Bullpen lets another game slip away in 9-6 loss to Red Sox

The Yankees have outdone themselves again. Another new Worst Loss of the Season. Why couldn’t it rain Friday like the forecast said it would? The final score was 9-6 Red Sox in the series opener. The Yankees are now five games back in the AL East.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Top of the Seventh
For all intents and purposes, this game boils down to the one inning. The seventh. The entire inning took one hour and five minutes. For one inning! Good grief. The Yankees went into the seventh inning trailing 3-2. The Red Sox got their three runs from a Rafael Devers two-run homer and a Christian Vazquez solo homer. Todd Frazier got the Yankees on the board with a two-run shot.

Drew Pomeranz had to leave the game in the fourth inning with back spams, meaning the BoSox were already four innings deep into their bullpen when the seventh inning started. An awful lot happened in the top of the seventh, so let’s annotate the play-by-play.

yankees-red-sox-top-of-7th(1) First pitch of the inning: over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street. Over the wall in the gap too, not pulled down the line. Gary Sanchez is such a damn stud. He’s underrated, somehow. Perhaps the Passed Ball Vilification Tour made everyone forget how good this guy is. He’s a star. Star. The solo shot tied the game.

(2) I’m sure this is confirmation bias, but it seems like Frazier really locks it in and has his best at-bats in big spots. He pop-ups and strikes out a lot, though when there’s men on base, he really battles and puts together quality at-bats. Frazier took several closes pitches during his seventh inning walk to load the bases.

(3) Coming into Friday’s game, Ronald Torreyes had swung at the first pitch in 46.0% of his plate appearances this season. That’s swings regardless of outcome. Hit, foul ball, swing and miss, whatever. The MLB average is 28.7%. Why anyone throws him a first pitch fastball in the zone, I’ll never understand. Heath Hembree did exactly that in that seventh inning and Torreyes banged it off the Green Monster for a go-ahead two-run single.

(4) Eight of the previous nine Yankees to bat had reached base prior to Austin Romine‘s strikeout, which was a pretty terrible at-bat in which he chased a pitch out of the zone for strike three. The Yankees really need a new backup catcher next season. I have no idea what Romine brings to the table, at least in terms of quantifiable positive impact on a baseball game.

(6) I skipped a (5) in the play-by-play image and I don’t feel like going back and changing it, so we’re skipping from (4) to (6) here. Anyway, tough night for Aaron Hicks, who got took a pitch to the foot from both sides of the plate. At least they were breaking balls? Still, that can’t feel good. The second hit-by-pitch drove in an insurance run to give the Yankees a 6-3 lead.

(7) In a game like this, there is not one at-bat that lost the Yankees the game, but perhaps the most damaging was Aaron Judge striking out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. A fly ball scores a run there. Judge did work a good at-bat, he saw seven pitches and spit on some nasty sliders down, but he swung through a fastball on the outside corner for strike three. I mean, a three-run lead should be enough. You can never have enough runs in Fenway Park though. No. 3 hitter at the plate with the bases loaded and no outs? Gotta get a run in there. Judge didn’t.

(8) In his second at-bat of the seventh inning, Sanchez ripped a line drive at Hanley Ramirez for the final out of the inning. Off the bat, I thought it was into right field for a single. The Red Sox had Hanley positioned well though. Somehow Sanchez and Judge went a combined 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left 14 (!) men on base Friday night. Good gravy. Anyway, the Yankees went into that inning down 3-2, and they left up 6-3.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Bottom of the Seventh
Probably time to stop bringing Tommy Kahnle into the game in the middle of an inning, huh? You know what the most annoying part is? He keeps getting beat on his third best pitch. It happened last week and it happened again Friday night. Last Sunday Kahnle allowed the go-ahead single to Andrew Benintendi on his fourth consecutive changeup. Geez.

The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in that seventh inning on a single (Vazquez), a walk (Jackie Bradley Jr.), and an infield single (Eduardo Nunez). Chad Green allowed the hit to Vazquez and the walk to Nunez. Kahnle allowed the infield single. I mean, what can you do? Not walk the No. 9 hitter for starters, but the infield single is just dumb luck, really. Mookie Betts got a run in with a sac fly, which cut the lead to 6-4, but also gave the Yankees the second out.

It went downhill from there. Against Benintendi, the guy who beat him last week, Kahnle went fastball (called strike), changeup (ball), changeup (single). Changeup! Why? Benintendi pulled the single into right field to score another run and cut New York’s lead to 6-5. Kahnle then walked Hanley to reload the bases, which brought pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland to the plate. Changeup (swinging strike), changeup (swinging strike), changeup (single). Sure, why not. Moreland singled up the middle to score two runs to turn the 6-5 lead into a 7-6 deficit.

A few things. One, why in the world is Kahnle throwing so many changeups? The guy throws 100 with a nasty slider, and he keeps giving up back-breaking hits on his changeup. He’s throwing it back-to-back and back-to-back-to-back and it speeds up the hitter’s bat. A 98 mph fastball to Moreland after the two changeups would’ve look like a 108 mph fastball. Instead, another changeup, two runs scored. Sigh.

And two, where in the world was David Robertson? He didn’t throw as much as a warm-up pitch in that seventh inning. I thought Robertson should’ve been in the game to face Ramirez. He definitely should’ve been in the game to face Moreland. The infield single is whatever. A loud fly ball to center, a run-scoring single, and a walk is not whatever. Should be alarm bells going off after that. This series is basically the division race. Maybe a little urgency is in order?

Asleep at the Wheel
Aroldis Chapman against the Red Sox this year: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 10 BB, 7 K. Impressive, really. Chapman was brought in to pitch the bottom of the eighth with the Yankees down a run and he coughed up two insurance runs. He’s now allowed a run in four straight outings — only the second time in his career he’s done that — and two runs in three straight outings. Chapman has no business pitching in a close game right now. None whatsoever.

During that eighth inning rally Chapman a) didn’t pay any attention to the runners and allowed a double steal, and b) didn’t bother to back up the plate on Bradley’s two-run single. Girardi went out to the mound and appeared to scold Chapman after that. Maybe someone will scold Girardi for letting Romine bat against Craig Kimbrel leading off the ninth inning? What the hell was that? I know the chances of coming back down three runs against Kimbrel are tiny, but you’ve got to at least pretend to give a crap. Goodness.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Not the best outing for Jordan Montgomery, who seems to be having his workload limited within starts right now. He’s thrown five innings (65 pitches), 5.1 innings (84 pitches), and five innings (77 pitches) in his last three starts. Hmmm. Montgomery allowed three runs on the Devers and Vazquez homers in his five innings Friday. Bit of a grind.

Rare bad outing for Green, who walked two and allowed a clean single in 1.1 innings. He was charged with two runs after Kahnle barfed all over everything. The overall bullpen line: 3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 2 K. Green, Kahnle, and Chapman threw 78 pitches to get nine outs. Girardi had Caleb Smith warming in the seventh as Kahnle faced Hanley and Moreland. Caleb Smith! I do not understand.

The Yankees went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position overall. The Torreyes two-run single was the one hit. Sanchez went 0-for-3 and Judge went 0-for-2 in those spots. In addition to his seventh inning strikeout against Reed, Judge also grounded out against Joe Kelly to end the sixth inning with the bases loaded. At the end of the day, the bullpen couldn’t protect a three-run lead. But Judge had two chances to do some serious damage and didn’t. Rough.

Brett Gardner (three hits and a walk), Chase Headley (two hits and two walks), and Frazier (two hits and two walks) each reached base four times. Hicks (two hit-by-pitches) and Judge (hit and walk) reached base twice. Every starter in the lineup reached base at least once. The Yankees had plenty of chances. They had one 1-2-3 inning offensively: the ninth against Kimbrel.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com has the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Saturday night, in the second game of this three-game series. CC Sabathia is coming off the disabled list to make that start. Chris Sale will be on the mound for the Red Sox. Trap game?

DotF: Castro and Holliday begin rehab assignments; Bird goes deep twice in Scranton’s loss

Two Yankees made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet: RHP Juan De Paula (12th) and 3B Dermis Garcia (15th). “De Paula has a reputation as a strike-thrower but has not shown consistent control this season (4.28 walks per nine). He showed he can be almost unhittable when everything is working,” said the write-up.

Triple-A Scranton (10-6 loss to Durham)

  • CF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • DH Starlin Castro: 0-4, 1 BB — he’s going to play five innings at second base tomorrow
  • 1B Greg Bird: 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — played seven innings in the field as scheduled … here’s video of the first homer and second homer
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-5, 2 R
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 0-4 — rejoins the team following his quick rehab stint in the lower minors
  • LF Mason Williams: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • LHP Nestor Cortes: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0/4 GB/FB — 49 of 79 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • RHP Colten Brewer: 0.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 2/0 GB/FB — 21 of 38 pitches were strikes (55%)
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 1/2 GB/FB — ten of 15 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 121: The Most Important Series of the Season (Again)

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once again, the Yankees will play their most important series of the season this weekend. Most important to date, that is. There’ll be another most important series of the season pretty soon. That’s usually how it goes. The Yankees are up in Boston for a three-game set with the Red Sox, the team they are chasing in the AL East. The deficit: four games. The Yankees won’t be leaving this series in first place no matter what.

Now, the bad news: the forecast is not good tonight. It’s supposed to rain basically from first pitch through tomorrow morning. I thought they would call the game this afternoon, but nope. I guess the Red Sox want to keep the gates open for a little while to rack up some concession sales. The chances of a delay and/or postponement appear to be high tonight, but for now, the game is on. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 1B Chase Headley
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

Like I said, rain in the forecast. Pretty much all night. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:10pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game, if they do play.

Injury Updates: Masahiro Tanaka (shoulder) threw a 37-pitch bullpen session today and everything went well. He is slated to rejoin the rotation next week, pretty much as soon as he’s eligible to be activated … Aroldis Chapman (hamstring) is good to go and will be the closer tonight.

8/18 to 8/20 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Bombers squandered an opportunity to inch closer to Boston in the division last weekend, losing two of three after a disastrous outing from Luis Severino and Rafael Devers spoiling Aroldis Chapman‘s attempt to close out Sunday’s humbling defeat. Here’s the game-by-game of the series.

  • Yankees went silent for seven innings vs. Eduardo Rodriguez, then erupted for five runs in the eighth. Aaron Hicks saved the day with a two-run shot off Addison Reed and a key outfield assist to help hold off the Red Sox in the ninth to take the opener.
  • Things looked good after a two-run shot by Gary Sanchez in the first, but Severino turned in his worst start since last season, giving up 10 runs (eight earned) including a pair of home runs to Andrew Benintendi, prompting this gleeful picture of Mookie Betts by our Sung Min Kim.
  • On Sunday Night Baseball, Chris Sale and Jordan Montgomery went toe-to-toe, each allowing a run. The Yankees got to Matt Barnes for a run in the 8th. However, Aroldis Chapman squandered the one-run lead by allowing a homer by Devers before giving up a run in the 10th in a 3-2 loss.

For more information, check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post.

Injury Report

Last weekend, Dustin Pedroia (knee) went back on the DL and the team is going to have him be more conservative in his return timeline this go-around. David Price (elbow) has thrown off flat ground but has yet to throw off a mound and we don’t know when he will. He won’t be starting this series. Meanwhile, RHP Blaine Boyer (neck strain) joined Carson Smith, Ben Taylor, Tyler Thornburg and Robbie Ross among a strong middle relief corps all on the shelf.

Since We Last Met

Since you surely know about the Red Sox, let’s go into their games since last weekend instead of a recap of their season.

  • Doug Fister gave up five runs, including a go-ahead two run homer to Edwin Encarnacion, and failed to make it out of the fifth inning in a 7-3 loss to the Indians, a make-up game of a rainout from two weeks ago. Devers hit two solo shots in the defeat.
  • An eight-run fifth inning buoyed the Sox to a blowout win over the Cardinals on Tuesday as Rick Porcello improved to 7-14 on the year. The highlight of the game: Devers starting a 5-4-3 triple play. Is there anything he can’t do?
  • The Red Sox grabbed a win from the jaws of defeat, storming back from a two-run ninth inning deficit against a trio of pitchers. It was capped off by Betts’ two-run double, the celebration of which you can see at the top of this post.

Lineup We Might See

John Farrell adjusts his lineup based on handedness. Therefore, with two lefties set to take the hill for the Yankees this weekend, the lineup below is the one he’s been going with against LHPs. That means a fair amount of Chris Young and maybe a day off for the 20-year-old wunderkind Devers.

1. 2B/3B Eduardo Nunez
2. RF Mookie Betts
3. LF Andrew Benintendi
4. 1B Hanley Ramirez
5. DH Chris Young
6. SS Xander Bogaerts
7. 2B Brock Holt/3B Rafael Devers
8. C Sandy Leon/Christian Vazquez
9. CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:10 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz

With Porcello’s struggles and Price’s elbow, Pomeranz has probably been Boston’s second-best starter this season. He’s 2-0 against the Yankees after getting 10 runs of support on Saturday, though he’s allowed nine runs in 17 2/3 innings, striking out 19 while allowing three homers.

Last Outing (at NYY on Aug. 12) – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Saturday (7:10 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Chris Sale

What is there to say about Chris Sale that hasn’t already been said about Pedro Martinez? The guy is a beast. After Sunday night’s performance, here’s his line vs. the Yankees in 2017: 3 GS, 22.2 IP, 15 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 35 K. Good news? He has no wins and the Sox are just 1-2 in those games.

Last Outing (at NYY on Aug. 13) – 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 12 K

Sunday (1:30 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. TBD

The Red Sox haven’t announced a starter for Sunday, but this writer expects them to skip Fister and start Porcello, who’d be on normal rest. He was solid his last time out and his K-BB% has improved in the second half. However, he’s allowed 2.06 HR per nine since the break. For what it’s worth, he’s 0-3 with a 3.79 ERA against the Yankees this year, allowing four homers in 19 innings.

Last Outing (Porcello vs. STL on Aug. 15) – 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 K

The Bullpen

Kimbrel dominated the Yankees for four outs on Sunday and is still striking out more than 50 percent of the batters he faces. He has a 46 K-BB%. That’s … absurd. The less you see of him, the better.

The Yankees did get to his two setup men last weekend, first Reed and then Barnes. Barnes, however, is much better at home (1.47 ERA at Fenway vs. 5.20 on the road). Joe Kelly and his hard but flat fastball sit in wait in middle relief. Beyond him Robbie Scott and Fernando Abad handle lefties while Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman and potentially Fister sit in middle/long relief.

Who (Or What) to Watch?

Obviously, these games have tremendous division implications. The Yankees sit four games back of Boston. After this weekend, they have just a four-game set at Yankee Stadium in two weeks left with their rivals, so the chance to make up ground head-to-head is scarce.

The thing I’ve been waiting to see since July 31? Sonny Gray vs. the Red Sox, which we get to see Sunday (which isn’t Sunday Night Baseball!). This is part of why they brought Gray in: to win big games, particularly in division. Sonny days are ahead.

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.