Sunday Morning Thoughts

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Let’s start this with something obligatory, but wholly necessary. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads or step dads or dads to be or people (regardless of gender) who play the role of dad on a day-to-day basis. This is my first (official) Father’s Day and there is no ‘club’ more special than the one you ‘join’ when you become a parent. Every single cliche about it–fatherhood, parenting in general–I’ve found to be completely true. As I’m sure many of you did, I got my love of baseball–and countless other things–from my father and grandfather and I hope, one day, my son will say the same thing about my dad and me (and, of course, his mom, who’s just as big a fan). Either way, Happy Father’s Day, everyone!

California Nightmare

So, things have gone, uh, not well–industry term–for the Yankees on the west coast, have they? Walk off losses; bullpen meltdowns; injuries across the diamond. If there’s a bright spot in the 2017 season universe, this is the spot it’s farthest from. Regardless of how the rest of the season goes, this will be the turning point in the Yankees’ narrative of this season. Should they fall out of first place and ‘revert’ to what we though they’d be this year, it’ll be because of this rough stretch. Should they recover, though, and go back on a winning streak when they get back to the Bronx, this horrible week will indicate the team’s resilience, its moxie, its fighting spirit. 

Like baseball itself–defined by what’s going to happen, not necessarily what is happening–this season will be defined by what comes next and how the Yankees go along for the rest of the month. It’s certainly been a fun and unexpected ride up to this point, and there is a bit of a ‘house money’ feel to the season. It will be disappointing if this is a negative turning point, but these last three months of baseball have been as fun as any since 2009.

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

More Like Ta-NOT-ka, AMIRIGHT?!

What is up with Masahiro Tanaka? No, seriously, what the hell is up with Masahiro Tanaka? I’m out of answers, honestly. He’s clearly healthy enough to keep going out there–the team wouldn’t risk him, morally or financially–if he weren’t. He just…isn’t…good? That answer is one I find equally troubling because it just doesn’t seem to make much sense. He was Cy Young caliber last year and very good in the years prior. Is it possible he just turned into a pumpkin, became toast, seemingly overnight? Given that this is baseball and a pitcher we’re talking about, it’s possible. But it just doesn’t seem plausible.

Including CC Sabathia‘s good performance and Aaron Judge‘s absolute dominance, this development has surprised me the most, and I’m sure the same could be said for you all reading this. If there was one thing we were going to count on in 2017, it was Tanaka’s performance. Apparently not.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

All Rise

Aaron Judge. Aaron Freaking Judge. Major League leader in fWAR by a full win (4.4) over Paul Goldschmidt (3.4). Major League leader in wRC+ (200) by 24 points over Ryan Zimmerman (!! What year is it?!). Major League leader in OBP (.444), just edging out Goldschmit (.443). Major League leader in slugging (.704), again beating out Zimmerman by more than 20 (.681). Major League leader in ISO (.369) over Eric Thames (.347).

If you saw this coming, raise your hand, then put it back down, you liar. There are no more adjectives left to describe what Aaron Jude has done and is doing and (hopefully) will continue doing. This has been the most enjoyable player performance by a Yankee since Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Like Alex’s did in his prime, Aaron’s at bats make you stop what you’re doing and watch because something special might (probably will at this point?) happen. That’s the fun of baseball and Aaron Judge is that feeling incarnate.

DotF: Torres injures elbow during Scranton’s doubleheader

OF Clint Frazier cranked his 12th home run of the season last night — and his third in the last six games — and goodness, it was a bomb. The video is above. That kid’s bat is not not slow. Here are some notes:

  • I missed this yesterday, but Josh Norris broke down Aaron Judge‘s swing development over the years with Triple-A Scranton hitting coach P.J. Pilittere, who worked with Judge at various stops in the minors. The videos are pretty interesting. Judge went through a lot of changes before finding something that worked.
  • RHP Domingo Acevedo was sent back down to Double-A Trenton, the team announced. I guess his Triple-A Scranton stint was a one-start cameo to provide support amid all the shuttle action. My guess is Acevedo will be back with the RailRiders before long though.
  • So long, LHP Jon Niese. He has been released, reports Matt Eddy. Niese had been down in Extended Spring Training working to build arm strength following knee surgery, and apparently the Yankees weren’t happy enough with his progress. ExST is ending next week and there’s nowhere to send him, hence the release.
  • The Staten Island Yankees begin their season Monday and Robert Pimpsner has the roster. The notables: IF Oswaldo Cabrera, LHP Jeff Degano, RHP Juan De Paula, RHP Drew Finley, SS Wilkerman Garcia, 3B Nelson Gomez, RHP Jorge Guzman, OF Leonardo Molina, and RHP Jio Orozco. Cabrera, Molina, and Orozco are being sent down from Low-A Charleston. De Paula came over in the Ben Gamel trade and Guzman in the Brian McCann trade. Guzman can really bring it.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (6-2 win over Buffalo in seven innings)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 2-3, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 BB, 2 SB — hitting streak is up to 16 games
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 3-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB — 10-for-27 (.370) in his last six games, and he went hitless in two of those games
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 15-for-47 (.319) with nine doubles in his last 12 games
  • LF Clint Frazier: 2-4, 1 RBI
  • 2B Gleyber Torres: 1-2, 1 2B — left the game with an injury after a play at the plate (here’s video) … the Yankees say it’s a hyper-extended elbow and that x-rays came back negative, though Torres will have more tests Monday … the West Coast trip from hell has extended into the minors
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 2/5 GB/FB — 61 of 90 pitches were strikes (68%) … 25.5 K% and 10.1 BB% this year after 29.1 K% and 7.9 BB% last year

[Read more…]

Tanaka’s struggles continue as the Yankees drop their fifth straight, 5-2 to A’s


Source: FanGraphs

The bullpen can’t blow a lead if the team can’t build one, am I right? Well, this loss was not as much of a tease as the past few days but still, as loss nonetheless. Masahiro Tanaka gave up 3 homers and the bats couldn’t rally against Jesse Hahn and the A’s bullpen. It’s Saturday so let’s just do it bullet-point style and get over with.

  • The enigma: Tanaka had literally a one of a kind outing – he’s become the only pitcher to strikeout 10+ hitters and allow 3+ HR in 4 IP or fewer in MLB history (thank you Katie Sharp). So good news: he’s missing bats! Bad news: the dingers. It was nearly a literal hit-or-miss start for him. He got 19 whiffs in 4 innings! That is a lot. 10 of them came from his slider and 7 from splitter. So, at times, his stuff was really working. At the same time, he gave up hittable pitches up in the zone. You’d think the solution is simple: “stop putting meatballs in the zone!” Pitching is hard. If Tanaka could command pitches low all the time, he would. Anyways, after today’s game, Tanaka has a wacky 8.92 K/9, 2.47 BB/9, 2.47 HR/9 rates with a 6.34 ERA. It’s the middle of the June so not so much a small sample size thing.
  • Two runs and nothing much: The Yankee bats didn’t show as much Fighting Spirit as they did the past few days. The only runs they scored came from the second inning. With one out, Ronald Torreyes and Mason Williams hit back-to-back singles to put two runners on. Austin Romine singled to center to score Torreyes and advance Williams to third, who later scored on a Brett Gardner sac fly. Yankees took a 2-1 lead and that would be the last time they’d lead for the game. They did make Jesse Hahn throw a lot of pitches, but he’s no scrub, striking out 6 and allowing only 3 hits overall in 5 IP (105 pitches, 69 strikes). The A’s bullpen, which is not usually the team’s strong suit, shut down the Yankee lineup to the tune of 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R and 6 strikeouts. And that was the story of the Yankee offense today.
  • Domingo on a Saturday: Coming into the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees called it a day for Tanaka and put Domingo German on the mound. In his second ML appearance, German put up another scoreless outing: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K with 79 pitches. It wasn’t without any jams though. The A’s had the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings but German got out of both unscathed. He kept the A’s lead at 3 runs but today, the bats went silent against the A’s bullpen because of course.
  • Leftovers: Gary Sanchez pinch-hit in the ninth inning! He struck out swinging but the Yankees putting him up there is a pretty good sign given his injury. Hopefully it is a precursor to him making it to the starting lineups tomorrow. Torreyes was the only hitter today that had a multi-hit game (2-for-4). Gardner, Chase Headley and Aaron Judge each drew a walk but went hitless (0-for-8 collectively).

Here are today’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph. The dreaded West Coast trip is over tomorrow. The Yankees will have Luis Cessa on the mound against Jharel Cotton. There’s more baseball on the schedule today. Hope the Astros beat the Red Sox so the Yankees still have the AL East top spot outright by the end of the day.

Game 66: It Ain’t All Bad

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

The Yankees have lost four straight games and four players to injury on this West Coast trip, but I’m going to look at things positively. Three of the four losses were by one run, and the other was by two runs, so they’re not getting blown out. Also, the Yankees had the lead with no more than six outs to go in three of those four losses, and they were tied in the seventh inning of the other. The games have been very competitive!

The Yankees still have plenty of great players healthy and on the roster too, including Aaron Judge. Isn’t he great? He’s great. Love that guy. He’s hitting .339/.447/.713 (203 wRC+) this year and leads all players with +4.1 bWAR and +4.5 fWAR. Also, Masahiro Tanaka is pitching today. He can be great! He hasn’t been for most of this season, but it’s in there. I know it is. Snap the losing steak and gets things turned around today. Sound good? Here is the Athletics’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday DH Starlin Castro (Holliday was scratched with an allergic reaction)
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 1B Chris Carter
  7. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  8. CF Mason Williams
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s a nice, sunny afternoon in the Bay Area. It’s not windy like the last two nights either. Today’s game will begin at 4:05pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game. Baseball is fun!

Injury Updates: Gary Sanchez (abductor) feels better and ran earlier today. He remains day-to-day … Adam Warren (shoulder) is going to see a doctor Monday when the Yankees get back to New York. He says he’s not worried, but still. Shoulders, man.

2017 Draft: Yanks sign fifth rounder Glenn Otto to slot bonus

(Getty)
(Getty)

June 20th: Jim Callis says Otto signed for $320,900, not $323,400. Callis says the standard contract for draftees includes $2,500 in bonuses so easily reachable that teams were counting it as part of the player’s bonus. Now they’ve stopped. The player still gets the $2,500 bonus, but it doesn’t count against the bonus pool. Huh.

June 17th: According to Mark Berman, the Yankees have agreed to a deal with their fifth round pick in this year’s draft, Rice RHP Glenn Otto. Slot money for the 152nd overall pick is $323,400, and that’s what Otto will receive. It’s a straight slot signing, per Berman. You can keep tabs on the draft pool situation with our Draft Pool Tracker.

“It feels good to be a professional baseball player, feels even better to be a Yankee,” said Otto to Berman. “It’s always been a goal of mine ever since I starting playing baseball when I was five-years-old. People would ask me what I wanted to be and I always said professional baseball player. That’s always been the case through Little League, high school, and college. I wouldn’t be here without my dad. He’s helped me through everything baseball’s brought me.”

Otto, 21, spent most of his three years at Rice in the bullpen and the last two as the team’s closer. This spring he had a 3.77 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 29 walks in only 59.2 innings after sitting out fall ball with arm fatigue/soreness. MLB.com ranked him as the 96nd best prospect in the draft class while Baseball America ranked him 181st. Pretty big split! Here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s scouting report:

When he comes out of the bullpen, Otto generally works with a 92-95 mph fastball that tops out at 97. His spike curveball can be devastating with power and 12-to-6 break. He also has a changeup but rarely uses it … Otto has a strong frame and his arm works well, so many scouts believe he could make it as a starter in pro ball. To succeed in that role, he’ll have to throw more strikes.

Berman says the Yankees intend to develop Otto as a starting pitcher going forward, which isn’t terribly surprising. He did make two starts for Rice this spring, so I suppose it’s not completely foreign to him. In addition to throwing more strikes, Otto will have to use his changeup more often to make it work in the rotation, and also refine that knuckle-curve. Not too many starters throw that pitch. It can be tough to command. Here’s some video:

The Yankees are not shy about attempting to convert relievers into starters in the minors. Chance Adams is the big success story, though others like Jonathan Holder and Taylor Widener have tried it as well. “We got together as a group and decided that we’re going to take our best arms and put them in the starting rotation,” said farm system head Gary Denbo over the winter. Now they’re going to do the same with Otto.

The signing deadline is Friday, July 7th this season, so three weeks from yesterday. The Yankees have already handed out one over slot bonus, to third rounder Trevor Stephan. They’re expected to save some bonus pool money with first rounder Clarke Schmidt, as well as the college seniors they drafted in rounds 8-10, which will then be given to other players, including second rounder Matt Sauer.

Saturday Links: Judge, Home Run Derby, Players Weekend

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This nightmare of a West Coast trip continues this afternoon with the third of four games against the Athletics. I look forward to seeing what creative way the bullpen lets a late lead slip away in this one. Anyway, here are some random bits of news and notes to check out while you wait for the game.

Judge not yet invited to Home Run Derby

In about three weeks, MLB will officially announce this year’s Home Run Derby contestants. Aaron Judge, who leads MLB with 23 homers, has not yet received an invite, he recently told Brendan Kuty. “I haven’t even thought about it. I’ll wait to the day (I’m invited), I guess,” he said. Here’s what Joe Girardi told George King about Judge and the Home Run Derby:

“From watching BP, I have a better idea. Some guys don’t have the power to all fields like Aaron Judge has,’’ Girardi said before the Yankees’ 3-2 loss to the Angels in 11 innings on Tuesday night. “When you watch his BP, there are a lot of homers going to right and lot of homers going to center. Sometimes you worry about them doing something they don’t do during the course of a game. To me it would just be a normal BP.’’

As I said a few weeks ago, I am 100% on board with Judge participating in the Home Run Derby, and it would be a great thing for MLB and the Yankees. People can’t take their eyes off this guy. He’s someone you want front and center in one of the game’s biggest events. I couldn’t be any less worried about some sort of Home Run Derby hangover effect either. You see how this guy makes adjustments? Put Judge in the Home Run Derby.

MLB will have a “Players Weekend” in August

According to Jeff Passan, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to hold a “Players Weekend” from August 25th to 27th in which uniform rules will be relaxed. Players will be allowed to put nicknames on the back of their jerseys, wear bright cleats, and put a personalized patch on their jersey. The jerseys will be sold afterwards with proceeds going to the league’s Youth Development Foundation.

Gimmicky? Sure. Harmless? Yep. Will the Yankees allow players to put a nickname on their back of their jersey? I mean, this was negotiated by MLB and MLBPA. I don’t think teams will be able to refuse it. Imagine Michael Pineda on the mound with a BIG MIKE jersey, or Gary Sanchez with KRAKEN. We might see it! Could be cool. The Yankees will be home to play Robinson Cano and the Mariners that weekend, by the way.

Judge has top selling MLB jersey

Speaking of jerseys, Judge now has the No. 1 selling jersey in baseball, according to Josh Kosman. A few weeks ago MLB announced Kris Bryant had the top selling jersey — followed by a whole lot of Cubs — with Judge nowhere to be found in the top 20. (Sanchez was ninth overall and the best selling AL player.) Judge has since smashed a bunch of dingers and jumped to the top of the jersey sales rankings. Pretty awesome.

Also, Kosman says the Yankees will soon start selling souvenir white wigs with Judge’s name at Yankee Stadium. Between that and The Judge’s Chambers out in right field, the team is marketing the hell out of him. As they should! Judge is everything you could want in a franchise player, right? He’s great on the field and humble off it. He represents the Yankees and MLB well. They should be slapping this guy on every billboard possible.

Yankees losing streak hits four after falling 7-6 to Athletics

(Thearon Henderson/Getty Images)
(Thearon Henderson/Getty Images)

The West Coast road trip from hell continues. The Yankees losing streak hit 4 tonight with another close loss. It is their second consecutive loss decided by one run and their third in the last four game. The formula here, again, was simple: the offense fought back to make it a game that seemed winnable, but the bullpen failed to hold on. Pretty annoying! Without two of their best bullpen arms unavailable as of late (Adam Warren and Aroldis Chapman) and Dellin Betances not an option tonight, the Yankees had to rely on the other guys to hold out and, of course, they failed. The AL East lead has decreased to one (1) game after the Red Sox beat the Astros tonight. Not good again! It’s Friday night so let’s do it bullet-style.

  • Falling behind: As you know the Yankees have not had the finest past three games and it seemed like the things were going to get worse when Luis Severino allowed four runs in the second inning. Remember, the Yankees had a Spring Training squad lineup for this and their bullpen is very, very limited (Jonathan Holder was the 8th inning guy, for chrissakes) so Severino doing well today was pretty vital. Here is the sequence of events that happened:yankees-vs-athletics-pbp
    None of the hits were cheapies in this one. Severino’s command was off and the A’s hitters punished him accordingly. The 2016 Severino showed up only for this inning. Fortunately, this was the only inning in which he really stunk. He had an overall 6 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 6 K night – it’s not the best but really not bad considering the second inning. He bounced back nicely and managed to give the bullpen less inning to work with than we had feared.
  • All Rise: The Yankees made it a game again immediately. In the top of the third, two Yankees reached on infield singles (Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder) and Aaron Judge delivered the big blow with his 23rd HR of the year. 4-3 A’s. It wasn’t hit particularly hard but still traveled beyond the right field fence for an opposite-field HR. Ho-hum. This guy is good. Judge had a 2-for-3 night with two walks, bringing his season line up to .339/.447/.713. Judge’s insane rookie season continues.
  • Getting ahead: The Yankees tied it up in the fifth inning. With one out, Torreyes hit a deep double and Mason Williams followed it up with an RBI single to make it 4-4. The bats eventually loaded the bases with Judge and Matt Holliday walks, but they did not score more in that frame. No worries, Chris Carter to the rescue. The first baseman led off the sixth inning with a solo homer to break the tie, 5-4 Yankees. The bats added on another in the top of the seventh. With one out, Judge hit a triple to the deep center and Starlin Castro drove him in with a single up the middle. Optimism!
  • Bullpen fail: A 6-4 lead would be much more secure with a regular bullpen routine of Betances – Chapman but we are talking about putting middle-leverage guys into high-leverage situations. With Severino out of the game, Girardi put in Chasen Shreve as the 7th inning guy. After striking out Matt Chapman, Shreve walked pinch-hitting Rajai Davis and allowed a single to Matt Joyce to put the runners on the corners. Chad Pinder hit a sac fly to make the score 6-5 Yankees. Things would get worse when Jonathan Holder (!) was summoned out of the bullpen as the 8th inning guy. With one out, Yonder Alonso walked and Ryon Healy hit a deep double to center to make it two runners on scoring position. The Yankee bench intentionally walk Stephen Vogt to load the bases and have Holder face the rookie Matt Chapman. After getting ahead on a 0-2 count, Holder threw a curveball that should’ve been buried on the ground but hung up just enough for Chapman to hit his first ML hit for a 2-RBI single. 7-6 A’s. Welp. That’s how the score stayed for good and Yankees lost 4 in a row.

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph. The Yankees still have two games left to go on this road trip. They have a 4 pm EST game tomorrow in Oakland. Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound against Jesse Hahn. Hold on tight, folks. We are not out of it yet.


Source: FanGraphs