8/25 to 8/27 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Cruz and Seager. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Cruz and Seager. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited the Mariners for a four-game set just last month, taking three of four. In doing so they won their first series in over a month, snapping a six week stretch of bad baseball and reminding us just how fun this team could be. Some notes:

  • David Robertson made his Yankees re-debut in the second game of the series, pitching a scoreless seventh inning. He struck out the side on just 13 pitches, with all three strikeouts ending on whiffs. Seeing Robertson back in pinstripes is one of my personal high points of the season.
  • You might remember that second game a bit better as “that time that Aaron Judge broke Statcast.”
  • Didi Gregorius had a heck of a series, going 8-for-15 with a double, two home runs, and two walks. And those two walks represent just under 12% of his total on the season.
  • Brett Gardner hit his 17th home run in the final game of the series, tying his career-high … in his 92nd game of the season. He has added three more since.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more interesting information.

Injury Report

When these teams last met, the Mariners were getting healthy for the first time this year. A month later, and they’re back to being banged-up, with Jarrod Dyson, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Evan Scribner, Drew Smyly, Ryan Weber, and Tony Zych all on the disabled list; none are likely to be back for this series, and Smyly is done for the season, thanks to Tommy John surgery.

It’s also possible that Robinson Cano may not be available this weekend. He left Wednesday’s game after hitting a double (and passing Babe Ruth on the all-time list) with hamstring tightness, and underwent an MRI on Thursday. The Mariners have yet to make any announcement regarding his health or availability as of this writing.

Their Story So Far

The Mariners are currently 65-63, which is good enough to leave them just a game back of the second Wild Card spot. Their -12 run differential suggests that they’ve overachieved a bit, but it’s nevertheless indicative that they’re basically a .500 team. They’ve won six of their last eight, however, and own a 16-12 record since dropping the series to the Yankees.

This is a fairly mediocre team across the board, checking in at 9th in the majors in defensive efficiency, 14th in runs scored, and 18th in runs allowed, and a top-heavy roster. Nelson Cruz is raking as usual (147 wRC+) and James Paxton was in the midst of a breakout season before getting hurt (153 ERA+), but the rest of the team has been largely disappointing. That isn’t to say that solid performers like Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Robinson Cano, and others have been bad – but injuries and under-performance tell a more accurate story of the majority of the team.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Mariners, check out Lookout Landing.

The Lineup We Might See

The recent acquisition of Yonder Alonso has led to the Mariners shaking up the lineup quite a bit over the last two weeks, as have injuries and returns from injuries. Manager Scott Servais seems content to roll with something like this, though (assuming that Cano is available):

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

Guillermo Heredia is banged-up, as well. If he ends up sitting, we’ll see Haniger or Gamel move to center, and Danny Valencia man a corner OF spot.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Ariel Miranda

Miranda started for the Mariners in their lone victory against the Yankees last month, pitching to the following line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K. He has been hard in each of his five subsequent starts, allowing 9 home runs and a 6.84 ERA in 26.1 IP. He has a 4.78 ERA (89 ERA+) on the season, and is tied for the major league lead in home runs allowed, with 31.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/19) – 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo

It may seem impossible, but Gallardo is only 31-years-old. He made his big league debut as a 21-year-old back in 2007, and this is already his ninth season with 20-plus games started. He hasn’t been effective in a couple of years, though, pitching to a 5.58 ERA (76 ER+) since the beginning of last year, and he no longer strikes batters out (6.6 K/9 this year).

Gallardo is a five-pitch pitcher, featuring a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, an upper-80s slider, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s curveball. There was a time when his slider was a devastating pitch, but he’s hittable across the board these days.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/20) – 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 6 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Andrew Albers

The Mariners swung a deal for Albers two weeks ago, acquiring him from the Braves for cash considerations. He’s a couple of months older than Gallardo, but he’s only thrown 89.2 IP at the highest level. He was drafted in 2008, but spent 2010 in the independent Canadian-American Association, 2014 in the Korean Baseball Organization, and parts of other seasons out of baseball altogether. It’s an interesting story that reminds of how difficult it is to make it to the show.

Albers is a prototypical crafty lefty, working with a fastball in the upper-80s, a sinker in the mid-to-upper 80s, an upper-70s change-up, an upper-70s slider, and a low-70s curve.

Last Outing (vs. ATL on 8/21) – 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

Closer Edwin Diaz has had a disappointing season, with his walk, strikeout, home run, and groundball rates trending heavily in the wrong direction from his dynamite rookie season. He currently has a 3.58 ERA (120 ERA+) in 55.1 IP, and 29 saves in 33 opportunities. Diaz hasn’t been bad by any stretch, but he’s been a serious disappointment.

Nick Vincent and new acquisition (and former Yankee) David Phelps handle the set-up duties, and both have been excellent this season. LOOGY Marc Rzepczynski has been solid in his limited role, too, as has yet another former Yankee, James Pazos. It’s a solid-average bullpen as a whole.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Starlin Castro and Greg Bird hit back-to-back home runs for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last night, and that should be a harbinger of things to come for the Yankees. Starlin Castro is expected to be activated for tonight’s game and, with the strong likelihood of a Gary Sanchez suspension looming, their presence will be much appreciated.

Yankeemetrics: Rolling through Motor City (Aug. 22-24)

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

El Kracken Show
It’s been quite an emotional rollercoaster for the Yankees and their fans over the past month, making the drama-free night on Tuesday in Detroit even sweeter. Backed by a relentless and powerful attack combined with solid starting pitching, the Bombers pummeled the Tigers, 13-4.

This was their 14th game scoring more than 10 runs, which led the majors through Tuesday’s slate, and incredibly, it’s also twice as many such games as they had all of last year. Over the last six decades, 1998 and 2000 were the only other seasons that the Yankees had 14 games scoring at least 11 runs at this point in the schedule (before game number 125). Boom-tastic.

The offensive onslaught was fueled by Gary Sanchez‘s red-hot bat as he crushed a monstrous 493-foot homer in the first inning to put the Yankees up 2-0. It was the second-longest homer by any player in 2017, and tied for the fourth-longest that Statcast has recorded over the past three seasons.

Name Distance Date
1. Giancarlo Stanton 504 Aug. 6, 2016
2. Aaron Judge 495 June 11, 2017
3. Kris Bryant 495 Sept. 6, 2015
4. Gary Sanchez 493 Aug. 22, 2017
5. Michael Taylor 493 Aug. 20, 2015

But Sanchez wasn’t done lighting up the scoreboard. He drilled an opposite-field blast into the right field seats in the ninth inning, his 25th homer of the season, and a nice round number for the record books. He is the …

  • Third catcher in American League history to hit at least 25 homers in his age-24 season or younger, joining a couple Tigers backstops, Matt Nokes (1987) and Rudy York (1938).
  • First Yankee since Don Mattingly (1985) with 25-plus dingers in a season before age 25.
  • And the third right-handed batter in franchise history to reach the 25-homer milestone in his age-24 season or younger. The others? Hall of Famers Joe Gordon and Joe DiMaggio.

El Gary also deserves a cool #FunFact: He joined Yogi Berra (June 19, 1952) as the only Yankee catchers to hit at least two homers and drive in at least four runs in a game in Detroit.

The other Baby Bomber that shined in this rout was Aaron Judge, who reached base four times in four plate appearance with three walks and a single. Yes, you did the math correctly, he didn’t strike out, ending his streak at 37 games, the longest ever by a position player. And thankfully the last time we’ll ever mention it.

The stat that’s most important is the three walks. It’s not a shocking number even during his slump, during which he’s maintained mostly the same approach at the plate since the break. Did you know that after Tuesday’s game … Judge had a higher walk rate in the second half (20.1%) than the first half (16.7%); or that only Joey Votto (41) had more walks among all MLB players in the second half than Judge (32).

(Getty)
(Getty)

Sharp Sevy, Scorching Sanchez
The offensive fireworks were on display again Wednesday as Yankee bats delivered another lopsided win, 10-2.

It’s the first time in more than 20 years that they’ve lit up the Tigers for 10-plus runs in consecutive games within the same series, since a blowout-filled three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium on May 6-8, 1996. A 21-year-old rookie named Derek Jeter went 6-for-13 (.462) with a triple and 3 RBIs, while veteran outfielder Paul O’Neill reached base nine times in 15 plate appearances and drove in five runs during that three-game romp.

Gary Sanchez ignited the offensive fireworks again on Wednesday, with a solo homer in the first inning and two-run bases-loaded single in the third. That gave him 10 homers and 21 RBIs in 20 games this month, a nearly unprecedented encore to the amazing August that he produced last season (11 homers, 21 RBIs in 24 games).

Only four other players in franchise history have put together multiple months of at least 10 dingers and 20-plus RBIs before age 25: Don Mattingly, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig.

While El Gary extended his August Assault, Luis Severino bolstered his resume as the staff ace and legit Cy Young candidate with another gem. He pitched into the seventh inning, holding the Tigers to a single run while striking out eight. It was his 13th start this season allowing one run or fewer, which led all major-league pitchers through Wednesday.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the 23-year-old’s season is the poise and consistency he’s shown pitching in hostile environments. He’s put up video-game-like numbers in his last five road games — 0.80 ERA, 38 strikeouts and eight walks – and is the first Yankee since Whitey Ford (1964) to pitch at least six innings while giving up no more than one run in five straight road games.

Overall, he’s surrendered one or fewer runs in 10 of his 14 outings away from the Bronx, becoming the only Yankee pitcher in the last 100 years with 10 such road starts in a single season.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Basebrawl in Detroit
Amidst the boxing match between the Yankees and Tigers on Thursday at Comerica Park, an actual baseball game broke out, and the Yankees lost, 10-6.

The final tally from the chaotic, brawl-filled afternoon was eight ejections between the two teams and a whole lot of ugliness. It was the most total ejections in a game since the infamous Blue Jays-Rangers slugfest on May 16 last year.

Back to baseball.

Gary Sanchez and Brett Gardner did their best to make up for a horrid performance by the Yankee pitching staff, combining to go 6-for-9 with three RBIs while the rest of the lineup had two hits in 23 at-bats.

Mr. August continued his ridiculous power binge with another mammoth home run in the fourth inning and an RBI single in the seventh. He is the first Yankee since Tino Martinez to homer in three straight games in Detroit. And if you’re looking for a definition of a hot streak, he now has …

– six homers in his last 7 games,
– eight homers in his last 10 games,
– nine homers in his last 12 games,
– 10 homers in his last 15 games

The solo blast was also the 47th of his big-league career, making him one of two players in the last 100 years (along with Tigers catcher/first baseman Rudy York) to hit 47 homers before their 150th career game.

Gardner celebrated his 34th birthday in style with a season-high four hits, earning himself the coveted Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series and a place on one of the most unique lists we’ve ever produced. Three players in franchise history have gotten at least four hits and drove in a run on his birthday: Gardner, Jerry Mumphrey (1981) and Lou Gehrig (1931).

Mailbag: Suspensions, Judge, Sensley, Austin, Age, McCann

Ten questions in this week’s mailbag. I guess that makes this a smaller mailbag. As always, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send all your questions.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Michael asks: Assuming Sanchez and Romine both get suspended, can one (or both) appeal to delay the suspension to buy them some time?

They can appeal, sure. I imagine Gary Sanchez will get the longer suspension given the sucker punch. That was pretty bad. (Here’s video if you still don’t think it was a sucker punch.) Romine should only get a game or two, if he gets suspended at all. He was defending himself. The video doesn’t lie. Miguel Cabrera instigated the whole thing and Romine defended himself.

Assuming they both get suspended, I think the Yankees would prefer to have Sanchez appeal and Romine accept his suspension. Keep in mind it’s up to the player. Not the Yankees. They can’t order someone to appeal a suspension. They could ask him to, but they can’t force it. Sanchez appealing the suspension would allow him to continue playing while he’s red hot, and the appeal could shorten the suspension. The Yankees need him on the field as much as possible. If the appeal knocks it down even one game, it’s worth it.

Romine serving a short suspension means the Yankees would have to call up another catcher temporarily, and here’s the kicker: teams don’t get to replace players on the active roster during suspensions. This isn’t like performance-enhancing drug suspensions. They Yankees will have to play with a 24-man roster while Romine is out. So they’d have to call up another catcher (Eddy Rodriguez is the obvious candidate) and send someone down to make room. Pretty terrible situation all around. It really is. The Yankees had everything to lose and nothing to gain yesterday.

Anthony asks: Aaron Judge. With all his full counts, how close is he to the record of seeing the most pitches in a season?

Pitch data only goes back so far. Since PitchFX became a thing in 2008, basically. We have individual game pitch counts for pitchers going back further than that, but not for hitters. Here are the five highest single season pitches seen totals since 2008:

  1. Mike Trout: 3,136 in 2014
  2. Matt Carpenter: 3,101 in 2014
  3. Chone Figgins: 3,085 in 2009
  4. Dustin Pedroia: 3,078 in 2011
  5. Curtis Granderson: 3,070 in 2011

The most pitches seen by a Yankee since 2008: 2,937 by Bobby Abreu in 2008. Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira both have several seasons over 2,800 pitches seen. The same guys have been near the top of the leaderboard the last few years. Trout, Carpenter, Granderson, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Josh Donaldson, guys like that.

Anyway, as for Judge, he went into yesterday’s game second in baseball with 2,377 pitches seen this year. Only Jose Bautista (2,423) has seen more. Goldschmidt (2,319), Charlie Blackmon (2,289), and Gardner (2,286) round out the top five. Those 2,377 pitches in 125 team games put Judge on pace for 3,081 pitches seen this season, which would be a top five total during the PitchFX era. So I guess the answer to the question is pretty darn close, at least among the years with pitch data available.

Daniel asks: Steven Sensley! What should we know about this guy?

Sensley received a straight slot $125,000 bonus as the Yankees’ 12th round pick this year, and so far he’s hitting .292/.370/.584 (157 wRC+) with 13 home runs, 23.6% strikeouts, and 9.6% walks in 50 pro games so far. He’s been a beast. This spring he hit .314/.417/.576 with eleven homers in 57 games at Louisiana-Lafayette. After the draft, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer called Sensley a sleeper. “We like his exit velo, power, athleticism,” he said to Randy Miller.

Sensley has been drafted three times now — the Twins took him out of high school (33rd round in 2013) and the Rays took him out junior college (38th round in 2015) — and the scouting reports have consistently said he offers left-handed pull power and good athleticism. He’s going to turn 22 in less than two weeks, so he has been old for his various levels so far, which means we have to take the numbers with a grain of salt. I am intrigued but not fully buying in yet. I’ve seen enough late round guys come in and dominate in their pro debuts to know better. Sensley has some ability, and in the 12th round, that’s pretty much all you’re hoping to get.

#GREGBIRD (Times Leader)
#GREGBIRD (Times Leader)

Asher asks: Let’s say Bird/Holliday/Castro are ready to be activated before rosters expand on September 1. Who are the corresponding players sent down? Tyler Austin? Tyler Wade? Or do they send down one of their 13 pitchers- Caleb Smith?

For what it’s worth, Jon Heyman says the Yankees want to wait until September 1st to bring Matt Holliday back. We’ll see. I’m not sure they’d bury a respected veteran down in the minors on an extended rehab assignment like that. The moves are fairly straight forward: Starlin Castro replaces Wade, Greg Bird replaces Austin, and Holliday replaces the eighth reliever (Smith?). Wade never plays and the Yankees will have to live without an eight-man bullpen for a few days before rosters expand. Austin has performed well in limited time, but how else do you get Bird on the roster? The Yankees aren’t cutting Todd Frazier or Chase Headley, and they sure as heck aren’t going with six relievers. It’ll have to be Austin. Hopefully the Yankees get to make these decisions and they aren’t made for them (other injuries).

Anonymous asks: Who do you think is the future Yankees lead off hitter?

Man, I have no idea. Gardner won’t be doing the job much longer, either because the Yankees trade him or because his production will slip with age. Jacoby Ellsbury? No chance. He’s not even a starter now. Among the young players, Wade has the most classic leadoff profile as a contact/speed guy who will take walks, but I think he’s going to spend most of his career hitting down in the order. And that’s fine. I like Wade. But I don’t think he should be getting the most at-bats on a contending team. Maybe Gleyber Torres? He could work, though I’d rather use his offensive might a little lower in the order. The easy answer to this question: the future leadoff hitter will be someone no one expects.

Anonymous asks: Extremely small sample size but Tyler Austin has looked solid since coming off the DL. What is his future with the Yankees?

I’m not really sure. Austin does have a minor league option remaining, so the Yankees could continue to send him up and down next year, if they want. How many right-handed platoon first basemen can one team have on the 40-man roster though? The Yankees have Austin and Garrett Cooper, plus Ryan McGroom is a non-40-man roster option. Three of the same player, basically. It’s not like these guys are shortstops. They’re right-handed hitting first basemen. Their usefulness is limited.

My guess is either Austin or Cooper will be a 40-man roster casualty this offseason. Cooper still has all three minor league options remaining, but Austin is a year younger and has considerably more power. I’d much rather keep him. Austin sticking as Bird’s platoon partner/insurance policy seems like his only way to remain with the Yankees going forward. He has power and a knack for big hits (he did last year, at least), but guys with this skill set tend to bounce around a bit, unless they bring really good defense and contact skills to the table too.

Ryan asks: Excited about the Yankees being able to showcase their depth in September. It’s a whole new beast, and truly a time they can make an extra move in the East. People always say Boston’s 2011 collapse was due in part to the expanded rosters. With that being said, what roles do you see for Andujar and Austin in September? That’s 2 guys I’m excited to see make a major league impact in the pennant chase.

Limited roles because the Yankees are fighting for a postseason spot. I don’t think they’re going to start playing kids just for the heck of it in the final month. Joe Girardi is going to stick with his regulars down the stretch and he absolutely should. The goal is to win the division, and if that doesn’t happen, the secondary goal is win a wildcard spot. Every lineup decision and roster move should be made with that in mind. Austin could start against lefties. That’s about it. I don’t think Andujar will play much of a role aside from getting some at-bats in blowouts. The Yankees have made it pretty clear they don’t think he’s ready to help right now. Otherwise he’d have been up the last few weeks.

Judge. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)
Judge. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Greg asks: With the exception of Gardner, the starting nine and pitching rotation for the 2018 Yankees will likely all be twenty-somethings. In fact, their 40-man roster over the winter may only have a few players 30 or more. Given that we all complained about how “old” the Yankees were just a year or two ago, how will their average age stack up against other teams?

The team’s average age is definitely trending down. I mean, duh. The MLB average age for position players hovers right around 28.3 years old each season. Give or take a tenths of a year. For pitchers it’s 28.7 years old. That surprised me. I thought the pitchers would be younger. Anyway, here’s where the Yankees have ranked over the years:

Position Players Average Age Pitchers Average Age
2017 28.6 (17th) 27.7 (5th)
2016 29.9 (27th) 27.9 (7th)
2015 31.2 (30th) 27.4 (7th)
2014 32.5 (30th) 29.3 (25th)
2013 31.8 (30th) 31.8 (30th)

The average age is weighed by playing time, so the 22-year-old September call-up who gets five at-bats doesn’t count as much as the 35-year-old who has been in the lineup all year. Anyway, I’m surprised to see the Yankees’ average pitcher age has dropped more than the position players. Maybe I shouldn’t be though. Mariano Rivera retired and the Yankees have been leaning on youngsters in middle relief rather than signing veteran free agents.

As Greg said, the Yankees figure to get younger the next year or two as well, especially on the position player side. Gardner, Headley, Frazier, and Holliday will all become free agents either this offseason or next, and the Yankees could replace them with younger players. Younger doesn’t always mean better — the Padres and Phillies have the youngest rosters in baseball this year and they stink — but it sure beats being old. Having players whose best years are ahead of them sure is fun.

John asks: How much help would Brian McCann have been this season? He could have been the opening day DH and back up at catcher and first. His money isn’t that different than what we gave to Carter and Holliday this off season? So would he have been a better piece this year than signing the two of them?

I was in favor of keeping McCann as a part-time backup catcher, part-time first baseman, and part-time designated hitter. He would’ve taken Romine’s roster spot and gotten, say, 450 plate appearances in that role. McCann is hitting .232/.313/.407 (91 wRC+) with 13 home runs this season, making this the worst season of his career. I’m sure the short porch would’ve helped, but it’s not like Houston is a bad place to hit. In theory, McCann replaces Romine, leaving the Holliday and Chris Carter roster spots open. He’d also take Holliday’s payroll slot, so the Yankees couldn’t spend big on those two spots. I dunno. I’d rather have McCann than Romine, but how would he have handled playing irregularly? I was in favor of keeping McCann and I do think the Yankees would be a better team without him (duh). He’s almost certainly not the difference in the AL East race, however.

Brandon asks: Build a 12 man team (9 hitters including DH, one SP, one relief pitcher, one manager). You can only use 2 players from each division. The 2 players cannot be from the same team. Unlimited salary cap. How do you build your team?

Fun! And not as easy as you’d think. There are shockingly few quality left fielders out there. There’s about a billion different possibilities here, and I’m sure you could come up with the best possible team based on projected WAR or whatever, but I’m not doing that. Here’s my quick mailbag team:

Catcher Infielders Outfielders Pitchers
Buster Posey (NLW1) 1B Joey Votto (NLC1) LF Justin Upton (ALC1) SP Carlos Martinez (NLC2)
2B Daniel Murphy (NLE1) CF Mike Trout (ALW2) RF Craig Kimbrel (ALE2)
SS Corey Seager (NLW2) RF Giancarlo Stanton (NLE2)
Designated Hitter 3B Manny Machado (ALE1) Manager
Nelson Cruz (ALW1) Terry Francona (ALC2)

I really wanted to squeeze Sanchez in there. I was originally planning to go with Sanchez at catcher and Nolan Arenado at third, but Posey at catcher and Machado at third is the way to go. Machado was pretty terrible in the first half, but the guy is hitting .333/.364/.599 (148 wRC+) with ten home runs in the second half. That’s Manny Machado. Arenado’s awesome. So is Sanchez. Machado and Posey are better, so they’re on my team.

DotF: Castro and Bird hit back-to-back homers in AAA win

RHP Jonathan Holder has been activated off the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, the team announced. That’s good. Always like to have healthy MLB options stashed in Triple-A. D.J. Eberle says Holder was out with a lower back injury. Those are no fun. At least it wasn’t his arm.

Triple-A Scranton (8-3 win over Rochester)

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-5, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • 2B Starlin Castro: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — played seven innings in the field, as scheduled … he still hasn’t played a full nine innings at second base, though the Yankees could’ve been taking it easy on him today in anticipation of activating him tomorrow
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K — he and Castro hit back-to-back homers against former big leaguer Chris Heston … here’s video of the back-to-back jacks
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB
  • LHP Jordan Montgomery: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 31 of 47 pitches were strikes (66%) … the short start was by design to control his workload … it is in no way a coincidence he is lined up with Jaime Garcia … my guess is Montgomery will make one more short Triple-A start in five days, then rejoin the rotation once rosters expand on September 1st
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K — 14 of 25 pitches were strikes (56%)

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

What a mess of an afternoon. Suspensions are coming. No doubt. Miguel Cabrera should get the longest suspension considering he started the physical confrontation. That doesn’t matter though. The Tigers are out of it and losing Cabrera won’t change anything. The Yankees are now at risk of losing their top two catchers and maybe a reliever — hopefully Dellin Betances doesn’t get suspended, but hitting someone (in the head) and getting ejected after a brawl? not good — while in the middle of a postseason race. Good grief. Everything to lose, nothing to gain.

Anyway, here is an open thread for the night. MLB Network is carrying a regional game tonight and there’s a preseason NFL game on somewhere too. Talk about those games, the brawl(s), this afternoon’s loss, or anything else here. Just not religion or politics. Thanks.

Tigers 10, Yankees 6: Yankees lose ballgame, brawlgame

Probably the most embarrassing game of the season. Definitely the stupidest. The Yankees lost Thursday’s series finale 10-6 to the Tigers, and the two teams got into a beanball war. Who cares about the postseason race when you can stoop to the level of a fourth place team? Not like the Yankees have anything to lose. Five Yankees were ejected and chances are suspensions are coming as well. Hard to think of a worse possible outcome. A true lose-lose affair.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Trading Runs
In the first few innings of Thursday’s game, each time one team scored, the other scored in the next half inning. Those shutdown innings, as announcers like to call them, weren’t happening. The Tigers scored a first inning run on Justin Upton’s solo homer. The Yankees answered back with a run on Chase Headley‘s single in the second. Aaron Judge singled and advanced on a wild pitch to set that one up.

Gary Sanchez gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead with a solo home run in the top of the fourth, then the Tigers came right back with a run in the bottom half. Nick Castellanos doubled and John Hicks drove him in with a single. An Aaron Hicks sac fly in the top of the fifth gave the Yankees another lead, this one 3-2. That inning was set up by Ian Kinsler’s leadoff error. Ronald Torreyes reached, advanced to second on Austin Romine‘s fielder’s choice, advanced to third on Gardner’s infield single, and scored on the sac fly. The two teams combined to score exactly one run in five of the first nine half-innings.

The Ugly Fifth
Everything fell apart in the fifth inning. It all started with an error too. The usually sure-handed Didi Gregorius let a Mikie Mahtook ground ball get under his glove. Play that should’ve been made. Upton followed with a double into the left field corner to give the Tigers runners at second and third with no outs, ending Jaime Garcia‘s day. I’m not sure why Garcia was left in to face Upton there. Upton took Garcia deep earlier in the game and is hitting .344/.422/.688 (192 wRC+) against southpaws this year. If his leash was one more baserunner, why not go to the righty reliever there? I guess Joe Girardi was hoping for the ground ball double play. Alas.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter because the righty reliever came in and barfed all over the place. The righty reliever: Adam Warren. Warren did strike out the (formerly great?) Miguel Cabrera, so that’s cool. It stopped being cool after that. Warren allowed a sac fly to Castellanos to tie the game 3-3, and that’s fine. Runners on second and third and no outs? You kinda expect a run to score there. Keep it to one and that’s fine. Warren didn’t keep it at one.

The next two at-bats were killer. Warren couldn’t put James McCann away in a 2-2 count — McCann fouled off three two-strike pitches — and walked him. He then couldn’t put Hicks away in a 1-2 count and walked him. Yuck. JaCoby Jones punched a two-run single to right and Jose Iglesias walloped a one-run ground double into the right-center field gap. McCann, Hicks, Jones, and Iglesias all reached base in two strike counts. Awful. The Tigers took a 6-3 lead.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

The Fight
If you remember back to when these two teams played in Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago, there was a bit of a beanball war in the first game of the series. The Yankees plunked Mahtook twice in the game, unintentionally, and Michael Fulmer retaliated by hitting Jacoby Ellsbury in the hip. And that was that. They played two more games in the series and nothing else happening.

Fast forward to Thursday. Fulmer plunked Sanchez in the fifth inning, right in the hip, and I thought it was unintentional (at first). The Yankees had a man on base and Fulmer was missing way off the plate to his armside all inning. It looked like a pitch got away from him. Either way, in the sixth, Tommy Kahnle retaliated by throwing behind Cabrera. Kahnle was immediately ejected, and Girardi stormed out of the dugout because warnings hadn’t been issued after Fulmer hit Sanchez. Girardi was tossed too.

That’s when hell broke loose:

Been a while since we’ve seen the Yankees involved in a brawl with actual punches and not a bunch of standing around, huh?  I can’t remember the last one, though my memory is terrible. A few observations from the brawl:

  1. Sanchez definitely punched someone in the dog pile. A few times. You can see it in the video. I think it was Cabrera, but it doesn’t really matter. Even though he wasn’t ejected, Gary is probably looking at a suspension. MLB doesn’t let punches go unpunished.
  2. Romine and Cabrera were also ejected, obviously. That meant the Yankees had to give up the DH to move Sanchez behind the plate. Romine threw punches too, so he might get suspended as well. Imagine both catchers get suspended? With Kyle Higashioka on the Triple-A disabled list? Oy.
  3. Fulmer staying in the game was the stupidest thing ever. He started this mess by throwing at Sanchez and yet there he was, the next half-inning after the brawl, out there on the mound. How ridiculous. What a screw up by the umpiring crew.
  4. First player out of the dugout for the Yankees: Sonny Gray. The guy has been here like two weeks, and he’s already sprinting out of the dugout to get in the middle of a brawl.

Clearly, the Tigers were the aggressor. Fulmer hit Sanchez, Cabrera first said something to Romine, and Cabrera first shoved Romine. I imagine (hope) MLB will take that into consideration when deciding on discipline and all that. The fact punches were thrown leads me to believe the Yankees are not going to get off easy here. They could very well lose Sanchez and Romine to suspension. That’s not good. We’ll see what happens.

The Yankees and Tigers do not play again this year, so this isn’t carrying over. At least not until next year. Hopefully the Yankees don’t lose anyone to a suspension or worse, an injury. I know you have to stick up for your players and all that, and Sanchez is your cornerstone star player, but losing players because of a brawl with a loser fourth place team would suck. The Yankees are in the postseason race and losing Sanchez in particular would be a huge blow.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

But Wait, It Gets Worse
The brawl fired up the Yankees! For at least one inning. They answered right back with three runs in the top of the seventh the tie the game 6-6. Fulmer walked Torreyes and Ellsbury to start the inning — Ellsbury was pinch-hitting for the pitcher’s spot after Sanchez moved behind the plate — and Gardner dunked a single to center to score a run. The Yankees were in business.

Hicks hit what I thought was a go-ahead three-run home run — it sounded awfully good off the bat — and it would’ve been a three-run home run, except Upton made a jumping catch at the wall to take it away. Argh. It still went for a sac fly to bring the Yankees to within a run. Gardner smartly tagged up and went to second on the play, which allowed him to score on Sanchez’s single back up the middle. That tied the game 6-6. Hooray!

Dellin Betances came in to start the bottom of the seventh, and in the process Ellsbury was double-switched in to push the pitcher’s lineup spot down. Who was removed on the double switch? Judge, which seems crazy. The pitcher batting behind Sanchez ensured he would not get another pitch to hit the entire game. There was no one on the bench who would make the Tigers even think twice about pitching to Sanchez. The Yankees took the bat right out of their best player’s hands with that double switch. Ultimately it didn’t matter. Still.

Anyway, Dellin’s second pitch of the game hit McCann in the head. Hit him square. It was ugly and scary. You can see it here. No, Betances did not hit McCann in the head on purpose. He’s just very wild. But he had to be thrown out, and he was. You can’t let a guy stay in the game when he hits someone in the head after a brawl like that. Benches cleared again and this time no punches were thrown, as far as I know. Betances was ejected though, and the Tigers had the go-ahead run on first with no outs. The Yankees brought in David Robertson, and he hit Hicks with a pitch. Dude. Hit him with an 0-2 fastball in the forearm. Robertson was not ejected, but still. Not good.

After hitting Hicks and all the other nonsense, Robertson appeared to be scared out of the strike zone, so to speak. He was trying to be way too fine. As a result, he walked Jones on four pitches to load the bases. Jones was trying to give him an out to bunt the runners up, and Robertson walked him. Brutal. Iglesias clobbered a bases-clearing double into the gap to give the Tigers a 9-6 lead. Turns out the brawl fired up the Tigers too. The Yankees let Detroit load the bases with no outs without putting a ball in play. They got what they deserved that inning.

The plunkings were not over. Alex Wilson hit Todd Frazier in the leg with a pitch in the top of the eighth — Wilson and Tigers manager Brad Ausmus were ejected — and yet again the benches cleared. Gardner was pretty fired up that time. Fortunately Caleb Smith was smart enough not to drill someone in the bottom of the eighth. He gave up a solo home run to McCann instead. The bullpen: 4 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 7 K. Awful. Just awful.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Leftovers
Happy birthday to Gardner. He celebrated his 34th birthday by going 4-for-5. Sanchez had two hits as well. Judge and Headley had the other hits. The three walks were drawn by Frazier, Torreyes, and Ellsbury. And there were all those hit-by-pitches too. At the end of the day, the offense did its part. Six runs should be enough. The bullpen really melted down in this one. Twice.

Another bad start for Garcia, who now has a 5.95 ERA in four starts with the Yankees. He’s allowed 16 runs (13 earned) in 19.2 innings since the trade. I get the sense Jordan Montgomery will be taking this rotation spot once rosters expand in September. It’s good the Yankees added pitching depth at the deadline, but their hold on a wildcard spot is too tenuous to keep running Garcia out there like this.

A recap of the ejections: Kahnle, Girardi, and Romine in the sixth inning, and Betances and acting manager Robbie Thomson in the seventh inning. Cabrera, Ausmus, and Wilson were ejected for the Tigers. What a crap job by the umpires too. No, they didn’t throw any punches or pitches, but not issuing a warning allowed things to escalate.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head over to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Players Weekend! That’ll be fun. Every team will be wearing cool uniforms and the players will have nicknames on their jerseys. Hopefully Sanchez will be part of it. The Yankees are heading back to the Bronx to begin a ten-game homestand, starting with three against the Mariners. Left-handers CC Sabathia and Ariel Miranda will be the starters in Friday night’s opener. RAB Tickets can get you into Yankee Stadium for any of the ten games on the homestand.

Gary Denbo and the future of the Yankees’ front office

Denbo. (NY Post)
Denbo. (NY Post)

While every offseason is important for every team, the upcoming offseason is a crucial one for the Yankees. They’re going to try to supplement their new and exciting young core with quality veterans, all while staying under the $197M luxury tax threshold in 2018. That is much easier said than done. They’ve put their austerity plan on hold once before and I’m sure they don’t want to do it again.

In addition to all the roster machinations, the Yankees also have to deal with the impending free agencies of Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi. They’re both on expiring contracts. I’m not sure what’ll happen with Girardi. My guess is Cashman is coming back though. I’m pretty sure of it. The quick-fix rebuild is going well and Hal Steinbrenner loves him. No reason not to think Cashman won’t get a chance to see this through.

It’s very possible the Yankees will have other front office matters to deal with in addition to Cashman’s new contract. Derek Jeter is in the process of purchasing the Marlins and, according to Mark Feinsand, industry buzz is Yankees vice president of player development Gary Denbo is a candidate for Miami’s general manager job. I had a feeling that would happen. Denbo and Jeter are very close and have known each other a long time. Since Denbo was Jeter’s minor league manager way back in the day.

Denbo has done a little of everything with the Yankees over the years. He currently runs their player development system and has since October 2014, when he replaced the retired Mark Newman. Denbo has also been a minor league manager, a hitting coordinator, the assistant minor league director, and the big league hitting coach for the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Nippon Ham Fighters. And he’s scouted a bunch. He’s done it all.

The farm system under Newman wasn’t all that productive, and things have turned around dramatically since Denbo took over. It would be folly to give him all the credit — the Yankees have a small army of people working in player development — but he certainly deserves a lot of it. Denbo created Captain’s Camp, he brought in all new minor league managers and coaches, and the recent results speak for themselves. It’s easy to understand why Jeter would want Denbo, even beyond their personal relationship.

The question is this: what can the Yankees do to keep Denbo, assuming Jeter would indeed like to bring him to Miami? A raise and a promotion is the obvious answer, but it very well might be nothing. There might be no way to keep him. Denbo could be looking for a new challenge with a new organization, a chance to captain his own ship, and the Yankees can’t really offer that opportunity. MLB’s not expanding anytime soon. A new team with a new owner is as clean a slate as you can get in this game. The Marlins offer that.

What I suppose the Yankees could do is offer Denbo their general manager position. The Yankees could create one of those new president of baseball operations positions that has become popular around baseball, bump Cashman up there, and move Denbo up into Cashman’s old job. Cashman stays — I think that’s happening no matter what — and it might allow them to keep Denbo, albeit in a new position. The problem with that is Cashman is still running the show. The general manager doesn’t have the usual autonomy under a president of baseball operations.

I thought the Yankees would do this three years ago, the last time Cashman’s contract was up, with the idea of promoting then-assistant general manager Billy Eppler to general manager. It didn’t happen and a year later Eppler left to take over as the general manager of the Angels. The Yankees moved forward and are in a much better place right now than they were two years ago. That’s not a knock on Eppler. He’s awesome. It just goes to show that you can lose a key piece like Eppler and life will go on.

And yet, losing Denbo feels like it would be a much bigger blow than losing Eppler, and Eppler was Cashman’s right-hand man. The farm system has become much more productive since Denbo took over and the Yankees have more quality prospects on the way. You don’t want to lose the guy in charge of the pipeline. Maybe the Yankees will be able to keep Denbo in some capacity. Maybe there’s nothing they could realistically offer to prevent him from leaving. Whatever happens, the goal doesn’t change. Develop players and build a championship team. If someone else has to step in and do it, so be it.