Yankeemetrics: Kings of New York (Aug. 14-17)

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Aarons and Gary Show
True to form, the Yankees bounced back from their latest Worst Loss of The Season with a late-inning rally to beat the Mets, 4-2, in the Subway Series opener.

If we know anything about this 2017 Yankees team, we know it’s a resilient one. It was their 17th comeback win when trailing by multiple runs this season; through Monday, only three teams (Twins, Astros, Angels) had more such wins than the Yankees.

Also true to form, the comeback was fueled by a burst of power. Aaron Judge tied the game in the sixth inning on an opposite-field solo shot; Aaron Hicks‘ blast to lead off the eighth was the game-winner; and Gary Sanchez added an insurance-run dinger later in the eighth inning.

For Sanchez, it was his 20th home run of the season, the second straight year he’s reached that milestone. Only four other catchers in major-league history produced multiple 20-homer campaigns before their age-25 season (while playing at least 75% of their games behind the dish): Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Brian McCann and Wilin Rosario.

Hicks’ homer was his 12th of the year – a new single-season career-best – and made him the answer to another #FunFact piece of Subway Series trivia. He joined Russell Martin (June 10, 2012) as the only Bronx Bombers to hit a go-ahead homer after the seventh inning against the Mets at Yankee Stadium.

Judge sparked the rally with his 36th homer of 2017 and the 40th of his career. (In a weird statisical quirk, Sanchez and Hicks’ home runs were also their 40th career bombs.) As we’ve noted before, Judge’s combination of patience and power – he had 96 walks to go along with his 40 homers – is unprecedented for a rookie:

Judge is the first player in baseball history to compile at least 40 homers and 75 walks within his first 140 big-league games.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Too close for comfort
The Yankees squeezed out another victory on Tuesday night, but this time the drama was self-induced. They survived another near-implosion in the ninth inning by Aroldis Chapman, winning 5-4 after Amed Rosario took Chapman deep in the final frame.

Chapman was his typical dominant self for the first month of the season (11 games, 0.87 ERA, 41% K), but since he blew the save on May 7 in the 18-inning marathon against the Cubs, he’s been mostly mediocre (25 games, 5.40 ERA, 29% K). This is arguably his least-dominant 25-game stretch since he first broke into the majors in 2011, in terms of strikeout rate:

chapman
Still, the Yankees built up enough of an advantage in the first eight innings for the win on Tuesday with another stellar outing by Sonny Gray and another shot of home-run power.

Gray was mostly fantastic, holding the Mets scoreless on four hits through six innings, before his only blemish, a homer by Dominic Smith in the seventh. His slider was filthy and nearly untouchable, netting him eight whiffs and five strikeouts. His ability to bury the pitch below the knees and gloveside was hugely important, as he got all eight of his swings-and-misses in that location:

sonny-gray

He extended his streak of at least six innings pitched and no more than two earned runs allowed to nine starts, the second-longest in the majors this season. Over the past decade, the only American League right-handers to have a streak as long as Gray’s were Felix Hernandez (16 in 2014) and Justin Verlander (9 in 2011).

Gary Sanchez drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single in the second, giving him the nice round number of 100 career RBIs. He is one of eight players in Yankee history to reach the century mark in RBIs this early into his career (141st game). It’s a group that includes four Hall of Famers – Joe DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Yogi Berra – and three other franchise notables – George Selkirk, Bob Meusel, Charlie Keller.

Sanchez then gave the Yankees a seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead in the fifth inning with a towering moonshot into the left-center field bleachers, his 21st homer of the season and the 10th that went at least 425 feet. Among players with 15 or more dingers this season, Sanchez has the highest percentage of 425-foot-plus homers.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Clutch Didi, Monster Judge
The Subway Series shifted to Queens on Wednesday but the result was the same, another power-fueled win (plus a small dose of timely hitting) for the Yankees. It was their 14th win against the NL this season, the most Interleague victories they’ve ever had in a single year.

The crosstown rivals traded punches for much of the game until the Yankees finally broke through in the seventh inning with a rare clutch hit, when Didi Gregorius lined a two-out, bases-loaded double to score two runs for a 5-3 lead. That was the Yankees only hit in 10 at-bats with a runner in scoring position.

You could say that setup was tailor-made for Clutch Didi. Since joining the Yankees in 2015, he’s hitting .385 with the bases full, the best average among players with at least 35 at-bats in that situation over the last three seasons; and he’s 7-for-17 (.412) with the bases-loaded and two outs, the fourth-best average by any player in that span (min. 15 at-bats).

Yet Didi’s heroics were buried in the highlight reel thanks to Aaron Judge being Aaron Judge, both the good and the bad version.

Judge set another major-league record on Wednesday, striking out for the 33 straight game, the longest single-season streak ever by a non-pitcher. In 1934, when Lou Gehrig led the majors with 49 homers, he struck out a total of 31 times (in 690 plate appearances). It’s a different game today, folks.

With the ugly, though, comes the awesome. Judge also broke the Internet when he crushed a massive home run into the third deck at Citi Field.

It was his eighth homer with an exit velocity of at least 115 mph – is that good? The rest of major-league baseball had combined for 13 through Wednesday, and no other player had more than three.

Plus, there’s this sweet list of the Top 5 Hardest-Hit Home Runs this season:

Name Speed Date
1. Aaron Judge 121.1 June 10
2. Aaron Judge 119.4 April 28
3. Aaron Judge 118.6 June 11
4. Aaron Judge 118.4 July 4
5. Aaron Judge 117.0 August 16

Sevy bounces back, Sanchez powers up
The Yankees survived yet another ninth-inning scare on Thursday night, and held on for the 7-5 win to complete their second-ever Subway Series sweep; in 2003, they won all six games against their intracity rival.

They nearly blew a 7-1 lead with three outs to go when Curtis Granderson hammered a grand slam into the rightfield seats. It was the fourth bases-loaded homer given up by Yankees pitchers this season, one more than they surrendered from 2014-16 combined. Granderson also joined Mike Piazza (June 2, 2000) and Carlos Delgado (June 27, 2008) as the only Mets to hit a grand slam against the Yankees.

Gary Sanchez drove in five of the Yankees seven runs, becoming the first Yankee with five RBIs in a game against the Mets since Alex Rodriguez on July 2, 2006. That seems fitting given that El Gary and A-Rod have become lunch buddies recently.

Severino rebounded from the worst start of his career and was back to his dominant self, giving up one unearned run over 6 1/3 innings while striking out nine. He upped his season whiff total to 175, the third-most strikeouts by a Yankee in his age-23 season or younger, and trailing only Lefty Gomez (176 in 1932) and Al Downing (217 in 1964).

It was also Severino’s 10th start of more than six innings pitched and one run or fewer allowed in 2017. Only two other MLB pitchers have done that this season: Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale.

Mailbag: Gregorius, Frazier, Green, Torres, Bird, Solo Homers

We’ve got ten questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send all your questions and comments and concerns.

(Presswire)
Didi. (Presswire)

Dan asks: John Sterling just said that he thinks Didi is the best short stop in the game. Mike has said that he is found of Lindor, but realistically, where does Didi fit into leagues best short stops?

The best shortstop in the game is a bit of a stretch, though I don’t think it would be unreasonable to call Didi Gregorius one of the five best shortstops in baseball right now. My top five, in no particular order, are Gregorius, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, and Andrelton Simmons. Simmons is having an unreal season. The shortstop WAR leaderboard:

  1. Corey Seager, Dodgers: +5.1 WAR
  2. Andrelton Simmons, Angels: +4.4 WAR
  3. Carlos Correa, Astros: +3.9 WAR
  4. Didi Gregorius, Yankees: +3.5 WAR
  5. Elvis Andrus, Rangers: +3.3 WAR

Lindor is right behind Andrus (+3.1 WAR). Gregorius is fourth among shortstops in WAR despite missing a month — Correa has missed more than a month with his thumb injury himself — so had he not missed April, he’d probably be third on that list. Maybe even second.

The only three shortstops I would unquestionably take over Gregorius for the next, say, four years are Seager, Correa, and Lindor. I’m not sure whether Simmons or Andrus will keep up this pace offensively — to be fair, the same goes for Didi — and Xander Bogaerts … I dunno. I have no idea what’s going on there. He should be sooo much better than he really is. Must be infuriating for Red Sox fans. Long story short: Didi is awesome, though calling him the best shortstop in the game is a real stretch.

Ed asks: Will the injury to Clint Frazier allow him to retain rookie eligibility for 2018?

MLB’s rookie limits: 50 innings for pitchers, 130 at-bats for positions players, and 45 days of service time outside September for everyone. Exceed any of those and you’re no longer a rookie. Why is it roughly 25% of a season for a pitcher and 20% of a season for a position player? Who knows. Frazier is at 111 at-bats right now, so if returns in September and bats 20 more times, he will no longer be rookie (or prospect) eligible.

The service time criteria is another matter. I didn’t realize this, but apparently time on the disabled list doesn’t count against those 45 days for rookie status. I feel like I should’ve known that. Frazier was called up on July 1st and placed on the disabled list August 9th, so he picked up 40 days of service time before getting hurt. As long as he’s activated no early than August 26th (five days before September 1st), he won’t lose rookie eligibility through his service time.

I should note Frazier still gets credit for the service time. Same with Dustin Fowler. He got hurt in his first big league game and has been on the MLB disabled list since, so he’s racking up that sweet, sweet service time. It does not, however, count against his rookie eligibility. Frazier’s oblique injury was said to be minor, so I expect him to be back at some point. I bet they hold him back until rosters expand. We’ll see. Anyway, I bet he gets those 20 at-bats before the end of the season and loses his rookie eligibility.

Green. (Elsa/Getty)
Green. (Elsa/Getty)

Carlo asks: What do you think of Chad Green‘s usage? Since June (when Green started to pitch with regularity), he’s made 21 relief appearances (through Monday). Thirteen of them have started before the 7th inning, 17 have lasted more than 3 outs, and only once has he pitched on consecutive days. Is using Green for multiple innings (followed by multiple days of rest) and often during the middle innings the most effective way to utilize him? Is his usage pattern simply the result of the SuperPen and other relievers having longer track records?

Bullpens are a weird thing. Every once in a while teams stubble upon a guy like Green, who is so dominant and can pitch multiple innings, and they immediately move him into a strict one-inning setup or closer role. They take this guy who is so valuable, and they use him less. It makes no sense, but it happens all the time. Even Chris Devenski is only throwing an inning at a time these days.

I like the way Green has been used, and it’s important to note it works because the Yankees have other good relievers. Joe Girardi can use Green for two or three innings, then let him rest two or three days knowing he has David Robertson and Dellin Betances and others. That’s quite the luxury. Using Green for multiple innings one day only to rely on, say, Jonathan Holder and Tyler Clippard to set up the other days maybe doesn’t work as well.

I do think that, if the Yankees hadn’t brought in Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, we’d see Green work in shorter bursts and pitch more days. He’d probably be working one inning at a time as the seventh inning guy by now, right? Probably. I’m not sure there is a correct answer to the “is this the best way to use him?” question. It really depends on the rest of the bullpen and whether or not the pitcher can throw multiple innings and remain effective. I like the way the Yankees have been using Green. Nice having that multi-inning weapon.

Ed asks: I must be missing something on why Torres would need to be protected this year. According to the MLB website, a player that was 19 or older when he signs to play pro ball in the US has to wait 4 years before he’s eligible to be picked in the Rule 5 Draft. Players 18 or younger have to wait 5 years before they can be drafted. Torres is 20 now, 21 in December. His first year in the US was 2014 (at 16 years old), so this is his 4 the season stateside. Why would he have to be protected this year? What am I missing??

The Rule 5 Draft eligibility rules are written in a confusing way. Players who sign at 18 or younger are eligible to be picked in the Rule 5 Draft for their fifth pro season, not after their fifth pro season. Similarly, players who sign at 19+ can be picked for their fourth pro season. This is Gleyber Torres‘ fourth pro season. He’s been playing games since 2014, making next year his fifth pro season, hence his eligibility for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

Things can be confusing with the Rule 5 Draft and international players. Torres signed with the Cubs on July 2nd, 2013, though he signed a 2014 contract. That’s typical. Players who sign right after the signing period opens sign contracts that begin the following season. They go bide their time and work out in the complex the rest of the year rather than burn one of their pre-Rule 5 Draft years to play maybe a month’s worth of games.

Update: I’m wrong, disregard. I’ve been told players who sign at 18 or younger do get five years in the minors before being Rule 5 Draft eligible, however that first partial season counts even if the player didn’t play. Torres signed in July 2013, so his five years are 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. The same is true for guys who sign at 19 or older. They get four years in the minors, though that first partial season counts. My bad.

If you’re still in doubt, just use another player as a reference point. The Mets sign Amed Rosario on July 2nd, 2012, and added him to their 40-man this past winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The Cubs signed Torres on July 2nd, 2013, so the Yankees will have to add him to their 40-man this offseason. Lots and lots of international players are rushed to the big leagues because they’re Rule 5 Draft eligible and on the 40-man at such a young age. It’s a bit of a problem. I’d like to see MLB maybe create a uniform Rule 5 Draft eligibility age. Maybe 23?

Anonymous asks: Mike, if Bird returns and reclaims first base would they cut ties with T. Frazier..??

No way. Todd Frazier has come through with some pretty big hits (and sac flies) the last few weeks, but overall, he’s pretty underwhelming offensively. Lots of popups. Lots and lots and lots of popups. That’s why I don’t expect his .224 BABIP to climb all that much, if at all. All those popups are easy outs. Still though, rosters expand two weeks from today, so pretty soon there will be no roster crunch. We have no idea what Greg Bird will do once healthy, so cutting ties with a big league caliber bat to make room for him doesn’t make sense. Send down Tyler Austin when Bird returns, then rotate Bird and Frazier and Chase Headley at first base, third base, and DH for the time being. Once September 1st rolls around, there will be room for everyone.

Robert asks: Feel like every fan of every team would say this, but are the Yankees hitting an inordinate amount of solo homers? How do they compare to the league?

Quite the opposite. They are dead last in solo home run percentage this season. Going into last night’s game the Yankees led MLB with 83 home runs with men on base, and ranked 14th with 89 solo home runs. So 51.7% of their home runs have been solo home runs this season, lowest in baseball. The MLB average is 58.9%. Here are the top and bottom five:

Lowest Solo Home Run Rate Highest Solo Home Run Rate
Yankees (51.7%) Giants (68.8%)
Rockies (52.8%) Mets (67.6%)
Nationals (52.8%) Padres (64.7%)
Tigers (53.6%) Rays (62.9%)
Braves (54.6%) Orioles (62.9%)

The Yankees rank fourth with a team .336 OBP this season, so they have more men on base then most teams, hence fewer solo homers. I think? I dunno, maybe that makes sense. Anyway, no, the Yankees do not hit an inordinate number of solo home runs. They hit fewer than any other team relative to their overall home run total.

Vincent asks: Out of curiosity, why do you direct us to the ESPN website for box score and standings in the post-game write-up rather than another website? Do you favor the layout or added information they provide?

Both, the layout and information. ESPN gives you each player’s updated AVG/OBP/SLG line and, once the game is over, it provides first pitch strike, swing-and-miss, and foul ball totals for the pitchers. I also find it easy to switch back and forth between the box score and play-by-play, which I use to write game recaps. MLB.com’s Gameday/box score setup is kinda clunky, so I’ve been using ESPN basically as long as I’ve been on the internet.

Paul asks: If the Yankees are somehow in a 13-2 game or something like that and then bullpen is taxed, which position player pitches? Hicks has a cannon arm but for some reason I’d just love to see Toe toe the rubber.

It won’t and shouldn’t be a regular. I know Aaron Hicks has a rocket arm and he did pitch in high school, but you can’t risk injury with such an important player. Ronald Torreyes seems like a good bet to be the designated position player who pitches. Maybe Austin instead? The Yankees are pretty short on infielders at the moment, but they have some first base depth, so maybe Austin makes more sense. Yeah, Austin. I think it would be Austin. If you’re interested in such things, here’s the list of position players to pitch for the Yankees. The last was Brendan Ryan in 2015. He threw two innings!

Eric asks: Where is Jeter’s baby? Hannah Jeter was due in June. Any news?

Hannah looked ready to pop at Derek Jeter‘s number retirement ceremony in May. Apparently she hasn’t had the baby yet though. Bob Nightengale says Jeter was not at the quarterly owners meetings this week to move forward with the sale of the Marlins because Hannah is due to give birth any day now. So there’s your Baby Jeter update.

Bart asks (short version): Pure speculation question; 2013 draft, let’s say the Yankees didn’t have 3 picks in Round 1, do you think they take only Jagielo at #26? They eventually took Judge at #32 and Clarkin #33 but do you think they would have chosen the order differently if they only had 1 or 2 picks or was Jagielo clearly the best option?

It’s impossible to say, though my hunch is the Yankees still would have taken Eric Jagielo with that 26th overall pick because they loved his left-handed power bat. Back then, the consensus was Jagielo and Ian Clarkin were no-doubt first round talents, and Aaron Judge was on the bubble. Their pre-draft Baseball America rankings:

  • Eric Jagielo: 16th
  • Ian Clarkin: 17th
  • Aaron Judge: 30th

Judge was, understandably, considered quite risky. He swung and missed a bunch in college and no one knew whether he’d be able to tap into his power at the next level. Judge is basically hitting on the best case scenario right now. It’s awesome.

Back in 2013, I think the Yankees were willing to roll the dice on Judge because they knew they’d already landed two true first round talents in Jagielo and Clarkin, so why not shoot for the moon with that third pick? (They picked Judge before Clarkin, but they were back-to-back picks.) Figures Judge worked out and the other two haven’t so far. At least they’ve been useful as trade chips.

Subway Sweep! Sanchez stays hot in 7-5 win over the Mets

Good series. Great series. The Yankees took all four Subway Series games from the Mets and have won eight of their last dozen games overall. Thursday night’s final score was 7-5 and the game was not nearly as close as the score would lead you to believe.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Gary Bonds
So I guess Gary Sanchez is going to go off every August? That is a-okay with me. Sanchez went into Thursday’s game 15-for-47 (.319) with four home runs in 14 August games, and he left it 17-for-51 (.333) with five home runs in 15 August games. Credit the one-game benching or the lunch with Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez if you want. Me? I’m going to credit Gary Sanchez for being really, really good at baseball.

Sanchez gave the Yankees a real quick 3-0 lead Thursday night with a first inning three-run home run. I was just getting settled in to watch and Gary was already launching bombs. Brett Gardner reached on Steven Matz’s throwing error — he fielded a weak tapper and airmailed the throw to first — and Aaron Hicks walked, setting up that three-run home run. It was an eight-pitch at-bat. Sanchez fell behind 0-2 and fouled off three two-strike pitches before Matz left a changeup up. Gary is locked in.

The Yankees broke the game open in the fourth inning. Three straight singles loaded the bases with no outs. Tyler Austin and Ronald Torreyes had legit singles, then Luis Severino‘s bunt attempt blooped into no man’s land for a single. Dominic Smith missed the diving catch and Severino was safe. First career hit. Gardner laced a two-run double into the left field corner and Sanchez pulled a two-run single through the left side, and the rout was on. The Yankees led 7-0 after four.

The final line on Matz: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2 B, 4 K. He now has a 6.08 ERA (5.03 FIP) in 13 starts and 66.2 innings this season. Man. Remember kids, build around young bats like Sanchez and Aaron Judge (and Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres). Not pitchers. Pitchers break. The Yankees put a hurtin’ on Matz and took all the excitement out of the final Subway Series game within four innings.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Stellar Severino
Nice rebound start for Severino, who got hammered for ten runs — ten runs! — last time out. I thought his stuff and delivery were as good as they’ve been all year. Everything was smooth and athletic and the ball was exploding out of his hand. I was a bit surprised Joe Girardi sent him back out for the seventh inning with a 7-0 lead and his pitch count at 93, but whatever. There’s an off-day Monday and Severino’s going to get an extra day to rest before his next start.

Severino’s final pitching line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K. It wasn’t until the sixth inning that the Mets had a runner reach third base, and you can blame the run on Judge more than Severino. Judge dropped a fly ball in the right field corner and was (correctly) charged with a two-base error. Looked like he kinda got caught looking for the wall there. A single followed to score the runner who shouldn’t have been on base in the first place. Meh. It happens.

Overall though, very nice start for Severino, especially after that dud against the Red Sox. He pitched aggressively, he pitched to both sides of the plate, he looked like himself, basically. That rough outing last weekend didn’t carry over at all. If anything, Severino pitched angry. He’s now sitting on a 3.18 ERA (3.02 FIP) in 150 innings this season. His previous career high is 161.2 innings in 2015. Hmmm.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Leftovers
Bryan Mitchell made the game unnecessarily interesting in the ninth. Double, single, walk, grand slam. Dude. Just like that, it was 7-5 and Dellin Betances was on the mound. Groan. Betances got the final three outs on eleven pitches, so no big deal. Also, shout out to Chasen Shreve, who threw 1.2 scoreless innings and struck out Michael Conforto with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh.

Two hits for Sanchez — he hit a fly ball to the wall in the third inning for an out — as well as Didi Gregorius and Austin. Gardner, Torreyes, and Severino each had a hit as well. Hicks and Gregorius drew the walks. Judge had a tough night, going for 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a hit-by-pitch, plus the two-base error. Ouch. The Yankees went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position, so that’s cool.

And finally, the Yankees are done with interleague play this season. They went 15-5 with a +29 run differential against the Mets and various NL Central opponents. Who knew?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head over to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. Here is our Bullpen Workload page and here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Subway Series is over and the Yankees are going to Boston for another three-game weekend series against the Red Sox. They played them just last weekend. Left-ballers Jordan Montgomery and Drew Pomeranz are the scheduled starting pitchers for Friday night’s opener at Fenway Park.

DotF: Cave homers, Bird continues rehab in Scranton’s win

Three quick notes to get us started:

  • OF Estevan Florial was placed on the High-A Tampa DL, the team announced. Not sure what’s wrong with him but Antonio Mendes says it’s nothing serious. The fact the Yankees bumped up a GCL kid (OF Jordan Scott) to replace Florial on the roster suggests it’ll be a short-term thing.
  • Eric Longenhagen released his midseason top 100 prospects list and it includes four Yankees: SS Gleyber Torres (6th), OF Clint Frazier (40th), RHP Chance Adams (64th), and OF Estevan Florial (77th). LHP Justus Sheffield was among the honorable mentions.
  • C Donny Sands made an appearance in Baseball Prospectus’ latest Notes from the Field. His write-up is above the pay wall, so check that out. “Potential backup catcher, likely up and down Triple-A backstop,” said the blurb.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Gwinnett)

  • CF Jake Cave: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — 14 homers in 55 games with Scranton … 14 homers in 55 games!
  • DH Greg Bird: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI — here’s video of his first single and second single
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-4
  • 1B Ji-Man Choi: 2-3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing)
  • LF Mason Williams: 2-4, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 6/7 GB/FB — 62 of 91 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 0/1 GB/FB — 16 of 24 pitches were strikes (67%) …65/10 K/BB in 39 innings down here
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten of 17 pitches were strikes (59%) … 21/2 K/BB in his last 10.1 innings

[Read more…]

Game 120: Going for the Subway Sweep

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Subway Series has been pretty enjoyable so far this season, has it not? The games have been close and exciting, and of course the Yankees have won all three, so that’s fun. The Mets swept all four Subway Series games back in 2013, remember. Time to return the favor. Here is the Mets’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 3B Todd Frazier
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. RHP Luis Severino

Very nice weather in New York today, and it’ll continue tonight. The rain isn’t coming until early tomorrow morning. Tonight’s Subway Series finale will begin at 7:10pm ET, and you’ll be able to watch on YES and WPIX locally, and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the ballgame.

Injury Updates: Garrett Cooper was placed on the 10-day DL with left hamstring tendinitis, the Yankees announced. That’s why Austin is back and in the lineup … Aroldis Chapman (hamstring) threw a bullpen session today and everything went well. He won’t be available tonight. The hope is he’ll be available tomorrow … Matt Holliday (back) and Starlin Castro (hamstring) will both begin rehab assignments tomorrow. Castro is going to Triple-A Scranton and Holliday is going to High-A Tampa.

Joey Votto, the Yankees, and the reasons it won’t happen

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Over the last week or so, all the talk about streaks has involved Aaron Judge and strikeouts. Last night he struck out in the 33rd consecutive game, breaking Adam Dunn’s record for position players. Pitcher Bill Stoneman holds the overall record at 35 games. Judge is hitting .291/.420/.614 (170 wRC+) with an AL leading 37 home runs this year, so the strikeouts haven’t stopped him from being productive, but they are an eyesore.

Eight hundred miles away in Chicago, another record streak was on the line Wednesday night. Reds first baseman Joey Votto had reached base multiple times in each of his last 20 games, one short of the record held by Ted Williams. Votto went 1-for-4 against the Cubs and would’ve led off the tenth inning had the Reds not lost on a walk-off wild pitch, so his streak came to an end. Judge broke Dunn’s record last night. Williams’ will live on.

Votto’s streak, coincidentally enough, started against the Yankees. Remember when Luis Severino dominated the Reds at Yankee Stadium last month and Votto was the only player able to work a quality at-bat against him? That was the first game of his 20-game multiple times on base streak. During those 20 games Votto hit .424/.596/.712 (234 wRC+) with 26 walks and nine strikeouts. Overall this year he’s hitting .315/.447/.597 (165 wRC+) with 31 home runs and far more walks (98) than strikeouts (61).

At this point, there’s little doubt Votto is not only one of the best hitters in baseball — managers, coaches, and scouts named him the best hitter in the NL in Baseball America’s recent best tools survey (subs. req’d) — but also one of the best hitters of his generation. He’s one of the best hitters of the last half-century, really. Here is the career wRC+ leaderboard since the mound was lowered in 1969 (min. 3,000 plate appearances):

  1. Barry Bonds: 173 wRC+
  2. Mike Trout: 170 wRC+
  3. Joey Votto: 158 wRC+
  4. Mark McGwire: 157 wRC+
  5. Frank Thomas: 154 wRC+

No, Votto has not yet entered his decline phase yet, so that number will come down in the future, but it goes to show just how great he’s been in his career so far. At a time when strikeouts are rapidly increasing because pitchers are throwing harder and relievers are getting more and more specialized, Votto decided it would be best if he stopped striking out, so he did:

joey-votto-strikeouts

Votto is a hitting savant. He hits for average, he hits for power, and he gets on base, all at elite clips. He hits righties, lefties, fastballs, breaking balls, to left field, to right field, he chokes up, whatever. Votto is a brilliant offensive force and he is absolutely perfect for the Yankees. I mean, he’s perfect for every team, but especially the Yankees. They have openings at first base and DH going forward, and he’d balance their righty leaning lineup.

As always, there’s more to the story than simply taking a player and plopping him into your lineup. Put Votto in New York’s lineup right now and they go from postseason hopeful to no-doubt contender pretty quickly. He’s the kind of player who could change the balance of power in a division race. The Yankees adding Votto is a dream scenario and there are three reasons it won’t happen.

1. He’s entering his mid-30s. As great as he is and has been, Votto will turn 34 next month and at some point his skills will begin to erode. It happens to everyone and it’s unavoidable. Votto is undeniably great now. How great will he be in two years? We’ve seen more than a few truly great players go from productive one year to basically out of baseball the next. Votto is as smart as any hitter in the game and he keeps himself in great shape. That doesn’t mean he’ll be productive forever.

2. His contract is massive. Votto is owed $150M from 2018-23, his age 34-39 seasons, then there’s a $7M buyout of his $20M club option for 2024. Paying a hitter of this caliber $25M a year is a bit of a bargain these days — Miguel Cabrera will make $30M annually from ages 34-39, for example, and who knows how much Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign for next offseason — though that’s still a ton of money for a player that late in his career. You’re going to be paying premium dollars for a player who is going to spend most of the remainder of his contract over 35.

3. Votto doesn’t want to leave Cincinnati. Even with the Reds rebuilding and a few years away from contention, Votto has said, repeatedly, he doesn’t want to leave. And he has a no-trade clause, so he controls his own destiny. “I don’t think of myself as anything but a Cincinnati Red. That’s one of the really cool things about having a no-trade clause, being one of the rare players that has that, I get to stay a Cincinnati Red,” he said to C. Trent Rosecrans last year. (For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman says Votto has already cleared trade waivers.)

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Anonymous comments from a gutless “Yankee insider” aside, the Yankees seem to love Greg Bird and are intent on giving him every opportunity to be their long-term first baseman. Hopefully he’ll be back within a week or so. If not, they’ll try again next year. Dumping Bird to replace him with a soon-to-be 34-year-old first baseman making huge dollars, even one as great as Votto, is an old Yankees move. It doesn’t fit with the youth movement at all. There’s always DH, but we’ve seen what it’s like to have an older player on a huge contract tying up the DH spot. It’s not pretty.

That all said, a guy can dream. Basically no other player in baseball combines this level of natural talent with ultra-high baseball smarts and a non-stop desire to get better. Votto also genuinely loves baseball and has fun messing around with fans, so he brings some personality to the table too. That’s a plus in my book.

Votto should’ve been a Yankee back in the day and the baseball fan in me wishes he could be a Yankee today for many reasons. It’s not going to happen though. Not given his age, his contract, and what the Yankees are trying to do as far as building around young players. Who knows, maybe in a year or two trading for Votto as the final “get us over the hump” piece will make sense. It doesn’t right now though. Votto’s greatness and New York’s timetable don’t really match up at the moment.