Yankeemetrics: Welcome to October (Sept. 22-24)

(AP)
(AP)

Bad News Yankees
Instead of building on the positive momentum from their sweep of the Twins early in the week, the Yankees opened their weekend series in Toronto with a mistake-filled blowout loss, 8-1, to the Blue Jays.

This road trip north of the border has been a nightmare for the Bombers in recent years. Following Friday’s defeat, they guaranteed themselves yet another season-series loss in Canada. The last time the Yankees had a winning record at the Rogers Centre was 2009.

Much of the blame for this embarrassing loss falls on the brutal performance by Masahiro Tanaka. Terrible Tanaka was in peak form as he coughed up eight runs (seven earned) on six hits, three of which cleared the fences. Here’s a quickish recap of the ugly numbers after his latest disaster outing:

  • 35 homers allowed are tied with Phil Hughes (2012) for the second-most in Yankees history, behind Ralph Terry’s 40 in 1962. Oh, how times have changed: Terry was an All-Star, started 39 games, threw 298 2/3 innings and even got a few MVP votes that season, while Tanaka is at 29 starts and 177 1/3 innings.
  • Five games with three or more homers allowed leads MLB this season, and is tied with Catfish Hunter (1977) for the most in a season in Yankees history.
  • Five games with at least seven earned runs matches the most in a season by any Yankee pitcher, a mark he shares with A.J. Burnett (2010) and Red Ruffing (1934). Remember, folks, Tanaka had never given up more than six earned runs in any of his 75 career starts entering this year.

The final pitch he threw was a hanging 0-2 slider with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, that Ryan Goins drilled into the seats in right-center. It was the second grand slam he’s surrendered this year, and – you guessed it – he had never given one up prior to 2017. Even worse is the fact that Goins was 0-for-22 against Tanaka entering that at-bat, and had never even hit a flyball or line drive in his career against him!

Finally, there’s this stat that sums up Tanaka’s Jekyll-and-Hyde 2017 campaign: Through Friday, he was the only pitcher in MLB this season that had five games with at least three homers allowed. He was also the only pitcher in the majors that had thrown multiple games with at least 13 strikeouts and no walks.

Aaron Judge was a one-man offensive machine, producing the team’s only run and two of their three hits. His 469-foot booming shot into the second deck in the first inning was the longest homer at the Rogers Centre this season, and tied for his second-longest of the season. Through Friday, he was the only player in baseball to hit three homers of 469-plus feet this year.

(New York Post)
(New York Post)

The clinching
It’s official. The Yankees punched their ticket to the postseason party with a comeback win, 5-1, on Saturday afternoon.

It was fitting that the clinching victory came in a game where the Yankees had to rally, after the Blue Jays took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. This was the Yankees 34th win when their opponent scored first, tied for the most in the majors through Saturday.

Sonny Gray tossed six strong innings and limited Toronto to one run on four hits, as he continued his six-week stretch of gutty performances on the road. It was his ninth road start in a row with two earned runs or fewer allowed, the longest streak among AL pitchers this season.

Greg Bird earned the hero’s cape when he golfed a 91-mph cutter into the right-field seats in the fifth inning, putting the Yankees ahead 3-1. Bird is no stranger to delivering big hits: eight of his 17 career homers have given the Yankees the lead. Among Yankees with at least 10 home runs since Bird’s debut in 2015, his “go-ahead homer percentage” of 47.1% is the second-best, trailing only … Jacoby Ellsbury (47.8%)!

We’ll also give Bird our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series: This was the second time he’s hit a clutch homer on the road against the Blue Jays; the only other Yankee first basemen with multiple go-ahead homers in Toronto are Jason Giambi and Don Mattingly.

[Because this is a stats post, I’ll note that Aaron Judge reached the 200-strikeout mark in the first inning, breaking the rookie record set by Kris Bryant in 2015. I’ll also mention that Bryant won the Rookie of the Year Award that season.]

(Getty)
(Getty)

The post-clinching
Less than 24 hours after a rousing playoff-clinching victory, the Yankees played like they were still hung over from the late-night celebration. Not only did they lose the rubber game of the series, but the loss also gave them a disappointing 40-41 record on the road this season as they head home for the final week of games.

This is the second year in a row they’ve been below .500 away from the Bronx, the first time in more than two decades they’ve done that. The last time it happened came during the dark ages, a seven-season stretch of road mediocrity from 1987-93.

Jaime Garcia put the Yankees in an early hole, giving up a home run to Teoscar Hernandez on the second pitch he threw. It was the 10th lead-off bomb the Yankees have surrendered this season, the most they’ve ever allowed in a single season in franchise history.

Garcia remains winless in eight starts as a Yankee, tied for the second-longest such streak by any pitcher to begin his pinstriped career over the last 100 seasons. The only longer streak belongs to Steve Trout, who failed to get a win in his first nine starts after a mid-season trade in 1987.

To say that Garcia lacked command would be an understatement. Not only did he throw a wild pitch and walk three of the 14 batters he faced, but more than half (33 of 60) of his pitches were called balls. His strike percentage of 45 percent is the lowest by any Yankee starter that threw 60-plus pitches in an outing since at least 2000 (as far back as we have complete pitch-by-pitch data).

Once again Aaron Judge was the lone shining star in the lineup, belting his 47th and 48th homers this season. He’s now one shy of the major-league home run rookie record set by Mark McGwire in 1987, and also continued his climb up some impressive franchise leaderboards:

  • The only Yankee right-handed batter to hit more longballs in a season is A-Rod, who hit 54 during his 2007 MVP campaign.
  • The 48 homers are the third-most by a Yankee in his age-25 season or younger, trailing Babe Ruth (54 in 1920) and Mickey Mantle (52 in 1956).
  • At the age of 25 years and 151 days, he is the second-youngest Yankee to reach six multi-homer games in a season, behind a 24-year-old Mickey Mantle in 1956.
  • He now has 11 homers in September, the third time this season he’s hit double-digit longballs in a calendar month. The last Yankee to match that feat was Roger Maris in 1961, who had four months with at least 10 homers during his record-setting 61-homer campaign.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 25th, 2017

Record Last Week: 4-2 (29 RS, 24 RA)
Season Record: 86-69 (822 RS, 643 RA, 95-60 pythag. record) 5.0 GB in ALE
Opponents This Week: vs. Royals (one game, Mon.), vs. Rays (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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Blue Jays 9, Yankees 5: Judge homers twice in final road game


Source: FanGraphs

If the Yankees play another road game this season, it’ll be in the ALDS. The closed out their road regular season schedule with a 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon. The Yankees looked very much like a team still hungover from celebrating Saturday’s postseason clincher. Let’s recap this one with bullet points, shall we?

  • Bad Jaime, Bad Bryan: Starter Jaime Garcia and reliever Bryan Mitchell combined to retire eight of 21 batters faced. Mitchell retired just one of the seven batters he faced. Those two were charged with all nine runs (four for Garcia in 2.1 innings and four for Mitchell in 0.1 innings) and the game was out of reach early. The other four relievers combined for the following line: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K. At least some pitchers were good Sunday.
  • All Rise x2: Aaron Judge is now one home run away from tying Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record. He swatted homers No. 47 and 48 on Sunday, the first a solo shot and the second a two-run shot. Both snuck over the wall. They weren’t typical Judge bombs. That’s now eleven homers in the last 19 games for Judge. He’s hit 48 home runs, been robbed of two others (Melky Cabrera and Jackie Bradley Jr.), and had one incorrectly called a triple. His batting line: .281/.416/.610 (166 wRC+). Too late to get back in the AL MVP race, or is it all Jose Altuve at this point?
  • Leftovers: Dellin Betances hit a batter and struck out a batter in his scoreless inning. He was very clearly working on his fastball. He threw 15 pitches and ten were heaters. He usually throws more breaking balls than fastballs … Judge drove in three of the team’s five runs. Didi Gregorius (single) and Greg Bird (double) drove in the others … two hits for Judge and Starlin Castro and one each for Chase Headley, Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury, Bird, and Austin Romine.

Here are the box score, video highlights, postseason odds, and updated standings. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page. The Yankees were supposed to have an off-day Monday, but they’ll instead play a makeup game against the Royals at Yankee Stadium. That’s the makeup game of their May 25th rainout. CC Sabathia and someone named Jake Junis are the scheduled starters. That’s a 1pm ET game.

Game 155: Post-Clinch

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

The Yankees have completed step one of their ultimate goal this season. They want to win the World Series, and yesterday’s win clinched a postseason spot. The next goal: secure homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game. The goal after that: win the division. That one probably won’t happen, but the magic number to clinch a Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium is only two. That should be in the bag.

Anyway, the Yankees will play their final road game of the regular season this afternoon. They are 40-40 despite a +66 (!) run differential on the road this year, so today will determine whether they finish with a winning record away from Yankee Stadium. Here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. DH Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jaime Garcia

Another nice and sunny day in Toronto. This afternoon’s road schedule finale will begin a bit after 1pm ET, and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Looking Ahead to the 2018 Roster

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

First of all, let’s take a moment to congratulate the Yankees on securing a playoff spot in 2017. This team was expected to maybe compete for the second wild card spot if everything broke their way, and now they’re on track to win 90 games. That’s fantastic. Much to what I’m sure is the chagrin of fans of other teams and organizations, the Yankees’ rebuild lasted about as long as it takes to microwave a burrito. For exceeding expectations and cementing their spot as one of the last standing after the marathon that is the baseball season, this team deserved every drop of beer and champagne last night. To see a team that was this fun achieve something so unexpected is a delight and I’m beyond ecstatic for the players.

Now, let’s look ahead for a bit, hopefully into a future that includes raising a 28th World Series banner. On Friday, Mike looked at the payroll and budget situation for 2018. Using his template, let’s examine the potential 2018 roster as it ‘stands’ now. Like Mike, I’m going to assume Masahiro Tanaka will opt out of his current deal, bad start Friday night and all.

In his post, Mike listed the players needing to be replaced as Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Todd Frazier, and Matt Holliday. Of those, Tanaka is obviously the hardest to replace. If he does go, that task may be impossible because no free agent starters are of his caliber. The rotation would be in an okay spot considering they’d be leading with Luis Severino and Sonny Gray. A bit of improvement from Jordan Montgomery makes him into a third starter. Between the minor league system and some small time deals on the (not so hot) free agent market could round out the rotation decently. Considering how much of a question the rotation was this time a year ago, the Yankees could afford to go in with one that isn’t great and ride the lineup and bullpen like they did for a lot of this year.

Of the pitchers they’re (probably) losing, Sabathia is more likely to return on a small contract, maybe with some innings incentives. He’s said he wants to pitch for a winning team, and the Yankees are likely to be one. Tapping him to anchor the back of the rotation means the Yankees could take some innings risks with others in the fourth spot between CC and Monty.

To replace The Todd and Arms Holliday, the Yankees may be able to kill two birds with one stone…in the person of Todd Frazier. As good as Holliday looked at the beginning of the year, he’s looked much less so lately and given their experience with him and Chris Carter this year, I think the team’ll look to be more flexible at DH. That is, they won’t opt for a strictly DH type; they don’t have one in house and unless Carlos Santana somehow leaves Cleveland (doubtful), an elite option doesn’t exist on the free agent market.

The best option, I think, is to re-sign Todd Frazier. I wasn’t wild about that idea when he was brought on, but having him on the team gives the Yankees insurance for both Greg Bird‘s health and Chase Headley‘s performance. Those three guys can rotate between third, first, and DH until someone really grabs the job by the horns. While Bird may be limited to first, Headley and Frazier can both play the corner infield spots and the combination of all three could lead to upwards of 100 walks and 60 homers in some combination; that would be well worth it.

It’s likely that the 2018 Yankees will look incredibly similar to the 2017 Yankees. A lack of turnover can be a bad thing–see the 2017 Mets–but this team doesn’t have many major holes to fill–outside of Tanaka–and there’s a solid base of talent in each facet of the roster. Things are looking up for next year. Now, let’s see how they take care of this year.

Postseason Bound! Yankees clinch at least a wildcard spot with 5-1 win over Blue Jays

The Yankees are officially going back to the postseason. Saturday afternoon’s 5-1 win over the Blue Jays means the Yankees will be, at worst, the second wildcard team. The magic number to clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game is just two. October baseball, I’ve missed you so.

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

Don’t Hit It At Them, Hit It Over Them
In the first few innings Saturday, the only way the Yankees were not going to hit into a bad luck double play was by hitting the ball over the fence. Three times in the first five innings the Yankees had into a stupid double play. Three times! To recap:

  • In the second, with Chase Headley trying to steal second, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a hard-hit grounder up the middle and right at shortstop Ryan Goins, who was running to second to cover on the steal. He stepped on the bag and threw to first in the blink of an eye.
  • With runners on first and second in the fourth, Didi Gregorius hit a line drive at second baseman Darwin Barney, who doubled Aaron Judge off second base. The ball was hit too hard and Barney’s throw was too quick for Judge to get back in time.
  • In the fifth, Todd Frazier broke for second in a 3-2 count, and Brett Gardner hit a line drive right at Goins. He made the catch and casually threw to first to double up Frazier. Todd was basically at second base when the catch was made. So dumb.

Those double plays were the only reason Joe Biagini escaped with three runs allowed in five innings. The Yankees threatened in nearly every inning, yet it took them not hitting a ball into the field of play to score three runs. Headley drew a walk to start the fifth and stole second, then Starlin Castro worked a one-out walk to put two men on base. That’s when Greg Bird hit the go-ahead three-run home run.

That made all those stupid bad luck double plays worth it. Well, no, they were still annoying as hell, but at least the Yankees scored some runs along the way. That was Bird’s third homer in his last seven games. His last six hits: home run, home run, double, single, double, home run. Would be nice to really get Bird going before the postseason.

Six Strong For Sonny
For the eighth time in his ten starts as a Yankee, Sonny Gray did not allow more than two earned runs Saturday afternoon. And for the seventh time in those ten starts, he completed six full innings, even though there seems to be this idea floating around that he’s been a five-and-fly pitcher. Gray did have to wiggle out of some jams Saturday, including out two runners on base in three of his six innings, though the only damage was a Teoscar Hernandez solo home run in the third.

Gray’s final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K on 96 pitches. I thought maybe he would start the seventh and do the batter-to-batter thing against the bottom of the lineup, but nope. Joe Girardi went to the bullpen with a chance to lock down a postseason spot. Two of Gray’s three walks went to two of the final five batters he faced. He walked Josh Donaldson to start the sixth and Kendrys Morales with one out to put the tying run on base, but a great Gardner running catch and a ground ball later, the inning was over. Solid. Unspectacular. Sonny.

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

Leftovers
Seven hits for the offense, the biggest of which was Bird’s dinger (duh). Frazier drove in an insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth, and Castro brought in another insurance run with an infield single in the ninth. Doubles for Judge and Gary Sanchez, homers for Bird and Frazier, and singles for Headley, Ellsbury, and Castro. Sanchez, Castro, Sanchez, and Headley (two) had the walks.

Nine up, nine down, four strikeouts for the bullpen. Chad Green had the seventh, David Robertson the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman the ninth. The Rogers Centre crowd gave Jose Bautista a huge standing ovation in the eighth inning as he plays what is likely his final home series as a Blue Jay. Robertson struck him out. Love it. Also, the final out to clinch a playoff spot? Rob Refsnyder. Perfect. Just perfect.

aaron-judge-didi-gregorius

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, MLB.com has the video highlights, and FanGraphs has the postseason odds. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The final road game of the regular season. Possibly the final road game of the season overall! I hope not. That would be lame. The Yankees and Blue Jays will wrap up this three-game series Sunday afternoon. That’s a 1pm ET start. Jaime Garcia and Marcus Stroman are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Game 154: A Win And They’re In

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

Even though the Yankees lost last night’s series opener to the Blue Jays, the magic number dropped to one because both the Angels and Rangers lost. Thanks for that, Astros and Athletics. The clinching scenario is very simple now. With their next win, the Yankees clinch a postseason spot. They’d also clinch with one loss each from the Angels and Rangers, but that’s lame. Winning to clinch your spot is so much cooler.

Last night’s loss combined with the Red Sox’s win essentially puts the AL East title out of reach — FanGraphs put New York’s division odds at a mere 3.0% — which means it’s wildcard or bust. Win Saturday, clinch a postseason spot, then party like hell. Then go out and win three more to clinch homefield advantage in that Wild Card Game. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. DH Chase Headley
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. 3B Todd Frazier
    RHP Sonny Gray

Another nice and sunny day in Toronto, so the Rogers Centre roof figures to be open. Today’s game will begin a little after 4pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Luis Severino was hit by a line drive in the back of his left shoulder during batting practice. He was down on the ground for a bit before he resumed playing catch. The Yankees say he’ll ice is down and is otherwise fine. Good gravy … Adam Warren (back) threw another bullpen session today and is slated to throw a simulated game Tuesday. He’ll be activated after that if all goes well … Aaron Hicks (oblique) played in an Instructional League game today, according to Antonio Mendes. The Yankees hope to get him back sometime next week so he can play in a few big league games before the postseason.