Game 52: Party like it’s 2010

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Last night’s win was one of those wins that makes you feel good all day, you know? The Yankees had a tough go of it in Baltimore, but they came out and laid a beating on the Blue Jays early in the series opener. Always nice to see them turn things around so quickly. Hopefully it continues tonight.

Tonight the Yankees have a chance to do something they haven’t done since way back in 2010, and that’s win 32 of their first 52 games. At 31-20, the Yankees currently have their best record through 51 games since that 2010 team also went 31-20. Only three times this century have the Yankees won 32 of their first 52 games: 2002 (34-18), 2004 (33-19), and 2010 (32-20). Pretty cool the Yankees are where they are. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. CF Aaron Hicks
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Michael Pineda

The internet tells me it is cool and cloudy in Toronto tonight. I’m not sure whether the Rogers Center roof will be open. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:07pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) was scheduled to hit a little bit today. Joe Girardi said it is unlikely Ellsbury will be activated during this series.

Awards!: Congrats to Judge, who was named AL Rookie of the Month for the second straight month. He’s the first Yankee ever to win the award twice, and he did it back-to-back months. Sanchez won it last August, so Yankees have been named AL Rookie of the Month in three of the last four months. Is that good? That seems good.

2017 Draft: Sam Carlson

Sam Carlson | RHP

Carlson, 18, hails from the noted baseball talent hotbed of Minnesota. He attends Burnsville High School in the Minneapolis suburbs, and he’s committed to Florida.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs., Carlson has the ideal pitcher’s frame, and he also throws three pitches. That’s rare for a high schooler, especially one from Minnesota. Last summer in showcases Carlson sat mostly in the low-90s, but he’s come out this spring firing 93-95 mph and touching 97 mph regularly. His fastball is even better than the velocity indicates because the pitch has natural running action back in on righties. Carlson’s second best offering is a hard slider, and he also throws a quality changeup. He uses all three pitches regularly and locates well. It’s a pretty advanced repertoire for a kid from a cold weather state. Carlson is a really good athlete — his future lies on the mound, though it’s worth noting he’s a good enough hitter that he’ll also play some outfield for the Gators, should he not sign for some reason — and he repeats his delivery well, though there’s some thought he’d benefit from lengthening his stride a bit.

Carlson is one of the rare prospects who gets all the scouting publications to agree on his place in the draft class. Baseball America ranked him as the 14th best prospect available while both and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him 15th. Hard to get much closer than that. The Yankees hold the 16th pick. As with most cold weather state kids, one of the biggest issues for Carlson is a general lack of exposure. He was a regular on the summer showcase circuit last year, though scouts don’t have much time to see him this spring because his high school season started only a few weeks ago.

Guest Post: The Other Guy: The Yugoslavian Shortstop of 1944

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, Jerry Kenney, the Copacabana incident, Mark Koenig, Earle Combs, and Urban Shocker.

(Baseball Birthdays)
Milosevich. (Baseball Birthdays)

The 1944 season for Major League Baseball was a strange one when it comes to the players who were participating. Because of World War II in Europe, many Major Leaguers were overseas fighting. Famously, Yogi Berra participated in the D-Day invasion at the beaches of Normandy, France; Bill Dickey served at the Navy Hospital in Hawaii until his discharge in January of 1946; Joe Gordon served for the United States Army as a member of the Air Corps; Spud Chandler enlisted for the Army as well. At home, the war effort was also important. On June 26, 1944, the Yankees, along with the crosstown Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants had a three-way baseball game to raise money in war bonds. The three-way game raised over $55 million in war bonds for the Roosevelt administration.

New players were needed to replace the players who were serving in the war effort. Aside of this writer’s favorite player, Frankie Crosetti, most of the team in 1944 was backup players. The 80-tool name that the 1944 Yankees had was infielder Snuffy Stirnweiss, who came in fourth for the Most Valuable Player Award. That season he batted .319/.389/.460/.849 and had 16 triples and 55 stolen bases (the highest in the league). He scored the most runs (125) and got the most hits (205) in the most plate appearances (723). Nick Etten, the Yankees first baseman, hit 22 home runs and was the home run king for the season. He led the league in walks with 97 and finished 23rd in the MVP vote. By 1947, Etten was out of the league after 14 games with the Athletics.

While Etten and Stirnweiss held down the right side of the infield, the other side was a platoon. Crosetti was the starting shortstop, but on a downward trend from his peak in the 1930s. With regular shortstop Phil Rizzuto out serving for the Army, the now utility infielder would have to take care of the job until the war ended. At the same time, the Yankees promoted a nine-year minor leaguer from the Kansas City Blues, their AAA affiliate.  This 30-year old rookie would end up becoming the stalwart at shortstop over Crosetti for 1944.

Michael Milosevich was born on January 13, 1915 in the city of Zeigler, Illinois, a two-hour drive southeast of St. Louis. He was one of seven kids born to Rados (“Rado”) and Kata (“Katie”) Miloseovich, natives of Slune in Yugoslavia. The Milosevich children were all very athletically-inclined. Mike, along with his siblings, George, Daniel, Paul, Nicholas and Samuel, represented the sports of Zeigler from 1929-1944. All of them would move on to colleges, such as Samuel, who attended the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and played football and basketball. Paul attended the University of Illinois and was one the varsity football team, varsity baseball team, and the varsity basketball team. (Paul died in a plane crash in Florida in 1943.)

However, Michael had a different calling. At age 20, the eldest brother decided to leave his job at a steel mill as a puddler and a soft coal miner in Zeigler to make it into professional baseball. In 1935, when he made the decision, he was playing semi-professional baseball for a team in Steubenville, Ohio (west of Pittsburgh). Milosevich decided that he would head to Washington, Pennsylvania and talked to the manager of their Pennsylvania State League team, 1927 Yankees backup catcher, Benny Bengough to get on the team. Milosevich asked Bengough to give him a chance and soon he became a shortstop. The known statistics of the Washington Generals for 1935 are limited, but Milosevich appeared in 107 games and batted .294 and slugged .383 with no home runs, five triples and 24 doubles in 112 hits.

The next season, 1936, the Yankees promoted Milosevich and his manager, Bengough to the Joplin Minors C-league team in Joplin, Missouri. In his first season at Joplin, Milosevich batted .269 and slugged .367 with 151 hits in 562 at bats during 141 games. He hit his first two professional home runs at Joplin in 1936. The numbers showed improvement during a second stint at Joplin in 1937. That season he hit .274 and slugged .363 with 22 doubles, 7 triples and three home runs in 139 games.

In 1938, the pairing of Milosevich and Bengough were split as the former was sent to the C-team in Akron, Ohio (the Akron Yankees), managed by Pip Koehler. In 107 games at Akron, he managed to attain 117 hits in 107 games with 409 plate appearances. His home run power continued to go up, reaching six in 1938, where he batted .286 and slugged .430. In 1939, he was promoted to A-league Binghamton in the Eastern League. At this time period, the Binghamton team was named the Triplets. (The name is based on the Triple Cities of Endicott, Binghamton and Johnson City in Broome County.) In the team, Milosevich batted .272/.387 (average/slugging) in 103 games and 346 at bats.

However, the Yankees tried to play Milosevich in the Norfolk Tars playoffs during the 1939 playoffs. This was a disaster. Piedmont League President Ralph Daughton ordered on September 6 that the team was eliminated for using Milosevich. This decision vacated their four wins and gave teams in Asheville, Durham, Portsmouth and Rocky Mount, North Carolina the opportunity to participate for the President’s Cup.

In 1940, the Yankees kept Milosevich with Binghamton, and he hit a bland .250/.327 with 120 hits. The 1940 season would begin to mark a decline in the minor league performance for Milosevich. In 1941, he ended up splitting time between Binghamton and Norfolk, appearing in 63 games for both teams and batted .213/.258 with no home runs and just 89 hits. Despite the lackluster performance in 1941, the Yankees placed Milosevich in the AA Kansas City Blues of the American Association. In 1942, the shortstop appeared in 153 games, batting .286/.370/.362 with 146 hits and 27 doubles with 52 runs batted in. The next season, 1943, he also returned to Kansas City as a 28-year old. Then, he only appeared in 139 games and batted a paltry .243/.285/.304. Milosevich had only 42 RBI and got 127 hits.

The Yankees entered 1944 with Oscar Grimes as their starting shortstop with Crosetti on the bench. Grimes had a horrendous start to the 1944 campaign. He managed to hit only .125/.222/.167 in seven games. (That is what you call small sample size.) On April 30, they called up Milosevich to the Yankees and benched Grimes. (To tell you the Yankees’ opinion of Grimes, he did not appear in another game until May 30 against the Tigers.) In the first game of the doubleheader against the Washington Senators on April 30, Milosevich went 0 for 4 against Mickey Haefner. In the third inning of the second game, Milosevich got his first big league hit against Early Wynn with a double.

Milosevich’s numbers after his debut were outright terrible. They were not Kyle Higashioka-terrible, but he did not reach the Mario Mendoza Line until May 19, when it peaked at .211 in batting average. By the doubleheader on May 21, he was below it again. Aside of a quick jump above .200 on May 30, Milosevich remained there until July 6, when he finally got the average above for good. His 1944 season would be considered a tale of two seasons as he managed to continue going on a rake during the latter half of the season. At the end of the 1944 season, the Yankees finished third in the American League and batted .247/.313/.308 with 77 hits, 11 doubles, four triples and 32 RBI in 94 games.

The damage was done, however. The next season, 1945, Grimes was moved to third base and Crosetti became the starter with Milosevich as the backup. Milosevich did not make his 1945 debut until May 19 and would not appear in another game until July 1. He played sporadically during the months of July and August and early September. His last appearance on the 1945 Yankees came on September 15, when he participated in a doubleheader. By that point, he hit .217/.280/.246 as the backup shortstop. His time as a major leaguer was done as in 1946, Rizzuto returned from the service and Crosetti went to the backup. His final statistics as a Major League player were a .241/.309/.297 line with 92 hits om 391 AB and 124 games.

The Yankees did not cut the infielder from their organization in 1946, but instead, he played for the Newark Bears of the International League and the Blues in Kansas City. In 103 games, his completely tanking numbers showed themselves in a .195/.308/.246 batting line with 61 hits and 23 RBIs. The next season, 1947, he joined the Red Sox organization and played for the Atlanta Crackers and New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association.

By 1949, Milosevich became a D-league player/manager. That season, he managed the Hazlehurst-Baxley Red Socks of the Georgia State League. In 1950, he moved onto the Lumberton Auctioneers of the Tobacco State League as a player (and not a manager). His final season as a player manager was the 1951 season with the Americus Rebels of the Georgia-Florida League. For his minors careers, Milosevich appeared in 1,566 games and had 1,475 hits, 47 home runs, 57 triples, along with 282 doubles. He managed to walk more than he struck out: 145 to 129.

Milosevich’s career was over. Milosevich moved to East Chicago, Indiana, where he died on February 3, 1966 due to heart disease. He was buried in the family plot at Zeigler Cemetery. All of the Milosevich Six have since passed away, with the final brother, Samuel, passing in 2015 at the age of 94. The story of Mike Milosevich is a short one given his short career, but the 1944 Yankee deserves air time because he was a stalwart of the 1944 team despite his poor performance. Hidden behind Etten, Stirnweiss and others, he managed to beat out Crosetti and earned his chance in 1944. While he is never remembered by anyone but the obscure Yankee historians, River Avenue Blues gets a chance to read about him.

Hicks is leaving the Yankees no choice, they have to play him every day

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Last night the Yankees opened their four-game series in Toronto with a convincing 12-2 win over the Blue Jays. They jumped on Marco Estrada early, scoring four runs in the top of the first, and they never let up. CC Sabathia took the big early lead and ran with it, like any good veteran starter would do. It was a fun game.

The hero on offense was not Gary Sanchez, who smashed two no-doubt home runs against Marco Estrada. It was nominal fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks. Hicks went 4-for-5 with three doubles, and he drove in six of the team’s 12 runs. The first double plated three of those four first inning runs, and it sounded like it was shot out of a cannon. Listen to this thing:

Loud contact all night for Hicks. All season, really. Thursday’s game upped his season batting line to .317/.437/.579 (173 wRC+) in 159 plate appearances. His eight home runs equal last season’s total in 202 fewer plate appearances. Hicks is also one of only six players to bat at least 150 times this season and have more walks (28) than strikeouts (27). The others: Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and Buster Posey. Brand names.

Last night Hicks finally picked up enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, and here’s where he currently ranks among the 173 qualified hitters:

  • AVG: .317 (18th)
  • OBP: .437 (5th)
  • SLG: .579 (13th)
  • wRC+: 173 (6th)
  • BB%: 17.6% (1st)

It’s not a stretch to say Hicks has been a top ten hitter in baseball this season. He is about 60 plate appearances behind most full-timers, which hurts his case, but the numbers don’t lie. When he’s played, he’s been a force. It’s hard to believe this is the same Hicks we saw last season, isn’t it?

Jacoby Ellsbury is currently out with a concussion, so last night was Hicks’ seventh straight start in center field. Prior to that he was playing fairly regularly, but not full-time. He started 31 of the team’s first 44 games before Ellsbury was placed on the disabled list. Rather than crash back to Earth and get exposed with regular time while filling in for Ellsbury, Hicks has continued to produce.

Given his all-around production — he plays good defense and runs the bases well, in addition to the big bat — Hicks is leaving the Yankees little choice but to play him every day even after Ellsbury returns, which could be as soon as this weekend. He’s playing too well to relegate to part-time duty, even if he starts something like four out of every seven games. That’s not enough. This is a talented 27-year-old player in the middle of a breakout season. That’s not someone you give limited playing time.

The problem with playing Hicks every day — and this is a “problem,” not a problem — is who do you sit? Certainly not Aaron Judge. Brett Gardner has been mashing of late too. Ellsbury? He’s got four years and $80-something million left on his contract. He’s not going to sit. And it’s not like he was playing poorly before the concussion either. The Yankees legitimately have four starting caliber outfielders on the roster. That’s exciting!

Once Ellsbury returns, the Yankees can ease him back into things and let him play every other day for a week or so. Something like that. Concussions are no joke. They’re a brain injury. Easing him back into things makes sense, and it allows the Yankees to play Hicks regularly. Once Ellsbury is a full go, I guess the Yankees have no choice but to rotate everyone, right? Something like this:

  • Day One: Hicks, Ellsbury, Judge
  • Day Two: Gardner, Hicks, Judge
  • Day Three: Gardner, Ellsbury, Hicks
  • Day Four: Gardner, Ellsbury, Judge

It sounds like a great idea, but it’s not easy to put into practice. Platoon matchups will screw things up — inevitably a Gardner-Ellsbury-whoever day will come up against a lefty starter — and also who wants Judge sitting out one-quarter of the games going forward? Who wants Hicks sitting out that many games too? Ugh, having too many good players is sooo annoying.

In all seriousness, Hicks is forcing the Yankees to keep him in the lineup as much as possible. I know he’s technically the fourth outfielder, but he sure as heck isn’t playing like one. He’s playing like an All-Star. Perhaps this will all work itself out in some way, either with a trade or an injury or whatever, but, for now, the Yankees and Joe Girardi have to find a way to get Hicks as much playing time as possible. He’s too good not to play every game, especially for a team in a division race.

Mailbag: Pitchers, Torres, Headley, Green, Harvey, Chapman

Big mailbag this week. Fifteen questions. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send your questions throughout the week.


Ross asks: Assuming Tanaka opts out at the end of the season, who would you re-sign of Tanaka, Pineda, and CC and what is the contract value/years you would be willing to pay?

Well, if Masahiro Tanaka opts out, it’ll be because he’s looking for more than the three years and $67M left on his contract. This is a difficult question to answer because he’s been so bad this year. Before this season I was thinking Johnny Cueto money (six years, $120M). Now? Hard to see that happening. Jeff Samardzija money (five years, $90M)? Brandon McCarthy money (four years, $48M)? It really depends how the rest of the season plays out.

Michael Pineda, if he keeps doing what he’s been doing, will best McCarthy’s contract, I believe. He’s still on the right side of 30, and he’s been pretty durable the last three years. CC Sabathia is a year-to-year guy at this point. One year, $10M to $12M or so. How’s this sound?

  • Tanaka: Four years and $80M with a Lackey clause (fifth year at the league minimum if he needs Tommy John surgery at some point during the life of the contract)
  • Pineda: Four years and $60M.
  • Sabathia: One year and $10M.

Those are my current guesses — and I emphasize, these are only guesses — as to what these guys will receive this coming offseason. I’d be open to re-signing all of them, especially if Tanaka is healthy and rights the ship soon. The Yankees have a lot of young pitching in the minors and that’s exciting, but give me as much pitching depth as possible. I’m definitely open to re-signing those guys at those terms.

Many asked: Why did Tanaka get the loss against the A’s???

One of baseball’s many weird scoring quirks, that’s why. Let’s set the scene: Tanaka dominated the A’s last week, striking out 13 in 7.1 innings. He left a runner on first base for Tyler Clippard in a scoreless game. Clippard threw a pickoff throw away, allowing the runner to get to third. The next batter hit a weak grounder to Chase Headley, who threw home for the out. That erased Tanaka’s runner! Clippard then allowed the runner who reached first base on the fielder’s choice to score, yet Tanaka was charged with the loss. Rule 9.16(g) explains this. Emphasis mine:

When pitchers are changed during an inning, the official scorer shall not charge the relief pitcher with any run (earned or unearned) scored by a runner who was on base at the time such relief pitcher entered the game, nor for runs scored by any runner who reaches base on a fielder’s choice that puts out a runner left on base by any preceding pitcher.

So because the runner who scored the go-ahead run initially reached base on a fielder’s choice in which the out was recorded on Tanaka’s runner, the run was charged to Tanaka. How stupid is that? That’s the rule though, so Tanaka got the loss against the Athletics last week. And there you have it.

Todd asks: I’m gonna need a ruling here. If Gleyber Torres makes it up to the show this year, do we get a revote for a new watch or does he stay on the sidebar all year regardless of level?

No re-vote! Torres stays in the sidebar all year, for better or worse. We’ve had other Prospect Watch players get called up to the big leagues in the past. Joba Chamberlain for sure. I’m pretty sure Jesus Montero as well. (I forget exactly what year Montero was the Prospect Watch guy.) The Prospect Watch is perpetual. Every game Gleyber plays this season will be added, regardless of level.

Matt asks: I see two trade suggestions all the time for the 2017 Yankees: either get a LHRP or a high end starter, but who wants to give up prospects for a reliever and who gets bumped from the rotation? That made me think, what if our high leverage lefty is the guy who gets bumped out? Is it just me, or wouldn’t CC Sabathia be a killer reliever if he airs it out an inning at a time?

Sabathia’s numbers against lefties aren’t great this year — they were hitting .278/.375/.314 (.317 wOBA) against him going into last night’s start — but that’s small sample size noise more than anything. Sabathia handled lefties well last season (.294 wOBA) and all throughout his career. Who knows, maybe his fastball will tick back up into the 93-95 mph range in the bullpen. That’d be cool. The big question is how will Sabathia handle the adjustment to the bullpen? How quickly will he warm up, that sort of thing. This is all hypothetical, of course. The Yankees won’t move Sabathia to the bullpen. But, if they add another starter, moving him wouldn’t be a bad idea given his age and impending free agency.

Jackson asks: The Yankees can trade for about up to an additional $3.6 million in IFA salary cap. What type of player(s) would the Yanks have to give up to max out to this number so that they can increase their chances of getting Otani?

Those international bonus slots usually don’t fetch much in a trade. The White Sox just traded a Single-A reliever, Alex Kratz, for roughly $750,000 in international bonus money last month. Kratz was a 27th round pick two years ago and isn’t really a prospect. A fringe prospect at best, basically. Based on that, acquiring a bunch of additional bonus money will be easy! But you have to find teams willing to trade their bonus money away, and I don’t think that’ll be easy. Most teams are looking to add spending money, not give it away.

Green. (Presswire)
Green. (Presswire)

Brian asks: Jack Curry suggested on the pregame show that Chad Green start getting high leverage relief innings over Clippard and Warren. I agree wholeheartedly. How long do you think before this starts occurring?

I’m not sure I’d have Green replace Clippard and Adam Warren in the late innings yet, but I would like to see him get some more responsibility. Now that Warren is the Seventh Inning Guy™ while Aroldis Chapman is out, the Yankees could use Green in the old Adam Warren role, that do everything reliever. One of my predictions coming into the season was Green emerging as a dominant reliever because he’s got a great fastball and a good enough slider (and no changeup, which makes starting hard). Right now it seems the bullpen pecking order is Chapman, Dellin Betances, Clippard, Warren, Jonathan Holder. Holder’s been fine, but I’d like to see Green used in some of those spots going forward.

Jim asks: The Yankees seem to be awful at hitting with RISP. But are they? How do they compare to the rest of the league??

I’ve been writing about baseball for more than a decade now, and my time at MLBTR and FanGraphs and CBS has exposed me to the fanbases of all 30 teams. And during that time, I’ve learned one thing: everyone thinks their team stinks at hitting with running in scoring position. That’s what happens when three hits in ten at-bats is considered a success. Anyway, here are where the Yankees ranked at hitting with running in scoring position going into last night’s game:

  • AVG: .240 (18th in MLB)
  • OBP: .322 (23rd)
  • SLG: .477 (5th)
  • wRC+: 111 (10th)

Middle of the pack in AVG, near the top in SLG, but bottom third in OBP. That’s annoying. I’d worry more about the OBP and AVG right now. Make fewer outs in any situation and good things will happen.

Dan asks: Could the solution to Chase Headley’s struggles be a platoon? As of this email, he is OPS’ing .749 against RHP’s and .476 against LHP’s. Torreyes is perfectly capable of hitting in a platoon with Headley if they go that route.

Interesting, I hadn’t thought about that. Going into last night’s game Headley was hitting .259/.358/.405 (111 wRC+) against righties and .173/.189/.269 (15 wRC+) against lefties. Headley has many more at-bats against righties though, and frankly he’s looked hopeless against all pitchers lately, so I’m not sure how much I’d read into those numbers. His platoon split has been pretty small the last few years too. Given how bad he’s been, I’m totally cool with giving more third base starts to Ronald Torreyes going forward. If that means a straight platoon, so be it.

Kyle asks: Are there any active Haitian ballplayers? Sharing an island with DR, one would believe baseball would still be prevalent. Any idea why so little crossover?

It’s weird, right? One side of the island produces gobs of baseball talent while the other doesn’t. Bruce Schoenfeld wrote about this earlier this year. Apparently a lot of Haitian players keep their backgrounds a secret and identify themselves as Dominican. My guess there are more than a few Haitian players in the show and we just don’t know it because they’re considered Dominican. The Yankees do have a prominent Haitian player in their farm system: Estevan Florial. Perhaps if he reaches the show and makes a name for himself, it’ll inspire other young players to identify themselves as Haitian rather than Dominican.

Anonymous asks: What are the chances the Mets non tender Matt Harvey? If that happens, does Cash make a run? I would think if given a choice Harvey would take less money (slightly less) to stay in New York.

Not happening. The non-tender thing. The only way the Mets will non-tender Harvey is if he suffers a catastrophic injury that will sideline him all of next season. It would have to be a Nathan Eovaldi situation. Why pay him a big arbitration salary to rehab in 2018 only to have him become a free agent after the season? If anything, the Mets will tender Harvey a contract and trade him. They won’t let him go for nothing. Also, Harvey might be one of the least likely players in the big leagues to take less to go anywhere. He seems like he’s going to chase every last dollar, like most big name Scott Boras clients. In the off chance the Mets do non-tender Harvey, I’m certain the Yankees would kick the tires.

Chapman. (Presswire)
Chapman. (Presswire)

Sam asks: Would a Dustin Fowler for Matt Chapman prospect swap make sense? Both are in AAA and have similar prospect rankings with Chapman just in the top 100 and Fowler just out on most lists. Chapman would be an immediate upgrade in the field and likely at the plate over Headley and the A’s are in desperate need of a real CF. It feels like it would improve both clubs right now. And yes I know #MTPS.

Interesting! They’re both fringe top 100 prospects, so in that sense they’re equals. Fowler is a very good defensive center fielder while Chapman is a Gold Glove caliber defender at third. He’s a defensive stud. Both guys have spent the entire season in Triple-A, so here’s the side-by-side statistical comparison:

  • Fowler: .312/.348/.583 (155 wRC+), 9 HR, 7 SB, 5.2 BB%, 18.6 K%
  • Chapman: .242/.333/.563 (125 wRC+), 11 HR, 4 SB, 12.0 BB%, 30.7 K%

They are very different hitters. Fowler is a contact lefty with some power. Chapman is a grip it and rip it righty who will strike out a bunch, but also hit the ball over the fence more often. Also, Chapman is nearly two full years older than Fowler, which is kind of a big deal. Chapman would, in theory, fill a hole for the Yankees because they need a long-term third baseman. Problem is the A’s need a long-term third baseman too.

I don’t think Fowler-for-Chapman is unfair in terms of value, nor am I against trading Fowler for anything, let alone a third baseman of the future. I just worry about Chapman’s swing and miss tendencies. I’m inclined to say keep Fowler and see if one of the 900 shortstops in the farm system can play third base long-term.

Zeke asks: What do you think about the idea of trading Aaron Hicks now and call-up Dustin Fowler? Really appreciate your blog! Great quality!

Not a bad idea as long as Fowler plays a ton, as Hicks has so far this year. If they call Fowler up only to use him like a true fourth outfielder, meaning once or twice a week, then forget it. I don’t like it. I don’t think that would happen though. Another thing: how much trade value does Hicks have? That’s not easy to answer. Are teams buying into this year’s version, or do they still see him as a reclamation project? I guess the answer to this mailbag question depends on what you’re getting back in the trade. If you’re trading Hicks as part of a package for a young starter, sure. If you’re dumping him only to open a roster spot for Fowler, nah.

John asks: With Severino’s latest good start in Baltimore on 5/30, it looks like he’s doing a great job mixing up his pitches. Last season one of the big talks with him was the lost change-up. How often has he been throwing it this year and how successful has it been?

Luis Severino admitted last year that he lost confidence in his changeup, which is why he rarely threw it towards the end of the season. Even when he went back into the rotation. Anyway, here are the changeup numbers:

% Thrown Avg. Velo Whiff% GB%
2015 14.6% 88.6 19.3% 63.2%
2016 9.7% 90.0 8.5% 46.4%
2017 9.4% 88.1 9.7% 50.0%
MLB AVG 12.2% 84.1 14.9% 47.8%

He’s been throwing the changeup as often as last season, which seems wrong. It seems like he’s using the pitch much more this year. Overall, the changeup hasn’t been great. Below average swing-and-miss rate and basically an average ground ball rate. Then again, Severino doesn’t need it to be a great pitch. It would be cool if it was, but he doesn’t need it to be. He’s a fastball-slider pitcher, first and foremost. Severino just needs the changeup to give hitters something else to think about. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen from him this year. How could you not be?

Michael asks: I am reflecting back on one of my favorite Yankees from the 2000s. I believe this was before StatCast existed. My question for you is: Do you think the liners Gary Sheffield hit were as fast or faster than the 119 MPH Statcast record for a home run Judge hit earlier this year against the O’s?

Statcast was introduced back in 2015, so no, it wasn’t around for Sheffield, unfortunately. He was the original exit velocity king, even toward the end of his career. Sheffield’s bat speed was insane. The ball exploded off his bat. It amazes me that he could swing that violently and still retire with a 10.7% strikeout rate and a 13.5% walk rate. My guess is Sheffield produced exit velocities on par with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. That 119-120 mph range might be the human limit, you know? At least for now. In a few years players will be even bigger and stronger. Remember how only a handful of guys threw 95 mph back in the day, and now everyone throws 95? At some point dudes will be hitting the ball 119 mph on the regular, probably.

Alex asks: Zack Littell is putting up great stat lines in High-A for the second straight season, but it seems that there’s no room for him in the Trenton rotation, especially since Rogers and Acevedo just got moved up ahead of him. Does he have to wait until next year to get promoted and will that stunt his development?

So far this season Littell, who came over from the Mariners in the James Pazos trade, has a 2.03 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 53.1 innings with High-A Tampa. He split last season between Low-A and High-A, so between this year and last year, he has thrown 121.1 innings at High-A. That’s a good amount, though keeping him there a little longer wouldn’t be a big deal. At some point a Double-A rotation spot will open up and he’ll get the call. These things have a way of working themselves out. I think Littell gets to Double-A sometime in August and starts next season there as well.

Sanchez and Hicks crush Blue Jays in 12-2 series opening win

Now that’s how you start a series. The Yankees rebounded from a disappointing series in Camden Yards to hammer the Blue Jays in the series opener at Rogers Centre on Thursday night. Bit of a statement game. Toronto had been playing well and were surely looking to gain a lot of ground in the standings this weekend. The Yankees put them in their place. The final score was 12-2 good guys.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

A Four-Run First
Remember the other day when I said I love getting a first inning run on the road? It’s so great. You force the other team to play catch-up before they even come to the plate. The Yankees did exactly that Thursday night, though instead of scoring one run, they scored four. Love it. A double by Brett Gardner and a single by new No. 3 hitter Aaron Judge scored the first run. Nice and quick.

After the Judge single, Matt Holliday picked up a one-bagger of his own, then Starlin Castro drew a walk to load the bases with one out. It looked like the Yankees were going to waste the opportunity after Didi Gregorius struck out and Aaron Hicks swung through a Marco Estrada changeup, but thankfully Hicks connected with the 1-1 pitch from Estrada for a booming bases-clearing double to right. It was LOUD. I thought it was way gone off the bat. Instead, it sailed over Jose Bautista’s head and went to the wall. Works for me. Seven batters into the game, the Yankees led 4-0.

You Can’t Spell Kraken Without Rake
The last week or so has been kinda weird for Gary Sanchez. He’s been a bit jumpy at the plate and it felt like he was slumping, yet he went 4-for-13 (.308) in Baltimore. There won’t be any talk about a slump now. Sanchez smacked two home runs against Estrada on Thursday, the first a solo shot and the second a two-run job. He made obscure Statcast history in the process:

Sanchez is now 4-for-8 with four home runs against Estrada in his career. The one time he faced him in this game and didn’t hit a home run, he hit a line drive right to center fielder Kevin Pillar. Some guys just throw your speed, you know? Sanchez now has six homers in 26 games this year. That’s a 37-homer pace across 162 games. Some slump, huh?

Another Strong Start For Sabathia
Nice 4-0 lead after the top of the first? A veteran pitcher knows what to do with that. CC Sabathia has been there, done that. His biggest jam came in the second inning, which Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak started with back-to-back singles. Two fly balls and a strikeout later, the inning was over. CC threw 23 pitches that inning and never more than 15 pitches in any of his other five complete innings.

After the Smoak single Sabathia retired 15 of the final 18 batters he faced, and one of the three baserunners was an infield single. It wasn’t until the seventh inning, when the Yankees were up 9-0, that Sabathia allowed a run. It was a Morales solo homer on a pitch that can best be described as a “we’re up 9-0 and the leadoff hitter in the seventh inning has a full count” fastball. A get-me-over I’m not walking you heater, you know? Even then it only barely cleared the wall.

The final line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. Sabathia threw 102 pitches and is sporting a 4.12 ERA (4.44 FIP) on the season. He’s allowed no more than two earned runs in seven of his eleven starts. Outside that miserable four-start stretch a few weeks ago — and it was truly awful (22 runs in 20.2 innings) — Sabathia has been rock solid this year. He’s given the Yankees exactly what they need. Pretty awesome the big man has figured out how to make it worth with reduced stuff.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Yankees were nice enough to tack on insurance runs in the late innings. A Hicks double and a Chase Headley single drove in two runs in the seventh to stretch the lead to 9-0. Gregorius was nearly thrown out at the plate on the Hicks double, but replay confirmed he was safe. Then, in the ninth, Hicks doubled in two runs and Headley singled in another. Four runs in the first, one in the second, two in the fourth, two in the seventh, and three in the ninth.

Big night for Hicks, obviously. He went 4-for-5 with three doubles and drove in six of the team’s dozen runs. The second best Aaron is now hitting .317/.437/.579 (173 wRC+) on the season. That’ll do, Hicksie. That’ll do. The 1-2-3-4 hitters went a combined 8-for-20 (.400) with two homers, both by Sanchez. Castro and Chris Carter were the only starters without a hit, and they both drew walks.

Chad Green came out of the bullpen to replace Sabathia and took it the rest of the way. He allowed a solo home run to Ezequiel Carrera in the eighth inning and, well, who cares? Solo home runs in the eighth when you’re up 9-1 are no big deal. Just throw strikes and get outs. Green allowed that one run and two hits in his 2.2 innings of work. He struck out two. His fastball topped out at 97.6 mph.

And finally, congrats to Gardner for joining the 1,000-hit club. The longest tenured Yankee reached the milestone with a clean single back up the middle in the fourth inning. Gardner went from college walk-on to reaching 1,000 hits in the big leagues. He picked up a World Series ring and a $52M contract along the way. Pretty cool.

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

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game two of this four-game series. Michael Pineda and Francisco Liriano are the scheduled starters Friday night. So basically the right-handed and left-handed versions of the same enigmatic pitcher.