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2 days ago  ::  Jul 17, 2018 - 10:18AM #15761
Posts: 27,294

FanCred Sports | Jon Heyman: In case you missed Tyler’s article about this last nightManny Machado is close to being traded. Well, until he isn’t. For right now though, the Orioles are very close to making a deal with a team. It does not appear that the Yankees are that team. It’s looking more and more like the Phillies are pushing the hardest to get him. We probably will not find out until after the All-Star Game and there will probably be another article or four with different information. Trade season, folks.

Cut4 | Jessica Kleinschmidt: Before the Home Run Derby last night, MLB Network managed to talk with Manny Machado and get the inside scoop on where he might be headed. Of course, by inside scoop, I mean his nephew J.J. Pedro Martinez asked J.J. where he’d like his uncle to wind up and J.J. wants to see him in Yankee pinstripes. All we need to do know is get the paperwork straightened out. Thanks, J.J. | Bryan Hoch: Tonight, the best of the American League will square off against the best of the National League in a gathering of All-Star players. They call it the “All-Star Game” or something. Aaron Judge will be part of this gathering of All-Stars for the second year in a row. Joining him will be fellow Yankees Gleyber Torres, Luis Severino, and Aroldis Chapman. Judge and his fellow teammates plan to take it all in. You can do the same tonight.

2 days ago  ::  Jul 17, 2018 - 10:21AM #15762
Posts: 27,294

Gleyber Torres can't wait to get back in action for Yankees

WASHINGTON — If all goes well for Gleyber Torres, the Yankees’ dynamic rookie will go from All-Star Game observer to regular-season participant in less than a week.

Torres, who made the American League team only to go on the disabled list with a strained right hip, attended the media availability Monday and said he could rejoin the Yankees as soon as July 23, when they play the Rays at Tropicana Field.

“[I’m] super-excited,” Torres said. “I can’t wait. I’m going to play. I think I’m ready right now. I’m just waiting a little bit for more games.”

Torres, who last played July 4, took grounders at second last week and ran the bases here at Nationals Park on Monday. He said he’ll fly to Tampa on Wednesday and do more rehabilitation before playing in minor league games Saturday and Sunday, setting himself up to join the Yankees in nearby St. Petersburg for the start of their three-game series.

14 hours ago  ::  Jul 18, 2018 - 10:17AM #15763
Posts: 27,294

Yankees will take off once Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres return

The Yankees are close to losing the sweepstakes for Manny Machado as he’s likely to be traded on Wednesday to the Dodgers. Despite missing out on the All-Star shortstop the Yankees offense will still dominate in the second half thanks to the returns of Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres.

From the moment the Machado to the Yankees rumors surfaced it never seemed realistic to me that he would be traded to New York. As much as he would have impacted an offense that’s already among the best in the game there was no need for Brian Cashman to trade some of his most prized prospects for a rental like Machado. Especially since the team already has Miguel Andujar at third and Didi Gregorius at shortstop.

What the Yankees offense needs won’t cost them any of their top prospects in any kind of trade at all. All they need is a healthy Gary Sanchez (groin strain) and a healthy Gleyber Torres (bruised hip).

The rookie Torres won’t be far behind as he should be ready to return during next week’s series in Tampa.

Based on production so far this season the Yankees have probably missed the All-Star Torres more than Sanchez, but there’s no doubt they’re just as excited to welcome EL Gary back to the lineup. It’s been an underwhelming season for Sanchez up to this point hitting only .190, but his power numbers are still there (14 HR, 41 RBI) and we all know he’s capable of much more than what he showed in the first half.

His backup Austin Romine has done a fine job in what’s been a breakout season for him, but the Yankees are still a better team with Sanchez behind the plate. Clueless Yankee fans might disagree with that statement claiming Romine is more consistent and the better defensive catcher, but Sanchez’s ability to stop the running game has been missed more than you’d think.

Sanchez’s return will come at the perfect time right out of the break and just a few weeks before August. That’s the month where he has been absolutely unstoppable early in his career with 23 home runs, 47 RBI, and an outstanding .334 batting average. If he’s fully healthy don’t be surprised if Sanchez has another monster August. The numbers may never get to where he wants them to be this season but he still has plenty of time to turn things around and remind everyone why he’s still one of the most dangerous hitters in the game today.

With Torres’ injury, the Yankees have been smart to handle it with caution because they have the depth to replace him and with the All-Star break there was no need to rush him back. Torresbelieves he’s ready to go right now and although the Yankees are eager to have him back he’s too important to their future to risk him reaggravating that hip.

Torres was arguably the Yankees offensive MVP in the first half and is the clear front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year. The DL stint may have been a precautionary measure, but in the long run, it will benefit him and the Yankees from here on out.

The focus needs to be on adding pitching because with a soon to be fully healthy lineup the offense is going to be just fine. They’ll be even better than they were in a first half that has them on track to break multiple single-season slugging records, including the most home runs from any team in history.

The offense can reach new heights and break records in the second half but the goal is still winning the division. And unless the front-office adds another impact pitcher that 4.5 game deficit behind the Red Sox is going to be hard to make up.

However, that’s not to say it can’t be done just by outslugging teams with an offense that’s about to be whole with Sanchez and Torres back in the fold.

14 hours ago  ::  Jul 18, 2018 - 10:18AM #15764
Posts: 27,294

MLB trade rumors: Yankees target J.A. Happ likes pitching in Bronx?

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ doesn't know what's going to happen before the trade deadline.

He also doesn't hate pitching at Yankee Stadium. In fact, it sounds like he really enjoys it.

"That franchise, there's so much behind it," Happ said before Tuesday's 2018 MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park. "So many championships. There's kind of an aura going into Yankee Stadium with all their history. So that's always kind of a been in a lot of visitors minds going into that place. So that kind of makes it fun. You get up for that kind of thing. I've enjoyed pitching there."

Would he want to play for the Yankees some day?

"Sure," he said.

Of course, Happ wasn't talking about right now. Might happen anyway, though.

The Yankees have been among the teams most often connected to Happ, a 35-year-old lefty who will be a free agent before season's end and will almost definitely dealt by Toronto.

The Yankees need starting pitching, with every pitcher behind ace Luis Severino carrying question marks over his health (CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka) or effectiveness (Sonny Gray, Domingo German) or both.

Happ is 10-6 with a 4.29 ERA in 19 starts. The 12-year veteran has seen his strikeout rate rise this season to 10 per nine innings vs. his career average of 7.9. He's also allowing 1.4 home runs a game -- a big worry for a pitcher trying to make his living in bandbox Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees have also been connected to several other starting pitchers, including the Tigers' Michael Fulmer and the Rangers' Cole Hamels.

13 hours ago  ::  Jul 18, 2018 - 10:21AM #15765
Posts: 27,294 | Mark Feinsand: The All-Star game is officially over and Manny Machado is heading to Los Angeles to join the Dodgers. The fun part of the All-Star Game was all the dingers. It all started with Aaron Judge. Judge led off the second inning of the game and showed baseball fans a monster dong. He hit a solo shot off Max Scherzer for the first run of the game. Apparently Justin Verlander called the home run before it happened and even better, Luis Severino caughtthe ball!

SNY | Danny Abriano: Trade season is always one of the most fun times in baseball, especially when you’re favorite team is “buying.” Now that Manny Machado is officially off the list of possibilities, the Yankees can once again focus their efforts on pitching. One of the players the Yankees have been linked to is Mets’ ace, Jacob deGrom. While a trade for him is unlikely, Luis Severino is also on board the deGrom train. The Yankees current ace said it “would be great” if the Yankees were able to land deGrom. Get it done, Cash.

NESN | Ricky DoylePedro Martinez wishes he was his own daddy. Okay maybe not exactly that, but it’s funny to think about that way. Back when he was on the Expos, Martinez supposedly asked them to trade him to the Yankees. Not just on one occasion, but he asked them three different times. Clearly, it never happened and the rest is history, but still a fun little tidbit to know. You know, the Yankees do need a starting pitcher now...

New York Times | Billy Witz: Normally, I would never link to an article like this, but I think some people like to start their days with with laughter, so I present to you this. Apparently, the Yankees should consider offering Aaron Judge, Sonny Gray, and Ronald Torreyes to the Mets to try and pry Jacob deGrom AND Noah Syndergaard from their hands. Go ahead and laugh now. It gets better. The author also thinks a package involving “Domingo GermanLuis Cessa or a prospect like Domingo Acevedo” would have landed them Machado.

1 hour ago  ::  Jul 18, 2018 - 10:25PM #15766
Posts: 27,294

2018 Midseason Review: The Bullpen


As expected, the bullpen has been a strength for the Yankees so far this season. The relief crew actually got off to a bit of a rocky start the first week or two, though things have settled down nicely since, and Aaron Boone now has arguably the best and deepest bullpen in the game at his disposal.

Here are the team’s bullpen ranks 95 games into the season:

  • ERA: 2.69 (first)
  • FIP: 3.01 (second)
  • WHIP: 1.08 (second)
  • Strikeout Rate: 31.6% (first)
  • Shutdowns: 102 (fifth)
  • Meltdowns: 37 (first)
  • WAR: +6.6 (first)

Shutdowns and meltdowns are a neat win probability stat. Shutdowns are relief appearances that increase the team’s win probability least 6%. Meltdowns are relief appearances that decrease the team’s win probability at least 6%. Long story short, the Yankees have had an excellent bullpen this year, and that was the expectation coming into the season. Time to grade the relievers.

Dellin Betances

Midseason Grade: A

Expectations for Betances were pretty low coming into the season. He collapsed down the stretch last year and his control disappeared — Dellin walked eleven batters in his final 12.2 regular season innings — so much so that he was basically persona non grata in the postseason. Use only in an emergency. The Yankees stuck with Betances over the winter when much of the fan base was ready to dump him.

And, coming out of the gate this year, it seemed Betances was still broken. He allowed a homer in his first appearance of the season and Kevin Pillar embarrassed him by stealing his way around the bases in his second appearance. Six appearances into the season, Betances had allowed six runs on ten hits and three walks in 6.2 innings. He allowed three homers in his first 6.2 innings this year after allowing three homers in 59.2 innings last year.

Something funny happened after that: All-Star Dellin Betances returned. The Yankees and Boone said they were going to stick with Betances and get him right, and they did. Since April 14th, Betances has pitched to a 1.56 ERA (1.70 FIP) with lots of strikeouts (44.1%), lots of grounders (48.2%), and a tolerable amount of walks (11.8%) in 34.2 innings. Opponents are hitting .121/.244/.164 against him in those 34.2 innings. The knee-bucklers are back. The swag is back.

With Betances, given his history, it always feels like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. Will this be the outing when he hits a batter and walks three? I get it, and it’s not an unreasonable feeling after last season. For now though, Betances has reclaimed the eighth inning setup role and gone back to being a monster strikeout machine. He could’ve gone to his fifth straight All-Star Game this year but did not. That doesn’t diminish his season performance at all.

Aroldis Chapman

Midseason Grade: A

The first year of Chapman’s reliever record five-year, $86M contract did not go according to plan. He got hurt early in the season and lost his closer’s job at midseason before finding it late and dominating in the postseason. This year, Chapman has come right out of the gate looking like the historically great late-inning reliever he’s been basically his entire career.

Through 95 team games Chapman has a 1.35 ERA (1.49 FIP) with his typically excellent strikeout rate (44.2%) and a strong ground ball rate (46.3%). His 10.4% walk rate is a tick below his 11.3% career average. Chapman is 26-for-27 in save chances and, in the one blown save, he didn’t even get hit around. A single, a hit-by-pitch, and two wild pitches pushed a run across. And the Yankees won that game anyway, so who cares?

We are more than halfway through the season now, so we can say for sure Chapman’s trademark velocity is down a tick. He’s averaging a still otherworldly 99.7 mph with his fastball. That’s down from 100.2 mph last year and 101.1 mph the year before. You have to go back to 2013 for the last time Chapman’s average fastball velocity was this low. We still see a few 103s and 104s, though not nearly as frequently as in the past.

Chapman is 30 years old now and he has been pitching basically his entire life, so a little velocity loss is no surprise. It is completely natural. He’s compensated for that velocity loss — again, the dude is still averaging 99.7 mph with his heater, so it’s not like he’s out there slinging mid-80s gas — with more sinkers and more sliders, especially with two strikes. It has worked wonderfully too.

Amazingly, Chapman has pitched this well despite ongoing tendinitis in his left (push-off) knee. He’s been dealing with it for weeks and he’s admitted he’ll probably have to deal with it all season. Chapman is getting regular treatment and it hasn’t stopped him from taking the mound — the knee did force him to leave a game earlier this month, though that had more to do with not wanting to push it with a four-run lead than “I can’t pitch it hurts too much” — so that’s good.

I’m not a big fan of players — especially very important players — playing through an injury, but what I think doesn’t matter, so Chapman will continue to pitch through the knee trouble. The doctors know better than me anyway. Even with the knee trouble, Chapman is having a truly outstanding season, a season that deservedly sent him to the All-Star Game. He’s been a rock in the ninth inning. Hand him a lead and the game is over.

A.J. Cole

Midseason Grade: A+

Cole is that kid whose family moved in the middle of the school year and the teachers at his new school grade him on a curve. The Yankees acquired Cole from the Nationals in a cash trade on April 24th because they needed a long man, and, as a 26-year-old former top 100 prospect, he offered some upside. Cole was terrible with Washington — he allowed 15 runs and 22 baserunners in 10.1 innings before the trade — but he was a low risk pickup. At worst, he’d soak up some innings in a blowout, then be cast aside for the next guy.

Instead, Cole has become the best long man the Yankees have had in quite some time. Probably since 2013 Adam Warren. He’s allowed one run in 18.2 innings around a minor neck injury, striking out 24 and holding opponents to a .172/.243/.234 batting line against. The Yankees, as they are wont to do, have Cole throwing far more sliders than ever before.

The Yankees have such a good bullpen that they haven’t needed Cole to pitch in high (or even medium) leverage situations. His average leverage index when entering the game is 0.53. That’s nothing. That is 33rd lowest among the 324 relievers with at least ten innings pitched this season. Perhaps there will come a time when Cole can audition for high leverage work. Right now, the Yankees don’t need him in that role. He can be a highly effective long man and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Chad Green

Midseason Grade: B

Two things are true this season. One, Green has been very good overall. Two, Green has not been as good as last season. Two blowups in two appearances prior to the All-Star break left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, though, prior to those last two appearances, Green had a 1.91 ERA (2.39 FIP) in 42.1 innings. He was fantastic and he probably deserved to go to the All-Star Game.

Here is 2017 Chad Green vs. 2018 Chad Green:

2017 69 1.83 1.75 40.7% 6.7% 0.52 37.9%
2018 46 2.74 3.01 31.5% 5.0% 1.17 27.7%

Good numbers overall but also some discouraging trends. Green’s strikeouts are down, he’s not getting as many swings and misses with his trademark fastball, and his home run rate is up. He’s allowed six homers in 46 innings this season after allowing four homers in 69 innings last year, so yeah. That includes two back-breaking homers in his last two appearances of the first half.

I think Green’s step back this season — and by step back, I mean going from elite to merely above-average — has more to do with it being incredibly hard to succeed as a fastball only guy. Green’s slider kinda stinks but his fastball is great in terms of velocity and spin rate. But unless you have Chapman’s velocity, it’s hard to throw fastballs by hitters long-term. Green did it most of the season. Things kinda got away from him those last two outings.

Aside from Chapman, pretty much every reliever in the bullpen has been written off at some point this season. People were ready to move on from Betances, from David Robertson, from Jonathan Holder, so on and so forth. It seems it is now Green’s turn. Fortunately, the Yankees call the shots, not fans, and they’ll stick with Green and work to get him right. And, chances are, he’ll get right soon enough. No, Green has not been as good as last year. But he’s still been very good overall, and I see those last two outings as more of a bump in the road than anything.

Jonathan Holder

Midseason Grade: A

Another reliever who gets an A. Fourth in five reviews so far. Holder was in the Opening Day bullpen as basically the last guy on the roster, though he quickly earned a demotion to Triple-A after allowing seven runs and eight baserunners in his first 2.2 innings of the season. That includes taking the loss in a frustrating 14-inning game against the Orioles on April 6th.

Holder went to Triple-A, resurfaced in late April after Adam Warren went down with a lat issue, and since then he’s been out of this world good. He’s thrown 36.1 innings with a 0.50 ERA (1.99 FIP) since returning, with a good strikeout rate (22.4%) and an excellent walk rate (3.7%). It felt like he “arrived” on June 18th, when he inherited runners on the corners with no outs and a one-run lead against the Nationals, and didn’t allow a run to score.

Holder’s newfound success comes after a change in his pitch mix. He went to Triple-A, scrapped his high-spin curveball, and came back as a fastball/slider/changeup pitcher. He’s always had the slider and changeup, but they took a backseat to the curveball. Now the curveball is taking a backseat to the slider, which he uses against righties, and the changeup, which he uses against lefties.

Goodbye curveball (and cutter), hello slider and changeup. That adjustment has helped Holder make the jump from up-and-down depth arm to reliable middle reliever. In fact, on most other teams, I reckon Holder would be pitching in a traditional setup role by now. But because the Yankees are so deep in quality relievers, Boone is able to use Holder in the middle innings, when the starter bows out early and it’s a little too early to go to Betances and Green. Holder has been invaluable in that role.

Tommy Kahnle

Midseason Grade: F

Tough, but fair. Expectations were high for Kahnle coming into the season because he was so good last year and so effective in the postseason. Instead, Kahnle has been injured and ineffective this year. He’s allowed eleven runs and 16 baserunners in nine big league innings around a biceps/shoulder injury, and, worst of all, he’s walked as many batters as he’s struck out. Ten apiece. Ouch.

The Yankees sent Kahnle to Triple-A in early June — he essentially lost his middle innings job to Holder — and, with Triple-A Scranton, he owns a 2.81 ERA (2.32 FIP) with 37.6% strikeouts and 10.6% walks in 16 innings. That’s good. Certainly better than what he did in his limited big league time this year. So it’s not like Kahnle has suddenly forgotten how to pitch, you know?

The big issue this year is fastball velocity. Kahnle’s heater averaged 98.1 mph last year and 97.0 mph the year before. This season it was down to 95.6 mph. The fastest pitch he threw with the Yankees this year checked in at 97.6 mph. That’s still below last year’s average fastball velocity. Minor league velocity reports can be unreliable, though they have Kahnle sitting 95-96 mph with the RailRiders.

On one hand, 95-96 mph is plenty good enough to get outs at the big league level. Holder’s fastball is averaging only 93.2 mph this season, for example. On the other hand, Kahnle is not exactly blessed with great command. He’s a pure grip it and rip it pitcher, and hey, that works too. Worked great for him last year. But Kahnle at 95-96 mph is a different animal than Kahnle at 98-99 mph. Especially since the velocity on his changeup is unchanged. The velocity gap between the two pitches is smaller and that makes both of them less effective.

Kahnle has been down in the minors long enough to delay his free agency, which I guess is good for the Yankees. I suspect they’d happily trade that extra year of control for a healthy and effective Kahnle at the big league level though. He was part of that big trade last season with the idea that he’d be a long-term bullpen piece. Instead, Kahnle has been a non-factor this season, and it’s unclear whether he’ll regain last year’s effectiveness at some point.

David Robertson

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Midseason Grade: B+

Ho hum, another typically strong David Robertson season. He’s basically the CC Sabathia of the bullpen at this point. Still very effective, still lots of folks seemingly ready to call him done any time he stumbles. Robertson had a rough patch in May but has otherwise been very good this season, pitching to a 3.09 ERA (2.47 FIP) with strikeout (30.5%) and walk (8.1%) rates right in line with his career norms. He is the same guy he’s always been.

Betances’ reemergence and Green’s overall effectiveness has allowed Boone to use Robertson in all sorts of situations. He’s brought him into the middle of an inning to escape a jam, used him as a seventh and eighth inning guy, and Robertson has even gone 2-for-2 in save chances on days Chapman was unavailable. Robertson has made 43 appearances this season. Here’s when he’s entered the game:

  • Sixth Inning: 4 times
  • Seventh Inning: 13 times
  • Eighth Inning: 17 times
  • Ninth Inning: 5 times
  • Extra Innings: 4 times

That is a man who is not married to a specific inning. Robertson was out of this world good after rejoining the Yankees last season — he allowed four runs in 35 innings after the trade — and he was great in the postseason. He hasn’t been quite that good this year, but he’s been very good overall. As good as he is, I still get the feeling Robertson is underappreciated. He’s a hell of a reliever.

Chasen Shreve

Midseason Grade: D

I suppose you could argue Shreve is meeting expectations. He owns a 4.54 ERA (5.22 FIP) with 28.8% strikeouts and 11.1% walks in 33.2 innings this season. From 2016-17, he pitched to a 4.37 ERA (5.06 FIP) with 26.8% strikeouts and 11.2% walks in 78.1 innings. Shreve is the same guy right now that he’s been the last two years. Unfortunately, that makes him a replacement level reliever.

As the very last guy in the bullpen — and that’s what I think he is at this point, I think Cole has jumped him in the pecking order — Shreve is okay. He’s someone who takes a beating in blowout games, basically. The problem isn’t Shreve, really. It’s that Boone keeps using him in somewhat leveraged left-on-left matchup situations even though Shreve isn’t good against lefties. They’re hitting .239/.364/.556 (.386 wOBA) against him this year. Yuck.

The Yankees clearly like Shreve. He wouldn’t have stuck on the roster this long otherwise. And I get it. He’s a just turned 28-year-old southpaw with a history of missing bats. Guys like that are hard to find. If another team had Shreve and they designated him for assignment, I’d look at him as a potential reclamation project pickup. If Boone stops using Shreve as a left-on-left guy and starts using him as a mop-up man, he’ll be fine. It’d be fine. Just fine.

Adam Warren

Midseason Grade: B

Once again, Warren has been a boringly reliable Swiss Army Knife reliever this season. He did miss more than six weeks with a lat strain, which drags down his midseason grade, otherwise the guy has thrown 24.1 innings with a 1.85 ERA (2.94 FIP) and very good strikeout (28.4%) and walk (8.8%) rates. And he is what, the sixth best reliever in the bullpen? Yeah, that’ll play.

I get the sense Warren will take on increased responsibility in the second half. The injury threw a wrench into things in the first half and it seems Boone is still trying to figure out when exactly to use him. In the second half though, I think Warren will be used for more multi-inning stints in the middle of the game as the Yankees look to control Luis Severino’s workload and also try to shorten games by not letting their starter go through the lineup a third time.

Either way, Warren has again been a reliable bullpen arm who flies under the radar because the Yankees have so many good relievers. Missing all that time with the lat injury stinks, but you know what? It gave Holder an opportunity to emerge, and the Yankees are a better team now because of it. In that sense, Warren’s injury turned out to be a good thing. Now he’s healthy and again an effective do it all bullpen option.

1 hour ago  ::  Jul 18, 2018 - 10:28PM #15767
Posts: 27,294

2018 Midseason Review: The Rotation

Tanaka and Severino. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

It is kind of incredible how good the Yankees rotation has been despite a laundry list of injuries (spoiler alert: three of the starting pitchers discussed below are or were on the disabled list) and the usual off-season/pre-season question marks. They rank:

  • 5th in GB%
  • 5th in soft contact percentage
  • 6th in fWAR
  • 6th in park-adjusted FIP
  • 11th in K%
  • 12th in BB%
  • 12th in park-adjusted ERA

It’s not an elite group, to be sure – but it’s nonetheless a strength when a pitching staff is average across the board. And it’s especially nice to see for a team that purportedly tried and failed to improve throughout the off-season, and remains ever-vigilant as the trade deadline approaches.

Let’s take a look at how the individual parts measure-up.

Domingo German

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Midseason Grade: D

It would be easy to look at German’s numbers as a starter and settle on an ‘F’ for his grade. There are several ugly peripherals in those 63.1 IP, including a 5.97 ERA (6th worst among starters with at least 60 IP), 4.58 FIP, and 1.71 HR/9, and he has failed to make it out of the fifth in three of his last four starts. That’s not great, Bob.

But we’re grading relative to expectations here, and I don’t think the expectations for the team’s 6th or 7th starter were all that high. Moreover, there are a lot of positives hidden in German’s season, too. His 26.6% strikeout rate is well above-average, his 8.4% walk rate is right around average, and his 41.7% groundball rate is right there, too. He’s also authored five quality starts (in twelve chances), and had another two that were just shy of that not-so-lofty standard.

Does that make up for his five starts that ranged from “bad” to “awful?” Not at all. But I do think that the combination of his slot on the depth chart, strong peripherals, and fifty-fifty shot of giving the team an adequate outing brings him above the standard of a failure.

Going forward, there are two things to pay attention to with German. The first is simple: his velocity.

He has lost about 2 MPH off of his fastball from the beginning of the season, which isn’t too shocking as he spent the first month in the bullpen. At the same time, though, he’s lost just over 1 MPH since he first joined the rotation on May 6 – and fastball velocity tends to increase as the season goes on and the weather warms up. It’s not necessarily a concern at this point, but it’s there.

The other is German’s pitch use in general. Fastballs (his four-seamer and sinker) represented 40.6% of his offerings in May, 47.6% in June, and 55.9% so far in July. With his velocity backing up a bit and three of his last four starts being bad, German’s pitch selection may well be an issue.

Sonny Gray

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Midseason Grade: F

I was excited when the Yankees swung their deal for Gray last July, as a long-term believer in his approach, stuff, and resume. And I was certain that he was going to come into 2018 looking more like the pitcher that they dealt for (that is, the guy we saw with the A’s in the first-half) than the nibbler that the Yankees received. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, and Gray is sitting on a 5.46 ERA (88th out of 92 pitchers with 90-plus IP).

There really isn’t a positive way to spin Gray’s season to-date, either. He has seven quality starts in eighteen outings, and has failed to make it out of the fifth seven times. He’s allowed four-plus runs eight times, and he’s just barely averaging 5 IP per start – both of which make him a larger drain on the bullpen than the other starters. Gray may not be the worst starter in the league right now, but he’s fairly close when you focus on pitchers who have been in the rotation the entire season.

If I had to hazard a guess at the cause of this, I would focus on his pitch selection. Or, perhaps more accurately, the anti-fastball approach of the Yankees in general.

Gray is throwing fewer four-seamers than ever before, and more curves and sliders. From 2014 through 2017, he averaged about 35% four-seamers and 30% breaking balls; in 2018, those numbers are 26.7% and 39%, respectively. That’s a fairly drastic change of approach, and that sequencing could undoubtedly cause issues.

At least he ended the first-half on a high note.

Jonathan Loaisiga

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Midseason Grade: Incomplete

Loaisiga is one of the better stories of the Yankees season, having made his way back from multiple injuries to dominate four levels of the minors between 2017 and 2018, and making the jump from Double-A to the majors in mid-June. He has alternated good starts with bad so far, but the sum of his parts has been fantastic – he has a 28.4% strikeout rate, 60.0% groundball rate, 3.00 ERA, and 2.87 FIP. It’s only eighteen innings, but it’s encouraging. And, when you see the way his pitches move, it’s not surprising that folk haven’t been able to hit him with authority just yet. Just look at that change-up:

It was short-lived, though, as he had to have a cortisone shot in his shoulder, and is currently shut-down. We knew that he was on some manner of innings limit, considering that he didn’t pitch at all in 2014 or 2015 due to injuries, and tossed a combined 35.0 IP between 2016 and 2017 around Tommy John surgery – but seeing him go down with shoulder inflammation isn’t what you want.

Jordan Montgomery


Midseason Grade: Incomplete

The Yankees were only able to enjoy six starts from Montgomery this year, as the 25-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in June. Those six starts were 27.1 innings of 3.62 ERA ball, which is quite good … but that’s all that they’ll get from him until sometime next Summer.

If you’re looking for some semblance of a silver lining here, it is worth noting that Montgomery had no prior injury history of note, and they didn’t play the waiting game with rest and rehabilitation. Surgery isn’t great, to be sure, but if it’s a necessity, sooner is better than later.

CC Sabathia

(Al Bello/Getty)

Midseason Grade: A

Is an ‘A’ somewhat aggressive here? Maybe. But it’s difficult to be anything other than impressed by how successful Sabathia’s reinvention has been. His 3.51 ERA is his lowest since 2012, and he has held the opposition to three or fewer runs in 66% of his starts. With the exception of Luis Severino, no Yankees starter has kept the team in a better position to win than Sabathia.

Are there issues with Sabathia’s season? Sure. He spent two weeks on the disabled list in April, and he’s routinely shelled when he has to turn the lineup over for a third time (when opposing batters hit .359/.404/.644) – but his overall numbers speak for themselves. As does his pitch selection:

Sabathia has all but eliminated his four-seamer at this point in his career, and he’s also throwing his sinker far less often this season. As per Brooks Baseball, there have been eleven starts in which Sabathia hasn’t used a single four-seamer, including his last four outings. Cutters and sliders make up more than 70% of his offerings, and that mix was worked wonders thus far.

The All-Star break was well-timed for the soon to be 38-year-old, as he has scuffled in his last two starts. He’ll have nine days of rest by the time he gets the call, and he has thrived on extra rest this year, posting a 1.59 ERA in his six starts with six-plus days of rest. At his age, it would make sense for the Yankees to continue to give him as much extra rest as possible; whether or not they’re able to is the question.

Luis Severino

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Midseason Grade: A+

I’m going to present a series of MLB rankings for Severino, as I think that illustrates the greatness of his season better than any narrative can. He ranks:

  • 4th in ERA+
  • 5th in bWAR
  • 5th in FIP
  • 7th in fWAR
  • 7th in ERA
  • 7th in IP
  • 9th in WHIP
  • 10th in strikeouts
  • 10th in K-BB%
  • 11th in K%

In addition to those lofty placements, he has also completed at least five innings in all twenty starts, and has only allowed more than three runs twice. He’s a bona fide ace, through and through.

Severino did stumble into the break a bit, allowing 7 runs in his last two starts of the half, so he’ll almost certainly appreciate the extra rest afforded by the break. His next start isn’t until July 23, so he’ll have had ten days of rest (not including the All-Star game) when he takes the mound.

Masahiro Tanaka

(Jason Miller/Getty)

Midseason Grade: D

Last year was by far the worst of Tanaka’s short career, but it can be split up into manageable sample sizes. His ERA sat at 6.34 on Father’s Day last year, and fans were beginning to loudly wonder if the team would be better off with Tanaka opting out. And then a switch went on, and he was great the rest of the way. From June 23 through the end of the season, Tanaka pitched to a 3.54 ERA in 101.2 IP, with very good peripherals. That success carried over into the playoffs (and then some), as he posted a microscopic 0.90 ERA in 20 IP.

And then the calendar flipped to 2018, and the wheels fell right back off.

In addition to his 4.54 ERA (which is a tick below-average, translating into a 95 ERA+), Tanaka has bottomed-out in walk, ground ball, and home run rates, posting career-worsts across the board. His 4.90 FIP is the worst of his career, too. Now, to be fair, he’s not as bad as he was in the first half of 2017 – so there’s that.

The problem with Tanaka is easily identified – his propensity for home runs. He’s allowing more fly balls than ever this year, which means he’s allowing gopher balls at a career-worst pace of 1.94 per 9 innings. That’s the fifth-worst home run rate in the game, and that’s why he’s allowed 18 bombs in just 83.1 IP. And, for the sake of comparison, every pitcher that has allowed more has also thrown at least 18 additional innings.

One interesting note: Tanaka’s improvements last year seemingly coincided with more splitters and sliders, and sinkers being traded out in favor of four-seamers. That trend has continued to the extreme this season:

Could that have something to do with his gopheritis? Perhaps.

I was almost inclined to go with an ‘F’ for all of this, but Tanaka has at least given the Yankees some length in his starts, and he’s a league-average-ish starter. That’s not what you want from a pitcher on his contract, but he hasn’t been a straight-up dud like Gray.

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