DotF: Sheffield dominant in Arizona Fall League opener

Now that the various fall and winter leagues have started their seasons, it’s time for a minor league update. I usually only do these once a week during the offseason. Before we get to the game action, here are some stray notes and links.

  • If you’re still holding out hope the Yankees will find a way to keep Gary Denbo, stop. The Marlins officially announced his hiring this past Tuesday. Here’s the press release. The Yankees have not yet announced who will replace Denbo as their player development department head. It might not happen until after the postseason.
  • Matt Eddy ranked the 30 teams by farm system production, and the Yankees led the way with +13.2 WAR from their prospect class in 2017. The Rockies were a distant second with +7.4 WAR. OF Aaron Judge is the headliner, obviously, but both LHP Jordan Montgomery and RHP Chad Green had close to +3 WAR seasons too.
  • Baseball America (subs. req’d) posted their 2017 draft report card for the Yankees recently. Most notably, the write-up says OF Steven Sensley has 70 power. Huh. Didn’t expect that. Sensley hit .292/.370/.584 (157 wRC+) with 13 homers in 50 games after being this year’s 12th round pick.
  • The Yankees have re-signed C Francisco Diaz, according to Eddy. Diaz, 27, hit .261/.315/.322 (79 wRC+) in 58 games at three levels as an organizational depth catcher this year. This is at least the second time he’s re-signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent.

AzFL Scottsdale (7-4 win over Mesa) Tuesday’s game

  • SS Thairo Estrada: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K — the Summer of Thairo is now the Autumn of Thairo (the Fall of Thairo sounds bad)
  • DH Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K
  • RF Estevan Florial: 1-4, 2 K — threw a runner out at the plate
  • LHP Justus Sheffield: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 40 of 62 pitches were strikes (65%) … Keith Law and Eric Longenhagen had Sheffield sitting 94-96 mph … Law said this game was the best he’s ever seen Sheffield, and a scout told Josh Norris: “That was No. 1 starter stuff right there” … in a post (subs. req’d), Law said Sheffield was “absolutely filthy in his AFL debut, sitting 94-96 with a plus slider at 86-87 and above-average changeup at 86-89, better at the 86-87 part of that range”
  • RHP Cody Carroll: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 16 of 31 pitches were strikes (52%)

[Read more…]

The Ghost of DH Future

The DH situation in picture form. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
The DH situation in picture form. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

The Yankees’ designated hitters in the playoffs have been way more ‘designated’ than they have been ‘hitters.’ It seems that no matter what name or number Joe Girardi calls for that spot in the order, it comes up empty. Chase Headley gave it a good try yesterday, robbed of a homer by Josh Reddick, and that–aside from one measly catcher’s interference by Jacoby Ellsbury (of course)–has pretty much been the extent of the offensive production by Yankee DHs against Minnesota, Cleveland, and Houston. Short of someone being injured and another player–Tyler Austin? Clint Frazier?–being added to the roster, there really isn’t much the team can do about the current DH situation aside from hope that someone runs into a pitch or two and gets out of this funk. The future of DH, though, is up in the air.

Two weeks ago, I wrote that Todd Frazier–current third baseman–makes the most sense at DH next year–though, really, this would Headley to DH as it seems the Yankees prefer Frazier defensively. This idea stems mostly from the fact that it’s unlikely the team will go with a full time DH as there aren’t many good full-time options and the team could have extra Greg Bird insurance. Frazier and the Yankees seem to like each other, but he’s going to be a free agent and will have that leverage in his back pocket. So do the Yankees, though, as it seems like Bird is back and healthy and Headley did have a decent season and is a good defender at third, also on a one year deal. Would Frazier settle for a one year deal? Probably not. With Miguel Andujar just about ready to be a Major League player and Gleyber Torres (hopefully) knocking on the door behind him, it may not be wise to stock this team with too many third base types. Granted, Headley or Frazier on a one year deal could be jettisoned, but that’s not necessarily what you want. The outfield situation may also complicate things.

As they do now, the Yankees will have four outfielders for three spots in 2018. Of course, they could flip one in a trade to free up room, but I’m still not sure there are viable markets for Brett Gardner and/or Jacoby Ellsbury. Aaron Judge isn’t going anywhere and Aaron Hicks earned a starting spot for next year with his play this year. Gardner is, fankly, better than Ellsbury. If the team is willing to let Ellsbury be a high-priced fourth outfielder, then they could get another player to DH, rather than rotating the outfielders in and out when they need a day.

The more I think about it, the more it might make sense to let Todd Frazier walk. He’s a great guy and I’ve enjoyed rooting for him in every way possible. But in terms of money and roster space, it might be best to let him go, shift Chase Headley back to third base, and roll with a rotating DH.

Yankees 1, Astros 2: Correa’s walk off and Verlander’s gem sink the Yankees in Game Two

Um, yeah. Holy hell. What was that ending? Well, before that, the Yankee bats got completely owned by Justin Verlander for the entirety of nine innings. They did manage back-to-back doubles in the fourth to score a run but that was about it. After Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson put in a strong relief effort, the game unraveled in the ninth thanks to Jose Altuve’s extra-hustle and, uh, what Gary Sanchez did. Let’s not put the blame solely on Sanchez though. The lineup has not been… good. Not at all. Let’s recap this thing.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Starting pitching duel part deux

It’s Severino vs. Verlander. I don’t know of any more possible matchups that could be as exciting. Two of the best fireballers in the baseball going at each other in a high-stakes playoff game. Inject it into my veins. And, of course the first few innings lived up to that hype. Both teams were scoreless for the first three innings. Luis Severino did not record any strikeouts but outs are outs. You can’t be too picky about them in the postseason.

In the third inning, the Yankees bats came close to getting the big hits but were befallen. With one out, Chase Headley got a fastball down low and middle and drove it towards the right field fence. Normally, maybe 8 out of 10 times, that’s a home run or a double. However, Josh Reddick had it played beautifully and robbed Headley of a big hit with a jump catch. A batter later, Brett Gardner pulled a line drive down the right field line. He got to second easily and it seemed like he had a legitimate chance to reach third. However, the Astros turned a great relay from outfield to infield to make it very close at the third base. Third base umpire initially called it safe. But… was it?

bandicam-2017-10-15-06-01-56-211

Nope. Again with the game of inches! Upon replay, the umpires determined that Alex Bregman just got Gardner. That was the third out and ended the frustrating half inning for the Yankee bats.

In the bottom of the fourth, just like yesterday, the Astros struck first. With one out, Carlos Correa hit a 99 mph fastball up and away from the zone over the right field fence. Look at the location here. The fact that he hit it squarely enough for a home run is nuts:

bandicam-2017-10-15-06-23-55-917

Or… did it actually go out? The ball bounced out of a kid’s glove right above the wall and the umpires decided to see if it’s a Jeffrey Maier situation. However, the ball was clearly going over the fence before it hit the kid’s glove. The umpires ruled it a home run and Astros took a 1-0 lead. I thought that Aaron Judge might have had a chance to make a leaping catch to rob it but he did not get back there in time – probably because that liner was scorched.

The Yankees got one back (a run!) the next inning. With two outs, Aaron Hicks squared up a 97 mph fastball up in the zone for a double. Todd Frazier followed it up with a deep flyball to left-center. In a normal ballpark, that very well could have been a home run, but instead, it got stuck in the fencing under the seats. I don’t know if that has ever happened before. The ball got stuck in there so neatly that you’d think that someone placed it by hand. The umpires ruled it a ground-rule double and that brought Hicks home for a 1-1 tie game.

Going into the bottom of the fifth, Yankees put in Tommy Kahnle to relieve Severino. Wait what? Sevy had thrown only 62 pitches but he was hit by Yulieski Gurriel’s comebacker in the fourth. If there’s any bright spot, he was hit on the non-throwing arm wrist. Also, prior to that, Girardi visited the mound after a pitch sailed way outside. Fortunately, Severino was only removed as a precaution. They would rather have him be 100% for the next start (if there is one). Also, because of the array of arms that they have in the ‘pen, it makes it easier to chew up innings while keeping the game close.

Kahnle took care of the fifth and sixth and Robertson got the seventh and eighth – and they were masterful. Both of them combined for a 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB and 3 K performance to keep the game tied. Now, if only the bats could take advantage of the pitchers balling out.

However, besides that one run that they scored, the offense got manhandled by Justin Verlander. His fastball was classic Verlander, his slider and curve kept the hitters off balance all throughout the game, etc. In nine innings that he pitched today, he allowed only 5 hits, 1 earned run and struck out 13. While it’s remarkable that the Yankee pitchers were able to hold the powerful ‘Stros lineup to one run in the first eight innings of the game, it is very frustrating that the bat has scored only two in the first 17 innings of the series. That is not a good strategy – and they paid for it.

The bitter end

Because the Astros’ best hitters were coming up, Joe Girardi decided to put in Aroldis Chapman, who has, as you may have noticed, very good for about a month and half.

Chappy struck out Reddick rather swiftly. Against Altuve, aka the human hitting machine, he allowed a single on the first pitch 100 mph fastball because it’s Jose Freakin’ Altuve. There’s not a lot of things that you can do when the hitter is 15-for-27 in the postseason. Up came Correa, who had driven in the lone Astros run of the game. Correa hit a liner to right-center that Judge cut off and tried to take a chance to getting Reddick out at second. Meanwhile, Altuve was sprinting past third and going home. Didi Gregorius‘s throw to Sanchez looked like Altuve was going to be out by a mile. Take a look:

bandicam-2017-10-15-08-11-43-421

However, Sanchez could not handle the ball in time and as he tried to pick it up, Altuve slid past him to score the walk-off. I really thought he was dead meat when the throw came in but man, that was some brutal defense from Sanchez. I still believe his long-term future is at catching but that was not a good display.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Leftovers

It is really hard to win when your 2, 3, 4, 5 hitters in the lineup (Judge, Gregorius, Sanchez and Bird) combine for a 1-for-15 effort with 5 strikeouts. We all talk about how bad Judge has looked this postseason (rightfully so) but Sanchez also looks lost against the Astros pitching. Today, he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and, of course, was involved in the game-ending play. Gotta think that it was the worst game of his career.

Here are the box score and video highlights. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs


Up Next

The Yankees are heading back to Bronx to host at least the Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS. The streak stopper CC Sabathia will be on the mound, trying to rescue the Yankees’ season, against Charlie Morton.

Update: Severino exits ALCS Game Two with shoulder injury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

7:25pm ET: Following Game Two, Joe Girardi said Severino checked out fine. They were worried more about his shoulder than his hand following the comebacker. Severino didn’t want to come out of the game, but the Yankees pulled him anyway. “I feel great. I feel 100%,” he said after the game. He’s going for precautionary tests anyway.

5:53pm ET: Luis Severino left Game Two of the ALCS this afternoon with a possible injury. The trainer came out to talk to him in the fourth inning after he windmilled his arm and grabbed for the rosin bag, then, later in the inning, Severino was hit in the left wrist area by a hard comeback chopper. So who knows what exactly is wrong with him.

Throughout the start, Severino’s stuff look fine and there was no drop-off in velocity after the trainer came out to talk to him. I’m pretty sure it’s the wrist, though. I hope it is, anyway. The comebacker got him good and Severino grimaced. He was pretty clearly in pain. Severino threw 62 pitches in four innings before exiting the game.

If the injury is anything serious, a) aw crap, and b) the Yankees can replace Severino on the ALCS roster. If they do that though, he will not be eligible for the World Series roster should the Yankees advance. The Yankees have not yet announced an update on Severino, so stay tuned.

2017 ALCS Game Two: Yankees at Astros

2017-alcs-logoOnce again, the Yankees are down 0-1 in a postseason series. They’ve lost Game One in each of their last three postseason series, you know. They were swept by the Tigers in the 2012 ALCS, but did come back to win the ALDS against the Indians this year. Dating back to the 1996 World Series, the Yankees have lost Game One of a postseason series 14 times. They’re 10-4 in those series.

That’s not to make light of last night’s loss, of course. Losing Game One stinks. Historically, the team that wins Game One of a best-of-seven has gone on to win the series 64.1% of the time. It’s just a reminder that hey, losses happen, and dropping Game One of the series doesn’t mean it’s over. The Yankees were thoroughly dominated by Dallas Keuchel and the Astros still needed 37 pitches from their closer to nail down the 2-1 win.

This afternoon the Yankees will have Luis Severino, their best starting pitcher, on the mound to try to even up the series. The Astros blasted Severino when they faced him back in May. They also blasted Masahiro Tanaka literally the same day as part of a doubleheader, but that didn’t mean much last night. The bullpen is rested and ready to go. The Yankees may only need five from Severino. Hopefully he gives them more. Here are the starting lineups:

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

Houston Astros
1. CF George Springer
2. RF Josh Reddick
3. 2B Jose Altuve
4. SS Carlos Correa
5. LF Marwin Gonzalez
6. 1B Yulieski Gurriel
7. DH Carlos Beltran
8. 3B Alex Bregman
9. C Brian McCann
RHP Justin Verlander

It is another hot and sunny day in Houston. The Minute Maid Park roof will be closed again. Game Two will begin at 4pm ET and FOX will have the broadcast. That’s regular old FOX. Not FOX Sports 1. Enjoy.

Scouting Game Two of the ALCS: Justin Verlander

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Last night, in Game One of the ALCS, the Yankees were unable to solve Dallas Keuchel en route to 2-1 loss. The good news: the Yankees were overwhelmed by Keuchel and still made it a very close game. The bad news: the Yankees lost and are now down 0-1 in the ALCS. I know they came back from down 0-2 against the Indians, but they don’t want to make a habit of having to come back in series.

On the mound for the Astros in Game Two this afternoon will be former Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who came over in an August 31st trade, literally minutes before the deadline to add players and have them be postseason eligible. Overall, Verlander had a 3.36 ERA (3.84 FIP) in 206 innings this season, including a 1.06 ERA (2.09 FIP) in five starts and 34 innings with Houston. His strikeout (25.8%), walk (8.5%), and grounder (33.5%) rates were typical Verlander. He’s always been a weak fly ball/pop-up guy. Not a ground ball pitcher.

Verlander is starting Game Two of the ALCS rather than Game One because he came out of the bullpen in Game Four of the ALDS on Monday. It was his first career relief appearance. He never pitched out of the bullpen in college or the minors. Verlander threw 40 pitches in 2.2 innings in that relief appearance, and will be on regular rest this afternoon. Let’s take a look at the former Cy Young winner, shall we?

History Against The Yankees

Verlander has been around a while and he has a history with most of the Yankees, though, weirdly, he did not face them at all this season. The Yankees missed him during both regular season series against the Tigers, and by time he was traded to Houston, the Yankees were already done playing the Astros.

The Yankees faced Verlander in the 2006 ALDS, the 2011 ALDS, and the 2012 ALCS. He allowed nine runs in 22.2 total innings those series. And of course that means nothing now, because he’s facing the 2017 Yankees, not the 2006 or 2011 or 2012 Yankees. Here is what New York’s hitters have done against Verlander the last three seasons:

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Todd Frazier 14 14 4 0 0 2 2 0 5 .286 .286 .714 1.000
Brett Gardner 7 7 4 0 0 1 2 0 1 .571 .571 1.000 1.571
Didi Gregorius 6 5 2 1 0 1 1 1 1 .400 .500 1.200 1.700
Chase Headley 6 6 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000
Starlin Castro 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Jacoby Ellsbury 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333
Aaron Hicks 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 42 40 12 1 1 4 5 2 9 .300 .333 .675 1.008

Huh. Well how about that. Verlander has only faced seven Yankees currently on the ALCS roster within the last three years. He’s never faced Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez. The head-to-head numbers in the table are pretty top heavy — all of the success is tied up in four players — but that’s fine. If nothing else, maybe the recent history makes the Yankees feel more confident going into Game Two tonight.

In his Game One start against the Red Sox, Verlander allowed two runs on six hits and two walks in six innings, striking out three. A good performance but not a dominant performance. He did allow a two-run home run in his 2.2 innings relief appearance in Game Four. Weirdly, he walked two and did not strike out a batter in that game.

Current Stuff

A few years ago it looked like Verlander was losing it. His fastball was trending down and after years of throwing 220+ innings a season, it was understandable. It happens to everyone. Then Verlander’s stuff bounced back — his velocity isn’t all the way back, but it is close — and he went back to being a bonafide ace. Go figure.

Here is Verlander’s average velocity over the years, via Brooks Baseball. It’s not often you see a pitcher over 30 lose velocity, then regain it all of a sudden. At least not without there being an injury involved.

justin-verlander-velocityThese days Verlander’s fastball will sit in the 94-97 mph range and touch 99 mph. His days of hitting 100 mph each and every time out are pretty much over, though 99 mph is still plenty good. And besides, with postseason adrenaline, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 100 mph at some point today. Verlander’s secondary stuff is as good as ever. He still has that great overhand curveball, as well as a quality slider and changeup. Even at age 34, Verlander still brings some of the best raw stuff in baseball to the mound.

Here, via Brooks Baseball, is Verlander’s pitch selection against righties and lefties:

justin-verlander-pitch-selection

When you throw in the mid-to-upper-90s for 100+ pitches a game, why not lean on your fastball? Verlander sure does. Also, the fact Verlander has two quality breaking balls makes it awfully tough to zero in at the plate. You can’t go up there and sit fastball-slider as a righty or fastball-changeup as a lefty. The curveball is an equalizer. He can and will use it at pretty much any time.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve seen Verlander before, so perhaps embedding a video is a waste of time. I’m going to do it anyway. Here is every pitch from Verlander’s Opening Day start against the White Sox. He allowed two runs in 6.2 innings.

It seems counterintuitive, because you want to get his pitch count up as quickly as possible, but being aggressive and swinging early in the count is a good strategy against Verlander. He throws a ton of fastballs early in the count, and you don’t want to fall behind and have to deal with that nasty breaking stuff. Plus you know Verlander is going to end up throwing 100-something pitches and getting the ball into the sixth inning away. If he throws a fastball over the plate on the first or second pitch, swing away. You might not get anything to hit otherwise.

Platoon Splits

For the first time in a very long time, Verlander had a platoon split this season. From 2011-16, a stretch of nearly 1,300 innings, Verlander had a reverse split. He was better against lefties than righties. This year, lefties had more success than righties. The numbers:

2011-16 vs. RHB: .246/.295/.387 (.299 wOBA) with 22.2 K%, 5.5 BB%, 39.6 GB%
2011-16 vs. LHB: .209/.273/.339 (.271 wOBA) with 25.0 K%, 7.7 BB%, 37.5 GB%

2017 vs. RHB: .221/.277/.337 (.267 wOBA) with 23.4 K%, 6.8 BB%, 35.2 GB%
2017 vs. LHB: .219/.304/.408 (.304 wOBA) with 28.4 K%, 10.4 BB%, 31.3 GB%

Fundamentally, Verlander is the same pitcher this year as the last few years. Yeah, he’s lost a little velocity and maybe some movement as well due to normal age-related decline, but there is no glaring reason that would explain the sudden platoon split. It’s not like his changeup suddenly went from great to terrible. I suspect this is a one-year blip and sample size noise more than an actual change to Verlander’s skills.

Can The Yankees Run On Him?

Yes indeed. Not only do the Astros have terrible throwing catchers, but runners also went 9-for-10 stealing bases against Verlander during the regular season. All while he was with the Tigers, weirdly. No one tried to steal against him following the trade to Houston. Verlander has a history of allowing stolen bases because he’s a big guy with a slower than usual delivery to the plate, even from the stretch. The Yankees can and should run against him.

* * *

This is not the Cy Young and MVP winning Justin Verlander of old. He’s still very, very good though. Verlander, as always, will be a difficult assignment. He is not going to get serious Hall of Fame consideration by accident. If he gives you a fastball in the zone, you better hit it, because his secondary pitches are damn near untouchable.

Thoughts prior to Game Two of the 2017 ALCS

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Last night the Yankees opened the ALCS with a Game One loss (again) to Dallas Keuchel (again). Keuchel’s annoying, isn’t he? He’s the new Cliff Lee, who was the new Chuck Finley. The Yankees will look to even the series at a game apiece this afternoon. This group is pretty resilient. They’ve bounced back from tough losses all year. That didn’t even feel like a tough loss last night anyway, did it? Not to me. Whatever. Here are some thoughts.

1. Joe Girardi learned from the non-challenge fiasco in Game Two of the ALDS! Following the game last night, Girardi said the Yankees thought Greg Bird was out on the play at the plate, but he decided to challenge it anyway. His exact quote: “Well, we thought he was out. But God knows I’m not doing that again.” By “that again” he means not challenging a big play. Just because replay guy Brett Weber may not see enough evidence to overturn something doesn’t mean the replay crew in New York will see it the same way. To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, 100% of the calls you don’t challenge don’t get overturned. Bird getting thrown out was a huge play in the game. To wit:

  • Bird is thrown out: 15.7% win probability for the Yankees
  • Bird is called safe: 32.1% win probability for the Yankees

Big swing! It’s not just that the run scores, remember. The run scores and the inning continues with two men on base for Gary Sanchez, who was seeing Keuchel for the third time. The challenge didn’t work, but I’m glad Girardi asked for the review. This is the kind of challenge I’ve been hoping to see more of over the years. It’s a bang-bang play that could go either way and have a big impact on the game. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. There’s no bonus points for unused challenges. Shoot your shot.

2. The Yankees pitched the Astros very well in Game One. Masahiro Tanaka did not have his Grade-A splitter, yet he still held Houston to four singles in six innings, three of which bounced before passing the pitcher’s mound. The ‘Stros have a great lineup and the Yankees held them to two runs on six singles and one walk in the game. Continue to do that and things will be just fine the rest of the series. As a team, the Yankees have a 3.09 ERA (3.23 FIP) in the postseason so far. Aside from Game Two of the ALDS, which was a disaster for multiple reasons, they’ve held the Indians and Astros to no more than six hits in their five meetings. That’ll work. The pitching has been phenomenal in the postseason so far, even with Luis Severino‘s dud in the Wild Card Game and Sonny Gray‘s dud in Game One of the ALDS. I feel like this is not being talked about enough. The pitching staff has been on point.

3. Good to see Chad Green get back into a game and look like regular season Chad Green last night. He gave up the grand slam to Francisco Lindor in Game Two of the ALDS and hadn’t been heard from since. It seemed like he earned a temporary demotion out of the Circle of Trust™. And, given how flat his stuff looked in that Game Two meltdown, it was fair to wonder whether he hit a wall after appearing in so many games and throwing so many high-leverage innings this year. Green had six days off between appearances and it seems to have served him well. He was throwing fire and missing bats last night. That’s huge. A back-to-normal Chad Green makes the Yankees that much more dangerous, especially since these two teams will play three games in three days next week. Girardi won’t be able to ride David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman as much those days, so someone else will have to pick up the slack. Green will be one of those someones.

The DH situation in picture form. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
The DH situation in picture form. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

4. Seriously, what in the world are the Yankees going to do at DH? Matt Holliday returned to the lineup last night and went 0-for-3 on seven pitches. Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-hit for him in a one-run game in the ninth inning, which I don’t understand at all. At least Holliday has a chance to run into a fastball and hit a game-tying home run. He did it against Craig Kimbrel right after the All-Star break. Remember that? Holliday also took a right-hander deep in the regular season finale. Holliday’s upside there is a game-tying homer. Ellsbury’s upside is … a catcher interference? Anyway, including last night, the DH spot is now an unfathomable 0-for-24 with three walks and nine strikeouts in the postseason. (And one catcher interference.) It’s not like these guys are hitting into bad luck. The at-bats aren’t all that competitive. There’s a decent chance the best DH candidates right now are Tyler Austin, Clint Frazier, and Miguel Andujar, but none of them are on the ALCS roster. Do the Yankees keep running Holliday and Ellsbury and Chase Headley out there and hope one of them finds it? What about Ronald Torreyes? Do you consider him at some point? Torreyes might be worth a try. Oh geez, I can’t believe I just said that. I know one thing for sure: the Yankees are going to have a very hard time advancing if this whole Designated Out-Maker thing continues. The Astros are too good.

5. A #thingtowatch in Game Two: Severino’s fastball against the Astros. They’re a great fastball hitting team. During the regular season they hit .281 (5th in MLB) with a .229 ISO (4th in MLB) against four-seam fastballs. They crush fastballs. (The league averages were a .269 AVG and a.155 ISO against four-seamers in 2017.) I get the sense Severino is going to rely on his slider quite a bit this afternoon. This isn’t the kind of team you can beat with the heater only. And with Robertson and Chapman ready to go (and Tommy Kahnle too), presumably for more than one inning each, the Yankees might only need Severino to go through the lineup twice. Hopefully he dominates and it’s not a problem. But just watch the Astros and how they handle Severino’s fastball. We might see more foul balls and comfortable swings against the pitch than usual because they’re such a good fastball hitting team.

6. Is it weird that I think (hope?) the Yankees will have more success against Justin Verlander in Game Two than they did against Keuchel in Game One because he’s more conventional? Don’t get me wrong, Verlander is still very good. But Keuchel is an outlier in today’s game. He’s a finesse pitcher who doesn’t crack 90 mph with his fastball all that often. Keuchel succeeds by pounding the bottom of the zone with pitches that cut, sink, fade, you name it. Verlander is a more conventional mid-90s fastball guy with a nasty breaking ball. The Yankees just finished a series with the Indians, who have a rotation full of Verlander types. That’s what they’re used to seeing. Not finesse pitchers like Keuchel. Hopefully the return to normalcy (so to speak) leads to more success for the offense today.