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.

Yankeemetrics: West Coast Nightmare Part II (June 15-18)

(AP)
(AP)

Well, that was awful … but Yankeemetrics still has Fighting Spirit and all the stats you need to know.

One Strike Away
The nightmare road trip, which started in Anaheim, continued as the Yankees headed north to Oakland and suffered a brutal 8-7 loss on Thursday night. It was a game of extreme highs and lows, a back-and-forth rollercoaster ride that ended in one of the most crushing defeats of the season so far.

The Yankees kept falling behind … but somehow staged four separate game-tying rallies and finally surged ahead in the top of the 10th … only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In the bottom of the 10th, Gio Gallegos surrendered a two-strike, two-out, bases-loaded RBI single that flipped the Yankees one-run advantage into another walk-off loss.

The details of this game were so chaotic and unprecedented, let’s run through it with bullet points:

  • It was the Yankees third walk-off loss to the A’s in the last six seasons (since 2012); no other non-AL East team has more than one walk-off win against the Yankees in that span.
  • It was their first walk-off loss to any team when they were one strike away from a win since April 15, 2007 against the A’s. Yikes, the Marco Scutaro game.
  • And finally … Before Thursday, the last (documented) time the Yankees had an extra-inning, walk-off loss, when leading with two outs and one strike away from a win, was June 4, 1988 against the Orioles. This game remains one of the most excruciating regular-season losses the Yankees have ever had, as they blew a two-run lead and lost on a rare three-base error in the 14th inning. Welp.

Back to Thursday night … Before the heart-breaking ending, the Yankees had taken the lead in the top of the 10th on a bases-loaded sac fly by Starlin Castro. Thankfully, Castro gives us our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Week:

This was the second time Castro had delivered a go-ahead sac fly in extras since joining the Yankees, also doing it against the Mets last August. Since sac flies were officially recorded in 1954, only three other players have hit multiple go-ahead, extra-inning sac flies in a Yankee uniform – Bernie Williams, Ruben Sierra and Horace Clarke.

(Getty)
(Getty)

No relief
It was deja vu all over again for the Yankees on Friday night as they lost another winnable game thanks to a late-inning meltdown by the depleted bullpen.

Four straight soul-crushing defeats, and in each of those four games a reliever has taken the loss. I scoured the Yankees’ boxscores and, in the last two decades, couldn’t find a four-game stretch where a relief pitcher took the loss in each contest. I was too depressed to research any further back.

Amidst the doom-and-gloom of this latest gut-punch loss was the shining star of Aaron Judge, who finished with two hits, two runs scored and three RBIs. He blasted his 23rd home run of the season, a three-RBI opposite field shot in the third inning.

The most amazing part of Judge’s power is that he is not just a pull-happy slugger. Check out this beautiful spray chart (LOL, the 495-foot home run that is literally off the chart):

aaron-judge-2

According to the hit location data at baseball-reference.com, after Friday night’s game, his homer distribution was nice and symmetrical: six to left, 11 to center and six to right. He was a ridiculous 17-for-27 (.630) and slugging 1.407 when putting the ball in play to right – both those marks were easily the best in baseball among players with at least 25 batted balls to the opposite field.

Judge also checked off another milestone on Friday, scoring his 60th run of the season. The list of other Yankees in the last eight decades to reach 60 runs in the team’s first 65 games is a short, but holy-cow good one: A-Rod (2007), Rickey Henderson (1986), Mickey Mantle (1956, ’57) and Joe DiMaggio (1941).

(AP)
(AP)

Terrible Tanaka, again
The road trip from hell continued on Saturday afternoon with the Yankees extending their season-high losing streak to five games after another disaster, dinger-filled performance by Masahiro Tanaka.

The home run derby started on Tanaka’s first pitch of the game, which Matt Joyce deposited into the right-centerfield seats. It was the third leadoff homer allowed by Tanaka this season, one shy of the Yankees single-season record set by Stan Bahnsen in 1970. The only other Yankees to give up three leadoff homers in a season are Hiroki Kuroda (2014) and Catfish Hunter (1976).

Unsurprisingly, this is the current batting line for hitters leading off a game against Tanaka: .571/.571/1.286 — eight hits in 14 at-bats, including three homers and a double. Oh, and this is what happens when opponents put the first pitch of a plate appearance in play against Tanaka: .478 batting average and 1.130 slugging percentage — 22 hits in 46 at-bats, including nine doubles and seven homers.

The A’s pummeled Tanaka for two more home runs, bringing his season total to 21, the most homers ever allowed by a Yankee pitcher at this point in the season (team’s 66th game).

The silver lining in Tanaka’s atrocious outing is that 10 of the 12 outs he got were via strikeouts, showing that he still has the nasty, elite stuff to dominate hitters at times. His 10 strikeouts were the most by any Yankee that pitched no more than four innings in a game.

But, of course, there were the dreaded mistake pitches that the A’s crushed for three homers. In the end, Tanaka produced one of the most bizarre pitching line in baseball history. Going back to 1913 (our limit for complete gamelogs), Tanaka is the only major-league pitcher to strike out 10 batters and surrender at least three homers in an outing of four innings or fewer. History!

(AP)
(AP)

Goodbye and good riddance to the west coast
The Yankees miserable seven-game road trip mercifully came to an end on Sunday, fittingly with another hideous loss. They finished up 1-6 in California, the first time they won one game or fewer on a road swing of at least seven games in more than two decades. They went 1-8 on a nine-game trip from May 23-31, 1995 through Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle.

That brutal stretch, however, was filled with a few highlights — notably the big-league debuts of a couple Yankee legends: Mariano Rivera on May 23, and Derek Jeter on May 29.

As poorly as the Yankees played in Oakland, it was certainly an unexpected sweep by the home team: Entering this weekend, the Yankees were the only AL team that had not been swept in a series, and the Athletics were the only AL team that had yet to sweep a series this season. ‘Ya know, Suzyn …’

The most excruciating part of this current free-fall is that the Yankees had a chance to win probably every game, and have only been outscored by a mere nine runs during their six-game losing streak. The last time they endured a six-game stretch of games with six losses and run differential of no worse than negative-9 was June 29-July 4, 1975.

Three of the four losses in this series, and four of the six on this trip, were by exactly one run, as the Yankees record in those games fell to 7-12. Those 12 losses match the same number the Yankees had last year, when they went 24-12 in one-run games. Hey, at least Aroldis Chapman threw a perfect eighth inning and averaged 101.3 mph on the seven four-seam fastballs he threw, according to brooksbaseball.net.

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.

Yankeemetrics: West Coast nightmare (June 12-14)

(Getty)
(Getty)

No pizza but still a win
The Yankees headed out west for the first time this season, but the story remained mostly the same on Monday night: another win and another legend-boosting performance by Mr. Judge.

This victory, however, was different from others in the past couple weeks because of the fact that John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman didn’t get to mention the beloved Papa John’s promotion. In case you’re not familiar with the popular deal: the day after the Yankees score six or more runs, customers get 50 percent off the regular menu price of all pizzas at Papa John’s online.

The Yankees scored ‘only’ five runs on Monday night, but that was still enough for the win because of another anomaly: Masahiro Tanaka did not get pummeled! Though he did cough up a solo homer to the second batter of the game, he settled down after that, retiring 13 straight at one point while pitching into the seventh inning.

One of the biggest keys for Tanaka was getting ahead in the count, throwing a first-pitch strike to a season-high 77.8 percent of the batters he faced. Because he was consistently in control of at-bats, he was then able to efficiently finish off batters when getting to two strikes, as the Angels went 0-for-11 in two-strike counts with eight strikeouts.

Okay, so back to the part of this game that was normal – Aaron Judge destroying baseballs. With the game tied in the eighth inning and a man on second, Judge drilled a 2-0 cutter from Bud Norris over the fences for a 5-3 lead. Sorry Buddy, this is not the best location for a pitch when facing a 6’7, 280-pound baseball cyborg:

aaron-judge

I wouldn’t be surprised if Judge was literally smiling as he extended his arms and pummeled this pitch into the right-centerfield seats. It was right in his power-happy zone, as he was slugging 1.182 in that part of the strikezone after Monday’s game.

judge

It was his first career go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later … and hopefully the first of many more to come.

Judge wouldn’t have been the hero, though, without another standout performance from Didi Gregorius. He went 4-for-4 and kept the Yankees in the game with game-tying and go-ahead RBI singles in the third and fifth innings. Didi was the second Yankee shortstop ever with a four-hit, multi-RBI game against the Angels. The other guy to do it was … of course, Derek Jeter on Sept. 5, 1999 at Angel Stadium.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Clipp’d
The Yankees six-game win streak was snapped on Tuesday in one of the more frustrating losses of this season, as they lost in the 11th inning after failing to cash in on key scoring chances throughout the night. It was also a rare type of loss for a couple reasons:

  • Before Tuesday, the Yankees were one of just two teams that hadn’t yet suffered a walk-off loss – the Marlins are now on the clock as the only team left on that list.
  • The Yankees were 33-0 when leading at the start of the eighth inning, one of four major-league teams without a loss in that scenario entering Tuesday’s slate. The others: Rockies (33-0), Red Sox (26-0) and White Sox (23-0).

Tyler Clippard was the game’s biggest goat – according to Twitter, at least – as he surrendered that game-tying homer and was tagged for his fourth blown save of the season in his 29th appearance. Through Tuesday, the only pitchers in the majors with more blown saves were Tony Watson and Francisco Rodriguez (both with 5).

Fangraphs tracks a stat called Meltdowns, which answers the simple question of whether a reliever hurt his team’s chance of winning, based on changes in win probability during the pitcher’s outing. (To be more specific, he gets a Meltdown if the game’s win probability declines by at least six percent from when he enters and then exits the game.) Clippard has eight Meltdowns this season, tied for the most among American League pitchers and fourth-most in MLB.

Clippard has a shiny 2.00 ERA and .158 batting average allowed, but he’s been horrible in critical at-bats this season. He’s allowed a .304/.375/.682 line in high-leverage plate appearances – that equals a .436 wOBA, which ranked seventh-highest among pitchers that have faced at least 25 batters in those situations. For reference, Aaron Judge had a .476 wOBA through Tuesday.

As if the game wasn’t depressing enough from a standard win-loss perspective, there’s also the fact that CC Sabathia suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth inning. He had won his last five starts, with a 0.99 ERA dating back to May 16 at Kansas City. During that month-long span (May 16 to June 13), a total of 161 pitchers threw at least 15 innings; Robbie Ray (0.24) and Sabathia (0.99) were the only ones to post a sub-1.00 ERA.

(AP)
(AP)

Welcome back, Tiny Mike
This annual road trip to Southern California has been a devastating one for this franchise, even in the best of times. After dropping the rubber game on Wednesday, the Yankees continued their run of futility in Los Angeles (or Anaheim, whatever). The Yankees fell to 45-58 at Angel Stadium in the Wild Card Era, their worst record at any AL ballpark in that span.

It looked like they might reverse that trend after taking a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, capped by Gary Sanchez‘s booming 441-foot three-run homer. It was the Yankees 11th home run of at least 440 feet this season, the most in the majors.

And here’s a stat that pretty much sums up the 2017 Yankees: Sanchez’s longball was also the 35th hit by a Yankee in his age-25 season or younger; in the five-year period from 2010-2014, there were 21 homers hit by Yankees in their age-25 season or younger … COMBINED.

Unfortunately that early offensive explosion was quickly rendered meaningless as #BadMike returned with vengeance. He soon turned that 4-0 advantage into a 5-4 deficit by the end of the third inning. Pineda ended up pitching six innings and gave up five runs on 10 hits, further widening his Jeykyll-and-Hyde home/road splits this season:

He is now 1-5 with a 6.25 ERA in six road starts, compared to 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA in seven home starts. That difference of 4.3 runs is the ninth-largest among the 100-plus pitchers that have made at least five starts at home and five starts on the road.

Game 58: The Fully Monty

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees won their last two games against the Red Sox, so tonight they have a chance to win three straight games for the first time in a month. Since winning six straight from May 2nd to May 8th. That winning streak ended during the series in Cincinnati. I didn’t realize it had been that long since the Yankees won three straight. They won back-to-back games a bunch of times these last few weeks, but not back-to-back-to-back games. Huh.

Anyway, Jordan Montgomery is on the mound tonight and he is coming off his best (and first scoreless) big league start. The start before that, the Orioles worked him hard for three runs in 4.1 innings. He threw 100 pitches. Ouch. This will be Montgomery’s third start against the O’s already this season. The two sides are pretty familiar with each other by now. Whatever. Just win the series. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. 1B Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Gary Sanchez
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

Lovely weather in New York today. Warm and sunny. The sky will continue to be clear tonight too. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:35pm ET — there will be a large pregame youth sports parade on the field, hence the delayed start — and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Rotation Update: The Yankees are indeed pushing Masahiro Tanaka‘s next start back. He’ll now start Monday in Anaheim rather than Sunday against the Orioles. As an added bonus, the rest of the rotation gets an extra of rest too. Sunday’s starter is not yet decided. Joe Girardi said it depends how the next few days play out. That’s probably code for “it’ll be Chad Green unless we need him in long relief tonight or tomorrow.”

Injury Update: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) is heading to Tampa and will throw a simulated inning tomorrow. They’re going to see how he feels after that before determining how many rehab outings he needs. Chapman said he hopes to rejoin the Yankees at some point during the A’s series next weekend.

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.

Yankees have reached a tipping point with Masahiro Tanaka

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night, for the fourth time in his last five starts, Masahiro Tanaka allowed at least five runs and put the Yankees in a pretty sizeable early hole. He’s also allowed multiple home runs in four of his last six starts. Five runs in five innings against the Red Sox gives Tanaka a 6.55 ERA (5.60 FIP) in 12 starts and 66 innings this season. It has been especially ugly of late.

As he’s gone through this brutal stretch lately, two problems have persisted for Tanaka. One, his location has been pretty terrible. The homers he’s giving up are on pitches right out over the plate. And two, his splitter and slider don’t have the same bite. Some do! But many are flat. Look at the home run Mitch Moreland hit last night:

That’s a slider and it does nothing. A total cement mixer. It spins and spins and that’s it. Tanaka doesn’t overpower hitters. Never has. He succeeds with movement and location, and hey, it’s worked out wonderfully for him for a long time. Now Tanaka has neither the movement nor the location, and, well, that’s you get a 6.55 ERA.

At this point, given the depth of Tanaka’s recent struggles, the Yankees have reached a point where they have to seriously consider making a change to their rotation. I was cool with maintaining the status quo two weeks ago. Then it was only back-to-back bad starts. Every starter does that at some point, right? Tanaka is no different.

Now it’s four bad starts in the span of five starts. The home run problem has become extreme — Tanaka has allowed 13 home runs in his last 23.2 innings (4.94 HR/9!) — and there’s no indication they’re going away. The Yankees have lost Tanaka’s last five starts and he’s been the biggest culprit in four of them. Something’s gotta give.

Okay, so now what? What do the Yankees do with Tanaka? Realistically, there are only three options:

  1. Place him on the phantom disabled list with a made up injury and give him time to figure things out on the side, or in minor league rehab games.
  2. Keep him on the active roster and skip his next start. Instead of carrying an eighth reliever, carry a sixth starter. Easy peasy.
  3. Keep him on the active roster and put him in the bullpen, and let him throw mop-up innings for the time being.

I have no idea which one is best for Tanaka. The phantom disabled list sounds great because it buys the Yankees an indefinite period of time to fix Tanaka … as long as he’s willing to play along. He’s a competitor and he wants to play. Sitting on the disabled list while healthy would not sit well with, like, 99.9% of all players, and they’d go to the union. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds.

Tanaka to me looks healthy. Maybe he’s not! But I’ve watched an embarrassing amount of baseball in my lifetime and I’ve seen my fair share of injured pitchers on the mound, and Tanaka doesn’t look injured. The velocity is there and his delivery is smooth. He looks like himself, just with crappier pitches. Injured pitchers don’t look like themselves.

I think Tanaka’s issues are 100% mechanical. Mechanical and confidence related. I don’t care who you or what you’ve accomplished in your career. Get hit around like this and your confidence is going to take a hit. As long as Tanaka is not hurt, I think he’ll figure this out. He’s too good and too smart of a pitcher not to. I don’t think he’s broken beyond repair. Not even close.

Remember, Tanaka didn’t look like himself at the start of the season, even when he was pitching reasonably well. His location wasn’t great and he was falling behind in the count a bunch, but he was able to grind through starts without letting them blow up. That hasn’t been the case lately. This is something that is getting progressively worse.

Because of that, I don’t see how the Yankees can send Tanaka out to the mound in five days, to face the same Orioles lineup that roughed him up for seven runs in 5.2 innings last week. We’ve kinda run out of excuses here right? The Austin Romine vs. Gary Sanchez narrative went away last time out. Last night put to the bed the extra rest idea too. He’s struggled at home and on the road as well.

So, call up whoever for a spot start against the O’s this weekend — I’d probably go with Luis Cessa rather than shuffle the 40-man roster to call up Chance Adams, only to burn an option when he goes back down — then reevaluate. If the Yankees want to get Tanaka back out there, he’ll get to start against the weak hitting Angels or Athletics on the West Coast next week. That’s much better than the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.

The scariest thing about Tanaka’s struggles is that no one seems to have an answer. Perhaps the Yankees have a diagnosis behind the scenes and are working on a solution without telling us. I hope that’s the case. Even then though, after this recent stretch, giving Tanaka a bit of a time out would be best. The Yankees are in contention! They should give themselves the best chance to win. Right now, Tanaka does not do that.