Thoughts with six weeks to go in the regular season


Well, technically there are five weeks and five days to go in the regular season, but close enough. The Yankees had one of those weird mid-road trip off-days yesterday and will begin a three-game series with the Tigers in Detroit tonight. It would be nice to see the Yankees treat the Tigers like the 54-69 team they are and pad the wildcard lead a little bit. Anyway, I have some thoughts, so let’s get to ’em.

1. So apparently Aaron Judge is dealing with some sort of shoulder issue right now? Judge had his left shoulder heavily wrapped and iced following the game Saturday and Sunday, and apparently this has been a regular thing for a little while now. Judge was asked about his shoulder Sunday and said “it’s not affecting me at all,” to Bryan Hoch. He was asked how he hurt it, and he said “it’s not affecting me at all.” Okay then. This is the time of year when every player is beat up and most guys are icing something after games, but geez, I feel like maybe we should be hearing more about this. Judge is a right-handed hitter, so the left shoulder is his front shoulder when hitting, and the front shoulder is the power shoulder. As Katie noted yesterday, Judge’s hard contact rate has nosedived recently. Hmmm. I don’t think this shoulder issue is the primary cause of his second half slump. It could be contributing to it, no doubt, but the slump has been going on a while now, and supposedly this shoulder issue is relatively new. I’m just wondering why in the world he’s playing with an achy shoulder. The Yankees haven’t been great with injuries this year. They let Greg Bird play through an ankle injury for a month before shutting him down. Judge has shown he can be a dominant offense force and he’s a huge part of the future going forward. Why would the Yankees risk a potentially serious injury by letting him play through an apparent minor injury? I have basically no information here, but man, whatever it is, I wish the Yankees would just sit Judge down for ten days and knock it out. And I’d say that even if he were still hitting like first half Aaron Judge.

2. Hot take: I don’t think Aroldis Chapman will save another game this season. Not even a stray save here and there. Even during his scoreless inning Sunday, Chapman’s location was awful — he was missing his spot by feet — and hitters were taking big comfy swings against him. It’s shocking how comfortable hitters look in the box against Chapman even though he throws 100 mph and has no idea where it’s going. The Yankees have two viable closer alternatives in David Robertson and Dellin Betances, and because of that, I don’t see Chapman swooping in to vulture saves at any point. Chances are at least one of those two guys will be available most games. Mostly though, I’m not very confident Chapman will get things straightened out this year. It would be great if he did. I’m not really counting on it though. He’s look dominant — truly dominant — maybe five times in his 39 appearances this year. Hopefully this is nothing more than a nasty World Series hangover and Chapman is not broken forever. I do think he’ll come to Spring Training next year as closer. But the rest of this season? I don’t see him regaining that role. Betances or Robertson (probably Betances) closes the rest of the way is my guess.

3. Speaking of the bullpen, the SuperBullpen hasn’t been so super lately, huh? It’s not just Chapman. Tommy Kahnle had a rough week last week — he’s allowed four runs and eleven baserunners in his last four innings after allowing two runs and six baserunners in his first 8.1 innings with the Yankees — and Chad Green has struggled a bit of late too. He’s allowed six runs and 13 baserunners in his last six outings and 11.2 innings. Adam Warren allowed a run Saturday and another run Sunday. Not a great week or so for the new-look bullpen. Robertson and Betances have dominated and that’s pretty much it. I think it’ll pass though. Green was bound to have a stretch where he wasn’t untouchable and Warren has been dynamite all season. Even after this weekend, he has a 2.03 ERA (2.74 FIP) in 53.1 innings. Sometimes bullpens have bad weeks. It just so happened this new-look bullpen had its first bad week — prior to last weekend’s series with the Red Sox, the bullpen had a 2.19 ERA (2.62 FIP) in 74 innings since the Robertson/Kahnle trade — at an inopportune time. Blowing two late leads against the Red Sox really, really stinks. Those two games could be the difference in the AL East race.

Kahnle. (Presswire)
Kahnle. (Presswire)

4. That all said, I will admit to being more worried about Kahnle than I normally would be after four bad innings, only because his track record of excellence is so short. Half a season, basically. Kahnle was great the first few weeks after the trade: 8.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 12 K in nine appearances. The last seven outings have been rough: 4 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. When a guy with career long control issues starts walking people, it’s a red flag. Remember when Betances lost the plate earlier this year? It was ugly. He walked 16 batters in nine innings at one point. But! Betances has walked only seven batters in 19.2 innings since, so he straightened himself out. Kahnle’s recent control issues haven’t been nearly as extreme as Dellin’s, so hopefully he can right the ship and soon. When he’s on, he’s electric. We saw it earlier this year. And you know what? If Kahnle doesn’t get things straightened out and he reverts back to his walk everybody ways, such is life. You win some and you lose some. (Kahnle has an option remaining, so the Yankees could send him down to the minors, if necessary. Not this year since the minor league season ends soon, but next year. I don’t think it’ll come to that.)

5. Not-so-fun fact: the Yankees have had Bird, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius in the starting lineup together exactly zero times this season. Not one game. Gregorius and Sanchez were hurt in April and Bird went down in early May. Never once did they take the field together. That will hopefully change later this week, when Bird returns from his rehab assignment. Bird is on his way back, Starlin Castro is coming back, and Matt Holliday is coming back too. Don’t forget Masahiro Tanaka either. He’ll be activated off the disabled list to make tonight’s start. The Yankees have had their fair share of injuries this year. Bird has been out since May, Sanchez and Gregorius each missed a month, Castro and Aaron Hicks missed several weeks, Michael Pineda is done, Tanaka and CC Sabathia have been out … lots of injuries. Lots and lots of injuries. It seems they might finally get close to fully healthy later this week, once Bird, Castro, Holliday, and Tanaka return. I am so looking forward to it. They’re getting two potential impact bats (maybe three if Holliday clicks) and a potential impact starter back this week. That’s huge. Hopefully it gives the Yankees a nice boost and they finish the season strong.

6. A quick word on expectations, because I’ve seen a lot of people talking about them on social media and in the comments. Coming into the season, I would’ve been pretty darn excited to hear the Yankees would wake up on the morning of August 22nd with 66-57 record and a 2.5-game lead for first wildcard spot (and a three-game lead for a wildcard spot in general). I thought they were destined for 83-84 wins and lots of growing pains with the kids. Now, on August 22nd and after having watched the first 123 games of the season, I’m kinda bummed the Yankees have fallen 4.5 games back in the AL East race, even while they sit three games up on a wildcard spot. Expectations change. Maybe that’s irrational, but they do. The Yankees got off to an insane start, I bought into them being much better than expected (and they still are!), and it’s been a bit disappointing to see them slide back the last few weeks. They’re 40-41 in their last 81 games. Meh. Maybe that’s my fault for buying into them prematurely. But that’s part of being a fan, right? What’s the point if you’re not going to get excited when your team plays well? Overall, the Yankees have had a successful season because so many of their young players are establishing themselves as cornerstone type players, and that won’t change regardless of where they end up in the postseason race.

DotF: Bird stays hot on rehab assignment in Scranton’s win

Two quick notes to pass along before we get to the games and a standings update:

  • 1B Brandon Wagner made an appearance in today’s Monday Morning Ten Pack (subs. req’d). “Because (his swing) is so quick and efficient, he can wait until balls are deep in the zone before he makes a decision. It’s fun to watch … His swing is in good shape and he should hit as he continues to move up the minor-league ladder. The real question is whether he’ll be able to move off first or hit for enough power to stick at the cold corner,” said the write-up.
  • RHP Juan De Paula was named the Short Season NY-Penn League Pitcher of the Week. He came over in the Ben Gamel trade last year. De Paula allowed one hit and one walk in seven scoreless innings in last week’s start. He struck out seven. So far this year the 19-year-old De Paula has a 3.06 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 47 innings with Staten Island.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Rochester) they are 70-47 and have a 6.5 game lead in the North Division … their magic number to clinch a postseason spot is four, and their magic number to clinch the division is seven

  • LF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • 2B Starlin Castro: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI — played seven innings at second base as scheduled
  • 1B Greg Bird: 2-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB — he played the entire game as scheduled … here’s video of the single and double (the double probably should’ve been caught) … pretty much a vintage Greg Bird minor league game right there … he’s now 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles and two homers in five rehab games
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-4, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing) — 12-for-27 (.444) during his seven-game hitting streak
  • RF Billy McKinney: 3-5, 1 RBI, 1 K — had been in a 3-for-21 (.143) rut
  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4, 1 BB
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 4/5 GB/FB — 61 of 101 pitches were strikes (60%) … he’s up to 138.2 innings this year after throwing 127.1 innings last year
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K — half of his 22 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K — eleven of 18 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Monday Night Open Thread

Did you all catch a glimpse of the eclipse earlier today? I didn’t get a great look at it, mostly because it’s been cloudy here in New York. Still kinda cool though. Anyway, on this night without Yankees baseball, I recommend checking out Sam Miller’s article on the Skunk in the Outfield, a trick play that caused chaos during the 2006 Rhode Island state high school championship tournament. Really great stuff.

Here is an open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network will carry a regional game at 7pm ET. And apparently the (football) Giants are playing a preseason game too. Talk about those games, the eclipse, the Skunk in the Outfield, or anything else right here. Just not religion or politics please.

Prospect Profile: Stephen Tarpley

(Rick Ferry/Pinstriped Prospects)
(Rick Ferry/Pinstriped Prospects)

Stephen Tarpley | LHP


Born in Los Angeles, Calif., Tarpley attended Gilbert High School in Arizona. The lefty was drafted in the eighth round (248th overall) of the MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians. He declined to sign with the Indians, instead opting to attend the University of Southern California (USC).

As a freshman, he pitched well for the Trojans. He didn’t allow any home runs and went 5-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 14 games (13 starts). He earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and Freshman All-American honors.

Instead of remaining at USC, he transferred to Scottsdale Community College, closer to home in Arizona. In 16 games (15 starts), he had 2.35 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 92 innings. After one season at Scottsdale, he was able to re-enter the draft and was taken in the third round (98th overall) by the Baltimore Orioles. He signed for the slot bonus of $525,500.

Pro Career

He began his career with the GCL Orioles in July 2013, slowly building up to four inning outings (all starts) with escalating strikeout totals to boot. He was hit harder in later outings, but still strong peripherals with a 25-3 K-BB ratio in 21 innings with no homers. After the season, he was the Orioles’ 21st ranked prospect according to Baseball America.

The then-21-year-old was promoted to Aberdeen in the New York Penn League for the 2014 season. He allowed two homers (half of his season total) in his first game and had the reverse of his rookie season, slowly improving as the year wore on. He finished the year with a gem, going eight innings with 10 K and no runs vs. Lowell. He ended with a 3.66 ERA in 66 1/3 innings and was BA’s 16th ranked prospect in the O’s system.

The following January, Tarpley was dealt alongside reliever Steven Brault to the Pittsburgh Pirates for OF Travis Snider. Joining West Virginia in the South Atlantic League, he got his first taste of full season ball beginning in May 2015. For the year, he went 11-4 with a 2.48 ERA in 116 innings. Despite throwing nearly 50 more innings, he issued just one more walk and had two fewer homers. He maintained a strong groundball rate thanks to his sinking fastball. The southpaw even had a weather shortened no-hitter against his former teammates.

The No. 17 prospect for the Pirates after 2015, he moved to High-A in 2016. Unfortunately, his numbers were worse across the board. He didn’t begin his year until May with an oblique injury. He threw 20 starts for the second straight year, averaging just five innings a start. His strikeout rate remained level, but his walk issues crept back up while allowing eight home runs, two more than he’d allowed to that point in his professional career.

On Aug. 30, the Pirates dealt him as a PTBNL (with Tito Polo) to the Yankees for Ivan Nova. He made just one start for Tampa before his season ended and didn’t make a postseason appearance.

2017 Performance

For the second straight season, Tarpley missed the beginning of the season with an injury. In an interview with Pinstriped Prospects, Tarpley said it was “a little shoulder soreness.” The injury kept Tarpley out through June 10, when he made his debut with two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. That started a trend.

Pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, Tarpley has excelled. In 14 games, he’s thrown 30 2/3 innings and has yet to allow a run. His groundball rate is an off-the-charts 66.7 percent while posting a career best strikeout rate of 13.3 percent, more than 10 percent higher than 2016. Despite an elevated walk rate, he still has the best K-BB% since Rookie ball and has a 2.50 GB/FB ratio. He even has an 18.8 infield-fly ball rate.

All but one of his outings has been for at least four outs and 10 of his 14 have gone at least two innings. He’s allowed just eight hits, thanks in part to a .129 BABIP and a career-best 5.3 line-drive percentage. Groundballs and weak fly balls are a heck of a way to excel and have helped him post a .082 batting average against.

It was just 30 2/3 innings in High-A (a level he repeated), but this is also his first experience as a reliever. As a plus, he has nearly identical numbers against LHBs and RHBs this year after posting reasonable splits in past seasons. In the interview with Pinstriped Prospects, Tarpley said “my two-seam has improved a lot, just overall my pitches in the zone have improved.”

The southpaw earned a promotion to Double-A Trenton this week and threw two shutout innings (No hits, 1 BB, 3 K) en route to a win.

Scouting Report

Tarpley is 6-foot-1 and weighs 185 pounds. He’ll be 25 next February. He works off a two-seam fastball that has solid sinking action. He has three off-speed pitches with a curveball, changeup and an improving slider. His fastball tops out around 94-95.

Here’s part of’s breakdown of Tarpley prior to his trade to the Yankees last August:

He’ll run his fastball up to 94-95 mph at times and throws it with good sink to generate ground-ball outs. Tarpley has two breaking balls and likes to throw his curve more than his slider, though the Pirates feel the slider is better … He also has a good feel for his changeup, giving him a solid three-pitch mix he uses to pound the strike zone.

In their 2016 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America said Tarpley “profiled as a back-of-the-rotation” starter and was able to neutralize right-handed batters with the way he attacked the zone.

My Take

Tarpley is in Trenton for the stretch run and postseason, where he’ll get a new challenge, albeit in a pitcher’s park. That, along with a potential stint in the Arizona Fall League, should give the Yankees a better idea of whether he deserves a 40-man spot after being passed up for one last year.

A left-handed relief pitcher repeating High A can be a tough sell for a 40-man spot, but his dominance in Tampa could have made the Yankees think otherwise. He is, after all, a former third round pick and could be finally hitting his potential at 24. As the saying goes, they don’t check IDs on the mound.

As for a return to the rotation, his Rule 5 status makes this a tougher proposition. He’d likely need to repeat High A or spend a full season in Double A to return to starting. As my cousin, who first turned my attention to Tarpley, pointed out, his walk rate also doesn’t fit the profile of a starter.

If he can impress in Double A or the AFL (in his return back to Scottsdale perhaps), he’d be a potential shuttle reliever as soon as mid-2018 in the best case scenario. Otherwise, Rule 5 eligible for the second straight year, he’s shown enough to be chosen by another organization at the winter meetings.

With reinforcements on the way, it’s time to drop Aaron Judge in the lineup

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

There’s a weird dynamic in Yankeeland right now. The two most vilified players on the roster are the runaway Rookie of the Year favorite and the best young catcher in baseball. Gary Sanchez, who is hitting .270/.346/.519 (127 wRC+) with 23 home runs this season, has been catching grief for his league leading 12 passed balls. He was even benched for a game two weeks ago.

Aaron Judge, meanwhile, is hitting .282/.413/.593 (163 wRC+) with an AL leading 37 home runs this season, though it really has been a tale of two seasons for him. He hit .329/.448/.691 (197 wRC+) in the first half and has slumped down to .169/.329/.355 (80 wRC+) in 35 games since the All-Star break. Over the weekend Judge went 1-for-12 with five strikeouts in the three games against the Red Sox.

“I’m not getting the job done. I want to be there. I’m the three hitter, the middle of the order. I’ve got to be that guy for the team,” said Judge following yesterday’s game (video link). “I trust the guys behind me to get the job done, but as the three hitter, I want to be that guy in the position with runners on every single time. It’s a little disappointing not being able to get the job done but you can’t pout, you can’t cry. You’ve just got to keep working and move on.”

Not surprisingly, Joe Girardi was asked about moving Judge out of the third spot in the lineup prior to yesterday’s game. That’s usually what happens then the three hitter has struggled as much as Judge has the last few weeks. And, again not surprisingly, Girardi shot the idea down entirely. He’s always been a very patient manager who sticks with his guys, sometimes to a fault.

“He’s going to stay (in the third spot),” said Girardi prior to yesterday’s game (video link). “I’m not going to move him. He’s still dangerous. He’s still getting on a pretty high clip and he’s on in front of some other guys that are swinging the bat well so, yeah, he’s going to stay there … I think you fall into a roulette, if you’re just moving guys all over the place (based on hot and cold streaks) … We’re kinda going on what he’s done this year, and we’re letting him fight his way out of it.”

Girardi is patient and will stick with his guys, but not indefinitely. Just this weekend Aroldis Chapman was demoted out of the closer’s role. Literally one day after Girardi said he was sticking him with as a closer. It took four straight pretty terrible outings, but it happened. Jacoby Ellsbury has been riding the bench for weeks. Eventually Tyler Clippard was moved into low-leverage situations. Girardi will make changes when he feels they are necessary, and right now, he doesn’t feel a lineup change is necessary.

That said, I believe they’ve reached the point with Judge where it’s not best for the team to continue hitting him third. That’s the goal here, right? To put the team in the best position to win. This isn’t a one or two-week slump. He’s batted 155 times in the second half. That’s nearly 30% of his season plate appearances. I’m not saying Judge should bat ninth or be demoted to Triple-A or anything like that. But bump him down a bit below some presently better hitters? Sure. This lineup makes sense to me:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Todd Frazier
  8. DH … uh … Tyler Austin? Jacoby Ellsbury?
  9. 2B Tyler Wade Ronald Torreyes

Nice and easy. Basically flip Sanchez and Judge in yesterday’s lineup. Sanchez is swinging very well of late and deserves more at-bats than Judge. Same with Gregorius. It wouldn’t be very difficult to argue Headley should hit ahead of Judge as well, though I’m not sure I’d bat Judge any lower than fifth given his power. He can still change a game with one swing and he could snap out of it at any time.

Girardi says he’s going to stick with Judge as the three hitter for the time being, so I don’t expect him to be moved down even though I think it should happen. The Yankees do, however, have several players nearing a return from the disabled list, and perhaps their returns will make Girardi more open to batting Judge lower in the lineup. The return of Starlin Castro and Greg Bird will give the Yankees more weapons and Girardi more lineup options. For example:

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

See? Much deeper lineup. We really have no idea what Bird will give the Yankees once he returns because the guy’s missed close to two years, and the last time he was in the big leagues, he didn’t hit at all. You know how bad Judge has been since the All-Star break? Bird was even worse in April. So yeah, batting him down in the lineup and moving him up once he’s shows he’s capable of producing at a high clip works for me.

Anyway, the addition of Castro — I should mention I’m not too optimistic Matt Holliday will come back and be an impact hitter again, though I’m hoping to be completely wrong — gives the Yankees another quality bat, and another hitter to bolster the middle of the lineup. It’s one thing to stick with Judge as the three hitter when so many regulars are hurt. Once everyone is healthy though, it’s much easier to bump him down in the lineup.

The Judge lineup demotion is intended to do two things. One, to give more productive hitters more at-bats. That’s simple enough, right? And two, to take some pressure off him. Judge does look like he’s pressing now, and that’s normal when a guy is in a slump. They all press and try to hit a five-run home run each at-bat. Maybe dropping him in the lineup won’t alleviate any of that pressure and Judge will still press. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason not to do it though.

Girardi doesn’t want to demote Judge in the lineup because he believes he’s going to turn it around and soon, and that’s great. A manager should have confidence in his guys. At the same time, Judge’s slump is going on six weeks now, and there comes a time when action is necessary. If Girardi wants to wait until Castro and Bird return and he has more lineup options, fine. Maintaining the status quo doesn’t seem like a viable option anymore, however. Judge hasn’t produced for too long now and it’s time to de-emphasize him in the lineup, and hopefully it’s only temporary.

Yankeemetrics: Riding the NYY rollercoaster (Aug. 18-20)


Deja vu all over again
Another night, another candidate for Worst Loss of The Season. The Yankees suffered their billionth gut-wrenching defeat on Friday night, obliterating any positive momentum they had built up coming off a four-game sweep of the Mets. After flipping an early three-run deficit into a three-run lead in the seventh, the bullpen imploded in epic fashion with nine outs to go, adding to the never-ending list of miserable Yankee late-inning collapses this season.

Let’s recap the gory details, bullet-point style:

  • 22nd blown save of the season, six more than they had in all of 2016. Through Friday’s games, no team in the majors had more blown saves than the Yankees (the Mariners also had 22). Going back to 1969 when saves became an official stat, only three other times in franchise history have they finished a season with more than 22 blown saves: 1997 (25), 1988 (24), 1986 (23).
  • 6th time they lost a game after leading by at least three runs, their most in any season since 2014 when they had eight.
  • 18th loss when out-hitting their opponent, the second-most in MLB behind the White Sox (25, LOL). Over the last 15 years, they’d never before suffered more than 15 such losses in a season.

Breaking news: the Yankees had plenty of chances to score, but couldn’t cash in, going 1-for-11 with RISP and stranding 14 guys. Chase Headley, Todd Frazier and Brett Gardner led the offensive charge by reaching base four times each. That’s good! So how rare is it for a team to lose when having at least three players be so productive? Glad you asked. Our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series …

It’s just the third time in the last 50 years that the Yankees lost a nine-inning game in which at least three guys were each on base four-or-more times. It also happened on September 22, 2000 against the Tigers and May 25, 1980 against the Blue Jays.

Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green were the obvious culprits in coughing up the three-run advantage in the seventh, but Aroldis Chapman‘s eighth-inning meltdown is more troubling (and eventually got him yanked from the closer role). He gave up two runs on two hits and a walk, extending his recent stretch of awful pitching. This is just the second time he’s allowed at least one run in four straight appearances; the other instance was early in his 2011 rookie campaign. And it’s the first time in his major-league career that he’s given up multiple runs in three straight outings.


One step forward …
One day after suffering the Worst Loss of the Year, it was hardly a surprise in this rollercoaster season that the Yankees notched their their Most Important Win of the Year on Saturday night at Fenway, holding on for a gutsy, much-needed 4-3 victory.

CC Sabathia has embodied the Fighting Spirit more than any other pinstriper this season, and this game proved it. Consider that he is:

  • 7-0 with a 1.46 ERA in eight starts following a Yankee loss this season, and the team won the only no-decision he got. That’s the best ERA in the majors (min. 7 starts), just ahead of a guy named Clayton Kershaw (1.54).
  • 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts against the Red Sox this season. He is one of just three Yankees since 1950 to win their first three starts vs the Red Sox in a season while posting a sub-1.00 ERA in those outings; Scott Sanderson (1991) and Whitey Ford (1956) are the others.

Sabathia also reached a significant milestone, becoming the all-time American League leader in strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher. Congrats, CC.

Tyler Austin delivered one of the most stunning swings of the season when he crushed an 435-foot bomb over the Green Monster in his first career at-bat against Chris Sale to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Is Austin the team’s new good luck charm? Six of his seven career home runs have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead, and they are 7-0 in games when he homers.

Todd Frazier added a crucial insurance run with a sixth inning solo homer, following up on the two-run blast he hit in the series opener. That earned him a special place in the rivalry with this #FunFact: Frazier and fellow third baseman Graig Nettles (1973) are the only players to homer in each of their first two games as a Yankee at Fenway Park.

(New York Post)
(New York Post)

… And one step backwards
What goes up, must come down, right? That pretty much sums up the 2017 Yankees. They dropped the series finale against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, falling to an abysmal 5-14 in “rubber games” (third game of a three-game series where the teams split the first two).

That is by far the worst record and most losses in such games by any team in the majors this season. And, even more depressing is this stat: their .263 winning percentage in rubber games is on pace to be the worst by any AL team since the 2013 Astros … who finished with 111 total losses that year. Oy vei.

Much of the blame for this loss falls on the dead-silent Yankee bats, which produced their fewest hits (3) and runs (1) at Fenway Park since a 5-1 loss there on September 22, 2013. Not even a Brett Gardner home run could spark this lackluster offense — this was the first time the Yankees lost this season when Gardy went Yardy, falling to 16-1 in those games.

Gardner did reach the nice round number of 20 homers, giving us a chance to recognize his rare combination of power, patience and speed. Gardner is the eighth left-handed batter in franchise history with at least 20 homers, 15 steals and 60 walks in a season. The others on the list are decent: Babe Ruth (twice), Lou Gehrig (1931), Bobby Murcer (1970), Reggie Jackson (1977), Johnny Damon (2006), Bobby Abreu (2008) and Curtis Granderson (2011).

Aaron Judge was hardly the only Bomber to go cold on Saturday, yet because this is a stats article, we feel obligated to note that he struck out for the 37th game in a row. That ties the MLB all-time (spanning multiple seasons or single-season) record set by Expos pitcher Bill Stoneman in 1971-72.

It’s a contrived and dubious mark, but what is more concerning are a couple of his post-break splits. He is 4-for-28 (.143) with runners in scoring position since the break; he hit .305 with RISP before the break. Judge is also 1-for-32 (.031) vs left-handed pitchers since the break; he hit .345 vs lefties before the break.

Beyond those specific situations, Judge’s ability to make hard contact — his signature stat of the season — has simply cratered. In 35 games since the break, he has a hard-hit rate (per Fangraphs) of just 34 percent (it was 49 percent before the break), easily the least-powerful 35-game stretch of his career:


Fan Confidence Poll: August 21st, 2017

Record Last Week: 5-2 (32 RS, 31 RA)
Season Record: 66-57 (630 RS, 488 RA, 72-51 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Tigers (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Mariners (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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