Sunday Open Thread

That was a really fun weekend, wasn’t it? Yeah, today’s loss sucked, but those games happen to every team a few times a season. This weekend we said goodbye to Alex Rodriguez and hello to both Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge. We also celebrated the 1996 World Series team and Mariano Rivera. Pretty great. Mo’s ceremony today was awesome. Hard to think there will be a better weekend in Yankeeland this season.

Anyway, here’s an open thread for the rest of the day. The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game is the Cardinals at the Cubs (Leake vs. Lackey), plus the Olympics are on and there’s a preseason football game as well. Talk about that stuff or anything else right here.

Game 117: Mariano Rivera Day

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

This has been a pretty fun weekend, hasn’t it? Friday night was Alex Rodriguez‘s farewell game, and then yesterday there was the 1996 World Series team reunion and the debuts of Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge. That was an awful lot of great stuff to pack into a 24-hour window.

Today, the fun continues with Mariano Rivera Day. The Yankees have already retired No. 42 — they did that in Mo’s honor back in 2013 — and today they’re dedicating a Monument Park plaque in his honor. Needless to say, Rivera is very deserving. He’s the greatest reliever in baseball history and was a key member of five World Series teams.

From what I’ve seen, the ceremony is going to begin sometime between 12pm ET and 12:40pm ET, which is a pretty big window. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start at 1:25pm ET, so I’m guessing the ceremony will start closer to 12:40pm ET. The Yankees never seem to start these things on time anyway. YES will carry the ceremony, as always.

Once that’s done, the Yankees will play the finale of this three-game series with the Rays. New York is looking to complete the sweep and win their fifth straight game today. If they’re going to make a run at a postseason spot, they need to put together more extended winning streaks like this. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. SS Didi Gregorius
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. DH Brian McCann
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Severino

It is again incredibly hot in New York today, though at least there are some clouds in the sky, so every so often we’re gifted some shade. Like I said, today’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:25pm ET. It’ll be broadcast on YES. Enjoy the ceremony and the game.

Injury Update: Brett Gardner (ankle) is going to be out a few days. He’s still feeling it after being hit by that pitch in his first at-bat Friday night. Doesn’t sound like a DL situation.

Life After A-Rod

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Way back when Mariano Rivera left the Yankees, I was writing for another site and had previously written about life after Mo. However discomforting it may have been to be without the world’s greatest security blanket (aside from my actual security blanket from childhood, of course), I felt a sense of optimism going forward. The Yankees had survived a year without him with Rafael Soriano closing and had David Robertson waiting to take over for Mr. Untuck. As it turns out, things have been A-OK in the closer department for the Yankees since Rivera left. Ironically, that stability has come in the form of many different pitchers, which serves to highlight Mariano’s consistency. Now, we’re left with a similar vacancy with Alex Rodriguez‘s release/retirement hybrid. Though I’ve hardly begun to process what it means to me as a fan that A-Rod will no longer be on my favorite team, it’s time already to look forward to 2017 and beyond without him. Nothing made that clearer than Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge arriving with authority yesterday, each collecting two hits and a home run in their Bronx and big league debuts.

Regardless of our attachments to A-Rod, at the end of the day, he was a roster spot and a position to the Yankees–the designated hitter. For the rest of the year, it looks like that spot will be filled by some combination of Brian McCann and Gary Sanchez, presumably with Mark Teixeira taking a few games in when he needs a blow at first base, provided, of course, by Tyler Austin. The use of McCann and Sanchez in some sort of catcher/DH rotation makes sense: both have good bats and it’s worthwhile to pace Sanchez’s arrival, rather than just throwing him into things right away. How this bodes for next year, especially given Austin Romine‘s general competence as a backup this year, is another interesting angle.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Mike touched on the idea of three catchers in a mailbag about two weeks ago, and with Rodriguez leaving, the idea of three catchers in 2017 makes a lot more sense now. And given that Austin Romine has seen time at first base this year, it gives the Yankees some flexibility that a three catcher roster would normally prohibit. How could the Yankees manage their three catchers, as wall as the (expected to be) returning Greg Bird at first base? Let’s take a look.

On the average week in MLB, a team will likely have one of Monday or Thursday off. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s a week when the Yankees have a Monday off and have night games, with the exceptions of Saturday and Sunday. They could go with a simple every-other-day rotation, alternating McCann and Sanchez at C/DH from Tuesday-Saturday with Romine going on Sunday, allowing Joe Girardi to play to the matchups for the DH spot. Tough lefty? Go with Sanchez. Tough righty? Go with McCann.  Alternatively, they could catch in chunks: McCann on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sanchez Thursday and Friday, Romine on Saturday, and one of McCann or Sanchez on Sunday. If Bird needs a day off or a half day off, Romine could slip over to first with Bird sitting or DHing, putting one of McCann or Sanchez on the bench.

Brian McCann

Assuming Brian McCann is on the team next year, he is going to be the centerpiece of the offense with Rodriguez, Tex, and Carlos Beltran gone. Gary Sanchez is going to be a big part of bolstering and supporting the lineup and getting each player rest will be crucial to continued offensive success. Additionally, while the defensive outlook for Sanchez is better than it initially was, it’s doubtful he’ll be as skilled as McCann in the immediate future–despite his proficiency at throwing out runners–and breaking him in gradually may help that development.

Alex Rodriguez was a complex person and player whom I’ll miss dearly. It was a joy to watch him play for my favorite team over the last twelve years. However, despite that feeling, the Yankees are well-positioned to creatively replace him and his production at DH.

DotF: Wade, Fowler combine for seven hits in AA win

Got some notes to pass along:

  • OF Mason Williams (quad) was activated off the Triple-A DL, reports Shane Hennigan. He didn’t even miss two full weeks, so that’s good. The injury couldn’t have been serious.
  • 1B Chris Parmelee (hamstring) was activated off the 15-day DL and outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. He accepted the assignment rather than elect free agency. The Ike Davis release and the recent promotions mean Parmelee has an everyday job playing first base and hitting in the middle of the order for the RailRiders.
  • RHP Domingo German was placed on the High-A Tampa DL, the team announced. No idea what’s wrong with him, but German came back from Tommy John surgery earlier this year. Hopefully it’s not his elbow again.
  • LHP Justus Sheffield placed 18th on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, so check that out. Given all the trades and stuff, it feels like Sheffield is getting overlooked despite being a very good prospect.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. They’re going to play a doubleheader tomorrow. They have a doubleheader Monday too, so that’s going to put some strain on the pitching staff.

Double-A Trenton (8-2 win over New Hampshire)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing) — that’s his fifth homer of the season … he hit four homers total in 306 games from 2013-15
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 4-5, 1 R, 1 2B 1 RBI, 1 K — 13-for-35 (.371) with two doubles, one triple, and two homers in his last eight games, so he’s still insanely hot
  • DH Miguel Andujar: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • 1B Mike Ford: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — five homers in 27 games since returning from his thumb injury
  • 2B Abi Avelino: 1-4
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 R
  • RHP Ronald Herrera: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 10/3 GB/FB — 60 of 91 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 24 of 45 pitches were strikes (53%)

[Read more…]

A New Era Begins: Austin and Judge lead Yankees to 8-4 win over the Rays

Saturday afternoon started with a wonderful ceremony celebrating the 1996 World Series champion Yankees, and it ended with the 2016 Yankees winning their fourth straight game. This one was an 8-4 victory over the Rays. The Bronx Bombers are back and suddenly loaded with young, exciting players.

All the feels. (Presswire)

The Kids Shall Lead Them
After it was announced last Sunday that Alex Rodriguez would play in his final game Friday, we spent a week wondering who would get called up to replace him. Aaron Judge or Tyler Austin? Both guys had strong cases, and really, there was no wrong answer. As it turns out, both guys got the call. The Yankees promoted Judge and Austin to the big leagues on Saturday morning, and holy cow, did they made a strong first impression.

The game started with Judge making a nice running catch for the final out of the first inning, so right away he showed off his athleticism. The kind of athleticism you don’t normally see from a dude listed at 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds. Then, in the bottom of the second, Austin and Judge showed off their power, the power that got them to the big leagues. They swatted back-to-back solo home runs off Matt Andriese in the first at-bats of their careers. To the action footage:

I wrote about Austin’s opposite field power a week or two ago, and he made me look smart there. Thanks for that, Tyler. He got the ball airborne to the hitter friendly part of the ballpark and was rewarded with his first career hit, run, and RBI in his first at-bat. Pretty awesome.

Even more awesome? Judge following Austin’s homer with his first career hit, run, and RBI a few minutes later. Austin took advantage of the short porch. Judge hit the ball damn near over the restaurant in center field:

Aaron Judge home run

Statcast measured that at 446 feet, making it the second longest homer of the season by a Yankee. (Brian McCann hit one 450 feet.) The Yankees say Judge is the third player to hit a home run off the windows of the restaurant — it looks like the ball hit above the windows though, right? — joining Russell Branyan and Carlos Correa. I could have sworn Robinson Cano once did it against Clay Buchholz, but nope. The homer I was thinking of hit just below the windows. (Here’s the video.)

Aside from the obvious, my favorite part of Judge’s home run was Didi Gregorius picking up the 5-foot-6 Ronald Torreyes so he could high-five the 6-foot-7 Judge in the dugout afterward. Pretty funny. You can kinda see it here:

Aaron Judge Ronald Torreyes

Austin and Judge are the first teammates in baseball history (!) to hit a home run in their MLB debut. Forget about back-to-back or first at-bat or anything like that. No two rookies had ever gone deep in the same game in their MLB debuts before Saturday. Crazy. This is also the first time the Yankees had two players making their big league debuts in the starting lineup since 1969. My goodness. What a ridiculously fun inning that was.

The Return of #TooManyHomers
For the first time in Yankees franchise history, five players age 26 or younger hit home runs Saturday. It’s the only the fifth time that’s happened in baseball history. (The Cubs did it earlier this year.) The home run hitters: Austin, Judge, Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks, and Gregorius. All five home runs meant something too.

After Austin and Judge gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead, Castro swatted a fourth inning solo homer to tie the game 3-3, then Hicks crushed a three-run homer to give the Yankees a 6-3 lead in the fifth. He destroyed that ball. It had the good sound off the bat and landed in the second deck in right field. That was Aaron’s second homer in the span of 24 hours. Fun fact: Hicks has gone 11-for-37 (.298) with a double and two homers in 12 games since Carlos Beltran was traded away.

Gregorius tacked on two big insurance runs in the seventh inning. The Rays had trimmed their deficit to 6-4, so while the Yankees had the lead, the ball was flying out of the park and some breathing room was appreciated. Especially since the back-end of the bullpen was a little short. Didi, the cleanup hitter du jour, pulled a ball out to right field for the 8-4 lead. The five homers tied the team’s season high. They did it May 9th against the Royals as well.

Seven & Fly
I have to admit, I was surprised Joe Girardi lifted Masahiro Tanaka after only seven innings and 79 pitches. You’d think he had a lot left in the tank, right? At least enough for one more inning, especially because Dellin Betances was presumably off-limits after pitching the last three days. But no, Girardi pulled the plug after 79 pitches, I guess because it was insanely hot on the field and he want to save some bullets for later.

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

Tanaka retired the first ten batters he faced before Kevin Kiermaier laid down a bunt hit in the fourth. Lame! I don’t have a problem with it though. It was only the fourth inning and it was a two-run game. It’s not like it was eighth or ninth inning or something. Evan Longoria followed with a single, then Brad Miller clubbed a three-run home run to left field to give the Rays a 3-2 lead.

Miller touched up Tanaka for another home run in the sixth inning. That was a solo shot to trim New York’s lead to 6-4. The two home run pitches were pretty much Tanaka’s only mistakes on the afternoon. He struck out eight, didn’t walk anyone, and retired eleven of the final 12 men he faced. The Miller solo homer was the one baserunner. Four runs in seven innings isn’t great, but on this afternoon, it was plenty good enough to win.

Tyler Clippard chucked a scoreless eighth inning before Tommy Layne recorded all three outs in the ninth. Anthony Swarzak started that ninth inning and faced just one batter; Longoria hit a ball off Austin’s glove and beat out an infield single. Adam Warren and Betances, the two big guys at the end of the game, got a much needed day off.

Five players had two hits and it was the 26 and under club: Austin, Judge, Castro, Hicks, and Gregorius. Gregorius had a homer and a double. Everyone else had a homer and a single. (Castro’s dinger was his career high tying 14th.) Austin and Hicks stole bases too. Austin is the first Yankee with a homer and a steal in his MLB debut and only the seventh player to do that in MLB history. He and Judge sure made for a fun afternoon, didn’t they?

And finally, the Yankees have won four straight games for only the fourth time this season. There haven’t been many extended winning (or losing) streaks this season. They’ve spent an awful lot of time hovering right around .500. I don’t know if the Yankees can make a serious run at a postseason spot, but I’m looking forward to watching them try.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. has the video highlights. I suggest watching them all. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the up then down then up again win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees will look to finish the series sweep and win their fifth straight game Sunday afternoon. Luis Severino and Jake Odorizzi are the scheduled starters. Hopefully Severino uses his changeup a little more often against Tampa’s lefty hitters. There are four games left on the homestand and, if you’re willing to brave the heat, RAB Tickets can get you in the door for all four.

Saturday Open Thread

Man that 1996 World Series reunion ceremony this afternoon was pretty damn awesome, wasn’t it? I can’t believe it’s been 20 years already. As I’ve said, that was the first Yankees championship of my lifetime, so that team is always going to be special to me. Well done with the ceremony, Yankees.

I didn’t think the day could any better after that, but then Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge went out and hit back-to-back home runs in their first two big league at-bats.

Today was a good day. Best of the season, I’d say.

Anyway, here is the open thread for the rest of the day. The Mets are playing tonight and FOX Sports 1 is airing some games throughout the night as well. The Olympics are on too. Talk about all that stuff or anything else right here. Stay cool.

Game 116: A Fun Day in the Bronx

Aug 12, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA;  New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (13) reacts from the dugout as shortstop Didi Gregorius (18) and first baseman Mark Teixeira (not pictured) score during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Holy cow is today a busy day in Yankeeland. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s going on today:

  1. Both Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin were called up and are making their MLB debuts.
  2. The Yankees are playing their first game in the post-Alex Rodriguez era.
  3. The Yankees are holding their 1996 World Series team reunion ceremony.

I am sad to see A-Rod go. I really am. At least he got a nice send-off last night. It was better and warmer than I thought it would be. The Yankees turned the page fairly quickly though, and are going all-in on this youth movement. Judge and Austin join Gary Sanchez in today’s lineup. That’s fun.

As for the 1996 World Series reunion, well that’s really awesome too. That was my first championship team as a fan and they’ll always be special to me. Pretty cool that Judge and Austin get the experience that during their first day in the big leagues. The Yankees are showing these kids what it’s all about in the Bronx.

The 1996 Yankees ceremony is going to begin around 12pm ET or so. YES will carry the whole thing, I’m certain. Today’s game will then begin a little after 1pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Here’s the Rays’ lineup and here’s the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Gary Sanchez
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s about a billion degrees outside with 5,000% percent humidity, according to my rough estimates. It is not a pleasant day to be outside. Hooray for air conditioning. If you’re going to sweat it out at the ballpark, at least it promises to be a fun day to be a Yankee fan. Enjoy the day, folks.

Roster Moves: To get Judge and Austin on the roster, A-Rod was unconditionally released (sad face) and Ben Heller was optioned to Triple-A Scranton. He’ll be back soon. Conor Mullee (elbow surgery) was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear the other 40-man roster spot.