board before the Yankees have a chance to pick because top college performers are always in demand.

6/6 to 6/8 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts & Benintendi. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Bogaerts & Benintendi. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

After a much-need day off, the Yankees are back to the AL East grindstone this evening. This is their third of four straight series against divisional opponents, and it will also determine who is in first place by the time the weekend rolls around. The Yankees are currently two games ahead of the Red Sox, with two games in hand.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees swept a two-game series in Boston on April 26-27; it was meant to be a three-game set, but the first game was rained-out (the first of three rainouts the Yankees have had thus far). Some notes:

  • Luis Severino was dominant in the first game, going 7 scoreless innings and striking out 6, while allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks. It was the longest scoreless outing of his career through that date (it was since surpassed, though, because he’s been awesome this year).
  • Aaron Judge celebrated his 25th birthday in that same game, and did so with a two-run home run and diving catch into the stands.
  • Pitching was the story in the second game, as well – Masahiro Tanaka tossed a complete game shutout, allowing 3 hits and no walks, striking out 3. It was a Maddux, as well, as he only needed 97 pitches. A two-to-one groundball to flyball ratio and 72% first-pitch strikes helped that effort quite a bit.
  • The Yankees and Red Sox combined for just twelve base-runners in that game, and all reached base via single.

Injury Report

The Red Sox are still injury-riddled, as has been the case since Opening Day. Brock Holt, Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Rodriguez, Robbie Ross, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, and Steven Wright are all on the disabled list, and none are expected to return during this series. Those last two are the worst cases by far, with Thornburg’s persistent shoulder injury leaving him with no clear timetable for return, and Wright being out for the year, having underwent season-ending knee surgery in May.

Their Story So Far

Boston was a .500 team as recently as May 21, on the heels of dropping three out of four to the lowly A’s. They’ve won 10 of 14 since then, outscoring their opponents 87 to 48 in that stretch. They’re currently 31-25 on the season, with a +38 run differential.

Injuries have been the story of their season, as one may suspect. The current disabled list only tells half the story – Jackie Bradley Jr., David Price (who didn’t pitch until May 29), and Pablo Sandoval spent time on the DL, too, and Xander Bogaerts, Sandy Leon, and Hanley Ramirez have dealt with nagging injuries for most of the year. We’ve yet to see this team at full-strength as a result.

For more specifics about the Red Sox, check out Over the Monster.

The Lineup We Might See

The Red Sox have settled into a mostly consistently lineup of late, though that’s largely due to Pedroia’s injury. Manager John Farrell has used the same one-through-six for three games in a row, and the bottom three is dependent upon who’s filling in for Pedroia and who’s catching for the day. We’ll probably see something like this:

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  5. Hanley Ramirez, DH
  6. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
  7. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
  8. Christian Vazquez, C or Sandy Leon, C
  9. Deven Marrero, 2B

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz

It’s been something of a rough 2017 for Pomeranz, as the 28-year-old southpaw had a late start to the season due to a flexor strain, and left a start early in mid-May with triceps tightness. He only missed a start or two overall, but it has taken him awhile to right the ship. That being said, he currently sports an elite strikeout rate (11.3 K/9, 29.0 K%) and a solid walk rate (7.7%), and his 3.58 FIP/3.25 xFIP suggest that his 4.24 ERA (106 ERA+) should come back down.

Pomeranz is basically a two-pitch guy, as his low-90s four-seamer and big breaking curveball account for over 90% of his pitches. He throws a mid-80s cutter and a low-80s change-up every so often, but those are little more than show-me pitches.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 5/31) – 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Rick Porcello

Porcello struggled in April, closing out the month with a 4.75 ERA/4.40 FIP. He has pitched better since the calendar flipped to May, but he still doesn’t look like the guy that won the Cy Young last year. As of this writing he has the lowest groundball rate of his career (37.9% against a previous low of 43.1%), and he’s allowing a 42.7% hard contact rate (a career-worst by 9.9 percentage points). That hard-hit percentage is the second-worst in the majors right now.

His pitch selection hasn’t changed all that much this year, as Porcello is still throwing his four-seamer, two-seamer, slider, curve, and change-up; his velocity is similar across the board, as well. That being said, his fastball and change-up have been hit hardest as per PITCHf/x, so there could be something going on with his mechanics.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 6/2) – 6.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Thursday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. LHP David Price

An elbow injury in Spring Training kept Price out of action until last week, which was far and away his longest stint on the disabled list. He showed little rust in his first two starts, though, with his velocity being higher than it was last season on all of his offerings. There’s not much else I can tell you about Price that you aren’t already overwhelmingly familiar with, given that he’s thrown 1460 IP for AL East teams.

Price throws three fastballs (mid-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, high-80s cutter) and a mid-80s change-up, mixing all four pitches extremely well. He’ll throw a knuckle-curve once or twice a game to change a batter’s eye level, but he’s mostly a fastball/change-up guy.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 6/3) – 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K

The Bullpen

Relief pitching has been a strength for the Red Sox, even with Smith and Thornburg sitting on the DL since Opening Day. Closer Craig Kimbrel is having what may be the best season of his career, with staggering strikeout (53.3%) and walk (4.4%) rates, and a sparkling 1.07 ERA (423 ERA+) in 25.1 IP. Set-up man Joe Kelly (1.48 ERA in 24.1 IP) and LOOGY Robby Scott (1.42 ERA in 12.2 IP) have been brilliant in their roles, and middle relievers Fernando Abad, Matt Barnes, and Heath Hembree have been effective, as well.

Thanks to Monday’s off day, the Red Sox bullpen is fairly well-rested.

Yankees Connection

As was the case last time these two met, Chris Young is the only former Yankee on this Red Sox team. Let’s remember the good times, shall we?

Who (Or What) To Watch?

The Yankees have owned David Price for the better part of his career – he has a 4.55 ERA in 221.1 IP against the Yankees, and a 3.01 ERA in 1462.1 IP against everyone else. That doesn’t make me excited to see him, given that he’s a legitimate ace – but it almost always adds an interesting narrative to the match-up at hand.

Why Chris Carter isn’t Randy Winn (but may suffer the same fate)

(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Chris Carter has had an objectively bad start to his Yankees career.

It was hard to imagine the team getting worse offensive production at 1B after Mark Teixeira‘s bad 2016, but we’re there anyway. Carter isn’t nearly the fielder Teixeira was (to be fair, neither is Greg Bird). But Carter was paid $3.5 million to mash and he’s hit just four home runs while producing a .180/.279/.333 batting line. He’s struck out 48 times in 129 plate appearances over 41 games.

Let’s be realistic: Carter has never been a strong batting average guy (career best is .239) and his 37.2 percent strikeout rate would be highest full season mark, but not much higher than his past numbers. However, his ISO is way down, going from .277 last year and .228 in 2015 to .153 so far this season.

The logical comparison for Carter right now would seem to be 2010 Randy Winn. Winn was a veteran brought in during the offseason after the 2009 title run and he would be cut by the Yankees on May 28, two weeks shy of his 36th birthday.

Carter could be in line for a similar mid-season axe. Greg Bird is on his way. Tyler Austin is in Triple A and could replace him whenever the team deems him ready. Rob Refsnyder, someone the Yankees have been allergic to giving at-bats to at times, has started over Carter multiple times in the past week. The writing is on the wall.

But Carter isn’t Winn. Not all that close. Even with the potential for the same fate and similar lack of production, the comparison stops right about there. Here’s why:

1. Winn was coming off a career-worst season: Winn was well below average the year before in San Francisco. Over his age 33 and 34 seasons with the Giants in 2007-08, Winn batted .303/.358/.436 while averaging 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases a year. Then he dipped significantly in 2009, mustering just a .262/.318/.353 mark. His strikeout rate crept up and his walk rate fell with his ISO. He still provided defensive value and 16 stolen bases, thus his 1.8 fWAR and 1.3 bWAR. But he was clearly aging and was becoming a negative in center field, although still able to play the corners.

Sure, Carter struck out 206 times in 2016, but he walked 76 times and, let’s not forget, led the National League in home runs. He’s always been a defensive negative, but he’s also never been a below-average hitter since he received anything resembling full-time work.

Therefore, taking the flyer on the aging Winn may have been foolish to begin with, but there was no reason to doubt Carter’s hitting ability. This year is the outlier with the lack of power.

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

2. Winn was brought in for cheap without a starting role in mind: The Yankees paid Winn just $1.1 million in 2010 to come in as their fourth outfielder. That was an $8.6 mil pay cut from 2009, when Winn was a starter. The team had Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher as regulars, and Winn wasn’t going to find himself in regular at-bats barring injury. None of those three were major injury risks. Perhaps Gardner was unseasoned, but the team clearly chose him over Melky Cabrera by trading Melky, so there had to be confidence in him starting his second full season.

Carter took a pay cut over what he could have gotten in arbitration, but he got about market value and $1 million more than last year. He was brought in for potentially many more at-bats and was Bird insurance. At worst, he was a platoon bat. But it was more likely that the team saw him as a major power boost with Bird potentially not being ready for the role. It wasn’t too hard to see him getting regular playing time … like he has.

The way to look at this is: It wasn’t hard to see Carter earning regular at-bats within a few weeks. Whether for Matt Holliday or for Bird, Carter getting into the lineup was easy to see. Winn was harder the see a consistent role other than a bench bat.

3. Winn had no clear replacements when he played himself off the roster and was clearly done: This is a big point. There was no one waiting in the wings to replace Winn. Winn had to put up incredibly poor numbers to be jettisoned. (His .213/.300/.295 line says it all). He not only put up bad numbers but also looked overpowered at the plate. He simply never adjusted to his backup role and was out of baseball after 162 more plate appearances with the Cardinals.

Carter has played poorly, but it’s hard to think that he’s done. Whether it’s the mechanics of his swing or something else entirely, Carter just seems off. His defense isn’t much different from normal. His batting hasn’t been good, but he also has done just enough that, in other circumstances, he could easily stay on as a bench piece. He’s only 30 years old and it’s hard to think he’s done. There’s a reason the Yankees have given him more of a chance than they ever gave Winn.

Carter could very well be more the type of player who the Yankees would cut and then we’d see him playing at his 2012-16 level for the second half (think LaTroy Hawkins in 2008). It’s as much his performance that would lead to an early exit from pinstripes as it is his replacements.

Winn ultimately had a -0.7 bWAR (-0.4 fWAR) and his replacements (Austin Kearns, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson and others) weren’t all that much better. He slightly rebounded in St. Louis in the second half but was still below average and was out of baseball after that season.

Carter isn’t done in baseball, far from it, even if the Yankees release him. But the presence of Bird and Austin, and the potential they bring to the table within the Yankees’ overall youth movement, make Carter expendable over the next few weeks despite having more potential to turn things around than Winn.

Thoughts before the start of the six-game homestand

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

The Yankees had an off-day yesterday, and tonight they’ll begin a six-game homestand with the first of three against the Red Sox. The Orioles will then be in town this weekend. After that, the Yankees are heading out to the West Coast for the first time this season. It’s been a while and I have some thoughts on stuff, so let’s get to ’em.

1. Perspective time: The Yankees have played 54 games this year, exactly one-third of the season, and they’re 32-22 with a +70 run differential. I would have signed up for that in a damn heartbeat back in Spring Training. Furthermore, the Yankees have done that even though a) Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and Aroldis Chapman all missed a month with injuries, b) Masahiro Tanaka has legitimately been one of the worst starters in baseball, and c) first base has been an absolute black hole offensively. Pretty amazing the Yankees are where they are. Maybe they’re actually good? Not maybe. They are good. Even now, when they’re not winning as often as they did a few weeks ago, they haven’t completely cratered. They’ve been able to play .500 ball over the last few weeks. Even their slumps aren’t that bad. The Yankees have avoided those long rough patches that can sink a season. We’ll see how things go over the final 108 games of the season, but right now, it’s really tough not to feel good about this team going forward. The Yankees have some really fun and exciting pieces to build around for the first time in a long time.

2. One of those building blocks is Aaron Judge, who is hitting .324/.429/.681 (194 wRC+) with an MLB leading 18 home runs. I’ve always been a huge Judge believer and even I never expected this. PECOTA’s 90th percentile projection — the system’s most optimistic projection — coming into the season was .283/.380/.530 with 24 home runs. Judge would have to go hitless in his next 53 at-bats (!) to drag his slugging percentage down to .530. Mike Trout’s unfortunate injury means the AL MVP race is going to be wide open come the end of the season, and given the way he’s playing, Judge is going to be right in that mix. He went into last night’s games second in bWAR (behind Trout) and third in fWAR (behind Trout and, uh, Zack Cozart) in MLB, so yes, he has truly been one of the best players in baseball this season, rookie or veteran. My hunch is Carlos Correa, the best player on the best team in baseball, is going to benefit most in the MVP race from Trout’s injury. Judge will too though.

3. There are still 100-something games to go, though at this point, Judge is far and away the leading candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year. There’s no race right now. Judge would win unanimously if the voting were held today, which of course it isn’t. Andrew Benintendi was the popular preseason pick — he was my Rookie of the Year pick — but he’s hitting .269/.342/.413 (96 wRC+) and is under +1 WAR. The race right now is for Rookie of the Year runner-up, and you know what? It very well might be Jordan Montgomery. Here is the AL rookie fWAR leaderboard real quick:

  1. Aaron Judge: +3.0
  2. Mitch Haniger: +1.3
  3. Jordan Montgomery: +1.2
  4. Ben Gamel: +1.2
  5. Guillermo Heredia: +0.9

Two Yankees, two Mariners, and one Yankee-turned-Mariner. My point isn’t that Montgomery deserves to be the Rookie of the Year runner-up, just that the Yankees have two rookies on the roster providing good (Montgomery) to great (Judge) production. Last time that happened was when, 2005 with Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang? And that doesn’t include Sanchez, last year’s Rookie of the Year runner-up, or Luis Severino, the youngest player on the 25-man roster.

4. Speaking of the rotation, the Yankees are one-third of the way through the season, and they’ve only used five starting pitchers so far. Montgomery, Severino, Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda. That’s it. The Cardinals and Braves are the only other teams to use no more than five starters this season. Seventeen teams, more than half the league, have used eight different starters already. The Yankees have played well overall this season, and they’ve also been blessed with good health, at least on the pitching side. Tanaka, weirdly enough, has been the only starter who has pitch poorly enough to make you think about replacing him, but his track record (and contract) all but assures that won’t happen. Will this continue all season? I seriously doubt it. Only one team this century, the 2003 Mariners, made it through an entire season with only five starters. If nothing else, the Yankees figure to use a spot sixth starter at some point to give their regular starters a rest. Point is, one of the reasons the Yankees are where they are is the fact their five best starting pitchers have stayed on the mound and made every start.

JoMo. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
JoMo. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

5. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s concussion and ongoing headaches are pretty scary. He suffered damage to his brain, that’s what a concussion is, and we’ve seen more than a few players have their careers derailed by concussions. Mike Matheny had to retire due to ongoing concussions. Justin Morneau was never really the same after getting kneed in the head a few years ago. One of the reasons both Joe Mauer and Jorge Posada had to stop catching was a string of concussions. Matheny, Mauer, and Posada were all catchers who took years of foul tips to the face mask, but still. Concussions can do serious damage and the Yankees have to be safe and careful with Ellsbury. Forgot about the “Aaron Hicks is awesome and he can play center field everyday in the meantime” thing. This is about protecting a player and his career and his quality of life. Yeah, I’m glad Hicks is getting a chance to play everyday, but I didn’t want him to get his chance like this. Hopefully Ellsbury comes out of this okay.

6. I’m actually a little happy Gleyber Torres struggled a bit in his first two weeks in Triple-A. Happy probably isn’t the right world. I think it’s a net positive though. Gleyber hasn’t failed much, if at all, in his career to date. In the grand scheme of things, it’s beneficial he’s facing some adversity and learning how to make adjustments. That’s not something you want a player to experience for the first time in the big leagues, though sometimes it’s unavoidable. (Severino never struggled until he got to MLB.) The fact Torres is still taking his walks despite having a tough time at the plate is an indication he’s sticking with his approach, and that’s what you want to see. When a player starts getting away from what makes him successful, that’s when you get a little worried. Gleyber admitted to D.J. Eberle the other day that he’s a little overwhelmed at the moment, and I appreciate the honesty. Baseball will humble you in a heartbeat. Seeing a top prospect struggle for any length of time is no fun, but in the long run, these rough few weeks with the RailRiders will help make Torres a better player.

7. Even though the starters aside from Tanaka have pitched well overall this season, the Yankees are still carrying eight relievers, which is such a waste of a roster spot. Chad Green is the seventh reliever in the bullpen, not even the eighth, and he’s pitched twice in the last 13 games. Tommy Layne has made three appearances and thrown 14 pitches (!) in the last 14 games. I get there’s always concern about extra innings or a short start or whatever, but whenever that happens, the Yankees have the bodies to get through it. They can then adjust their pitching staff accordingly the next day. I feel like that roster spot, the eighth reliever spot, could be better used on another bench player, especially with the corner infield spots being black holes. Greg Bird is coming back soon, so perhaps he’ll replace the eighth reliever. Ultimately, we’re talking about the 25th man on the 25-man roster here, and whoever that is won’t play a whole lot. It still feels like the Yankees are really overdoing it on arms right now when there are glaring needs at first and third bases.