Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The final push to the post-season

After two playoff-less seasons, the New York Yankees would seem to be heading back into post-season baseball. Assuming they can hang on down this final stretch, the team’s success in the playoffs will determine on whether or not they can remain healthy from here on out. Unfortunately, Mark Teixeira and Nathan Eovaldi are both down with serious injuries and will likely miss the playoffs.

Luckily for the Yankees, Greg Bird (who is replacing the injured Teixeira at first-base) is a doing a great job. (Bird should continue the Yankees lineage of great first-baseman once he permanently takes over the position.)

Eovaldi was the Yankees best pitcher and Yankee fans and brass are hoping he will return healthy for next season. Meanwhile, despite the rash of injuries, the Yankees are still in a pennant race. The Toronto Blue Jays are one of the hottest teams in baseball, after a historic trade deadline. The Blue Jays shocked baseball and their division when they acquired Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. (Price could have been a Yankees, but Cashman was not willing to part with then-top pitching prospect Luis Severino and other top prospects). Did Cashman make the right call? Only time will tell.

The Yankees have their work cut out for them to make the playoffs. The Blue Jays look as if they are untouchable and the Yankees lead in the Wild Card is diminishing.  Regardless, of what happens the Yankees had a successful 2015 campaign. 

Game Thread: New York Yankees @ Toronto Blue Jays 9/22

Round Two between the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays is ready to begin. The cut-men have done their work from last night’s affair and the manager’s and corner men have done all the talking their going to do for the evening. It’s time to get to work and it’s time to take a step closer to the postseason and closer to the top of the American League East Division. Tonight the Yankees will send Luis Severino to the mound looking to solve the puzzle that has been Marco Estrada for the Blue Jays. The game will be played at 7:05 pm ET and can be seen on the YES Network, ESPN and MLB TV.

New York returns home on Thursday for the final eight games inside Yankee Stadium during the regular season. Barring a catastrophic collapse there will be a playoff game played inside the Bronx this season so be sure to click the Yankees Tickets link at the top of the blog and grab you a pair of tickets now to see the team live before they are gone for the long, cold winter. Also be sure to give @GreedyStripes a follow on Twitter to interact with us and cheer for the Yankees during each and every Yankees game.

Severino is looking to avenge his worst start of his short MLB career tonight while the offense looks to solve the mystery that has been Marco Estrada this season. Go Yankees!

Marco Estrada in the Bronx in 2016?

Tonight we will watch what we have watched as a fan base pretty much all season long, we will watch the emergence of Marco Estrada for the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s had his ups and his downs this season but Estrada has been strong overall in 2015 leaving many to wonder if the right-hander will wear Toronto’s uniform next season. Estrada is set to hit free agency for the first time before the 2016 season and boasts a 3.14 ERA with a 4.42 FIP, 1.073 WHIP and a 126 ERA+. If the Blue Jays cannot afford him and their newfound juggernaut of an offense would Estrada made sense in a Yankees uniform in 2016?

Estrada has been a Yankee killer this season posting a 1-2 record with a 3.16 ERA in four starts. Estrada has struck out 14 Yankees while allowing just 20 hits combined as he has essentially turned the Bronx Bombers into the Bronx Bombless this season. Snatching him away from the Toronto Blue Jays is an automatic addition by subtraction in the American League East and would leave the Blue Jays not only without Estrada but without Price as well as the left hits free agency as well. Toronto could make a serious run at Price, especially without having Estrada at the top of the rotation to pair with Marcus Stroman, but the Blue Jays would not be without competition for his services making that signing far from a sure thing.

Would Estrada work inside Yankee Stadium for essentially 15 starts a season though? This season Estrada is giving up a league low 6.8 hits per nine innings and has given up a 1.2 HR/9 ratio, which is down from his career 1.4 HR/9 ratio, pitching his home games inside Rogers Centre. His walk numbers could be better at 2.9 BB/9, which is up from his career 2.5 BB/9, and hasn’t struck out as many batters as you’d like to instill confidence in you. Estrada is essentially striking out and walking as many batters as Nathan Eovaldi while giving up hits and home runs at a clip similar to Masahiro Tanaka to put this all into a frame of reference.

Estrada would not be an ace or maybe not even a #2 by any stretch of the imagination but he’d be better than Ivan Nova and at this point a marginal upgrade, or any upgrade for that matter, is still an upgrade. If the price is right and the team can move Nova in an offseason trade to possibly upgrade elsewhere then I say go for it. If the team wants to stand pat I think I’d feel confident in their chances but if they wanted to go all out and hand David Price a $200 million contract I think I’d feel much better with that too. 

USA Today's Weekly MLB Power Rankings

We’re getting down to the nitty gritty now and not to quote the band Europe or anything but we are in the final countdown. The end of the 2015 regular season is looming just off in the distance as many teams prepare for the postseason while the 20 unlucky teams that won’t make it prepare to go home. The New York Yankees are all but guaranteed a playoff spot this season and played like a playoff contender this week with a series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays and the first place New York Mets. Was it enough to improve their spot in the rankings though?

I won’t keep you in suspense for too long. Last week the New York Yankees dropped a spot to the #9 ranking on the list and with a strong week the team finished this week at the #9 spot remaining stagnant despite a strong week. To round out the rest of the American League East Division we have the Toronto Blue Jays still surging at the #4 spot while the Boston Red Sox finished the week #15 overall. The Baltimore Orioles came in on the rankings in the #17 spot while once again the Tampa Bay Rays were last seen bringing up the rear in the #18 position.

The biggest rise of the week goes to the Chicago Cubs who rose four spots to the #3 position while the biggest fall of the week went to the Milwaukee Brewers who unfortunately fell three spots to the #27 position. The Top Five teams in the league according to the rankings are the #1 overall St. Louis Cardinals followed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago Cubs, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals. The five worst teams in the league according to the ranking are the #26 Miami Marlins, the #27 Milwaukee Brewers, the #28 Colorado Rockies, the #29 Atlanta Braves and the #30 Philadelphia Phillies.

With right around two weeks left of baseball left in the regular season these rankings may or may not be set in stone at this point. The change from the trading deadlines and September call ups have fluctauated the rankings a bit but those sample sizes have since corrected themselves. This is it, look at the Top 10 teams in the rankings… all going to the playoffs. The rankings don’t lie, it’s going to come down to who is the hottest, who wants it the most and who pulls a Yogi Berra and would rather be lucky than good. Stay tuned as to who that team is when the playoffs start on October 6th

Game Preview: New York Yankees @ Toronto Blue Jays 9/22

The New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays continue their three game series tonight inside the Rogers Centre with another great pitching matchup. Toronto has been struggling as of late losing series to the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves allowing New York to stick around in the American League East Division race. The Yankees can land a big blow tonight if they can squeak out a win as they send Luis Severino to the mound to face off against Marco Estrada. The game will be played at 7:05 pm ET and can be seen on the YES Network, ESPN and MLB TV.

  • Severino has been one of the most consistent starters for the Yankees in the second half and has just one blip on his radar, the last time he started against the Toronto Blue Jays. Severino lasted just 2.1 IP and allowed six hits and six earned runs in a start where his control was off all night long. Severino looks to avenge that tough start tonight inside the Rogers Centre.

  • Estrada has now eclipsed his career high in innings pitched for a single season with his 160.1 innings pitched this season but has not shown any signs of letting it affect him. In his last start Estrada held down the Atlanta Braves for eight innings while not allowing a run and he has done quite well against the Yankees this season.

New York has two more games with Toronto including tonight’s contest so it is now or never in the AL East Division race. The team had a 99.8% chance of making the postseason after beating the Mets in the Subway Series on Sunday and they could conceivably solidify that mark tonight inside Rogers Centre. Just have to do it, so do it. Go Yankees!

Looking Back At My 2015 Rookie of the Year Predictions

Earlier in the season, like every season, I made a fool of myself making a pre-season prediction of who I thought would win the American League and National League Rookie of the Year Awards. I personally thought I had two legit predictions in the Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and the Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant but almost a full season away it looks like I may once again go 0-2. HERE is the original post, or just see below.

The Rookie of the Year award is probably far and away the hardest to predict every single season, and I show that almost every single season with the wrong predictions. A ton can happen between now and the end of the 2015 season and a lot of it comes out of nowhere. There is always the Josh Harrison that comes out of nowhere that I didn’t see coming and there is always the disappointment in Billy Hamilton that, well, disappointed me. Then there is always the rookie that gets kept down in Triple-A for too long and doesn’t have enough time to showcase enough to win the award and then there is always the guy that wins a job out of camp and shocks the baseball world for three or four months to win the award. I am going to take my best shot at these predictions but I am warning you not to go all Pete Rose and bet on the game because it is very likely I will be completely off base when we revisit this post in November.

For the American League I chose Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians almost by default. I wanted to go with Rusney Castillo of the Boston Red Sox simply because Lindor is a glove first type shortstop but the Indians lineup should be deeper than last season and much improved. Lindor, even hitting near the bottom of the order, should be able to use his speed and his legs to get him a few base hits and keep a respectable average, runs scored, stolen base and RBI count. Lindor may not run away with the award but I think at the end of the day he takes it home for Cleveland.

For the National League Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs is becoming a household name after hitting an absolute ton of home runs in the Cactus League this spring. Bryant is the obvious pick and the safe pick but I honestly don’t know enough about the various farms around the league to go against him. I almost wanted to go with his teammate Jorge Soler just because it would be bold and different but then he went and swatted eight home runs in a few weeks’ time and I knew I had to go with Bryant in 2015.

Who expected Carlos Correa to come up and dominate as quickly and as well as he did in the American League? Well obviously I didn't. I had Lindor breaking camp with the Indians and using that extra couple of months of playing time to steal the award but Cleveland had other plans starting him in Triple-A. Oh well, maybe next year (not likely).

I am going to be 100% honest here I never even heard the name Matt Duffy before the 2015 season. I don't pay that close of attention to the San Francisco Giants, or all the non-Yankees teams to be honest, but Duffy has made me change that stance a bit. Duffy is quietly having a better season, in my opinion and I'm sure I'm not the only one, than Kris Bryant, Randal Grichuk, Jung-ho Kang, Joc Pederson and Kyle Schwarber.

Quick Hit: The New York Yankees WILL Make The Playoffs

The New York Yankees are almost guaranteed a playoff spot at this point in the season and that excites me. The Yankees magic number to at least clinch the second American League Wild Card playoff spot is now under 10 with 13 games left to play. The Yankees have a tough opponent tonight in the Toronto Blue Jays but if you look around the league you can see that New York's chances are great to clinch the postseason as soon as next week.

There are many teams chasing the Yankees and the Houston Astros for the two Wild Card spots in the American League but the good thing for New York is that many of them are playing each other. With the Cleveland Indians playing the Minnesota Twins and the Astros playing host to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim the Yankees are guaranteed at least two losses there. New York also has eight games at home left this season against a 4th place and last place team respectively in the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox.

You have to think that the Yankees will win at least five, if not six or more, of those games against the Sox, plural, while you have to think that none of the teams chasing New York will be able to win out while playing head-to-head against each other. It's a good feeling to have but it doesn't mean it's time to take the foot off the gas. Win the division, avoid the one-game playoff series and win the World Series.

Scoreboard Watching: September 22, 2015

The New York Yankees may not be scoreboard watching but I am simply because the team has not made the postseason in two straight seasons. It may be business as usual inside the Yankee Stadium locker room and clubhouse but these are exciting times for a relatively spoiled fan that isn't used to seeing "his" team sitting at home watching the March towards November baseball and a potential World Series. Here are the games and final scores I'll be watching this evening because they directly affect the New York Yankees.

Tuesday, September 22

New York Yankees @ Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Yankees

Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Texas Rangers @ Oakland Athletics

Minnesota Twins vs. Cleveland Indians

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Houston Astros

Cleveland Indians @ Minnesota Twins

This Day in New York Yankees History 9/22: Sori, Right Number

Alfonso Soriano was not always a middle of the lineup type hitter for the New York Yankees like we saw the second half of the 2013 season. At one point Soriano was a lead off hitter for New York and on this day in 2003 Soriano hit his 13th lead off home run of the season establishing a new major league record. Soriano would break the tie with the Baltimore Orioles Brady Anderson after he hit 12 leading of the game in 1996.

Also on this day in 1969 the great Willie Mays joined exclusive company when he joined Babe Ruth in the 600 home run club. It's not really New York Yankees history but the Giants Hall of Fame hitter achieved the feat with a seventh inning pinch hit two run home run off Padres pitcher Mike Corkins.