The Indians are forcing the Yankees to hit breaking balls by not throwing fastballs

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Last night, in Game One of the ALDS, the Yankees were thoroughly dominated by Trevor Bauer for the first six innings and change. Bauer held the Yankees to two hits and one walk in 6.2 scoreless innings, and struck out eight. He, along with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, held New York to three hits total in the shutout loss. The Yankees were overmatched.

Bauer pitched very well down the stretch in the regular season — he had a 2.42 ERA (3.66 FIP) in his final 12 starts and 78 innings — so last night’s performance didn’t come out of nowhere. It was just a continuation of what he’d done over the final three months of the season. What was different was Bauer’s pitch selection. He went curveball heavy Thursday night.

  • Fastball: 50.0% (49.5% during the regular season)
  • Curveball: 36.7% (29.1%)
  • Cutter: 9.2% (8.2%)
  • Changeup: 4.1% (6.3%)

Sample size noise? Sure, that’s always possible. Recent postseason history suggests it was by design, however. Last postseason the Indians went to the World Series by emphasizing breaking pitching pitches and making life miserable for hitters. Josh Tomlin, the epitome of a back-end starter, had great success doing exactly that. Consider Cleveland’s pitch selection last year:

Regular Season Postseason
Fastballs 65.4% 57.9%
Curveballs 11.9% 16.9%
Sliders 10.3% 15.1%
Changeups 9.7% 4.5%

Fewer fastballs, fewer changeups, more bendy pitches. Why more bendy pitches? Because bendy pitches are hard to hit. The Indians increased their breaking ball usage considerably in the postseason last year and they’re poised to do it again this year. They did it last night. Bauer, Miller, and Allen combined to throw 38.5% breaking balls last night. Four out of ten pitches were breaking balls. It was 29.4% during the regular season.

The Yankees were a good breaking ball hitting team during the regular season. They were a good hitting team overall during the regular season. All types of pitches. You don’t lead baseball in homers and finish second in runs by hitting only fastballs. Look at their numbers:

  • Fastballs: .360 wOBA (.351 league average)
  • Curveballs: .274 wOBA (.267 league average)
  • Sliders: .297 wOBA (.274 league average)
  • Changeups: .351 wOBA (.304 league average)

That’s all well and good, but here’s the thing: it’s harder to hit breaking balls than fastballs. Look at the league averages. Generally speaking, a great curveball hitting team hits curveballs worse than a bad fastball hitting team hits fastballs. Bendy stuff is hard to hit, even if you’re good at it. The Indians are trying — and based on last postseason and last night, succeeding — to gain an advantage by emphasizing breaking balls.

Also, keep in mind the Indians do not have a normal pitching staff here. They have pitchers with great breaking balls. Miller’s slider. Allen’s curveball. Bauer’s curveball. Corey Kluber’s slider. Carlos Carrasco’s slider. The Indians aren’t sending a bunch of generic middle relievers out to the mound and telling them to throw more breaking balls. They’re telling pitchers with some of the best breaking balls on the planet to throw more breaking balls. That’s tough.

So what do you do if you’re the Yankees? It’s easy to say “sit breaking ball,” but that creates it’s own set of problems. Do that and you’re going to miss hittable fastballs. Most hitters prefer to sit fastball and adjust to the breaking ball because it’s easier to react and slow down your bat than react and speed it up to catch up an unexpected heater. Maybe sit location and zero in on that, then adjust when you’re down to two strikes? I’m not sure.

A case can be made the Indians had the best pitching staff in history during the regular season. I won’t make that case, but it can be done. Now that they’re in the postseason, the Indians are again going breaking ball heavy, which means their pitching staff will be that much harder to hit. The one thing the Yankees can’t do it sit back and wait for fastballs. They’re not coming. They’ll instead have to hope for mistakes, and try to hit a steady diet of some of the nastiest curveballs and sliders in the game.

Mailbag: Beltre, Injuries, Green, Judge, Severino, Postseason

Only eight questions in the mailbag this week because the postseason is keeping us all busy around here. You can send all your questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

(Rick Yeatts/Getty)
(Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Zach asks: Sounds like there is some talk of a rebuild next year for the Rangers. If that’s the route they go, does it make sense for the Yankees to go after Beltre? Only 1 year left on his contract, but at 18 million. He would be a great bridge to either Torres or Andujar, and still seems very productive. What would it take to get him and how could his salary vs. the luxury tax implications play out?

It would. Absolutely. Adrian Beltre is one a one-year contract, so it’s not a long-term commitment, and he remains a very productive player. He hit .312/.383/.532 (138 wRC+) with 17 homers and great strikeout (13.4%) and walk (10.0%) rates in 94 games this season. Beltre’s no longer the defender he was in his prime, but he remains very good at the hot corner. And he’s a Grade-A clubhouse dude. A great fit in every way.

As far as I’m concerned, the only real worry here is age. Beltre will turn 39 in Spring Training and it could always go south in an instant at that age. It did for Carlos Beltran this year. We’ve seen it happen to Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano in recent years. The fact he’s on a one-year deal mitigates risk, and he’d be an upgrade at third base without blocking Miguel Andujar or Gleyber Torres or whoever. I think it’s worth the risk.

What would it cost? Eh, it’s hard to say. Would a Beltran-esque package get it done? One top prospect (Dillon Tate) plus some secondary pieces (Nick Green Erik Swanson)? Remember, prices tend to be a little higher at the trade deadline because teams are more desperate. There’s not as much urgency in the offseason, for the buyer or seller. I would be surprised if the Rangers moved Beltre, but if they’re open to it, I’d want the Yankees to make a call. He’s fit well.

Lou asks: When it comes time for the adds and subtracts for the 40 man what are the survival chances of Shreve, Holder, Heller, Mitchell, Gallegos and Herrera? We know what free agents automatically will be coming off but amongst this group is where the bulk of the 40 man space will come.

I think Bryan Mitchell and Ronald Herrera are gone for sure. Mitchell will be out of minor league options next season and it’s difficult to see him sticking in the big leagues, so I think he gets the axe. Herrera missed a bunch of time with injury this year and fringy up-and-down arms with injury issues will have a tough time keeping a 40-man roster spot in this organization.

Chasen Shreve is in the same boat as Mitchell in that he’ll be out of options next season, so he can’t be sent to the minors without passing through waivers. Lefties who have experienced some MLB success always have a high likelihood of being claimed. I could see the Yankees keeping Shreve as long as possible this offseason, but if they need a spot at some point, he’ll get the heave ho. I don’t think Jonathan Holder or Ben Heller are going anywhere. They’re optionable depth pieces and, in Heller’s case, he has a chance to be a real bullpen contributor.

Daniel asks: It seems like almost every player on the Yankees this year can fit into this statement, “He is putting up good numbers, and remember he missed a month of the season.” Gregorius, Sanchez, Chapman, Castro, Bird, Pineda, Sabathia, Hicks. Ellsbury, Austin, Holliday, and Tanaka all spent time on the DL this year. I know every team has its injuries, but where do the Yankees stand in terms of number of days players have been on the DL?

Believe it or not, the Yankees were near the bottom of the league in days lost to the disabled list this season. That surprised me. I guess all those little one month stints don’t add really add up. They’re not as bad as losing, say, two pitchers to season-long injuries in Spring Training. Here’s the days lost to the disabled list leaderboard:

1. Dodgers: 1,789 days
2. Blue Jays: 1,765 days
3. Rays: 1,735 days
4. Padres: 1,674 days
5. Red Sox: 1,664 days

MLB Average: 1,085 days

23. Yankees: 861 days

30. Cubs: 234 days

All things considered, the Yankees were relatively healthy compared to the rest of the league. I suppose it’s better to lose several players for a few weeks here and there rather than lose two or three players for long stretches of time. Well, no, not necessarily. It depends on the players. Either way, the Yankees were in the bottom third of the league in games lost to the disabled list in 2017.

Steve asks: Obviously this will depend on how the offseason plays out, but what’s your preference on how to use Chad Green next year? Back as a starter or leave him as lights out setup man?

Reliever all the way. Some guys are just built for the bullpen and that’s Green. He doesn’t have much of a changeup at all — he threw nine changeups all season — and he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher (26.4% grounders this year). As good as Green has been, I don’t think he has the tools to turn a lineup over multiple times, especially in a hitter friendly home ballpark. Keep him right where he is, let him air it out with that fastball for two innings at a time, and enjoy having one of the best relievers in baseball rather than a meh back-end starter.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Andrew asks: Where does Aaron Judge‘s 2017 rank on the all-time list of “true outcomes” (home runs, strike outs, and walks) by a player in a single season?

It sure is up there, alright. Here’s where Judge ranks in the various three true outcome single-season leaderboards:

  • Strikeouts: 208 (tied for 6th all-time)
  • Walks: 127 (tied for 28th)
  • Home Runs: 52 (tied for 28th)
  • Three True Outcomes Total: 387 (tied for 1st)
  • Three True Outcome Rate: 57.1% of plate appearances (3rd)

The 387 walks plus homers plus strikeouts is tied with Mark McGwire, who also had 387 true outcomes in 1998 (155 strikeouts, 162 walks, 70 homers). Only Joey Gallo this season (58.6%) and Jack Cust in 2007 (58.2%) had a higher percentage of their plate appearances end in a walk, homer, or strikeout among players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Walks and strikeouts can be boring. Dingers? Never.

Ed asks: Which players currently in the Yankees System do you envision as future core players?

I guess that depends how you define core player, isn’t it? I’m a big Andujar fan, though I’m not sure he’s a “build around this guy because someday he’ll be one of the five best players on a championship caliber team” player. That to me is a core player. A key contributor to a championship caliber club. Torres absolutely has franchise core player potential. Beyond him? Eh, not sure if anyone else in the system fits that description. Maybe Estevan Florial? Keep in mind that within the last 18 months or so, the Yankees graduated several core caliber players from the system in Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino (and Greg Bird?). Aside from Gleyber, the best young players in the organization with core potential are currently in the big leagues serving as core players. That’s cool. I’d rather them be in the show producing than in the minors being talked about as potential impact players.

Dan asks: Is it possible that Luis Severino has hit a wall after pitching a career high in innings?

Of course. I have no idea whether that is the case, but it’s certainly possible. Severino has thrown 193.1 innings this season between the regular season and postseason, which is easily a career high. He threw 151.1 innings last season and set his previous career high with 161.2 innings in 2015. He’s already 30 innings over his previous career high. Of course he could be wearing down. I think his dud Wild Card Game start was more about being amped up and overthrowing more than anything, though I suppose he could’ve been overthrowing to compensate for what he feels is arm strength lost to fatigue. Severino was great in September (2.10 ERA and 3.17 FIP) even with his tough start against the Twins a few weeks ago. With a young pitcher above his previous career high in innings, it’s always possible he’s going to hit a wall soon. I don’t think Severino is there yet.

Steve asks: During playoff games, what happens to players who were not selected for the 25-man roster? I assume they are not allowed to sit in the dugout during games. Do they hang out in the clubhouse and watch the game on TV? Sit in the stands? Stay home?

They are allowed to remain in the dugout during games. We saw Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade in the dugout at various points during the broadcast last night. They’re not on the roster but they could still be added any day as an injury replacement, so they stay with the team and continue to work out and taking batting practice and all that. Not every player is kept around in the postseason — teams do send some players home to cut down on the size of their traveling party — but basically anyone with a realistic chance of being added to the roster stays with the team, and they are allowed in the dugout during games.

Indians 4, Yankees 0: Bauer dominates Yanks in ALDS Game 1

Well that was no fun. The Yankees dropped Game One of the ALDS on Thursday night and they didn’t put up much of a fight at all. Trevor Bauer started over Corey Kluber and no one would be able to tell the difference looking at the stat line. The Yankees lost 4-0 and the game didn’t feel as close as the score indicates. They trail the best-of-five series one game to none.

(Gregory Shamus/Gett)
(Gregory Shamus/Gett)

Gray Day
Sonny Gray‘s control is officially A Problem. He walked four batters in 3.1 innings Thursday night and is up to 12 walks in his last three starts and 14.1 innings. Furthermore, Gray went to a three-ball count on eight of the 17 batters he faced. Can’t pitch behind in the count that often. Can’t do it. And yet, Sonny has been doing it a lot lately.

In those 3.1 innings Gray allowed three runs, and it could’ve been worse. The Indians loaded the bases with no outs on a double, a single, and a hit batsmen in the second inning, but a double play ball and a fly out helped the Yankees limit the damage to one run. In the fourth inning, Gray walked leadoff hitter Edwin Encarnacion, then allowed a two-run homer to Jay Bruce. Somehow Bruce hit an up-and-in pitch out of the park:


I thought that was a little jam shot fly ball off the bat, yet it carried over the right field wall. It was the kind of home run that, if it were hit at Yankee Stadium, we’d blame the short porch and say it wouldn’t have been a home run if the game was being played in Cleveland. Go figure. The home run gave the Indians a 3-0 lead and that was pretty much that.

Gray’s final line: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 K on 73 pitches. In other words, bad. Very bad. The Indians are really good team and they make a lot of pitchers look bad, but yeah, Gray was behind in the count all night and living on the edge. His last two starts haven’t been good at all. Hopefully he gets a chance to make up for it in five or six days.

Overpowered Over-Bauer-ed
Real talk: Trevor Bauer was razor sharp Thursday night. That doesn’t make it any less annoying. He crushed the Yankees will a steady mix of curveballs at the knees and fastballs on the corners. More than one left-handed hitting Yankee took a little comeback two-seamer on the inside corner for strike three. Bauer was really, really good.

It wasn’t until Aaron Hicks smoked a double the other way off the left field wall with one out in the sixth that the Yankees got into the hit column, and it wasn’t until the eighth inning that the Yankees had two runners on base at the same time. They never had a runner make it to third base in the game. Not one. Yeesh. Bauer’s pitch selection:

  • 49 fastballs (50% after 49.5% during the regular season)
  • 36 curveballs (36.7% after 29.1% during the regular season)
  • 9 cutters (9.2% after 8.2% during the regular season)
  • 5 changeups (5.1 % after 6.3% during the regular season)

Lots of curveballs. Lots and lots of curveballs. And the Yankees are a good curveball hitting team! They ranked tenth among the 30 teams with a .274 wOBA against curveballs during the regular season. (The league average is .221.) But, like everyone else, the Yankees have more success against fastballs — they were 12th with a .361 wOBA against fastballs (MLB average is .308) — and Bauer didn’t throw many.

Bauer’s final line: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K on 98 pitches. Great pitching has a way of making an offense look lethargic and that was certainly the case Thursday night. The Yankees didn’t look to have much of a chance at any point. Pretty much the exact opposite of the Wild Card Game, when they threatened every inning.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

The Late Innings
Gray bowed out early and the good news is Jaime Garcia did a helluva job soaking up 2.2 innings out of the bullpen, sparing the other guys out there. He threw 44 pitches and allowed two walks but not a hit. Jaime gave the offense a chance to get back in the game — the Indians didn’t capitalize on two bases loaded opportunities early in the game and I was really hoping they’d end up regretting it — but the offense never reciprocated.

The Yankees had two chances to get back into the game, though one wasn’t much of a chance at all. Starlin Castro poked a two-out single the other way in the seventh, ending Bauer’s night. Andrew Miller came in and made mince meat of Greg Bird. Struck him out on four pitches to end the inning. If Matt Holliday is not going to pinch-hit there — guaranteed at-bat against a lefty, albeit a great lefty — I’m not sure what he’s doing on the roster.

Then, in the eighth, Chase Headley and Brett Gardner worked walks against Miller to put two men on base with two outs. That gave Aaron Judge a chance to make it a one-run game with one swing of the bat. Instead, Cody Allen struck him out on seven pitches. Judge went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and is the first Yankee to strike out four times in a postseason game since … Johnny Damon in 2009? Huh. Wouldn’t have guessed that.

Judge and Gary Sanchez went a combined 0-for-8 with five strikeouts and a double play ball. Ouch. They saw 35 total pitches and 21 were curveballs. Those two are not going to see any fastballs this series. The Indians made it pretty clear in Game One. Now it’s up to them to adjust. I’m pretty confident Judge will. Sanchez? Eh, he gets a little hacky at times.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

The Yankees had three hits total — the double by Hicks and two opposite field singles by Castro. Gardner, Bird, and Headley drew the walks. Rough. The Yankees struck out 14 times as a team, only the third time they’ve done that in a nine-inning postseason game. The last time was Game Three of the 2010 ALCS against the Rangers, when they struck out 15 times.

The good news: Garcia spared the bullpen and Dellin Betances struck out the side on eleven pitches in his inning of work. Hopefully that helps him build some confidence and feel good about things. Of course, Dellin can be razor sharp today and unable to find the plate tomorrow, so who knows.

And finally, the Yankees have been shut out in Game One of a postseason series twice before: 2000 ALCS by the Mariners and 2004 ALDS by the Twins. They came back to win both series. This one’s in the bag.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and for the video highlights. Here is the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Friday’s forecast has improved quite a bit over the last 24 hours or so, so things are looking up for Game Two. We’ll see how it looks tomorrow. That’s a 5pm ET start. Former Indians ace CC Sabathia and current Indians ace Corey Kluber are the Game Two scheduled starting pitchers. Obvious big game is obviously big.

2017 ALDS Game One: Yankees at Indians

2017-alds-logoFor the first time since way back in 2012, the Yankees are playing a full postseason series. They beat up on the Twins in the AL Wild Card Game earlier this week — well, maybe “beat up” is overstating it, but they won the game and that’s all that matters — and are now facing the Indians in the best-of-five ALDS. This series features the two best run differentials in baseball. The Indians were at +254 while the Yankees were second at +198.

It’s been a little while since these two teams last met in the postseason. Not since the 2007 ALDS, when CC Sabathia was still with Cleveland and Chien-Ming Wang was the Yankees ace. Today, by the way, is the ten-year anniversary of the midge game, so get ready to hear about that during the broadcast. It’s also the four-year anniversary of Sonny Gray, tonight’s starter, outpitching Justin Verlander in his postseason debut.

The Indians won five of their seven head-to-head meetings with the Yankees during the regular season, which of course means nothing now. The Yankees went 6-0 against the Indians in 2007, then lost the ALDS in four games. The postseason is a different animal. Strategies change and we go from a marathon to a sprint. Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

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

Cleveland Indians
1. SS Francisco Lindor
2. CF Jason Kipnis
3. 2B Jose Ramirez
4. DH Edwin Encarnacion
5. RF Jay Bruce
6. 1B Carlos Santana
7. LF Lonnie Chisenhall
8. C Roberto Perez
9. 3B Giovanny Urshela
RHP Trevor Bauer

It is cloudy and humid in Cleveland this evening, and there are some on-and-off sprinkles in the forecast throughout the evening. Shouldn’t be anything heavy enough to delay the game. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:30pm ET and FOX Sports 1 will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Umpire Review: 2017 American League Division Series

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, Jerry Kenney, the Copacabana incident, Mark Koenig, Earle Combs, Urban Shocker, Michael Milosevich, and Snuffy Stirnweiss.

Carapazza. (Presswire)
Carapazza. (Presswire)

Well that was exciting game Tuesday night. I had a blast watching it (and knowing that my scouting report on Alfonso Marquez was spot on). During the season, there are four-man crews. 92 umpires called games behind the plate this season. During the postseason, there are six, which helps make tougher calls easier (or blow it easier, depending on your point of view). On Monday afternoon, Major League Baseball announced the assignments for the postseason, including the ALDS. Let us look at who we have for this series against the Cleveland Indians.

Home Plate – Vic Carapazza (No. 19)

Vic Carapazza gets us started in Game 1 versus Trevor Bauer. Yeah well, this game has the chance to be the complete opposite of Tuesday night’s affair. The Port Jefferson, New York native is a bit of a mess. His numbers read of a hitter’s umpire, but unlike Marquez, who was consistent for most of Tuesday night, Carapazza can be all over the place. Statistically, he has a 4.01 ERA with 30 games behind the plate. His WHIP was 1.30, while the hits were a measly 8.3 H/9. Similar to Marquez, he has a high BB/9 at 3.4. However, unlike Marquez, he only has 8.9 K/9. Yep, either you’re going to walk or strikeout (or be ejected) with Carapazza. Carapazza provides batters a hitting line of .247/.317/.408 on average.

Like his father in law, Carapazza is a free swinger with the right-arm, with a lot of notable ejections in recent years. Carapazza, as of the end of the 2017 season, has racked up 31 ejections since his MLB debut on April 9, 2010 in a game between the Yankees and Rays at the Trop. (The Yankees lost that game, 9-2 as Javier Vazquez had an awful performance (8 runs in 5 2/3). Somehow, Sergio Mitre had a decent one that night (1 run the rest of the way).) Of his famous right-arm, he tossed Mark Reynolds for throwing his glove in 2012; ejected J.P. Howell in 2011 for throwing the baseball into the ground in frustration; and Turner Ward in 2015 for complaining about Jose Fernandez standing near David Peralta after the former nailed the latter in the shoulder with a pitch.

Carapazza has one Yankees-based ejection, Joe Girardi on May 31, 2013 when a throw by Jon Lester pulled Stephen Drew wide right when trying to force David Adams. His aforementioned father in law has a more famous incident with the Yankees:

First Base – Dan Iassogna (No. 58)

Hothead is a premium this series, apparently. If Vic Carapazza was not enough for those who like to see veins bulge, then MLB put another one in the group. Dan Iassogna is the complete package of hothead and inconsistent strike caller. Corey Kluber and whoever we send out to face the Cleveland Indians are going to have a field day for called strikes. Iassogna’s strike zone has caused a 4.22 ERA (60th of 92) and 1.30 WHIP. However, his numbers all read pitcher’s ump. Hitters have an average 8.1 H/9 and 8.8 K/9 (low for a pitchers ump) and a 3.5 BB/9 average (also oddball). However, the .241/.317/.411 batting line gives it away. This will be a festival of strikes that no one will like.

As you can imagine, for a hothead, Iassogna has flicked his wrist on numerous occasions. 73 times since his first game on August 20, 1999 in a game between the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers in Texas, in fact. He has only ejected a Yankees member once, and that was Joe Girardi, again, on August 20, 2015 (Iassogna’s 16th anniversary). He made a very questionable strike call against Brian McCann during a steal by Alex Rodriguez. I would say, looking at the video, Girardi had a pretty good argument. To say the least, let us pray he has a good game behind the plate, but I wouldn’t expect it. (We last saw Iassogna behind the plate on August 18 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.)

Second Base – Dana DeMuth (No. 32 – CC)

Well. We go from two hotheads to Mr. Mellow. Dana DeMuth is the definition of a silent umpire. DeMuth is serving as the crew chief for this series and will have the game behind the plate on Game 3. Dana DeMuth calls a very average game, and that is about what you want in the majors. In 28 games behind the plate this season, the Fremont, Ohio native had a 4.49 ERA (39th of 92) with a 1.37 WHIP. Batters had an average of 8.8 H/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 7.9 K/9 (yikes) with a batting line of .257/.329/.432. All are very decent numbers. Not much to complain about in that department.

Dana DeMuth has not had a good season with the New York Yankees and it comes down to one game, August 25, 2017. Between Carlos Torres having a rough game behind the plate, Dana DeMuth did not step in and help calm things down between the Detroit Tigers and the Yankees. That led to the now famous Miguel Cabrera/Austin Romine brawl that we all know about now. If DeMuth had stepped in where Torres did not, it is very likely none of that would have ever occurred unless Cabrera really had some kind of beef. He was the one who ejected Dellin Betances and Girardi after the second incident in the 8th inning. Let us just move on from that, because I doubt we will be starting any brawls this postseason.

Outside of that game, Dana DeMuth is not going to throw you out unless you really, really provoke him. The last Yankee to really really provoke him before that day was Jorge Posada on September 1, 2010. In his career, he has 45 ejections since his debut on June 3, 1983 at Jack Murphy Stadium. This is DeMuth’s 11th Division Series (he also has 5 LCSs and 5 World Series, including the 2013 one) in his 35th season as an umpire.

Third Base – Brian O’Nora (No. 7)

The man who refused to throw out Ryan Dempster on August 18, 2013 but threw out Joe Girardi instead, is the Game 4 umpire, if we get that far. If there’s a definition of average umpire, then that’s Brian O’Nora. He has a 3.85 ERA in 31 games this season (79th of 92) with a batting line of .247/.314/.416. His WHIP was 1.28 (average), with a 8.4 H/9, 3.1 BB/9, and a 8.1 K/9. Nothing that jumps out, really. Like DeMuth, I expect a good game with O’Nora behind the plate.

The Yankees last saw Brian O’Nora’s strike zone on September 14 between the Baltimore Orioles and the Yankees. Of this crew, O’Nora has the honor of being the only man to eject Joe Girardi twice. O’Nora has 38 ejections since his debut on August 4, 1992 at Yankee Stadium, in a game, ironically enough, against the Cleveland Indians. In that game, Curt Young outpitched Dave Otto and the Yankees won 4-3. The Youngstown, Ohio native should provide a good game during his 6th Division Series behind the plate and I would expect it.

Left Field – Jeff Nelson (No. 45)

No it’s not our former ace reliever, but it is Jeff Nelson in left field to start the series. One of the newer crew chiefs, he is the third definition of an average umpire. In 31 games behind the plate this season, he managed a 4.32 ERA (good for 52nd of 92) with a 1.27 WHIP. Hitters have a 8.5 H/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 7.9 K/9 average with a .248/.311/.434 batting line. Once again, nothing to seriously complain about.

The St. Paul, Minnesota native made his MLB debut on May 9, 1997 at Dodger Stadium between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Montreal Expos. He has since accrued 58 ejections. Nelson has ejected only one Yankee in his time in the Majors. Once again, it is Joe Girardi, this time on October 14, 2012 during the American League Championship Series (Game 2). A blatantly missed call on Omar Infante’s attempt to get back to 2nd cause Girardi to get a heave-ho. Yeah, you can see why he was ejected. Let us not have a repeat of this situation.

Right Field – Adrian Johnson (No. 80)

Finally, Adrian Johnson gets his first postseason umpiring assignment. The man who famously gave Johan Santana his no-hitter is getting his first chance to play the game. He won’t see the plate this series, but it is a very hitter’s umpire zone. Johnson had a 4.52 ERA with 29 games behind the plate. Batters have a 1.35 WHIP, a 9.4 H/9, 2.8 BB/9 (low) and a 8.7 K/9 average with Johnson behind the plate. The average batting line was .266/.326/.449, which reads of hitters umpire. I am going to say we are thankful for that.

Chase Headley will be thankful too, as Johnson is the one who ejected him on May 12, 2017. Headley was tossed arguing a foul ball/HBP call. However, unlike the other 5 umpires, he is the only who has not tossed Joe Girardi at some point as Yankees manager. In fact, Headley’s heave-ho on May 12 was his first against a Yankee. We also saw him last behind the plate on July 16 on Game 2 of the doubleheader with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park after the All-Star Break.


Game 2 has the serious possibility of being a real headache between a Cy Young Award winner and Mr. Strike, Dan Iassogna. I would expect an ugly game with calls, so the Yankees will have to get it done with the bat. Otherwise, I would expect a pretty rudimentary series. Let us hope it stays that way.

TicketIQ: Tickets still available for ALDS Games 3-4

The New York Yankees will host the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians for Games 3 and 4 of the American League Division Series. This marks the first time that these two teams will match up in the postseason since 2007, but this will be the first time that Cleveland’s team plays a playoff game in the new incarnation of Yankee Stadium. New York will look to rebound from its regular season struggles against Terry Francona’s squad.

The two ALDS home games for the Yankees have an average secondary market asking price of $348 on The intrigue of these two high-power teams playing in the Big Apple allows for this price to be the highest price of any Yankee Stadium ALDS ticket since 2010. Only the Cubs and Nationals have a higher divisional series average price at $402 for the contests at Wrigley Field.

Even with this being such an exciting series, the get-in price is just $74 on Although that price is increased from other recent ALDS games at the new Yankee Stadium, the price is very similar to the get-in price as the New York Giants’ contest against the visiting Los Angeles Chargers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

The 27-time World Series champions reached the ALDS by defeating the visiting Minnesota Twins, 8-4, behind three home runs on Tuesday. Aaron Judge, the potential American League MVP and Rookie of the Year, was one of the three Yankees to homer in the wild card game victory. While New York aims to remain hot at the plate, the rested Indians will look to continue to stifle the Yankees’ bats.

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Chase Headley should be the Yankees’ ALDS DH

(David Maxwell/Getty Images)
(David Maxwell/Getty Images)

After scoring eight runs in the Wild Card Game, the Yankees may not be inclined to switch up their lineup. Yet one small change could be their most prudent move.

Therefore, I’d advocate for Joe Girardi to move Chase Headley back to designated hitter and have Jacoby Ellsbury come off the bench.

Ellsbury provided a lot to the Yankees’ late-season surge. From Aug. 26 to Sept. 20, he went 29-for-73 with nine doubles, two triples and a homer, sporting a .397/.494/.616 (194 wRC+) line. That doesn’t include record-setting catcher’s interference(!). Filling in after Aaron Hicks‘ injury, he became a reliable presence and looked like the player the team thought it was getting when he signed in the 2013-14 offseason.

But he’s gone cold. In his last eight games of the regular season, he went just 5-for-30 with a double and a walk, striking out six times. He followed that up with an 0-for-4 performance on Tuesday. Just like the 73 AB sample above, there isn’t a whole lot to go off, but he hasn’t been quite as useful.

Meanwhile, Headley has been similarly cold, which likely led to his benching in the first place. In his last 40 PA, he batted 6-for-36 with three walks and a HBP, no extra-base hits. After three homers in his first five games of the September, his power went back to previous levels. Again, small sample size.

So this move is less about trends and more about what it opens up on the roster. As I detailed last month, Ellsbury is an ideal pinch runner if he’s not starting. He was 22-for-25 stealing bases and has an 82.9 percent success rate on steals in his career. He’s the Yankees’ best option to wreak havoc on the bases now that Tyler Wade was taken off the roster.

With Ellsbury on the bench (and Aaron Hicks still in centerfield), the only is that if he solely pinch runs for anyone, the Yankees won’t have a backup outfielder remaining on the bench. They’d have Headley and Todd Frazier for first base. Ronald Torreyes for the middle infield and third. Then no one left for the outfield. Sometimes that’s a risk you take though.

The team removed both C. Frazier and Wade from the roster to make room for Jaime Garcia and Jordan Montgomery. Now that they’ve decided they need 12 pitchers, which may be a mistake, they can simply use Ellsbury as a fourth outfielder and have Torreyes as the emergency man on the corners. Not ideal, but serviceable with Frazier or Wade able to be called up in case of injury.

That option is a no-go if Ellsbury is at DH unless the team is willing to insert the pitcher into the lineup. That is because the Yankees weren’t willing to remove Matt Holliday from the roster even though he only serves as a pinch hitter and doesn’t serve much, if any, defensive role on the roster. However, Holliday is still a solid option against the Indians’ left-handed relievers and should be their best offensive option off the bench.

There were many permutations for the Yankees’ ALDS roster. It could have involved 11 pitchers or 12. Two outfielders on the bench or one. The Yankees opted for 12 pitches which leaves them one fewer outfielder on the bench. But, either way, having Headley as the designated hitter would be the prudent move for the ALDS.