Quick Postgame Notes: Sanchez, Montgomery, Shreve

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees announced some news following this afternoon’s win over the Rays. A quick recap:

  • Sanchez out four weeks. Gary Sanchez will miss four weeks with a Grade I strain of his brachialis muscle. That’s the muscle behind the biceps. Girardi clarified that the Yankees expect Sanchez to be back in the big leagues in four weeks, not just starting baseball activity.
  • Montgomery to debut Wednesday. Jordan Montgomery will start Wednesday’s game and make his big league debut. Girardi said they’re doing that specifically to give Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia an extra day of rest. Luis Severino will pitch Thursday instead.
  • Shreve sent down. The Yankees optioned Chasen Shreve to Triple-A Scranton following today’s game. That clears a 25-man roster spot for Montgomery. They still need to clear a 40-man spot. That might not happen until Wednesday.

So good news and bad news. Yay for Montgomery, boo for the Sanchez injury. All things considered though, four weeks for Sanchez isn’t terrible. The way he grimaced in pain Saturday had me thinking it was a serious shoulder problem.

Yankeemetrics: Baltimore Chopped (April 7-9)

Get well soon, El Gary. (Getty Images)
Get well soon, El Gary. (Getty Images)

Leads are for wimps
The season-opening road trip headed north to Camden Yards, a house of horrors recently for this Yankees team. They entered the weekend with a 7-20 record at the ballpark since 2014, the second-worst mark by any AL team in that span, and were 1-8 in nine series openers there over the previous three seasons.

Make that 7-21 and 1-9 in road series openers against the Orioles after Friday night’s 6-5 loss.

Luis Severino got a no-decision, extending his winless streak to 13 starts dating back to his final start of 2015. Over the last 15 seasons, that’s tied with Phil Hughes (2013) for the most consecutive starts without a win by any Yankee pitcher.

The big blow came off the bat of Manny Machado, who drilled a 96-mph fastball for a three-run homer into the left field bleachers to cut the Yankees lead to 5-4 in the fifth inning.

Of the 21 homers Severino has allowed in the majors, more than half (14) have come on pitches 95 mph or faster. Since the start of last season, opponents have slugged .522 on his 95-plus mph four-seam fastballs, the fourth-highest mark among major-league pitchers in that span (min. 75 at-bats).

Gary Sanchez broke out of his early slump with a 2-for-3 effort that included a monster 426-foot home run in the top of the fifth. Since August 1 of last season, Sanchez has four homers of at least 425 feet, and the rest of the Yankees have combined for three such bombs.

It was his 21st career homer in his 59th career game – the second-most homers for any player in major-league history before their 60th game. Boston Braves outfielder Wally Berger had 22 homers in his first 59 games in 1930.

Brett Gardner sparked the offense with three hits, three runs scored and two stolen bases. He’s the first Yankee to reach those totals since … Gardner did it six years ago (July 17, 2011) vs Toronto. The only other Yankees to have multiple games with at least three hits, three runs and two stolen bases in their career are Rickey Henderson (3), Snuffy Stirnweiss (2) and Chuck Knoblauch (2).

Mr. 2,000. (Getty Images)
Mr. 2,000. (Getty Images)

Another painful loss
It was deja vu for the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, as they once again built an early multi-run lead, coughed it up in the middle innings, resulting in yet another frustrating one-run loss. It also clinched yet another losing road series to the Orioles, the 10th consecutive set they’ve lost at Camden Yards.

How long has it been since they actually won a series in Baltimore? When they clinched their last series win there on Sept. 11, 2013, Mariano Rivera posted the 651st save of his career and Andy Pettitte tossed a quality start; Curtis Granderson, A-Rod and Robinson Cano each homered in the 5-4 victory.

For the third time in the last five seasons, the Yankees are 1-4 through five games. They are the only MLB team to start 1-4 or worse three times since 2013.

Masahiro Tanaka looked solid through the first four innings before unraveling in the fifth. He really struggled with his command, hitting a guy and walking two others while giving up two runs. Adam Warren relieved him in the sixth inning, making it the fifth time in five games that the team’s starter didn’t go more than five innings.

This is just the second time in the last 100 years that no Yankee starting pitcher recorded an out in the sixth inning in the first five games of the season. It also happened in 2007, with a rotation of Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner.

Milestone Alert! Matt Holliday provided one of the few highlights, notching his 2,000th hit with a single in the first inning. He joined Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera as the only active players with at least 2,000 hits and a .500-or-better career slugging percentage.

Rally Time
The Yankees flipped the script in the final game of the series as they avoided the sweep with a much-needed comeback win. On Sunday they fell behind early, rallied late and left Baltimore with a 7-3 victory.

And the Yankees take the lead! (AP)
And the Yankees take the lead! (AP)

Starlin Castro delivered the game-winning hit with a tie-breaking RBI single in the ninth inning. Since the start of last year, Castro has seven go-ahead RBIs in the seventh inning or later — that’s two more than any other Yankee over the last two seasons.

Before Castro’s heroics, Aaron Judge tied it up with a solo blast leading off the eighth inning. He’s the third Yankee with a game-tying home run in the eighth inning or later at Camden Yards, joining the legendary duo of Travis Hafner (2013) and Roberto Kelly (1992).

The Orioles pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone all afternoon — issuing 11 walks, including seven by starter Wade Miley — and Holliday took advantage. He walked five times, tying a franchise single-game record. It had been done nine times prior to Sunday, with the two most recent being Mark Teixeira in 2009 and Roger Maris in 1962.

Besides Holliday, two other Yankees drew five free passes in five plate appearances and didn’t score a run: Hersh Martin in 1944 and Lou Gehrig in 1935. #FunFact: Martin and Holliday both went to high school in Oklahoma, and Martin attended Oklahoma State University in Holliday’s hometown of Stillwater.

Miley was effectively wild, giving up seven walks, one hit and zero runs in five innings. It had been more than 80 years since a pitcher had that many walks, allowed no more than one hit and held the Yankees scoreless — Washington Senators lefty Earl Whitehall achieved the feat on May 30, 1934. The No. 3 and 4 hitters in that lineup were Gehrig and Babe Ruth, who both went 0-for-2 and drew two walks each.

Game Seven: Home Opener

Yay baseball. (RAB)
Yay baseball. (RAB)

After six months and six road games, baseball returns to Yankee Stadium today. Can you believe this is already the ninth year of the new Stadium? It still feels like the place just opened. Based on the way teams are going through ballparks these days, the Yankees are due for a new park in eleven years or so. The Yankees are 4-4 in home openers at the current incarnation of Yankee Stadium.

“You feel like the season is in full swing once you come home,” said Joe Girardi this morning. “Obviously you’re aware that it starts. I think everyone always looks forward to their home opener. You feel that there’s that advantage playing at home. You feel that your team is built for ballpark. You get to sleep in your bed and do those types of things. You feel like the season is underway.”

The Yankees are coming off a pretty excellent win over the Orioles yesterday and now they’re sending Michael Pineda to the mound, and gosh, who knows what he’s going to do from start-to-start. His first start last week did not go well at all, but Pineda is the kind of guy who can get hammered one day and strike out ten in seven scoreless innings five days later. Hopefully the good version of Big Mike shows up this afternoon. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 1B Chris Carter
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

The weather is spectacular in the Bronx today. Bright blue sky and temperatures in the mid-70s. Can’t beat it. The pregame ceremonies will being at roughly 12:40pm ET and I’m sure YES will have them. Joe Torre, Willie Randolph, and Tino Martinez are throwing out the ceremonial first pitches and will be honored for their roles in Team USA’s World Baseball Classic championship. Torre was the general manager and Willie and Tino were on the coaching staff. I wonder whether Tyler Clippard, who was in the USA bullpen, will be honored too. We’ll see. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (ankle, illness) is available off the bench today, if necessary. He was available yesterday too, but Girardi said once the lead stretched to four runs, they decided to take it easy on him. Girardi also said Bird is sitting today more because of the illness than the ankle … Gary Sanchez (biceps) will see a doctor today and the Yankees will get a better idea about his timetable then. Girardi said Sanchez is feeling better and he’s more optimistic about the injury now than he was at the time it happened.

The Gary-less Lineup

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

If you haven’t heard by now–though the collective worried gasp of Yankee fans everywhere yesterday afternoon probably gave it away–Gary Sanchez is injured, and will be going on the 10-day disabled list with a right biceps issue.

This leaves the Yankees with a gaping hole at what is the most important defensive position on the field–where Sanchez has shown great skill–and arguably the most important position in the lineup; slotting Sanchez in second made sense and was a big show of confidence in him by Joe Girardi and the coaching staff. Now, that’s for naught–at least for the next ten days. So, what can the Yankees do in Sanchez’s lineup absence?

My first thought was one I suggested previously, using DH Matt Holliday as the second hitter thanks to his combination of skills. However, without Sanchez to be in the clean up spot–and no one yet reliable enough to take his place–I don’t think that idea works. Holliday should stick at fourth, which is just as important as the second spot. But, since the route they’ll likely take is sticking Jacoby Ellsbury–who’s off to a good start–back into the second slot, giving the Yankees a more traditional look at the top of the lineup, that would mean three lefties–Gardner, Ellsbury, and Greg Bird stacked together, and that could lead to matchup problems late in games. So, I assume Girardi will split the lefties and have Holliday bat third with Bird cleaning up.

The team can go one of two ways with the fifth spot. The first way is to bump Chase Headley up a spot, rewarding him for a hot start. I’d be totally fine with that. The other would be to give the spot to Aaron Judge. This could show faith in him, challenge him, and give him an opportunity to hit behind better players, increasing the likelihood of him batting with men on base. That second option probably isn’t going to happen, but I think that’s the one I’d like, if only to keep up the ‘give the kids a shot’ theme that this season is likely to have.

Best hi-five ever (Source: AP)
Best hi-five ever (Source: AP)

So, the combination of the most likely scenario/what I’d want to see would look like this:

  1. Gardner, LF
  2. Ellsbury, CF
  3. Holliday, DH
  4. Bird, 1B
  5. Judge, RF
  6. Castro, 2B
  7. Headley, 3B
  8. Romine, C
  9. Torreyes, SS

You could flip Castro and Headley if you like, and I might do the same. But the main takeaway here is that without Sanchez, this lineup seems a whole lot shorter and a whole lot thinner than it did just 24 hours ago. Losing a big bat at a premium position always hurts, and that goes double when a backup quality player–Torreyes–is already in the every day lineup. Get well soon, Gary; the lineup needs you.

Update: Gary Sanchez headed to disabled list with biceps strain

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

8:00pm: Sanchez will be placed on the 10-day disabled list, according to Jack Curry. Sweeny Murti says Higashioka is coming up from Scranton. Following today’s game Joe Girardi said the Yankees will be cautious with Sanchez because the injury is to his throwing arm.

6:02pm: The Yankees say Sanchez has a right biceps strain. Phew. I was worried it his shoulder. They’re not out of the woods yet, but a biceps strain is far more preferable to a shoulder (or elbow) issue. Here’s video of the injury:

5:40pm: Gary Sanchez left this afternoon’s game with some sort of right arm injury. He took a swing in the fifth inning, then immediately grimaced and doubled over. No idea what it could be, though he was clearly favoring his right arm. Sanchez left the game without really lobbying in to stay.

Needless to say, losing Sanchez for any length of time would be pretty devastating. He is one of the Yankees’ best hitters despite his relatively slow start to the season, and he’s also their starting catcher. That’s kind of a big deal. Kyle Higashioka is the No. 3 catcher in Triple-A right now. Hopefully Sanchez’s injury is nothing serious and he isn’t needed.

The Yankees have not yet released any sort of update on Sanchez, so stay tuned.

Saturday Links: Tanaka, Extensions, Jeter, Torreyes

Can he DH? (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Can he play a little outfield? (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Orioles continue their three-game series with the middle game later this afternoon. Until then, here are some bits of news and notes to check out.

Yankees shoot down Tanaka opt-out report

The Yankees have shot down a report that said they would not pursue Masahiro Tanaka should he exercise his opt-out clause after the season. “It ain’t on my radar screen right now — an entire season to play. Secondly, anyone that knows me knows that I don’t get emotional or personal about business. Any decision then will be made on a solid analysis of all the relevant data, per usual,” said Hal Steinbrenner to George King. Brian Cashman and Randy Levine rejected the report too.

The original report sounded like the Yankees trying to negotiate through the media and it didn’t really pass the sniff test. Why make a free agent decision in April? If Tanaka opts out, it will be because he stayed healthy and had a very good 2017 season, in which case he’d be in high demand. Why close the door on that guy in April? There’s also this: If the Yankees truly do not intend to pursue Tanaka after he opts out, they should trade him as soon as possible. Can’t let him go for nothing but a dinky draft pick.

Yankees not yet thinking about extensions for young players

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees are not yet considering long-term contract extensions for young players like Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez. “It’s a bit premature,” said Cashman. One of the reasons? The luxury tax. Signing any pre-arbitration player to an extension now means their luxury tax number would be equal to the average annual value of the contract. Sanchez and Bird will both make six figures in 2018, which will help the Yankees immensely with the luxury tax situation. They’re desperately trying to get under the threshold.

“It can be an issue. I am not saying we have confronted the issue with Hal, but that would be a hurdle to get past. I am not saying it is unsurpassable, but that is my best guess,” said Cashman. Interestingly enough, Cashman also seemed to indicate the Yankees are more open to discussing an extension with Didi Gregorius. Gregorius can be a free agent after the 2019 season. Bird has to wait until after 2021 and Sanchez (and Aaron Judge) until after 2022. I wrote about this early this week. Signing these guys now could save millions down the road, but it would also make it more difficult to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.

Jeter involved in bidding for Marlins

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Since retiring, Derek Jeter has become a husband and he will soon become a father. Now he wants to own a baseball team. According to Charlie Gasparino, Brian Schwartz, and Tim Healey, Jeter is involved with a group led by longtime investment banker Gregory Fleming that is bidding for the Miami Marlins. Two other ownership groups are in the running too. MLB has to be kept in the loop during the process and the league is aware of Jeter’s involvement.

“There are many groups who are interested. We field offers often. The difference now is those offers are being looked at very seriously,” said Marlins president David Samson. Owner Jeffrey Loria reportedly had a handshake agreement in place to sell the team for $1.6 billion a few weeks ago, but that fell apart. Jeter has made it no secret he would one day like to own a team, and getting involved as the face of an ownership a la Magic Johnson and the Dodgers would seem to make the most sense.

Torreyes is keeping No. 74

I thought this was a fun little story. Ronald Torreyes gave up his No. 17 to Matt Holliday this year — Holliday wore No. 5 with the Rockies and Athletics, and No. 7 with the Cardinals, and those numbers weren’t going to happen with the Yankees — and, in exchange, Holliday bought him a new suit, according to Dan Martin. Torreyes then picked No. 74 because that’s the number the Yankees gave him when he joined the organization last year.

“Last year, 74 was the number they gave me when I arrived for Spring Training. This year, I used it again and had good results with it (in the spring), so I decided to keep it,” said Torreyes to Martin. That’s pretty neat. Better than the time the Yankees ripped No. 29 away from Francisco Cervelli and gave it to Rafael Soriano. I enjoy seeing young guys in the lineup with uncommon numbers like 74 and 99. Gives them a little personalty.

Opening Week Overreaction: The Struggles of Sanchez and Bird

(John Raoux/AP)
(John Raoux/AP)

To say that Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird had a disappointing opening series would be a fairly strong understatement. The duo combined to bat .077/.143/.115 against the Rays this week, and by fWAR’s reckoning they’ve already cost the Yankees -0.4 wins. It’s a less than ideal start to the season, to say the least – particularly for two players that are being counted on to be cornerstones of the team’s offense this year. And it feels more surprising than might normally be the case, given Sanchez’s utter dominance in August and September last year, and Bird’s Spring Training performance (lest we forget that he was arguably the best hitter in baseball in March).

As was the case when I wrote about Masahiro Tanaka earlier this week, I offer a brief disclaimer: this is a minuscule sample size. It’s three games against a good pitching staff in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the majors. There’s no reason to worry at this juncture. However, it is worth taking a look to see if there are any trends that may explain this mini-slump.

Gary Sanchez

Sanchez does not have an extra-base hit yet. That isn’t shocking in and of itself – most every hitter in Major League Baseball will have several such stretches throughout the season. Sanchez went six straight games without an extra-base hit in September; it just didn’t stand out as much because he was hitting .374/.441/.798 when that streak started, and could do no wrong. It’s much easier to shine a light on such a stretch when it opens the season, and leaves a hitter slashing .071/.071/.071.

What could be causing this, aside from luck, random variation, and every small sample size caveat you can think of?

It’s interesting to note that Sanchez has yet to go to the opposite field. He was a pull-heavy hitter in 2016, with just 15.1% of his batted balls going the other way – but he’s pulling nearly two-thirds of balls in play to left this year (an increase of 9.5 percentage points), and going up the middle more. The shift-savvy Rays are undoubtedly aware of his preexisting tendency to pull the ball, and played him as such in the opening series … and it seems as though Sanchez played right into their hands.

Sanchez is also swinging at more pitches (from 44.9% last year to 54.2% this year), and making more contact (from 71.1% to 75.0%). That seems indicative of bad luck for Sanchez, as more balls in play oftentimes means more hits – especially when the ball is hit hard. And, as per FanGraphs, he’s hitting the ball harder than last year, and significantly so as his soft contact rate has dropped by 9.4 percentage points to a ridiculously low 9.1%. Despite this, his BABIP sits at .091.

The extra swinging may be indicative of Sanchez pressing (as is the fact that he hasn’t taken a walk yet), but it isn’t a sign of impatience. He’s swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strikezone (32.8% in 2016 against 24.1% this year), and he’s seeing a robust 4.5 pitches per plate appearance. That 4.5 P/PA mark would have placed him third in all of baseball last year, and puts him 30th among 199 qualified hitters at this point.

It is difficult to really dig into Sanchez’s numbers and find something disconcerting, with the possible exception of his ignorance as to the opposite field. And, even then, he thrived in 2016 by hammering the ball to the pull side.

Greg Bird

Despite his impressive 2015 debut, monster Spring Training, and undeniable hype, Bird was always entering 2017 as something of an unknown. He missed all of 2016 with an injury that has a spotty track record for recovery, and we seem to forget that he had played a total of 80 games above Double-A (34 at Triple-A and 46 in the majors) prior to this year. The projection systems were all over the place as a result, with ZiPS forecasting a middling .234/.307/449 line, PECOTA sitting in the middle at .244/.328/.457, and Steamer tossing out an optimistic .264/.346/.489. He was great at Triple-A and with the Yankees, but it was a long time ago over a small-ish sample size.

There are a few red flags in the even smaller sample size that is 2017, though. As per PITCHf/x, Bird has a horrendous 40.0% contact percentage, and is whiffing on 22.2% of his swings. Both marks would have been the worst in baseball last year, and both are in the bottom-ten this year (his contact percentage is dead last). His strikeout rate has dropped by 1.2 percentage points when compared to 2015, even as strikeout rates have risen by over two percentage points; he’s also swinging at fewer pitches overall, and seeing plenty of pitches (4.5 P/PA). It isn’t all bad on this front.

That being said, unlike Sanchez, Bird does not seem to be making good contact. His hard- and medium-hit rates have dropped precipitously, and he’s making soft contact on 37.5% of the balls he puts in play. That helps to explain his .083 BABIP, as does the fact that (per FanGraphs) he’s yet to hit a line drive. This could be a classification, of course, but the eye test confirms that he hasn’t quite driven the ball yet. Oddly enough, all of his batted balls have gone to center or left thus far, making him the anti-Sanchez in that regard.

The lack of pulled balls could be encouraging in and of itself, as the shift was something of a problem for Bird in 2015. Would mentioning small sample sizes here be beating a dead horse?


This was supposed to read as an overreaction, which is generally pessimistic. However, it is difficult to parse these numbers and not see how influenced they are by the simple fact that the duo has combined for 28 plate appearances in three games. It’s still the first week of the season, they’re both just 24-years-old, and they’re both supremely talented hitters with some measure of success in the show (however brief it may have been). And some of the underlying numbers serve as a testament to bad luck more so than anything else.

Even so, it would be lovely if their bats could wake up with gusto this weekend.