Thoughts as the Yankees head out to the West Coast

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are out on the West Coast and they’ll begin a six-game trip tomorrow night in Anaheim. Angel Stadium used to be a house of horrors for the Yankees. Those days are long gone though. Anyway, here are some thoughts on the off-day.

1. The first two weeks of the Gary Sanchez era have been pretty awesome. It’s not just all the dingers, though those are cool as hell. Sanchez has looked pretty good behind the plate in his limited time there. His arm is obviously a cannon. I mean, holy crap. One of the strongest arms I’ve ever seen. Sanchez’s receiving and blocking look pretty good too. He’s not Gold Glove caliber or anything, but the guy came up through the minors with a reputation for being a poor defender, and now he looks solid. I also like that he seems willing to take charge with the pitching staff. Sanchez is not shy about going out to the mound and talking things over in big spots. The bat is great. I felt pretty confident in Sanchez doing damage at the plate. Maybe not this much right away, but in time. The defense was the bigger question and everything looks good so far. I’m encouraged.

2. When Greg Bird first came up last year, I couldn’t help but notice the way teams would aggressively attack him with fastballs up in the strike zone, especially with two strikes. It really drove home that teams these days have super detailed scouting reports, so much so that when a kid comes up from the minors, the MLB club already knows his tendencies and weaknesses. I remember a few years ago Red Sox manager John Farrell said they had to double check their internal data because the Yankees were shifting on Jackie Bradley Jr. in his first week as a big leaguer. So, with that in mind, here’s the pitch selection against Aaron Judge in his first five games with the Yankees (MLB averages in parenthesis):

Hard (various types of fastballs): 66.7% (61.5%)
Breaking (curveballs, sliders): 20.5% (23.8%)
Offspeed (changeups, splitters): 12.8% (11.7%)

I did toss out Judge’s two at-bats against R.A. Dickey because they tell us nothing useful. Knuckleballers are outliers. That’s the pitch selection against Judge by non-gimmick pitchers. He’s only batted 18 times against non-Dickeys, so it’s not a big sample, but I was still surprised to see Judge has been getting so many fastballs. It hasn’t seemed like that many while watching the games. I feel like he’s been getting a steady diet of soft stuff away, which is exactly what gave Judge so much trouble late last season. Intrigue! Judge has performed well so far and I’m sure he’s going to stop seeing so many fastballs soon. He’s such a unique player because of his size. I’m looking forward to analyzing him as his big league career continues.

3. I get that it was as much a function of their place in the standings than anything, but I do like that the Yankees have called up several of their top young players at the same time. Sanchez was up before Judge and Tyler Austin, but by only a few days. I think it’s good to break these guys in together. The big leagues are hard! It can be even harder and more intimidating if you’re a rookie walking into a veteran clubhouse like the Yankees have had over the years. Sanchez, Judge, and Austin have been playing together for years now and they get to experience all of this together. The successes, the failures, everything. I’m certain MLB can be overwhelming, especially when you’re new. Having a familiar face around to experience things with can only help.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4. Didi Gregorius has been the team’s second best hitter this season behind the departed Carlos Beltran, and I’m glad to see he’s finally moved up in the lineup the last few days. Gregorius is an energetic and excitable guy, and he can get really jumpy at the plate. We see it a lot with men on base and in big spots. He goes up there hacking. This little late-season look as the No. 3 or 4 hitter can maybe help get him used to hitting higher in the lineup and keep him from being so jumpy at the plate. I’m not sure if that’s possible, but it’s worth a try. I wasn’t a huge believer in Didi’s bat when the Yankees acquired him, but he’s obviously turned himself into a quality hitter, someone the team can now expect to do damage. With any luck, he’ll continue to improve and still be only their sixth or seventh best hitter as the kids establish themselves. Gregorius is awesome, but when he’s arguably your best hitter like he has been this year, it’s a bit of a problem.

5. What in the world are the Yankees going to do with Jacoby Ellsbury? He’s hitting .263/.326/.361 (86 wRC+) this year, .246/.302/.349 (75 wRC+) since coming off the DL last year, and .264/.324/.379 (94 wRC+) as a Yankee overall. I was okay with giving him this season to show last year’s poor performance was a result of the knee injury, but good grief. His last 800 or so plate appearances have been awful. The Yankees owe Ellsbury roughly $90M from 2017-20, and while no player is truly untradeable, trading him is a question of whether a) the Yankees are willing to live with the terms (eating money, etc.), and b) Ellsbury is willing to waive his no-trade clause. The team has to hope so. The Yankees are suddenly very willing to move on from veteran players, either by trading them (Beltran), reducing their role (Brian McCann), or releasing them (Alex Rodriguez). Ellsbury’s the one guy on the roster with a lots of years left on a big money contract. Unloading him should be a priority this winter.

6. Mark Teixeira is totally going to wind up on television once the season ends and he’s retired as a player, right? Maybe not as soon as next season, but eventually. He’s really good on camera from what we’ve seen, he’s willing to make fun of himself, and he can talk intelligently about the game. Add in the fact that he’s a big name player and you’ve got a great recipe for a television analyst. The only real question is whether he wants to do it. Teixeira’s made so much money in his career that he presumably doesn’t have to work anymore. I’m sure some networks will come calling, maybe even YES, but Teixeira’s in a position where he doesn’t have to settle anything less than the perfect job. Hopefully he hooks on somewhere. I think he’d be really entertaining as a broadcaster.

DotF: Higashioka homers; Gamel, Frazier, Refsnyder each have two hits in Scranton’s loss

Both C Gary Sanchez (two homers in MLB) and LHP Justus Sheffield (another strong start in High-A) made an appearance in today’s Prospect Report after their big games yesterday. As always, it’s not behind the Baseball America paywall, so check it out.

Triple-A Scranton (10-6 loss to Norfolk)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 14-for-32 (.434) during his eight-game hitting streak
  • RF Clint Frazier: 2-5, 1 R — 11-for-36 (.306) in his last nine games
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — fourth game since being sent down … he’s played two at second and two at third
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 0-3, 1 K — left the game in the sixth inning … Shane Hennigan says Parmelee had back spasms
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-4
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — here’s video of the homer
  • RHP Brady Lail: 3.2 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 4/2 GB/FB — 49 of 76 pitches were strikes (64%) … managed to allow four homers … ouch
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 24 of 40 pitches were strikes (60%) … he’s been working longer outings of late … looks like they’re stretching him out a bit so he can go two or three innings at a time if necessary in September
  • RHP Nick Goody: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 28 of 40 pitches were strikes (70%) … 28/1 K/BB in 18.1 innings in Triple-A this year (32/12 K/BB in 27.2 innings in MLB)

[Read more…]

Thursday Wednesday Night Open Thread

I missed this the other day: David Laurila interviewed righty Ben Heller when the Yankees were in Boston last week. Heller came over from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade and was called up for a few days last week, though he did not appear in a game. I’m certain we’ll see him again when rosters expand in September. Maybe even sooner.

Anyway, here is the open thread for the night. ESPN is showing the Red Sox and Orioles, and the Mets are playing out on the West Coast later tonight. The Olympics are on too. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else here. Have at it.

Sanchez’s homer not enough, Yanks drop finale 7-4 to Jays

Boy do the Blue Jays know how to humble the Yankees or what? After blowing a 6-0 lead Wednesday night, the Yankees got pushed around by Toronto and dropped Thursday afternoon’s series finale 7-4. The Blue Jays outscored the Yankees 19-4 in the final 13 innings of the series. The Yankees are 7-18 against the Blue Jays since last year’s trade deadline, including 3-10 at Yankee Stadium. They’ve been outscored 119-71 in the 25 games. Men against boys.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

An Early Deficit
The Blue Jays bludgeoned New York’s bullpen last night, scoring 12 runs in the final four innings of the game, and they picked up right where they left off Thursday afternoon. Toronto struck quick for three runs in the second inning and the bottom of the order did most of the damage. That’s annoying. The top of their lineup is so good and you expect them to create runs. Letting the bottom of the order do it too is no good. That’s going to lead to a loss more times than not.

The second inning rally started with a Troy Tulowitzki single inside the first base bag, then CC Sabathia walked the baseball player former known as B.J. Upton. The Blue Jays were in business with one out, and Ezequiel Carrera took advantage with a loud double off the left field wall. Brett Gardner played the carom perfectly and prevented the the second run from scoring on the play, but ultimately it did not matter. Darwin Barney, the No. 8 hitter, poked a double just inside third base to score two runs. Just like that, it was 3-0 Toronto.

The Short-Lived Comeback
The Yankees did manage to chip away some in the middle innings. Gary Sanchez hit yet another home run in the second inning, his third in the last 24 hours and fourth in the last fourth games. This one was a bomb to dead center field. Here’s the video:

My favorite thing about Sanchez so far is that all five of his home runs have been moonshots. He hasn’t hit a wall-scraper yet. Sanchez got the Yankees back to within 3-1, then Starlin Castro closed the gap to 3-2 with a fourth inning solo home run. That was his 15th homer of the season, a new career high. Castro still has another 42 games to add to that total. Thanks to the two dingers, the comeback was on!

Extra Outs
The game got away from the Yankees in the fifth inning, when the defense completely screwed over Sabathia. They gave the Blue Jays three extra outs. Three! The inning started with a soft ground ball to short by Devon Travis, but Didi Gregorius got his feet tangled and fell down, and was unable to make the throw to first. The next batter, Josh Donaldson, hit a soft grounder to Chase Headley, who threw to second. Travis beat it out (pretty easily, too) and everyone was safe. The play developed slowly and I thought Headley should have gone to first while watching live. The outcome confirms it.

Those are the first two extra outs. Edwin Encarnacion following Donaldson’s grounder to third with another grounder to third, and this time Headley stepped on third base for the first out (hooray!) before throwing the ball over Tyler Austin‘s head at first base (boo!). It should have been a double play. Instead they only got one out. There’s the third extra out. And of course the Blue Jays made the Yankees pay. Russell Martin singled in a run and Upton whacked a three-run home run into the short porch to make it 7-2 Blue Jays. Sabathia isn’t good enough to escape six-out innings anymore. Brutal job by the defense and Headley especially.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Sabathia finished the afternoon with seven runs allowed in six innings. His ERA has ballooned from 2.20 to 4.49 in his last eleven starts. Sabathia’s resurgence was fun while it lasted. On the bright side, CC struck out 12 batters, his most since striking out a dozen Rays in June 2012. Sabathia is the first pitcher with 7+ earned runs and 12+ strikeouts in a game since rookie Cole Hamels in 2006.

The Yankees did manage to bring the tying run to the plate at one point. Headley hit a solo homer to make it 7-3 in the sixth, then Aaron Judge singled in a run to make it 7-4 in the eighth. Roberto Osuna struck out Gregorius with two on to end that eighth inning. Not a great afternoon for Didi. He went 0-for-4 with a double play, two strikeouts, and four runners left on base, plus got his feet twisted up in that fifth inning.

The 2-3-4-5 hitters led the way offensively: Headley, Castro, Sanchez, and Judge each had two hits and drove in a run. Headley, Castro, and Sanchez homered. Sanchez drew a walk too. The bottom four hitters in the lineup went a combined 0-for-16 with seven strikeouts. Ouch. The Yankees aren’t good enough to win games when a chunk of the lineup does that.

Kirby Yates, Tommy Layne, and Anthony Swarzak each tossed a scoreless inning once Sabathia’s afternoon was over. Swarzak tossed the ninth with the Yankees down 7-4. It’s pretty amazing he’s not only still on the roster, but is also pitching in games that are still reasonably within reach.

And finally, the Blue Jays have now won five straight series in Yankee Stadium. Five! The last visiting team to win five straight series in the Bronx was the Indians, who did it from 1967-69. Yikes!

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for both the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the sad loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The homestand is over and the Yankees are now heading out on a six-game West Coast trip. But first: an off-day. The Yankees don’t play Thursday. The West Coast trip starts Friday night in Anaheim with the first of three against the Angels. Masahiro Tanaka and Jered Weaver are the scheduled starters.

Teixeira says he is “staying put” and won’t accept a trade

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

According to Dan Martin and Fred Kerber, Mark Teixeira will not waive his 10-and-5 no-trade protection this month, even if it gives him an opportunity to go to a team with a chance to win the World Series. “You know, (GM Brian Cashman) and I have talked about it, and it’s not something that I think would benefit me or the Yankees. So no, I’m staying put,” he said.

Two weeks ago Teixeira announced he will retire after the season, and with the Yankees on the postseason bubble at best and Tyler Austin now on the roster, I thought maybe he would be open to going elsewhere. Then again, Teixeira and his family live in the New York full-time, and he might not want to leave them, even for a few weeks. I wouldn’t blame him if that’s the case.

Of course, the other side of this is what teams would want Teixeira? The Marlins immediately come to mind. First baseman Justin Bour is out long-term with an ankle injury and Giancarlo Stanton’s season just ended due to a groin injury. Miami has a clear need for a first baseman and power. The Cardinals just lost Matt Adams to a shoulder injury, making them another potential landing spot.

Cashman told Martin and Kerber that while the Yankees didn’t actively shop Teixeira, his willingness to mentor the team’s young players is more valuable than anything they could realistically get in return. I can’t imagine they’d get more than a fringe prospect or cash for Teixeira at this point, so why not keep him to mentor guys like Austin, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez? That sounds good to me. Just maybe don’t bat him cleanup all the time.

For now Teixeira says he doesn’t want to leave the Yankees, but maybe he’ll change his mind if the team really falls out of the race and/or Austin starts hogging all the time at first base. Two weeks from yesterday is the deadline to acquire a player and have him be eligible for the postseason roster, so there’s still some time for this to play out. Right now, my guess is Teixeira retires a Yankee.

Game 120: End of the Homestand

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

This homestand felt longer than it really was, didn’t it? This was only a six-game homestand, but before that three-game swing through Boston, the Yankees had a five-game homestand. So eleven of their last 14 games have been in the Bronx. I have no idea where I’m going with this. Moving on …

The Yankees suffered a pretty brutal loss last night and the best thing about baseball is that it gives you a chance to turn the page quickly. They’re back at with the Blue Jays this afternoon, in the series finale. A win means a series win and a loss means a series loss. The Yankees need as many series wins as possible right now. It’s already Game 120. There’s not that much time left. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. DH Gary Sanchez
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. CF Aaron Hicks
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s a wonderful day for baseball here in New York. The unbearable heat and humid has finally subsided, so it’s a pleasant 84 degrees this afternoon with a nice breeze. Nice day to spend at the park. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Catcher Update: Joe Girardi told reporters Sanchez will be the primary catcher going forward and Brian McCann will be the DH. Just like that, McCann goes from being a good hitting catcher to a subpar DH.

Roster Move: The Yankees sent Chasen Shreve down to Triple-A Scranton and recalled Kirby Yates, the team announced. Anthony Swarzak remains on the roster for reasons I can’t understand at this time.

Thoughts following Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow injury

(Getty)
(Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees received bad news about Nathan Eovaldi, who will soon undergo surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. From what I understand it’s technically two surgeries, though they’re performed at the same time. Eovaldi was able to hit 94.9 mph last Wednesday even though his elbow was ripped to shreds. Pretty crazy. Anyway, I have some thoughts on the injury and what it means for the Yankees in the short and long-term.

1. The injury doesn’t hurt a ton in the short-term for a few reasons. For starters, Eovaldi hasn’t pitched all that well since June. He has a 5.77 ERA (6.31 FIP) in 64 innings since June 1st and that includes his 7.2 scoreless innings of relief. Even his most recent starts weren’t all that great, though I think it is fair to wonder whether the elbow injury contributed to those 64 miserable innings. (Does the elbow explain all the homers?) Secondly, September 1st is two weeks from tomorrow, so pretty soon the Yankees will be able to call up all the extra arms they desire. Even if guys like Chad Green and Luis Cessa prove to be five-and-fly pitchers every fifth day, the Yankees will soon have enough arms to carry the workload. (Eovaldi wasn’t exactly a workhorse himself.) There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth, so the Yankees will miss Eovaldi in that regard, but he’s been a liability more than a weapon for close to three months now. Losing him stinks. It’s not a season-sinker though.

2. There was reportedly interest in Eovaldi prior to the trade deadline — I wonder if the medicals stood in the way of completing a deal? — and the Yankees figured to again put him in the market in the offseason. Why not? They should listen to offers for literally everyone in the organization, even Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. The injury means Eovaldi is no longer a trade chip and that stinks. I don’t like referring to human beings as assets but that’s what they are in the baseball world, so Eovaldi’s injury means the Yankees are losing an asset. He can’t pitch and they can’t trade him. That bites. The price for pitching is sky high these days — a few weeks ago the Rangers traded an actual prospect for Lucas Harrell (on purpose!) — and the Yankees might have been able to get a decent return for a healthy Eovaldi, especially if he finished the season well. Guys who throw 100 mph as starters are very rare.

3. I have to think the Yankees will non-tender Eovaldi after the season. He’s in line for more than $7M in 2017 as an arbitration-eligible player and there’s no reason to pay him that to sit on the DL all year, not when he’s going to be a free agent after the season. It’s a total waste of money. The Royals non-tendered Greg Holland this past offseason for that exact reason. I do wonder if the Yankees will look to re-sign Eovaldi after that though. They do have a history of signing pitchers coming off major injuries and waiting out the rehab. Jon Lieber back in the day is the most notable example. They’ve done it with David Aardsma and Andrew Bailey in recent years too. (I feel like there’s someone else I’m missing.) The Yankees clearly like Eovaldi and by all accounts he’s a hard-worker and coachable — example: learning the splitter last year, incorporating the cutter this year — and that’s the kind of guy you roll the dice with on a deal like this. How about a two-year contract worth $6M? Say $1M in 2017 as he rehabs and $5M in 2018, plus incentives based on innings? Just spitballing here.

(Norm Hall/Getty)
(Norm Hall/Getty)

4. The Yankees are going to have to add a starting pitcher this offseason, aren’t they? I mean, they don’t absolutely have to, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Keep things status quo and they’re looking at some combination of Green, Cessa, and Luis Severino behind the front three of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia. I guess Bryan Mitchell would be in that back-end mix too. Guys like Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns would be the depth arms in Triple-A, and uh, that doesn’t sound too great. At least not to me. Maybe you’re comfortable with that. The upcoming free agent market really stinks, so maybe the Yankees turn to the trade market for a veteran innings guy to stash in the back of the rotation. Even if they’re rebuilding and not planning to contend next season (lol), adding a starting pitcher makes sense.

5. We can more or less close the book on the trade now and boy did the Yankees come out on the wrong end of this one. David Phelps (3.73 ERA and 3.63 FIP) has out-pitched Eovaldi (4.45 ERA and 4.11 FIP) on a rate basis since the trade, albeit in way fewer innings (279 to 181), plus the Yankees gave up Martin Prado too. He’s hit .305/.356/.417 (109 wRC+) in over 1,000 plate appearances with the Marlins. The Yankees paid part of his salary as well. Garrett Jones was a zero and Domingo German has barely pitched since the trade due to Tommy John surgery. That’s rough. Maybe German will turn into the next Carlos Carrasco or something. That’s pretty much the only way the Yankees can salvage this trade. Now, that said, it doesn’t mean the logic behind the trade was bad. Trading a 31-year-old infielder and a spare swingman for a 24-year-old who throws 100 is the kind of trade the Yankees and every other team should look to make. This one didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean a) it was a bad idea, and b) you pass on making a similar trade in the future.