Yankees come together as a team after brawl with Tigers to lose 2-1 to Mariners

Source: FanGraphs

Well, if nothing else, maybe this will put an end to the ridiculous notion that Thursday’s brawls with the Tigers would spark the Yankees and get them to rally together. They lost Thursday’s game after the brawls and they lost Friday’s game too. The final score was 2-1. The Yankees looked completely helpless against the Mariners.

I alternated between watching Friday’s game on my phone and listening to the radio, plus I missed big chunks of it, so I can’t do a full recap. Instead, here are some notes and observations.

1. These baserunners are made for stranding. This game was lost when the Yankees left the bases loaded three times. Three freaking times. They did it in the third (Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez flew out), in the fourth (Todd Frazier struck out), and in the eighth (Frazier struck out). The Yankees went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and it was a total team effort. Eight of the nine players in the lineup had an at-bat with runners in scoring position. Only Didi Gregorius did not. A medium deep fly ball scores a run in the third and fourth innings, when the Yankees had a man on third and less than two outs, and they couldn’t do it. Impressively terrible showing by the offense.

2. You don’t need 50 seconds to ask for that replay. How in the world does that Gregorius slide at third base not get challenged in the eighth inning? Didi made a terrible baserunning play. He broke from second base on a ground ball hit in front of him. It looked like he was thrown out at third, but replays showed he managed to avoid the tag with a fantastic slide. And yet, no challenge was made. Joe Girardi said after the game it took too long (50 seconds, to be exact) to get the thumbs up from replay guy Brett Weber, which is why the play was not challenged.

That is complete and total crap. Eighth inning of a tie game, and you’re talking about a bang-bang play that would’ve put the go-ahead run at third base with one out. That’s an insta-challenge. I’ve been harping on these for a while. On plays that important and that just close, just challenge it. Who cares about the team’s challenge success rate? Have them look at it. The difference of that play:

  • Successful challenge (runners on the corners, one out): 77.1% win probability
  • No challenge (runner on first, two outs): 57.8% win probability

The Yankees did end up needing their challenge in the 11th inning to overturn the egregiously bad out call on Brett Gardner‘s stolen base, though the game could’ve been over long before that. Maybe the Yankees waste that opportunity anyway given how poorly they performed with men in scoring position. Probably would have. But man, letting that play go unchallenged is awful. Just awful. A bang-bang play in which the go-ahead run was thrown out at third base in the eighth inning is one of these situations where waiting even 30 seconds for the replay guy to chime in should not happen. Use those challenges. You don’t get bonus points for a high success rate.

3. Chapman is a disaster. An unmitigated disaster. After allowing one home run to a left-handed batter in his first six-plus seasons as a big leaguer, Aroldis Chapman has now done it twice in the last month. This time Yonder Alonso turned around a 100 mph fastball like he knew it was coming for the game-winning home run. And he probably did know it was coming because Chapman throws fastball after fastball after fastball. Thirteen fastballs and one slider Friday. Fourteen pitches and zero swings and misses. Chapman was booed off the mound, which is funny, because Hal Steinbrenner said one of the reasons the Yankees signed him was how pumped up fans were when he entered the games last year. Sound logic.

4. Sabathia is still a boss. On the bright side, CC Sabathia is still the man. Seven innings of one run ball. Five hits, one walk, six strikeouts. Only 94 pitches too. Sabathia allowed a solo homer to Mike Zunino and that’s it. The big man passed Mike Mussina for sole possession of 19th place on the all-time strikeout list Friday night. Awesome. Sabathia is forever cool with me. Damn shame the Yankees wasted this outing.

* * *

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees and Mariners will continue this series Saturday afternoon. That’s a regular 1pm ET start. Hooray for baseball on Saturday afternoons. Sonny Gray and Yovani Gallardo are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Minor League Update: I don’t have time for a full DotF tonight and I won’t all weekend, so here’s the box scores and here’s the short version: 3B Miguel Andujar had a single and a walk, LF Billy McKinney had a single and a double, RHP Domingo German struck out eight in 6.1 innings of one-run ball, LHP Stephen Tarpley allowed his first run of the season, SS Kyle Holder had four hits, RHP Freicer Perez allowed one hit and one run in six innings, RHP Trevor Stephan struck out six in 2.2 innings, and LHP Justus Sheffield tossed two scoreless innings in his first rehab game back from the oblique injury.

Game 127: Back to Business

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

After handily winning back-to-back games against a lackluster Tigers squad, the Yankees let themselves get sidetracked by retaliation and brawls in a loss on Thursday afternoon. It was ugly. It was disappointing. To borrow a phrase from Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want.

So now it’s time for the Bombers to get back to business, shaking off a horrid getaway day and embracing the light side of the force. It is Star Wars day after all!

The Yankees start a 10-game homestand tonight, beginning with a three-game set against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are just four games back of the Yankees and are in the thick of the Wild Card chase. There are only big games remaining, just to varying degrees of importance.

Here is the Mariners’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup, featuring the return of their starting second baseman:

    1. LF Brett Gardner
    2. CF Aaron Hicks
    3. Gary Sanchez
    4. RF Aaron Judge
    5. SS Didi Gregorius
    6. 2B Starlin Castro
    7. DH Tyler Austin
    8. 1B Chase Headley
    9. 3B Todd Frazier
      LHP CC Sabathia

This will be the first time the Yankees have ever worn nicknames on the back of their uniforms with baseball’s first ever Players Weekend. Should be fun to see A-A-Ron and Kraken bat back-to-back.

Cloudy skies are on tap in the Bronx as the Yankees take the field for the 7:05pm ET start. The game will be broadcast on WPIX 11 locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game!

Roster move: To make room for Castro on the roster, Tyler Wade was optioned to Triple A.

Sanchez suspended four games, Romine two games following brawl with Tigers

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

As expected, MLB has handed down several suspensions and fines following Thursday’s brawl(s) with the Tigers. Here’s a recap of the discipline, as announced by MLB this afternoon:

  • Miguel Cabrera: Seven-game suspension for “inciting the first bench-clearing incident and fighting.”
  • Alex Wilson: Four-game suspension for “intentionally throwing a pitch at Todd Frazier” after warnings had been issued.
  • Gary Sanchez: Four-game suspension for “fighting, including throwing punches.”
  • Austin Romine: Two-game suspension for “fighting, including throwing punches.”
  • Brad Ausmus: One-game suspension for “the intentional actions of Wilson.”

Joe Girardi, Rob Thomson, Tommy Kahnle, Brett Gardner, Garrett Cooper, Clint Frazier, and Jose Iglesias all received fines but were not suspended. Cooper and Frazier were fined for entering the field of play while on the disabled list. I’m kinda surprised Dellin Betances escaped without any discipline, even if he didn’t hit James McCann on purpose. Same with Michael Fulmer, who started the whole thing by hitting Sanchez.

I imagine Sanchez and/or Romine are going to appeal their suspension. I mean, they kinda have to, otherwise the Yankees won’t have any catchers tonight. Sanchez will definitely appeal because he (and the Yankees) want to get that suspension knocked down as much as possible. The more Gary is on the field, the better. Every game without him hurts the team’s chances at the postseason.

Kyle Higashioka is currently on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, so the Yankees don’t have a obvious third catcher to call-up for the time being. They’ll have to add someone (Eddy Rodriguez, most likely) to the 40-man roster. The Yankees do have an open 40-man spot, though that’ll go to Greg Bird when he returns. Also, suspended players can’t be replaced on the roster. Teams have to play short.

All things considered, I think the Yankees got off pretty light here. I thought Sanchez was heading for six or seven games given the sucker punches. Rougned Odor got eight games (reduced to seven on appeal) for punching Jose Bautista when he was squared up. Sanchez threw punches at defenseless Cabrera. Whatever. Forget this pointless nonsense, be happy no one got hurt, and move on.

Update: Not surprisingly, Sanchez and Romine both said they will appeal their suspensions. Ken Rosenthal hears the appeals may not be heard until after rosters expand on September 1st, which would make it a million times easier to deal with losing a catcher(s). Also, Jack Curry hears Sanchez was only suspended four games because Cabrera instigated the brawl. Gary on reacted, basically.

8/25 to 8/27 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Cruz and Seager. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Cruz and Seager. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited the Mariners for a four-game set just last month, taking three of four. In doing so they won their first series in over a month, snapping a six week stretch of bad baseball and reminding us just how fun this team could be. Some notes:

  • David Robertson made his Yankees re-debut in the second game of the series, pitching a scoreless seventh inning. He struck out the side on just 13 pitches, with all three strikeouts ending on whiffs. Seeing Robertson back in pinstripes is one of my personal high points of the season.
  • You might remember that second game a bit better as “that time that Aaron Judge broke Statcast.”
  • Didi Gregorius had a heck of a series, going 8-for-15 with a double, two home runs, and two walks. And those two walks represent just under 12% of his total on the season.
  • Brett Gardner hit his 17th home run in the final game of the series, tying his career-high … in his 92nd game of the season. He has added three more since.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more interesting information.

Injury Report

When these teams last met, the Mariners were getting healthy for the first time this year. A month later, and they’re back to being banged-up, with Jarrod Dyson, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Evan Scribner, Drew Smyly, Ryan Weber, and Tony Zych all on the disabled list; none are likely to be back for this series, and Smyly is done for the season, thanks to Tommy John surgery.

It’s also possible that Robinson Cano may not be available this weekend. He left Wednesday’s game after hitting a double (and passing Babe Ruth on the all-time list) with hamstring tightness, and underwent an MRI on Thursday. The Mariners have yet to make any announcement regarding his health or availability as of this writing.

Their Story So Far

The Mariners are currently 65-63, which is good enough to leave them just a game back of the second Wild Card spot. Their -12 run differential suggests that they’ve overachieved a bit, but it’s nevertheless indicative that they’re basically a .500 team. They’ve won six of their last eight, however, and own a 16-12 record since dropping the series to the Yankees.

This is a fairly mediocre team across the board, checking in at 9th in the majors in defensive efficiency, 14th in runs scored, and 18th in runs allowed, and a top-heavy roster. Nelson Cruz is raking as usual (147 wRC+) and James Paxton was in the midst of a breakout season before getting hurt (153 ERA+), but the rest of the team has been largely disappointing. That isn’t to say that solid performers like Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Robinson Cano, and others have been bad – but injuries and under-performance tell a more accurate story of the majority of the team.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Mariners, check out Lookout Landing.

The Lineup We Might See

The recent acquisition of Yonder Alonso has led to the Mariners shaking up the lineup quite a bit over the last two weeks, as have injuries and returns from injuries. Manager Scott Servais seems content to roll with something like this, though (assuming that Cano is available):

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

Guillermo Heredia is banged-up, as well. If he ends up sitting, we’ll see Haniger or Gamel move to center, and Danny Valencia man a corner OF spot.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Ariel Miranda

Miranda started for the Mariners in their lone victory against the Yankees last month, pitching to the following line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K. He has been hard in each of his five subsequent starts, allowing 9 home runs and a 6.84 ERA in 26.1 IP. He has a 4.78 ERA (89 ERA+) on the season, and is tied for the major league lead in home runs allowed, with 31.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/19) – 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo

It may seem impossible, but Gallardo is only 31-years-old. He made his big league debut as a 21-year-old back in 2007, and this is already his ninth season with 20-plus games started. He hasn’t been effective in a couple of years, though, pitching to a 5.58 ERA (76 ER+) since the beginning of last year, and he no longer strikes batters out (6.6 K/9 this year).

Gallardo is a five-pitch pitcher, featuring a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, an upper-80s slider, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s curveball. There was a time when his slider was a devastating pitch, but he’s hittable across the board these days.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/20) – 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 6 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Andrew Albers

The Mariners swung a deal for Albers two weeks ago, acquiring him from the Braves for cash considerations. He’s a couple of months older than Gallardo, but he’s only thrown 89.2 IP at the highest level. He was drafted in 2008, but spent 2010 in the independent Canadian-American Association, 2014 in the Korean Baseball Organization, and parts of other seasons out of baseball altogether. It’s an interesting story that reminds of how difficult it is to make it to the show.

Albers is a prototypical crafty lefty, working with a fastball in the upper-80s, a sinker in the mid-to-upper 80s, an upper-70s change-up, an upper-70s slider, and a low-70s curve.

Last Outing (vs. ATL on 8/21) – 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

Closer Edwin Diaz has had a disappointing season, with his walk, strikeout, home run, and groundball rates trending heavily in the wrong direction from his dynamite rookie season. He currently has a 3.58 ERA (120 ERA+) in 55.1 IP, and 29 saves in 33 opportunities. Diaz hasn’t been bad by any stretch, but he’s been a serious disappointment.

Nick Vincent and new acquisition (and former Yankee) David Phelps handle the set-up duties, and both have been excellent this season. LOOGY Marc Rzepczynski has been solid in his limited role, too, as has yet another former Yankee, James Pazos. It’s a solid-average bullpen as a whole.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Starlin Castro and Greg Bird hit back-to-back home runs for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last night, and that should be a harbinger of things to come for the Yankees. Starlin Castro is expected to be activated for tonight’s game and, with the strong likelihood of a Gary Sanchez suspension looming, their presence will be much appreciated.

Yankeemetrics: Rolling through Motor City (Aug. 22-24)

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

El Kracken Show
It’s been quite an emotional rollercoaster for the Yankees and their fans over the past month, making the drama-free night on Tuesday in Detroit even sweeter. Backed by a relentless and powerful attack combined with solid starting pitching, the Bombers pummeled the Tigers, 13-4.

This was their 14th game scoring more than 10 runs, which led the majors through Tuesday’s slate, and incredibly, it’s also twice as many such games as they had all of last year. Over the last six decades, 1998 and 2000 were the only other seasons that the Yankees had 14 games scoring at least 11 runs at this point in the schedule (before game number 125). Boom-tastic.

The offensive onslaught was fueled by Gary Sanchez‘s red-hot bat as he crushed a monstrous 493-foot homer in the first inning to put the Yankees up 2-0. It was the second-longest homer by any player in 2017, and tied for the fourth-longest that Statcast has recorded over the past three seasons.

Name Distance Date
1. Giancarlo Stanton 504 Aug. 6, 2016
2. Aaron Judge 495 June 11, 2017
3. Kris Bryant 495 Sept. 6, 2015
4. Gary Sanchez 493 Aug. 22, 2017
5. Michael Taylor 493 Aug. 20, 2015

But Sanchez wasn’t done lighting up the scoreboard. He drilled an opposite-field blast into the right field seats in the ninth inning, his 25th homer of the season, and a nice round number for the record books. He is the …

  • Third catcher in American League history to hit at least 25 homers in his age-24 season or younger, joining a couple Tigers backstops, Matt Nokes (1987) and Rudy York (1938).
  • First Yankee since Don Mattingly (1985) with 25-plus dingers in a season before age 25.
  • And the third right-handed batter in franchise history to reach the 25-homer milestone in his age-24 season or younger. The others? Hall of Famers Joe Gordon and Joe DiMaggio.

El Gary also deserves a cool #FunFact: He joined Yogi Berra (June 19, 1952) as the only Yankee catchers to hit at least two homers and drive in at least four runs in a game in Detroit.

The other Baby Bomber that shined in this rout was Aaron Judge, who reached base four times in four plate appearance with three walks and a single. Yes, you did the math correctly, he didn’t strike out, ending his streak at 37 games, the longest ever by a position player. And thankfully the last time we’ll ever mention it.

The stat that’s most important is the three walks. It’s not a shocking number even during his slump, during which he’s maintained mostly the same approach at the plate since the break. Did you know that after Tuesday’s game … Judge had a higher walk rate in the second half (20.1%) than the first half (16.7%); or that only Joey Votto (41) had more walks among all MLB players in the second half than Judge (32).


Sharp Sevy, Scorching Sanchez
The offensive fireworks were on display again Wednesday as Yankee bats delivered another lopsided win, 10-2.

It’s the first time in more than 20 years that they’ve lit up the Tigers for 10-plus runs in consecutive games within the same series, since a blowout-filled three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium on May 6-8, 1996. A 21-year-old rookie named Derek Jeter went 6-for-13 (.462) with a triple and 3 RBIs, while veteran outfielder Paul O’Neill reached base nine times in 15 plate appearances and drove in five runs during that three-game romp.

Gary Sanchez ignited the offensive fireworks again on Wednesday, with a solo homer in the first inning and two-run bases-loaded single in the third. That gave him 10 homers and 21 RBIs in 20 games this month, a nearly unprecedented encore to the amazing August that he produced last season (11 homers, 21 RBIs in 24 games).

Only four other players in franchise history have put together multiple months of at least 10 dingers and 20-plus RBIs before age 25: Don Mattingly, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig.

While El Gary extended his August Assault, Luis Severino bolstered his resume as the staff ace and legit Cy Young candidate with another gem. He pitched into the seventh inning, holding the Tigers to a single run while striking out eight. It was his 13th start this season allowing one run or fewer, which led all major-league pitchers through Wednesday.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the 23-year-old’s season is the poise and consistency he’s shown pitching in hostile environments. He’s put up video-game-like numbers in his last five road games — 0.80 ERA, 38 strikeouts and eight walks – and is the first Yankee since Whitey Ford (1964) to pitch at least six innings while giving up no more than one run in five straight road games.

Overall, he’s surrendered one or fewer runs in 10 of his 14 outings away from the Bronx, becoming the only Yankee pitcher in the last 100 years with 10 such road starts in a single season.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Basebrawl in Detroit
Amidst the boxing match between the Yankees and Tigers on Thursday at Comerica Park, an actual baseball game broke out, and the Yankees lost, 10-6.

The final tally from the chaotic, brawl-filled afternoon was eight ejections between the two teams and a whole lot of ugliness. It was the most total ejections in a game since the infamous Blue Jays-Rangers slugfest on May 16 last year.

Back to baseball.

Gary Sanchez and Brett Gardner did their best to make up for a horrid performance by the Yankee pitching staff, combining to go 6-for-9 with three RBIs while the rest of the lineup had two hits in 23 at-bats.

Mr. August continued his ridiculous power binge with another mammoth home run in the fourth inning and an RBI single in the seventh. He is the first Yankee since Tino Martinez to homer in three straight games in Detroit. And if you’re looking for a definition of a hot streak, he now has …

– six homers in his last 7 games,
– eight homers in his last 10 games,
– nine homers in his last 12 games,
– 10 homers in his last 15 games

The solo blast was also the 47th of his big-league career, making him one of two players in the last 100 years (along with Tigers catcher/first baseman Rudy York) to hit 47 homers before their 150th career game.

Gardner celebrated his 34th birthday in style with a season-high four hits, earning himself the coveted Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series and a place on one of the most unique lists we’ve ever produced. Three players in franchise history have gotten at least four hits and drove in a run on his birthday: Gardner, Jerry Mumphrey (1981) and Lou Gehrig (1931).

Mailbag: Suspensions, Judge, Sensley, Austin, Age, McCann

Ten questions in this week’s mailbag. I guess that makes this a smaller mailbag. As always, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send all your questions.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Michael asks: Assuming Sanchez and Romine both get suspended, can one (or both) appeal to delay the suspension to buy them some time?

They can appeal, sure. I imagine Gary Sanchez will get the longer suspension given the sucker punch. That was pretty bad. (Here’s video if you still don’t think it was a sucker punch.) Romine should only get a game or two, if he gets suspended at all. He was defending himself. The video doesn’t lie. Miguel Cabrera instigated the whole thing and Romine defended himself.

Assuming they both get suspended, I think the Yankees would prefer to have Sanchez appeal and Romine accept his suspension. Keep in mind it’s up to the player. Not the Yankees. They can’t order someone to appeal a suspension. They could ask him to, but they can’t force it. Sanchez appealing the suspension would allow him to continue playing while he’s red hot, and the appeal could shorten the suspension. The Yankees need him on the field as much as possible. If the appeal knocks it down even one game, it’s worth it.

Romine serving a short suspension means the Yankees would have to call up another catcher temporarily, and here’s the kicker: teams don’t get to replace players on the active roster during suspensions. This isn’t like performance-enhancing drug suspensions. They Yankees will have to play with a 24-man roster while Romine is out. So they’d have to call up another catcher (Eddy Rodriguez is the obvious candidate) and send someone down to make room. Pretty terrible situation all around. It really is. The Yankees had everything to lose and nothing to gain yesterday.

Anthony asks: Aaron Judge. With all his full counts, how close is he to the record of seeing the most pitches in a season?

Pitch data only goes back so far. Since PitchFX became a thing in 2008, basically. We have individual game pitch counts for pitchers going back further than that, but not for hitters. Here are the five highest single season pitches seen totals since 2008:

  1. Mike Trout: 3,136 in 2014
  2. Matt Carpenter: 3,101 in 2014
  3. Chone Figgins: 3,085 in 2009
  4. Dustin Pedroia: 3,078 in 2011
  5. Curtis Granderson: 3,070 in 2011

The most pitches seen by a Yankee since 2008: 2,937 by Bobby Abreu in 2008. Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira both have several seasons over 2,800 pitches seen. The same guys have been near the top of the leaderboard the last few years. Trout, Carpenter, Granderson, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Josh Donaldson, guys like that.

Anyway, as for Judge, he went into yesterday’s game second in baseball with 2,377 pitches seen this year. Only Jose Bautista (2,423) has seen more. Goldschmidt (2,319), Charlie Blackmon (2,289), and Gardner (2,286) round out the top five. Those 2,377 pitches in 125 team games put Judge on pace for 3,081 pitches seen this season, which would be a top five total during the PitchFX era. So I guess the answer to the question is pretty darn close, at least among the years with pitch data available.

Daniel asks: Steven Sensley! What should we know about this guy?

Sensley received a straight slot $125,000 bonus as the Yankees’ 12th round pick this year, and so far he’s hitting .292/.370/.584 (157 wRC+) with 13 home runs, 23.6% strikeouts, and 9.6% walks in 50 pro games so far. He’s been a beast. This spring he hit .314/.417/.576 with eleven homers in 57 games at Louisiana-Lafayette. After the draft, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer called Sensley a sleeper. “We like his exit velo, power, athleticism,” he said to Randy Miller.

Sensley has been drafted three times now — the Twins took him out of high school (33rd round in 2013) and the Rays took him out junior college (38th round in 2015) — and the scouting reports have consistently said he offers left-handed pull power and good athleticism. He’s going to turn 22 in less than two weeks, so he has been old for his various levels so far, which means we have to take the numbers with a grain of salt. I am intrigued but not fully buying in yet. I’ve seen enough late round guys come in and dominate in their pro debuts to know better. Sensley has some ability, and in the 12th round, that’s pretty much all you’re hoping to get.

#GREGBIRD (Times Leader)
#GREGBIRD (Times Leader)

Asher asks: Let’s say Bird/Holliday/Castro are ready to be activated before rosters expand on September 1. Who are the corresponding players sent down? Tyler Austin? Tyler Wade? Or do they send down one of their 13 pitchers- Caleb Smith?

For what it’s worth, Jon Heyman says the Yankees want to wait until September 1st to bring Matt Holliday back. We’ll see. I’m not sure they’d bury a respected veteran down in the minors on an extended rehab assignment like that. The moves are fairly straight forward: Starlin Castro replaces Wade, Greg Bird replaces Austin, and Holliday replaces the eighth reliever (Smith?). Wade never plays and the Yankees will have to live without an eight-man bullpen for a few days before rosters expand. Austin has performed well in limited time, but how else do you get Bird on the roster? The Yankees aren’t cutting Todd Frazier or Chase Headley, and they sure as heck aren’t going with six relievers. It’ll have to be Austin. Hopefully the Yankees get to make these decisions and they aren’t made for them (other injuries).

Anonymous asks: Who do you think is the future Yankees lead off hitter?

Man, I have no idea. Gardner won’t be doing the job much longer, either because the Yankees trade him or because his production will slip with age. Jacoby Ellsbury? No chance. He’s not even a starter now. Among the young players, Wade has the most classic leadoff profile as a contact/speed guy who will take walks, but I think he’s going to spend most of his career hitting down in the order. And that’s fine. I like Wade. But I don’t think he should be getting the most at-bats on a contending team. Maybe Gleyber Torres? He could work, though I’d rather use his offensive might a little lower in the order. The easy answer to this question: the future leadoff hitter will be someone no one expects.

Anonymous asks: Extremely small sample size but Tyler Austin has looked solid since coming off the DL. What is his future with the Yankees?

I’m not really sure. Austin does have a minor league option remaining, so the Yankees could continue to send him up and down next year, if they want. How many right-handed platoon first basemen can one team have on the 40-man roster though? The Yankees have Austin and Garrett Cooper, plus Ryan McGroom is a non-40-man roster option. Three of the same player, basically. It’s not like these guys are shortstops. They’re right-handed hitting first basemen. Their usefulness is limited.

My guess is either Austin or Cooper will be a 40-man roster casualty this offseason. Cooper still has all three minor league options remaining, but Austin is a year younger and has considerably more power. I’d much rather keep him. Austin sticking as Bird’s platoon partner/insurance policy seems like his only way to remain with the Yankees going forward. He has power and a knack for big hits (he did last year, at least), but guys with this skill set tend to bounce around a bit, unless they bring really good defense and contact skills to the table too.

Ryan asks: Excited about the Yankees being able to showcase their depth in September. It’s a whole new beast, and truly a time they can make an extra move in the East. People always say Boston’s 2011 collapse was due in part to the expanded rosters. With that being said, what roles do you see for Andujar and Austin in September? That’s 2 guys I’m excited to see make a major league impact in the pennant chase.

Limited roles because the Yankees are fighting for a postseason spot. I don’t think they’re going to start playing kids just for the heck of it in the final month. Joe Girardi is going to stick with his regulars down the stretch and he absolutely should. The goal is to win the division, and if that doesn’t happen, the secondary goal is win a wildcard spot. Every lineup decision and roster move should be made with that in mind. Austin could start against lefties. That’s about it. I don’t think Andujar will play much of a role aside from getting some at-bats in blowouts. The Yankees have made it pretty clear they don’t think he’s ready to help right now. Otherwise he’d have been up the last few weeks.

Judge. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)
Judge. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Greg asks: With the exception of Gardner, the starting nine and pitching rotation for the 2018 Yankees will likely all be twenty-somethings. In fact, their 40-man roster over the winter may only have a few players 30 or more. Given that we all complained about how “old” the Yankees were just a year or two ago, how will their average age stack up against other teams?

The team’s average age is definitely trending down. I mean, duh. The MLB average age for position players hovers right around 28.3 years old each season. Give or take a tenths of a year. For pitchers it’s 28.7 years old. That surprised me. I thought the pitchers would be younger. Anyway, here’s where the Yankees have ranked over the years:

Position Players Average Age Pitchers Average Age
2017 28.6 (17th) 27.7 (5th)
2016 29.9 (27th) 27.9 (7th)
2015 31.2 (30th) 27.4 (7th)
2014 32.5 (30th) 29.3 (25th)
2013 31.8 (30th) 31.8 (30th)

The average age is weighed by playing time, so the 22-year-old September call-up who gets five at-bats doesn’t count as much as the 35-year-old who has been in the lineup all year. Anyway, I’m surprised to see the Yankees’ average pitcher age has dropped more than the position players. Maybe I shouldn’t be though. Mariano Rivera retired and the Yankees have been leaning on youngsters in middle relief rather than signing veteran free agents.

As Greg said, the Yankees figure to get younger the next year or two as well, especially on the position player side. Gardner, Headley, Frazier, and Holliday will all become free agents either this offseason or next, and the Yankees could replace them with younger players. Younger doesn’t always mean better — the Padres and Phillies have the youngest rosters in baseball this year and they stink — but it sure beats being old. Having players whose best years are ahead of them sure is fun.

John asks: How much help would Brian McCann have been this season? He could have been the opening day DH and back up at catcher and first. His money isn’t that different than what we gave to Carter and Holliday this off season? So would he have been a better piece this year than signing the two of them?

I was in favor of keeping McCann as a part-time backup catcher, part-time first baseman, and part-time designated hitter. He would’ve taken Romine’s roster spot and gotten, say, 450 plate appearances in that role. McCann is hitting .232/.313/.407 (91 wRC+) with 13 home runs this season, making this the worst season of his career. I’m sure the short porch would’ve helped, but it’s not like Houston is a bad place to hit. In theory, McCann replaces Romine, leaving the Holliday and Chris Carter roster spots open. He’d also take Holliday’s payroll slot, so the Yankees couldn’t spend big on those two spots. I dunno. I’d rather have McCann than Romine, but how would he have handled playing irregularly? I was in favor of keeping McCann and I do think the Yankees would be a better team without him (duh). He’s almost certainly not the difference in the AL East race, however.

Brandon asks: Build a 12 man team (9 hitters including DH, one SP, one relief pitcher, one manager). You can only use 2 players from each division. The 2 players cannot be from the same team. Unlimited salary cap. How do you build your team?

Fun! And not as easy as you’d think. There are shockingly few quality left fielders out there. There’s about a billion different possibilities here, and I’m sure you could come up with the best possible team based on projected WAR or whatever, but I’m not doing that. Here’s my quick mailbag team:

Catcher Infielders Outfielders Pitchers
Buster Posey (NLW1) 1B Joey Votto (NLC1) LF Justin Upton (ALC1) SP Carlos Martinez (NLC2)
2B Daniel Murphy (NLE1) CF Mike Trout (ALW2) RF Craig Kimbrel (ALE2)
SS Corey Seager (NLW2) RF Giancarlo Stanton (NLE2)
Designated Hitter 3B Manny Machado (ALE1) Manager
Nelson Cruz (ALW1) Terry Francona (ALC2)

I really wanted to squeeze Sanchez in there. I was originally planning to go with Sanchez at catcher and Nolan Arenado at third, but Posey at catcher and Machado at third is the way to go. Machado was pretty terrible in the first half, but the guy is hitting .333/.364/.599 (148 wRC+) with ten home runs in the second half. That’s Manny Machado. Arenado’s awesome. So is Sanchez. Machado and Posey are better, so they’re on my team.

DotF: Castro and Bird hit back-to-back homers in AAA win

RHP Jonathan Holder has been activated off the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, the team announced. That’s good. Always like to have healthy MLB options stashed in Triple-A. D.J. Eberle says Holder was out with a lower back injury. Those are no fun. At least it wasn’t his arm.

Triple-A Scranton (8-3 win over Rochester)

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-5, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • 2B Starlin Castro: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — played seven innings in the field, as scheduled … he still hasn’t played a full nine innings at second base, though the Yankees could’ve been taking it easy on him today in anticipation of activating him tomorrow
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K — he and Castro hit back-to-back homers against former big leaguer Chris Heston … here’s video of the back-to-back jacks
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB
  • LHP Jordan Montgomery: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 31 of 47 pitches were strikes (66%) … the short start was by design to control his workload … it is in no way a coincidence he is lined up with Jaime Garcia … my guess is Montgomery will make one more short Triple-A start in five days, then rejoin the rotation once rosters expand on September 1st
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K — 14 of 25 pitches were strikes (56%)

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