Youth has helped the Yankees get back into the race, but they have veterans in important places too

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

Even after two straight losses, the Yankees are still only two games back of the second wildcard spot with 19 games to play. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at a slim 9.6% as of this writing, but hey, that’s better than the 2.3% they were at nine days ago. Those odds can change real quick from one day to the next.

At 24-15, the Yankees have the second best record in the AL since selling buying for the future at the trade deadline. (The Royals are 25-14.) Gary Sanchez has had a monumental impact, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin have had their moments, and young hurlers like Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell contributed too. The Yankees would not be where they are without these kids.

As productive as many of them have been, the young players are not the only reason the Yankees have climbed back into the wildcard race. That was never going to be the case. The Yankees weren’t going to call up a bunch of prospects and let them carry the team into October. Some of the holdover veterans have contributed too, and in fact, the Yankees have veteran players in very important spots.

Front of the Rotation

It’s easy to forget Masahiro Tanaka is still only 27 years old, isn’t it? He’s two months younger than Chris Archer and five months younger than Jacob deGrom. And yet, despite his relative youth, Tanaka is very much a veteran pitcher. He’s thrown 477 innings with the Yankees on top of over 1,300 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, with whom he won a championship and a pair of Sawamura Awards (Cy Young equivalent).

There’s something reassuring about having a veteran ace on the staff. During his heyday from 2009-12, you knew CC Sabathia was going to go out every fifth day and give the Yankees a quality outing. Even his bad starts weren’t that bad. We watched Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina do the same for years and years. That’s Tanaka now. He’s very good, rarely bad, and every fifth day he’s going to give the Yankees a good chance to win. (Remember when he couldn’t pitch on normal rest? He’s allowed six runs in 31.1 innings in his last five starts on normal rest.)

Back of the Bullpen

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

At this point Dellin Betances qualifies as a veteran, right? I think so. This is only his third full season, but he’s already been a three-time All-Star, and Dellin’s been throwing high-leverage innings for well over two years now. Relievers don’t have the longest career life span in this game. Betances is a grizzled veteran compared to most bullpen guys.

Add in Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren, and each of the Yankees’ three end-game relievers has been around the block. Veteran relievers melt down just as easily as rookies (see: Nathan, Joe), but there’s always going to be the element of the unknown with kids. How do they handle intense late-season games with postseason implications? There’s less wiggle room in the eighth and ninth innings because there’s not much time to score any necessary runs. The more unpredictability you can take out of the bullpen, the better.

Top of the Lineup

As we’ve seen over the last three weeks or so, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury really ignite the offense when they’re both hot at the same time. The Yankees look like an entirely different team when those two are causing chaos. It’s imperative they stay hot for the Yankees to reach the postseason, and when it comes to setting the table for the offense, the Yankees have two veteran leadoff men. They need them too; none of their young players fits the leadoff hitter mold. I guess maybe Mason Williams, though asking him to do that right away seems like too much, too soon.

In the Clubhouse

Even after their sell-off, the Yankees kept most of their leadership core intact. Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran are gone, ditto Alex Rodriguez, but team leaders like Sabathia, Gardner, Brian McCann, and Mark Teixeira remain. Both McCann and Teixeira have had their roles reduced and that’s surely tough for a veteran player. They haven’t complained though. They continue to go about their business and help the young players. Young players are great! You need them to win these days. There also needs to be a leadership core in place to help those young players develop into winners, if not immediately than down the road.

* * *

At the end of the day, talent reigns supreme. It doesn’t matter how many veterans you have or where they fit on the roster if the performance is there. Can having experience and good leadership help that talent translate into good performance more frequently? I firmly believe the answer is yes. The Yankees have turned their season around because their young players have (mostly) performed and brought a lot of energy to their team. The veterans still play a big role though, and they still occupy some very important spots on the roster.

Girardi says Yankees are unlikely to send Luis Severino to winter ball

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Things have not gone according to plan for the Yankees and Luis Severino this season. Following his strong eleven-start cameo last year, Severino was expected to emerge as a mainstay in the rotation this year, if not at the front of it. Instead, the young righty struggled as starter early in the season, so much so that he had to be demoted to the Triple-A and the bullpen. Not great.

Severino, who is still only 22, has resurfaced as a reliever this month and been completely dominant. He’s made four relief appearances in September and allowed three hits and four walks in 8.1 scoreless innings. Severino has struck out nine and held batters to a .107/.219/.179 batting line. It goes without saying he’s looked far better in relief this month than he did at any point as a starter this season.

Thanks to the shift to the bullpen and an early season DL stint, Severino has thrown only 140 innings this season, well short of the 161.2 innings he threw last year. The Yankees insist they see him as a starter long-term and I believe them, but surely they were hoping to stretch his workload this year and get him up closer to 180-190 innings, putting him in position to throw 200 innings in 2017. That’s obviously not going to happen.

The Yankees have one open pitching roster spot in the Arizona Fall League but Severino is over the service time limit, so he’s not eligible. Winter ball is another option, and it would allow Severino to not only build up his workload, but also continue working on his changeup, which he’s stopped throwing in relief. It doesn’t sound like winter ball is in the plans though. From Randy Miller:

“I think he probably has the innings that we want,” Girardi said. “If we do that, there’s concern that he’ll be physically tired going into next year. That’s just my thought. Could he work on (his changeup) in maybe a couple of starts in Instructional League? Yeah, I guess. Let’s just see where we end up.”

Instructs usually run from late-September through mid-October, which means Severino will miss the first few days and hopefully much more than that because the Yankees are in the postseason. Sending him to Instructional League would be ideal because Severino would be with the team’s coaches and instructors, and under their watch. They wouldn’t have to worry about overuse or anything like that.

The concern with winter ball is that it lasts so damn long. The Dominican Summer League season begins October 15th and runs up until Christmas. Sure, the Yankees could shut Severino down earlier, but even then you’re talking about him pitching into November. In meaningless games, remember. It would be much different if he were part of a World Series pitching staff in November. Making sure Severino gets enough rest in the offseason is a priority.

As best I can tell, the Yankees kept Severino in the minors long enough this year to delay his free agency, so he’ll start next season where he started this season: six years away from free agency. Of course, that extra year of control is sorta pointless if Severino continues to struggle like he did as a starter. That said, I feel pretty confident he can be a shutdown late-inning reliever at worst. He’s shown that ability these last few weeks.

The 2016 season was a disappointment for Severino, no doubt about, and hopefully he uses it as a learning experience. It’s unfortunate he wasn’t able to build up his workload, but that is secondary to his health and overall effectiveness. If he can go to Instructs, great. If not, the upside of winter ball almost certainly doesn’t outweigh the potential downside of Severino coming to Spring Training next year at something less than 100% physically.

The Yankees are running out of starting pitching at the worst possible time


For the third time in the last five games, the Yankees’ starting pitcher failed to complete five innings last night. The Dodgers contact-bombed Bryan Mitchell — he got only three swings and misses out of 47 pitches — for eight hits and six runs (two earned) in only 2.1 innings. That came three days after Michael Pineda couldn’t finish five innings with a five-run lead and four days after CC Sabathia struggled to complete four innings.

The rotation outside Masahiro Tanaka has been a problem most of the season. The staff doesn’t have a 4.58 ERA (4.37 FIP) by accident. Not 143 games into the season. Remove Tanaka from the mix and all the other starters have a 5.04 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 626.1 innings. That’s 626.1 innings of meh. Sabathia and some others had their moments earlier this season, but, by and large, the rotation has been a liability, not a strength.

Rosters have expanded and the Yankees are carrying 13 relievers, so they have enough arms to soak up whatever innings need to be soaked up. Of course, no manager actually wants to use his September call-up relievers, at least not this often, including Joe Girardi. Every manager wants their starter to hand the ball off to their usual late-inning relievers. The Yankees haven’t been able to do that much lately, and there’s no help coming for two reasons.

1. There’s no one left to call up in Triple-A. The Yankees have more or less exhausted their rotation depth at this point. Nathan Eovaldi and Chad Green getting hurt after Ivan Nova was traded really thinned out the team’s depth. Joe Girardi admitted yesterday they originally planned to give Bryan Mitchell more time in Triple-A in the wake of his toe injury, but there was a need in the rotation due to Green’s injury, so they called him up.

The next best rotation option at this point is probably Richard Bleier, or maybe Phil Coke, who has done a nice job in the Triple-A Scranton rotation of late. Dietrich Enns is bumping up against his innings limit and has already been moved to the bullpen. Adding Jordan Montgomery to the 40-man roster a year earlier than necessary so he can make something like three starts late in the season is crappy roster management. Bleier or Coke it is, and that’s not reassuring at all.

De La Rosa. (Justin Edmonds/Getty)
De La Rosa. (Justin Edmonds/Getty)

2. There’s not much of a trade market either. The Yankees and every other team can still make trades through the trade waivers process, though whoever they acquire won’t be eligible for the postseason roster. That’s fine. They goal right now is to get to the postseason, that’s it. Right now cobbling together a postseason rotation is a problem the Yankees would be happy to deal with.

What does the starting pitcher trade market look like in September? Bleak. I’m guessing the only pitchers available are impending free agents on bad teams. That means players like Jorge De La Rosa, Andrew Cashner, and Jhoulys Chacin. Normally I’d say just stick with Luis Cessa and Mitchell, but you know what? If all it costs is a fringe prospect or cash, give me one of those guys as an extra starter for the postseason push. I’d rather have him and not need him than need him and not have him, you know?

* * *

Point is, there are no impact pitchers to be found on the trade market. Not on the trade market and likely not in the farm system either. The Yankees’ very best arms are in the big leagues right now. That’s good from a “this is the best possible team they have” perspective and bad from a “this is the best possible team they have?” perspective. You know what I mean.

With less than three weeks left in the regular season, what you see if what you’re going to get with the Yankees. If they’re going to do the improbable a qualify for the playoffs, Cessa and Mitchell and late-career Sabathia and the mystery that is Pineda are going to be the guys who get them there. Like it or not, those four plus Tanaka are the five best starting pitchers in the organization at the moment.

Bad pitching, bad defense send the Yankees to an 8-2 loss to the Dodgers

The improbable run to the postseason has hit bump in the road. The Yankees dropped their second straight game Monday night, this one 8-2 to the Dodgers in the series opener. The Orioles lost and the Tigers won, so those two teams are now tied for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees remain two games back with 19 games to play.


Bad Matchup
Bryan Mitchell had a bad night that would have been slightly less bad with a little more luck and defensive help. The Dodgers were able to find some holes with ground balls in the first inning, during which they scored their first run on a failed double play ball. The play developed slowly. Starlin Castro‘s flip to second was a little slow and Ronald Torreyes need a moment to avoid the take-out slide before throwing to first, so Adrian Gonzalez beat it out. So it goes.

The big blow, the one that put the game firmly on the side of the Dodgers, was Aaron Judge‘s error in the second inning. Chase Utley hit a two-out bases loaded rocket into right-center field that Judge very nearly ran down, but the ball clanked off the end of his glove and fell in. I thought it was a tough error. He went a long way for that ball and nearly made the full extension catch at full speed. But, the ball Judge’s his glove, so an error it is. Either way, two runs scored to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. Corey Seager then pulled a ground ball just out of the reach of Castro to make it 4-0.

I first-guessed the decision to send Mitchell out for the fifth because the lefties were giving him such a hard time. Yes, there was some poor luck and shoddy defense in there, but there were also a lot of comfortable swings. Mitchell doesn’t have a changeup and has to use his cutter to neutralize lefties, and it obviously wasn’t working Monday. Sure enough, Mitchell went out for the third, gave up two more hits to lefties, then was pulled. Predictable outcome is predictable.

All told, Mitchell was charged with six runs — only two were earned thanks to Judge’s error — on eight hits in 2.1 innings. He struck out two and got only three swings and misses out of 47 pitches. Lefties went 6-for-12 against him and it would have been 7-for-12 had the Judge error been called an Utley triple. Some things didn’t break Mitchell’s way — he was charged with the sixth run when Chasen Shreve allowed an RBI infield single to Howie Kendrick — but he wasn’t fooling the lefties either. Bad matchup led to bad results.

Two Token Runs
The Yankees made some very loud contact against Dodgers rookie Jose De Leon. Castro absolutely walloped a long solo home run into the second deck in left field in the second inning, cutting the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1. Then, in the fifth inning, after the Dodgers stretched the lead to 6-1, Aaron Judge exit velocity-ed the crap out of an even longer solo homer into the left field bleachers. That ball was well-struck. Check it out:

Goodness. You live with the strikeouts — to his credit, Judge only has four strikeouts in his last five games and 16 plate appearances, which is manageable — because he can do that when he connects. At 115.2 mph, Judge’s home run was the single hardest hit ball by a Yankee this season, home run or otherwise. Long solo homers are still solo homers, so Judge’s blast only cut the Dodgers’ lead to 6-2.

Gary Sanchez smashed a hard-hit ball of his own later in the fifth inning, though it hooked foul. The Yankees were starting to get to De Leon, which is why Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts pulled him after the fifth at only 83 pitches. Amazing to see a manager be proactive when there are warning signs rather than get cute and go batter-to-batter. The Yankees only had three hits and two walks against De Leon in his five innings. Luckily two of the three hits left the yard.

Ain’t No Lie, Blei Blei Blei
Shreve replaced Mitchell in the third inning and allowed that annoying RBI infield single to Kendrick before closing out the frame. Girardi then went to lefty long man Richard Bleier to start the fifth, and Bleier gave the Yankees four innings of no effs given relief. Four innings, no hits, no runs, one walk. He also hit Utley with a pitch, which I’m sure Chase had coming to him for something.

Bleier struck out three and his nine other outs were ground balls. He didn’t allow a single ball to be hit to the outfield in his four innings. Pretty awesome. Bleier did exactly what the Yankees needed him to do, and that was soak up innings and not let the Dodgers tack on runs. The offense never did get back into the game, but that’s not Bleier’s fault. He was pretty awesome. James Pazos and Ben Heller, who allowed garbage time solo homers to Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner, were decidedly less awesome.

You see a giant Dodgers flag in Yankee Stadium, ownership sees tickets sold. (Presswire)
You see a giant Dodgers flag in Yankee Stadium, ownership sees tickets sold. (Presswire)

The Dodgers schooled the Yankees with their own move. Kendrick stole second in the second inning, and as soon as Sanchez made the throw, Josh Reddick broke for home from third. Sanchez’s throw was well wide of the bag and sailed into center field, but it didn’t really matter. Reddick broke as soon as the ball was out of Sanchez’s hand, and it was going to take a perfect throw back to the plate to get him. Rookie mistake. Eat the ball and let them steal second with two outs.

Torreyes went 1-for-4 and the single was his third hardest hit ball of the night. He hit a line drive to left-center that Joc Pederson managed to run down in the third, and two innings later Torreyes did the exact same thing, except this time left fielder Andrew Toles ran it down. Two really nice catches robbed Torreyes of extra bases. That’s a deceiving 1-for-4 right there.

Tyler Austin went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and is now 0-for-9 with eight strikeouts since his walk-off home run. It looked like he was starting to find it, then poof, it was gone. Judge went 1-for-4 with the homer and two strikeouts. The Yankees had five hits total, including two by Castro. They had only three at-bats with runners in scoring position all night.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN is the place to go for the box score and updated standings. has the video highlights. Make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the over early win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game two of this three-game interleague series. The Yankees and Dodgers will be back at it Tuesday night. Veteran lefty CC Sabathia and rookie lefty Julio Urias are the scheduled starters. Chances Urias has as good a career as Sabathia? I’ll say … 5.648%. Anyway, there are only eight home games left this season (eight!), so if you want to catch any of them live, head on over to RAB Tickets.

DotF: Tampa unable to stay alive in Championship Series

Two quick notes before we get to the day’s postseason action:

  • LHP Justus Sheffield was included in today’s Monday Morning Ten Pack, and his write-up is above the paywall, so make sure you check it out. “He peppered everywhere from 91-95 with tremendous life, the fastball especially explosive when thrown up in the zone. He also mixed in a good, hard slider and a solid change,” said the write-up, based on one of Sheffield’s recent starts.
  • OF Blake Rutherford is one of eight prospects the folks at 20-80 Baseball pegged as a breakout candidate for 2017. “The arm works and might be enough for right field should he need to shift to a corner, but ultimately it’s going to be the bat that makes Rutherford a future Yankee regular, and potentially an anchor in their lineup,” said the write-up.
  • Baseball America released their end-of-season minor league All-Star teams. RHP Chad Green (Triple-A), LHP Jordan Montgomery (Double-A), Gleyber Torres (High-A), and 2B Nick Solak (Short Season) all made various lists. Torres did most of his work this year with the Cubs, obviously.
  • RHP Yefrey Ramirez was placed on the High-A DL, the team announced. He got rocked yesterday, which could indicate injury, though I think this might be a paper move to add an extra arm to the roster. Ramirez isn’t scheduled to pitch again this series. RHP Chase Hodson took the roster spot.

Triple-A Scranton swept their first round postseason series. They’ll play Gwinnett (Braves) in the best-of-five International League Championship Series. That series begins tomorrow. Shane Hennigan says LHP Jordan Montgomery will start Game One, and be followed in order by LHP Phil Coke, RHP Brady Lail, and LHP Daniel Camarena. The Game Five starter is TBA at the moment.

Double-A Trenton won their first round postseason series. They’ll play Akron (Indians) in the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series, which begins tomorrow. The Thunder held a workout in Trenton today before making the six and a half hour bus ride out to Akron.

High-A Tampa (4-1 loss to Bradenton) they lost the best-of-five Florida State League Championship Series in four games … tough finish to an otherwise very good year in Tampa

  • 2B Jorge Mateo: 0-4, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch) — went 3-for-30 in the postseason
  • CF Rashad Crawford: 1-4, 1 K
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 0-4, 3 K — went 1-for-17 (.059) in the finals
  • 1B Kevin Cornelius: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — hit 15 homers in 62 total games this year
  • LF Trey Amburgey: 1-4, 1 K
  • RF Tito Polo: 0-2, 1 K, 1 HBP
  • 3B Thairo Estrada: 2-3 — like Mateo in the first round, Thairo was dropped to eighth in the lineup in a must-win game because he simply hasn’t hit this series
  • LHP Josh Rogers: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 6/5 GB/FB — 47 of 68 pitches were strikes (69%) … last year’s 11th rounder, who signed for $485,000, finishes the season with a 2.50 ERA and a 119/22 K/BB in 147.1 total innings, postseason included
  • RHP Jordan Foley: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — nine of 13 pitches were strikes (69%)

Both Low-A Charleston and Short Season Staten Island lost their first round postseason matchup. Their seasons are over.

The season is over for Rookie Pulaski, Rookie GCL Yanks East, and Rookie GCL Yanks West. None of the three teams qualified for the postseason.

Game 143: The Random Mid-September Interleague Series

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

One of the many joys of modern baseball is the random interleague series in the middle of the September postseason push. The Dodgers are in town for three games this week and that’s pretty cool. Unfortunately it also means the Yankees won’t be playing head-to-head games against one of the teams they’re chasing in the standings. They’ll need help to gain ground tonight.

Bryan Mitchell will make second his big league start of the season tonight, and the first went very well. He held the high-powered Blue Jays scoreless over five innings. Toronto also had eight right-handed batters in their lineup that day. The Dodgers have six lefties and one switch-hitter in the lineup tonight. Pretty big difference. Here is the Dodgers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. DH Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

Absolutely gorgeous night for baseball here in New York. Nice and cool with a slight breeze, and only a few clouds in the sky. Autumnal. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Didi Gregorius is “really beat up” and could sit tomorrow too, said Joe Girardi. All the recent hit-by-pitches and foul balls off his legs are taking their toll. Gregorius is available tonight if necessary … Aaron Hicks (hamstring) has resumed running and hitting in the cage. He’s going to head to Tampa at the end of the homestand to ramp up his rehab work, and he could be activated off the DL next week.

TicketIQ: For Fans, Yankees’ Playoff Push Is a Cheap Ticket in the Bronx

Don’t let computers do the talking – the Yankees are still very much in the playoff hunt.

Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Rays was accompanied by Orioles and Red Sox wins, keeping the Bombers in neutral at two games behind the Blue Jays for the second wild-card spot and four games back from the division-leading Red Sox. By Sunday night the Yankees’ chances of making the playoffs dropped to 14.3 percent on, down from 18.2 percent prior to the series finale with the Rays.

Still, even with the notable percentage drop, there’s reason to believe this team will be sporting an x in the standings by the regular season’s end. The schedule is tough – the Dodgers, Red Sox, Jays and Orioles are all ahead – but that also means that considerable ground can be made with a good showing from here on out.

With playoff-bound team come marquee names, but Yankees tickets at Yankee Stadium won’t burn a hole in the wallet through the end of the year. The Dodgers, Red Sox and Orioles will each bring notable storylines with them to the Bronx over the next three weeks, from Clayton Kershaw’s second start back from the DL to Big Papi’s last games on 161st Street, and fans can find tickets for relatively cheap on the primary market.

The Dodgers are in town for a three-game series between Monday and Wednesday. While Kershaw is expected to pitch the finale on Wednesday afternoon, the Dodgers will also showcase young talent Julio Urias on Tuesday, providing plenty of incentive to hit the ballpark this week. Tickets in the outfield bleachers and upper level seating start from just $21 each across the three-game affair. Knit cap and Yankees t-shirt giveaways are also on tap for the first 18,000 fans in attendance for Tuesday and Wednesday’s game, respectively.

An 11-game road trip follows the Dodgers series, bringing the Yankees to Boston, Tampa and Toronto between September 15-26. They’ll then return home for two final series against the Red Sox and Orioles, and tickets remain relatively inexpensive across those six games.

The Red Sox head to Yankee Stadium for what may be the final time this season between September 27-29. David Ortiz’s last games aren’t dictating much of a price premium for tickets, however, as tickets also start from $21 in the outfield bleachers and 400-level sections. It’ll cost a little extra to give Papi a proper New York farewell from field level on the 29th, however, as tickets are priced for as low as $77 each in the 100-level sections.

The cheapest remaining tickets at Yankee Stadium can be found during the Orioles series from September 30-October 2. In what could potentially serve as de facto games for both teams and their postseason hopes, tickets start from just $17 each on Ticketmaster over the three-game series. Roger Maris bobblehead day is scheduled for October 1, with the first 18,000 fans receiving the special figurine upon entering Yankee Stadium.