DotF: German dominates, Scranton evens championship series

Triple-A Scranton (4-0 win over Durham) the best-of-five International League Championship Series is now tied at a game apiece

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB — he’s been a beast all postseason
  • RF Billy McKinney: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • DH Garrett Cooper: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — got a hit against former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, who threw an inning out of the bullpen this game … Eovaldi’s rehabbing from his second career Tommy John surgery
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-4
  • RHP Domingo German: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 9/3 GB/FB — 62 of 103 pitches were strikes (60%) … huge final start of the season for Domingo … I imagine he’ll get called up as soon as this series is over, though who knows whether he’ll actually pitch
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — eleven of 17 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

According to multiple reports out of Japan, two-way sensation Shohei Otani will be coming over to MLB this offseason. Those reports are unconfirmed, of course. Jim Allen, who I trust on the Otani beat more than anyone, only says Otani’s desire to come to MLB has not wavered. Kyodo News says the Nippon Ham Fighters and Otani will talk things over after the season. We’ll see. We went through several “he’s coming to MLB oh wait maybe not” cycles with Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka. No reason to think Otani will be any different.

Anyway, here is an open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing tonight and ESPN will have the Red Sox-Athletics (7pm ET) and Dodgers-Giants (10pm ET). Talk about those games, the ongoing Otani situation, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here. Just not religion or politics. Get outta here with that.

Yankees get just enough offense, just enough outs from the bullpen in 3-2 win over Rays

Four straight series wins and eight wins in the last eleven games for the New York Baseball Yankees. Wednesday’s series finale with the Rays was quite the nail-biter, but, in the end, the Yankees managed a 3-2 victory in the rubber game. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is now 13.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Three Early Runs Against Archer
Two starts ago Chris Archer threw eight pitches and exited the game with forearm tightness, which is never ever good news. An MRI came back clean and Archer hasn’t missed a start, but boy, he sure doesn’t look healthy. He allowed eight runs in three innings against the Red Sox last time out, and on Wednesday the Yankees tagged him for three runs on six hits and three walks. He threw 92 pitches in four innings plus one batter.

The Yankees scored all of their runs against Archer in the third inning, and the rally came together quick. Starlin Castro first pitch single to center, Jacoby Ellsbury fourth pitch single to right, Todd Frazier second pitch single to left. Three batters, three hits, seven pitches. The Frazier single was a grounder through the left side of the infield and Castro was able to score from second, giving New York a 1-0 lead.

The prolonged at-bats came after the Frazier single. Clint Frazier struck out for the first out of the inning, though it took Archer eight pitches. Austin Romine worked a six-pitch walk to load the bases. After the two long at-bats, Brett Gardner jumped on a second pitch changeup Archer left up in the zone, and he slapped it the other way for a two-run single. A well-placed ground ball, it was. That gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

Gardner’s single put runners on first and second with one out, and Archer had already thrown 23 pitches in the inning. Unfortunately Chase Headley hit into a bad luck inning-ending double play. Well, no, it wasn’t really bad luck. It was more about the Rays being well-prepared than the Yankees hitting into bad luck. Headley ripped a hard-hit ball back up the middle, right where shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was stationed. So it goes.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Jaime’s Short Leash
For the fifth time in the last nine games, the starter did not complete five innings. And only once in those five games was the starter removed because he was getting hit around. That was Masahiro Tanaka against the Rangers over the weekend. In the other four starts Joe Girardi went to the bullpen early to protect a lead rather than let the starter go through the lineup a third time. That’s exactly what happened Wednesday afternoon.

Jaime Garcia danced in and out of danger in the first and second innings — he allowed three hits in those two innings, two of which did not leave the infield — but got the ground balls to escape trouble. Kevin Kiermaier jumped on a 2-0 fastball leading off the third for a solo home run, getting the Rays to within 3-1, for the only run Garcia allowed. He retired eight of the next nine batters he faced, with only a Hechavarria walk mixed in.

Garcia’s afternoon came to an end with two outs in the fifth, when Lucas Duda dunked a little half-swing single along the third base line. He wasn’t trying to beat the shift. It just happened. Garcia didn’t throw a bad pitch. Duda just reached out with a defensive half-swing in a two-strike count, and the ball landed maybe a foot fair. Pretty stupid, but baseball is known to be stupid from time to time. With the Yankees up 3-1 and Evan Longoria coming to the plate for the third time, Girardi went to the bullpen.

Clearly, Garcia was not happy about getting pulled. He didn’t look at Girardi when he handed him the ball and the two had a conversation in the dugout afterwards. Joe didn’t chew him out or anything. It was one of those “here’s my thinking here, this is why I took you out” talks. Similar to the talk Girardi had with CC Sabathia the other night, when he was yanked early. Garcia’s final line: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 78 pitches. Not too shabby for a sixth (fifth?) starter.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

To The Bullpen
By his standards, Chad Green had a rough outing Sunday in Texas. He allowed a run on four hits and a walk in 2.1 innings, throwing 47 pitches. The Green Monster returned Wednesday with a dominant, yet relatively short, outing. Four up, four down, three strikeouts. Only 21 pitches. Green got Longoria to fly out after taking over for Garcia, then struck out the side in the sixth. He’s up to 99 strikeouts in 64.1 innings (1.96 ERA and 1.67 FIP).

Tommy Kahnle took over in the seventh — Green has worked a lot over the last week and I’m guessing Girardi didn’t want to push him any further — and tossed up a zero thanks to a snazzy double play by Headley. He scooped a hard-hit grounder, stepped on first base, and fired to second to get the speedy Mallex Smith. Things got interesting in the eighth inning. Dellin Betances struck out Duda, allowed a single to Longoria, and struck out Logan Morrison. And that was it. Girardi came to get him and went to Aroldis Chapman for the four-out save.

Why go the Chapman? I assume because Girardi saw Steven Souza is 3-for-9 with a homer against Betances and 0-for-3 against Chapman, though that kinda ignores Souza’s ability to murder fastballs and Chapman being a fastball pitcher. (And all three of Souza’s hits against Betances came in 2015.) I suppose the good news is Chapman walked him on five pitches rather than give up a game-tying home run. Hechavarria, who tormented the Yankees all series despite being terrible, then came through with a two-strike single to score Longoria to get the Rays to within 3-2.

Chapman was able to strike out pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos to end the eighth inning, stranding runners at the corners, but he needed 16 pitches to do it, and there was still another inning to go. I dunno. Taking out Betances seemed completely unnecessary, but whatever. Chapman, naturally, walked the leadoff man in the ninth. It was Casali’s third at-bat of the year after hitting .263/.351/.347 (99 wRC+) in fourth year at Triple-A. Good stuff.

Following that leadoff walk, it sure looked like Chapman got mad. Either at himself or life in general. He came roaring back to punch out Brad Miller, Kiermaier, and Duda on 12 total pitches. The lineup played right into his hands there. He got to face back-to-back-to-back left-handed hitters. It all worked out. The bullpen — and inning after inning of RISPFAIL — made it interesting, but a win is a win is a win.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The Yankees had three opportunities to blow this game open. They loaded the bases with two outs in the third, but Young Frazier struck out. They loaded the bases again with one out in the eighth, but Young Frazier and Romine both struck out. No idea why Romine was allowed to hit there. The Yankees also had runners on the corners with no outs in the ninth, then went strikeout (Gary Sanchez), pop-up (Didi Gregorius), pop-up (Castro). Cool cool.

Small but impactful thing that doesn’t show up in the box score: Gardner made three — three! — excellent plays getting the ball back to the infield quickly after a base hit to left, holding the runner to a single instead of a double. That Headley double play in the seventh? Set up by Gardner holding Smith to a single. Three times Gardner prevented a runner from getting into scoring position in a close game. Huge.

The Yankees had ten hits total, including two each by Gardner, Sanchez, Castro, and Ellsbury. Headley and Old Frazier had the others. Old Frazier drew two walks while Ellsbury and Romine drew one each. The Yankees went 2-for-14 (.143) with runners in scoring position and all nine batters in the lineup had at least one at-bat in those spots. Only Gardner and Old Frazier got hits. Whatever. Do better tomorrow.

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 neutral site road series in Queens is over and the Yankees now return to the Bronx for a seven-game homestand. Masahiro Tanaka and Wade Miley are the scheduled starters for Thursday night’s series opener with the Orioles. That’s a four-game series and, for all intents and purposes, it’s the last chance for the O’s to get back in the wildcard race. Another series loss and they’re basically done.

Yanks have yet to offer Cashman, Girardi, Denbo, or coaching staff contract extensions

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Not much of a surprise here, but according to George King, the Yankees have yet to make contract extension offers to their front office and coaching staffs. General manager Brian Cashman, vice president of player development Gary Denbo, vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring, manager Joe Girardi, and the entire coaching staff are unsigned beyond this season. I’m sure a bunch of others too.

The Yankees have, historically, waited until contracts expire before negotiating new deals. That used to apply to players as well, though the team came to their senses with that a few years ago and are now at least open to the idea of extending a player before free agency. The last few times Cashman and Girardi have been up for new deals, they became free agents and then worked out new contracts.

Denbo, who has helped turn the farm system into a player development machine, is reportedly under consideration for a position with the Marlins. He and Derek Jeter are very close — Denbo managed Jeter in the minors back in the day and was his big league hitting coach in 2001 — and it makes sense that Jeter would look to bring in someone he knows and trusts to run the team he’s about to purchase.

There were rumors circulating last month that the Yankees offered Denbo a big five-year contract extension — five-year contracts are pretty rare in the front office world, from what I understand — though King says that is not the case. The Yankees haven’t made him or anyone else an offer. Interestingly enough, Jeter’s purchase of the Marlins may take a while as the league reviews financial information. From Charlie Gasparino and Brian Schwartz:

“The owners told (Bruce) Sherman that the Jeter bid will get what amounts to a proctology exam,” said one baseball executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity and has direct knowledge of the owners meeting. “And they indicated that exam could take a long time.”

Front office and coaching staff contracts typically expire October 31st or at the end of the World Series. If the Marlins sale takes a while, it could give the Yankees a leg up on re-signing Denbo, who I can’t imagine will want to wait around for the Marlins sale to go final and leave his future uncertain. The Yankees could lock him up before Jeter fully controls the Marlins, which doesn’t sound imminent.

Of course, the Marlins could always approach the Yankees about Denbo after the sale goes final. Teams interview personnel under contract with other teams all the time. With permission, of course. The Yankees could deny that permission — they denied the Diamondbacks permission to interview scouting director Damon Oppenheimer back in 2010 — though most teams don’t when it involves a big upward promotion. Denbo could always push for having permission to interview elsewhere put into his contract. We’ll see.

For now, neither Denbo nor Cashman nor Girardi nor anyone on the coaching staff is under contract beyond this season. No one has a contract offer in hand either. I wonder if this will lead to some coaching staff changes? I guess it depends on Girardi. If he returns, which I think is likely, chances are his coaching staff will remain mostly intact. If Girardi leaves, all bets are off.

Game 145: End of the Road Trip

(Steven Ryan/Getty)
(Steven Ryan/Getty)

Although the nine-game road trip technically ends today, the Yankees have been sleeping in their own beds since Sunday night. They’ve split the first two games of this neutral site series at Citi Field with the Rays. Last night’s loss was a bummer. Sonny Gray was awesome and an extremely winnable game slipped away. Blah.

This afternoon the Yankees have a chance to clinch their fourth consecutive series win. They haven’t won four straight series since early-April/late-May. The last series in that four-series winning streak was the sweep at Wrigley Field. Been a while. Win the rubber game today then, uh, head home? Seven-game homestand coming up. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

It is cloudy and humid in New York this afternoon, which usually means rain is on the way. There’s not much in the forecast. Maybe a quick shower at some point, but probably nothing heavy enough to delay the game. Hope not, anyway. Today’s series finale will begin a little after 1pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network out-of-market. Enjoy.

Eric Hosmer’s impending free agency and the luxury tax plan

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

The Royals took a really big gamble this year. So many of their core players are due to become free agents after the season, but they decided to hang on to everyone at the trade deadline and try to make a run in the second half. Kansas City was in the second wildcard spot on July 31st so hey, it wasn’t an unreasonable decision. It was still a gamble.

That gamble has not worked out. The Royals are 17-23 since the trade deadline and they are now three games behind the second wildcard spot with 18 games to play. They’re not out of it by any means, but things aren’t looking great right now. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 9.1%. General manager Dayton Moore was hoping for a big second half and another deep playoff run. Probably not going to happen.

Among Kansas City’s impending free agent core players are center fielder Lorenzo Cain (this offseason’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Heyward) and third baseman Mike Moustakas, as well as first baseman Eric Hosmer. Hosmer has been a household name for a while now, ever since his days as a prospect and top three draft pick, though it wasn’t until this season that he’s really lived up to the hype. He’s hitting .328/.394/.517 (141 wRC+) with 24 homers in 2017.

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees like Hosmer “very much,” and usually when the Yankees like an impending free agent “very much,” it means they’re going to go after him in the offseason. And the Yankees might pursue Hosmer. Who knows? The plan to get under the $197M luxury tax plan is a real thing though, and that might stand in the way of a Hosmer pursuit. A few things about this.

1. On paper, Hosmer is a great fit for the Yankees. Chase Headley has been, far and away, the best Yankees first baseman this season. It’s not even close. And that’s a problem because ideally Headley wouldn’t be your best anything. Hosmer, despite his up-and-down track record, offers the following, in no particular order:

  1. A left-handed bat. New York’s lineup leans right-handed these days and it’s only going to get worse as righties Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier work their way into the full-time lineup.
  2. Youth, relatively speaking. Hosmer will turn 28 in October, so whichever team signs him will get several peak seasons, at least in theory. This isn’t a 30-something. He’ll spend all of 2017 at 27.
  3. World Series experience. This isn’t nothing! It’s not everything, but it’s not nothing either. Hosmer has been a key member of two AL pennant teams and one World Series champ. He knows all about winning and how ridiculously difficult it is to win a championship.
  4. Contact skills. Hosmer’s worst single season strikeout rate is 19.8% last year, which was better than league average. It’s 15.6% this year and 16.3% for his career. Putting the ball in play is good.
  5. Quality defense. The defensive stats don’t like Hosmer for whatever reason, but defensive stats struggle with first basemen anyway. The eye test tells me he’s above-average, especially at scooping the ball. He’s a vacuum over there.

My concern with Hosmer is that he’s the first base version of Heyward, a 20-something who gets overrated based on name value and potential. Whoever signs Hosmer will be doing so hoping his offense ticks up the next few years — and it very well might as a lefty hitter in Yankee Stadium — rather than hoping he maintains his decidedly meh .284/.344/.440 (111 wRC+) career batting line. I wanted the Yankees to sign Heyward for that reason and boy was I wrong.

Adding a young-ish left-handed hitter who doesn’t strike out a ton and plays a strong first base and knows what it takes to win the World Series sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? It does. On paper, Hosmer really fits what the Yankees need going forward. How would it actually play out? Who knows. Big name free agent signings have a way of disappointing.

2. The Yankees have luxury tax space for a big signing (probably). My real quick back of the envelope math suggests the Yankees have about $40M to spend this offseason even if Masahiro Tanaka doesn’t opt-out. Some of that money will be earmarked for a new starting pitcher given CC Sabathia‘s impending free agency. Also, the Yankees aren’t to spend right up to the luxury tax limit. They need some wiggle room for in-season additions.

Point is, there appears to be enough space under the luxury tax threshold to sign Hosmer, who is surely looking at $20M+ per year. Elite players are getting $30M+ per season these days, but I don’t see that happening, even with Scott Boras calling the shots. If Tanaka opts out, the Yankees will definitely be able to afford a prime free agent. That said … Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Imagine not being about to sign one of those dudes because you’re paying Hosmer big bucks. Oy vey. Anyway, yes, there looks to be payroll space to sign Hosmer, should the Yankees choose to go in that direction.

3. The free agent compensation is nothing. The Royals are of course going to make Hosmer the qualifying offer. The Yankees will pay luxury tax this year, so according to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they will have to surrender their second and fifth highest draft picks, plus $1M in international bonus money to sign any qualified free agent this offseason. That’s not bad at all. You do lose draft bonus pool money, but you get to keep your first rounder, and you could always trade for more international money. As far as I’m concerned, the new free agent compensation rules are negligible. They’re not going to deter anyone from anything.

4. Don’t forget about Bird. The Yankees still have a pretty talented young first baseman in Greg Bird, and they’d love love love him to develop into a left-handed complement to Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Remember, Brian Cashman said Bird is still the first baseman of the future a few weeks ago. The Yankees really like this kid. Maybe a little too much. Signing Hosmer would presumably turn Bird into trade bait or a full-time designated hitter, which might not be such a bad thing given his ongoing injury issues. The youth movement is real though. Signing someone else’s big name to block your talented young kid is an old Yankees move.

* * *

An undeniable fact: Greg Bird has not been a productive big leaguer in two years now. Not since his 2015 debut. He missed last season with the shoulder injury and most of this season with an ankle injury. And he’s missed the last two games with lower back tightness, which might not seem like such a big deal, except a back injury is what led to him transitioning from catcher to first base back in the day. Bird, two years after that big debut, is still an unknown.

My guess is yes, the Yankees do like Hosmer as a player, but not enough to displace Bird and potentially put the luxury tax plan in jeopardy. Hosmer is a good player, not a truly great one, and tying up considerable payroll space on a good player when you already have a talented youngster at that position doesn’t seem like a great idea. Bird’s injuries worry me. How could they not? I’m still not ready to move on and spend big on a first baseman though.

Rays 2, Yankees 1: Sonny gets no run support (again)

This had all the feel of a game that would be decided by some scrub hitting a solo home run in the late innings, and you just had to hope your scrub hit it. Instead, one of their scrubs hit it, and the Yankees lost Tuesday’s game 2-1 to the Rays. Frustrating loss is frustrating.

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

Sonny With No Chance Of Runs
For the fifth time in Sonny Gray‘s eight starts as a Yankee, the offense scored no more than one run. They did score one run Tuesday night, but that’s all. It came in the very first inning. Aaron Judge drew a walk and Matt Holliday doubled him home with line drive that I’d guess most non-Corey Dickerson left fielders catch. It looked like it hung up long enough, but Dickerson made an awkward slide and the ball got under him. His defense is not good.

That Holliday double was the last time the Yankees had runner reach second base. For real. Todd Frazier drew a one-out walk in the fifth and didn’t advance. Brett Gardner ripped a leadoff single in the sixth and didn’t advance. Chase Headley lined a one-out single in the seventh and didn’t advance. And that was it. The Yankees had three baserunners after Holliday’s double and none made it beyond first base. Tampa’s pitchers retired the last eight batters they faced and 12 of the last 13 batters they faced. Gross. The Yankees scored 60 runs in their previous eight games going into Tuesday night. Then they fell completely flat.

Splendid Sonny
Poor Sonny. What did this dude do to deserve no run support? He now has a 2.66 ERA in eight starts and 50.2 innings with the Yankees … and they’ve won three of his starts. Good grief. Gray allowed a solo home run on his first pitch of the night (Kevin Kiermaier) and a solo home run on his 90th pitch of the night (Adeiny Hechavarria), and that was enough for the loss. Baseball can be so stupid sometimes. Sonny gets charged with the L but screw that. He’s the last Yankee who deserves an L for this game.

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

The final pitching line: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. The biggest jam came in the fifth inning, when the Rays had the runners at the corners with one out. Gray bounced back to fan Hechavarria and Kiermaier to escape the jam. He let out a little fist pump after Kiermaier went down swinging. I’m not really sure what else there is to say here. Gray was fantastic and has been fantastic pretty much every time out since the trade. The Yankees have been trying to acquire someone like this for years. Now they have him, and it is glorious.

Leftovers
The bullpen was a little short Tuesday night because the late inning guys have worked a lot recently, so Gray’s complete game (loss) was welcome. Tommy Kahnle warmed up in the eighth, though he tossed the ball more than really get hot. Had the Yankees taken the lead in the top of the ninth, I wonder if Sonny would’ve gone out for the bottom half. His pitch count was at 94 and he was great all night. Alas.

A Dickerson-aided double for Holliday, singles for Gardner and Headley, and walks for Judge and Frazier. That’s all the offense right there. Clint Frazier returned the lineup for the first time since his oblique injury and went 0-for-2 before being lifted for a pinch-hitter, though he hit the ball hard both times. His line out to right field in the fifth might’ve landed in the short porch. Again, alas.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head over to ESPN. MLB.com has the video highlights and FanGraphs has the postseason odds, if you’re into such things. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Rays will wrap up this neutral site series at Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon. That’s a 1:10pm ET start. Jaime Garcia will make his hopefully triumphant return to the rotation in that one. He hasn’t pitched since August 31st, in the first game of the doubleheader against the Indians. Chris Archer will be on the mound for Tampa Bay.