Game 87: The Start of the Second Half


Welcome to the first day of the rest of the season. The All-Star break is over and we’re officially into the dog days of summer. The Yankees begin a four-game set with the Red Sox in Fenway Park tonight. Best case scenario is they leave this series with a half-game lead in the AL East. Worst case scenario is they leave 7.5 games back. A few too many things have been playing out to the worst case scenario for my liking lately.

The Yankees return from the All-Star break with a 45-41 record and a healthy +98 run differential, though they’re also 7-18 in their last 25 games, which is pretty darn awful. They haven’t won a series or back-to-back games or more than a month now. Hopefully everyone got their heads clear during the break and the second half serves as a fresh start. The Yankees could really use one. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 1B Garrett Cooper
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

It is cloudy, cool, and humid in Boston this evening. There is rain in the forecast, though not until later tonight. It shouldn’t be a problem unless the game goes to extra innings or something. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: In case you missed it earlier, Michael Pineda has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and Tommy John surgery has been recommended. He will get a second opinion first … Greg Bird (ankle) has been diagnosed with inflammation in his os trigonum, which is essentially an extra bone in his ankle. He received another cortisone shot, and if that doesn’t work, he may need surgery. The surgery comes with a 6-8 week rehab timetable, meaning he could be back for September … Starlin Castro (hamstring) will play another minor league rehab game tonight, and could return as soon as tomorrow depending how he feels.

Roster Moves: Welcome back, Matt Holliday and Jordan Montgomery. Holliday (illness) was activated off the disabled list and Montgomery was called back up. He didn’t even miss a start … Pineda was placed on the 10-day DL, allowing the Montgomery to return before his ten days in the minors were up … Rob Refsnyder was sent down to clear a roster spot for Holliday … welcome to the big leagues, Garrett Cooper. He’s been added to the roster following yesterday’s trade. He essentially takes Tyler Webb‘s 25-man and 40-man roster spots. This will be Cooper’s MLB debut. Next time the Yankees need a 40-man spot, they’ll slide Pineda to the 60-day DL.

7/14 to 7/16 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Mark Brown/Getty Images)

With a horrendous end to their first half firmly in the rear-view mirror, the Yankees look to open the second half with a renewed sense of purpose. Matt Holliday will be back in the lineup tonight, there’s a chance that Starlin Castro could return this weekend, and four days off should have helped with the other assorted bumps, bruises, and nagging injuries that tend to pile up over a 162-game season. And who better to right the ship against than the first-place Red Sox?

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees took two of three from the Red Sox from June 6 through 8, moving out ahead of the AL East pack by three games with a 34-23 record. Unfortunately, they’re 11-18 since then, while the Red Sox have gone 18-12. That’ll turn a 3 game lead into a 3.5 game deficit in … well … about a month. Some notes from the series:

  • The Yankees dropped the first game 5-4, despite a dreadful performance from Masahiro Tanaka (5 IP, 5 ER, 3 HR allowed) and going 0-for-10 with RISP as a team. I list this as a reminder that it wasn’t too long ago that we refused to count this team out, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be back at that point soon.
  • Game two was an incredibly satisfying win, and not just because it was 8-0. CC Sabathia tossed 8 scoreless innings, the team was 5-for-12 with RISP, and Chris Carter somehow managed to go 3-for-4 with a home run and 4 RBI.
  • Gary Sanchez continued his torment of David Price in the third game, knocking out two home runs. He’s 4-for-7 with 4 HR, 9 RBI, and 2 BB against Price in his career.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun with numbers.

Injury Report

The Red Sox are still somewhat banged up, with Marco Hernandez, Tyler Thornburg, and Steven Wright done for the season, Roenis Elias trending in that direction, and Carson Smith still up in the air. That being said, they stand to get much more healthy in the coming week, with Brock Holt, Josh Rutledge, and Eduardo Rodriguez all slated to return in the next week or so.

Their Story So Far

Boston is 50-39 with a +65 run differential, and the best home record (25-14) in the American League. Their pitching staff has been the driving force behind their success, with the third-best park-adjusted ERA in the majors, and the fourth best WAR. The fact that they have the best pitcher in the league helps, but it is far from a one-man show.

The Red Sox offense has been starting to click, as well, though its 105 wRC+ in the last 30 days still isn’t quite where they wanted to be. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, and Hanley Ramirez all had slow starts (and Xander Bogaerts has slumped of late), and they haven’t come close to replacing David Ortiz. It’s difficult to see this offense as anything less than potent, but they’re still waiting to truly break out.

For more specifics about the Red Sox, check out Over the Monster.

The Lineup We Might See

This has been John Farrell’s lineup of choice of late:

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  5. Hanley Ramirez, DH
  6. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  7. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
  8. Christian Vazquez, C / or / Sandy Leon, C
  9. Tzu-Wei Lin, 3B

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

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

Pomeranz had a somewhat rough outing against the Yankees on June 6; he only allowed 2 R (1 ER) in 5.0 IP, but it took him 123 pitches to finish those innings. He was clearly laboring, and only 58% of his offerings were strikes – but the Yankees could get that one big hit to blow the game open. Pomeranz has made 17 starts this season on the whole, throwing 90 innings of 3.60 ERA (128 ERA+) ball.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 7/7) – 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 6 K

Saturday (4:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Chris Sale

By several measures, Sale has been the best pitcher in baseball this year. He leads the majors in fWAR, K%, K-BB%, and park-adjusted FIP, and he’s averaging better than 7 IP per start. He has 10+ strikeouts and 0 walks in three of his 18 starts, and he’s walked more than 2 batters twice. In short, he has been dominant (and, yes, that includes his loss to the Yankees back in April, when he went 8 IP, allowing 8 H, 3 R, and 0 BB, while striking out 10).

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 7/6) – 7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 12 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Bryan Mitchell vs. RHP Rick Porcello

Porcello has followed-up his Cy Young campaign by being the worst starter on the Red Sox. He’s currently sitting on a 4.75 ERA (97 ERA+) in 119.1 IP, and he has allowed 4+ ER in 7 of his 19 starts (and 3 ER in 6 more). He is coming off of his best start of the season, though.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 7/8) – 8.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K

Sunday (8:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP David Price

The Yankees roughed Price up a little over a month ago, plating 6 runs in 5 innings, with 12 runners reaching base. Price has settled down since then, with a 3.25 ERA in six starts, but he has yet to look dominant this season. He missed nearly two months, so that’s understandable – but he didn’t look like the Price of old last year, either.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 7/9) – 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

The Bullpen

The Red Sox have the best bullpen in baseball by RA9-WAR (FanGraphs’ run-based WAR), with nearly a full run lead over the Dodgers. Closer Craig Kimbrel leads the way, with his microscopic 1.19 ERA and ridiculous 16.3 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9 leading the way to his season yet. Joe Kelly (1.49 ERA), Fernando Abad (2.93), Blaine Boyer (3.13 ERA, 4.0 K/BB), Heath Hembree (3.57 ERA, 6.3 K/BB), and Matt Barnes (3.57 ERA, 10.9 K/9) form a formidable middle relief core that stands to improve if a couple of guys get healthy.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I’m all-in for the Gary Sanchez vs. David Price match-up.

In a more general sense, I’m just plain happy that the Yankees (and baseball) are back. Two days off may not be all that much in the most basic sense, but it felt like an eternity.

2017 Second Half Preview: Recalibrating expectations for the Yankees (and Aaron Judge)

Be still my heart. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Be still my heart. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

The All-Star break is official over and the Yankees return to work tonight with the first of four against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. They’re playing four games in three days thanks to a doubleheader on Sunday. The second half ended miserably for the Yankees and they will have to turn it around really quickly — as in tonight — to avoid getting buried in the standings.

The Yankees are currently 45-41 with a +98 run differential. Believe it or not, that’s the fourth best record and second best run differential in the AL. They are currently 3.5 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East and essentially tied with the Rays for the two wildcard spots. The Twins are one game back. We’ve spent the last few days reviewing the first half. Now it’s time to preview the second half. Come with me, won’t you?

Schedule Breakdown

Between rainouts and off-days and all that, the Yankees have only played 86 games this year, tied with the Mets for the fewest in baseball. That’s good because it gives them games on hand against their competitors — the Rays have played 90 games, for example — and bad because they have to squeeze in more games in the second half, which means fewer off-days and tired bodies. Here’s a real quick schedule breakout:

  • Home games remaining: 38
  • Road games remaining: 38
  • AL East games remaining: 36 (14 vs. Red Sox, 10 vs. Rays, six vs. Orioles, six vs. Blue Jays)
  • Interleague games remaining: 6 (two vs. Reds at Yankees Stadium, four vs. Mets home-and-home)

The Yankees close out the season with three games at home against the Blue Jays, who figure to be well out of the race and in “let’s get the season over with and go home” mode. Their second to last series is a three-gamer against the Rays at home. That has the potential to be pretty damn big given the current standings. The Yankees also play the Royals (one makeup game) and Twins (three games) within the final two weeks of the season and those teams could be in the wild card race too.

Can Judge Keep This Up?

The question on everyone’s mind. Can Aaron Judge keep this up? The guy is hitting .329/.448/.691 (197 wRC+) this season and no one does that. And the guys who do it don’t strike out 29.8% of the time. Judge is also rocking a .429 BABIP. That won’t last, right? Common sense says no. Exit velocity says why the hell not?

  1. Aaron Judge: 97.2 mph average exit velocity
  2. Miguel Sano: 94.9 mph

The gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is the same as the gap between No. 2 and No. 19. Judge hits the ball harder than anyone I’ve ever seen and that’s not hyperbole. Judge is a never before seen combination of hitting ability, athleticism, and brute strength. “He’s so quiet and simple that he looks like a contact hitter trapped in an ogre’s body,” said Charlie Blackmon to Bryan Hoch after the Home Run Derby.

Judge had a 201 OPS+ in the first half — OPS+ and wRC+ are essentially the same thing, the player’s overall offensive value, but they’re calculated differently — which is insane. Here are the last seven players to post a 200 OPS+ or better in the first half — that takes us back to the sicko Barry Bonds years — and what they did in the second half:

First Half Second Half Final Line
2015 Bryce Harper .339/.464/.704 (226 OPS+) .320/.457/.586 (184 OPS+) .330/.460/.649 (198 OPS+)
2013 Miguel Cabrera .365/.458/.674 (213 OPS+) .316/.411/.565 (174 OPS+) .348/.442/.636 (190 OPS+)
2013 Chris Davis .315/.392/.717 (202 OPS+) .245/.339/.515 (138 OPS+) .286/.370/.634 (168 OPS+)
2012 Joey Votto .348/.471/.617 (200 OPS+) .299/.483/.402 (151 OPS+) .337/.474/.567 (177 OPS+)
2011 Jose Bautista .334/.468/.702 (226 OPS+) .257/.419/.477 (147 OPS+) .302/.447/.608 (182 OPS+)
2009 Albert Pujols .332/.456/.723 (211 OPS+) .332/.427/.582 (167 OPS+) .327/.443/.658 (189 OPS+)
2005 Derrek Lee .378/.452/.733 (211 OPS+) .287/.380/.581 (155 OPS+) .335/.418/.662 (174 OPS+)

A few things about this. One, all seven of those players saw their performance slip in the second half. Harper came the closest to repeating a 200 OPS+ in the second half and he was 16 OPS+ points away. Two, all seven of those players were outrageously good in the second half. Their performance slipped, but they were still monsters. Hooray for starting with such a high baseline.

And three, most of the second half decline is tied up in power. Aside from Davis, the second half AVG and OBP numbers are good. The power numbers are really good too, but they are down. Not one of those players slugged .600 in the second half. No one even slugged .590. Cabrera lost 60 ISO points in the second half and that’s the smallest decline among those seven players. On average, those players lost 115 ISO points (!) in the second half. Holy moly.

Intuitively, this makes perfect sense. It’s a long season and players get worn down, so fatigue is a factor. They’re not as strong in August and September as they are in April and May. Perhaps fatigue won’t be as much of a problem for Judge because he’s so damn big and strong. Then again, Harper and Davis and Lee are built like tanks and they slipped in the second half. It’s a long season and it takes a toll on the body. That’s baseball.

In all likelihood, no, Judge will maintain this pace all season. That doesn’t mean he’ll revert back to being the 2016 Aaron Judge either. I expect him to continue drawing a ton of walks — his 61 walks are third behind Matt Carpenter (63) and Votto (62) — and remain one of the top offensive forces in baseball even with the AVG and power numbers slipping a bit. Judge has an elite approach and knows how to make adjustments. I’m confident a second half collapse is not coming.

What About Innings Limits?

I wrote about this a week or two ago, so we don’t have to dwell on it too long. The Yankees, like every other team, has a workload limit in mind for their young starters. And they’re more sophisticated than simple innings limits. They monitor stressful pitches and easy pitches, things like that. The Yankees want to keep their top young pitchers healthy and productive, so they’re going to protect their arms. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery are the big names here because they’re in the big league rotation and pretty darn important to the team. Don’t sleep on Chance Adams though. His workload limit could come into play.

The Trade Deadline Is Looming

Future Yankee? (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Future Yankee? (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The July 31st trade deadline is now two weeks and three days away. Jose Quintana has already been traded. Brian Cashman likes to say the Yankees will declare themselves contenders or pretenders, and this team is somewhere right in the middle now. They were no doubt contenders earlier this year. Then they lost 18 of their last 25 games and are fading back into pretender status.

These next two weeks and change will determine how the Yankees act at the trade deadline. If they get hot between now and then, they could look to add some more established pieces. If they continue to slump, they could look to shed some veterans. And they could always do a little of both. Move out a veteran or two while adding a piece for now and the future. It’s not selling. It’s buying for the future.

My guess is the Yankees will end up doing a little of both. I believe Michael Pineda is most likely to get traded because a) he’ll be a free agent after the season, b) he’s not a qualifying offer candidate, and c) he’s not exactly irreplaceable. Matt Holliday is an impending free agent too, but he contributes a lot more on the field and all the young players rave about him in the clubhouse. Judge especially. That’s not nothing.

As for adding pieces, I think Cashman will employ a similar strategy to 2014, when he acquired small upgrades (Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, Stephen Drew, Martin Prado) at basically no cost. Nothing the Yankees miss, anyway. I don’t foresee the Yankees making a trade that costs them a significant prospect. Unlike last year, when it clear the Yankees should sell, things are a little more up in the air this year.

What Qualifies As A Successful Season?

The definition of success varies for each team. For a very long time, success for the Yankees was defined by a World Series championship. Did the Yankees win the World Series? If yes, it was a successful season. If not, it was a failure. Many still think like that, though things have very clearly changed. The Yankees took a step back last season and are now focused on getting younger. Getting younger and contending don’t always mix well.

This year the Yankees got off to such an great start that expectations were raised. I know mine where. I don’t know about you. The offense was putting up a ton of runs and the pitching staff was surprisingly strong. How could you not get excited? The Yankees have crashed hard these last few weeks though, which has been disappointing. It’s been disappointing because they got off to that great start, a great start they haven’t been able to sustain.

For me, a successful season first and foremost will be defined by the young players. Are the young players reaching the big leagues and thriving? So far the answer is a resounding yes. Judge is awesome, Severino is awesome, Gary Sanchez is awesome, Clint Frazier is now doing big things … it’s exciting! And that’s most important. The Yankees are trying to get younger and those young players are taking over. This recent collapse is on the veterans. Not the kids.

At the same time, I will absolutely be disappointed with another postseason-less year, especially after that great start. It’s possible to be excited about the young players and bummed out the Yankees aren’t playing in October again. That’s normal. We all watch because we want the Yankees to win. It’s very clear right now the Yankees are a team on the rise because of the young players. That doesn’t mean winning in the short-term has to take a back seat.

Mailbag: Duda, Tanaka, Pineda, Samardzija, Acevedo, Frazier

We’ve got 14 questions in the mailbag this week. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything. We’re getting more questions than ever these days, so apologies in advance if I don’t get to yours.

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Glen asks: What would it cost the Yanks to get Duda (assuming the Mets would deal across town)? There are a lot of available first basemen and while Duda is having a typically nice year, he’s got a bad injury history. Does Austin and a lower level, high ceiling arm (Abreu?) get it done?

Tyler Austin doesn’t have much trade value at all — see what the Yankees gave up to get Garrett Cooper yesterday? that’s basically Austin’s trade value — and I don’t think the Mets would want him either with Dom Smith waiting to take over at first base next year. Here are two trades involving similar rental sluggers from last year:

  • Jay Bruce: Traded for an up-and-down depth infielder (Dilson Herrera) and one organizational top 20 prospect (Max Wotell). (Bruce’s contract included a club option for another year.)
  • Carlos Beltran: Traded for a preseason top 50-75 global prospect (Dillon Tate) and two non-top 30 organizational prospects (Erik Swanson, Nick Green).

Beltran was in demand whereas the Reds were looking to unload Bruce and his salary, and the different circumstances led to very different trade packages. Duda is closer to Beltran than Bruce in my opinion, so the Mets wouldn’t be wrong to ask for a pretty darn good prospect in return. Albert Abreu is currently on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, which complicates things, though he wouldn’t be an unreasonable request by the Mets.

Duda, 31, is hitting .238/.351/.524 (129 wRC+) with 14 homers in 62 games around an elbow issue, plus he’s had some pretty serious back problems in the past. His big left-handed power would fit very well in Yankee Stadium, and picking him up in the second half would serve as a nice audition for next year. The Yankees will need a designated hitter in 2018, after all. I prefer Yonder Alonso personally, though Duda would be a fine stopgap as well. He probably won’t come cheap though. The Yankees would likely have to give up a pretty nice prospect to make it happen.

John asks: If the Yanks go say 4-12 over their next 16 games and sit at 47-53 and 4 GB (or so) of a WC spot on July 26, do they sell? Should they?

Yes they should sell and yes I think they would sell in that situation, even though they don’t have nearly as much to sell as last year, when they put Beltran and two elite relievers on the market. This year they could trade, uh, Matt Holliday? Michael Pineda? That’s maybe it. They fired their best “seller” bullets last year. Then again, if they go 4-12 over their next 16 games to fall to 11-30 in their last 41 games, they’ll have much bigger problems than not enough players to sell.

Erick asks: How many top ten, top twenty and overall first round draft picks do the Yankees currently have in their system and major leagues?

Fun question! I’ve always been a sucker for how teams are built. For CBS last year I put together posts on the Cubs and Indians roster construction prior to the World Series for that reason. Fun fact: the Cubs drafted and developed only four players on their postseason roster last year. Anyway, here’s the breakdown Erick requested:

I do believe that’s all of them. Holder (David Robertson), Judge (Nick Swisher), Clarkin (Rafael Soriano), Sheffield (Ubaldo Jimenez), and Bichette (Javier Vazquez) were all drafted with compensation picks gained for losing free agents. That’s the supplemental first round. Technically it counts as the first round, but it’s not the true “here’s your pick based on last year’s record” first round.

Not included in that list is Masahiro Tanaka, who was selected by four different teams (Rakuten Golden Eagles, Nippon Ham Fighters, Orix Buffaloes, Yokohoma BayStars) in the first round of the 2006 Nippon Pro Baseball draft. The teams then drew straws and Rakuten won his rights. The NPB draft is weird.

Rob asks: If Tanaka continues to improve and the Yankees fall out of the wild card race, does Tanaka become a trade chip for prospects? Would teams be willing to trade prospects for a rental? Keep in mind that Masahiro can opt out at the end of the season.

Tanaka’s trade value is very complicated because of the opt out, and it was complicated even before his overall poor season. Trade for him and he pitches well, and he’s going to opt out. Trade for him and he pitches poorly, then he’s going to stick around. Limited upside, ton of downside for the team that gets him. If the Yankees do continue to slip in the standings, of course they should listen to offers to Tanaka. My guess is the offers will be pretty underwhelming at this point. Maybe it’s worthwhile to unload Tanaka and his contract for whatever. Probably not, but maybe it is. I have no idea how to value him right now. His performance and the opt-out make him too undesirable.

Al asks: Yulieski Gurriel would look pretty good at first base right now. Think the Yankees regret not outbidding the Astros (5 years at $47.5 M) for him? Even if they were expecting Bird to play first, they could have had him ticketed for DH. Thanks.

Probably not. I wanted the Yankees to sign Gurriel, but taking on the age 32-36 seasons of a guy who projects to be a +1.5 WAR player in his age 33 season isn’t all that great for a team trying to get younger. Not when it comes with a $9.5M hit against the luxury tax. The Yankees would have had to out-bid the Astros too, so his actual luxury tax hit would have been more than $9.5M. Gurriel is hitting .297/.321/.491 (115 wRC+) this year and sure, the Yankees could use him at first base, but this isn’t a short-term question. What about next year and the year after and the year after that? Locking down the decline years of a player whose best position is DH isn’t all that appealing to me.

Ian asks: How about moving Pineda to the bullpen? His stuff might play really well in that role and this way you might get a bit of value before he mercifully leaves via free agency. Obviously you create a hole in the rotation, but there you at least have options. Running Pineda out there every fifth day got old several starts ago. Thoughts?

I guess it depends who replaces him in the rotation, right? If you go out and trade for someone like, say, Jose Quintana Sonny Gray, it’s worthwhile. If you’re just going to replace him with Luis Cessa or Chance Adams, then probably not, and I say that as a Cessa fan. Pineda in the rotation and Adams in the bullpen is the best arrangement in my opinion. Pineda would probably dominate in relief given his strikeouts, especially if he adds a tick or two to the bullpen, but the Yankees aren’t exactly swimming in replacement starters. Serious question: would you trust Pineda on the mound in the late innings of a close game?

Adam asks: Does Jordan Montgomery‘s recent option to Scranton manipulate his service time enough to control him another year? Thanks.

Nope. It doesn’t change anything. Assuming Montgomery comes back the first day he’s eligible, he will be retroactively credited with service time even while in the minors. It’ll be like he was on the MLB roster the entire time. A player has to spend eleven days or more in the minors to lose that service time. I suppose the Yankees could call Montgomery back up after eleven days, which would be enough to delay his service time, though his agent might make a stink about that. I’m normally not one to care about service time with non-elite young players (especially pitchers), but if we’re talking about one extra day here, why not?

Samardzija. (Matthew Stockman/Getty)
Samardzija. (Matthew Stockman/Getty)

Francis asks: Would a Jeff Samardzija for Jacoby Ellsbury trade make sense for the Yankees and Giants in terms of money owed and years left? I know that there are issues with no trade clauses etc but Ellsbury will eventually get squeezed out of a job, SF will likely rebound next year and and California is closer to Oregon than NY. Just seems like a perfect match for two bad contracts as the Yankees need pitching and SF needs OF help!

Hmmm, interesting. Ellsbury is owed $68.4M from 2018-20 while Samardzija is owed $59.4M from 2018-20. The money is close enough that it shouldn’t be an obstacle. The Giants are in desperate need of outfield help — their left fielders have hit .224/.281/.329 (63 OPS+) this year — and Ellsbury would fit well in their ballpark given his defense. They could slide Denard Span, who has lost a step or three, to left field and put Ellsbury in center.

So far this season Samardzija has a 4.58 ERA (3.44 FIP) in 118 innings. That’s after throwing 203.1 innings with a 3.81 ERA (3.85 FIP) last year, and 214 innings with a 4.96 ERA (4.23 FIP) the year before that. The one thing you can count on from Samardzija is innings. He’s thrown at least 200 innings every year since 2013. Samardzija, Quintana, Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Madison Bumgarner. They’re the only six guys to throw 200+ innings every year since 2013, and neither Bumgarner nor Hamels will make it there this year.

If I’m the Yankees, yes, I’m trading Ellsbury for Samardzija. It clears up the outfield logjam and it gives the team a back-end innings guy, if nothing else. They could use one of those. Certainly moreso than another speedy outfielder. Would the Giants do it? Eh, they kinda need pitching too, and there are always plenty of decent outfielders sitting in free agency. My guess is the Giants would pass and keep the pitching, and look for outfield help elsewhere. I don’t see the Yankees being able to move Ellsbury without eating a ton of money.

Conor asks: What are your thoughts on allowing managers to make unlimited substitutions for positions players (not pitchers obviously) during the ASG? It’s always a bummer to see reserves not get in the game.

I am a fan. The All-Star Game doesn’t count for anything anymore. It’s not tied to home field advantage in the World Series. Why not bend the rules? They allowed teams to move players in and out of the DH spot without penalty during the Futures Game, after all. I mentioned this to someone during the All-Star Game: after Yadier Molina drew his leadoff walk in the ninth inning, when the game was tied 1-1, the NL should have been able to pinch-run for him, then reinsert Molina at catcher. I can’t think of a good reason not to do it. I suppose you have to put some kind of limit on it so the AL doesn’t pinch-hit Judge every bat, but that’s workable. That said, many of the players don’t hang around for the whole game. The starters come out of the game, get showered, talk to the media, then leave. No one is going to want to hang around in case they’re needed later in the game.

Brent asks: CC has been one of my favorites, I irrationally get excited when he pitches. He’s been not bad this year for a his age. If hes able to get to 3k SO and 250 W’s and a high 3 Era any chance he gets into the hof? And are there any players in the org or on the roster you think could eventually be HOF’s, hypothetically?

CC Sabathia was on the Hall of Fame track before those three disastrous years from 2013-15. He currently has 230 wins, a 3.70 ERA (117 ERA+), and 2,789 strikeouts to his credit. Getting to 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts is doable, though it’ll take at least one more year beyond this one, probably two more years. Even then, 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts doesn’t guarantee a Hall of Fame selection.

For what it’s worth, Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system says Sabathia falls comfortably short of the established Hall of Fame standards for starting pitchers in terms of both overall career value and peak value. Sabathia is more Chuck Finley and Orel Hershiser than John Smoltz and Randy Johnson. And that’s fine. Sabathia’s had an amazing career and he’s accomplished a ton. No shame in settling for the Hall of Very Good.

As for other potential Hall of Famers in the organization … I don’t see one. Matt Holliday will fall short and he’s probably the best candidate. Projecting out Judge and Gary Sanchez so far into the future is impossible. I love those guys. But they are a long, long, long, long way from the Hall of Fame conversation. Sabathia is the best shot at a Hall of Famer among the current Yankees with Holliday a distant second. No one else is even close right now. (Because they’re just now starting their careers, which is awesome.)

Zachary asks: If they juiced the balls a year earlier, is A-Rod still playing major league baseball? Is he past 714?

The ball was probably juiced last year too. Last season was the second most home run happy season in baseball history. The top three:

  1. 2017: 1.26 homers per team per game
  2. 2000: 1.17
  3. 2016: 1.16

As much as I love A-Rod, he looked pretty done last year. He struggled to make contact, and even when he did get the bat on the ball, he wasn’t able to drive it much. His bat had slowed noticeably. I don’t think even the juiced ball would have saved Alex Rodriguez.

Jon asks: In his Futures write up, Keith Law said he doesn’t see how Domingo Acevedo could have fringe average command but his walk rate in the minors is very reasonable. What am I missing?

Walk rate is a control stat, not a command stat. There isn’t a reliable way to measure command right now. (Baseball Prospectus tried it.) Control is strike-throwing ability. Getting the ball over the plate. Acevedo and lots of other guys can do that. Command is throwing quality strikes. The ability to paint the corners and dot the knees. Not as many guys can do that. Acevedo has a very good walk rate (5.6% this year), especially for a dude his size. But if you watched the Futures Game, you saw that everything was basically middle-middle. That works in High-A and Double-A when you’re throwing 97-98. It won’t work at the upper levels. I think Acevedo could get by in relief right now as a grip it and rip it guy. His command absolutely needs to improve to remain a starter.

Ryan asks: My gut tells me the Yankees will send down Clint Frazier to make room for Holiday, but should they send Frazier down? I think Clint could aptly fill the original Hicks role as the 4th OF. Gardner, Ellsbury and Holiday could all use extra rest, and Frazier could play 3-4x week and keep the vets fresh. Would it be better for Frazier’s development to play a few times a week until Hicks is healthy or play everyday in the minors?

I thought they would send Frazier down when Holliday returns, but then he started socking dingers last weekend. It’s a little hard to send him down now. Frazier is not your run of the mill prospect. He’s a special talent and when a guy like that has some success at the MLB level, I think you have to let him run with it, and I think the Yankees will. They are committed to this youth movement.

I expect Frazier to stay when Holliday returns — I guess that means Rob Refsnyder goes down? — and the Yankees to reevaluate the outfield situation when Aaron Hicks returns in a few weeks. Maybe Frazier will play himself back to Triple-A by then. Until then, move Frazier around the outfield like Hicks earlier this year. This kid has more than 400 Triple-A plate appearances to his credit and he has a chance to be a core piece going forward. When he comes up and starts mashing taters, you keep him up.

Thomas asks: Any idea why MLB decided to have no games on Thursday after the ASG this year? I would think both teams would prefer to play Thursday instead of playing a doubleheader on Sunday.

Two things. One, the Thursday off-day after the All-Star Game was negotiated into the last Collective Bargaining Agreement. In the past some teams played Thursday. There are no games that day now. And two, I am very sure the players would rather play a doubleheader on Sunday than give up the fourth day of the All-Star break. Off-days are like Christmas to these guys. Back-to-back off-days is a like a week’s vacation. They don’t want to cut short their All-Star break.

DotF: Castro begins rehab assignment in Trenton’s win

Here are the day’s notes:

  • Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted his midseason top 50 prospects list and SS Gleyber Torres ranks second behind Mets SS Amed Rosario. No other Yankees make the list, though OF Clint Frazier is not eligible because he’s in the big leagues. OF Blake Rutherford was ranked 22nd before the season and dropped out of the top 50 entirely. “Two scouts I asked said he’s just not making hard contact at all. That’s shocking given what I saw from him in (high school),” said Law in his chat.
  • Baseball Prospectus posted a fun list of the top 50 prospect busts. Four of the top five are Yankees (!): 3B Drew Henson (No. 1), C Jesus Montero (No. 2), LHP Brien Taylor (No. 4), and OF Ruben Rivera (No. 5). There are also a lot of Red Sox and Mets prospects in the top 50. Maybe that says something about big market prospects getting overrated? Anyway, the list is not behind the paywall, so check it out.
  • The Yankees have signed Cal State Bakersfield 2B Dave Metzgar as an undrafted free agent, reports Matt Eddy. He hit .372/.425/.465 with 24 walks and 14 strikeouts in 55 games this spring. Metzgar hit two (2) home runs in 222 career games with the Roadrunners.

Triple-A Scranton (6-1 win over Buffalo)

  • CF Mason Williams: 3-5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 K — 19-for-53 (.358) during his 13-game hitting streak
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-5
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — two homers in his last three games
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 44 of 68 pitches were strikes (65%) … five runs allowed in his last four starts and 26 innings at this level
  • RHP Brady Lail: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 28 of 43 pitches were strikes (65%)

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

Another night without baseball, Yankees or otherwise. That’s alright. Enjoy it. The second half is going to be pretty grueling and stressful. The Yankees start a four games in three days series at Fenway Park tomorrow night. They’re jumping right back into the fire. At least the trades are starting.

Here is an open thread for the night. There’s a whole bunch of nothing going on tonight, so you’re on your own for entertainment. You folks know how these open threads work by now, so have at it.