DotF: Frazier begins rehab assignment in Double-A postseason

Triple-A Scranton‘s game was rained out. Their best-of-five first round postseason series with Lehigh Valley (Phillies) will simply be pushed back a day, so Game One is tomorrow.

Double-A Trenton (4-1 loss to Binghamton) they trail the best-of-five first round postseason series one game to none

  • CF Jeff Hendrix: 0-4, 2 K
  • SS Thairo Estrada: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-3, 3 K — played six innings in the field as scheduled in his first rehab game
  • DH Garrett Cooper: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K — this is already his tenth day on the rehab assignment
  • 2B Nick Solak: 0-4, 2 K
  • 1B Ryan McBroom: 1-4, 1 K
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 40 of 73 pitches were strikes (55%) … rough start in the postseason opener
  • RHP Jose Mesa Jr.: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 5/4 GB/FB — 41 of 59 pitches were strikes (59%) … Jose Table II has been ridiculously good for weeks now

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

The Yankees and Orioles were rained out — they’re going to play the makeup game tomorrow — which means this is a makeshift off-day. With no Yankees baseball, I recommend checking out two recent FanGraphs articles: David Laurila’s Q&A with Chad Green and Jeff Sullivan on Green’s dominance. Long story short, Green is awesome and great and amazing. That’s turned out to be a nifty little trade, especially with Justin Wilson struggling to get outs these days.

Here is an open thread for this sudden Yankees-less night. The Mets are supposed to play tonight, but they might get rained out too. MLB Network will air a regional game later tonight. Talk about those games or anything else right here. Just not religion or politics. Thanks in advance.

Yankees and O’s rained out, will play makeup game tomorrow

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

As expected, tonight’s series finale between the Yankees and Orioles has been rained outs, the team announced. They’ll play the makeup game tomorrow at 1:35pm ET. Tomorrow was the only common off-day the two clubs had remaining, so it was pretty much the only choice for the makeup game.

The forecast in Baltimore calls for rain pretty much all night, though there appeared to be a window around 11pm ET or so, and I thought maybe they’d wait it out. Teams hate giving up an off-day. Then again, I guess playing super late tonight and flying to Texas after the game is no fun either. So no game tonight.

On the bright side, the impromptu off-day gives the bullpen a bit of a rest after some heavy work the last few days. Dellin Betances and David Robertson have both pitched four times in the last six days, so chances are neither would’ve been available tonight. This also allows Sonny Gray to make tomorrow’s start on extra rest.

I believe this is the fifth rainout of the season for the Yankees, which seems like an awful lot. They’ve played doubleheaders against the Astros, Red Sox, and Indians, will play a makeup game against the Orioles tomorrow, and a makeup game against the Royals later this month. Plus they’ve had a few long delays, like last night.  Tough weather year.

The Yankees lack a reliable lefty specialist, but they probably don’t need one either

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Since the start of this past offseason, the Yankees have reportedly been looking for a reliable left-on-left reliever. They looked for one all winter and again before the trade deadline, but came up empty. Tommy Layne (remember him?) started the season in that role before pitching his way off the roster. The Yankees haven’t had a true lefty specialist since.

Chasen Shreve has spent the bulk of the summer on the big league roster and he’s not really a lefty specialist, and Joe Girardi doesn’t use him like one. Shreve has been throwing one or two innings in lopsided games for a few weeks now. He’s essentially a short relief mop-up man, not a matchup guy. This is why:

  • Righties against Shreve (career): .208/.301/.412 (.307 wOBA)
  • Lefties against Shreve (career): .248/.336/.428 (.329 wOBA)

Shreve is a fastball-splitter pitcher. He lacks that quality breaking ball he can sweep across the plate to get left-handed hitters to chase, hence his career-long reverse split. Shreve doesn’t have the tools to be a left-on-left matchup guy. Asking him to do that would be to ignore his skill set and focus only on handedness.

The Yankees have two other left-handed relievers on the roster right now: Aroldis Chapman and Caleb Smith. Smith is a long man who has the same problem as Shreve as a fastball-changeup pitcher. He doesn’t have that put-away breaking ball. Chapman has lost his closer’s job and would be the most overqualified lefty specialist in history based on his career accomplishments. The Yankees are trying to get him back on track so he can pitch full innings in close games, not match up in the middle innings.

I suppose the Yankees could always make a rare September trade for a lefty reliever — they did make a September trade for Brendan Ryan in 2013, after Derek Jeter got hurt — but I doubt that’ll happen. Besides, that player wouldn’t be eligible for the postseason roster anyway. He could help in September but not October. The Yankees do not have a reliable left-on-left reliever right now — even Chapman has had some issues with lefties lately — and, truth be told, they really don’t need one, because:

(vs. LHB) AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA K% BB% GB% HR/9
Dellin Betances .116/.269/.151 .216 46.2% 11.5% 55.3% 0.00
Chad Green .143/.200/.286 .211 50.7% 6.7% 18.8% 0.87
David Robertson .171/.240/.284 .228 37.5% 8.3% 52.9% 1.09
Adam Warren .211/.268/.293 .237 24.4% 7.3% 45.5% 0.47

Aside from Tommy Kahnle, who hasn’t had much success against lefties this year (.318 wOBA), the Yankees top right-handed relievers are all very effective against lefties. Betances and Robertson have been better against lefties than righties this year, at least in terms of wOBA, and both Green and Warren have been great against opposite hand batters too. I know Green’s shockingly low 18.8% ground ball rate against lefties is a little scary, but I’ll live with it when it comes with a 50.7% strikeout rate. He doesn’t get squared up often anyway.

The Yankees aren’t desperate for a left-on-left matchup reliever right now because they have four righties who can get out lefties. And here’s the important part: Girardi seems to understand that. Girardi leaves all those guys in to throw full innings, often more in the cases of Green and Warren. He doesn’t get cute trying to match up with a lefty. He didn’t do it when they had Layne and he’s not doing it now. That’s good. Stick with your best arms rather than try to force something for the sake of handedness.

Looking ahead to the postseason — the Yankees have to get there first, of course — potential opponents do have some quality left-handed hitters. The Indians have Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley, at least when they’re healthy. The Astros have Brian McCann. The Red Sox have Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mitch Moreland. The Twins have Joe Mauer, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario. The Orioles have Chris Davis and Seth Smith. The Angels have Kole Calhoun. So on and so forth.

Potential postseason opponents have strong lefties in their lineup, so it would’ve been nice to add a quality left-handed specialist at some point. It’s a little too late though, and besides, in the late innings of a close game, who do you want facing Brantley or Benintendi or Davis, some lefty specialist or Robertson or Betances or Green? Exactly. Give me the high-end righties over the matchup lefties. That’s what we’re going to see down the stretch and that’s why I don’t think the lack of a reliable lefty specialist is that big a deal.

Now, here’s the x-factor: Jaime Garcia. Even though he had his last start skipped, he’s going to end up starting against at some point during the regular season. It’s hard to see how he fits into a potential postseason rotation barring injury though. He has that killer breaking ball to neutralize lefties and could be a potential left-on-left matchup option. The numbers:

  • Righties against Garcia (2017): .263/.347/.441 (.335 wOBA) with 16.0 K% and 11.3 BB%
  • Lefties against Garcia (2017): .242/.277/.379 (.282 wOBA) with 26.3 K% and 3.9 BB%

Jordan Montgomery‘s numbers against lefties aren’t so great (.319 wOBA), plus he’s never pitched out of the bullpen before, which is why I don’t think he’s much of a lefty reliever candidate. Garcia has some bullpen experience — he relieved a bunch as a rookie and made two bullpen appearances last season — and besides, unlike Montgomery, the Yankees presumably aren’t worried about his long-term development. Garcia very well might be the team’s best option for a left-on-left matchup reliever in the postseason, should they decide they absolutely need one.

At this point in time, the Yankees do not have an obvious lefty specialist in their bullpen, and it’s really no big deal considering how effective their top righties are against lefties. A lefty specialist is one of those things teams would like to have but don’t absolutely need. Neither the Cubs nor the Indians had a lefty specialist last year. They just had really good relievers. That’s where the Yankees are. Who needs a lefty specialist when Robertson, Betances, Green, or Warren (or Chapman) could be getting those outs instead?

Putting Miguel Andujar’s breakout season into context

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The minor league regular season wrapped up Monday and boy, it was a successful season for the Yankees’ affiliates. The eight domestic affiliates went a combined 489-325 (.601), and seven of the eight qualified for the postseason. Two tied their franchise record in wins. It was a great season in the minor league standings and a great season for many individual prospects too.

One of those prospects, 22-year-old third baseman Miguel Andujar, had a breakout season in which he hit .315/.352/.498 (132 wRC+) with system leading 36 doubles and a career high 16 home runs in 125 games split almost evenly between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He struck out 71 times in 522 plate appearances, or 13.6% against the best pitching he’s ever faced. Heck, Andujar even went 3-for-4 with a double in his one-game MLB cameo in June.

Andujar is not new to the organization. The Yankees signed him as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic for $750,000 back in July 2011, and he’s gradually worked his way up the minor league ladder since. For the first few seasons of his career Andujar would have a slow first half and a great second half. The last two years he’s been able to put together strong seasons from start to finish, and he’s continued to get better:

  • 2015: .243/.288/.363 (98 wRC+) at High-A
  • 2016: .273/.332/.410 (111 wRC+) at High-A and Double-A
  • 2017: .315/.352/.498 (132 wRC+) at Double-A and Triple-A

Andujar’s breakout season landed him in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list recently — he slid in at No. 100 once Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers graduated to the big leagues — and I’m hopeful he’ll pop up on a few more top 100 lists next spring. I’ve been an Andujar fan for a while now. I figured he’d be one of those “how was this guy never on a top 100 list?” players, except now he’s on a top 100 list.

Anyway, I like Andujar because he has power and because he doesn’t swing and miss often. He doesn’t walk much either (5.6% this year), so he is a free swinger, but he gets the bat on the ball consistently and makes it work. It’s a low walk/low strikeout profile rather than the always scary low walk/high strikeout profile. Martin Prado and Pablo Sandoval are good examples of low walk/low strikeout players, at least when they were in their primes.

To help put Andujar’s skill set — lots of contact and above-average power — into context, I decided to plot 2017 minor league K% and ISO rates. I set the minimum at 400 plate appearances to exclude the short season leagues, weeded out the stat-skewing Mexican League players, and wound up with 707 players. Their strikeout and isolated power rates:

2017-milb-k-vs-iso

There aren’t many dots around Andujar at all. The combination of contact and power is unusual. In fact, only two minors leaguers had a lower strikeout rate and a higher ISO than Andujar this year. One was Rangers prospect Willie Calhoun. He went from the Dodgers to the Rangers in the Yu Darvish trade and posted an 11.4% strikeout rate and a .272 ISO while spending the entire season in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.

The other prospect? Yankees first baseman Mike Ford. Ford had a 13.5% strikeout rate and a .201 ISO. Maybe we should talk about Mike Ford more? Then again, he’s three years older than Andujar and played most of the season in Double-A, and like Calhoun, he’s a bat-only guy. Ford and Calhoun are essentially positionless. Andujar has a rocket arm and the tools to be a good defensive third baseman, even if the Yankees don’t consider him one yet.

(A third prospect, Dodgers outfielder Matt Beaty, put up a .179 ISO with an 11.2% strikeout rate this year, so he came close to the Andujar benchmark. Beaty is also two years older and spent the entire season in Double-A, so yeah.)

Going back through previous years, the number of prospects who did what Andujar did this year (13.6 K% and .182 ISO) at the same age (22) and at the same levels (Double-A and above) is quite small. The previous five seasons:

  • 2016: Willie Calhoun (11.6 K% and .215 ISO at Double-A)
  • 2015: Max Kepler (13.1 K% and .209 ISO at Double-A)
  • 2014: Mookie Betts (10.8 K% and .183 ISO at Double-A and Triple-A) and Giovanny Urshela (12.7 K% and .210 ISO at Double-A and Triple-A)
  • 2013: Maikel Franco (10.6 K% and .224 ISO at Double-A)
  • 2012: Oscar Taveras (10.5 K% and .252 ISO at Double-A)

That is quite a list of names. Kepler, Betts, and Franco are all big leaguers who have, at one time or another, looked like absolute stars. Taveras was baseball’s top prospect and next superstar when he was tragically killed in a car accident. Calhoun has not yet played in the big leagues but should soon — I’m guessing he’ll get a September call-up any day now — and Urshela basically stopped hitting after that big 2014 season. He’s the cautionary tale.

This isn’t to say Andujar is the next Mookie Betts or the next Giovanny Urshela or the next anyone. He’s not. He’s the next Miguel Andujar. It’s just meant to show how difficult it is to do what Andujar did this year, to hit for that much power while making that much contact at that age at those levels. One or two guys a year do it, and the guys who have done this sorta thing before were all considered among the game’s best up-and-comers at one point.

Andujar is, of course, a flawed prospect. Most are. He is still an impatient hitter, and when you swing so freely, you’re inevitably going to chase out of the zone and hit into some weak outs. Andujar also has to improve his defense. It’s more about breaking bad habits than refining skills or even a lack of skills. And there’s time to do that. Andujar is only 22 and he has two minor league option years, if necessary. His offense has really come together. Now he needs to do the same defensively.

At some point the Yankees will give Andujar a September call-up — “I think at some point he will be (up). As of right now, we have not made that decision to bring him up,” said Joe Girardi to Brendan Kuty earlier this week — and I don’t expect him to play a whole lot down the stretch. The Yankees are in the postseason race and they’re going to lean on their regulars. Where Andujar fits in the long-term is another question. For now, he’s raised his prospect stock quite a bit the last two years, and this year he showed a rare combination of power and contact.

The pros and cons of the upcoming six-man rotation

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

At the moment the Yankees have six viable big league starting pitchers for five rotation spots, which is pretty amazing considering the state of the rotation coming into the season. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia formed a solid yet fragile front three. The last two spots were very much up in the air. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery grabbed them and ran.

The Sonny Gray traded added another high-end arm and, if nothing else, the Jaime Garcia trade added depth. So, even after losing Pineda to Tommy John surgery, the Yankees are still six deep with starting pitchers in the season’s final month. And following tomorrow’s off-day, the Yankees plan to use all six starting pitchers. They’re going to a six-man rotation.

“You have a guy like (Severino) getting into an (innings total) he really hasn’t much passed. Sometimes it might help a Tanaka and it might help a CC so that is why we are doing it,” said Joe Girardi to George King and Pete Caldera last week. “… Some is the physical part of it, and we feel they might perform at a higher level on a sixth day.”

The Yankees will play 13 games in 13 days following tomorrow’s off-day, so they’ll be able to go two full turns through the six-man rotation. It’s September and rosters have expanded, so carrying six starting pitchers is no problem. Rolling with six starters and either a six-man bullpen (nope) or a three-man bench (yep) from April through August is where it gets tricky. That’s not the case now.

The six-man rotation comes with pros and cons like everything else. Or, really, it’s one big pro and one big con. The pro: giving pitchers rest late in the season. Severino’s and Montgomery’s workloads are an obvious concern — Severino (169.1 innings) and Montgomery (142.2 innings) have both already eclipsed their previous career high workloads — and something the Yankees need to monitor. They have to protect those young arms.

The four veteran guys could probably use the rest too. Tanaka just spent ten days on the disabled list with what was essentially a dead arm, plus there’s the whole partially torn elbow ligament thing. Sabathia had a knee flare-up recently. Gray has had some injury issues the last 18 months and Garcia’s injury history is as ugly as it gets. All four of those guys could benefit from a little extra rest now and then. Everyone could.

As for the downside of the six-man rotation, the Yankees would potentially be taking starts away from their best pitchers and giving them to their worst. The postseason races, both the AL East and wildcards, are awfully close. Taking even one start away from Tanaka or Severino and giving it to Montgomery or Garcia hurts the team’s postseason chances, at least in theory. (Montgomery or Severino could always come out and throw a gem, I suppose.)

Generally speaking, starters perform better with extra rest, which would maybe mitigate some of that “getting fewer starts from your best pitchers” thing. Here are the numbers quick:

  • MLB average on normal rest: 4.55 ERA (4.35 FIP)
  • MLB average with an extra day of rest: 4.38 ERA (4.32 FIP)

There is such a thing as too much rest — the MLB average with two or more extra days of rest is 4.51 ERA (4.48 FIP) — and that’s something Girardi acknowledged. “I don’t want guys having seven days (between starts),” he said. The numbers suggest an extra day of rest could improve performance, but those are league averages culled from thousands of innings and hundreds of pitchers. Anything could happen in one individual game, or a handful of individual games in this case.

For the Yankees, using a six-man rotation seems more about controlling Severino’s and Montgomery’s workloads, and giving the four veterans with injury histories a little breather late in the season. The Yankees could always call an audible depending on the postseason races. If things get too tight, they could scrap the six-man rotation and go with their five best. Here’s the possible rotation:

  • Wednesday, Sept. 6th at Orioles: Gray (on normal rest)
  • Thursday, Sept. 7th: off-day
  • Friday, Sept. 8th at Rangers: Tanaka (on one extra day of rest thanks to off-day)
  • Saturday, Sept. 9th at Rangers: Severino (on one extra day of rest thanks to off-day)
  • Sunday, Sept. 10th at Rangers: Garcia (on five extra days of rest)
  • Monday, Sept. 11th at Rays: Sabathia (on one extra day of rest thanks to off-day)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 12th at Rays: Gray (on one extra day of rest thanks to off-day)
  • Wednesday, Sept. 13th at Rays: Montgomery (on four extra days of rest)
  • Thursday, Sept. 14th to Sunday, Sept. 17th vs. Orioles: Tanaka, Severino, Garcia, Sabathia all with one extra day of rest
  • Monday, Sept. 18th to Wednesday, Sept. 20th vs. Twins: Gray, Montgomery, Tanaka all with one extra day of rest
  • Thursday, Sept. 21st: off-day

The Yankees have, essentially, skipped one Garcia start already when Montgomery got the ball Monday. That doesn’t mean he’ll sit around for nine days and do nothing between starts. He’s a veteran guy and knows what he needs to do to stay sharp. I’m sure he’ll throw extended bullpens and all that between starts.

Clearly, the Yankees are more concerned about Montgomery’s workload than the raw innings totals would lead you to believe. Only once in his last eight outings has he thrown more than 85 pitches. That was 92 pitches against the Indians last week. Five times in those eight outings he threw fewer than 80 pitches. The Yankees are trying to keep his workload down and that’s why I think they’ll essentially skip his next start.

A rainout tonight would throw a wrench into things, though the rotation outline above allows for some flexibility. That Twins series could end up being awfully important. If the wildcard race is tight, the Yankees could easily skip Montgomery entirely that series, and go with Tanaka and Severino on regular rest instead. We’ll see. Every so often I sketch out these possible rotation plans and they’re never right. Injuries and playoff races have a way of changing things.

For now, we know Girardi said the Yankees will use a six-man rotation following tomorrow’s off-day, which makes sense given the workload and injury concerns that exist. Extra rest this late in the season is good. But, at the same time, getting fewer starts from your top pitchers in the middle of a postseason race is not ideal. The Yankees very well might have to change their rotation plans if the race gets tighter in the coming days.

Yankees fall 7-6 to the O’s on a walk-off home run by Machado

So close, yet so far. The Yankees took a 6-1 lead early that was reduced to a 6-5 lead late. They managed to hold it until the bottom of the ninth with two outs, but Dellin Betances allowed a two-run walk-off home run to Manny Machado to lose it. Brutal game. Would have been a good opportunity to gain ground in AL East and AL Wild Card standings. Let’s recap this game and never talk about it again.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Not great CC

CC Sabathia got into a little pickle in the first. After getting the first two outs, he issued a free pass to Jonathan Schoop and an infield single to Adam Jones (it was a dribbler that went down along the third base line and never crossed to the foul territory). A wild pitch made it runners on second and third with Trey Mancini up. Mancini hit a soft grounder just out of CC’s reach and Didi Gregorius could not come up with a clean scoop. 1-0 Orioles. Just an unlucky inning for Sabathia.

Fast forward to bottom of the third, with the Yankees having taken a 6-1 lead, the Orioles got one right back. Leading off the inning, a very good baseball player Manny Machado got a low offering from CC and drove it into the home bullpen for a solo HR. The O’s added another homer in the fifth with a Schoop bomb. He sat on the first pitch that Sabathia threw and did not miss any of it. The game got dicier when Mark Trumbo hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning to make it 6-5. It was the first time all season that Sabathia allowed three home runs in a game. Basically, CC got unlucky in the first inning and made mistakes to three big power hitters of the Orioles. Not a highlight reel night.

Piling it on

After going quiet in the first two innings, the Yankees struck in the bottom of the third. Austin Romine singled to lead off the inning. After a Brett Gardner line out, Aaron Judge walked and Starlin Castro got hit in the forearm to load the bases. Gregorius squared up on a hanging breaking ball into the right field for a two-RBI single. After Matt Holliday walked to load the bases, Buck Showalter pulled the plug on Jeremy Hellickson and brought in the former Yankee Richard Bleier.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Against Bleier, Greg Bird hit a fly ball to center that looked like a sure sac fly… but Jones dropped it. It seemed like he was surely going to get it but he may have rushed it to try to start the throw quickly. As a result, all baserunners moved up and Yankees took a 3-1 lead. Todd Frazier followed it up with a RBI fielder’s choice ground out for a 4-1 score. Jacoby Ellsbury continued on the piling by hitting a hard single just past Tim Beckham’s reach. Both runners on scoring position scored to make it 6-1 Yankees (three earned and three unearned runs). What an odd inning but I’ll take it. It would also be the only inning that the Yankees scored all game.

Hold onto your butts

Because Sabathia only went 5.1 IP with a one-run lead, the Yankees had to utilize their bullpen to hold it against the red-hot Orioles lineup (remember, they have been on a roll prior to this series). Tommy Kahnle took care of the last two outs of the sixth inning.

Meanwhile, Yankees had a chance to score in the top of the eighth. Ellsbury led off with a single. A hitter later, Gardner hit a dribbler that ended up becoming an infield single. With one out and runners on first and second, Judge stepped in and… struck out. Castro followed it up with a pop out to strand two. That missed opportunity would loom large later on.

The Yankees turned to Aroldis Chapman for the eighth inning. The narrative for him this season is that, well, he’s been on the struggle train. However, he turned in a nice 1-2-3 inning tonight, taking care of Trumbo and Mancini with ground outs and Chris Davis with a looking strike out. Just like the last time out, his fastball life seemed to be noticeably back. Again, having a good Chapman in the September stretch (and beyond) would be very critical.

After being shut down 1-2-3 by Zach Britton in the top of the ninth, Yankees put in Betances to close it out. Wellington Castillo gave it a ride but he hit it to the deepest part of the ballpark and Ellsbury hauled it in for an out. Pedro Alvarez, pinch-hitting for the first ML at-bat of the season, predictably struck out. Two outs, one more to go. Betances walked Beckham on five pitches and had to face the dangerous Manny Machado to finish it out. However, on the second offering, Betances hung a 84-mph curveball and Machado simply hammered it out of there (431 feet – he got a lot of it). Oof. One great talent eclipsed the other. 7-6 Orioles. Game over.

Box score, video highlights, updated standings and WPA

Here’s tonight’s box score and updated standings from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will look to take the series tomorrow with Sonny Gray on the mound, assuming the weather cooperates. The Orioles will have Kevin Gausman. Will New York finally win a series at the Camden Yards? Stay tuned.