Building the Wildcard Game Roster: Pitching Staff


At some point soon, possibly later today, the Yankees will officially clinch their first postseason berth in three seasons. It’s only a wildcard spot, sure, but a wildcard spot is better than nothing. Both the Royals and Giants went to the World Series after being wildcard teams last year, remember.

The wildcard game is considered its own distinct playoff round, which means it gets its own 25-man roster. It’s not a regular season game, so no expanded rosters with September call-ups, but the Yankees would also be able to change their roster prior to the ALDS, should they advance. They can build a roster specifically for the wildcard game.

There have been 12 wildcard teams since the current system was put in place in 2012, and those 12 teams averaged 9.67 pitchers on the roster. Three teams carried eleven pitchers, three carried ten, five carried nine, and one carried eight. There’s no need to carry all the extra starting pitchers, so teams have taken advantage and expanded their benches.

Whoever starts Game 162 for the Yankees on Sunday won’t be on the wildcard roster. There’s no reason to carry him since they won’t be available for the wildcard game on Tuesday. It also wouldn’t make sense to carry the Game 161 starter since he’d be on two days’ rest in the wildcard game. Right now Luis Severino and Michael Pineda are lined up to start Games 161 and 162, respectively, though that can change.

Joe Girardi and the Yankees love to match up with their relievers, so my guess is they end up carrying ten or eleven pitchers in the wildcard game. I’d be surprised if it was any fewer but I suppose it is possible. Which ten or eleven pitchers should the Yankees carry in the wildcard game? Let’s try to figure it out. Later today we’ll tackle the position player side of things.

The Locks

Might as well start with the easy ones to get them out of the way. Masahiro Tanaka will start the wildcard game — he will return from his hamstring injury tonight and start with “no restrictions” (no pitch count, basically), putting him in line for the wildcard game with an extra day of rest — and we know Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson will be in the bullpen. That’s four of the ten or eleven spots right there. You can be sure Girardi would prefer not to use anyone other than those four in the wildcard game too.

If Tanaka’s hamstring acts up tonight, my guess is the Yankees would rearrange their weekend rotation and go with either Severino or Pineda in the wildcard game. (Likely Severino given Pineda’s dud last night.) CC Sabathia is starting tomorrow night and would be able to start the wildcard game on regular rest, though I’d be surprised if he got the call. Yes, Sabathia has pitched better of late, and he is the team’s highest paid starter, but the Yankees wouldn’t even run him out there against the Blue Jays in a regular season game. In a winner-take-all wildcard game? It would surprise me to see him out there if better options available (i.e. Severino).


The Safe Bet

Given their need in middle relief and the fact they have four other starters for the postseason rotation, it makes perfect sense for Adam Warren to be on the wildcard game roster and ready for middle innings work. He is currently stretched out to 80+ pitches and lined up to start Friday, which means he’ll be on three days’ rest for the wildcard game. The Yankees could always cut Friday’s start short — say three innings or 50 pitches, something like that — to make sure Warren is fresh for Tuesday. Unless someone gets hurt and Warren has to remain in the postseason rotation, I expect him to be on the wildcard game roster. He’s too good not be in the bullpen for that game. So five of the ten or eleven pitching spots are claimed.

Whither Shreve?

Considering how well he pitched for most of the season, it’s hard to believe Chasen Shreve‘s postseason roster spot is now in question. He’s been that bad in recent weeks. Girardi has already reduced his high-leverage work, so Shreve’s falling out of favor. Once the Yankees clinch, Girardi and the Yankees absolutely should use Shreve as much as possible these last few regular season games to try to get him sorted out, and those last few outings could easily determine his wildcard roster fate. Right now, given his overall body of work, my guess is he’s on the roster.

The Extra Starters

Tanaka is going to start the wildcard game but it would also make sense to carry an extra starter or two in the bullpen, at the very least to serve as a long relief option in case things get crazy in extra innings. As I said, Sabathia would be on full rest for the wildcard game and could serve as the extra starter. Ivan Nova is another candidate — he started Monday and probably won’t start again during the regular season — but I think it’s more likely Nova starts Saturday or Sunday, leaving Severino or Pineda available for the wildcard game. I have a hard time thinking Nova will be on the wildcard game roster, but I guess it’s possible. Do the Yankees need one or two extra starters? I guess that depends how the rest of the roster shakes out. For now I’m thinking Sabathia and another starter will be in the wildcard game bullpen.

The Rest of the Rest

Assuming Warren, Shreve, and two spare starters are on the wild card roster, the Yankees still have two or three pitching spots to fill to get their staff up to ten or eleven. They have no shortage of candidates, that’s for sure. Andrew Bailey, James Pazos, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, Chris Capuano, Bryan Mitchell, Chris Martin, Caleb Cotham, and Nick Goody are all on the active roster at the moment. Those last two or three arms will come from that group.

Process of elimination: Goody is out because he’s barely pitched in September, making only two appearances. He seems to be at the very bottom of the Triple-A reliever depth chart. Martin is basically one rung higher — he’s made five appearances this month and three lasted one out. He’s out too. Mitchell looked pretty sharp in short relief earlier this season but has not been all that effective since taking the line drive to the face. Can’t afford to risk his wildness in a winner-take-all game. He’s out.


That leaves Bailey, Pazos, Pinder, Rumbelow, Capuano, and Cotham. Bailey is a Proven Veteran™ who Girardi has tried to squeeze into some tight spots of late. Sometimes it’s worked (last Friday against the White Sox), sometimes it hasn’t (last Wednesday in Toronto). Pazos and Capuano are lefties, and I thought it was interesting Capuano was used in a true left-on-left matchup situation Monday night (he struck out both batters). He warmed up again for a similar spot last night, but did not enter the game. Pazos has been okay — lefties are 2-for-7 with a walk against him this month — but not great. The next few days could be telling. If we see Capuano get more lefty specialist work, he’ll probably be the guy.

Out of all the guys on the bullpen shuttle, Pinder has spent the most time on the big league roster this year while both Rumbelow and Cotham seemed to get chances to grab hold of a middle relief spot at various points. Neither really did. Both have shown flashes of being useful. Flashes shouldn’t be enough to get them on the wildcard roster though. Right now, I believe both Bailey and Capuano will make the wildcard roster with the caveat that Capuano could get smacked around in the coming days and lose his spot. In that case I think they’d take Pazos as the emergency lefty specialist.

The mechanics of getting Bailey on the roster are simple. He was in the organization before August 31st, so he’s postseason eligible, but he didn’t get called up until September 1st. That means he has to be an injury replacement. The Yankees have three pitching injury spots to play with: Chase Whitley, Sergio Santos, and Diego Moreno. (The injury replacements have to be pitcher for pitcher, position player for position player. No mixing and matching.) Whitley and Santos had Tommy John surgery while Moreno had bone spurs taken out of his elbow. Bailey replaces one of them. Pazos would get one of the other two spots if he makes the roster.

Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) is in the middle of a throwing program but has already been ruled out for the wildcard game. The hope is he can join the bullpen should the Yankees advance to the ALDS. Probably should have mentioned that earlier. Anyway, so after all of that, here’s my ten-man pitching staff guesstimate for the wildcard game:

Nova (or Severino or Pineda)
Tanaka (starter)


That might be it right there. The Yankees don’t have to carry an 11th pitcher. Ten is plenty — especially since both Sabathia and Nova/Severino/Pineda would be available for super long relief — and is right in line with the previous 12 wild card teams. If they do carry an 11th reliever, I think it would be a righty just to even things out. So … Cotham? Girardi has used him in some big-ish situations of late. Either way, the 11th pitcher’s role on the wildcard roster would be what, 25th inning guy?

The ten-man pitching staff includes Tanaka (the starter) and two extra starters for long relief purposes, giving Girardi a normal seven-man bullpen. For one individual game, that should be plenty. The pitching game plan is pretty simple too, right? Get at least five innings from Tanaka, then turn it over to Wilson, Betances, and Miller. Warren is the next “trusted” reliever. If Girardi has to start dipping into guys like Capuano or Bailey or Shreve, something’s gone wrong.

Yankees can’t overcome Pineda’s bad first inning, fall 10-4 to Red Sox

Good thing the Yankees are getting all this suckiness out of their system before the postseason, right? Right!? Hope so. I wouldn’t call Tuesday night’s 10-4 loss to the Red Sox ugly, but boy, this team looks totally worn down. Overmatched in almost every way of late.


Big Mike Hole
Small Mike is here. The Red Sox led 6-0 seven batters into the game and were all over Michael Pineda. It was a loud rally. Falling behind 6-0 before you even get a chance to bat is a good way to discourage fans. Let’s recap the carnage with an annotated play-by-play:

Yankees Red Sox play by play

(1) For the second straight day, the Yankees starter got ahead in the count 0-2 on Mookie Betts, then gave up a leadoff double. Give Betts credit! He’s had a good year. But yeah, giving up two-strike doubles to the leadoff hitter in back-to-back games is weak. Ivan Nova escaped thanks to some base-running blunders Monday night. Pineda had no such luck.

(2) I thought Xander Bogaerts hit a routine 6-4-3 double play off the bat, but the grounder was far too weak, and the Yankees got just the force at second. Bogaerts beat the relay by a mile. Maybe that was the sign things weren’t going to go New York’s way. The ball that looked like a routine double play was hit too weakly to complete the turn. He hit it too weakly. Baseball, man.

(3) David Ortiz missed a three-run homer by inches. Like two or three. It hit the tippy top of the wall in right field and stayed in the park. Carlos Beltran hasn’t been good in the field this year and reacted awkwardly, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that was a catchable ball. It was smoked. Beltran was just caught in a weird spot and it looked worse than it did. Still, Ortiz missed a homer by inches.

(4) Travis Shaw’s dinky little ground ball back to Pineda resulted in a run when Bogaerts beat Brian McCann‘s tag. It was close, so close the Yankees challenged the safe call, but I didn’t see anything clearly showing Bogaerts was out. It was inconclusive at best. The Yankees have been insanely good at challenges this year — they came into the game 23-for-30 (76.7%) in challenges, by far the best success rate in MLB (Diamondbacks are second at 70.9%) — but that one was a whiff. Seemed like a leap of faith challenge.

(5) It goes into the record books as a double, but Brock Holt’s double was nothing more than a single he stretched into a double. It was a routine single to center and Holt showed zero regard for Jacoby Ellsbury‘s arm. Didn’t hesitate to challenge him at all and took the extra base. Ellsbury’s hold rate has dropped from 48.0% to 44.8% to 42.5% the last three years. (That’s the percentage of base-runners who take the extra base on a ball hit his way. MLB average for center fielders is 44.9%.) I wish there was a way to see a first half/second half split. It seems like opponents have been running on Ellsbury an awful lot the last few weeks.

(6) Ortiz just missed a homer but Blake Swihart did not. It wasn’t a bomb — it landed a row or two back in the short porch — but it had a good sound off the bat. Another extra-base hit after Pineda was ahead 0-2 count too. Pineda went to a two-strike count on three of the first seven batters he faced and all three reached base. Three-run deficit? Okay. That’s not good but it’s not a disaster. Six runs? Yuck.

To Pineda’s credit, he settled down and retired 16 of the final 18 batters they faced. (One of the exceptions was a Betts solo homer.) There are 13 pitchers in the bullpen, so the bulk innings weren’t an issue, but quality innings? I’m not sure anyone who rode the bullpen shuttle this year is capable of providing those. As bad as he was in the first, Pineda was the team’s best hope of keeping the Red Sox at bay the rest of the game. He finished the night with seven runs allowed on seven hits in six innings. Pineda didn’t walk anyone and struck out four. An awful outing salvaged by soaking up six innings.


Battle Almost Back
Between that 6-0 deficit and the Yankees’ recent offensive issues, it was easy to think the game was over after the top of the first. The Yankees have that Fighting Spirit though, and they rallied for four runs in the bottom of the first to make it a new ballgame. The four-run rally seemed to happen very quick too. Ellsbury single, Brett Gardner single, McCann run-scoring ground out, Beltran run-scoring double, Dustin Ackley two-run homer. Boom boom boom. They scored those four runs in a hurry …

… and then they didn’t score the rest of the game. Their best chance came in the fourth, when Chase Headley beat out an infield single and Didi Gregorius was hit by a pitch to put the tying run on base. Ellsbury laid into a first pitch fastball, he hit it about as hard as he can possibly hit a ball, and Holt caught it on the warning track in right field. Almost. That would have given the Yankees a 7-6 lead. Instead, Betts hit the very next pitch of the game out to left for a solo homer and a 7-4 Red Sox lead. Quite the emotional roller coaster in the span of two pitches.

Following Ackley’s two-run home run in the first, the Yankees had three (3) hits. Headley, Gardner, and Greg Bird had singles. That’s it. Gregorius also drew a walk and was hit by a pitch, and Ellsbury reached on an error. So six of the final 30 batters they sent to the plate made outs. In their last seven games, the Yankees have scored seven runs after the fourth inning (five came Sunday!). They score early and then never again.


The Triple-A relievers let the game get out of hand, because of course. Bryan Mitchell escaped a bases loaded jam in the seventh, then gave up a two-run homer to Swihart in the eighth. Chris Martin allowed another run in the ninth. The Yankees are doing nothing well right now. Not a thing.

Gardner had two of the team’s seven hits. Ellsbury, Beltran, Ackley, Headley, and Bird had the rest. Just the one walk, by Gregorius. Gardner also stole a base in the first inning, which helped create the four-run rally. Hey, four runs is maybe enough to win most nights. Just not when your starter gives up six in the first.

And finally, Alex Rodriguez heard boos at home for the first the time all season after he struck out in the eighth. It was bound to happen eventually. He hasn’t hit much the last few weeks. I miss April.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the game’s box score and video highlights, and here are the season standings and postseason odds. The magic number for a postseason spot remains three as of this writing and the tragic number in the AL East is down to one. Next Blue Jays win or Yankees loss clinches the division for Toronto. Make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Wednesday night, in the third game of this four-game set. That’s assuming the weather cooperates. Rain in the forecast. Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to return to the rotation following his minor hamstring injury. Wade Miley will be on the bump for the BoSox. There are only two home games left in the regular season. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to attend either one.

Game 157: Clincher?

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is three, yet a scenario exists in which the Yankees can clinch a postseason spot tonight. The Yankees themselves confirmed it. Three things must happen: 1) Yankees beat the Red Sox, 2) Indians beat the Twins, and 3) Tigers beat Rangers or Athletics beat Angels. All three must happen. Yankees win, Twins lose, and either Rangers or Angels lose.

I’m not quite sure how that works — it’s still possible for there to be a three-way tie atop the AL West, and those tiebreaker games count as regular season games, which fudge things up — but if the Yankees confirmed it, it must be true. Anyway, don’t worry about the Twins or Angels or Rangers or whoever. The Yankees have to win tonight and that’s the only thing they can control. Scoring runs would be a good start, yes? Yes. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 2B Dustin Ackley
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Michael Pineda

Now, the bad news: there’s rain in the forecast. A lot of it, actually. It has been drizzling on and off for a few years but the heavy stuff is supposed to start later tonight, around 11pm ET or so. Once it starts, it’s not going to stop until tomorrow afternoon. Tonight’s game will start a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Note: The Yankees have had John Ryan Murphy work out at first base recently. Given their recent struggles against lefties, seems like they’re looking at a way to keep McCann and Murphy in the lineup in the postseason.

Tyler Wade cracks Baseball America’s top 20 Florida State League prospects

Wade. ( screen grab)
Wade. ( screen grab)

Baseball America continued to roll out their individual league top 20 prospect lists today with the High-A Florida State League. As always, the list is free but the scouting reports are not. Cardinals RHP Alex Reyes sits in the top spot while Mets OF Michael Conforto and Pirates OF Austin Meadows round out the top three.

SS Tyler Wade is the only Yankees farmhand to crack the top 20, and he ranks 18th. “He’s a grinder, particularly against righthanders, who can work counts, draw walks, move runners and make contact, with enough gap pop to earn pitchers’ respect,” said the write-up. “Wade’s arm strength and range are sufficient for shortstop, but he’s a better fit at second base, where with more experience he should be an above-average defender.”

Wade, 20, was the Yankees’ fourth round pick in the 2013 draft. He hit .280/.349/.353 (117 wRC+) with two homers, 31 steals, a 15.6% strikeout rate, and a 9.3% walk rate in 98 games and 418 plate appearances for High-A Tampa this year before being bumped up to Double-A Trenton, where he struggled (37 wRC+). “He has a high floor as a lefthanded-hitting utility infielder and a solid shot at a ceiling as a regular,” said the scouting report.

The write-up notes SS Jorge Mateo would have ranked third on the list had he spent enough time with the Tampa Yankees to qualify. Also, in the subscriber-only chat, John Manuel said 3B Miguel Andujar “clearly didn’t stick out” and the “consensus was that he doesn’t control the strike zone well enough for his bat to play, and he’s erratic defensively.” Manuel also said RHP Rookie Davis was in the No. 21-25 range with OF Dustin Fowler not too far behind.

Apparently Baseball America is going out of order with their league top 20s, so the next list of interest to Yankees fans will be the Low-A South Atlantic League. That’s due out Friday. Mateo will be eligible for that list — he was with Low-A Charleston almost all season — and should rank near the top. It’s unlikely any other RiverDogs will make the top 20 though.

Other league top 20s: Rookie Gulf Coast League, Rookie Appalachian League, Short Season NY-Penn League

Mariners name Jerry Dipoto new GM, Billy Eppler remains favorite for Angels GM job

Eppler and the ghost of A.J. Burnett. (NY Times)
Eppler and the ghost of A.J. Burnett. (NY Times)

Exactly one month after firing ex-GM Jack Zduriencik, the Mariners named former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto their new GM, the team announced yesterday. “Jerry impressed us at each step of the process … I am looking forward to having Jerry lead our baseball operations for a long time,” said president Kevin Mather in a statement.

Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler interviewed for the Mariners GM job not once, but twice, reports Joel Sherman. Jerry Crasnick says Eppler and Dipoto were the two finalists for the job. That’s not the first time that’s happened either — Eppler and Dipoto were the two finalists for the Angels GM position a few years ago, and Dipoto got that gig as well.

The Mariners GM job is off the board, though Eppler still remains the front-runner for the Angels GM job, reports Alden Gonzalez and Jeff Fletcher. He interviewed a few weeks ago and all signs point to Eppler getting the job at some point. Why hasn’t it happened yet? Fletcher explains:

It is likely the Angels and Yankees would both want to avoid even the appearance of a conflict if Eppler were named Angels GM before the teams met in the playoffs.

The Yankees currently have a comfortable lead on the first wildcard spot (3.5 games with six to play) while the Angels are only a half-game back of the Astros for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees and Angels could easily end up meeting in the wildcard game next week. One team poaching the other’s assistant GM right before a postseason matchup wouldn’t be a good look.

Eppler, 39, has been with the Yankees since 2005, starting as a scout before working his way up the ladder to assistant GM. He worked with the Rockies before joining the Yankees. In addition to interviewing for the Mariners and Angels GM jobs this year, Eppler also interviewed for the Padres GM job last year and declined an invitation to interview for the Diamondbacks GM job. He also interviewed with the Angels back in 2011.

While nothing is set in stone, it seems likely the Angels will name Eppler their new GM soon after the season. I have no idea how or if the Yankees would replace him in the front office. They tend to promote from within and I assume that would happen again.

Yanks have found a productive new second base platoon late in the season

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

For much of the summer, we couldn’t help but focus on second base. The Yankees are locked into their starters at every other position and Stephen Drew was unproductive for long stretches at a time, so finding an upgrade was a reasonable idea. Whether that upgrade was Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela or a trade target, it made sense to look for a new second baseman.

Instead, the Yankees stuck with Drew all summer and he’s put up a .201/.271/.381 (76 wRC+) batting line in 428 plate appearances. That’s a long leash. Drew platooned with Brendan Ryan for much of the second half, and while Drew’s production ticked up later in the summer, the No. 9 spot in the lineup was still an eyesore. For the most part the rest of the offense picked up the slack, allowing the Yankees to carry the Drew/Ryan platoon and their defense.

The second base picture has changed over the last two weeks or so. Trade deadline pickup Dustin Ackley, who got hurt almost immediately after being acquired, returned from the DL and hit his way into a regular lineup spot. Ackley has been really awesome in an extremely limited number of at-bats. He’s holding his own in the field — to be fair, he is being lifted for a defensive replacement on the regular — and taking aim for the short porch. It’s working.

Ackley has wrestled the starting job away from Drew, and lately Joe Girardi has been using Refsnyder against lefties. Refsnyder started against the three White Sox lefties over the weekend, started against Eduardo Rodriguez last night, and will probably start against Wade Miley and Rich Hill in the coming days as well. Refsnyder has hit in his recent limited action — 5-for-12 (.417) with a double — even though the Yankees aren’t scoring a ton of runs.

“It’s a kid that in the past has swung pretty good against left-handers and since we’re seeing so many of them, I put him in there. He’s done a decent job,” said Girardi to Ryan Hatch. Outside of a four-game cameo back in July, the Yankees didn’t Refsnyder much of a chance this season, not even earlier this month, but they’re doing it now and it’s better late than never. Ackley? He took the job from Drew almost immediately after getting healthy. That happened even before Drew’s bout with dizziness and a possible concussion.

The Yankees have gone from six games up in the AL East on August 1st to five games down today, and a tumble down the standings like that wouldn’t have been prevented by changing second baseman earlier this season. Too much other stuff has gone wrong. The new second base platoon can help the Yankees going forward though, and at this point of the season that means October. The Yankees will clinch a wildcard spot in the coming days in all likelihood.

“I think it’s too early (to talk about the postseason second base situation). We’ve liked the way (Refsnyder)’s swung the bat and defensively he’s done a good job, so I’ll continue to give him more opportunities,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings over the weekend. My guess is lefty or righty, Ackley will start the wildcard game at second base because Girardi will simply go with his best players. It would be a real shock to me if the kid with 30-something big league at-bats started a winner-take-all game.

The offense has been stumbling of late and, for once, it’s not because of second base. The unproductive Drew/Ryan platoon has been replaced by Ackley/Refsnyder, who’ve both hit. Will it last? Who knows. It’s working right now and that’s all that matters. The season ends Sunday and the postseason is right around the corner. It only has to work for a few more weeks. The Yankees finally have a new second base platoon, and it’s better late than never.

The Yankees and 2015’s major awards


We’re now into the final week of the regular season, meaning candidates for baseball’s major annual awards only have a handful of games remaining to state their cases. Outside of NL MVP, which should go to Bryce Harper unanimously, the other major awards in both leagues feature some very tight races. It’ll be fun to see them shake out.

The last Yankees player to win a major award was Mariano Rivera, who took home 2013 AL Comeback Player of the Year honors after tearing his ACL on the Kauffman Stadium warning track in 2012. Prior to that you have to go back to Alex Rodriguez‘s 2007 MVP season. There is something of a Yankee bias in the awards voting — a Yankee usually needs to have a season far superior to everyone else to receive votes, a la A-Rod in 2007. If it’s close, the votes tend to go to the non-Yankee.

Anyway, as a reminder, the awards are all voted on following the end of the regular season but before the postseason. The playoffs have zero bearing on the major awards. They cover the regular season only. So, with that in mind, let’s preview the awards races and see where some Yankees may fit into the picture, if any.

Most Valuable Player

Right now the MVP race is between Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout, with Donaldson seemingly in the lead. Trout, however, has equal or better offensive numbers (other than RBI, basically) and doesn’t play in a hitter-friendly home park. Also, the Angels are right in the thick of the AL wildcard race. If they sneak in, will that push some voters towards Trout? The ballot literally says standings do not matter, but we all know they do. Voters consider that stuff all the time. Donaldson is the favorite but Trout could make it very interesting with a big final week to push the Halos into the postseason.


For much of the season Mark Teixeira was a legitimate MVP candidate based on old school stats. He was mashing taters and driving in runs (and playing great defense) for a first place team, which usually equals MVP candidate. Teixeira’s injury — he only played 111 games this year — and the Yankees’ tumble into a wildcard spot ended his long shot chances for the MVP award. Teixeira was awesome, but I thought it was a stretch to lump him into a group with Donaldson, Trout, Nelson Cruz, Manny Machado … guys like that.

The Yankees only have three other players remotely close to being considered MVP candidates, in my opinion: A-Rod, Brian McCann, and Dellin Betances. A-Rod has had a big year offensively but is still a DH, and DHs need huge years to win MVP. Not even peak Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz won an MVP, remember. McCann has been arguably the best offensive catcher in the league and a reliable defender. Betances? Even with his recent walk problems, he’s been the most dominant reliever in the game this summer.

The MVP ballot includes ten spots and those last two or three spots always seem to get weird. Teixeira, A-Rod, McCann, and Betances could all get down-ballot votes. Heck, maybe Carlos Beltran and Andrew Miller will as well. Even Raul Ibanez got a tenth place vote on the 2012 MVP ballot after all those clutch late-season homers. (No, really.) I think a Yankee or three will get MVP votes in 2015. But they don’t have a serious candidate to win the thing.

Cy Young

The Yankees do not have a legitmate Cy Young candidate. They probably won’t even have a starter reach 170 innings — CC Sabathia leads the team with 162.1 innings with one start to go — which has never happened in a non-strike season in franchise history. Ever. Masahiro Tanaka has been the team’s best starter and he’s only thrown 149 innings with one start remaining. Betances and Miller could get votes — Dellin actually went into last night’s game eighth in the AL in bWAR — but they won’t win and shouldn’t win. Too many deserving starting pitcher candidates.

At this point I’d say the AL Cy Young is a toss-up between Dallas Keuchel and David Price. The traditional stats are damn near identical — Keuchel is 19-8 with a 2.47 ERA, Price is 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA — and Keuchel has an edge in bWAR (7.3 vs. 6.0) while Price has an edge in fWAR (6.4 vs. 6.1). So pick one. I don’t think there’s a wrong answer. Sonny Gray, Chris Archer, and Chris Sale are among the other candidates. The Cy Young ballot includes five slots, not ten, and I suppose Dellin could steal a fifth place vote or two. He’s pretty much their only hope for 2015 Cy Young votes.


Rookie of the Year

The Yankees have used more rookies this season than at any point in the last 10-15 years or so — at a quick glance, I count 23 Yankees rookies, 16 of whom made their MLB debuts in 2015 — but they don’t have a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. None of them have been around long enough. Chasen Shreve is the only rookie who has been on the roster more than even half the season, and he’s a middle reliever. Middle relievers don’t get Rookie of the Year votes.

Luis Severino is New York’s best chance at Rookie of the Year votes and I don’t see it happening at all. That’s not meant as a knock on Severino’s performance. He’s been great, but ten starts and 55.1 innings just isn’t enough to get love on a Rookie of the Year ballot that runs only three slots deep. Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa will occupy the top two spots in whatever order, then the list of candidates for the third spot include Lance McCullers Jr., Roberto Osuna, Miguel Sano, Delino DeShields Jr., Devon Travis, and Billy Burns.

None of the baby Yankees have been around long enough to garner serious Rookie of the Year consideration this year. Maybe Severino steals a third place vote. Maaaybe. That’s about it.

Manager of the Year

At some point in the last decade or so the Manager of the Year morphed into the “manager of the team that most exceeds expectations” award. Are the Yankees exceeding expectations this year? I think so, but more than, say, the Rangers (Jeff Banister) or Astros (A.J. Hinch) or Twins (Paul Molitor) or even the Blue Jays (John Gibbons)? That’s up to the voters to decide.

The Manager of the Year ballot runs three names deep and last year seven of the 15 AL managers received a vote (Girardi got one third place vote). The year before that? Nine of 15 managers got a vote. Girardi has received at least one Manager of the Year vote every year with the Yankees except 2008, his first season. The smart money is on Girardi appearing on at least one voter’s ballot. Winning it over Banister or Hinch or whoever? That’s tough to see.


Comeback Player of the Year

Okay, now we’re talking. A-Rod is a bonafide Comeback Player of the Year candidate along with Prince Fielder, Ryan Madson, and Kendrys Morales. (Jose Iglesias and Chris Davis are probably in the mix as well.) The Comeback Player of the Year used to be decided by fan voting, but it’s now up to a panel of beat reporters. I’m not sure how that whole process works.

Rodriguez didn’t play last season because of his suspension and there is precedent for a player being named Comeback Player of the Year following a performance-enhancing drug issues — Jason Giambi was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2005, a few months after getting caught up in the BALCO scandal. That doesn’t necessarily mean the voters won’t hold the PED stuff against A-Rod, but if they don’t, it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.

Anyway, Madson is a non-closer reliever, which works against him. Usually closers are the only relievers to win major awards. That’s not to say Madson isn’t deserving — the guy missed three years after Tommy John surgery, after all — just that the history of the voting body works against him. On the other hand, A-Rod (130 wRC+), Fielder (126 wRC+), and Morales (130 wRC+) all have comparable offensive numbers and they’re all DHs too. (Fielder has played only 18 games at first base this year.) Comparing them is nice and easy. Apples to apples.

The Comeback Player of the Year will come down to a matter of nitpicking. Fielder’s batting average (.306) or Morales’ RBI total (105) or A-Rod’s homers (32)? You can slice this in any number of ways. I don’t know if A-Rod will win the Comeback Player of the Year this year, but he’s a legitimate candidate and the Yankees’ best shot at winning a major award this season.