Sunday, March 31, 2019

Doom & Gloom in The Bronx...

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)
OK, it wasn’t quite that bad…

The Yankees got a great pitching performance from new Yankee James Paxton…and lose. It wasn’t exactly how it was planned to go down. I guess Sonny Gray left behind his lack of run support and they assigned to the Big Maple. The Yankees tried to make a comeback but those two insurance runs the Baltimore Orioles tacked on in the top of the ninth were too much to overcome as the Yankees dropped their first game of the season, 5-3.  

The range of emotions from Yankee fans were from ‘big deal, it’s the second game of the season’ to ‘OMG, the season is lost!’. I guess you could put me somewhere in the middle. I simply hate to lose winnable games. When the season is done, the Baltimore will most likely have the most losses of any team in either league. Yet, if they win today, they win their first series of the season against a team expected to make noise in October. The Yankees need to win these games. Yes, it is only one game but these types of games can accumulate to a significant amount over the course of a 162-game schedule. I don’t like to lose. I know, I had better learn to deal with 60 losses, give or take, over the course of the summer but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. But after all these years, losing doesn’t get any easier when you are a Yankee fan.  

Credit to the Orioles for using an Opener to keep the Yankee bats at bay. Nate Karns started his first game since 2017 and pitched the first two innings. The Yankees had him on the ropes with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning with only one out, but Miguel Andujar hit into an inning-ending double play. 

(Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/NY Post)
New Jersey’s own Jimmy Yacabonis pitched the next three innings, giving up only a run, to earn the win for the O’s.  

Meanwhile, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder failed to keep the Orioles off the scoreboard in the later innings and despite the two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees walked off the field wondering what could have been. So much for the shutdown bullpen that’s going to end games early.  

Troy Tulowitzki hit the only Yankee homer, a solo shot in the ninth off former Yank Richard Bleier.  

I thought it was a great game for D.J. LeMahieu, who started at third base with Miguel Andujar taking over DH duties. LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with one RBI and a run scored. He flashed his superior leather more than a few times at third, and looked like a veteran at the position. I was in a Denver, Colorado retail shop late yesterday afternoon wearing my Yankee cap, and the clerk commented to me he couldn’t believe the Yankees paid LeMahieu all that money to be a utility player. I agree.  With no offense to Troy Tulowitzki, the greater commitment should be for LeMahieu, even if it pushes Gleyber Torres to shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns. A home run by Tulo is not going to change my opinion. I do like LeMahieu at third and Andujar at DH so I hope that’s a frequent option although Giancarlo Stanton needs his time at DH as well. Although LeMahieu has not played much third in the Majors, it was his most frequent position in the Minors so it’s not like he has rarely played there. It’s just been a few years. He’ll shake off the rust. 

The Yankees committed three costly errors in the game. Gary Sanchez bounced a throw past Gleyber Torres covering second base in the sixth inning which allowed a run to score. D.J. LeMahieu bounced a throw to Luke Voit at first base which Voit couldn’t handle, for a throwing error, in the top of the ninth inning, allowing Joey Rickard, leading off the inning, to reach second base. He would eventually score an unearned run. Voit had a throwing error earlier in the game (top of the 2nd) which didn’t cause any damage. After tagging first base on a grounder by Rio Ruiz, Voit tried to make an off-balance throw to second to complete the double play but the ball sailed widely to the left, allowing the baserunner, Joey Rickard, to race to third.  Fortunately, that was as far as Rickard would get.  

James Paxton (0-1) took the tough luck loss. His final line was 5 2/3 innings, four hits, two runs (one earned), a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 82 pitches, one less than Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday and worked at a very quick and efficient pace. He certainly deserved to win and on most days he would have. He’ll get that first Yankee win soon with pitching performances like this.

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)
Okay, I’ll let the game go. It was just one game. I get it. The Yankees (1-1) complete the series today with the Orioles. J.A. Happ takes the ball for the Pinstripers while he’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. Hopefully, Happ continues his win streak as a Yankee for at least one more game. 

I followed the score of the Red Sox-Mariners game last night and was pleased when Seattle extended their lead to 6-2 on a three-run homer by Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. Then, in the 9th, it all fall apart for the M’s with three errors by third baseman Dylan Moore, filling in for the injured Kyle Seager. The Sox rallied for three runs and had the tying run at third base and go-ahead run at first with two outs, but former Yankee prospect Nick Rumbelow struck out Xander Bogaerts to end the game and preserve Seattle’s victory. Whew! Boston was almost gifted another win. Seattle’s defense looked like the Keystone Cops in that final inning.  

(Photo Credit: Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
Today is a good day for a Pinstriped victory.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company...

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post
The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.  

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.  

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.  

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.   

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/ TODAY Sports
Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.  

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/ TODAY Sports
In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.  

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.   

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.  

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.  

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.  

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.  

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.  

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.  

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas. 

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.  

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!

Friday, March 29, 2019

TGP Trivia and Fact of the Day for March 29th, 2019

Good morning Yankees family and Happy Friday. Who had the bright idea to have Opening Day yesterday, and then a day off today? Dumb. Whatever.

What player for the Yankees set a team record for starters with a strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio of 10.61 in 2016?

Leave your guesses below in the comments section, then highlight below to see if you're right!

Michael Pineda, who led the American League and eclipsed David Cone's mark of 10.25 set in 1997. 

And a special good morning to my amazing wife, Kari. I love you. It's the weekend! Yikes.

This Day In New York Yankees History 3/29: The Yankees 9/11 Tribute

On this day in 2009 the Evil Empire struck again as they placed a permanent September 11 memorial at the entrance of George M. Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees Spring Training home in Tampa, Florida. The tribute showcased a foundation in the shape of the Pentagon that supported two towers made from steel from the World Trade Center that was placed on a grassy spot representing where United Flight 93 was hijacked and flown into the Earth in Pennsylvania. The Red Sox did nothing.

Also on this day in 1975 the Yankees released Mel Stottlemyre after he tore his rotator cuff. Mel finished with a 164-139 record and a 2.97 ERA with 40 shutouts before he became New York's pitching coach.

Finally on this day in 1948 the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox played an exceptionally long exhibition game that went 17 innings, unheard of nowadays. The game still ended in a 2-2 tie in a four hour and two minute game. The Yankees scored a run in each of the bottom of the ninth and tenth innings to keep the game tied and moving along. New York had the winning run at third base in the bottom of the 17th inning but Frank Crosetti attempted a bunt to squeeze the runner home and failed.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Opening Day Game Thread: Baltimore Orioles @ New York Yankees 3/28

Opening Day 2019. The lines have been drawn on the field, the stadium is packed, the vendors are running their tails off, and the players are on the field. Let’s do this!!!!! In the start this afternoon the Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka to the mound to face off with Andrew Cashner for the Orioles. The game will be played at 1:05 pm ET inside Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and can be seen on the YES Network, ESPN and MASN 2 in the Baltimore area. You can also follow along with the game on MLB TV and on WFAN with John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.

Enjoy the game. Go Yankees!!

ICYMI: 2019 Opening Day Roster

Austin Romine
Gary Sanchez

3B Miguel Andujar
1B Greg Bird
IF DJ LeMahieu
2B/SS Gleyber Torres
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Luke Voit

CF Brett Gardner
RF Aaron Judge
LF Giancarlo Stanton
OF Mike Tauchman

RHP Domingo German
LHP J.A. Happ
LHP James Paxton
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
LHP CC Sabathia 

LHP Zack Britton
LHP Aroldis Chapman
RHP Luis Cessa
RHP Chad Green
RHP Jonathan Holder
RHP Tommy Kahnle
RHP Adam Ottavino
LHP Stephen Tarpley

Opening Day Game Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ New York Yankees 3/28

It’s here, it’s finally here, and we finally made it. Opening Day 2019. The New York Yankees will begin their quest for the 2019 World Series Championship this afternoon in the Bronx against the Baltimore Orioles. Game one, where everyone is in first place. The Yankees will start Masahiro Tanaka this afternoon in the opener while the Orioles will counter with Andrew Cashner.

Tanaka will make his fourth career Opening Day start for the Yankees this afternoon after Luis Severino was not quite ready to start the season due to a shoulder issue. Tanaka has not earned a victory in these starts, posting an 0-2 record with a 9.49 ERA on Opening Day, so the Yankees, and Tanaka specifically, will look for better results this afternoon in the Bronx.

Cashner also makes the Opening Day start this afternoon due to injury. Cashner will make his second career Opening Day start after the Orioles learned that Alex Cobb could not make the start due to a strained right groin that he suffered in his final spring training start. Cashner was 4-15 last season with a 5.29 ERA.

The game will be played at 1:05 pm ET inside Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and can be seen on the YES Network, ESPN and MASN 2 in the Baltimore area. You can also follow along with the game on MLB TV and on WFAN with John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.

Enjoy the game. Go Yankees!!

TGP Trivia and Fact of the Day for March 28th, 2019

Good morning Yankees family and Happy Opening Day 2019!!!

Who are the only players to wear jersey #99 for the New York Yankees?

Leave your guesses below in the comments section, and then highlight below to see if you are correct!

Brian Bruney in 2009
Aaron Judge in 2016 - present 

And a special good morning to my beautiful and amazing wife, Kari. It's Opening Day baby!!

This Day in New York Yankees History 3/28: YES Network Pulls the Plug

On this day in 2003, just three days prior to Opening Day, the YES Network claims Cablevision has pulled out of a deal signed 17 days ago that would have provided televised Yankee games to three million cable subscribers in the New York City area. According to the YES Network Cablevision failed to sign a finalized version of the hand-written document that both parties exchanged on March 12.

Also on this day in 1988 the Yankees decided to waive pitcher Phil Niekro just four days shy of his 47th birthday.

Finally on this day in 1986 the Boston Red Sox traded designated hitter Mike Easler to the New York Yankees for designated hitter Don Baylor in a rare trade between the two rivals.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Comparing the 2018 & 2019 Yankees

Comparing the 2018 & 2019 Yankees

The 2017 New York Yankees team was a fun group of overachievers.  Led by Rookie Of The Year winner, Aaron Judge, this squad was fun and energetic. Made up of mostly home grown stars, like Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino, they’d fought their way to within one game of going to the World Series before being eliminated by eventual champion Houston Astros in game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

With the addition of reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, the 2018 Yankees started of the year as one of the early World Series favorites. Throughout the season, the team struggled with injuries and slumps, yet remained one of the league’s best teams. Judge was hit on the hand with a pitch on July 26th by Jakob Junis, of the Kansas City Royals. Causing a chip fracture of the wrist. The Boston Red Sox went on to run away with the division and eventually eliminate the Yankees in the Divisional Series on their way to winning their third World Series since 2004.

For whatever reason, a common perception amongst fans changed from that of a fun team in 2017 to that of a pessimist, glass half empty, everything is wrong team at the end of the year.  Even as the team eclipsed the 1997 Seattle Mariners record for most home runs, 100 regular season wins was not enough.  All throughout the offseason as the Yankees improved the team, it was never enough. They traded for James Paxton. They signed Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ, DJ LeMahieu, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino, but the constant clamoring was for Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, and Bryce Harper. With all the negativity, you would think that the Yankees don’t stand a chance , even though they currently are the Las Vegas favorites at 6:1.

So I wanted to compare the team on a whole from this time last year to the team that’s about to embark on a 6-month regular season journey with hopes of winning an unprecedented 28th World Series championship.  I will leave out the emotion and see what we should expect from the 2019 New York Yankees.  I’m using Baseball Reference WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to show value of players.  8+ MVP, 5+ All-Star, 2+ Starter, 0-2 Sub, <0 Replace

Starting at the top, Hal Steinbrenner is the owner, having taken over after his father, George, past away. Their family has owned the team since 1973 and is the longest tenured owner, 8 years longer than Jerry Reinsdorf has owned the Chicago White Sox.

General Manager Brian Cashman , also the longest tenured in Major League Baseball, having been in his position since 1998, 7 ½ years longer than Jon Daniels has been the GM of the Texas Rangers.  There is stability and clear cut power structure running the organization.

Manager Aaron Boone is a third generational Major League player and the hero of the 2003 Yankees team. Baseball runs in his veins.  He left his job as a baseball analysts for a national broadcast to succeed Joe Girardi in 2018.  The rookie manager had his share of stumbles, but led the team to 100 victories.  He was hired for his understanding and acceptance of the use of analytics and for his ability to communicate and relate to today’s players.  With a year of experience under his belt, he is likely to be more of an asset this year.

Luis Severino was the ace in 2017 and repeated the same in 2018, going a combined 33-14 with a WAR of 10.  Although fatigue and rumors of tipping pitches made him more hittable during the second half of last season, he still turned in his second straight season with a top-10 finish in the Cy Young award voting.  That earned him a contract extension for 4 years and $40M.  He experienced shoulder soreness during spring training and isn’t expected back before May.  Shoulders are scary.  If it lingers, we may never see him dominate again.  Hopefully it was just a minor setback and he returns in May to once again lead the staff.  Regardless, it’s unlikely he will provide the value he did last year due to the missed action.

Masahiro Tanaka found more consistency in 2018, improving his WAR from 1.1 to 2.9 while pitching 20 innings less.  The former Japanese League star benefits from more rest.  He is a proven commodity that excels in the postseason. He will take over the Opening day assignment and will lead the staff forward. Expect him to match or exceed last year.

The 2018 team had Sonny Gray penciled in as the number three starter.  However, after posting an ERA approaching 5, he was relegated to the bullpen and was traded away during the offseason.  He is being replaced in 2019 by James Paxton who was acquired from the Seattle Mariners for top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield.  Paxton, aka Big Maple, posted a 2.9 WAR over 160 inning in his breakout season.  The Yankees are hoping that they get with him what they expected to get from Gray, a solid starter with team control.  He will definitely provide an upgrade over what they got from Gray.

CC Sabathia returned as a free agent for one last season.  Off season heart surgery and an early season suspension will push back the start of his season.  He posted a 2.8 and 2.3 WAR in 2017 and 2018, respectively.  He provides leadership and is looking to enjoy his last lap around the league.  He may experience a slight dip in production but will lay it all on the line if needed.  Expect about the same as previous years.

The 2018 number 5 starter, Jordan Montgomery blew out his arm after just six starts.  He required Tommy John surgery a year after finishing 6th in the Rookie Of The Year voting.  He is not expected to rejoin the team until after the all-star break, when the team will definitely welcome the reinforcements.  Montgomery is being replaced to start the season by J.A. Happ, who resigned with the Yankees after posting a 3.3 WAR combined with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Yankees. Happ is a proven veteran with a track record of success.  A full year on the team will provide an upgrade in value from just a half season.

Almost all Major League teams limit their pitchers.  160-180 innings is about all they get. Most teams now use at least 8 starters throughout a season.  The Yankees are no different. With Severino and Sabathia beginning the season on the injured list, they signed Gio Gonzalez to a minor league contract.  He will need some time to stretch out, but over the past 9 years, he has averaged 31 starts and 187 innings.  He will become an asset.  In the meantime, the Yankees have three young starters that will fill in the gap: Domingo German, Jonathon Loaisiga , and Luis Cessa.  They will all get significant opportunities to help the club.

Last year’s bullpen was one of the best ever assembled.  They entered with Aroldis Chapman as the dominant closer. Dellin Betances and his 15.1 k/9 rate, Chad Green, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle as the expected leaders.  Chapman dealt with knee issues and Kahnle had velocity issues but the bullpen was still a strength.  Robertson, Adam Warren, and Chasen Shreve are gone from last year.  Johnathon Holder and Zack Britton will be significant contributors.  Kahnle has regained his lost velocity.  Chapman and Betances each had 1.7 WAR and Green has compiled 5.0 WAR over the last two seasons.  This year’s bullpen will likely be the greatest one ever assembled.

Behind the plate, Gary Sanchez missed an entire month in 2017, but still managed a 4.1 WAR with 33 HRs and 90 RBI to go with his .876 OPS.  Injuries destroyed his 2018 as he only played in 89 games and posted a slash line of .186/.291/.406    It is impossible for a player with the skill level of Sanchez to repeat such awful numbers.  He came into spring training fresh and healthy. I expect to see him dwarf his 2017 season en route to staking his claim as the best catcher in the game today.

Over at first, Greg Bird was coming off a .190/.288/.422 season in which he only played 48 games and produced a WAR of 0.  Believe it or not that was better than the .199/.286/.386 and -.6 he contributed in 2018.  At the end of last season, Luke Voit powered his way to a 1.095 OPS during his 39 games in pinstripes.  Both Bird and Voit have had excellent spring trainings.  There will be significant improvements from last year’s production.

Neil Walker signed on as a free agent last year to play second base.  He was soon replaced by Gleyber Torres. Although Torres was kept in the minors long enough to manipulate his service time, he still produced a WAR of 2.9 in only 123 games.  His third place ROY finish is just the beginning of his accolades as he will develop into a perennial all star.  He will definitely improve upon last year.

Didi Gregorius has developed into a true star, earning 7.9 WAR the last two years, despite only playing 270 games.  However, he injured his arm last year in the playoffs and required Tommy John Surgery.  For the interim, Troy Tulowitzki will get the first crack at short, where he was a 2- time Gold Glove winner.  However, that was long before Achilles surgery that required him to miss all of 2018 and most of 2017.  For some reason, the Toronto Blue Jays released Tulowitzki and his guaranteed $38M contract before spring training even started.  The Yankees have been impressed with what they have seen from him and invested only a minimum contract. Tulowitzki will require some rest. Torres will slide across the diamond on those occasions and free agent signee DJ LeMathieu will play second, where he has earned three Gold Gloves.  Production will likely be lower, unless Tulowitzki is capable of returning to the player that produced WAR of 5+ six times earlier in his career.
Miguel Andujar is a career .300 hitter that burst onto the scene last year after Brandon Drury was sidelined with migraines.  Andujar placed second in the ROY voting.  His 2.2 WAR is deceiving as his offensive WAR was 4.6, but his -25 DRS (defensive runs saved) made his defense a liability.  He was not even in the lineup the game the Yankees were eliminated last year.  Andujar committed his offseason to working on his defense.  Scouts are raving at the progress he has made at the hot corner.  His bat will carry him, but if he can become even league average on defense, he will become a huge upgrade over himself.

Brett Gardner is the longest tenured Yankee and the only player that called old Yankees Stadium home.  The former all star and Gold Glove winner is clearly on the downward trend posting a 2.8 WAR in 2018 after a 4.9 in 2017.  However his leadership and solid defense was enough for the team to bring him back as a free agent. If he can rest more early in the season, his production may not drop as much later on.

Aaron Hicks has been a great player, proving to be a true 5-tool player when on the field.  However, staying on the field is what he has struggled to do.  He posted a 3.9 WAR in 2017 despite playing in only 88 games, and followed that up with a 4.7 in 2018.  The team rewarded him with a seven-year contract extension.  Shortly after signing the contract, he developed back issues which have sidelined him for several weeks.  He will begin the season on the injured list.  Hopefully he will return healthy and establish himself as the best center fielder not named Trout.

Over in right field,  Aaron Judge has become a super star and face of the Yankees.  In 2017, he had 79 extra base hits, OPS of 1.049, and 8.1 WAR on his way to win you ROY and runner up MVP.  He was well on his way to duplicating those numbers when the 93 mph fastball by Junis came inside and essentially ended his season in July, save for a late September cameo.  Fully healthy once again, he will be this year’s MVP and produce monster numbers, Ruthian like.

Giancarlo Stanton was the 2017 NL MVP in a season which he slugged 59 homers and posted a WAR of 7.6. So in 2018, even though he connected on 38 round trippers and a 4.0, the fan base was not impressed. Expect him to be more settled in and comfortable this year and production to be somewhere in between the previous two, which will be an upgrade.

Jacoby Ellsbury played in 112 games in 2017, but in 2018 he failed to make it onto the field, due to several various, lingering injuries.  Because of that, the Yankees were able to collect on his insurance policy.  He still has two lucrative years left on his contract and a no-trade clause.  It remains to be seen if he will be able to return to a Major League field if and when he is healthy enough to return. He has missed a lot of time and the game moves fast. Until that time, he will remain on he injured list and the team will collect on the insurance.

Clint Frazier would have played a lot last year had it not been for a concussion suffered in spring training and lingered most of the year.  Andrew McCutchen, Shane Robinson, and others combined to play over 1/3 of the season.  Frazier will have a lot to contribute this year.

The 40-man roster has several players that are potentially capable of being placed on the 60-day IL as they wont be returning before June.  Montgomery, Gregorius, Ben Heller.  Maybe Ellsbury. Possibly Severino.  This is how players such as Gonzalez will be added to the 40- man roster.

The 2018 Yankees set a Major League record with 267 HRs. Their 2-year total from 2017&2018 is 508, second all time to the 1996&1997 Mariners’ 509.  I believe they will shatter that record this year.  In 2018, 10 different players combined to hit multiple home runs in a game 24 times. Surprisingly, none were done by Judge. Bold prediction: Judge hits multiple homers multiple times.

The 2018 Yankees averaged 10.05 k/9, becoming only the third team in MLB history to surpass 10, joining the 2017 Cleveland Indians and the 2018 Houston Astros.  The team total was 1634, which I foresee being eclipsed this year.

In 2017, Yankees farmhands Cale Coshow, Albert Abreu, Jorge Guzman (traded for Stanton) & Luis Medina all topped 100 mph in games.  In 2018, Abreu and Medina did it again and were joined by Luis Gil.  A trio of Yankees routinely top triple digits: Chapman, Severino, and Betances.  According to Statcast, Chapman threw four pitches over 104.  Speaking of Statcast, including the playoffs, 33 balls had exit velocities of 117 or higher in 2018.  23 of those were produced by Yankees.  Several Yankees farmhands have already been lighting up the radar gun to the tune of over 100 this spring. Exit velocities are going to be fun to track.

The 2018 Yankees had several injuries, yet somehow still managed to win 100 games.   Throughout MLB history, there have been 105 teams that have won 100 or more games.  95 of those have won their division.  The 2018 Yankees are one of the ten that did not.  This is, in part because the Red Sox were historically good against bad teams.  Of the teams with the ten worst records, the Yankees played seven of them and went a combined 44-25 for a .638 winning percentage.  The Red Sox played the same seven teams at a .779 clip. 53-15 is 9.5 games better than the Yankees, who lost the division by 8 games.

Over the last several years, the Yankees have graduated several elite players out of their farm system.  Gary Sanchez was second in ROY in 2016.  Judge won in 2017 along with Montgomery, who was sixth.  That doesn’t even include Severino, who’s actually even younger.  So, entering 2018, the pie farm system was ranked in the top three, with Gleyber  Torres a consensus top five prospect, and as many as six others making top 100 lists.  Miguel Andujar placed second in ROY voting, followed by a third for Torres.

Along with those graduates, several top prospects like Chance Adams, Thairo Estrada, Freicer Perez, Albert Abreu, and Domingo Acevedo had down years along with the broken hamate bone Estevan Florial suffered and subsequently reinsured this spring.  The Yankees also traded several players.  The results is a system currently ranking in the bottom third of professional systems.

In the past two plus years, the system has traded away:
Austin, Avelino, Blash, Carroll, Cave, DePaula, Diehl, Drury, Enns, Finley, Fowler, Frare, Gallegos, Gamel, Guzman, Herrera, Kaprielian, Littell, Long, Mateo, McKinney, Pazos, Polo, Ramirez, Rijo, Rutherford, Rumbelow, Sheffield, Smith, Solak, Swanson, Tate, Thompson-Williams, and Widener.

Yet as we enter 2019, the team has several young players in the system that have the potential to be elite players and on top 100 lists.  Luis Medina has three 70 grade pitches that he is beginning to throw for strikes.  Roansy Contreras, Deivi Garcia, Florial, Antonio Cabello, Everson Pereria, Loaisiga, Clarke Sschmidt, Anthony Seigler, and Kevin Alcantara are amongst those.  The team is also linked to top international free agent Jasson Dominguez.  Very astute trades for pool money to sign IFA and draft players and trading for players like Stowers and Roman they tried to get earlier is how the team’s player development is quickly becoming the best in the league.  The farm system will once again be top five by the end of the season.

The 2018 Yankees were very good.  They won 100 regular season games, but because of injuries were relegated to a wild card team, playing the eventual World Series champs in the divisional round.
The 2019 team is better.  The rotation is deeper and stronger.  The bullpen is perhaps the best ever.  The defense can’t be any worse tan last year.  The offense could be historic.  Setting records. Runs, home runs.  They are going to be a force.
As the season is about to start, I have them as the favorites.  Not only because they are better, but because Boston is weaker.  A lot can happen, especially in the playoffs and short series.  I just hope that the fans can just sit back and enjoy it this year as opposed to all the negativity from last year.
The team’s minor league affiliates are going to be a lot of fun.  Especially Charleston early on.  They’re going to be stacked with 18- year olds ready for full season ball.

MLB is flush with money.  Revenue in 2018 exceeded $10.3 Billion.  That is why we are seeing all of these contract extensions recently. Arenado, Trout, Harper, Machado, Jiminez, Sale, Verlander have all recently signed huge deals.  Teams no longer rely on traditional streams of revenue like gate attendance and concessions and merchandise.  The main sources of revenue are now streaming services, Internet , and television.

If the Yankees were to offer Judge an extension, what might it look like? Well he is playing this year at basically league minimum. Then he will have three years of arbitration. Even if those years are $10,$20,$30 he is entering free agency about to turn 31. The reason for a team to offer the security up front is to get cost certainty down the road.  If he got the extension now, while he’s making $600,000 a year, he’d probably sign for 9/$170M.  After this year it’d jump to 8/$220M. Same amount of years, $50M more.  If they go year by year and he signs a five year deal for $230 after getting $60M in arbitration they will pay $120M more over the same 9 years.  Assuming he would sign only for 5 years. Cashman should make the offer sooner than later.

Here are a few ideas for how MLB should evolve with the times. Teams are tanking to get better draft positions. They aren’t losing revenue as a large chunk of the $10.3 is shared.  There’s no deterrent. Start rewarding teams that try with higher draft spots. Best team to not make the playoffs get the top pick.  Allow teams to trade picks.  It would increase interest and intrigue.  Institute a salary floor so all teams have to spend at least $100 M a year.  The universal DH and 26th man will cause teams to marginally spend more.

Pay minor leaguers a more fair wage.  The Blue Jays are at least working towards this becoming an industry wide standard.
However, what the same Blue Jays are doing to Vladimir Guerrero Jr is a travesty.  Manipulating his service time.  Smart business in a flawed system.  Teams don’t have to add a player to the 40-man roster for 5 years, then they have three option years, and then six years before they are eligible for free agency.  That’s as much as 14 years.  How about from the point in which a player signs, they are under team control for 8 ½ years. Years 7,8,&9 are arbitration years.  So if a player is major league ready at 19, you bring him up and get as much use out of him before he becomes a free agent.  IFA that are signed at 16 will be on the market by 25.

Cito Culver was recently in Tampa, pitching in the minor league camp.  He joins other former first rounders:
Sabathia, Tulowitzki, Ellsbury, Ottavino, Hicks, Gonzalez, Brothers, Lipka, Frazier, Judge, Holder, Schmidt, and Seigler.

The Yankees have 10 living World Series MVPs:
56 Larsen
60 Richardson
61 Ford
62 Terry
77 Jackson
78 Dent
96 Wetteland
98 Brosius
99 Rivera
00 Jeter
09 Matsui

Former Yankees 90+ years old:
Eddie Robinson
Art Schallock
Charlie Silvera
Dr. Bobby Brown
Irv Noren
Bobby Shantz
Hank Workman
Billy Gardner
Bill Hunter
Whitey Ford

Old Timers Day 2018 only featured two Hall Of Famers:
Mr. October
Chairman of the Board
Expect more in 2019

Most World Series rings, not in Monument Park:
6-Raschi, Murphy, Crosetti
5-Lopat, Woodling, Mize, Lazzeri, Rolfe, Selkirk, Collins, McDougald
4-Henrich, Gordon, Coleman, Skowron

Former players not yet in Monument Park:

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Yankees And Exotic Sports Cars

Instead of building a killer starting rotation, one that this season could have included the likes of Patrick Corbin, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia, the Yankees have instead built possibly the best bullpen the game has ever seen.

But this isn't a case where Brian Cashman chose not to build that incredible rotation and settled for this amazing group of relievers. I don't think Brian "missed out" on Corbin like some may say. No... I believe he and the other Yankees executives actively passed on Corbin.

Why would they do that, though?

Even if they'd signed Corbin Cashman still could have traded for James Paxton. Just think about it... Patrick Corbin, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia. Assuming they wouldn't have wanted to spend as much money, you can take Britton and/or Ottavino out of the bullpen and the entire run prevention squad still looks very formidable.

However, this isn't the same free-spending organization that we saw 10+ years ago. Years before his famous quote saying "a team shouldn’t need a $200-plus-million dollar payroll to win championships", Hal Steinbrenner has wanted to get the team's payroll down. But unlike many Yankees fans, I don't think that's any sort of admission that Hal is putting profit above winning. 

No, I believe that Hal and company truly believe that the Yankees can win without spending through the roof.

Last season the Boston Red Sox had the highest Opening Day payroll at $235.7 million and went on to win the World Series. That's pretty good evidence that spending does indeed lead to winning. But the year before that the Houston Astros won the whole freakin' thing with an Opening Day payroll just south of $118 million. Go back another year to the champion Chicago Cubs and their Opening Day payroll of $116.65 million. The 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals had an Opening Day payroll of just $113.62 million. 

The point is Hal is right. Teams don't need to write huge checks in order to have the best chance to win. And that brings us back to the pitching squad this year.

If the Yankees had at least matched the Washington Nationals contract for Patrick Corbin this is what the starting rotation's 2019 Opening Day payroll would have looked like...
*I'm going by Luxury Tax salary, not actual salary.

Corbin - $23.3 million
Severino - $10 million
Paxton - $8.575 million
Tanaka - $22.14 million
Sabathia - $8 million

Those five salaries total $72.015 million. Assuming there won't be any more injuries, and no further acquisitions, the entire bullpen for Opening Day will cost a grand total of $50.18 million. That's a savings of almost $22 million. Not an insignificant amount, especially with how great this bullpen looks.

In case you want to see each reliever's salary for yourself, here you go...

Chapman - $17.2 million
Betances - $7.25 million
Britton - $13 million
Ottavino - $9 million
Green - $.6 million
Holder - $.6 million
Kahnle - $1.39 million
Cessa - $.58
Tarpley - $.56 million

I should note that with the signing of J.A. Happ the starting rotation's Opening Day payroll will be $65.715 million, which is not a huge difference from the rotation with Corbin. But keep in mind that Corbin signed for six years, while Happ is signed for just two (not counting the vesting option), so the total savings between those two pitchers is a little over $93 million. Now we're talking significant, especially when there are guys like Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez left to be extended.

Speaking of extensions, when you look at the ones the team signed with Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks already it's very unfair to call the Yankees or Hal Steinbrenner himself "cheap". They are simply being smarter with the money they do spend, which is not a small chunk of change as evidenced by the projected 2019 payroll of over $225 million.

Face it, the game is changing. From infield shifts, to "the opener", to teams going with four outfielders when Aaron Judge is up to bat, the days of starters being leaned on to go six or more innings is fading away. Aaron Boone has already said that he's going to have a shorter leash with his starters since he can go to one of many good to great relievers to handle things from the fifth inning on if necessary. 

It's like if you were going to buy a Ferrari. You can either buy it from this dealership and pay X amount of money, or buy it from a different dealership and pay a little less. You would absolutely pay less because either way you end up driving a damn Ferrari. And that's just like the Yankees spending less on the rotation than the bullpen, and still ending up with a World Series caliber team.

In summary, just enjoy watching the Ferrari that is the 2019 New York Yankees and quit spewing crap about the team or Hal Steinbrenner being "cheap".

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Tired of Wading for the Outfield...

Yanks Acquire, Surprise!, Another Colorado Rockie...

The Yankees acquired outfielder Mike Tauchman from the Colorado Rockies on Saturday for reliever Phillip Diehl. Diehl had opened some eyes with his performance in Yankees camp this Spring but as a lefty specialist, he did not have a clear path to the Bronx (especially with next year's minimum three-batter rule). Hopefully he develops into something more for the Rockies.   

Not sure why The New York Post ran with a photo of Los Angeles Angels minor league second baseman Luis Rengifo as their representation of Tauchman but to their defense, both guys do wear beards.

Granted, I don't know Tauchman personally but I think he looks more like this:

Either way, lose the beard, Mr Tauchman.

I was surprised the Yankees made the trade. I had felt the team was comfortable moving forward with Tyler Wade acting as the team's fourth outfielder since Aaron Hicks will begin the year on the Injured List. It would have forced Giancarlo Stanton to play more left field than the team would have liked so maybe that was the motivation behind Tauchman's acquisition.  

Tauchman does not have much history at the game's highest level. Despite making his Major League debut in 2017, he has only accumulated 59 at-bats in 69 plate appearances over 52 games for the Colorado Rockies. He only has nine hits, including a double and triple, and has driven in a couple of runs. That's it in a very small sample size. Not even worth showing his batting line. Yet, the 28-year-old left-handed swinger has had very good success at Triple A. Granted, he played last year in a hitter's friendly park for the Albuquerque Isotopes but he did manage to hit .323/.408/.571, with .978 OPS, in 403 at-bats over 112 games.  He hit 20 home runs and drove in 81 RBIs for the Isotopes. Sure, it feels a little like Garrett Cooper's stats for Milwaukee's top farm team in Colorado Springs, CO when the Yankees acquired him a couple years ago (inflated by the mountain air). But this also has similarities to Luke Voit. A potentially under-valued player who has not been afforded sufficient big league opportunity due to a plethora of players at his position.  

The Rockies also seem to have a glut of outfielders. Last year, their starters from left to right were Gerardo Parra, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez. Parra now resides in San Francisco and CarGo is in camp with the Cleveland Indians on a minor league contract, but the Rockies still have outfield surplus. Blackmon has moved from center to right, Ian Desmond takes over in center after being pushed off first base by Daniel Murphy's signing, and David Dahl, finally healthy, eyes a breakout year in left. Raimel Tapia, with an ability to play all three outfield spots, is the fourth outfielder. So, the Rockies outfield was still crowded and the team needed to make room for non-roster invitee first baseman Mark Reynolds. Tauchman was the odd man out and now becomes the Tauch of the Town for the Yankees.  

I feel bad for Tyler Wade. It seemed like this was finally his year. However, he was optioned to Triple A this morning which presumably opens a spot for Tauchman to join the team for its travel to New York City. D.J. LeMahieu represents the bench strength for the infield, even if he'll play nearly every day. The Yankees will employ an infield rotation reminiscent of Dave Roberts and the Los Angeles Dodgers to keep guys fresh and LeMahieu on the field, but realistically Wade was a luxury at that point for the infield with limited experience playing the outfield. Tauchman, meanwhile, a true outfielder, can play all three outfield spots, making him a more desirable fourth outfielder. It's not like Wade has hit at the MLB level so this appears to be another analytics-driven move and those have generally worked out well for the Yankees. It does kind of make me wonder if Wade will ever get a legitimate shot with the Yankees or if he'll need to move to another organization for his breakout chance. At this point, injuries seem to be the only way Wade will wear the famed Pinstripes in the foreseeable future, and I'd prefer everyone to stay healthy. The Yankees cleared room on the 40-man roster for Tauchman by placing LHP Jordan Montgomery on the 60-day Injured List (expected since Gumby continues to recover from last year's Tommy John surgery and won't be ready to help until probably August at the earliest).  

Tauchman is 6'2" and 220 lbs. He was taken in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The Palatine, IL native made his Major League debut in June 27, 2017. Pinch-hitting for the pitcher, he grounded out in the 12th inning of 4-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants. D.J. LeMahieu was pulled in the fourth inning of that game with a right groin cramp. Former Yankee Chad Qualls took the loss for the Rockies. The Rockies scored all of their runs on a 6th inning homer by former Yank Mark Reynolds.  

Welcome to the Yankees family, Mike! We hope, like Luke Voit, this is the opportunity you've waited a lifetime for. We'd love nothing more than for you to become a household name in the Yankees Universe. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to prove Brian Cashman and his Analytics Team are truly the Modern Day geniuses in Major League Baseball.

The Yankees are in Fort Meyers, FL today to play the Minnesota Twins for their final exhibition game in Florida. It will be a good opportunity to catch up with old friends Tyler Austin, Ronald Torreyes, Michael Pineda, Blake Parker and Jake Cave. The Yankees will begin the journey home tomorrow when they play their final Spring game in Washington, D.C. at Nationals Park against the Bryce Harper-less Nats. Opening Day is close, very close.  Is it Thursday yet?... 

CC Sabathia, as expected, will be on the Opening Day Roster (although he'll be suspended for the first five games of the season). He won't be allowed in the dugout with the team during the game, but he'll be able to experience the final Opening Day festivities of his glorious career. For CC, I am happy he'll be a part of Opening Day even if he'll have to watch the game from Hal Steinbrenner's luxury suite. Since the Yankees will open the season with only 24 active players, I am glad that they are facing the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers for the first five short-handed games, and will be back at full strength for the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros in mid-April. Jonathan Loaisiga was optioned to Triple A, but he'll return once CC finishes his suspension and is placed on the 10-day Injured List.

Congratulations to LHP reliever Stephen Tarpley for winning the James P. Dawson Award as the best rookie in camp this Spring. Looking forward to seeing what Tarpley can do for the Yankees this year. He is part of perhaps the greatest bullpen in history. No pressure.

As always, Go Yankees!