Yankees designate Carter for assignment, call up Tyler Austin

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

Following tonight’s win, the Yankees designated Chris Carter for assignment and called up Tyler Austin, the team announced. I guess Austin is ready now? A few days ago Brian Cashman called Carter the team’s best first base option. Austin has hit three homers since then and Carter has, well, struck out a bunch. Does he get cut if he gets a hit (or even a sac fly) in the tenth inning tonight? Probably not.

Carter hit .204/.286/.383 (76 wRC+) with eight home runs in 189 plate appearances for the Yankees, including Friday’s game. He’d been playing pretty much every day since Greg Bird went on the disabled list in early May, so it wasn’t a playing time issue. We’ll always have that homer in Pittsburgh, Chris.

Austin, meanwhile, hit .316/.388/.588 (145 wRC+) with four home runs in 32 minor league games after coming back from his broken ankle. He fouled a ball off the ankle very early in Spring Training and didn’t return until last month. Austin hit .241/.300/.458 (102 wRC+) in 90 plate appearances with the Yankees last season.

Bird is still working his way back from an ankle injury of his own — he received a cortisone shot a few days ago and will resume baseball activities soon — and there’s no real firm timetable for his return. He might not be back until after the All-Star break. Once he heals up, I assume he’s take over as the everyday first baseman again.

At this point Carter has enough service time to collect his entire $3M salary even if he elects free agency after clearing waivers, so stashing him in Triple-A for depth until Bird is healthy might not happen. Probably not. We’ll see. Either way, hopefully Austin is an upgrade at first base. It’ll be hard for him to be worse.

The Yankees and the 2017 All-Star Game

Judge and Sevy. (Al Bello/Getty)
Judge and Sevy. (Al Bello/Getty)

Despite recent events, the Yankees have the second best record (39-30) and the second best run differential (+107) in the American League. Many expected this to be something of a rebuilding year, one of those “step back and regroup for next season” years. Instead, the Yankees got off to a great start and remain in the thick of the division race as we approach the season’s midway point.

The All-Star Game is less than three weeks away now — it snuck up this year, didn’t it? — and given their play to date, the Yankees will undoubtedly have multiple representatives in Miami next month. They won’t be one of those “one token All-Star” teams. The internet tells me the Yankees have sent multiple players to the All-Star Game every year since 1992, when Roberto Kelly was their lone representative.

The 2017 All-Star Game rosters will be announced either later next week or next weekend. That makes this as good a time as any to look at which Yankees could be selected to the Midsummer Classic. In fact, let’s rank the 25 players on the active roster in terms of their All-Star eligibility. Shall we? We shall. Let’s get to it.

1. Aaron Judge

Judge is a lock for the All-Star Game. He’s received more fan votes than any other AL player this far — his lead over second place Jose Altuve is roughly 500,000 votes — and is on track to start the game in right field. The Yankees have not had an All-Star Game starter since Derek Jeter got the farewell vote in 2014. Even if Judge were to fall out of the top three outfielders in fan voting, he would still be selected to the game. His AL ranks:

  • AVG: .331 (second)
  • OBP: .438 (first)
  • SLG: .694 (first)
  • wRC+: 195 (first)
  • HR: 24 (first)
  • RBI: 54 (second)
  • fWAR: +4.4 (first)
  • bWAR: +4.1 WAR (first)

Flawless victory. Fatality. See you in Miami, Aaron.

2. Dellin Betances

Remember Dellin? He’s this really great reliever who used to pitch for the Yankees once upon a time. Betances did actually pitch last night. It was his fifth appearance in the last 24 days. True story! Can you believe that? It’s friggin’ insane. Anyway, Dellin has allowed one earned run — on April 8th — in 22.2 innings this season. He’s struck out 43 and opponents are hitting .117/.261/.117 against him. I think Betances is going to his fourth straight All-Star Game. I do wonder whether the relatively light workload — Dellin ranks 162nd among all relievers in innings (!) — will work against him. I don’t think so though. Betances should be an All-Star again.

3. Luis Severino

This is awesome. Severino was so bad as a starter last season. So, so bad. And now he’s a legitimate All-Star candidate. He has a 2.99 ERA (3.23 FIP) through 13 starts and 81.1 innings, and he is among the AL top ten in WHIP (fifth), strikeouts (fifth), ERA+ (fifth), K/BB ratio (fifth), fWAR (fifth), ERA (sixth), FIP (seventh), and bWAR (eighth). Last season eight starters made the AL All-Star team and so far this season Severino has been one of the seven or eight best starting pitchers in the league. He’s not a lock, I don’t think. But he should receive strong consideration.

4. Aaron Hicks

Hicks should be an All-Star this year. The guy is hitting .301/.414/.543 (155 wRC+) overall and he’s fourth in the league in fWAR. I mean:

  1. Aaron Judge, Yankees: +4.5
  2. Mike Trout, Angels: +3.3
  3. Jose Altuve, Astros: +3.1
  4. Aaron Hicks, Yankees: +2.9

He’s also seventh among all AL players in bWAR. Hicks wasn’t even an everyday player to start the season! He’s been awesome and he should be an All-Star. My guess is Hicks gets snubbed and instead lands on the Final Vote ballot. Maybe he’ll make the roster outright with Trout injured. There are only six outfield spots on the roster though, and squeezing two Yankees into those six spots seems like a thing that won’t happen. Fingers crossed.

5. Matt Holliday

Man, how awesome has Holliday been this season? He’s hitting .275/.379/.536 (142 wRC+) with 15 home runs and it’s thanks to him that the Yankees lead all AL teams with a 138 wRC+ from their DHs. Nelson Cruz is currently leading the fan voting at DH with Holliday roughly 300,000 votes back in second place. Making up that gap seems unlkely with one week to go in the voting.

In recent years there have been two designated hitter spots on the All-Star Game roster, so it stands to reason that even if Cruz wins the fan voting, Holliday could still make it. It’ll be either him or Edwin Encarnacion, who has been insane the last six weeks or so. Now, that said, the All-Star Game rosters were trimmed from 34 players to 32 this year. With two fewer spots, will they not take a second DH? Hmmm.

6. Gary Sanchez

If Sanchez didn’t miss that month with that biceps injury, he’d be a shoo-in for the All-Star Game. The guy is hitting .296/.376/.554 (147 wRC+) with 12 home runs. Only Salvador Perez has gone deep more times among all catchers. He has 15 homers in 257 plate appearances. Gary has 12 in 178 plate appearances. Brian McCann and Alex Avila (?!?) are also having All-Star caliber seasons and neither missed a month with an injury. I think it’s down to Sanchez and Avila for the third spot. Perez is going to win the fan voting and McCann belongs too. He’s been great. A few more Sanchez dingers over the next week could decide this thing.

7. Starlin Castro

Altuve is going to start the All-Star Game at second base, as he should. Dustin Pedroia’s injury issues mean the backup spot could come down to Castro (128 wRC+), Jed Lowrie (126 wRC), or Robinson Cano (111 wRC+). I suppose Brian Dozier (106 wRC+) is in that mix too. Name value matters in the All-Star Game. Here’s an important factor: will Yonder Alonso make the All-Star team? If not, Lowrie figures to end up the A’s token All-Star, which will hurt Starlin’s chances of making the roster.

8. Didi Gregorius

Can you quietly hit .321/.342/.500 (120 wRC+)? Because Gregorius is doing it. He’s been so good since coming back from the disabled list. And that’s the problem. The disabled list. Gregorius missed a month with a shoulder issue. He was already facing an uphill battle with Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, and Francisco Lindor in the AL. Those three dudes are going to the All-Star Game and they might be the three AL All-Star shortstops for the next ten years. Didi has been great. He’s almost certainly going to get squeezed off the All-Star roster though.

9. Brett Gardner

Gardner has had a slow June, but he’s still hitting .259/.341/.471 (115 wRC+) overall, and his 13 home runs are eighth among AL outfielders. The problem is Gardner is only the third best Yankees outfielder this season, and there are only six outfield spots on the All-Star roster. Judge is getting one of them. And if they pick a second Yankees outfielder, it’ll be Hicks. No chance for Gardner, unless he’s an injury replacement or something, and even then it’s a long shot.

10-11. Michael Pineda, Jordan Montgomery

A good but not great season for Michael Pineda, this is. He has a 3.56 ERA (4.05 FIP) in 14 starts and 83.1 innings — hey wait a minute isn’t Pineda supposed to be a ERA > FIP guy? — which is solid, but not All-Star worthy. Montgomery is right there with him with a 3.74 ERA (3.87 FIP) in 13 starts and 74.2 innings. Imagine where the Yankees would be without these two. Nice seasons, not All-Stars.

12. Aroldis Chapman

Last season Chapman did not make the All-Star team because he missed a month serving his suspension. This season he will not make the All-Star team because he missed more than a month with a shoulder injury. Also, Chapman wasn’t exactly lights out before going on the disabled list. He allowed five runs and 18 baserunners in 12.2 innings before getting hurt. Aroldis has thrown 14.2 innings this season. 14.2! No All-Star Game for him.

13. Chase Headley

Great start! Okay-ish June. Terrible May. Headley is hitting .245/.335/.362 (87 wRC+) overall, and by wRC+, he ranks 21st among the 24 third basemen with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Better luck next year, Chase.

14-17. Tyler Clippard, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve

Non-Betances middle relievers have a really hard time making the All-Star Game. Green and Shreve have been the best of this foursome and they’ve thrown 23.1 and 19.2 innings, respectively.

18. Masahiro Tanaka

Woof. Tanaka has legitimately been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season. There are 81 pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, and Tanaka ranks 69th in fWAR (+0.1), 74th in FIP (5.64), 79th in ERA (3.34), and 79th in bWAR (-0.8). Please be better, Masahiro.

19. Chris Carter

At least he kinda plays everyday? That counts for … something. Carter is hitting .201/.287/.384 (77 wRC+) overall and probably wouldn’t make a Triple-A All-Star Game at this point.

20-21. Austin Romine, Ronald Torreyes

Remember April? These guys were so great filling in for Sanchez and Torreyes. Romine is hitting .237/.258/.325 (50 wRC+) even after last night’s big game while Torreyes is at .296/.319/.374 (84 wRC+). The next backup catcher and utility infielder I see make the All-Star Game will be the first.

22-25. Luis Cessa, Domingo German, Rob Refsnyder, Mason Williams

If you had to bet a paycheck on one of these four guys making an All-Star Game at some point in their careers, who would you pick? I feel like German is the obvious choice here, though I remain a Cessa fan. Maybe Refsnyder will have a late career Jose Bautista breakout?

Others of Note

The Yankees have four regulars on the disabled list right now: Greg Bird, Jacoby Ellsbury, CC Sabathia, and Adam Warren. There is no firm timetable for any of them to return to the Yankees, as far as we know. Warren seems closest since he’s scheduled to resume throwing Friday.

Ellsbury was playing well before his concussion. Not All-Star well — he was still the team’s fourth most productive outfielder behind Judge, Hicks, and Gardner — but well. Sabathia was pretty awesome after his four-start disaster stretch in May. Good enough to be an All-Star? Maybe! He allowed six runs (four earned) in his six starts and 36.1 innings before the injury. Imagine he keept that up until the All-Star break. Alas.

* * *

I think the Yankees will have at least two All-Stars this year (Judge and Betances) and possibly as many as seven (Judge, Betances, Severino, Hicks, Holliday, Sanchez, Castro). Seven’s not going to happen though. Seven All-Stars is reserved for super teams. The Cubs had seven All-Stars last season and that’s only because the fans stuffed the ballot and voted in five starters. So yeah, seven isn’t happening.

My official guess is four Yankees make the All-Star team: Judge, Betances, Severino, and Sanchez. Hicks gets hosed, Holliday loses out because they won’t carry two DHs with the smaller roster, and Castro gets squeezed out by other second basemen. The Yankees haven’t had four All-Stars since 2012, when Jeter, Sabathia, Cano, and Curtis Granderson made it. (Jeter, Cano, and Granderson were all voted in as starters.) Four All-Stars would be cool. Two seems like the absolute minimum for the 2017 Yankees.

Let’s talk about Chris Carter and Tyler Austin

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Yankees lost their seventh straight game last night, and the biggest reason was the bullpen. Again. The offense didn’t light the world on fire, but Tyler Clippard and Jonathan Holder combined to allow five runs in three innings. That simply is not good enough. The bullpen has been a major sore spot for more than a week now.

Another reason the Yankees lost: Chris Carter. His second inning error on a routine ground ball contributed to two runs, and he also went 0-for-3 at the plate. Joe Girardi lifted him for pinch-hitter Austin Romine (!) in the ninth inning. When asked about Carter being his starting first baseman after the game, Girardi said, “That’s what we have.” Yikes. Not exactly a ringing endorsement!

Based on his tone over the last few days and weeks, it’s clear Girardi’s patience with Carter has run out. He doesn’t want to use him at first base but he has to because, well, there’s no one else. The Yankees could play Matt Holliday at first base more often, though I hate that idea given Holliday’s age, and the other option is Rob Refsnyder Eek. The first base depth chart looks like this while Greg Bird is out:

  1. Chris Carter
  2. Tyler Austin
  3. Rob Refsnyder
  4. Matt Holliday
  5. Ji-Man Choi

Austin is down in Triple-A, where he’s hitting .287/.357/.494 (132 wRC+) with two homers and a 28.6% strikeout rate in 24 games. The Yankees don’t think he’s ready to help at the MLB level, however. I know that because they haven’t called him up. Brian Cashman said yesterday Austin is striking out too much, which is true. Heck, Austin himself said the other day that his timing at the plate still isn’t right. From D.J. Eberle:

“I was trying to get a feel of staying inside the ball,” Austin tells the media that night. “It’s one of those things where I feel like my swing has been a little long for me the past few days and I feel like (Wednesday) was good for me to get some of that work done.”

“I feel good. I feel like I’m making strides every day at the plate and defensively,” he said. “I think its more of just getting reps, picking up spin of the ball and swinging at pitches in the zone. I feel like that’s the big thing for me right now and I’m trying to do every time I go up there.”

The Carter/Austin situation reminds me of the Stephen Drew/Refsnyder situation back in 2015. Drew was terrible that year — he hit .201/.271/.381 (76 wRC+) in 2015 — and we all wanted to see Refsnyder, the kid tearing the cover off the ball in the minors who happened to play the same position. I know I did. Why aren’t they calling him up? The Yankees obviously hate Refsnyder, right? Well, no. Refsnyder just wasn’t as good as we all thought.

I feel like the same thing is happening here, though Carter this year has been worse than Drew in 2015. (Drew at least played above-average defense at an up-the-middle position.) Austin isn’t being called up because the Yankees don’t think he’s an upgrade over Carter, the same way they didn’t think Refsnyder was an upgrade over the Drew, and the Yankees have more information than us. When it comes to minor league promotions and all that, the team knows better than we do. Always and forever. The Yankees are not stupid. They know what they’re doing.

A few things about the ongoing first base situation. One, Carter has been better of late. He’s hit .228/.290/.456 (95 wRC+) with four homers in 15 games in June. Still bad! But better than April and May. If Bird or Austin had done something like that after a terrible April and May, the internet would be abuzz with GIF-filled posts about adjustments and small sample size signs of life and blah blah blah. I know this because I’ve done it myself, and I hate myself for it. When it comes to a young guy, we microanalyze everything. When a veteran we don’t like does it, no one cares.

(Times Leader)
(Times Leader)

Two, the Yankees are not cutting Carter without feeling good about Bird’s health. And I don’t mean “okay he’s playing in rehab games again” feeling good. We’ve been there, done that. They don’t have the first base depth to cut a dude with legit 40-homer power. If they cut Carter and Bird needs more time to get ready, they’re looking at Austin and Refsnyder at first base. No. Just … no. And three, there’s no way to carry Austin and Carter on the roster. They’re basically the same player in that they’re right-handed hitters and provide no defensive flexibility. Can’t have two of those guys in the age of four-man (and often three-man) benches.

Like all of you, I’m at my wits’ end with Carter. I could live with all the empty at-bats if he were hitting more homers, but he’s not. He has eight homers in 181 plate appearances. Last season he had 13 homers in his first 181 plate appearances. A little bit behind that pace, he is. Add in some egregious errors and you’ve got a sub-replacement level player. Not the reason the Yankees have lost seven straight games. A reason though, undoubtedly.

As bad as Carter is though, I’m not convinced Austin is an upgrade. The guy himself said he still isn’t right at the plate. (If you’re into projections, ZiPS pegs Austin as a true talent .231/.291/.419 (98 OPS+) big league hitter.) I want to see the Yankees try Austin, though that has more to do with me not wanting to watch Carter than it does me believing Austin is an upgrade. Girardi seems to be in the same boat. He’s over Carter. You can see it every time he is asked about the guy.

The front office makes roster decisions, not Girardi (I’m certain Girardi has some input though), and they have to look at the big picture. And part of that big picture is the team’s thin first base depth chart, Austin admitting he still isn’t himself at the plate, and the potential reward each player offers. Carter is one of the most frustrating players I can remember wearing pinstripes. All things considered though, sticking with him is probably the best move right now, at least until Austin is where he needs to be and we know more about Bird’s injury.

Yankeemetrics: Old Ace rising, Tanaka tanking (June 6-8)

(AP)
(AP)

Numbers Never Lie
A home run derby broke out at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, but in a very depressing way for the hometown fans. Masahiro Tanaka‘s batting-practice fastballs and cement-mixer sliders were flying out of the park, while the Yankees’ repeated clutch-hitting woes sealed their fate – a disappointing 5-4 loss to their AL East rival.

The Red Sox entered the game with the fewest homers in the league, but that statistic mattered little on a chilly night in the Bronx as they went deep three times against Tanaka, who gave up five runs in five innings. Tanaka’s longball issues have reached crisis mode, with 14 surrendered in his last 32 innings pitched dating back to the fifth inning of his May 2 start vs Toronto.

That’s a remarkable number considering that:

  • It’s more home runs than any Yankee pitcher had given up the entire season through Tuesday
  • 77 of the 86 other qualified pitchers in MLB had allowed fewer than 14 home runs for the entire season through Tuesday

If those stats aren’t sobering enough, how about this: he gave up more homers to the Red Sox (3) than guys he struck out (2) … and it’s not even the first time he’s done that in a game this season! Unsurprisingly, he never did that in any game during his first three seasons in pinstripes.

The bottom line: Tanaka is the only pitcher in the majors this year who has multiple starts where he struck out at least two batters and still managed to allow more home runs than strikeouts in the game. Send help, please.

Not only did Tanaka serve up meatballs left and right against the Red Sox, his overall “stuff” was severely diminished and his pitches showed little deception. He got just three swings-and-misses (yup, the same number of homers he allowed), tied for the fewest in any of his 87 career starts.

(AP)
(AP)

CC’s lead the way
While the team’s improbable comeback wins have been getting a lot of buzz this season, an underrated theme for this Yankees squad has been their resiliency and avoiding long losing streaks. They haven’t lost more than three games in a row and haven’t been swept in any series so far. They assured both those milestones would remain intact on Wednesday, snapping their two-game slide and taking the second game of the series, 8-0.

This was a historic rout of their longtime division rival, marking their largest shutout win vs Red Sox since June 27, 1991 at Fenway. The last time they blanked the Red Sox by this large of a margin at Yankee Stadium was more than 50 years ago – on September 3, 1965!

The Yankees definitely had the right guy on the mound – Carsten Charles Sabathia – to stop their losing streak. After twirling eight scoreless innings, the 36-year-old lefty improved to 6-0 with a 1.25 ERA in seven starts following a Yankee loss. That’s the lowest ERA in games after a team loss for any pitcher in the majors this season (min. five starts).

This brilliant outing continued a string of ace-like performances by Sabathia, who is 5-0 with a 1.11 ERA in his last five starts. He’s just the third lefty in franchise history to win five starts in a row, allowing no more than two earned runs and six hits in each game: Ron Guidry had two such streaks (in 1978 and 1981) and Lefty Gomez also had a similar stretch in 1937.

On Wednesday, Sabathia’s slider was in peak form as the Red Sox went 0-for-8 in at-bats ending in the pitch – including four punchouts. Here’s a beautiful pitch chart of the 30 sliders he threw:

cc-sabathia-1

As you can see in the graphic above, he got only one whiff with his slider, but instead relied on its nasty movement to paint the edges of the zone and generate a whopping 13 called strikes. That matches the most he’s gotten with the pitch in any game since joining the Yankees.

His backdoor slider has been among the toughest in baseball for hitters to pick up this season. Sabathia’s 14 looking strikeouts with the slider are tied with Jhoulys Chacin for the most in MLB, and his slider called-strike rate is the second-highest among pitchers that have thrown at least 200 sliders this season.

While Sabathia was dealing on the mound, the other CC was a monster at the plate. Chris Carter went 3-for-4 with a towering home run and a season-high four RBIs, providing us with our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Week: he joins Scott Brosius (2000) as the only Yankee No. 9 hitters to drive in at least four runs and have at least three hits in a game against the Red Sox.

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Who’s Your Daddy?
The Yankees finished off the series with another dominant win over their AL East rival, 9-1. This is just the third time in the last 30 years that they’ve notched back-to-back wins by at least eight runs against the Red Sox; the other two instances were Sept. 18-19, 2004 and May 23-24, 1998.

The Yankees pummeled David Price, scoring six runs in five innings against the former Cy Young winner. It was the sixth time over the last two seasons that Price has given up at least six earned runs in a game — and four (!) of those six disaster outings have come against the Yankees.

Gary Sanchez broke the game open with a towering three-run homer in the third inning to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. But he was just getting warmed up… Sanchez took Price deep again two innings later, making him a ridiculous 4-for-7 with four homers in his career vs the Boston lefty.

He is one of six players with at least four homers vs Price — Manny Machado, Curtis Granderson, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista are the others — and those five guys have faced him at least 40 times.

It was also Sanchez’s fifth multi-homer game in the big leagues, a staggering figure for someone playing in his 87th career game. He became the second-fastest player in major-league history to reach five multi-homer-games, behind only Mark McGwire (who did it in his 84th career game).

And, oh yeah, he also was the first Yankee catcher ever to have at least five RBIs and two homers in a game against the Red Sox. #FunFacts

While Sanchez was re-writing the Major-League record books, Aaron Judge continued his assault on the Statcast leaderboards. Judge’s sixth inning single left his bat at 119.8 mph, the third time this season he’s hit a ball 119 mph or faster. The rest of the players in major-league baseball have combined to do that zero times in 2017.

Why Chris Carter isn’t Randy Winn (but may suffer the same fate)

(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Chris Carter has had an objectively bad start to his Yankees career.

It was hard to imagine the team getting worse offensive production at 1B after Mark Teixeira‘s bad 2016, but we’re there anyway. Carter isn’t nearly the fielder Teixeira was (to be fair, neither is Greg Bird). But Carter was paid $3.5 million to mash and he’s hit just four home runs while producing a .180/.279/.333 batting line. He’s struck out 48 times in 129 plate appearances over 41 games.

Let’s be realistic: Carter has never been a strong batting average guy (career best is .239) and his 37.2 percent strikeout rate would be highest full season mark, but not much higher than his past numbers. However, his ISO is way down, going from .277 last year and .228 in 2015 to .153 so far this season.

The logical comparison for Carter right now would seem to be 2010 Randy Winn. Winn was a veteran brought in during the offseason after the 2009 title run and he would be cut by the Yankees on May 28, two weeks shy of his 36th birthday.

Carter could be in line for a similar mid-season axe. Greg Bird is on his way. Tyler Austin is in Triple A and could replace him whenever the team deems him ready. Rob Refsnyder, someone the Yankees have been allergic to giving at-bats to at times, has started over Carter multiple times in the past week. The writing is on the wall.

But Carter isn’t Winn. Not all that close. Even with the potential for the same fate and similar lack of production, the comparison stops right about there. Here’s why:

1. Winn was coming off a career-worst season: Winn was well below average the year before in San Francisco. Over his age 33 and 34 seasons with the Giants in 2007-08, Winn batted .303/.358/.436 while averaging 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases a year. Then he dipped significantly in 2009, mustering just a .262/.318/.353 mark. His strikeout rate crept up and his walk rate fell with his ISO. He still provided defensive value and 16 stolen bases, thus his 1.8 fWAR and 1.3 bWAR. But he was clearly aging and was becoming a negative in center field, although still able to play the corners.

Sure, Carter struck out 206 times in 2016, but he walked 76 times and, let’s not forget, led the National League in home runs. He’s always been a defensive negative, but he’s also never been a below-average hitter since he received anything resembling full-time work.

Therefore, taking the flyer on the aging Winn may have been foolish to begin with, but there was no reason to doubt Carter’s hitting ability. This year is the outlier with the lack of power.

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

2. Winn was brought in for cheap without a starting role in mind: The Yankees paid Winn just $1.1 million in 2010 to come in as their fourth outfielder. That was an $8.6 mil pay cut from 2009, when Winn was a starter. The team had Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher as regulars, and Winn wasn’t going to find himself in regular at-bats barring injury. None of those three were major injury risks. Perhaps Gardner was unseasoned, but the team clearly chose him over Melky Cabrera by trading Melky, so there had to be confidence in him starting his second full season.

Carter took a pay cut over what he could have gotten in arbitration, but he got about market value and $1 million more than last year. He was brought in for potentially many more at-bats and was Bird insurance. At worst, he was a platoon bat. But it was more likely that the team saw him as a major power boost with Bird potentially not being ready for the role. It wasn’t too hard to see him getting regular playing time … like he has.

The way to look at this is: It wasn’t hard to see Carter earning regular at-bats within a few weeks. Whether for Matt Holliday or for Bird, Carter getting into the lineup was easy to see. Winn was harder the see a consistent role other than a bench bat.

3. Winn had no clear replacements when he played himself off the roster and was clearly done: This is a big point. There was no one waiting in the wings to replace Winn. Winn had to put up incredibly poor numbers to be jettisoned. (His .213/.300/.295 line says it all). He not only put up bad numbers but also looked overpowered at the plate. He simply never adjusted to his backup role and was out of baseball after 162 more plate appearances with the Cardinals.

Carter has played poorly, but it’s hard to think that he’s done. Whether it’s the mechanics of his swing or something else entirely, Carter just seems off. His defense isn’t much different from normal. His batting hasn’t been good, but he also has done just enough that, in other circumstances, he could easily stay on as a bench piece. He’s only 30 years old and it’s hard to think he’s done. There’s a reason the Yankees have given him more of a chance than they ever gave Winn.

Carter could very well be more the type of player who the Yankees would cut and then we’d see him playing at his 2012-16 level for the second half (think LaTroy Hawkins in 2008). It’s as much his performance that would lead to an early exit from pinstripes as it is his replacements.

Winn ultimately had a -0.7 bWAR (-0.4 fWAR) and his replacements (Austin Kearns, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson and others) weren’t all that much better. He slightly rebounded in St. Louis in the second half but was still below average and was out of baseball after that season.

Carter isn’t done in baseball, far from it, even if the Yankees release him. But the presence of Bird and Austin, and the potential they bring to the table within the Yankees’ overall youth movement, make Carter expendable over the next few weeks despite having more potential to turn things around than Winn.

The two Aarons and thinking about a new top of the lineup

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once upon a time, I was a lineup complainer. The lineup would be posted each day at 4pm-ish and I’d complain about it. So and so is hitting too low, this guy is hitting too high, why is bench player flavor of the week not playing, that sort of stuff. A few times a year the Yankees would play the “ideal” lineup. Otherwise it was the same story, day after day. The lineup stinks and I was Mad Online.

I’ve outgrown that, thankfully. Daily lineup complaints are no way to go through life. As long as Joe Girardi doesn’t do something crazy like bat his best hitter ninth (which he never does and would never do), whatever lineup he runs out there is fine with me. So this post shouldn’t construed as me complaining about the lineup. This is more of a rational discussion about the batting order nearly one-third of the way through the season.

For the most part, I think we can all agree on one thing regarding the lineup: Brett Gardner should lead off, and Chase Headley and Chris Carter should bat eighth and ninth, really in either order. I guess that’s three things. Anyway, that stuff is straight forward. Gardner is, yet again, one of the team’s best on-base players and count-workers. Headley and Carter have been terrible and should get the fewest at-bats. Simple, right? Right.

The few spots beyond Gardner are what I really want to discuss. This is my ideal top of the lineup right now, given the available personnel:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge

The three outfielders, left to right. Gary Sanchez has been hitting second most of the season and I am totally cool with that. It works for me. Sanchez has looked a little jumpy at the plate the last few days, but I’m not worried. Hitters go through their ups and downs. Sanchez is one of the team’s best hitters, so by all means, hit him second. Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant won MVPs hitting second in recent years. Power hitters can hit there too.

That said, I like Hicks hitting second over Sanchez right now because, well, Hicks has been the better hitter this season. The better overall hitter and, more importantly, the better on-base threat. Hicks has a .426 OBP this year. Sanchez has a .356 OBP. That’s still good! But it’s not .426. Batting Hicks second means more runners on base for Judge, who has inarguably been the Yankees’ best hitter this season.

Judge started the season hitting lower in the lineup and understandably so, but he’s forced his way up, and now he is in entrenched as the No. 5 hitter. Moving Judge up even further to the No. 3 spot means more at-bats. More at-bats over the course of the season, and a better chance to get Judge that one extra at-bat in an individual game. Through 48 team games the No. 3 spot has 14 more plate appearances than the No. 5 spot for the Yankees. That’s 14 more times Judge would have come to the plate in the late innings. It’s not nothing!

We’re not splitting atoms here. Hicks (.426), Judge (.419), and Gardner (.363) have the three highest OBPs on the Yankees. They make fewer outs than anyone else. Judge is also one of the game’s top power threats. Batting Gardner and Hicks first and second is, by far, the best way to get men on base for Judge. Batting these three atop the lineup also means they get the most at-bats, therefore giving the Yankees more chances to score.

Going with Gardner-Hicks-Judge atop the lineup and Headley-Carter at the bottom leaves you Sanchez, Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday, and Didi Gregorius for the 4-5-6-7 spots. What’s the best way to order them? I’m not sure there’s a wrong answer. I’d prefer hitting Sanchez fourth because I think he’s most likely to be an impact bat the rest of the season, but if you said the same thing about Castro or Holliday, I wouldn’t argue (much).

The important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is getting Judge more at-bats because because the guy is a monster, and the more he plays, the better the Yankees’ chances to win. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s concussion — Girardi said yesterday Ellsbury is still experiencing headaches, so he remains shut down indefinitely — ensures Hicks will be in the lineup everyday, and as long as he’s hitting like this, Hicks is the perfect No. 2 hitter. On-base ability, power, speed, switch-hitter, the whole nine. Perfect.

The lineup almost seems to write itself from there. Gardner leads off, Hicks hits second, Judge hits third. Your two best on-base players and your most devastating hitter. Sanchez, Holliday, Castro, and Gregorius add quality lineup depth through the No. 7 spot too. I get why Girardi hits Sanchez second, Holliday third, and Castro fourth. I do. But nearly 50 games into the season, it’s the clear the more Aaron Judge hits with men on base, the better. The lineup should be built in such a way that maximizes those opportunities.

Yankeemetrics: Kings of Kansas City (May 16-18)

(AP)
(AP)

Vintage CC
The Yankees kicked off the most grueling stretch of this early season – 20 games in 20 days – with one of their most complete and thorough performances so far. Power, pitching and defense were all on display in a satisfying 7-1 win over the Royals on Tuesday night.

The power was supplied by Gary Sanchez and Chris Carter, who each went deep and combined to drive in five runs.

Sanchez broke a scoreless tie in the third inning with a booming 428-foot homer, putting the Yankees up 3-0. It was his 23rd career homer in just his 69th game at the big-league level. The only player in major-league history to hit more homers before his 70th career game is White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (25).

Carter tacked on two more runs with a deep blast to center in the fourth inning, punctuating his breakout 3-for-4 night at the plate. The list of Yankee first baseman to have at least three hits, including a homer, at Kauffman Stadium is a fun one: Lyle Overbay (2013), Tino Martinez (1998, 1999), Don Mattingly (1993), Steve Balboni (1983) and Chris Chambliss (1979). Welcome to the club, Chris!

Sure, chicks dig the longball, but the best story of the game was the strong bounce-back outing by CC Sabathia. The lefty had an ugly 9.58 ERA in his previous four starts entering this series, but delivered a vintage performance with 6 2/3 scoreless and efficient innings.

Sabathia checked off a couple notable milestones in the victory. It was his:

  • 109th win as a Yankee, tying Spud Chandler and Fritz Peterson for 15th place on the franchise all-time list
  • 13th win at Kauffman Stadium, matching the most wins by a visiting pitcher at the ballpark. Justin Verlander, Mark Buehrle and Bert Blyleven also have 13 wins there.

One of the key differences for Sabathia against the Royals was his ability to pitch inside to righties with his cutter. On the left, his cutter location to right-handed batters in his previous four starts from April 21-May 9; on the right, his cutter location to right-handed batters on Tuesday:

cc-cutter-rhb-combined

In his previous four starts, righties hit .346 and slugged .590 overall against Sabathia, including a .407 average and .741 (!) slugging percentage against his cutter. On Tuesday, the Royals right-handed batters went 3-for-16 overall and were 0-for-4 when putting a cutter in play against Sabathia.

(TNS)
(TNS)

Runs, runs, and more runs
Another night, another run-scoring bonanza for the Yankees. They pummeled the Royals on Wednesday, 11-7, their MLB-leading seventh game with more than 10 runs. That’s the same number of 11-plus-run games they had all of last year, and tied with the 1936 club for the second-most in franchise history through 37 team games.

Royals starter Jason Vargas entered the game with the lowest ERA in the league (1.01!), but was shelled early and often by the visitors – a result that shouldn’t have been surprising given his track record against the Bronx Bombers. After surrendering six runs in four innings, his ERA against the Yankees rose to 7.15, the highest by any active player with at least 35 innings pitched against them.

Aaron Hicks contributed to the offensive fireworks with two hits, including a three-run homer, and one walk. After Wednesday’s slate, he was one of 16 major-league players with at least 25 plate appearances and more walks (22) than strikeouts (17). The only other guy on the list with a higher slugging percentage than Hicks (.616) was Bryce Harper (.744).

Starlin Castro led the hit parade with two doubles and a single, his 18th multi-hit game of the season. Over the last 20 years, the only other Yankee to produce 18-or-more multi-hit games within the team’s first 37 contests was Alfonso Soriano, who did it in 2002 and 2003.

Throwback (to 2016) Thursday
The Yankees couldn’t complete the sweep of the last-place Royals, falling 5-1 on Thursday in a game where the offense was M.I.A. for much of the night. It would have been their first series sweep in Kansas City in nearly a decade (September 2007).

Didi Gregorius once again saved the Yankees from being shut out for the first time this season with a one-out RBI single in the ninth inning. They are still one of three teams that haven’t been blanked in 2017, along with the Nationals and Twins.

Although the Yankees have scored at least one run in every game, there’s been some close calls. This was the fourth time that the Yankees had zero runs through eight innings (also on April 18, May 5 and May 12), and this was actually the second time in less than a week that Gregorius was the hero. His RBI single in the ninth inning on May 12 against the Astros was the Yankees only run of that game.

(AP)
(AP)

Jordan Montgomery allowed a career-high five runs in five innings, and the big blow was Mike Moustakas’ three-run homer on a first-pitch slider in the fifth inning. Entering this game, batters were 6-for-34 (.177) with one extra-base hit (double) when putting Montgomery’s slider in play.

Royals starter Danny Duffy was brilliant as he mowed down the Yankee lineup, retiring the first nine batters — six of them via strikeout — before Jacoby Ellsbury‘s bunt single leading off the fourth inning.

Duffy allowed just two more hits in seven scoreless innings while striking out 10. Duffy became the third Royals pitcher with double-digit strikeouts and no runs allowed against the Yankees, joining Tom Gordon (April 20, 1991) and Mark Gubicza (Aug. 17, 1986).