Monday Night Open Thread

This postseason has been incredible, hasn’t it? Last night’s game, a 1-0 win for the Dodgers, was thrilling. So many great games this year. Hopefully tonight’s game, Game Three of the ALCS between the Indians and Blue Jays (8pm ET on TBS), is another classic. The Indians lead the ALCS two games to none but now the series shifts to Rogers Centre in Toronto. Trevor Bauer and Marcus Stroman are tonight’s starters.

Here is tonight’s open thread. In addition to the ALCS game, there’s also Monday Night Football (Jets at Cardinals), plus the (hockey) Rangers are playing and there’s some preseason basketball on as well. You folks know how these things work by now, so have at it.

(Today is the anniversary of Game Two of the 2009 ALCS, hence the video choice.)

Andrew Miller has been brilliant this postseason, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees should regret the trade

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Later tonight, the easy to love Indians will look to take a commanding three games to none lead in the ALCS. They held the Blue Jays to one run total in Games One and Two over the weekend. A big reason why: Andrew Miller. He’s struck out ten and allowed just one hit in 3.2 innings. So far this postseason he’s fanned 17 in 7.2 scoreless innings. Total domination.

The most impressive thing about Miller’s postseason is not necessarily his strikeout total, I don’t think, though it’s obviously fantastic. It’s the workload. He’s recorded at least five outs in each of his four appearances, plus Indians skipper Terry Francona has used Miller against the middle of the other team’s lineup. He’s not just dominating. He’s dominating the other team’s best hitters.

With Miller being basically the perfect relief pitcher this postseason, it’s only natural to wonder whether the Yankees made a mistake by trading him at the deadline. After all, he was under contract for another two seasons, so while he wouldn’t be doing this for New York this October, there was always next year and the year after. The Yankees traded not only an elite player, but pretty much the ideal team player, for prospects. Prospects!

The other night on the postgame show Pete Rose called the Miller trade a huge mistake, and, well, he’s Pete Rose, the all-time hit king, so clearly everything he says it correct. I don’t see it that way though. Sure, ultimately the Miller trade could turn out to be a massive mistake, but we are a very long way from knowing that for sure. The best way to judge this trade right now is using the information we had at the time, which is:

1. The Yankees were long shots. The Yankees did make a spirited run in August and early-September, but on the day of the Miller trade, they had just lost three straight and were 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot with four teams ahead of them. There was no indication whatsoever the team would make a run to the postseason, and ultimately, they fell way short of a playoff spot. Miller wasn’t making up the five-game deficit by himself.

2. The bullpen market was nuts. One week prior to the Miller trade, the Yankees dealt Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for one great prospect (Gleyber Torres) and three other solid pieces. That’s a tremendous haul for a rental reliever, even one as good as Chapman. Two years ago the Red Sox got one good prospect for rental Miller. The Yankees traded Miller at a time when the demand for relievers was at an all-time high. It’s simple supply and demand. The demand was high and the Yankees had the only supply. They cashed in big time.

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

3. The return was widely praised. The Yankees received a top 25 prospect (Clint Frazier), a second top 100 prospect (Justus Sheffield), and two others (Ben Heller, J.P. Feyereisen) for Miller, and the consensus was they made a fantastic trade. Keith Law (subs. req’d) said the Yankees “have done extremely well.” One executive told Jayson Stark the team “did the right thing.” Buster Olney called it a “strong haul.” Try to find a negative reaction to the trade at the time it was made. I’ll wait. There wasn’t even the token “big mistake” quote from an anonymous scout.

4. The Yankees badly need young talent. The Yankees are old. They’re getting younger now, but generally speaking, they had a very veteran team this past season. The need for an infusion of young talent has been obvious for a while, and while guys like Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge were knocking on the door at midseason, the Yankees still needed more pieces. They weren’t a “one or two young players away from contention” team. The trade brought in the high-end talent the Yankees need to build the core of the next winning team.

In the short-term, the trade has done nothing for the Yankees other than boost their farm system ranking. Heller’s thrown a few innings in the big leagues, but nothing meaningful. For the Indians, this trade has had enormous impact in the short-term, which is what they expected. They traded for Miller because they want to win the World Series for the first time since 1948. This was an all-in move, the kind of all-in move small payroll teams rarely make.

This is a trade we won’t be able to evaluate for years from the Yankees’ perspective. And I might be a total dud when it’s all said and done. Who knows? Finding out is part of the fun. Miller’s immediate success — no one is surprised by this, right? he’s been awesome for a while now — doesn’t make the trade a mistake any more than immediate failure would have made the trade a steal. All the years of control involved make this a long-term evaluation.

“I want the teams that stepped up and made those trades to be rewarded for doing so. It would justify the action they took,” said Brian Cashman to John Harper. “I have absolutely no regrets about the deals we made — other than being in the position we were in. We did what we had to do, and hopefully everybody wins.”

The Erstwhile Catcher [2016 Season Review]


The Yankees are built around left-handed power and strong defense. That’s the plan, anyway. They want guys who can yank a ball into the short porch while adding value in the field. For the most part, no one fits that mold better than Brian McCann, the club’s starting catcher coming into 2016. He has that lefty pop and has long been a good defender.

After starting the season as the undisputed No. 1 catcher, McCann finished the 2016 season as the Yankees’ primary DH. And it wasn’t because he didn’t perform. The Yankees fell out of the race and focused on youth in the second half, which meant Gary Sanchez got priority at-bats behind the plate. McCann had his role reduced because, well, how else is Sanchez supposed to play?

The First Few Months as a Catcher

Prior to the trade deadline Carlos Beltran was the Yankees’ best hitter and Didi Gregorius was their best all-around player. McCann was probably their third best hitter and second best all around player. That’s as much an indictment of the rest of the lineup as it is praise for McCann.

In 324 plate appearances prior to the deadline, McCann hit .236/.336/.429 (107 wRC+) with 15 home runs. I know that doesn’t seem great, but keep in mind the league average catcher hit .242/.310/.391 (87 wRC+) in 2016. Catchers stink. They can’t hit, generally speaking. By catcher standards, McCann is still comfortably above-average at the plate.

McCann’s biggest hit of the season was also arguably the biggest hit of the season for the Yankees. On June 29th, he clubbed a game-tying three-run home run off Rangers closer Sam Dyson with one out in the ninth inning. The Yankees were down 7-3 to start the inning. They then went on to win 9-7 on Gregorius’ walk-off homer.

The Yankees had a really hard time scoring runs for the first four or so months of the season. The offense is the single biggest reason they missed the postseason. No doubt about it. McCann was not part of the problem. He performed as expected prior to the trade deadline. McCann had that 107 wRC+ in his first 324 plate appearances after having a 106 wRC+ last year. He held up his end of the bargain.

The Position Change

After trading Beltran and other veterans at the deadline, the Yankees turned things over to their young players, and that meant lots of playing time for Sanchez. The team wasn’t subtle about it either. Sanchez was called up on August 3rd, played two games at DH, then took over behind the plate. Starting August 5th, McCann started one of the next 16 games at catcher. He caught only eleven times in the final 54 games of 2016. That’s it.

Many veteran players would be upset about a young player taking their job at midseason, especially when playing well. Sanchez didn’t even take the job, really. The Yankees just gave it to him. It wasn’t until about a week after being installed as the starter that Sanchez’s home run barrage started. McCann had every reason and every right to be unhappy. If he was though, he never let it be known. He did nothing but praise Sanchez.

“He’s a stud. Know what I’m saying? This is the time where he’s going to play and he’s going to play a lot,” said McCann in early-August after it become clear Sanchez was the new No. 1 guy behind the plate. “I consider (Sanchez) one of the better — if not one of the best — young catchers I’ve seen since I’ve been in the big leagues.”

McCann’s numbers as a DH were actually better than his numbers as a catcher, though the shape of his production was different. He was a low batting average guy who hit for power as a catcher. As a DH, he hit for more average and less power, hence a .284/.373/.402 (114 wRC+) batting line. Only three of his 20 home runs came as the DH, but look at that batting average and on-base percentage!

In theory, McCann’s numbers should tick up as the DH because he’s free from the rigors of catching. At the same time, he had to make the adjustment to not playing as much. Sitting for 45 minutes or so between at-bats can be difficult when you’re used to playing defense. Especially for an ex-catcher who is used to being in on every pitch. McCann hit .174/.309/.261 (63 wRC+) in his first three weeks as the DH. It was .297/.356/.462 (121 wRC+) thereafter.

As well as McCann finished the season as the DH, we have to remember the bar has been raised. Catchers usually don’t hit. DHs only hit. As a catcher, McCann had a 103 wRC+ compared to the 87 wRC+ average. As a DH, McCann had a 114 wRC+ compared to the 115 wRC+ league average. He went from an above-average hitting catcher to an average hitting DH. That’s the downside of the move.

The Struggles Against Lefties

For the first time as a Yankee, McCann had a big platoon split this past season. He struggled against lefties while with the Braves, especially his final few years in Atlanta, but he figured them out a bit the last two years. This year … no luck. Here’s a quick graph of his left-right production:

Brian McCann splitsThe blue line, McCann’s wOBA against southpaws, made a nice jump from 2014-15. The 2016 season was much more in line with 2012-13, however. It’s entirely possible this is all sample size noise. McCann never batted more than 145 times against lefties in a single season from 2013-16, and that’s spread across 162 games. His batted ball profile didn’t change much either. The only big difference against lefties was a 19.2 HR/FB% from 2014-15 and a 12.0 HR/FB% in 2016.

McCann’s above-average production against southpaws during his first two years in pinstripes was a nice little surprise. He hadn’t hit lefties much in the years prior, then bam, he was suddenly doing real damage against them. That didn’t happen this year. Based on the rest of his career, 2014-15 are the outlier, not 2016. McCann figures to need a platoon partner going forward, and it just so happens the Yankees have a pretty good righty hitting catcher on their roster.

The Rebound on Defense

The Yankees moved McCann from catcher to DH to give Sanchez playing time. McCann didn’t force the move by playing poor defense. I actually thought his defense was better this year than last year, based on the eye test. Last season McCann let what seemed like a lot of blockable balls scoot by. That didn’t happen as much this past season. Here are some catcher defense numbers:

SB% Baseball Prospectus Framing StatCorner Framing FRAA
2013 24.2% +10.2 +9.9 +10.0
2014 37.2% +9.7 +11.4 +12.1
2015 35.9% -3.9 -2.5 -2.1
2016 23.0% +9.6 +5.7 +10.2

One of those years is not like the others. FRAA, which is Baseball Prospectus’ attempt at an all-encompassing catcher defense stat, has rated McCann’s glovework as excellent in three of the last four years. Last year was the outlier, which jibes with what I saw while watching the games. Players have down years in the field the same way they have down years at the plate. It’s entirely possible 2015 was a down defensive year for McCann and nothing more.

The caught stealing numbers are interesting and we might have an actual explanation for them: Gary Tuck. Tuck, a longtime catching guru, was New York’s bullpen coach from 2014-15 and McCann credited him with improving his throwing. “Gary Tuck. He’s changed the way I catch and throw,” said McCann two years ago. “We work on it every day together. I’m getting the ball out quick. No wasted movement … I’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on.”

The Yankees let Tuck go last offseason, reportedly because he was at odds with the front office over the way they use analytics, and replaced him with Mike Harkey. McCann worked with Tuck in 2014-15 and was awesome at throwing out runners. He did not have Tuck around prior to 2014 or in 2016 and his throwing suffered. Correlation does not equal causation, but when the player says “this coach fixed this,” you kinda have to believe him.

Overall, McCann had a fine season defensively. A bounceback season, really. His throwing wasn’t very good — the MLB average was a 28.3% caught stealing rate — but he was above-average at the other aspects of catching. The Yankees didn’t move McCann to DH because his defense was inadequate. They moved him because it’s time to build a new young core and Sanchez is the future behind the plate. It really is that simple.

Outlook for 2017


According to multiple reports, the Yankees listened to trade offers for McCann at the deadline, with the most serious interest coming from the Braves. Atlanta understandably did not want to take on much money or give up top prospects. The Yankees reportedly asked for Mike Foltynewicz and Ender Inciarte in return. No deal got done at the deadline but this definitely seems like something that will be revisited in the offseason.

McCann said he hopes to remain with the Yankees, for what it’s worth. And he does have complete control here. He has a full no-trade clause and if he wants to stay in New York, he will. Would he prefer to be a full-time catcher elsewhere or a part-time catcher and most-of-the-time DH with the Yankees? That’s a question we can’t answer and a question McCann probably can’t answer until he finds out where he might be going.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I think holding onto McCann next season would be a really good idea. Having two quality catchers* is a big plus, especially when they hit from opposite sides of the plate. At the same time, of course the Yankees should see what offers are out there. They’d be foolish not too. I just wouldn’t give McCann away though.

* Fun Fact: The 2016 Yankees were the third team in history with two catchers who each hit 20+ home runs. The 1961 Yankees (Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard) and 1965 Milwaukee Braves (Joe Torre and Gene Oliver) also did it. Nice work, Gary and Brian.

Brian Cashman made it clear he values McCann highly at his end-of-season press conference, so if the Yankees do trade their erstwhile catcher this offseason, they’ll probably going to get a nice return. Quality catchers are so hard to find these days, and while Sanchez is clearly the catcher of the future, keeping McCann as a mentor and backup plan makes a world of sense to me.

Fan Confidence Poll: October 17th, 2016

2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Weekend Open Thread

Friday: How about that Dodgers-Cubs game last night? That was pretty awesome. This entire postseason has been really entertaining. Lots of nail-biters. I’m pretty sure this postseason would kill me if the Yankees were still playing. Anyway, the Blue Jays and Indians open the ALCS tonight (8pm ET on TBS), so that’s fun. Go team that employs Andrew Miller.

Here is tonight’s open thread. You’re pretty much on your own for entertainment aside from the ALCS. You folks know how these things work, so do what you do. Enjoy the game.

Saturday: Once again, here is today’s open thread. We’ve got two LCS games today, so that’s cool. Here is today’s schedule:

  • ALCS Game Two: Blue Jays at Indians (Happ vs. Tomlin), 4pm ET on TBS (Indians up 1-0)
  • NLCS Game One: Dodgers at Cubs (Maeda vs. Lester), 8pm ET on FOX Sports 1

There’s also a full slate of college football on as well. The three hockey locals are playing too. Talk about those games or whatever else is on your mind. Just not politics or religion.

Sunday: For one last time, this is today’s open thread. The Cubs and Dodgers will play Game Two of the NLCS at 8pm ET on FOX Sports 1. Kyle Hendricks and Clayton Kershaw are the scheduled starters. The Dodgers are getting their money’s worth out of Kershaw this October, huh? The Cubbies lead that series one game to one. Aside from the NLCS, you’ve also got all the day’s NFL action plus the Islanders later tonight. Go nuts.

Checking in on Didi’s Discipline

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

In January of last year, I wrote a piece about what room for improvement Didi Gregorius had after his modestly successful 2015 debut campaign with the Yankees. At the end, I suggested that Didi work on his plate discipline to become a better hitter:

Didi Gregorius is never going to be an elite hitter, and he doesn’t need to be, given his position and his defense at that position. Still, any improvement helps and since it’s unlikely that he starts popping homers over the short fence any time soon, Didi should focus on improving his discipline to round out his offensive game a little bit. He’s already given Yankee fans plenty to be happy about, so hopefully more is on the horizon.

Part of that concluding paragraph was right: Didi certainly gave us more to be happy about in 2016. Aside from his generally joyous attitude towards the game, he managed to reach a career high in homers with 20 as well as in wOBA (.319) and wRC+ (98). A shortstop who does those things in 2016 is pretty darn valuable and the Yankees seem to have picked the right guy for the job. Back to that conclusion, though, and the thing that didn’t happen. Sir Didi most definitely did not improve his plate discipline in 2016.

His walk rate dipped to a more-than-minuscule 3.2%, leading to just 19 unintentional walks, lower than his home run total. In the post last year, I mentioned his chase rate–his O-Swing%–and this year, that percentage went up to 38.3%, a jump of almost five percentage points. This was part of a trend, as his overall swing percentage jumped from 51.6 to 55.4%. In conjunction with the jump in O-Swing%, his contact rate on those pitches also jumped from 62% to 70.8%. I’ve often posited that O-Contact can be a double-edged sword: making contact is good, but if the pitches are out of the zone, you risk bad contact and fewer hits. Did, however, seems to have defined that.


Using Brooks as a guide, we see that in 2015, Didi had 50 hits outside the zone. In 2016, he was able to bring that up to 63. Granted, his batting average on these balls wasn’t great either year; he hit .219 on balls out of the zone that he put in play in 2015 and .235 in 2016. That improvement mirrored Didi’s overall improvement, though, as he raised his average to a career high (again) of .276.

Didi didn’t quite follow my “advice” in 2016, but it didn’t really seem to matter, did it? He showed that he can be a productive player even without a traditional sense of plate discipline. He did swing at more pitches in the zone than he did last year, too, so perhaps it was a matter of Didi just getting the right pitches to hit and doing something with them.

DotF: Wade begins center field experiment in AzFL

(Clint Frazier on Twitter)
(Clint Frazier on Twitter)

Instructional League is over now, but as you can see in the photo above, the Yankees had their top prospects mingle with some big time guest instructors the last few weeks. That’s SS Jorge Mateo on the left, and OF Clint Frazier and OF Billy McKinney on the right. Tino Martinez, Reggie Jackson, Alfonso Soriano, Nick Swisher, Orlando Hernandez, and Alex Rodriguez were among the guest instructors to stop by. Jim Callis has a great article on Instructs up that I recommend checking out. Here are some other minor league notes.

  • Both Josh Norris and Eric Longenhagen have reports up on RHP James Kaprielian‘s first Arizona Fall League outing earlier this week. He struck out six in three scoreless innings. The links include video and some notes on other Yankees in the AzFL, including SS Gleyber Torres.
  • Following the regular season, the Yankees sent RHP Bryan Mitchell to Instructs to log more innings, according to Chad Jennings. He missed most of the season after breaking his toe covering first base in Spring Training. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild was in Tampa to work with Mitchell.
  • Brian Cashman told Dan Martin he’s glad Yankees prospects are getting to play with Tim Tebow in the AzFL. “I know he’s known for great leadership qualities and that’s a good thing for our guys to be around. And he’s gonna have a lot of media and fan attention and that will benefit the entire team,” said the GM.
  • Kaprielian and 1B Greg Bird both made the first Prospect Hot Sheet of the AzFL. Kaprielian was second and Bird was sixth. “(Bird is) back in the AFL rehabbing that injury, and so far has shown the same smooth, powerful stroke that has him firmly embedded in the Yankees’ long-term plans,” said the write-up.
  • Not surprisingly, C Gary Sanchez and RHP Chance Adams were named’s Yankees Prospects of the Year. Sanchez was also the catcher for Baseball America’s All-Rookie Team. The write-up says Gary “looks like a perennial all-star catcher.” That’ll do.
  • 1B Chris Parmelee elected free agency after Triple-A season, according to Matt Eddy. No surprise. The Yankees signed Parmelee following Bird’s shoulder surgery and he ended up appearing in six games with New York. He went 4-for-8 with two dingers. Go figure.
  • Couple articles to check out: Brendan Kuty on Mateo, Kevin Kernan on Frazier, and Sam Dykstra on C Kyle Higashioka. Higashioka talked about changing his swing plane this year in an effort to hit more fly balls, leading to the power spike.
  • And finally, Amanda Farinacci writes Staten Island officials are worried about the potential new names for the Staten Island Yankees. They don’t like the idea of the “Pizza Rats” or “Rock Pigeons” representing Staten Island, apparently.

Arizona Fall League

  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 3 G, 4-10, 3 R, 1 3B, 1 BB, 1 K (.300/.455/.600)
  • 1B Greg Bird: 3 G, 4-13, 2 R, 4 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K (.308/.357/.615) — so far, so good following shoulder surgery … I wonder if he can become the first two-time MVP in AzFL history
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 2 G, 3-8, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K (.375/.444/.875) — played second base yesterday … he also had an opposite field double (video) and a walk-off single (video, video) … Keith Law, who hates every Yankees prospect, says Gleyber’s going to be a star, so that’s cool
  • SS/CF Tyler Wade: 2 G, 0-8, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 SB (.000/.111/.000) — played center field for the first time yesterday
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K (9.00 ERA, 2.50 WHIP) — Josh Norris says he sat 94-96 mph in one of his appearances … I didn’t realize he threw that hard
  • RHP James Kaprielian: 1 G, 1 G, 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP) — the results are nice but they don’t really matter … is he healthy? has his stuff returned following his injury? that’s most important
  • RHP Brody Koerner: 1 G, 1.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K (6.20 ERA, 4.20 WHIP) — rough start to the AzFL season
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2 HR (12.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) — Keith Law had him at 93-95 mph with a good slider and changeup, so that’s another report that his stuff is getting back to where it was last year, when he was the fourth overall pick in the country

The Dominican Winter League season begins today, though the rosters still have not been announced. A couple Yankee farmhands will play in the league this year, inevitably. There’s always a few.

The Mexican Pacific League season started last weekend. The only Yankee prospect on the rosters is C Sebastian Valle, who a) isn’t really a prospect, and b) will become a minor league free agent soon.

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) season starts in two weeks. The rosters have only been partially released, and there are no Yankees.

The Venezuelan Winter League season began last weekend. RHP Mark Montgomery, LHP Miguel Sulbaran, C Francisco Diaz, RHP Daniel Alvarez, 3B Daniel Barrios, RHP Luis Cedeno, RHP David Kubiak, RHP Alex Mejias, 3B Andres Chaparro, OF Andres Fernandez, and C David Vergel are all on rosters. Montgomery and Sulbaran are the big names there. Montgomery has allowed two runs in 1.1 innings so far. That’s about it.