This week, at the quarterly owners’ meetings in Houston, commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters MLB is considering several changes to the game. Among those are adding a pitch clock, and changing the way infield shifts and relievers are used. Owners were given a presentation on these matters during the week.
“The point of the conversation today was that the game has changed dramatically. It’s changed organically. It kind of has flowed where the competitive juices of managerial and general managerial decisions have taken it,” said Manfred to Ronald Blum. “And the question is, you take a snapshot after 40 years of that and you say, ‘wow, here’s what it looks like, here’s what it used to look like and should we be thinking about what has occurred and whether we want to allow it to continue to go on on the path it’s on?'”
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires December 1st and Manfred said MLB and the MLBPA are making progress on a new deal. It’s important to note MLB can not unilaterally make rule changes. The players’ union has to approve everything. I have some quick thoughts on these changes that are being considered.
1. Pitch clocks will probably be fine. MLB is clearly very focused on improving the pace of play, and you know what? I don’t blame them. There’s a lot of downtime within games. Visits to the mound, standing around shaking off signs, that sort of thing. I don’t see a problem with trying to eliminate some of that downtime. Attention spans are too short nowadays to have that much standing around.
There have been pitch clocks at Double-A and Triple-A since last year — the pitcher has 20 seconds to make each pitch, and if he doesn’t, a ball is called — and for the most part they’ve gone unnoticed. You get used to them in no time. As long as the clock isn’t directly behind home plate and in the viewing area on television, I don’t think we’d even notice they’re there. Maybe there’s a compromise to be made. Pitch clocks with the bases empty but not with men on base?
2. Changing strategy is not a good precedent to set. The pitch clock stuff is fine. I do not like the talk about limiting the shift or reliever usage in some way though. Now we’re talking about changing the fundamental strategy of the game. Teams come up with a creative way to gain a competitive advantage, then bam, it gets taken away because some people don’t like it. That’s not a precedent you want to set. How’s the game supposed to evolve?
The shift very obviously works. To what extent, exactly? I’m not sure we know. I know the league average BABIP hasn’t changed much over the years, if at all, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. They’re talking about changing the game to help a very specific subset of players: lefty pull hitters. (Yes, some righties gets shifted too, but not nearly as many.) That doesn’t seem fair. If you’re going to rewrite the rulebook, I think it should be for something that has a much greater overall impact on the game.
Same thing with reliever usage. MLB wants to reduce the number of pitchers used per game — again, to cut down on downtime during pitching changes, etc. — and changing reliever usage could drastically alter the game. If, say, they force relievers to face at least two batters instead of one, suddenly left-on-left specialists are pretty much out of a job. This strikes me as something that could have unintended consequences. MLB is good at that.
There’s nothing wrong with MLB and the owners looking for ways to improve the game. That’s exactly what they should be doing. Like, all the time. The pitch clock to me is perfectly fine. It’s worked well in Double-A and Triple-A, so it’s been given a test run. Changing strategy, such as the shift and reliever usage, is a much bigger issue. Reducing creativity and progressiveness is bad for the game overall.
Monster mailbag this week. Nineteen questions in all. I did my best to keep the answers short and failed miserably. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send us stuff.
Anonymous asks: Should the yankees be exploring an extension for Didi this winter?
It’s definitely worth exploring, though I think going year-to-year with Didi Gregorius would be perfectly fine too. He’s making $2.425M this season, his first year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two, so he still has three more years of arbitration coming. Defense still isn’t rewarded through arbitration, and while Didi’s been a very productive hitter this season, it’s not a huge breakout that will send his salary through the roof.
According to the MLBTR Extension Tracker, not a single Super Two shortstop at Didi’s service time level has signed a long-term extension, so we’re in the dark about what it would take. Only two non-Super Two shortstops a similar service time level have signed extensions: Elvis Andrus (eight years, $120M) and Alexei Ramirez (four years, $32.5M). The Andrus extension is a disaster and Ramirez was almost 30 when he signed his deal, so they’re not great benchmarks. Let’s spitball some numbers:
2017: $5M (second of four arbitration years)
2018: $7.5M (third of four arbitration years)
2019: $10M (fourth of four arbitration years)
2020: $14M (first free agent year)
2021: $16M club option (second free agent year)
That’s a four-year deal worth $36.5M with an option for a fifth year. Didi’s base salary is already $2.425M this season, and being a Super Two helps his earning potential. A $2.5M annual raise during his arbitration years doesn’t seem unreasonable, does it? It might be light, if anything. Does it make sense to sign Gregorius to that contract? It does if you believe this season is an indication he’s ready to become a legitimate 18+ homers a year shortstop.
John asks (short version): Given DIDI’s emergence as an above average offensive shortstop, would it make sense to trade him in the middle of this rebuild?
Depends entirely on the offer. Gregorius has been awesome, but I wouldn’t make him off-limits in trades. Not when you could slide Starlin Castro over to shortstop in the short-term and have Tyler Wade, Gleyber Torres, and Jorge Mateo on their way. Young two-way shortstops are always in demand. Off the top of my head the Twins, Athletics, Mets, Reds, and Padres could use one. I’m not saying the Yankees should give Gregorius away, but if another club makes them a real attractive offer, say a young pitcher plus two prospects, they’d be silly not to consider it. Don’t shop him, but be willing to listen. I’m certain the Yankees will.
Peter asks: With the commitment to a youth movement now do the Yankees sign any Major League Free Agents this offseason? Is there anyone even worth targeting?
I said the other day that I think the Yankees need to add a starting pitcher this offseason in the wake of Nathan Eovaldi‘s injury, so I’ll say yes, they do sign a big league free agent. I would bet strongly against them handing out a big contract, however. I think the only way they hand out a huge contract is if Japanese righty Shohei Otani is posted, and right now that is far from certain. Otherwise I expect the Yankees to explore the lower cost market. Maybe a one-year deal for a starter and/or a reliever, something like that. The team’s biggest moves figure to be trades this winter, not free agent signings.
Mike asks (short version): A theory: A right handed power hitter is incentivized by the right field porch to use the entire field, which leads to higher BABIPs. Conversely, left-handers tend to “fall in love” with the porch and become dead pull hitters. Thoughts?
I suppose righty hitters could fall in love with going the other way because of the short porch, but I do agree with Mike’s premise. You want hitters to use the entire field regardless of the ballpark dimensions, but in Yankee Stadium there’s a clear advantage to being able to hit the ball to right field. The Yankees have gone heavy on lefty pull hitters over the years and I understand why. I think an unintended consequence is that they became too one dimensional. Going forward, the best plan of attack may be to focus on the hit tool first, then just let the power boost come naturally. Get guys who can spray the ball around and will work the count. Let the ballpark do the rest.
Gilbert asks: Watching the game tonight, I had a thought: has Sanchez ever caught Betances in the minors before? And extended question: how many current Yankees pitchers has Sanchez caught from when they were in the minors?
Gary Sanchez and Dellin Betances were never on the same minor league team. Sanchez was always a level or two behind. I’m sure he caught him during Spring Training and stuff, but they were never minor league teammates. Here are the pitchers on the 40-man roster who were minor league teammates with Sanchez at some point:
- Johnny Barbato: Double-A (2015), Triple-A (2016)
- Richard Bleier: Triple-A (2016)
- Luis Cessa: Triple-A (2016)
- Nick Goody: Low-A (2012), High-A (2012-13), Double-A (2014-15), Triple-A (2015-16)
- Chad Green: Triple-A (2016)
- Jacob Lindgren: Double-A (2014), Triple-A (2015)
- Bryan Mitchell: Staten Island (2010), Low-A (2012), High-A (2013), Double-A (2013-14), Triple-A (2015)
- Conor Mullee: Double-A (2015), Triple-A (2016)
- James Pazos: Double-A (2014-15), Triple-A (2015-16)
- Branden Pinder: High-A (2012-13), Double-A (2013-14), Triple-A (2015-16)
- Nick Rumbelow: Double-A (2014), Triple-A (2015-16)
- Luis Severino: Double-A (2014-15), Triple-A (2015-16)
- Chasen Shreve: Triple-A (2016)
- Anthony Swarzak: Triple-A (2016)
- Kirby Yates: Triple-A (2016)
More than I expected! That doesn’t include Ben Heller, who was technically Sanchez’s teammate in Triple-A for two days following the trade deadline. They were never in a game together down there though. It also doesn’t include guys like CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda, who were temporarily Sanchez’s teammate while on rehab assignments. There are 26 (!) pitchers on the 40-man roster right now and 15 were minor league teammates with Sanchez at some point.
Dan asks: Would you consider an offseason trade of Gary Sanchez for Lucas Giolito?
Sure, I’d consider it. I don’t think the Yankees or Nationals would though. Giolito’s the higher ranked prospect, but a 23-year-old power hitting catcher is a pretty valuable commodity too. You could nitpick both of them apart — Giolito had Tommy John surgery, Sanchez doesn’t walk much, Giolito’s minor league numbers aren’t great, Sanchez is a negative on the bases, etc. — but the bottom line is both are very valuable young players. A straight one-for-one swap is fair-ish in a vacuum, I think. Maybe I’m just a raging homer. Brian McCann and Austin Romine give the Yankees the flexibility to trade Sanchez, but if they’re going to trade him, it has to be for a top shelf young player like Giolito. My guess is both teams would say no to this trade though.
Travis asks: Do you think the Clippard acquisition was more buying low to see if he returns to form, then selling high either in off-season or at next trade deadline?
Nah. I think they got him simply to beef up the bullpen in the wake of the Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman trades. Someone is going to have to throw those innings, preferably someone with late-game experience, and Tyler Clippard fit the bill. It was a relatively low cost move to plug a hole, that’s all. Now, if Clippard dominates — and he’s pitched well so far — and the Yankees have a chance to flip him for more than they gave up, I think they’d do it in a heartbeat. I don’t believe that was the original intention though.
Alexander asks: What do you think about McCann as an option for the Indians? The multi year commitment may be a limitation but seems like the Brantley and Gomes injuries plus Lucroy non-trade may open up a need.
The money is going to be a real issue. The Indians clearly need a catcher and Jonathan Lucroy was a perfect fit for them. He’s a righty bat to help balance their lefty heavy lineup and he’s dirt cheap. McCann is neither of those things, but he’s way better than Chris Gimenez and Roberto Perez. Cleveland can’t afford a $17M a year catcher, so the Yankees would have to pay down a ton of money. Would they be willing to do that? Would the Indians be willing to give up the prospects necessary to get the Yankees to do that? McCann fits the Indians because he’s better than the catchers they have in-house. It just seems like his contract will throw a wrench into things.
Roy asks: With the possibility that the Yankees move Brian McCann this month or over the winter, will the Yankees feel the lack of a lefty power hitter? For the first time that I can remember, no one will be a serious home run threat from the left side.
That’s a good point. They will get Greg Bird back next year and hopefully he returns from shoulder surgery strong. He’d be the team’s primary lefty power threat. Him and Gregorius. I think this is more of a “problem” than a problem, because as long as guys like Judge and Sanchez do what we expect them to do, the Yankees are going to hit dingers. Carrying a lefty bench bat sure would make sense though. You still want to have some balance, because you’re inevitably going to run into right-handed pitchers who chew up righties but are susceptible to lefties. Especially relievers.
Sean asks: Am I crazy to think that I wouldnt want to trade any of the top prospects for anyone unless its someone like Jose Fernandez? Chris Sale is great and all but he’s kind of up and down, his delivery is kind of conducive to an injury. If you have to give up an arm and a leg for a top pitcher, id rather go for Fernandez
Well, Fernandez has already had a major arm injury (Tommy John surgery in 2014) while Chris Sale has been close to perfectly healthy in the big leagues, so I wouldn’t get too caught up in worrying about injury risk. Every pitcher is an injury risk. Sale and Fernandez are both awesome. Top ten pitchers in the world. Nitpicking who’s better is a waste of time. The difference is their contract situation. Fernandez is going to be a free agent after 2018. Sale is signed through 2019, assuming his no-brainer club options are exercised. That extra year of control is huge. If the Yankees are going to trade prospects for an ace, do it for the guy you’ll control longer.
Doug asks: Assume Austin/Judge/Sanchez have solid production for the rest of the year: is there a young pitcher that matches up with them in a trade? Do we sell high like the Pineda/Montero trade?
I wouldn’t be opposed to trading some of the young guys. Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier are the three I’d hang on to most. Tyler Austin, Torres, Mateo … I’d make them available no questions asked. Looking around the league, would the Angels trade Tyler Skaggs for some young players? What about the A’s and Sean Manaea? The Reds and Anthony DeSclafani? I have a hard time thinking the Rockies would make their young pitchers available, but Jon Gray and/of Tyler Anderson would be cool targets. The thing about the Pineda trade is that no one saw it coming. He seemed like someone who would stay put after such a strong rookie season. Trades like this tend to be surprises.
Prem asks: Based on DotF recaps, it appears Cito Culver has found some sort of offensive stroke in the past few months. He turns 24 later this month and the Yankees have a glut of SS prospects. Does he have any value to the Yankees? Ramiro Pena v2.0?
Utility infielder at best. It seems like Culver has had a very good year, but he’s still hitting only .251/.309/.357 (86 wRC+) with a 27.4% strikeout rate overall. And he was repeating Double-A too. Culver can still pick it at short, and that’s a very valuable skill, but yeah, Ramiro Pena v2.0 seems to be the best case scenario here. Cito will be a minor league free agent after this season, by the way.
Dan asks: Can you explain the 60 day DL as it pertains to the 40 man roster during the offseason? Do players have to be added back to the 40 man during the offseason, and if so, what about players who are still expected to be injured come opening day?
There is no DL in the offseason. Players are activated off the DL the day after the end of the World Series. Eligible free agents also come off the roster at the same time, so that day is a massive 40-man roster exodus. The free agents are gone and the 60-day DL guys again count towards the 40-man. The Yankees only have two impending free agents left on the roster after their trade deadline moves (Mark Teixeira and Swarzak), so there’s going to be more than a few roster moves that day after the end of the World Series this year. Players who are still injured come Spring Training can then be placed on the DL again. The exact date seems to change every year, but it’s sometime in March.
Noel asks: Is there a chance either Judge or Sanchez gets enough AB’s to lose their rookie status? I believe its 150 ABs. It would be neat if one or both of them were able to show what they can do for a whole year next year and maybe net us fans a MLB Rookie of the year award.
It’s 130 at-bats and both will almost certainly reach that number this year. The Yankees have 42 games to go, and assuming Sanchez plays three out of every four games and averages three at-bats a game, that’s another 94 at-bats right there. Here’s already at 50 at-bats right now. I expect both Sanchez and Judge to lose their rookie eligibility this year, which means the farm system will take a hit and not rank quite as highly next spring as it does right now, but who cares about that? Graduating prospects to MLB and helping them become impact players is what it’s all about. I guess that means Frazier will have to go out and win Rookie of the Year next season.
Joe asks: We keep talking about the recent trades and how they will have such a great impact on the future, What about the Justin Wilson trade? We traded a 7th, 8th and 9th inning guy for what could amount to half of our future.
The Wilson trade was one of those moves that was confusing at the time and looks better as we get further away from it. Both Green and Cessa are in the rotation right now. Imagine where the Yankees would be without them. Also, Wilson has a 4.57 ERA this season and needed a cortisone shot in his elbow earlier this week. Don’t get too upset about selling high on non-elite relievers, folks. All it takes is either Green or Cessa becoming a back-end starter or setup man for the Yankees to come out ahead on this one.
Mike asks: What about putting Warren in the rotation, and leaving Severino, Green and Cessa in the bullpen? The three of them seem to be nearly identical, hard throwing, two-pitch-FB/slider-type guys that struggle making multiple trips through the lineup.
I wouldn’t do that the rest of the season. Let’s see what the kids can do. I think the “they’re all too similar” stuff is generally overplayed — it cracks me up when teams arrange their rotations at the start of the season and worry about splitting up the lefties — and isn’t much of a concern. Luis Severino has some very real issues to work on in Triple-A. Green and Cessa can stay in the rotation for the time being. I would definitely like the Yankees to bring Adam Warren to Spring Training as a starter next season though. Maybe he can be the guy to fill Eovaldi’s spot.
Matt asks: Does the Eovaldi injury change your view on what the Yankees should do with Pineda going forward?
Yes. It has to, right? Earlier this year I was in the “extend Eovaldi, let Pineda walk” camp, and now there’s no reason for that camp to exist. Bottom line: the Yankees need pitching beyond 2017, and now one of the available pitchers (Eovaldi) is way less desirable. Pineda is still frustrating as hell, but he’s healthy, he’s relatively young (27), and he misses bats. I’m not convinced he’ll ever be more than a mid-rotation starter, though at least the potential for improvement exists.
Jonathan asks: Since Eovaldi will be non-tendered, where does his rehab take place and who pays for it?
The Yankees are on the hook for the cost of his surgery and rehab and all that. They also have to give him access to their facilities to do his rehab work, though I believe he has the option to rehab elsewhere if he wants. Once he signs with another team, that team assumes the responsibility of his rehab and New York is off the hook. Players who get released after being injured aren’t hung out to dry. The Collective Bargaining Agreement says the team has to take care of them as if they are a player on the roster, and it’s been like that for years and years and years.
Frank asks: I was reading a Fangraphs piece and noticed that David Price has a 3.3 WAR. While his K% and BB% is good he still has allowed more hits per inning and also has an ERA over 4. How has he managed such a really good WAR?
There are two main versions of WAR right now: FanGraphs and Baseball Reference. FanGraphs WAR is based on FIP, and FIP is based on strikeouts, walks, and homers. That’s it. Price has excellent strikeout (24.0%) and walk (5.2%) rates and an average-ish homer rate (1.11 HR/9). The FanGraphs version of WAR is blind to the number of hits (9.39 H/9) and runs (4.19 ERA) Price is allowing.
B-Ref WAR is based on actual runs allowed, which is why they have Price at +2.2 WAR, a full win below FanGraphs. I prefer B-Ref WAR myself. At the end of the day, we’re trying to quantify performance, not project forward, so the runs matter. That’s the job of the pitcher: prevent runs. It doesn’t matter if he strikes out 15 guys a night or gets 20 line drives at defenders. You might feel better about the 15-strikeout guy sustaining his performance going forward, but if the 20-line drive guy kept runs off the board, then he kept runs off the board and WAR should reflect that.
Got a bunch of notes to pass along:
- OF Blake Rutherford is day-to-day with an “undisclosed injury,” the team announced. It’s reportedly his knee. He tweaked it running out a ground ball last week. Rutherford “appeared to take part in pre-game practice” today, whatever the hell that means.
- 1B Chris Parmelee was placed on the Triple-A DL, reports Shane Hennigan. Parmelee left last night’s game with back spasms. He is not on the 40-man roster and I’m not sure he was going to get a September call-up anyway, but this won’t help his case.
- RHP Domingo German was activated off the High-A DL, the team announced. That’s good. No idea what was wrong with him, but it couldn’t have been anything serious if he came back this soon. German returned from Tommy John surgery earlier this year.
- RHP Diego Moreno was called up to Triple-A Scranton and RHP Gio Gallegos was sent down the Double-A Trenton, according to Hennigan. Matt Kardos says Gallegos is staying in Scranton for the time being. It’s just a paper move to temporarily clear a roster spot.
- Chris Crawford (subs. req’d) spoke to a bunch of scouts about starting pitcher prospects who could come up soon and dominate out of the bullpen right away, a la Edwin Diaz of the Mariners. RHP Domingo Acevedo was mentioned as a candidate. “I don’t think he’s gonna strike out every [dang] hitter like Diaz seems to, but with an 80 fastball and that hard power-change, he could miss plenty of bats,” said the scout.
- LHP Jordan Montgomery earned some love from Jim Callis for being an under-the-radar prospect. “He’s unlikely to become more than a No. 4 starter, yet his track record makes it likely that he’ll surface in the back of a big league rotation. Look for him to get his first shot in New York at some point next season,” wrote Callis.
- Chad Jennings spoke to 1B Tyler Austin about other players in the system who have bounced back from down years, like himself. “With him being finally healthy and playing every day, I think (his potential is) showing. It’s exciting, and it’s an exciting time for him,” he said of C Kyle Higashioka.
- Alec Dopp posted a bunch of scouting reports after traveling around the NY-Penn League. OF Timmy Robinson, OF Dom Thompson-Williams, and RHP Nick Green all received write-ups. I like Green. The Yankees seem to do well with “generic righty” profiles like that.
The minor league regular season ends in about two and a half weeks, so let’s update the standings. It’s been a while since I’ve done that.
Triple-A Scranton (9-3 loss to Pawtucket) they’re 78-48 and have a 3.5-game lead in the North Division … their regular season ends Monday, September 5th
- DH Ben Gamel: 1-5, 1 K
- RF Clint Frazier: 2-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — threw a runner out at the plate … 13-for-40 (.325) in his last nine games, but only two extra-base hits (double, triple)
- 3B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K — 10-for-23 (.435) since being sent down
- C Kyle Higashioka: 0-4, 1 K
- LF Cesar Puello: 2-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI
- CF Jake Cave: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
- LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 0/2 GB/FB — 31 of 53 pitches were strikes (58%) … making the spot start because they played two doubleheaders earlier this week, and their rotation is all out of whack
- LHP Chasen Shreve: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 20 of 30 pitches were strikes … great, now do this in the big leagues, Chasen
- RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — eight pitches, six strikes
Here is tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is showing some regional games, the Mets are playing out on the West Coast later tonight, and there’s some preseason NFL games on as well as the Olympics. You folks know how these open threads work, so have at it.
Moreso than at any point in the last 20 years, the Yankees are in the middle of a youth movement. Aaron Judge is playing right field every day, and, most notably, Gary Sanchez has taken over as the starting catcher. That’s a big deal because Brian McCann is still on the roster. Judge is replacing the traded Carlos Beltran, so it’s an easy. McCann’s role has been reduced to make room for Sanchez. The Yankees are going all-in on the kids.
Beyond Judge and Sanchez, the Yankees have also called up Tyler Austin to take at-bats away from Mark Teixeira. Alex Rodriguez has been released too. Chad Green and Luis Cessa are in the rotation, though that’s more out of necessity than anything. Once rosters expand we’ll see Ben Gamel and Rob Refsnyder again, probably Luis Severino and others as well. Ben Heller will be back too. He was up last week but did not appear in a game.
The Yankees are making these moves and decisions because this season is close to a lost cause. Yeah, they’re technically still in the wildcard race, but it is a long shot. They admitted as much when they traded away arguably their three best players at the trade deadline. The Yankees are looking ahead to the future and allowing their top young players, the guys they intend build around doing forward, to get their feet wet now.
So far everything is going pretty well. Judge and especially Sanchez have produced right away, and while the instant success is good, how do they handle the inevitable failure? That matters too. The young players are front and center, and the Yankees will evaluate them the rest of the season. They’re not the only people the Yankees have to evaluate though. There’s also Joe Girardi. Is he the right man to lead the team through what they’re calling a “transition?”
I’m not here to criticize Girardi or call him a bad manager to anything like that. This is a legitimate question. The Yankees are trying to mold Sanchez and Judge and everyone else into the core of the next great Yankees team, and you want to have the right person leading them. This is important stuff. Managers don’t just fill out lineup cards and change pitchers. There’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes. Here’s what we know about Girardi’s experience managing young players.
1. The Yankees have never asked Girardi to do something like this. Since hiring Girardi during the 2007-08 offseason, the Yankees have been a win-now team. That was the case even coming into this season. Things didn’t work out that way, so the team shifted gears at the trade deadline and now the emphasis is on young players. There’s been a Brett Gardner here and an Ivan Nova there over the years, but that’s pretty much it. The front office is now dropping a bunch of kids in Girardi’s lap, all at once. They’ve never done this before. The closest thing to this is when they started the 2008 season with both Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes in the rotation, and that lasted barely a month.
2. Girardi did manage a lot of rookies with the Marlins. Thanks to one of the team’s trademark fire sales, Girardi had to manage an incredible 22 rookies (!) with the 2006 Marlins. Heck, Girardi was a rookie himself. That was his first season as a big league skipper. He had a rookie middle infield (Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla), a rookie outfield (Josh Willingham, Reggie Abercrombie, Jeremy Hermida), four rookie starters (Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Scott Olsen) and more. That was an entire team of young players.
Managing a bunch of rookies with a Marlins team that has zero expectations and is under no microscope is a much different animal than managing rookies with the Yankees. Girardi had no choice but to play those guys in Florida. Hanley and Uggla were going to be his middle infield, the same way Didi Gregorius was going to be his shortstop last year. The difficult part is when you have a veteran like McCann and need to play a rookie like Sanchez. That can be tough and uncomfortable.
Last week was not Girardi’s finest week with the Yankees. He said last Sunday he would play A-Rod as much as he wanted during his final week, then it didn’t happen. That’s not a good look. Anything that could potentially compromise the players’ trust in the manager is bad. That also seemed to be an isolated incident, and I’m not entirely convinced Girardi wasn’t under orders from above to keep A-Rod on the bench. It’s not like that was part of a pattern. Quite the opposite, really.
Girardi generally defends his players tooth and nail and does what he can to take the heat off them. He’s not above calling players out when they make a mistake, but it is rare. He’s going to protect his players and I see that as quality you want in a manager in charge of a rebuild. The kids are going to make mistakes. They’re unavoidable. They’re going to throw to the wrong base, they’re going to slump, they’re going to do all of that. Being a young player trying to cut your teeth in the show can be overwhelming, especially in New York, and you want a manager who will guide the player through the tough times, not just pat him on the back when things go well.
At the same time, I’m a big believer in managers having a shelf life. Eventually things get stale and it’s time for a new voice and fresh ideas. Every manager is different, so sometimes getting stale happens after three years, or five years, or 15 years. Is Girardi approaching his shelf life? Eh, that’s tough to say. That’s something for the players to decide. It does seem like we’ve seen more careless mistakes (baserunning, etc.) from the Yankees this year than in the past, and fair or not, that reflects poorly on the coaching staff and manager.
I don’t think there’s any chance the Yankees will fire Girardi after the season, so this is all probably a moot point. Trading away veterans at the trade deadline took all the heat off him as far as missing the postseason. The people above him too responsibility for that. Brian Cashman and, more importantly, Hal Steinbrenner seem to like Girardi, so I think he’s safe. There’s two years left on his contract too. Like it or not, all signs point to Joe being back in 2017.
With that in mind, I am curious to see how Girardi handles the young kids the rest of the year, and not just the playing time. I’m curious to see how he helps them deal with the media when they struggle, and also how he helps them learn and become better players. The objective has changed. For most of Girardi’s time here it’s been all about winning. Now it’s about developing these young players into the next great Yankees, and the team wants to make sure they have the right man in charge to do that.
Mean Green Chad
In what could become a familiar storyline over the final month-and-a-half of the regular season, two rookies were the difference-makers in the series-opening 1-0 win, giving the Yankees their first victory this season when scoring exactly one run (their 0-20 mark in those games before Monday was easily the most such losses without a win among all teams).
The scorching-hot bat of Aaron Judge drove in the game’s only run with a booming double to center field, while Chad Green spun a gem on the mound, tossing six scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks. Thanks to those fantastic efforts, both carved out a place in the Yankee record books and baseball history.
- After hitting homers on Saturday and Sunday, Judge became the first Yankee with at least one extra-base hit in each of his first three career games … that’s right, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Jeter, etc. never did it.
- He also is the only player in American League history to have an extra-base hit and drive in at least one run in each of his first three major-league games.
- At 25 years and 83 days old, Green is the youngest pitcher in franchise history to strike out at least 11 batters and allow no more than two baserunners in a game.
- Green is just the second player in Major-League history to have an outing with more than 10 strikeouts, no walks and two or fewer baserunners this early into this career (ninth game). The other gem? Kerry Wood’s epic 20-strikeout, 1-hit masterpiece on May 6, 1998 against the Astros.
If not for the dazzling pitching performance by Green and the clutch hitting of Judge, this could have been a demoralizing loss for the Yankees, who squandered numerous scoring opportunities throughout the night. It’s amazing they actually won the game considering the lineup went 2-for-18 with RISP and stranded a small navy of runners on the basepaths.
The 14 men left on base were the most by any Yankee club in a nine-inning 1-0 win over the past century. In fact, the last time they even managed to do that in a 1-0 victory of any game length was July 4, 1925 against the Philadelphia A’s. The Yankees won that game on a walk-off single by backup catcher Steve O’Neil in the 15th inning, while Herb Pennock earned the win after throwing a 15-inning, four-hit, no-walk shutout.
From awesome to awful
From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, Tuesday’s ugly loss to the Blue Jays perfectly captured the Yankees’ maddeningly inconsistent season in a nutshell.
It was a tale of two games, as the Yankees built up a 5-0 lead before a thunderstorm halted the game in the middle of the fifth inning. When play resumed after a 42-minute rain delay, the Yankees tacked on another run for a seemingly insurmountable six-run lead, before everything went horribly wrong. Thanks to a few horrific performances from Anthony Swarzak (2 outs, 4 ER), Adam Warren (1 out, 4 ER) and Chasen Shreve (0 outs, 4 ER), the bullpen imploded in historic fashion and the Blue Jays scored 12 unanswered runs en route to a 12-6 victory.
The Yankees epic bullpen meltdown can be summarized in this one stat: This was the second game in franchise history where three relievers each allowed at least four earned runs; the other was July 19, 1987 against the Texas Rangers.
Even worse, it was first game in American League history in which a team had three relievers who each pitched fewer than one inning and gave up four or more earned runs. (It has happened twice before in the National League: the Giants against the Expos on May 7, 1997, and the Pirates against the Cardinals on August 6, 1959.)
Gary Sanchez provided one of the few highlights for the Yankees, going 3-for-4 with four RBI while crushing his third and fourth career home runs. The 23-year-old phenom is the youngest Yankee catcher with a multi-homer game since Bill Dickey (age 22) in 1929. Along with Sanchez, the only other Yankee backstops age 23 or younger to have a four-RBI game were Dickey and Yogi Berra.
Sanchez shines, Sabathia slumps
For the second day in a row, the Yankees struggled to contain Toronto’s explosive offense and lost, 7-4, as a terrible pitching performance once again doomed the home team. Tuesday night’s culprit was the bullpen, and on Wednesday afternoon the blame shifted to the rotation (plus some shoddy defense).
CC Sabathia was both electric and dreadful on the mound, striking out 12 (!) while giving up seven (!) runs on nine hits, and producing one of the strangest pitching lines you’ll ever see. He is the only player in Yankee history to have at least 12 strikeouts and give up at least seven earned runs in a game.
In fact, only four other pitchers in baseball history have done that in an outing of nine innings or fewer: Cole Hamels (2006), Curt Schilling (1997, 2001), Randy Johnson (1998) and Nolan Ryan (1973, 1977).
Gary Sanchez stole the show again with another towering homer onto the netting over Monument Park in his first at-bat of the game. He made Joe Girardi look smart for slotting him in at the No. 4 spot in the lineup, as the 23-year-old Sanchez became the youngest Yankee starting cleanup hitter to hit a home run since Bobby Murcer on August 29, 1969 against the Royals.
Sanchez now has five home runs and 11 RBI in the bigs, giving him one of the most prolific starts to a career by any Yankee: He is the only player in franchise history to hit at least five homers and drive in more than 10 runs within his first 15 major-league games.
Most impressively, all five of his longballs have been moonshots, measuring at 437, 419, 403, 407 and 426 feet, per Statcast data. Since he went deep for the first time on August 10, Sanchez is the only player in the majors to hit five 400-foot homers in that span.