7/20 to 7/23 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Yankees have played staggeringly mediocre baseball since the All-Star break, splitting a four-game set with the Red Sox and dropping two of three to the Twins. Their lead for the second Wild Card spot stands at just half a game as a result, so the reinforcements could not have come at a much better time. Unfortunately, our first extended look at Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson will come on West Coast time, as the Yankees visit Seattle for four games.

The Last Time They Met

It has been almost a year since the Yankees faced the Mariners, as the two teams last met in August of 2016. The Yankees took two of three by a combined score of 15-8, moving to 66-61 in the process. Some notes from the series:

  • Gary Sanchez and Starlin Castro hit two home runs apiece in the first game, but it wasn’t enough as they lost 7-5. Anthony Swarzak took the loss and a blown save that day, allowing two inherited runners to score on a three-run home run by Mike Zunino. And, no, going with Swarzak didn’t make much sense at the time, either.
  • Sanchez was at the height of his August powers in that series, going 6 for 11 with 3 HR, 3 BB, and 0 K.
  • CC Sabathia had one of the best starts of his season in the second game, going 7 strong and allowing 3 hits, 1 run, and 1 walk, while striking out 7.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

The Mariners have battled the injury bug all year, with key players like Jean Segura, James Paxton, Mitch Haniger, Felix Hernandez, Drew Smyly, and Hisashi Iwakuma all spending time on the disabled list. They’re approaching full strength, but Smyly is done for the year, and there’s no real timetable for Iwakuma’s return.

Their Story So Far

Seattle is essentially the perfect .500 team – they’re 48-48 with a +1 run differential. They’re 5-1 since the break, which includes a series victory over the Astros this week. The Mariners offense has been the driving force behind the team’s limited success, and it currently ranks 6th in the majors in wRC+ and 8th in runs scored. They currently have 8 regulars or semi-regulars with a wRC+ of 100 or better, and their back-up catcher (93 wRC+) and fourth OF (90 wRC+) aren’t all that bad, either. In short, their lineup is almost always strong from top to bottom.

Their starting pitching has been less than stellar, though. Paxton has performed like a top of the rotation starter when healthy, with a 3.05 ERA (132 ERA+), 10.3 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9 in 94.1 IP. The pickings are fairly slim after that, with a mishmosh of average to well below-average guys making up the rest of the rotation. The declining Hernandez is their second-best starter right now, and he’s sitting on a 4.20 ERA (101 ERA+) in 55.2 IP, for comparison’s sake, and the group as a whole has a 4.79 ERA – good for 22nd in baseball.

For more on the Mariners, I recommend checking out Lookout Landing.

The Lineup We Might See

Injuries have force manager Scott Servais to tinker with his lineup quite a bit, but he seems to prefer this configuration when everyone’s available:

  1. Jean Segura, SS
  2. Ben Gamel, LF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz, DH
  5. Kyle Seager, 3B
  6. Danny Valencia, 1B
  7. Mitch Haniger, RF
  8. Jarrod Dyson, CF
  9. Mike Zunino, C

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Thursday (10:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Felix Hernandez

Three years ago, Felix Hernandez was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Two years ago, he saw a dip in velocity, and an overall drop-off in production, but remained comfortably above-average. Last year, his velocity backed-up again, and his numbers slipped even further into average territory (and his 4.63 FIP suggested that he was actually lucky). And this year, he’s simply rather average. His strikeouts and walks went in the right direction, but he’s more hittable and more gopher-ball prone than ever before, and his fastball no longer has much bite to it. This is what a decline looks like.

Hernandez focuses on four pitches nowadays – a low-90s fastball, a low-90s sinker, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s curve. He’ll mix in a mid-80s slider, as well, but that is oftentimes shelved unless something else isn’t working.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 7/15) – 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K

Friday (10:10 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Andrew Moore

The 23-year-old Moore was a second-round pick back in 2015, and he made his big league debut last month, going 7 IP and allowing 3 ER in a victory over the Tigers. His scouting report isn’t terribly exciting, as he’s a command/control type with a back-of-the-rotation ceiling, but he also qualifies as a “high floor” type due to his ability to limit walks and soak innings. It’s not a sexy profile by any stretch, but it feels an awful lot like the type of rookie that has plagued the Yankees in years past.

Moore is a four-pitch guy, with a low-90s fastball, low-80s slider, low-80s change-up, and mid-70s curveball. He’s earned praise for his change-up, which I’ve seen graded as high as a 60 on the 20-80 scale.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 7/16) – 3.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 1 K

Saturday (9:10 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Ariel Miranda

The Mariners acquired Miranda at last year’s trade deadline in a straight-up swap for Wade Miley, and it has paid dividends thus far. The 28-year-old Cuban has thrown 165.2 IP in 30 games for the Mariners, posting a 4.07 ERA (100 ERA+) along the way. His underlying numbers aren’t awe-inspiring (6.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 5.30 FIP), but he’s managed to stay healthy and mostly effective this year (97 ERA+), which is a boon for a team that has needed 13 starting pitchers already.

Miranda mostly utilizes three pitches – a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s splitter. That splitter is his best pitch, with a whiff rate just shy of 20%, and a batting average against of just .190.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 7/17) – 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 4 K

Sunday (4:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Cessa vs. RHP Sam Gaviglio

The 27-year-old Gaviglio is the second rookie the Yankees will face this weekend, having made his debut on May 11. He was a fifth round pick way back in 2011, and his journey to the show may best be described as methodical – he spent three years bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A, and always seemed to be the “next guy up;” it just took a long time for that need to arise.

Gaviglio is a pure junkballer. His fastball tops out in the upper 80s, and he complements it with a low-80s slider, low-80s change-up, and a curve in the upper-80s. His margin for error is razor thin, as his strikeout rate is a well below average 15.4%.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 7/18) – 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

The Mariners bullpen has been right around average in most respects this year, with its ERA, K%, BB%, and WPA all falling between 13th and 20th in the majors. That might be a bit misleading, though, as the bullpen’s overall numbers are dragged down by folk that are primarily used in mop-up situations. Edwin Diaz has been solid as the closer (134 ERA+, 12.9 K/9, 3.9 BB/9), and the late-innings trio of Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, and Steve Cishek is formidable. They also have Marc Rzepcyznski in a traditional LOOGY role – LHH are batting .171/.227/.244 in 45 PA against him this year.

It is worth noting that the bullpen has been stretched thin since the break. They’ve been called upon for 22.1 IP in six games, and Diaz and Vincent were both needed yesterday.

Yankees Connection

It’s all but guaranteed that we will see three former Yankees during this series. Seeing Robinson Cano in another uniform still saddens me, and I’ll have to suffer him starting everyday against the Yankees. I don’t think we need to recap his fantastic career in pinstripes.

Ben Gamel was a 10th round pick by the Yankees in 2010, and he was in the organization up through last August, when he was sent to the Mariners for Juan De Paula and Jio Orozco. It was a roster crunch that made sense at the time (and still does), but Gamel has done his damnedest to make Cashman and Co. look bad. He’s batting .319/.373/.444 (125 wRC+) with 5 HR and 3 SB in 309 PA as a regular in LF/RF, and he has shown no signs of slowing down.

And old friend James Pazos is there, too. He was drafted by the Yankees in 2012, and he tossed 8.1 subpar IP (84 ERA+, 1.50 K/BB) for the team between 2015 and 2016. He was dealt to the Mariners for Zack Littell this off-season, and he’s been very effective in their bullpen this year, with a 124 ERA+ in 36.2 IP. Littell, for his part, has been awesome in the Yankees system – he has a 1.71 ERA in 105.1 IP between High-A and Double-A.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Ben Gamel’s flowing locks.

Yankeemetrics: Different city, same ending (July 17-19)

(AP)
(AP)

Stranded on second
The road trip continued westward to Minnesota, and the result was a familiar one. An inconsistent offense on Monday night led to another gut-wrenching close loss, 4-2, droppping the Yankees’ record in games decided by two or fewer runs to 14-23 this season. The only team worse in MLB? The Phillies.

The most frustrating part of the game was that they had six doubles – setting themselves up to drive in a bunch of runs – yet scored only twice. Only once before in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) had the Yankees finished a game with at least six extra-base hits and no more than two runs scored – an 8-2 loss on August 12, 1965 to the …. Minnesota Twins.

The game still had its highlights, however, with a few notable performances by our Baby Bombers. Clint Frazier legged out two ‘hustle’ doubles, giving him eight extra-base hits in his short 11-game career, the second Yankee ever to with that many hits for extra bases in his first 11 career games. The other? Someone named Joe DiMaggio.

One night after getting his first big-league hit, Garrett Cooper went 3-for-4 and drove in a run, earning our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series: Over the last 100 seasons, he’s the only Yankee first baseman to have a three-hit game this early into his career (fourth game).

Caleb Smith pitched in his first major-league game, giving the Yankees the honor of being the first team this season to have 12 players make their MLB debut. Although he ended up allowing the game-winning runs, his performance was noteworthy: he’s the first Yankee since Jose Rijo in 1984 to make his debut as a reliever and strike out at least five guys in the game.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

One game, two wins
Tuesday was a win-win for Yankee fans on and off the field: the team beat the Twins 6-3 thanks to some rare clutching hitting, while the front office delivered some much-need bullpen and corner infield help via a blockbuster trade with the White Sox.

On the field, facing their ol’ buddy Bartolo Colon, the Yankees chased the 44-year-old in the fifth inning as they exploded for five runs to erase a 3-1 deficit. Here’s a #FunFact about Colon (with a shout-out to loyal Twitter follower and guest RAB writer @LFNJSinner): Colon has faced 500 different players in his career, and two of them were the two managers in the dugouts for this series – Joe Girardi (1-for-2 vs. Colon) and Paul Molitor (2-for-8 vs. Colon).

Let’s not forget amid this current collapse that this Yankees team doesn’t ever quit. It was their 14th comeback victory when trailing by at least two runs in the game; only the Diamondbacks and Astros (both with 15) had more such wins through Tuesday.

As for the big news off the field, the Yankees and White Sox completed their first major-league trade since they acquired Nick Swisher in exchange for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez in November 2008.

By adding David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle (welcome back, guys!) on Tuesday, the Yankees once again appear to be building a dynamic super-pen filled with power flamethrowers to dominate the middle and late innings.

Entering Wednesday, there were 18 relievers in the American League that had pitched at least 20 innings and boasted a strikeout rate of at least 32 percent. Five (!) of them will be wearing pinstripes for the rest of the season – Tommy Kahnle (42.6%), Dellin Betances (42.5%), Chad Green (37.4%), David Robertson (35.6%), Aroldis Chapman (32.7%).

At first glance, Todd Frazier‘s 2017 slashline doesn’t seem to be very encouraging: .207/.328/.432 in 280 at-bats. But their might be some bad luck baked into those numbers. His BABIP of .214 was the second-lowest among qualified hitters at the time of the trade. That includes an unfathomable .144 BABIP in 40 home games.

Statcast metrics tell a similar story: Using the launch angle and exit velocity of his batted balls, you can get a better picture of a hitter’s quality of contact and his true skill, independent of ballpark, defense, etc. That can be expressed in a metric called expected weighted on-base average (wOBA), which is just like OBP but gives a player more credit for extra-base hits.

Based on that method, Frazier had a spread of 29 points between his expected wOBA and actual wOBA, the 10th-largest differential among the 175 players with at least 250 at-bats this season. To put that into perspective, his actual wOBA of .333 ranked 109th in that 175-player sample — the same as Yunel Escobar — while his expected wOBA of .362 ranked 35th — on par with guys like Cody Bellinger (.365) and Robinson Cano (.367).

After a slow start, Frazier also has been heating up recently. Since June 17, he has a wRC+ of 140 in 96 plate appearances – a mark that ranks in the 80th percentile among all players and is better than any other Yankee in that span (min. 75 PA).

Deja vu all over again
If the Yankees were truly going to pull out of their never-ending tailspin and actually win a series, a trip to Minnesota to face the Twins would seem to be the perfect way to jumpstart an extended run. Consider these stats entering this series:

  • 19-6 (.760) at Target Field, the highest winning percentage for any team at any stadium since at least 1913 (min. 15 games).
  • Had never lost a series at Target Field, which opened in 2010.
  • Won five straight series overall against the Twins, tied for their longest active series-win streak versus any AL team (also won five in a row against the Royals).
  • Oh, and the Twins have the worst home record in the AL.

Welp.

Historical success couldn’t help the Yankees, as they lost Wednesday afternoon and fell to 0-8-2 in their last 10 series since sweeping the Orioles at Yankee Stadium June 9-11. It was their first series loss against the Twins since 2014 and their first in Minnesota since 2008.

If not for the second inning, the Yankees might have had a chance to actually break out of their slump. All six of the Twins’ runs came in the second frame and all six also came with two outs, a rare two-out implosion by Jordan Montgomery. Over his previous eight starts combined, the lefty had allowed just five two-out runs and had held hitters to a .180/.255/.340 line with two outs.

The Yankee offense couldn’t bail out Montgomery, either, as their struggles with runners scoring positioned deepened (1-for-7), resulting in another disappointing loss. Even more depressing than their lack of clutch hitting is the recurring nightmare of failing to close out series:

The Yankees have now lost their last nine games in which they had a chance to clinch a series win, and have also dropped 10 consecutive series finales, including eight straight on the road. Overall, this was their 10th loss in a “rubber game” (third game of a three-game series in which the teams split the first two games), which leads all MLB teams this season.

Trade Deadline Rumors: Starter, Verlander, Alonso, Duda, Reed

(Duane Burleson/Getty)
(Duane Burleson/Getty)

The 2017 non-waiver trade deadline is now only eleven days away and the Yankees have already made one big move, acquiring Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox. I get the feeling they’re not done. That doesn’t necessarily mean a blockbuster is coming, but I don’t think the Yankees are going to stop here. Anyway, here’s the latest from the trade rumor circuit.

Yankees still looking for a starter

Not surprisingly, the Yankees are still looking for rotation help, reports Ken Rosenthal. They’re casting a wide net. Controllable guys and rentals. They’re all in play. Michael Pineda is out for the season and I don’t think the Yankees want to continue running Bryan Mitchell or Luis Cessa out there every fifth day. You don’t go out and make that trade with the White Sox only to skimp on the rotation, you know?

“I’m going to stay engaged. We are going to remain careful buyers. We want to maximize our present while protecting (our) future,” said Cashman to Meredith Marakovits following the White Sox trade. Unless the Yankees budge on their unwillingness to trade close to MLB prospects, it’s hard to think they’ll land a high-end controllable starter. And that’s okay. They could really use one of those guys, but I am totally cool with keeping the top position player prospects. Build around bats. Even after trades and graduations, the Yankees still have plenty of depth in the farm system to land a useful starter.

“No indication” Yankees are after Verlander

There is “no indication” the Yankees are after (former?) Tigers ace Justin Verlander, reports Jon Morosi. Detroit is very bad this season (43-50) and there’s been plenty of talk they will sell at the trade deadline. Verlander, 34, has a 4.54 ERA (4.25 FIP) in 20 starts and 117 innings this season, though just last year he was the runner-up in the AL Cy Young voting thanks to a 3.04 ERA (3.48 FIP) in 227.2 innings.

Including the remainder of his $28M salary this year, Verlander is still owed roughly $70M through 2019, and his contract includes a $22M vesting option for 2020 based on Cy Young voting. Morosi says the Tigers are willing to eat some money to facilitate a trade, but how much? I doubt it’ll be a ton. I feel like there’s way too much downside here. Verlander was great just last season, sure, but he’s entering his mid-30s and has a ton of innings on his arm. Trading for mid-30s past prime Verlander feels like an old Yankees move.

Yankees talked Alonso, Duda, Reed, Neshek

Before the trade with the ChiSox, the Yankees were talking to the Athletics about Yonder Alonso, and to the Mets about Lucas Duda and Addison Reed, report Morosi and Mark Feinsand. They were also in the mix for Pat Neshek, per Rosenthal. I suppose the Yankees could still go after Reed or Neshek because there is no such thing as too many good relievers, but it seems very unlikely with Robertson and Kahnle on board. Alonso and Duda? There’s no need for those guys now. Not unless someone gets hurt.

With Greg Bird out for most of the rest of the season, it only made sense for the Yankees to explore the first base trade market. Ji-Man Choi and Garrett Cooper had some success this month, though Cashman wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t looking for upgrades. One thing to keep in mind: the Yankees were pretty much the only team with a need at first base (or DH). There was plenty of supply (Alonso, Duda, Matt Adams, Justin Bour, etc.) but very limited demand, so they were able to let the market come to them, then take the most favorable terms.

Reed. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty)
Reed. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty)

A’s scouting Low-A Charleston

In a crazy coincidence (nope), the A’s have had a top scout watching Low-A Charleston recently, according to Rosenthal. There’s no need for Alonso now. Sonny Gray is still out there though. With Blake Rutherford traded, the best prospect on Charleston’s roster is outfielder Estevan Florial by a mile. Others of note include catcher Donny Sands, infielders Diego Castillo and Hoy Jun Park, and righties Nick Nelson, Freicer Perez, and Nick Green.

Unlike the White Sox trade, I have a hard time believing the Yankees could swing a deal for Gray using a Single-A kid as the center piece. Gray is too in demand for the A’s to take someone that far away from the big leagues as the headliner in a trade. Oakland can and will insist for a closer to MLB prospect and the Yankees will probably decline. That said, the A’s have made some weird trades lately, and if the Yankees can get a deal done for Gray with a Low-A kid fronting the package, they should jump all over it. Prospects that far down in the system aren’t close to helping at the MLB level and they’re so risky because they still have so much development left ahead of them.

Yankees were “in strong” for Quintana

Before he was traded to the Cubs, the Yankees were “in strong” for lefty Jose Quintana, according to Feinsand. “They were quietly deep in it,” said one executive. Rosenthal hears the Yankees did make an offer for Quintana, and Cashman told Brendan Kuty the White Sox asked the Yankees for players similar to the ones they received from the Cubs. So I guess that means an elite prospect (Gleyber Torres?), a very good pitching prospect (Chance Adams? Justus Sheffield?), plus two lesser pieces.

It was reported following the White Sox trade that the Yankees offered Rutherford to Chicago for Quintana, though the rest of the package is unknown. If Rutherford was the headliner, then it’s easy to understand why the ChiSox passed and went with the Cubs’ package. I think the Yankees were willing to give up a really nice package to get Quintana, but even then they would set a limit and not increase their offer. I guess that’s why Quintana is a Cub now. For shame. He really would have been a nice get from a pure “he’s a good pitcher” perspective.

DotF: Sauer makes pro debut in GCL doubleheader

Let’s get started with some notes, shall we?

  • Keith Law (subs. req’d) got a look at Low-A Charleston recently and had some notes on OF Estevan Florial. “(Florial) is a physically imposing, athletic kid with a big, furious swing who is loading his hands a little deep and creating some length, which might explain his high strikeout rate this year,” said the write-up.
  • Here is Baseball America’s analysis of yesterday’s big trade with the White Sox. It is not behind the paywall and it includes the latest scouting reports on OF Blake Rutherford, LHP Ian Clarkin, and OF Tito Polo, if you’re interested.
  • With Rutherford and Clarkin gone, OF Jake Cave and OF Billy McKinney have moved into MLB.com’s top Yankees prospects list. Not sure I agree with Cave being a top 30 prospect in this system, but to each his own.

Triple-A Scranton (6-3 win over Norfolk)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-3, 1 R, 2 BB — 4-for-14 (.286) with three walks and six strikeouts in four games since being sent down
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 K — so maybe he is a top 30 prospect
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-5, 1 2B, 2 K
  • RF Billy McKinney: 2-4 — 10-for-28 (.357) during his little seven-game hitting streak
  • CF Mason Williams: 2-4, 2 R, 1 K
  • RHP Domingo German: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 33 of 52 pitches were strikes (63%) … prior to this game, he’d thrown 7.1 innings and 121 pitches over the last 31 days … he needs to pitch, not sit in the bullpen as the eighth reliever, so hopefully he stays down here and starts until the Triple-A season ends
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 21 of 32 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 4/1 GB/FB — 17 of 28 pitches were strikes (61%)
  • RHP Ben Heller: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1/1 GB/FB — 26 of 37 pitches were strikes (70%) … first outing since his two innings of hero ball in the 16-inning game against the Red Sox on Saturday

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

The Yankees played (and lost) earlier today, and now they’re heading out to the West Coast for a four-game set with Seattle. During this baseball-less night, I recommend Tom Verducci’s article on how the Yankees have veered away from one of the core principles of pitching. They don’t pitch off their fastball. The Yankees throw the lowest percentage of fastballs in baseball. “Fastballs get hit,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Make sure you check out Verducci’s article. Really great stuff.

Here is an open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing (on ESPN) and that’s about it. Talk about that game, this afternoon’s loss, the Verducci article, or anything else here. Just not religion or politics.

Bad second inning sends Yankees to 6-1 loss to Twins

All the good feelings from Tuesday’s big trade with the White Sox were wiped away within two innings Wednesday afternoon. The 2017 Yankees do not mess around. The Yankees dropped Wednesday’s series finale 6-1 to the Twins. They are now 0-8-2 in their last ten series and 10-22 in their last 32 games. The Yankees have been playing at a 51-win pace for the last 20% of the season.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

All With Two Outs
Jordan Montgomery‘s rough July continues. He was able to complete five innings Wednesday afternoon — he hadn’t done that in either of his previous two starts — though the Yankees were staring at a 6-0 deficit before Montgomery recorded his sixth out. All six runs scored with two outs in the second inning too. At one point he allowed three straight hitters to reach in two-strike counts. Blah.

Rookie Zack Granite, who came into the game 2-for-22 (.091) in seven MLB games, got the scoring started with a two-run single to center. That was disappointing for a few reasons. One, Granite was 2-for-22! Two, Granite was the No. 9 hitter. Three, Montgomery had the left-on-left platoon advantage. And four, Montgomery was on the verge of escaping the jam after getting a big shallow fly out with runners on second and third from the previous batter.

As disappointing as the Granite two-run single was, if Montgomery could keep it at two runs, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. He couldn’t do that though. The next three batters all reached base, all in two-strike counts. Brian Dozier walked, Eduardo Escobar drove in another run with a single, then Miguel Sano clobbered a hanging curveball …

jordan-montgomery-miguel-sano

… in an 0-2 count for a three-run home run. That escalated quickly. Impressively bad location on that pitch to Sano. Hang a curveball there and he’ll hit it a mile. Stop the bleeding at two runs? Fine. Three runs? Argh, whatever. Three-run bomb in an 0-2 count and two outs? *throws hands up and walks away*

I guess the good news is Montgomery did settle down a bit after the six-run second inning and was able to chew up some innings to spare the bullpen. He retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced after the Sano home run. His final line: 6 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. Montgomery has now allowed 14 runs in 19.2 innings in four July starts. Hopefully it’s just a little rookie wall and he snaps out of it soon. The Yankees sure need him to.

Operation Shutdown
The Yankees had their best chance to score against Jose Berrios in the second inning, when Didi Gregorius (walk) and Clint Frazier (walk) reached with one out, and Austin Romine (walk) with two outs to load the bases. The Romine at-bat was really good. He was down in the count 0-2, but battled back to get ball four. Alas, everyday player Ronald Torreyes grounded out to end the threat.

Once the Twins put up six runs in the second, we saw more than a few “it’s a getaway day so let’s get this over quick” at-bats. Berrios threw 49 total pitches from the third through sixth innings, and gave up only three baserunners in the process. One of those three baserunners was an infield single. Another was a hit-by-pitch. It wasn’t until Brett Gardner‘s two-out single in the seventh that the Yankees finally got on the board. By then it was too little, too late.

Jacoby Ellsbury struck out with runners on second and third to end that seventh inning, which was New York’s last best chance to make it a ballgame. With Wednesday’s one-run effort, the Yankees have now scored 20 runs in 85 offensive innings since the All-Star break. That’s 2.12 runs per nine innings. If the offense were a pitching staff, they’d be great.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Welcome to the Yankees, Todd Frazier. He made his debut with the team as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning — his flight from Chicago was delayed and he didn’t get to the ballpark until after the game started — and struck out against Berrios. Clearly the trade is a failure. Frazier remained in the game at third base and was not tested defensively. He did take a pitch to the hand in the ninth inning, but remained in the game.

Welcome back to the Yankees, Tommy Kahnle. Well, I guess it’s not really welcome back since he never actually played for the Yankees, right? He only played in their farm system. Whatever. Kahnle struck out two a perfect eighth and ran his fastball up to 100 mph. Even though they got in late, I’m glad Frazier and Kahnle played. Get those “first game as a Yankee” jitters out of the way.

Two hits for Gardner, two hits for Frazier, two hits for Starlin Castro, and one hit for the rest of the Yankees. That was a Gregorius single in the eighth inning. Gregorius and Romine drew the only walks. I miss offense. Perhaps getting all the regulars in the lineup on the same day at some point would help.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here’s our handy dandy Bullpen Workload page and here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are done in Minnesota and are now heading west for a four-game series in Seattle. It’ll be Luis Severino against Felix Hernandez in Thursday night’s series opener/passing of the torch.

Contract talks between the Yankees and Joe Girardi could get pretty interesting this offseason

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Following this season the Yankees will shed a pair of massive contracts in Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia. Those two are making a combined $46M this season — yes, the Yankees are still paying A-Rod — plus it’s possible Masahiro Tanaka will opt out of the three years and $67M left on his deal. That’ll all go a long way to helping the Yankees get under the $197M luxury tax threshold next season.

Two other key members of the organization will become free agents after the season: Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi. Cashman’s quick fix youth movement has been a smashing success so far (despite the last 31 games), so I can’t imagine the Yankees won’t bring him back. They might have to fend off some suitors — the Marlins under new ownership? — and give him a raise into the Andrew Friedman ($7M annually) and Theo Epstein ($10M annually) pay grade, but I think the chances of a Yankees-Cashman reunion are pretty high.

As for Girardi, he is a favorite of Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, and other are two pretty good people to have in your corner. Girardi is wrapping up a four-year contract worth $4M annually, which, at the time it was signed, made him the second highest paid manager behind Mike Scioscia. The Yankees and Girardi — and the Yankees and Cashman, for that matter — have not yet discussed a new contract, which isn’t unusual. They always wait until the offseason for this stuff.

“To be honest, I only worry about this year,” said Girardi to Dan Martin when asked about his contract last month. “I’m not really worried about seven years down the road, ten years down the road. There’s a lot of things that could happen in my life that could make me want to do it or make me not want to do it — or prevent me from doing it.”

This is, incredibly, Girardi’s tenth season with the Yankees. Only Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, and Joe Torre have had longer continuous managerial stints in franchise history. I don’t think Girardi has had a particularly good year strategically — a bad bullpen makes every manager look bad, though Girardi has had a few too many “this doesn’t give the Yankees the best chance to win” moments — and as far as I can tell, he’s great in the clubhouse. That to me is every bit as important than the X’s and O’s on the field.

And yet, I feel like the odds of an offseason divorce — they’re not firing him midseason no matter how bad things get, no way, no how — between the Yankees and Girardi are greater than they have been at any other point during his tenure. Two reasons for that:

1. The Yankees might miss the postseason again. There are still 70 games to play this season and the Yankees are right in the thick of the both the division and wildcard races, but missing the postseason again is a very real possibility. The Yankees are 10-21 in their last 31 games. That’s rough. If the freefall continues, it’ll be one postseason games in five years for the Yankees. How many managers survive that? Even with rebuilding teams?

2. Other teams could come after Girardi. If the Mets (finally) part ways with Terry Collins, I imagine Girardi would among their top choices at manager. The Marlins could come calling under new ownership. Dusty Baker’s contract with the Nationals will be up after the season. The Tigers and Pirates could both be in the market for a new skipper too. What happens if Bruce Bochy decides to retire because of his ongoing heart issues? Girardi figures to have some options this winter. It won’t be Yankees or bust.

My gut feeling is ownership is happy with their management team and the overall direction of the franchise, even after this rough month, and even if the Yankees miss the postseason again. There’s a ton of high-end young players in the organization and the payroll is starting to clear up. As frustrating as these last few weeks have been, the future is awfully exciting. The Yankees have an exciting young core and will soon have a lot of money to spend.

Because of that, I expect both Cashman and Girardi to be back next year. Both will probably leverage opportunities elsewhere into healthy raises because that’s what anyone in their shoes should do, but I think they’ll be back. Cashman is ultra-loyal to the Yankees and I don’t think he wants to leave. I don’t think Girardi wants to leave either, and it helps that those above him are on his side.