Judge named finalist for MVP and Rookie of the Year, Severino for Cy Young

Judge and Sevy. (Al Bello/Getty)
Judge and Sevy. (Al Bello/Getty)

Earlier this evening MLB and the BBWAA announced three finalists for each of the major 2017 awards, and, as expected, Aaron Judge is a finalist for both AL MVP and AL Rookie of the Year. Luis Severino is a finalist for AL Cy Young as well. That is pretty damn awesome. Here are all the awards finalists.

Judge will undoubtedly be named AL Rookie of the Year when the awards are announced next week. He should win unanimously. Judge will be the Yankees’ first Rookie of the Year since Derek Jeter, and the ninth Yankee to win the award overall. He’ll join Jeter (1996), Dave Righetti (1981), Thurman Munson (1970), Stan Bahnsen (1968), Tom Tresh (1962), Tony Kubek (1957), Bob Grim (1954), and Gil McDougald (1951).

As for AL MVP, I think Judge will have a tough time beating out Jose Altuve for the award, even though he has the edge statistically in basically everything except batting average and stolen bases.

  • AVG: Altuve (.348 to .287)
  • OBP: Judge (.422 to .410)
  • SLG: Judge (.627 to .547)
  • wRC+: Judge (173 to 160)
  • HR: Judge (52 to 24)
  • XBH: Judge (79 to 67)
  • SB: Altuve (32 to 9)
  • DRS: Judge (+9 to +3)
  • fWAR: Judge (+8.2 to +7.5)
  • bWAR: Altuve (+8.3 to +8.1)

Judge’s second half slump will almost certainly cost him the AL MVP award. Altuve had a consistent year from start to finish, and when you have the big dip in the middle like Judge, it’ll hurt. Then again, you could argue the Yankees wouldn’t have made the postseason without Judge whereas the Astros would’ve cruised to AL West title even without Altuve. Whatever.

Judge may not win AL MVP, but he will be on the cover of MLB The Show 18, and that’s pretty damn cool. He was announced as the cover athlete today.

Severino, meanwhile, is going to finish third in the Cy Young voting behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. You can take that to the bank. Those two likely received the first and second place votes on every Cy Young ballot, in either order. No shame in finishing third behind those two. Severino beat out Justin Verlander, Marcus Stroman, Ervin Santana, and Craig Kimbrel, among others, for the third finalist spot.

The award winners will be announced next week and the BBWAA and MLB already know who won. The votes have been tallied up. They’ve been announcing finalists the last few seasons to drum up interest. I have no idea why they even call them finalists. They don’t vote again. Shouldn’t they just be finishers? Anyway, congrats to Judge and Severino. Being up for these awards is an incredible accomplishment.

Monday Night Open Thread

Well today was an eventful day. Brian Cashman spoke for the first time since the Yankees cut ties with Joe Girardi a few weeks ago, and while he didn’t say anything surprising, he did admit there is no firm timetable to name a new manager. Also, Cashman said he himself doesn’t have a new contract yet. They’re still working on it. Huh. The fact he’s holding conference calls and looking for a new manager despite not having a contract tells you he’s coming back, not that there was any doubt.

Anyway, here is an open thread for the night. The Lions and Packers are the Monday Night Football game, plus the (hockey) Rangers and Nets are both in action. Talk about those games or anything else here, as long as it’s not politics or religion.

(Self-Promotion: I made ten bold offseason predictions for CBS. You don’t have to read it. Just click it and leave the tab open for a few minutes.)

Yankees do not tender qualifying offer to any free agents

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, the Yankees did not tender the qualifying offer to any of their free agents prior to today’s deadline. The qualifying offer is a one-year contract set the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball, and this offseason it is worth $17.4M. Free agents who reject the qualifying offer are attached to draft pick compensation.

The Yankees only had one free agent worthy of the qualifying offer this offseason: Masahiro Tanaka. He did not opt out of his contract over the weekend and will stay with the Yankees. Had Tanaka opted out, of course the Yankees would’ve made the qualifying offer. He’s not going to walk away from three years and $67M only to take the one-year, $17.4M qualifying offer.

Matt Holliday, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda are the only other Yankees free agents eligible for the qualifying offer. Todd Frazier and Jaime Garcia are not eligible because they were traded at midseason. Pineda will miss most of next season following Tommy John surgery, so of course he didn’t get the qualifying offer. Neither Holliday nor Sabathia is worth $17.4M these days. The Yankees still might re-sign Sabathia to a smaller contract.

Nine free agents received the qualifying offer before today’s deadline. Here’s the list. Big name free agents Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez were not eligible for the qualifying offer after being traded at the deadline. Those nine players have a week to accept or reject the qualifying offer. The new draft pick compensation rules are pretty convoluted. Here’s a primer.

Cashman: Yankees parted ways with Girardi over concerns he didn’t “communicate and connect” with players

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today Brian Cashman spoke to reporters for the first time since the Yankees parted ways with manager Joe Girardi nearly two weeks ago. Cashman confirmed his own new contract is not done yet, though the fact he’s holding conference calls and discussing the search for a new manager pretty much confirms he’s sticking around.

Anyway, Cashman discussed both the decision to move on from Girardi — “We didn’t fire anybody, but we did choose not to re-hire,” is how Cashman described it — as well as the team’s ongoing search for a new skipper. Here are the conference call highlights, pieced together from all the wonderful beat writers on Twitter.

  • On decision to part ways with Girardi: “We do not make changes at that level lightly, so it was a very difficult and challenging decision … Easiest call would be plug and play and continue in safe harbor arena. I have never been safe harbor kind of person … Our issues and concerns were the ability to engage, fully communicate, and connect with the playing personnel.”
  • Would Girardi have stayed had the postseason gone differently? “It’s tough to put a hypothetical in there. We went where we went … The challenge issue (in Game Two of the ALDS) had nothing to do with the decision making here.”
  • On what he’s looking for in next manager: “There’s no perfect person that checks every box … (Communication is) one attribute of many. Some have more weight that others … (We want someone) who’s willing to push back and have open discourse … I’m looking for the right person regardless of age.”
  • On the managerial search: “We’d love to have a new manager ASAP, but we have a healthy process involved with every decision we make, and the most important aspect is steps we take rather than time frame … I think it helps if you have (a pre-existing relationship), but it’s not necessary … There will be a lot of input from a lot of personnel that will be exposed to the candidates.”

Cashman also discussed the offseason — “Is there a lot of heavy lifting necessary? No. But we’re always trying to be better,” he said — and said there are no surgeries coming up. That’s good. There always seem to be a few surprise injuries at the end of the season. The Girardi decision and managerial search dominated the conference call, so here are some thoughts on that.

1. “Communication” is the key word. In the two weeks since the Yankees parted ways with Girardi, several reports suggested the decision was the result of two things. One, the relationship between Cashman and Girardi had deteriorated. Cashman shot that down today. “It was extremely good,” was how he described their relationship.

The communication issue was, however, very real. Cashman referred to the “connectivity and communication level in clubhouse” several times today — “(I) pooled a lot of resources to get a healthy feel (of the clubhouse),” he added — and said he felt it was time for a “new voice and a fresh voice.” The Yankees have a very young and exciting team, and the last thing they want is those players to have a lousy relationship with the manager. If things weren’t great with Girardi now, chances are they’d only get worse.

2. No, this wasn’t a smear campaign. We’ve seen a lot of smear campaigns over the years. The Red Sox and Boston sports teams in general are the biggest offenders, but they happen in all sports and all around the league. Someone gets let go and suddenly stories are leaked about why the person was fired and things like that. It can be ugly. Remember when it was reported Terry Francona abused pain pills while with the Red Sox? Yeah, ugly.

Cashman’s conference call today was hardly a smear campaign. It was a standard chat after a manager gets let go. Every general manager is asked why the decision was made whenever a managerial change happens. That’s the way it is. Cashman answered truthfully and in a way that didn’t besmirch Girardi. The stuff about poor communication in the clubhouse is a pretty common post-managerial change talking point. I don’t think Cashman said anything inappropriate, and the same goes for Girardi. This has been a fairly painless parting of ways. There is no war of words in the media or anything like that.

3. The managerial search is wide open. When the Yankees moved on from Joe Torre a decade ago, it was an open secret they wanted Girardi to take over. The interviews with Don Mattingly and Tony Pena were held basically to satisfy MLB’s rules about managerial searches. This time around, things are very wide open. “I don’t have a list. I am open-minded to this candidate list,” said Cashman.

Three things stood out to me when Cashman discussed about the managerial search. One, he said he’s willing to hire someone with no experience. It’s good to have an open mind, though I suspect the Yankees would prefer someone with some level of experience. Two, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of urgency. Yes, the Yankees want to name a new manager as quickly as possible, but they’re going to be thorough.

And three, this won’t be a straight Cashman decision. Cashman said “a lot of personnel (will) be exposed to the candidates,” which I assume means front office and clubhouse personnel. Those folks will have input. Also, each managerial candidate will hold a conference call with reporters after their interviews so the Yankees can see how they handle the media, which is not at all uncommon during a manager search. Surely the PR staff will monitor the calls and have some input, because working the media is a big part of the job.

Cashman is the general manager. He manages lots of people, and lots of people will be involved in the managerial search in one way or another. Cashman then absorbs their input and all the information and makes the final decision. Well, no, ownership makes the decision. He makes the recommendation. Point in, the Yankees are going into the managerial search with an open mind and will prioritize thoroughness over time frame. (But the sooner they pick a new skipper, the better.)

A career year for the powerful, tweet-happy shortstop [2017 Season Review]

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

After a strong 2016 season, it wasn’t certain whether Didi Gregorius was going to maintain his powerful breakout or return to Earth. Well, he maintained … and then some. The Yankees’ shortstop put together the best offensive year of his career to go with a defensive bounceback, culminating in career-year.

Strong from the start

Gregorius injured his shoulder while preparing for the last round of the World Baseball Classic and missed all but three games in April. The Yankees were forced to fill in with Ronald Torreyes and Pete Kozma (remember him?) for a few weeks until Didi was back in the fold.

In his first game back — which just so happened to be the crazy 14-11 comeback vs. the Orioles — Gregorius reminded everyone of his defensive prowess by making a diving stop in the second inning.

He hit for very little power in his first few weeks back, finally hitting a home run in his 11th game.

(Fangraphs)
(Fangraphs)

Whether there were lingering effects from his shoulder strain is unclear, but he maintained a high average, batting .307 through the end of May. He had begun to pull the ball more and had some balls fall in, but it was unclear how sustainable his success was.

Heart of the lineup again

As the temperature heated up, so did Didi. He primarily batted in the bottom third of the order up until the end of June, when injuries and his solid performance prompted a move towards the middle.

This wasn’t necessarily expected despite him finishing 2016 by often hitting cleanup. Yet he justified it with his powerful bat. I detailed just before the postseason how he adjusted to lift the ball more and take advantage of Yankee Stadium as well as the potential juiced baseball.

You can see in the ISO chart above that he really peaked near the trade deadline and at the very end of the season. At the end of July, he had four home runs in a three-game span and followed that up in September with homers of three consecutive days against the Orioles. He finished the year with a career-best 25 home runs and .191 ISO while having just two fewer extra-base hits than 2016 in 17 fewer games.

Improvements in the field

Defensive metrics were down on Gregorius in 2016, but they rated him as a strong fielder again in 2017. It seemed like he made fewer mistakes on routine balls while still making some of the spectacular plays he usually gets.

Overall, in about 130 fewer innings, he committed six fewer errors. Not bad! Ultimately, outside of Brett Gardner, he’s probably the guy to whom you want the opposing team hitting the ball. While he wasn’t a Gold Glove finalist, he was still as sure-handed as ever. Perhaps more so.

Tweets and sideline reporting

Just a quick aside, but how much fun was it watching Didi when he wasn’t playing? He’s a delight. The post-win tweets were the perfect cap to all 98 wins in 2017 and it became an intriguing guessing game to figure out how each emoji represented each new player.

However, the best thing may have been the post-home run interviews in the dugout. The team took the lead of the Cubs and others and took it the stratosphere, making the interviews complexly laid out with a YES microphone flag to boot. Gotta love The Toe-night Show.

While Gregorius may not be an 80-grade celebration specialist like Yasiel Puig, he’s high up there. At least a 70.

Let's flash to Corey Kluber's nightmares (Gregory Shamus/Getty)
Let’s flash to Corey Kluber’s nightmares (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Three homers in October

Gregorius had some big moments in the regular season sprinkled among his defensive gems, 25 home runs and myriad of multi-hit games. But he shined brightest by arguably hitting the three biggest home runs of the Yankees season. If not THE biggest, then certainly three of the top five.

It’s pretty hard to forget the three-run homer in the first inning to tie up the Wild Card Game. He fought back against Ervin Santana to force a 3-2 count and pounced on a fastball over the heart of the plate and drove it into a raucous Yankee Stadium crowd.

Honestly, that would have been enough out of him for the postseason. That hit propelled the Yankees into the ALDS and avoided a shameful offseason of rehashing a loss to a lesser Twins squad. It’s the type of hit that justified his spot in the order.

But he wasn’t done. He hit a pair of homers off inside pitches from presumed AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber in ALDS Game 5 — another winner-take-all masterpiece. (Side note: AL pitchers, stop going inside on Didi. He’ll burn you to a crisp.) That was enough to put the Yankees into the ALCS in remarkable fashion.

The trio of homers leaves a perfect imprint on Didi’s season, announcing loud and clear his transformation into a middle-of-the-order hitter. He came up clutch in the ALCS (the triple and single in the Game 4 comeback come to mind), but in the fashion of 2017 baseball, his home runs stand out.

2018 Outlook

He’s shown his power is sustainable as long as current environment holds together. But more importantly, he’s displayed that he’ll be a key part of the core. He doesn’t have to be looking over his shoulder at Gleyber Torres and has probably cemented himself as the shortstop for a while, meriting consideration for a contract extension.

As crazy as it may have sounded before this year or when the Yankees acquired him, he could be a 30-HR SS in 2018. Get excited. We may not have seen peak Sir Mariekson Julius Gregorius yet.

Fan Confidence Poll: November 6th, 2017

Regular Season Record: 91-71 (858 RS, 660 RA, 100-62 pythag. record), second in ALE
Postseason Record: 7-6 (51 RS, 42 RA), won AL WC Game, won ALDS, lost ALCS

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Weekend Open Thread

The first weekend without baseball since February. I forgot how much these stink. Once the hot stove heats up things will be more lively. Right now we’re in that post-World Series/pre-free agency lull. Anyway, I only have two links to pass along this weekend:

Friday: Here is an open thread for the night. The Knicks, Nets, and Devils are all playing tonight, and that’s pretty much it. Anything except religion or politics is fair game here.

Saturday: This is the open thread again. If you’re jonesin’ for some baseball, the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game is on tonight (8pm ET on MLB Network). Justus Sheffield, Thairo Estrada, and Billy McKinney will play in the game. (McKinney won the fan voting for the final spot.) Also, the (hockey) Rangers are playing, and you’ve got all the day’s college football action as well.

Sunday: For one last time, this is the open thread. The Knicks, Islanders, and Devils are all playing tonight, plus there’s all the day’s NFL talk action. Have at it.