Wednesday Night Open Thread

Twenty years ago tonight, I was parked in front of the tiny little rabbit ears television in my bedroom watching the Yankees win the damn World Series. That was the team’s first championship of my lifetime and I’m pretty sure I’ll love that 1996 team more than I’ll ever love another Yankees team. You never forget your first championship as a fan. That one was really special, especially after the heartbreak of the 1995 ALDS. Happy anniversary, folks.

Here is tonight’s open thread. Despite a less than stellar weather forecast, they’re going to play Game Two of the World Series tonight. Trevor Bauer and Jake Arrieta are the scheduled starters (7pm ET on FOX). The Islanders, Rangers, and Nets are all playing tonight too. Talk about those games or whatever else here.

The End of Mark Teixeira’s Career [2016 Season Review]

Oct 2, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (25) waves to the crowd during a retirement ceremony before a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
(Presswire)

Last year, the Yankees qualified for the postseason thanks largely to Mark Teixeira‘s resurgent season. He rebounded from brutal second half in 2014 to hit .255/.357/.548 (143 wRC+) with 31 home runs in 111 games in 2015. Unfortunately, a foul ball to the leg ended Teixeira’s season in August. He suffered a small fracture in his shin and had to be shut down.

Greg Bird filled in capably for Teixeira down the stretch, but once Bird went down with his shoulder surgery in February, the Yankees were going to have to lean on Teixeira even more this year. Their backup plan at first base — and DH, for that matter — was gone. The Yankees needed Teixeira to stay on the field and provide power from the middle of the lineup. Neither of those things happened.

Getting Old Fast

Teixeira has a reputation for being a slow starter, and since he was coming off a serious lower body injury, it wasn’t completely unexpected when he started the 2016 season poorly. The Yankees took it easy on him during Spring Training following the leg injury, understandably so. And because he’s a veteran, no one really thought twice about his poor Grapefruit League numbers. We’ve seen him struggle in the spring only to come out of the gate strong during the regular season before. Teixeira knows what he has to do to get ready. No big deal.

The sad thing is Teixeira hit .224/.352/.355 (98 wRC+) with three home runs in April and it was his best month as a full-time player this year. It wasn’t until the Yankees reduced his playing time and went young in the second half that Teixeira again started to contribute with the bat. Check out his offense this summer:

Mark Teixeira wRC+Teixeira bottomed out at .176/.271/.259 (46 wRC+) on June 25th. That was the day he returned from the knee injury that sent him to the disabled list for three weeks. Two years ago we saw Alfonso Soriano go from hitting like an MVP candidate in the second half one year to being totally unplayable the next. Skills erode with age and it can happen very fast. Add injuries to the mix and they could erode even quicker.

The Yankees continued to play Teixeira at first base on an everyday basis until mid-August, when Tyler Austin was called up. Teixeira’s offense did improve slightly, but on the day Austin was recalled, he was still hitting .201/.289/.337 (70 wRC+) with 10 home runs in 332 plate appearances. Alex Rodriguez was released that day as the Yankees cut ties with an unproductive veteran. It wasn’t unreasonable to think Teixeira may face a similar fate.

Neck & Knee Problems

The last few years of Teixeira’s career have been hampered by injuries. It hasn’t been one thing either. This wasn’t David Ortiz with his chronic foot/ankle problems. Teixeira seemed to have a new injury every year. In 2012 it was a sore left wrist and a calf problem. In 2013 it was right wrist surgery. In 2014 it was hamstring trouble. Last year it was the shin fracture.

This season Teixeira was bothered by nagging neck and knee problems. He missed several games with neck spasms in May and they were far more serious than anyone let on. Teixeira’s pregame preparation for much of the season involved two hours of treatment on the neck (massage, acupuncture, heat, etc.) just to get ready for that day’s game. The neck never did send him to the disabled list, but it sidelined him for a few days throughout the season, and it bothered him all year.

The knee injury did send Teixeira to the disabled list, however. He missed three weeks with torn cartilage in his right knee in June, and rather than undergo season-ending surgery, he opted for treatment and rehab. After returning, the knee limited Teixeira from time to time — he was never a quick runner anyway, so we barely noticed it on the bases — but he played through it.

“We don’t really know what to expect,” said Teixeira when he came back from the disabled list. “We’re going to do a couple more shots over the All-Star break, and if we need another round at the end of the season we can. But it’s really just to keep it from locking up … I’m going to keep my fingers crossed obviously. I’m hoping for the best, expecting to have a good second half and be productive like I’ve always been. That’s the goal.”

The Farewell Tour

The good second half never came. Sure, Teixeira’s performance did improve after the All-Star break, but not enough to be a difference-maker. The hope coming into the season was Teixeira would play well enough to earn a qualifying offer after the season, but that didn’t happen. Not close. Any thoughts of re-signing him to serve as Bird’s caddy following shoulder surgery were crushed too.

On August 5th, a few days after the Yankees ostensibly threw in the towel on the season by trading their most productive veterans for prospects at the trade deadline, Teixeira announced he planned to retire after the season. His body was no longer up for the grind of the 162-game season.

“As the season went on, I just realized that my body couldn’t do it anymore,” said Teixeira. “If I’m going to grind through seasons not being healthy, I’d rather be home with my family. I’d rather do something else. I miss my kids way too much to be in a training room in Detroit rather than being at their dance recital or their school play.”

Teixeira said he was willing to do whatever the Yankees needed the rest of the season. He was very unselfish about it. The team reduced his playing time drastically in August and September — at one point Teixeira started only 21 games in a 40-game span — and Teixeira worked behind the scenes with Austin and Rob Refsnyder at first base. That’s what the Yankees needed from him and that’s what he did.

BLOWN SAVE

The start of September went about as poorly as possible for Teixeira. He went 5-for-35 (.143) in his first 15 games of the month, dragging his season batting line down to .197/.289/.343 (71 wRC+). Austin wasn’t playing well either, and with the Yankees still hanging around the wildcard race, Girardi stuck with the veteran Teixeira, who he knew was at least going to play good defense.

On September 26th, Teixeira rewarded his manager’s faith by clubbing a game-tying home run off Jason Grilli in the ninth inning. He flipped his bat too. Teixeira never flips his bat. It was the final road game of his career and likely the final road at-bat of his career, and he enjoyed the crap out of it, especially after the benches cleared (twice) earlier in the game.

Mark Teixeira bat flip

The YES Network cameras caught Teixeira yelling “Blown save!” at Grilli from the dugout too. “I was like, ‘Oh, sorry, the ball went a long way.’ I was just letting him know that he blew the save,” said Teixeira after the game. Awesome. Just awesome.

Had that been the final homer of Teixeira’s career, it would have been pretty great. A game-tying ninth inning homer against a mouthy division rival in a game where the benches cleared twice and the Yankees went on to win in dramatic fashion? Hard to top that. And yet, Teixeira managed to do it.

Two days after the homer against Grilli, Teixeira hit a walk-off grand slam against Joe Kelly and the Red Sox with New York’s season on the line. A loss that night would have officially eliminated the Yankees from postseason contention. They were able to stave off eliminate for another day thanks to Teixeira’s heroics. It was the biggest hit of the season.

“A base-hit ties the game. I’m telling the truth, I’m trying to hit a line drive up the middle because I’ve had success off (Kelly) thinking up the middle because I know he’s got a good curveball,” said Teixeira after the game. “You don’t want a walk-scrapper in an 8-0 game to be your last (homer). You want a walk-off grand slam against the Red Sox. I’ll still be trying to hit in the next four games, but if it just happens to be my last one, it’ll be pretty special.”

The walk-off grand slam was indeed the Teixeira’s final home run of his career. He played sparingly the next few days, and prior to Game 162, the Yankees honored Teixeira with a quick but thoughtful pregame ceremony.

Girardi removed Teixeira from the final game of the season with one out in the seventh inning so he could get one last ovation as he walked off the field. And just like that, his career and eight years in pinstripes were over.

Teixeira hit .204/.292/.362 (76 wRC+) with 15 homers in 438 plate appearances this season and was basically a shell of his former self. He retires as a career .268/.360/.509 (127 wRC+) hitter with 409 home runs, fifth most ever by a switch-hitter, and as a career .248/.343/.479 (120 wRC+) hitter with 206 homers, +18.3 fWAR, and +20.6 bWAR with the Yankees. On top of the offense, he was phenomenal defensively. Just outstanding at first base.

In his eight years in New York, Teixeira had one MVP caliber season and a few other very good years. He also helped the team to their most recent World Series championship, so that’s cool. Teixeira played hard and was funny in a dad humor sorta way. It was a good eight years.

Outlook for 2017

For Teixeira? Who knows. At his retirement press conference he talked about non-baseball business interests and continuing to work with the Harlem RBI program. Teixeira also indicated he has interest in coaching but not full-time. Seems like he’d rather be a guest instructor. Someone who pops in at Spring Training and Instructional League. That sorta thing.

Because he’s good for a laugh and can be very insightful when talking about baseball, it wouldn’t surprise me if Teixeira winds up broadcasting at some point. Maybe not next year, but down the road. Also, he totally seems like the kind of guy who will show up to Old Timers’ Day soon. Like next year. And absolutely love it. The Yankees need to figure out first base long-term — hopefully Bird makes this easy — and now Teixeira has to figure out what he’s going to do during life after baseball.

The Yankees’ Five Biggest Hits of 2016

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

For the third time in the last four seasons, the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2016. They did stay in the race longer than I expected, which I guess is better than nothing. Despite another postseason-less season, the Yankees recorded several memorable moments in 2016, including more than a few walk-off home runs. Those are always cool.

Let’s take a look back at the five biggest hits of the season for the Yankees. To make life easy, let’s use win probability added. WPA goes a good job factoring in the game situation and all that, though it’s not perfect. Important context like the players — a Ronald Torreyes walk-off homer against Craig Kimbrel will feel bigger than a Gary Sanchez walk-off against Brad Boxberger, you know? — and the standings are left out, however.

With an assist from the Baseball Reference Play Index, here are New York’s five biggest hits of the season according to WPA. There were a lot of big ones and one massively huge one this summer.

5. Austin vs. Aaron Sanchez

Tyler Austin was not with the Yankees very long this year, only 47 games overall, and he played in only 31 of those 47. And yet, Austin had plenty of impact in his limited playing time. He hit more than a few important home runs — four of his five dingers gave the Yankees the lead and the other tied the game — and all of them were to right field at Yankee Stadium. His opposite field power is real.

On September 6th, with a postseason spot 3.5 games away, the Yankees were home against the Blue Jays, one of the teams they were chasing in the standings. This was wild back and forth game, at least in the late innings. Toronto was nursing a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning when Aaron Judge poked a ground ball single up the middle with two outs. Austin, the next batter, took advantage with a go-ahead two-run home run. On his birthday! To the action footage:

That was only the third home run ground ball machine Aaron Sanchez allowed in the second half, and only the third he allowed to a right-handed batter all season. He left a sinker up and on the outer half, which is essentially Austin’s wheelhouse given his opposite field approach.

The homer gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead but it was far from the end of the scoring. The Yankees went on to win this game 7-6. It was the Brett Gardner catch game. You know the one I’m talking about. The score was 2-1 through six and a half innings, then the two clubs combined for ten runs in the final four half-innings. No mas. WPA: +.458

4. Gardner vs. Erasmo Ramirez

The start of the season did not go well for the Yankees. Well, that’s not true. They did win four of their first six games, so hooray for that. Before you knew it though, that 4-2 record turned into a 5-9 record. The worst.

The Yankees were home against the Rays on April 23rd, and they were trying to win consecutive games for the first time in nearly three weeks. Gardner tied the game 2-2 with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning, then, two innings later, he untied the game with a walk-off home run to right field:

The pitching in that game went exactly according to plan: Masahiro Tanaka to Dellin Betances to Andrew Miller. The offense almost wasted their effort though. Gardner came through twice. First by tying the game in the seventh, then by winning it in the ninth. WPA: +.465

3. Austin vs. Erasmo Ramirez

Austin again, Erasmo Ramirez again. I wonder how many non-closers have allowed multiple walk-off home runs to one team in a single season. Can’t be many, right? However many it is, Ramirez is on the list. He gave up two walk-off bombs to the Yankees in 2016.

Two days after his big home run against the Blue Jays, Austin came through with another clutch home run, this one the game-winning solo shot against the Rays. The score was 4-4 at the time and most of the runs came early; it was 3-3 after three. Austin won the game with another one with his made for Yankee Stadium inside-out strokes.

That homer gave New York their fifth straight win and got them to within two (two!) games of a postseason spot. This was peak “holy crap they might actually do this” craziness. It didn’t last, but you know what? The ride was fun as hell in August and early September. WPA: +.465

2. McCann vs. Sam Dyson

The Yankees had a nine-game homestand in the middle of June and they had three walk-off wins in the nine games. The first was Starlin Castro‘s walk-off homer against Jason Motte and the Rockies. That was one of the longest home runs of the season.

The second of those three walk-offs came on June 29th, and the walk-off was made possible by an incredible ninth inning comeback. The Rangers pushed the Yankees around early in the game — it was 6-1 after five and a half innings — and the score was 7-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth.

The six-run ninth inning started with a Rob Refsnyder single, of all things. Then Jacoby Ellsbury walked. That prompted Texas skipper Jeff Banister to go to his closer Sam Dyson. Gardner followed with a single to score a run, and suddenly the Yankees had the tying run at the plate. Hey, at least they were making it interesting.

That tying run at the plate? Alex Rodriguez. He lined out to second for the first out of the inning. The next batter, Brian McCann, got a sinker slightly up in the zone from Dyson, and he deposited it into the short porch for a game-tying home run and the second biggest hit of the season by WPA. To the video:

Two batters later, Didi Gregorius won the game with a walk-off two-run home run. The six-run ninth turned a 7-3 deficit into a 9-7 win. New York had a 1.8% chance to win the game when the ninth inning started. Here’s the WPA graph:


Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees beat the Rangers the next night with another walk-off. That one was a little less eventful though. Catcher Robinson Chirinos let a Tony Barnette pitch scoot by for a walk-off passed ball. Chase Headley scored from third. Quite an eventful 24 hours. WPA of McCann’s homer: +.479 (would have been higher had the homer won the game and not just tied it)

1. Teixeira vs. Joe Kelly

The biggest hit of the season for the Yankees was also the final home run of Mark Teixeira‘s career. It was totally unexpected too. I watched the game with my own eyes and I still didn’t believe it.

It was September 28th and the Yankees were on the brink of elimination. The Orioles came back to beat the Blue Jays in Toronto that night, which dropped New York’s tragic number to one. A loss to the Red Sox meant season over. And for much of the game, a loss felt inevitable. The offense was nonexistent against Clay Buchholz, and Boston took a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning when Mookie Betts chopped a double over Headley’s head at third.

The score remained 3-0 into the bottom of the ninth and it felt like only a matter of time until the Red Sox celebrated their AL East championship on the Yankee Stadium field. Sucks. Then Kimbrel came in and forgot how to throw strikes. Gardner started the inning with a single, then Kimbrel threw 14 of his next 23 pitches out of the zone. He walked the bases loaded with no outs and then walked in a run. How about that?

Suddenly the Yankees were in business. They were still down two runs, but the sacks were full and there were no outs. Castro and Gregorius then followed two terrible at-bats. Three-pitch strikeout and three-pitch foul pop-up. Geez, guys. Thankfully, Teixeira picked them up when Kelly left one of his arrow straight fastballs up in the zone. Walk-off grand slam. Ballgame over. Season still alive.

The WPA of the walk-off four-run homer: +.827. .827! It was not just the biggest hit of the season for the Yankees. It was the fourth biggest hit by any player in baseball this season, in terms of WPA. Here’s the list:

  1. July 18th: Adam Lind three-run walk-off homer vs. David Robertson (+.917 WPA)
  2. July 25th: Adrian Beltre walk-off two-run homer vs. Ryan Madson (+.896 WPA)
  3. May 24th: Leonys Martin’s two-run walk-off homer vs. Ryan Madson (+.866 WPA)
  4. September 28th: Teixeira’s walk-off grand slam vs. Joe Kelly (+.827 WPA)

Rough year for Ryan Madson, huh? Also, WPA says Teixeira’s grand slam was the second biggest hit by a Yankee since 2008. The biggest was Carlos Beltran‘s three-run walk-off home run against Zach Britton in 2014 (video). That checked in at +0.84 WPA. The biggest before that was Jason Giambi‘s three-run walk-off homer against B.J. Ryan in 2008 (+.890 WPA). I remember this like it was yesterday:

Baseball can be really cool sometimes.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

At long last, the 2016 World Series finally begins tonight in Cleveland. The Indians have homefield advantage over the 103-win Cubs because a few Royals took Johnny Cueto deep in the All-Star Game. Cool system. Corey Kluber and Jon Lester will be on the mound in a matchup of true aces. Game One starts at 8pm ET and you can watch on FOX. I’m pulling for the Cleveland Andrew Millers. Go team.

Here is tonight’s open thread. In addition to the World Series, the NBA season gets underway tonight — the Knicks are going to be playing the Cavaliers right across the street from Progressive Field (after the Cavs get their rings, of course) — and the Devils are in action too. You folks know how these things work by now, so have at it.

Luis Severino’s Big Step Back [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For all the attention the Yankees received this year for selling at the deadline and going young in the second half, the youth movement actually started last season. Rather than make a trade to aid the 2015 postseason push, the Yankees called up some of their very best prospects and gave them prominent roles in the final two months of the season. That was a change from the previous, oh, two decades or so.

No young player received a more prominent role in the second half last season than Luis Severino, who stepped into the rotation and gave the Yankees eleven high-quality starts. The then-21-year-old had a 2.89 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 62.1 innings and established himself as a fixture in the 2016 rotation. Rather than build on that success this year, Severino took a step back in almost every single way this past summer.

Seven Starts in the Show

Despite a rough first outing, Severino was very good in Spring Training, leaving no doubt that he belonged in the rotation. He actually started the fourth game of the season — there were some folks pining for an Opening Day start — ahead of CC Sabathia, which tells you what the Yankees thought of Severino (and Sabathia).

Severino’s first start of the season was not good. Not terrible, but not good either. He allowed three runs on ten hits in five innings against the Tigers, including four consecutive singles in the fourth inning. One bad start is one bad start. It happens to everyone. But then, next time out, Severino got hit hard again, this time allowing four runs on eight hits and a walk in 5.2 innings.

It never got any better. Severino allowed at least four runs in four of his next five starts, including seven runs on seven hits and four walks in 2.2 innings against the White Sox on May 13th. He left that start with an injury, and ominously pointed to his elbow when trainer Steve Donohue came out to visit him.

The injury ended an absolute nightmare start to the season for Severino. He pitched to a 7.46 ERA (5.52 FIP) in 35 innings in his first seven starts of 2016, and he wasn’t missing bats (16.8% strikeout rate) or keeping the ball in the park (2.06 HR/9). Home runs were up all around the league this season, but that’s an extreme dinger rate.

Injury or no injury, it seemed like there was a pretty good chance that disaster start against the White Sox was going to be Severino’s final big league start for a while. There was chatter the Yankees would move him to the bullpen or demote him to Tripe-A, and it would have been in no way unjustified. He was terrible and costing the Yankees games. The injury provided a temporary reprieve.

A Dozen Starts in the Minors

Thankfully, the injury was nothing serious. The first thing that crosses everyone’s mind when they see a pitcher grab their elbow like that is Tommy John surgery, and I understand why. Lots and lots of pitchers are blowing out their elbows these days. Severino avoided a serious injury and instead went down with a mild triceps strain. Ex-friggin-hale.

The triceps only required two weeks of rest and one minor league rehab start, but rather than bring him back to the big leagues, the Yankees activated Severino off the disabled list on May 30th and optioned him to Triple-A. He was sent down with the goal of improving his command, specifically of his secondary stuff. Look at his slider location during those first seven starts:

Luis Severino slider locations

Yikes. That’s not good. Severino make a lot of mistakes in the middle of zone — with all his pitches, really, not just his slider — and he seemed to pay for every single one. Opponents hit .327/.373/.547 against him in those seven starts. That’s slightly better than what AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts did this year (.318/.363/.534). Severino was bad. Bad bad bad.

The Yankees sent Severino to Triple-A and they kept him there for a while. It wasn’t one of those “one or two starts and you’re coming back up” deals. Severino made ten starts with the RailRiders and his numbers were very good: 3.25 ERA (3.00 FIP) with 22.0% strikeouts and 5.8% walks in 63.2 innings. Did he actually improve his command while down there? Who knew. We were going to have to see Severino with our own eyes to find out.

“I did look at it,” said Joe Girardi in early June after one of Severino’s best Triple-A starts. “He threw some better sliders, some better changeups, but I still think there’s work to be done with location of fastball and consistency of his offspeed. I did see some better sliders.”

Back, Temporarily

Following those ten Triple-A starts, the Yankees called Severino back to the big leagues to replace Aroldis Chapman after he was traded to the Cubs. I thought it was a temporary call-up until Adam Warren reported, but nope, Severino stuck around even after that. The Yankees did not use him as a starter though. He returned as a reliever and made three mop-up appearances.

The first two of those three appearances were solid. Two scoreless innings each time. The third appearance was the masterpiece, the one that had folks thinking Severino deserved another chance to start. He replaced Chad Green in the fourth inning and fired 4.1 innings of one-hit ball against the Mets on August 3rd. Severino struck out five and allowed just one unearned run.

The Yankees were apparently among those convinced Severino was ready to start again, so they gave him the ball after Nathan Eovaldi went down with his elbow injury a week later. The results were, somewhat predictably, not good. He allowed 12 runs on 15 hits and one walk in eight innings in two starts. Yuck. So back to Triple-A Severino went for three more starts before rosters expanded.

Return as a Reliever

Once rosters expanded, the Yankees recalled Severino and again used him as a reliever, though this time he wasn’t limited to mop-up duty. Severino essentially took over as Girardi’s secondary setup man. On days Warren and Tyler Clippard weren’t available, it was Severino who got the ball in high-leverage spots, and he was excellent. One run allowed on seven hits and seven walks in 15 innings. He struck out 15. A few too many walks, but otherwise beautiful.

The Yankees gave Severino two starts at the very end of the season because Green got hurt, and that was basically out of necessity. They had no one else to start. The first of those two starts was rather eventful. Severino unintentionally hit Josh Donaldson with a pitch, J.A. Happ retaliated by hitting Chase Headley, then Severino retaliated for the retaliation by drilling Justin Smoak. Madness ensued.

Severino was ejected from the game but was somehow not suspended, which is, uh, weird. He was very obviously throwing at Smoak intentionally and the benches had already been warned. Usually that equals an automatic suspension. Severino managed to escape with just a fine. Weird. Too bad he couldn’t limit the damage on the mound the same way he limited the discipline after intentionally throwing at a guy nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Anyway, Severino made one last ineffective start (three runs in 3.2 innings) to close out his season. The total damage: 5.83 ERA (4.49 FIP) in 71 innings spread across eleven starts and eleven relief appearances. That, my friends, is a -0.3 bWAR and +0.6 fWAR pitcher. Pretty much replacement level. Worse than that as a starter, much better than that as a reliever.

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9 Opp. Line
as SP 47.2 8.50 5.52 16.8% 6.2% 44.3% 2.06 .337/.389/.587
as RP 23.1 0.39 3.48 25.8% 9.9% 47.9% 0.75 .105/.209/.158

This year, Severino became only the 23rd pitcher in history to make at least ten starts in the single season with an 8.50+ ERA. One of those 23 is Roy Halladay, who had to be broken down and built back up completely by the Blue Jays before becoming a two-time Cy Young award winner. Most of the others are broken down dudes trying to hang on. Not good company to keep.

At no point this season did Severino look like a competent Major League starter. Young starters struggle. It’s what they do. Usually you’re willing to live with the growing pains because you see the occasional flashes of brilliance. There were no flashes of brilliance with Severino this year. Not when he was in the rotation. His best start this season was two runs on seven hits in six innings. Yeah.

Whither the Changeup?

When the Yankees sent Severino down to Triple-A following the injury, the goal was improving the command of his secondary pitches. His slider in particular. I thought we saw improved slider location after he was called back up later in the season too. Severino did a better job burying it down and away to righties. There’s still work to be done, but there was progress.

The changeup, however, went backwards. Severino did not throw the pitch at all in relief — why would he? he was asked to get important outs in September and he leaned on the fastball and slider, his two best pitches — and he admitted he lost confidence in the pitch. He has a good changeup! It’s a quality pitch. But Severino lost confidence in it. He said as much. That’s a problem.

What Severino went through this season was not normal growing pains. He went backwards. We didn’t see any signs that he could be an effective starter, and any gains he made in slider command he gave back by losing confidence in his changeup. All he did was shift the problem. The Yankees really rushed Severino up the minor league ladder and I do think that played a role in his poor year. It doesn’t explain everything, but I do think it was a factor.

Outlook for 2017

There’s no way the Yankees can bring Severino to Spring Training counting on him to be one of their five starters next year. It made sense to give him a rotation spot last year. He pitched himself out of the rotation though. That isn’t to say he shouldn’t be given the opportunity to win a rotation spot in camp, because he should. The Yankees just can’t hand it to him though. Severino hasn’t earned it.

If nothing else, Severino showed this year he can be a pretty great reliever. It’s still way too early to give up on him as a starter. The Yankees should send him to Triple-A to start before keeping him in the big leagues as a reliever. Severino will turn 23 in February and he showed last season he can be a successful starting pitcher in the show. He got thrown off track this year. It happens. As ugly this season was for Severino, it shouldn’t be the end of his career as a starter. Hopefully it’s a learning experience and he’s better for it in the long run.

Yankees announce extensive ballpark upgrades, making Yankee Stadium more fan friendly

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yesterday afternoon, the Yankees announced extensive upgrades designed to make Yankee Stadium more fan friendly. There will be seven new social gathering spaces, a kids zone, and “dynamic food and beverage areas.” Construction will begin this week and the renovations are expected to be done in time for next season.

“We have listened to our fans and ticketholders and their top requests were for more family-friendly and socially-oriented spaces at Yankee Stadium,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement. “Yankees fans will now have many more dedicated areas for spending time with Guests who have tickets in other sections of the Stadium, allowing all Guests to be able to enjoy the game from multiple vantage points while having unique food and drink options available to them.”

Among the new additions will be “Budweiser Party Decks” in Sections 311 and 328, where folks can meet and hang out, and the “AT&T Sports Lounge” in Section 134, where “televisions tuned to the Yankees broadcast and other live sporting events will provide a sports-bar atmosphere on the Stadium’s main outdoor concourse in left field.” I don’t know about you, but I always go to the ballpark to get that sports bar atmosphere. Anyway, here’s more on the two biggest changes.

The Batter’s Eye

(Yankees)
(Yankees)

So center field is getting a massive facelift. The deck on top of the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar will be expanded to 3,500 square feet, and there are new left and right field “Bullpen Landings.” They’ll feature specialty food and drink options. You can see the rendering above. That looks really different!

To make all that possible, the Yankees are removing 2,100 seats total, most of which currently have obstructed views in the bleachers. Did you ever sit in the seats directly adjacent to the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar? You can only see half the field. Those are being ripped out and replaced with those bullpen landings.

Adding these social spaces seems like a pretty cool idea. It’ll be nice to have some new places to hang out at the ballpark. Two drawbacks though. One, with those 2,100 seats being ripped out, some folks are going to lose their season tickets, and that sucks. I assume the Yankees will give them a chance to buy seats elsewhere, but your seats are your seats. They’re your home away from home, you know?

And two, this new area gives fans another reason to leave their seats*. There’s nothing uglier than an empty ballpark, and with these new spots to hang out, there will be fewer butts in the seats. This isn’t really a problem — some folks go to watch a ballgame, others go to hang out with pals — because people will still be at the ballpark, but it might be an aesthetics issue. We’ll see.

* The Yankees say all these new sections will be accessible to everyone in the ballpark, regardless of your ticketed seat. You can buy a cheap bleacher ticket and hang out in that “AT&T Sports Lounge” all game.

Sunrun Kids Clubhouse

(Yankees)
(Yankees)

The kids area will include a mini-baseball field with a soft artificial surface and all sorts of baseball-themed playground equipment. It’ll be located on the 300 level in right field, and it seems some of those 2,100 seats will be removed from this area. In addition to the playground, there’s going to be a shaded section to sit, interactive exhibits, and a private space for nursing mothers.

“We want our youngest fans to feel as if Yankee Stadium is an extension of their local park or backyard,” said Steinbrenner in a statement. “The Sunrun Kids Clubhouse is designed to nurture their love for experiencing games in person, while providing parents the resources they need to keep their children entertained prior to and during the game.”

This is a really great idea. There was absolutely nothing kid friendly in the ballpark from 2009-16. I don’t have any kids, but I can’t imagine getting the young ones to sit through nine innings is easy. Now there’s a place for parents to take their children for some more age appropriate fun. I love baseball! Six-year-olds probably don’t though. Now they have something to do in the park.

* * *

There are still two aspects of Yankee Stadium that need to be fixed. First and foremost, the security lines outside. MLB (unnecessarily?) requires metal detectors at all entrances for security reasons, so there’s nothing the Yankees can do about that. They can improve the process though. The lines outside are long and move slowly. There’s a reason the ballpark is a ghost town in the first inning and filled up in the fourth. Too many people miss the first pitch.

Secondly, Monument Park. I hate that it’s hidden in center field like that. I wish it were on full display somewhere, like it was at the old Yankee Stadium. Show off that history, yo! I’m not sure how the Yankees could fix this — maybe create a two-tier bullpen in right field instead of the party deck, and put Monument Park in what is now the left field bullpen? — but man, I do hate that you can’t see Monument Park at all.

Kudos to the Yankees for trying to make the Yankee Stadium experience more entertaining, especially for kids. Yankee Stadium has gotten kinda stale in recent years. Maybe stale isn’t the right word, but the novelty has worn off. Adding some new social spots and a kids section mean there are new places to explore and hang out. That’s neat. I’m looking forward to checking out these new upgrades next year.

Monday Night Open Thread

Once again, there is no baseball tonight. The World Series doesn’t start until tomorrow. The Cubs look pretty much unstoppable right now, but I’m rooting for the Cleveland Andrew Millers, so hopefully we get an upset. I’ve always kinda pictured the Cubs team that ends their title drought being a scrappy underdog team that defies all the odds. This juggernaut doing it would be sorta weird.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Texans and Broncos are on Monday Night Football, and that’s pretty much it. There’s no preseason basketball tonight and none of the local hockey teams are playing either. Have at it.