Game 156: 10,000?


As a franchise, the Yankees are currently sitting on 9,999 wins. Tonight is their first chance to join the 10,000 win club, which includes the Giants, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Braves, Reds, and Pirates. Those seven clubs have all been around since the 1880s though. The Yankees didn’t come along until the early-1900s. At .569, the Yankees have by far the best winning percentage in baseball history. The Giants are a distant second at .538.

Getting that 10,000th win tonight would be pretty cool, but, more importantly, it would whittle the magic number for a postseason spot down to two. There was some fancy math going around earlier today saying the Yankees can clinch a spot tonight, but that’s not actually the case. The scenario presented– Yankees win and Astros or Angels lose — completely ignored the Twins and failed to take into account how the tiebreaker games for the AL West would fudge things up. Whatever. Just win, baby. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Ivan Nova

It has been pretty cloudy in New York all day but there is no rain in the forecast tonight, so that’s good. Later in the week? Eh, rain might be an issue then. Hope not. Tonight’s game is set to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (hamstring) ran and performed fielding drills for the first time since getting hurt … Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) played catch again but will not be ready for the wildcard game. He could rejoin the team for the ALDS should they advance, however … Stephen Drew, who has played eight innings in the last two weeks, has been dealing with dizziness and went for concussion tests. There’s no timetable for his return just yet.

Rotation Update: Tanaka apparently came through all his workouts well, because the Yankees announced he is starting Wednesday. That allows him to start the wildcard game with an extra day of rest next week. Michael Pineda will start tomorrow and CC Sabathia goes Thursday. Sabathia would be able to start the wildcard game on regular rest if Tanaka can’t go. They could also go with Pineda on two extra days of rest (that would require a spot starter in Game 162). Hopefully that’s not necessary.

The (Non) Acquisition

Drew. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Drew. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

At various points during the 2015 season, we’ve been fed up and “done” with multiple players. Didi Gregorius‘s first few weeks in pinstripes were far from smooth. Carlos Beltran looked deep fried, extra crispy, well done and every other overcooked food metaphor you can think of during the first month of the season. Then, there’s Stephen Drew, a player who has, can, and will draw ire from Yankee fans in a variety of different ways for a variety of different reasons. This outrage, however mild or vitriolic, is not unfounded. There’s no denying that Drew had a wholly awful season in 2014 no matter how you slice it and started of 2015 just as poorly.

Though he showed some pop with five homers between April and May of this year, Drew hit just .157/.225/.301/.526. He also suffered from an unfathomably low .164 BABIP in that time, though his exit velocity in the beginning of the season was below league average, hinting that hard contact wasn’t quite his thing (aside from the homers, of course). Drew’s dreadful start to the season prompted many fans–myself included–to wonder when the Yankees would cut bait with Drew and make a change at second base. The team certainly had options, with the trade market available and Rob Refsnyder hanging in the minors; he even got a call up and a brief audition during a weekend series with the Red Sox. A trade never happened and the Yankees didn’t call up Refsynder (for the long-term, that is), but the Yankees were right to hold onto Drew as the starting second baseman, even after that dismal beginning tacked onto a poor end to 2014.

It was remarkably frustrating to watch Drew during April and May, but the non-trade was defensible. Though there were trade possibilities, we have no idea what the Yankees did or what the market actually looked like. While it’s likely that Refsnyder will be better than Stephen Drew was during those first months, in the short term, a guy getting his first exposure to MLB is likely to suffer from non-ideal play. It’s a moot point since the time has passed, but it’s definitely possible that Refsnyder, in the short term, would’ve been just as bad or worse than Drew at the plate during his first extended time in the majors. That also ignores defense, which Drew is pretty good at and Refsnyder has a bad reputation with.

And even if it wasn’t really a trade or a signing or a promotion, the Yankees did get a new second baseman on June 1. From that point on, Drew has hit .246/.317/.473/.791 (compare that to the .715 league average OPS for an AL 2B). This is something I–and others–have been parroting for a while now when I see the lingering complaints about Drew’s play. Due to that awful start, everyone seems ready to jump on him whenever he has a poor at bat. Did this come out of no where? Sort of, given how terrible he was at the end of 2014 and the beginning of this year. But there were promising signs in those early struggles.

During the first two months, he did have a walk rate of 8.2% and and ISO of .144. Neither one of those numbers is outstanding, but neither is bad. He also so a solid 4.04 pitches per plate appearances, so he wasn’t giving away at bats; the results just weren’t there. Since June and his turnaround, Drew has a similar walk rate of just over 9% and an ISO of .227, much better than the first two months. The basic underlying things were there for Drew and the Yankees recognized them and held onto Drew. Now, given his second half surge, the Yankees do look pretty smart for holding onto him at second.

Had the Yankees made a change–like trading for Ben Zobrist or someone similar–I would not have been mad or even reacted in any sort of negative way. However, this does serve as a reminder that most of the time, we are not as informed as the organization is and we do not know nearly as much as we think we do. This isn’t to say that teams should be free from blame or criticism, but rather that we should remember we have no where near as much information or context as the teams do. Their reluctance to let go of Drew was not stubbornness. Their reluctance to let go of Drew was not hanging onto a sunk cost for the sake of saving face. It was a calculated decision made with knowledge of the alternatives. The organization clearly didn’t think that any internal replacements, like Refsnyder, would outperform drew and that any external replacements, like a trade or signing, wouldn’t be worth the cost. It’s likely that the Yankees saw the underlying numbers and data that pointed to a rebound for Stephen Drew and they made the choice to stay with him and it paid off.

Poll: The Second Base Situation

Drew. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Drew. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon, the best available second baseman came off the board when the Athletics shipped Ben Zobrist to the Royals for two pitching prospects. The Yankees reportedly had interest in Zobrist, it just didn’t come together. For shame. Zobrist was a perfect fit for the Yankees and I was really hoping they’d land him before Friday’s trade deadline.

So now the Yankees will move forward and either stick with their current second base situation or acquire … someone. The second base market is really thin now. Martin Prado is the best available option and it’s not clear whether he is even available. The Marlins could simply hold onto him for next year. Brandon Phillips is the other big name out there. Let’s run down the club’s second base options with Zobrist now off the board.

Option No. 1: Stick with Drew

The Yankees have given Stephen Drew plenty of leash so far this season — he picked up plate appearances 300 and 301 last night — and he’s rewarded them with a .187/.261/.377 (73 wRC+) batting line. The 13 homers and 9.0% walk rate are nice, but there is basically no level of defense or power that makes making an out more than 73% of the time is acceptable. A total of 160 hitters are qualified for the batting title right now. Drew’s on-base percentage would be the 92nd best batting average. Yeah, it’s bad.

Now, to be fair, Drew has been better of late. He’s hitting .226/.308/.478 (115 wRC+) in 131 plate appearances since the calendar flipped to June, with a lot of that built on his three two-homer games in June. They count! Drew just hasn’t done a whole lot aside from those games. The bat hasn’t really come around to the point where you’d safely expect him to put up league average numbers going forward, but Drew has never not been reliable in the field, even while making the transition over to second. He’s as sure-handed as they come, and with no second base options likely to put up big offensive numbers, going with the best defender is a viable strategy.

Option No. 2: Go with Refnsyder

For a total of four games, the Yankees gave top second base prospect Rob Refsnyder a shot at the job. He was called up earlier this month, played the last two games before the All-Star break and the first two games after the break, and went 2-for-12 (.167) with a homer. His defense at second was … passable. Rough around the edges is a good way to describe it. Refsnyder didn’t look too natural there. The routine seemed difficult.

Of course, Refsnyder’s calling card is not his defense, it’s his bat. He’s hitting .285/.378/.404 (131 wRC+) in 393 plate appearances at Triple-A this year and .292/.383/.428 (133 wRC+) in 726 plate appearances at the level dating back to last year, so Refsnyder’s put up good numbers at the highest level of the minors. There are reasons to believe he’d be an upgrade over Drew at the plate. As an added bonus, Refsnyder is right-handed and would balance out the lefty heavy bottom of the lineup. The Yankees seem hesitant to give Refsnyder an extended opportunity — that’s not too surprising, they prioritize defense and he doesn’t offer it — but could do so after the trade deadline.

Prado. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Prado. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Option No. 3: Trade for Prado

Like I said, the Marlins aren’t even committed to shopping Prado yet. Joel Sherman heard Miami will now “at least contemplate” trading Prado, which I guess is better than saying he’s off limits. He’s hitting .280/.321/.375 (92 wRC+) with 14 doubles and four homers this season, continuing a gradual decline that has seen him go from a 117 wRC+ in 2012 to 104 in 2013 to 103 in 2014 to 92 in 2015. Prado is versatile, which is nice even though we’re talking about him slotting in as the regular second baseman. Also, it’s worth noting Prado has not played second base regularly since 2010. He’s just filled in a handful of times each year. Check out our Scouting The Market post for more info on the ex-Yankee, who is also under contract next year.

Option No. 4: Trade for Phillips

At this point the rebuilding Reds would probably give Phillips away to rid themselves of the $32M they owe him through 2017. He’s hitting .273/.310/.355 (83 wRC+) so far this year, and, at age 34, his power is all but gone. His ISO has slid from .157 in 2011 to .148 in 2012 to .135 in 2013 to .103 in 2014 to .081 in 2015. That is both not a good trend and perfectly normal for a guy this age. Phillips is on the downside of his career. It’s clear as day. Peak dollars for non-peak production. But, Phillips is very available, and at this point he might be an upgrade over what the Yankees have in-house. Here’s our Scouting The Market post.

* * *

Unless a trade candidate comes out of nowhere — Dee Gordon? he just returned from his dislocated thumb — these are the four main options the Yankees have at second best now that Zobrist is off the board. I’m not sure there’s a right answer. I’m not even sure there’s much of a difference between the three when you considered expected production and acquisition costs, stuff like that. Time for a poll.

What should the Yankees do at second base?

Even before Refsnyder demotion, Yankees needed to add a second baseman at the trade deadline

(New York Daily News)
(New York Daily News)

Disappointingly — and somewhat surprisingly — the Yankees demoted Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton yesterday when they needed to clear a roster spot for Carlos Beltran. Refsnyder played four games after being called up right before the All-Star break, going 2-for-12 (.167) with a homer while playing a not-so-natural second base. The team never did commit to him as the everyday second baseman.

“Just continue to improve,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings when asked what the team wants to see from Refsnyder. “Understanding the position, continue to make little adjustments. I thought he did a really good job considering the situation we put him in. In Fenway Park, that’s not the easiest place to start. But we believe he’s going to be here for a long time, and for right now, we’re going to stay with the guys we got.”

Brian Cashman said the move was made to maintain depth prior to the trade deadline — the obvious move to keep Refsnyder would have been designating Brendan Ryan for assignment — which makes sense but is disappointing. We’re all sick of the unproductive Stephen Drew and the homegrown Refsnyder is the team’s best chance for an upgrade from within. Four games with an All-Star break mixed in isn’t much of an audition.

Now, here’s the thing: Refsnyder wasn’t going to get much of audition before the trade deadline anyway. There’s nothing he could have done between the time he was called up and the July 31st trade deadline that could have convinced the Yankees or anyone else he was ready to be the everyday second baseman on a contending team. It’s not enough time to evaluate a young player at all. He was going to get 40 at-bats at the most before the deadline. That’s it.

The Yankees didn’t make a mistake by sending Refsnyder down yesterday. The mistake was not bringing him up sooner. Drew hasn’t hit all season — Girardi pointed out Drew had a good June (125 wRC+), but that month was three two-homer games and 11-for-83 (.133) in the other 21 games — and, as many have been saying, Refsnyder should have been up weeks ago, getting a longer audition to show what he can do, good or bad. They stuck with Drew too long.

“I think a lot of times people are going to have discussions about it, try to gather as much information as you can, and make the best decision you feel at the time,” said Girardi to Jennings. “Sometimes as you look back, maybe you would have done it a little different, but I think the important thing is that you make the best decision at the time with the information that you have. Guys are very close here, and that’s probably what’s making this decision tough.”

So the Yankees are in the same place they were a few weeks ago, in need of a new second baseman. Except now the Yankees have less time to evaluate Refsnyder before having to go outside for help, so in essence Refsnyder is a non-option. Well, that’s not true, I just have a hard time believing the Yankees would throw him to the wolves as a starting middle infielder in the middle of a postseason race. Believe it or not, he could actually be worse than Drew.

The team’s hesitancy to use Refsnyder tells us they don’t quite believe he is ready for regular big league action, either offensively, defensively, or both. In that case, the Yankees will need to go out and make a trade for a second baseman at some point in the eleven days, because the last four months have told us their current options aren’t enough. That was true even before Refsnyder was sent back down.

2015 Midseason Review: First-half Yankeemetrics

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

As part of Mike’s great Midseason Review series, I’m here to give you some of the amazing (both good and bad) statistical notes from the unofficial first half of the season, plus a quick look ahead to a few of the records that these six Yankees below will be chasing during the remainder of 2015.

Without further adieu, your first-half Yankeemetrics:

Brett Gardner
Gardner is certainly deserving of the being the Yankees’ first-half MVP, and if Mike’s write-up on Tuesday didn’t convince you, then how about this note: Gardner is the second player in franchise history with at least 10 homers, 20 doubles, 15 steals and a .300 batting average at the break. The other? Alfonso Soriano in 2002 — which just happened to be the year he came thisclose to a historic 40-40 season (39 homers, 41 steals).

Something to watch for in the second half: Gardner needs three steals to reach the magic number of 200. He would be the second Yankee, along with Hal Chase, to have 200 stolen bases in their first eight major league seasons — and the only player in franchise history with at least 200 steals and 50 homers through their first eight career seasons.

Mark Teixeira
Teixeira is having a tremendous bounceback season, leading the AL with 62 RBI and also hitting 22 homers. He is just the second Yankee in the last 40 years to be the outright league leader in RBI at the break, along with A-Rod (2007) and Don Mattingly (1985).

This is the third time as a Yankee he’s had at least 20 homers and 60 RBI before the All-Star break (also in 2009, 2011). Since the first All-Star Game in 1933, here’s the list of other Yankees to reach those benchmarks three-or-more times before the break: Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.

Something to watch for in the second half: Teixeira is on pace for his first 40-homer season as a Yankee. The only other player in franchise history to hit at least 40 homers in his age 35-season or older is Babe Ruth, who did it three times (1930-32).

Alex Rodriguez
If you told me that A-Rod would have the third-most at-bats on the team (he’s healthy!) and have 18 homers and 51 RBIs (he’s productive!) in the first half of the season, I might have suggested psychological treatment for you. How rare is it for a guy as old as A-Rod to be hitting that well?

The only other players in their age-39 season or older to have at least 18 homers, 50 RBI and 80 hits before the All-Star break (since 1933) are Edgar Martinez (2003), Andres Galarraga (2000) and Dave Winfield (1991). Yup, the Summer of Al continues.

Something to watch for in the second half: If A-Rod can stay healthy and get at least 500 plate appearances this season, while maintaining his current slash line of .278/.382/.515 or better, he’d join Barry Bonds (2004) and Ted Williams (1958) as the only players to finish a season with those marks in their age-39 season or older.

Stephen Drew
Of course we had to put Drew’s bizarre statistical first half into context, even if he might just be a bench guy in the second half (yes, please). With 12 homers and an unfathomable .182 batting average in the first half, Drew is the first player in franchise history to hit double-digit home runs and have a batting average under .200 at the break.

In fact, his .182 batting average is the third-lowest in major-league history for any player with at least 10 homers in the unofficial first half of the season. The only guys with a lower average are the Cubs’ Mike Olt (.144 in 2014) and the Twins’ Tim Laudner (.181 in 1987).

Something to watch for in the second half: I don’t think Drew is going to get enough at-bats to reach 20 or 25 homers, but what if he gets to 15? The lowest batting average for a guy that hit at least 15 homer runs in a season is .179, done by Dan Uggla (2013) and Rob Deer (1991). That’s doable!

CC Sabathia
At least he is healthy, right? Well, that might actually be the problem, because Joe Girardi has little choice but to keep sending Sabathia out there every fifth day (sort of) despite his ugly numbers (4-8, 5.47 ERA).

Sabathia is the third Yankee starter to lose at least eight games before the break with an ERA of 5.40 or higher. The other pitchers on this inglorious list are Tim Leary (1991) and Ralph Terry (1964). In the words of the aforementioned manager, “it’s not what you want.”

Something to watch for in the second half: How bad can it get for CC the rest of the season? The highest ERA for any Yankee pitcher that qualified for the ERA title in a non-strike season is 5.30 by Bump Hadley in 1937. (Unfortunately, Hadley is better known for something else that season, as the pitcher that beaned Hall-of-Famer Mickey Cochrane and ended his career.)

Dellin Betances
Betances couldn’t quite match his numbers from the first half of the season last year (84 strikeouts, 1.46 ERA), but still has had a terrific couple of months so far with 77 strikeouts and a 1.53 ERA.

Those back-to-back first-half performances are unprecedented for any pitcher since the first All-Star Game in 1933. That’s right, no pitcher (starter or reliever) in that span has entered the break with at least 75 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.60 or lower in back-to-back seasons. Bravo, Betances.

Something to watch for in the second half: Last year Betances set the single-season franchise record for the most strikeouts (135) by a pitcher with zero starts. He’s probably not going to break that record again, but even if he regresses a bit and finishes the year with more modest numbers, he’d do something that no reliever in major-league history has ever done: consecutive seasons with at least 115 strikeouts and a sub-2.00 ERA.

2015 Midseason Review: The Mostly Bad New-Look Infield

Thanks to several factors, most notably Derek Jeter‘s retirement, the Yankees had to rebuild almost their entire infield this past offseason. It was a clean slate! And also a huge project for Brian Cashman and the rest of the front office. One trade and two free agent signings (re-signings, really) later, the Yankees had their shiny new 2015 infield. Let’s go around the horn to review the first half.


Falling Short On Both Sides Of The Ball

The new third baseman was the old third baseman — the Yankees re-signed Chase Headley to a four-year, $52M contract in December after he played so solidly on both sides of the ball following the trade that brought him over from San Diego last year. Headley was a good but not great switch-hitter and a top notch defender at the hot corner. We saw it firsthand last year. Infield defense was the priority this winter and Headley was the cornerstone.

Instead, Headley has fallen short of expectations on both sides of the ball. He is hitting .255/.310/.373 (89 wRC+) overall with a career-low walk rate (6.8%) and his lowest ISO since 2011. That only tells part of the story too — Headley is hitting .271/.336/.372 (98 wRC+) against right-handed pitchers this summer and a feeble .218/.248/.376 (67 wRC+) against left-handed pitchers. He’s a switch-hitter, yeah, but he’s been a platoon bat. Headley has been terrible against southpaws.

The defensive struggles are much more shocking. Headley has already committed a career-high 16 errors, the most among big league third baseman (by four) and the third most among all players regardless of position (behind Marcus Semien and Ian Desmond). He’s actually been quite good at making non-routine plays, so it’s not all bad, but the routine play has been an issue for Headley. Throwing, scooping, the hole nine. Headley has been better of late — two errors in his last 24 games — but overall his glove has been a disappointment.

Offensively, the Yankees can take solace in the fact Headley has been a much better second half hitter throughout his career. He is a career .255/.331/.381 (102 wRC+)  hitter before the All-Star break and a .278/.363/.442 (126 wRC+) hitter after. After his subpar first half, the Bronx Bombers are clearly hoping for another big second half (not guaranteed to happen though!). Defensively … I don’t know. Headley’s been too good of a defender in his career to suddenly lose it overnight. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen! I just think his issues with routine plays are a defensive slump. Those happen. I’m banking on the track record going forward.

Either way, Headley did not give the Yankees what the expected in the first half, not at the plate or in the field. He was a disappointment on both sides of the ball. That he’s been a better second half hitter in his career and has a very long track record as a high-end defender are only slightly reassuring that Headley’s post-All-Star Game performance will be better than his pre-All-Star Game showing. Headley was not good in the first half and it needs to change for the Yankees to get to where they want to go.


Replacing A Legend

I don’t even know how to recap Didi Gregorius‘ first 88 games as a Yankees. The first few weeks of the season were awful. Just awful. Gregorius was making boneheaded plays in the field and on the bases, and he wasn’t hitting a lick. In hindsight, he looked completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of replacing Jeter. Maybe I was too quick to dismiss that pressure in April.

Now though, at the All-Star break, Didi looks like a completely different player. He looks much more comfortable offensively, defensively, and in his own skin. The overthinking has stopped and the game is coming more naturally. Gregorius plays a beautiful shortstop when he doesn’t think, he’s so smooth and his movements are effortless in the field, yet in April he looked like a blindfolded Eduardo Nunez. Now? Totally different player.

Make no mistake, Gregorius is still not tearing the cover off the ball. He is hitting .238/.293/.326 (71 wRC+) overall with four Yankee Stadium homers and no walks (5.7%), but at least that’s better than what he was doing earlier in the year. His offense continues to trend in the right direction:

Didi Gregorius wOBAI don’t think anyone was expecting Gregorius to have an impact right away. At least not offensively. That part of his game has always been in question. He was expected to excel in the field though, and after some hideously ugly glovework early on, Didi has played a damn near flawless shortstop for two months now. The physical tools are obvious, especially his no effort rocket arm, and that’s what the Yankees were buying when they traded Shane Greene to get Gregorius.

Unlike literally every other starting position player on the roster, Didi’s best years are ahead of him, at least in theory. He had the unenviable task of being the shortstop after Jeter on top of all the pressure that come with being a young player on a new team. It was a tough situation and for a while it didn’t look like Gregorius couldn’t handle it. He has really turned his season around though. All we want to see in the second half is more progress. Keep catching everything and putting up a fight at the plate. Didi’s along for the ride. He’s not driving his team.

Okay So Maybe 2014 Wasn’t A Fluke


After re-signing Headley and acquiring Gregorius, the infield was set. That is until Martin Prado was used to acquire Nathan Eovaldi. That created an opening at second base, an opening the Yankees filled by re-signing Stephen Drew to a little one-year contract worth $5M. The idea was simple: Drew couldn’t possibly be as bad as he was in 2014 again, right? Right??? Wrong.

So far this season Drew is hitting an unfathomably terrible .182/.257/.372 (71 wRC+) with 12 homers — that’s actually the fourth most homers on the team — in 278 plate appearances. And the crazy thing is his platoon split: Drew is hitting .170/.250/.374 (69 wRC+) against righties and .215/.278/.369 (76 wRC+) against lefties. It’s not even like he’s a platoon candidate at this point. He hasn’t hit anyone.

Drew’s one redeeming quality is his defense, which is quite good at second base, especially for a guy who didn’t start playing the position until eleven and a half months ago. He’s sure-handed, he’s filled in at short multiple times, and even gave third a try. Drew’s done whatever the team has asked him to do with no complaints. He just hasn’t hit. We’re talking about a .172/.247/.334 (57 wRC+) hitter in 578 plate appearances since the start of last season. Yeesh.

The Yankees took a low-cost flier on Drew and gave him the regular Spring Training he wanted, yet he hasn’t performed and there’s no indication it will improve going forward. The Yankees (finally) called up Rob Refsnyder this past weekend, a sign they are ready to move on from Drew. Either way, Drew is not part of the answer. That much is clear. Whether it’s Refsnyder or a trade pickup, someone else has to man second in the second half.


Welcome To New York, Brian

The catcher is technically an infielder (right?), so we’re going to lump Brian McCann in here since I’m not sure where else to put him. Anyway, how about Brian McCann! His first season in New York was a bummer on many levels, particularly offensively, but the 2015 season has been much different. McCann came into the break hitting .259/.331/.471 (120 wRC+) with 14 homers and an 8.3% walk rate that is much better than last year’s 5.9% mark.

McCann’s numbers at the plate tell a bit of a story. He’s not a new hitter this year, he’s simply gone back to being the hitter he used to be. Check it out:

2013 with the Braves: .256/.336/.461 (121 wRC+)
2014 with the Yankees: .232/.286/.406 (92 wRC+)
2015 with the Yankees: .259/.331/.471 (120 wRC+)

McCann’s production has returned to where it was the year before he signed with the Yankees, plus with a little Yankee Stadium short porch bonus. Two years ago McCann pulled 49.0% of the balls he put in play. Last year it was 44.5%. This year it is 50.2%. McCann’s gone back to yanking the ball to right field because that’s his strength. Last summer he appeared to be focusing on beating the shift — he had more opposite field hits last year than he had in 2012 or 2013 — and that turned him into something he wasn’t.

This year it looks like McCann is much comfortable at the plate because he stopped trying to be something he’s not. He’s a dead pull left-handed hitter. That’s who he is. And yes, it means he will lose some hits to the shift. That comes with the territory. But it also means McCann is far from productive overall — he’s hitting for a higher average and hitting for more power. I like this version of McCann better. Take the good (120 wRC+!) with the bad (shifts).

McCann’s bat has rebounded this year, but his defense is another matter. Both StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus says he’s gone from being an elite pitch-framer in past years to a below-average one this year. I don’t know if that matches the eye test or how reliable those numbers are at the halfway point. McCann’s throwing has been outstanding (40% caught stealing rate), but he’s had trouble blocking balls in the dirt. He’s allowed 35 passed pitches (passed balls plus wild pitches), the third most in baseball, and that definitely matches the eye test. McCann has let a lot of balls get by him or bounce away this year.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest a 31-year-old catcher with a ton of innings on his legs — McCann has been a big league starter since age 21 — might be losing mobility behind the plate, hence the issues with blocking balls in the dirt. The pitch-framing stuff? I can’t explain that. Overall though, I think McCann has been much more valuable to the Yankees this season than last because he’s producing so much more at the plate. It feels more like a big step forward offensively and a slight step back defensively than a slight step forward offensively a big step back defensively. I’m sure being more comfortable in his second season in pinstripes is part of the reason for improvement.

* * *

Aside from first base, the traditional infield positions have been mostly bad this season. Headley has played below expectations, Drew has been a disaster, and Gregorius has experienced a bumpy learning curve. Drew is on the verge of being replaced but Headley and Gregorius aren’t going anywhere. You can’t really expect Didi to be an impact player going forward, so Headley is the key. Chase has to pick it up both at the plate and in the field in the second half.

Yankees can’t wait any longer to attempt to fix second base situation


Even after struggling offensively these last seven or ten days, the Yankees still rank second in baseball with an average of 4.62 runs per game. Only the absurd Blue Jays (5.48!) have been better. Yes, the Yankees hit better at home than on the road, but for the most part the offense has been very good this season. It’s nice knowing a two or three-run deficit is no longer insurmountable, isn’t it?

The Yankees have fielded such a strong offense despite having a total black hole at second base. The team’s second basemen are hitting a combined .182/.246/.339 (57 wRC+) in 313 plate appearances, the third worst second base production in the game, better than only the Royals (51 wRC+) and White Sox (24 wRC+). ChiSox second basemen are hitting .189/.234/.227 this year. Good gravy. Imagine watching that everyday? Geez.

Anyway, most of New York’s second base damage comes courtesy of Stephen Drew, and I don’t mean damage in a good way. He’s hitting .178/.251/.364 (67 wRC+) overall, far below league average despite eleven home runs, the second most at the position behind Brian Dozier (16). Other fill-ins like Jose Pirela and Gregorio Petit haven’t contributed much either. Second base has been a black hole all season.

The Yankees have waited very patiently for Drew to turn things around and it hasn’t happened. There aren’t even signs of it maybe, possibly happening in the coming weeks either. Exit velocity? Drew is averaging 85.9 mph off the bat, ranking 288th out of the 321 players with at least 100 at-bats. His exit velocity is not even trending upward either:Stephen Drew exit velocity

Drew is hitting .170/.243/.329 (55 wRC+) since resurfacing last year and that’s in 565 plate appearances. That’s spread across two seasons obviously but the excuses have all been exhausted. He had a full Spring Training this year, there haven’t been any injuries, nothing. It’s a full season worth of terrible, unplayable, just about any other player would lose his job production.

As it stands right now, second base is the only flexible position on the Yankees. They’re locked into players at every other position either developmentally (Didi Gregorius) or contractually (everyone else), at least once Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran return. The outfield is a bit of a mess until then. Still, there is no long-term obligation to Drew or anyone else at second base, and the season is now halfway complete. We’re firmly in “time to make a change” territory.

The Yankees only have one in-house second base alternative in Rob Refsnyder, who hasn’t exactly forced the issue with his play in Triple-A. He hasn’t been bad (.281/.378/.386 and 127 wRC+), he just hasn’t been great for a bat first prospect, and you’d like to see a non-elite prospect force the issue before a promotion. Then again, the Yankees have not been shy about trying out young players this year, specifically in the outfield and in the bullpen. Refsnyder could be next.

I feel like a trade is inevitable. The Yankees are atop a very tight yet winnable division, and you know Hal Steinbrenner & Co. are terrified of the prospect of a third straight postseason-less year and all that lost playoff revenue. I would be surprised if they don’t make a trade at the deadline. The second base market isn’t very good though. There’s the perfect for everyone Ben Zobrist and then a bunch of retreads like Brandon Phillips and Dustin Ackley. Hopefully the market spits out some more names in the three and half weeks before the deadline.

Either way, the Yankees have reached a breaking point at second base. They’re already carrying one soft spot at the bottom of the order in Gregorius and can’t afford to carry another despite the lineup’s strong offensive production overall. The AL East race is too close to let this go on any longer. Drew has given the Yankees no reason to think he will start hitting, and if the team doesn’t think Refsnyder is the answer, then they have to start aggressively looking for help outside the organization.