Under the Radar

Get well soon, El Gary. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

After what he did last summer, it’s hard to imagine Gary Sanchez running a low profile. He burst onto the scene with an impressive display that almost won him AL Rookie of the Year honors over a pitcher who was successful in the league all year. Immediately, he endeared himself to the game with his powerful displays and came into 2017 with great expectations and the combination of talent and potential to back it up. And then he got hurt swinging a bat in Baltimore and missed a lot of time. While that was unexpected in and of itself, here’s another thing that I didn’t expect: Gary Sanchez is having the best season of any catcher in the American League.

Thanks to Aaron Judge being, well, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino doing his ace thing, Aaron Hicks emerging as a legit player, Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday hitting bald bombs all over the place, and Starlin Castro reestablishing his All-Star status, Sanchez has taken a bit of a backseat with regards to attention this year. Missing time with an injury will do that, sure, but the overall success of the team has sort of buried the lede on how good Sanchez has been this year.

In home runs, Sanchez’s six trail only Salvador Perez (11) and Alex Avila and James McCann with 7. Perez laps all catchers with 201 plate appearances; Avila (120) and McCann (125) have a handful more than Sanchez (119). In terms of wOBA, Sanchez is at .352, two points behind Russell Martin (.354) and a bunch behind Avila (.433!). wRC+ puts him behind Avila (176) and Martin (122), and tied with Evan Gattis at 121. He’s third in ISO (.190) behind Avila (.283) and Perez (.214). He’s tied for sixth in fWAR with Gattis (0.7), but has fewer games played than every player ahead of him AND every player behind him. What we should also note is that Alex Avila has played 20 games at catcher, but also 11 at first. He’s having a damn good season–seriously, I’d forgotten about his existence as a baseball player–but splitting time makes me give preference to the other guys on the list, especially Sanchez.

El Gary may not top the AL catching leaderboards in everything, but his combination of stats paints a fine, well rounded picture of a fantastic season. That this has slipped a bit under the radar speaks to a few things. Obviously, Sanchez’s teammates listed above have played a bit more and have shined, some of them unexpectedly. The team overall has been much more successful than anticipated and all of that has–somewhat rightly–overshadowed Sanchez’s solid, if not outwardly flashy, 2017 performance. Hopefully, the next few weeks net Sanchez some more attention and votes to get him to the All Star game. He deserves his first of what should be many.

DotF: Estrada and Andujar lead Trenton to a win

A few notes to pass along:

  • RHP Ernesto Frieri is still with Triple-A Scranton. He has used his opt-out, but according to D.J. Eberle, the Yankees have two days to add him to the roster before he becomes a free agent. Frieri can pitch for the RailRiders in the meantime.
  • OF Jake Cave (concussion) was activated off he Double-A Trenton disabled list while RHP Yefry Ramirez was placed on it, reports Matt Kardos. Ramirez has a relatively minor fingernail issue and the Yankees are playing it safe. There was some thought he’d made his next start.
  • RHP Erik Swanson was placed on the High-A Tampa disabled list, the team announced. Not sure what’s wrong with him. Swanson left last night’s start after only 2.1 innings and 46 pitches. He missed most of the 2015 season with a flexor strain.

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 loss to Toledo)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-2, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 CS — hitting .297/.372/.446 on the season
  • RF Dustin Fowler & DH Tyler Austin: both 0-4, 2 K
  • 3B Gleyber Torres: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K — now 7-for-36 (.194) with 13 strikeouts in eleven Triple-A games, though he also has eight walks, which works out to a .356 OBP
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-2, 1 BB, 2 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 0-3, 1 K
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 9/3 GB/FB — 62 of 99 pitches were strikes … no more than two earned runs in seven of his ten Triple-A games this year

[Read more…]

Yankees power their way to a 7-0 win at Toronto

Good game. Would watch over and over. Jordan Montgomery had one of his best ML starts and the bats hit nothing but extra-base hits to rout the Blue Jays. The Yankees now stand at 32-21 with a .604 winning percentage.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Good Gumby

This is probably the best we’ve seen of Jordan Montgomery in his young career. He went 6 innings, allowed no runs, only 3 hits and struck out 5. Well, he also walked 3 but none of them ended up haunting the Yankees.

For what it’s worth, here is his pitch chart for the day:

bandicam-2017-06-04-05-12-53-007

What I see here is a lot of pitches towards the different edges of the strike zone (besides the up-and-in vs. RHB’s), which is good. Montgomery is not a guy who can overpower hitters by just throwing fastballs in the zone. It’s fun to watch him when he can locate with different pitches and fool hitters. Speaking of which, his curveball was absolutely working today. Per Brooks Baseball, batters whiffed on his curve 7 times, which may not sound like a lot but it’s good for a 29.2% rate. He’s not really a guy who gets swing-and-misses with his fastball (only 2 from today) so secondary pitches working like that is vital.

After today’s game, Montgomery’s ERA dropped to 3.67. His 3.54 FIP suggests that his peripherals reflect well on his basic stats. He’s been striking out close to a hitter per inning (8.47 K/9 IP) while limiting hits (50 allowed in 56.1 IP) and home runs (0.80 HR/9 IP). It’s really hard to ask more from a rookie starter. Montgomery is here to stay for awhile.

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

All the extra base hits!

The Aarons hit a pair of RBI doubles to give Joe Biagini a pair of unearned runs in the third inning. Rob Refsnyder reached on base with a Troy Tulowitzki error and stole second. He moved to third on a long fly out off Brett Gardner‘s bat. With two outs and runner on third, Aaron Hicks hit a bloop double dropped perfectly between the second baseman and right fielder (a hit probability of 9%). Aaron Judge, however, hit an absolute bullet double 116.2 mph off the bat to make it 2-0 Yankees. It was hit so hard that it deflected off of Kevin “Superman” Pillar’s glove. It seemed like he might have been able to make a Sportscenter-worthy jump catch but he just couldn’t come down with it.

The Yankees scored another run in the seventh thanks to doubles. Starlin Castro led off the inning with a bloop double to left. Didi Gregorius, not to be outdone, followed it up with another bloop double to left to drive Castro in, 3-0 Yankees. It was not left fielder Darwin Barney’s finest defensive inning. At that point, the Yankees had four base hits and all of them were doubles.

But wait, the fun was just starting. In the top of the eighth inning, the Jays brought in Jason Grilli to relieve Joe Biagini. Gardner led off the inning with his 12th HR of the year. That was also his 12th homer in the past 124 at-bats, which is mind-boggling. The calendar just barely flipped to June and the man’s way ahead on pace to shatter his career-high (17 in 2014). He’s also hitting .270/.356/.524 after today. Not a slash that you’d expect from Gardner. That’s awfully similar to Edwin Encarnacion’s from last year (.263/.357/.529). I have no idea how long Gardy will keep it up but I’m enjoying it.

Grilli went on to retire Hicks (line out) and Judge (strike out) … then all heck broke loose. Matt Holliday, Castro and Gregorius hit back-to-back-to-back home runs to make it 7-0 in a hurry. So many home runs! That was immensely fun to watch. Holliday jogging back to the dugout, yelling “I got you Gardy!” was a crowd pleaser as well. These guys are winning and having fun. What more could you want? On the flip side, Grilli became just the third reliever ever to allow four home runs in no more than 0.2 IP, per Diane Firstman.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Leftovers

Many things went right for the Yankees in this game and one of them was bullpen. Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard, and Dellin Betances worked quite flawlessly (3.0 IP, 0 H, 2 BB, 4 K’s combined) in a relatively stress-free ending to a game. Today was Betances’ first appearance since May 27 vs. the Athletics. It was not a save situation but I figured that Joe Girardi wanted to put him in for some work so he can stay sharp. Betances has been as good as any reliever this season – 33 strikeouts in 18.1 IP with only 1 ER allowed all season. Folks, he is… good.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

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


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees have secured at least a split in this series. They will go for the series win tomorrow with Luis Severino on the mound. He will face off Marcus Stroman. Should be a good matchup. Have a good Saturday, everyone.

Saturday Open Thread

Here is an open thread for the rest of the day. I hope the weather wherever you are is as great as it is here in New York today. The Mets are playing later tonight and MLB Network will air a regional game later on as well. Game Three of the Stanley Cup Finals is on too. Talk about that stuff or anything else here. Just not religion or politics. Get that outta here.

Game 53: Due For A Win

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

The Yankees have alternated wins and losses for a week now, which I guess means they’re due for a win this afternoon. Go home, nothing to see here, game is already in the bag. If only, huh? The offense has come back to life — the Yankees have scored 40 runs in their last six games — and now it’s time to get the pitching back on track.

This afternoon the ball will go to rookie Jordan Montgomery, who hasn’t pitched all that well in three of his last four starts. General baseball randomness, or the league catching up to him? Whatever it is, he and the Yankees could use a good outing today. I’m not sure how many more duds Montgomery can manage with Chance Adams looming. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

The Rogers Centre roof is going to be open this afternoon, which means it’s a lovely afternoon in Toronto. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET and both YES and MLB Network will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) has been shut down. His headaches have returned. He’ll see a neurologist when the Yankees get back to New York on Monday. I guess this solves the “Hicks has to play every day” problem for the foreseeable future. This stinks though. Brain injuries are no joke. Hopefully Ellsbury is okay … Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) threw a light 15-pitch bullpen session today. Joe Girardi estimated a return date of June 15th.

Yankees can’t overcome Pineda’s rough start, fall 7-5 to Jays

Some games it seems like you’re just not meant to win, and this was one of them. The Yankees had Francisco Liriano on the ropes in the early innings of Friday night’s game, but they never capitalized, and the Blue Jays raced to a 7-5 win. Drat. The Yankees are now 12-12 in their last 24 games, which is mildly annoying. At least they’re still in first place in the AL East (by 2.5 games) and have the AL’s second best run differential (+64).

Devon Travis' life flashes before his eyes. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Devon Travis’ life flashes before his eyes. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Cursed By The RISP Gods
This game was lost in the first three innings. Well, maybe not entirely, but the Yankees wasted way too many chances. Brett Gardner was stranded at third in the first inning after a leadoff three-base error by Ezequiel Carrera — Carrera dropped a routine fly ball because (I think) he thought he was going to run into Kevin Pillar — and then Aaron Hicks was left standing at second base following a one-out double in the second.

The third inning was when it really started to feel like it just wasn’t their night. With the Blue Jays already up 3-0, the Yankees put runners on first and second via a ground rule double (Chris Carter) and a walk (Gardner). Gary Sanchez then hit a 107 mph rocket … right at the second baseman Devon Travis for a line out. After Aaron Judge worked a walk to load the bases with one out, Matt Holliday hit a 109 mph rocket … on the ground and right at Josh Donaldson for an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. SIGH. Seven hitless at-bats with runners in scoring position in the first three innings. There’s yer ballgame.

Big Mike‘s Big Dud
I suppose Michael Pineda was due for a stinker. After allowing no more than three earned runs in any of his previous nine starts, Pineda gave up three runs in the first inning Friday night, and they came on two very loud home runs. He hung the hell out of a slider to Donaldson, who smacked it over the left field wall for a solo home run. Three batters later Pineda split the plate in half with a fastball to Justin Smoak, who cranked it off the luxury box windows for a two-run shot. The pitch locations:

michael-pineda-josh-donaldson-justin-smoak

Yeah. Not great. Pineda also hung a slider that inning to Jose Bautista, who just got under it and flew out. Giving up a solo homer to Donaldson is whatever. It happens. The Smoak homer was the killer. The two-out walk to Kendrys Morales that preceded it was the accomplice. Pineda has allowed 13 home runs in eleven starts so far this season, and only twice in those eleven starts was he able to keep the other team in the ballpark. As good as he’s been overall this year, the long ball has been an issue.

The Blue Jays tacked on two more runs against Pineda with a third inning sacrifice fly and fourth inning wild pitch. Like I said, it was just one of those nights. After the home runs, there were a lot of ground balls with eyes and bloops that dunked in. Less exit velocity is more, I guess. Pineda gave up a hit to Luke Maile, a career .178/.208/.297 big league hitter, in an 0-2 count with a pitch up at shoulder level. What can you do? Some nights things don’t go well.

The most telling number about Pineda’s night: one. That’s how many strikeouts he had. And he didn’t get that strikeout until the fifth inning, against the 27th and final batter he faced (Maile). Pineda’s slider wasn’t good at all, so much so that midway through the game he started going to his changeup more than his slider. He never does that. The final tally: 5 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K. Shake it off and come back in five days, Mikey.

Not Enough Fighting Spirit
The offense tried and tried to get back into the game, but the bullpen just wouldn’t let it happen. The Yankees struck for four runs in the top the sixth to turn a 5-0 game into a 5-4 game. Judge hit a two-run home run into the second deck in right field — opposite field second deck! — and Starlin Castro hit a laser two-run home run juuust over the right field wall. A Sanchez single and a Holliday made those two-run homers possible.

Alright, one-run game! The Blue Jays answered right back with a run in the bottom of the sixth, unfortunately. Donaldson took Jonathan Holder deep and it wasn’t even a bad pitch. Donaldson went down and got a curveball.

jonathan-holder-josh-donaldsonGreat hitter does great hitter things. The 5-4 game became a 6-4 game. It became a 6-5 game in the top of the seventh with a quick strike two-out rally. Judge drew a walk and Holliday doubled into the right-center field gap. He has a knack for hitting these opposite field fly balls that just carry and carry and carry. I thought it was a routine fly out off the bat. Next thing you know, Pillar is leaping and unable to make the catch at the warning track.

Okay, great, the Yankees were back within one. That didn’t last long though. The Blue Jays scored another insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. The inning started with a Smoak ground ball deep into the shift, which Castro got to and was able to first to first. The problem? Carter gave up on the play, thinking it was a hit. He was late to first base and Smoak beat him. The Yankees challenged the play to see whether Carter’s toe touched the bag, but alas. Pretty terrible.

Troy Tulowitzki followed with a loud double to right, and Travis got the run in with a hard-hit sacrifice fly to left. Adam Warren was on the mound that inning. Every time the Yankees scored runs to get to within one, the bullpen gave a run right back. The bats let them down early with the RISPFAIL and the bullpen let them down late with all those tack-on runs. At least they didn’t go down quietly.

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

Leftovers
Every starter had a hit except Gardner and Chase Headley. Gardner drew a walk. Headley did nothing. He’s down to .232/.306/.356 (80 wRC+) on the season. Remember his great start? It feels like a lifetime ago. The Yankees are going to have to think about making a change at third base in the near future. Maybe that means Ronald Torreyes, maybe it means Gleyber Torres, maybe it means a trade. But this can’t go on forever.

Your nightly Aarons update: Judge went 1-for-3 with the homer and two walks while Hicks went 2-for-4. Judge is hitting .326/.431/.691 (198 wRC+). Hicksie is hitting .323/.438/.585 (175 wRC+). Why don’t they just make the entire team out of Aarons? Those guys are awesome. I love Sanchez, he’s the man, but I wish Hicks was hitting second.

The one reliever who didn’t allow a run was Chasen Shreve, who struck out Donaldson and Bautista as part of a perfect ninth inning. I know he gave up that moonshot to (future Yankee?) Mike Moustakas a few weeks ago, but Shreve has been pretty darn good since coming back up.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com has the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This four-game weekend series continues with the third game Saturday afternoon. That’s a regular 1pm ET start. Hooray for that. Jordan Montgomery and reliever-turned-starter Joe Biagini are the scheduled starting pitchers.

DotF: Andujar extends hitting streak, Sheffield takes tough luck loss for Trenton

Here are the day’s notes:

  • So long, RHP Ernesto Frieri. He has indeed opted out of his contract. There was some confusion about that. Frieri told D.J. Eberle he’s opting out because the Yankees have too much young pitching, and he thinks he has a better chance to get back to MLB with another team.
  • Another goodbye: LHP Jason Gurka has been released, the team announced. The Yankees signed him to a minor league contract over the winter, and with all the young arms moving up, they need the roster spots. The journeyman gets the axe.
  • RHP Yefry Ramirez left last night’s start after throwing his warm-up pitches in the fourth inning, and Matt Kardos says he had a problem with his thumbnail. It’s not a big concern and he’s expected to make his next start.
  • RHP Chance Adams (fourth) and 3B Miguel Andujar (ninth) both made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Adams struck out a career-high 12 the other day. Andujar has an 11-game hitting streak.

Triple-A Scranton (7-5 win over Toledo)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — leadoff home run against the formerly good at baseball Anibal Sanchez
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • 3B Gleyber Torres: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (fielding) — now 8-for-33 (.242) in ten Triple-A games … he also has four errors in those ten games
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-4 — this is day 15 of his 20-day rehab assignment … I assume he’ll be activated off the disabled list for the start of the homestand Monday
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI
  • LF Mason Williams: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI,  SB
  • RHP Brady Lail: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 7/6 GB/FB — 59 of 100 pitches were strikes
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 21 of 36 pitches were strikes (58%) … first walk of the season! … now has a 39/1 K/BB in 27.1 innings
  • RHP Ben Heller: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 22 of 39 pitches were strikes (56%)

[Read more…]