On this 27th day of April in the year of our Lord 4977 B.C., the universe is created, according to German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler, considered a founder of modern science. Kepler is best known for his theories explaining the motion of planets. Sounds about right according to the Bible. Not that I ever thought God would have had it wrong.Born April 271791 Samuel Morse, inventor (telegraph, Morse code) and painter, Charlestown, MA – Excellent invention! Or should I write ( . -..- -.-. . .-.. .-.. . -. - / .. -. ...- . -. - .. --- -.)1822 Ulysses S. Grant, 18th US president (1869-77) and Union general, Point Pleasant, OH – “I know only two tunes: one of them is 'Yankee Doodle', and the other one isn't.”1835 John Murray Corse, Pitts, Bvt Mjr General (Union volunteers) 1840 Edward Whymper, 1st to climb Matterhorn (1865) 1896 Rogers Hornsby, 2nd baseman (St Louis Cards) – HOF (lifetime BA .358)1902 Kitty Kelly, actress (Ladies of the Jury, Behind Office Doors), NYC1916 Enos Slaughter, Outfielder (Cardinals, Yankees, Athletics, Braves) – HOF 1922 Jack Klugman, Philadelphia (Oscar-Odd Couple, Quincy, Goodbye Columbus) – big fan of Odd Couple and Quincy1927 Connie Kay, jazz drummer (Modern Jazz Quartet), Tuckahoe, NY1927 Coretta Scott King, activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr., Heiberger, AL – dedicated lady1932 Casey Kasem, radio personality (American Top 40), Detroit, MI 1932 Chuck Knox, NFL coach (Rams, Bills, Seahawks) – legendary coach1939 Judy Carne, English comedienne (Laugh-In, Love on a Rooftop) – sock it to me1939 Jerry Mercer, rock drummer (April Wine), Montreal, Quebec1944 Cuba Gooding, US singer (Everybody Plays the Fool) – just passed1948 Katie Pierson, NJ, vocals/guitarist (B-52's-Rock Lobster, Love Shack) – incredible hair1951 Ace Frehley, heavy metal rocker (Kiss-Beth, Frehley's Comet), Bronx, NY - ehhh1952 George Gervin, basketball player, Detroit, MI – NBA legend1959 Sheena Easton, [Shirley Orr], singer (Sugar Walls), Glasgow, Scotland – Crush 1975 Chris Carpenter, baseball player (Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals), Exeter, NH1977 Jerry Trainor, actor (Drake & Josh, iCarly), San Diego, CA – funny fellow
John 3:16 * Ephesians 2:8-9 * Romans 10:9-10 * John 14:3-6 * Romans 5:8
On Thursday, the Yankees get their first crack at Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale. However, there’s a fair amount of familiarity between Sale and the Yankees.
If you’re not familiar with the numbers, they’re gaudy, to say the least. In 53 1/3 innings against the Yankees, Sale has surrendered just 32 hits, 12 walks and 4 HBPs while striking out 61 batters and allowing just 13 runs (seven earned). That’s good for a 1.17 ERA and a WHIP of .820. Sale has the lowest ERA of any pitcher in MLB history with at least 50 innings against the Yankees (h/t to Katie).
Unfortunately for the Yankees and their fans, Sale is going to be tacking on a lot more innings to that total over the next three years. With team options, the Red Sox have Sale under contract through 2019 and there’s nothing saying they couldn’t bring him back on a longer contract when that’s up. We’re talking about a pitcher with five All-Star appearances in the five seasons he’s been a starter, and he hasn’t finished lower than sixth in the Cy Young voting. That’s a keeper.
So what does this mean for the Yankees? What can the Bombers do to counteract the way-too-early favorite for AL Cy Young? Here are a few things to know about facing Sale.
1. Lefties are practically useless against him: Sale is a beast but especially vs. lefties. He’s given up 114 home runs in his career and just eight were hit by left-handed batters. While RHBs have a .228/.283/.370 line against him, lefties are far worse at .202/.258/.268. No power and no average.
In his seven starts against the Yankees, Sale has faced few lefties. The Yankees started three against him in 2012 and in the six starts since, haven’t started more than two. Typically, it’s been the lefties you don’t take out of the lineup, the Robinson Canos of the world. You have to try and load up on the platoon advantage to neutralize Sale because his size and motion are so difficult to pick up for a LHB.
This is why you acquire Chris Carter and Matt Holliday. Not just for Sale of course. For any tough lefty. Sale, David Price, etc. Having a veteran with some savvy in the middle of the order can counteract Sale … as much as you truly can counteract Sale. When Sale took the mound vs. NYY last May, it led to a distinctive lineup with Aaron Hicks leading off, Brett Gardner batting seventh and no Jacoby Ellsbury. Sale threw a complete game, but the point still stands. Maximize your potential by platooning like crazy. You may see a lineup that goes something like this.
1. Aaron Hicks, CF 2. Chase Headley, 3B 3. Matt Holliday, DH 4. Starlin Castro, 2B 5. Aaron Judge, RF 6. Chris Carter, 1B 7. Brett Gardner, LF 8. Austin Romine, C 9. Ronald Torreyes, SS
You have to sit one of Gardner or Ellsbury for Hicks here and moving the one lefty outfielder down the card makes sense, too. Last season’s lineup shows Joe Girardi is willing to do just that. He’s done some interesting things like put Yangervis Solarte in the five-hole as well. The lineups this season with Ellsbury batting fourth and so on have looked pretty peculiar, so Thursday’s lineup may just blend in.
2. Headley is key to hitting Sale: Headley has been much maligned at times during his stint in pinstripes, but boy can he hit Sale. He has the third highest OPS off Sale of any batter with at least 10 plate appearances. In 14 PAs vs. the 6-foot-5 southpaw, Headley is 5-for-13 with two home runs, a double and a walk.
Girardi has put Headley near the top of the lineup card with Sale on the mound, both in 2015 and 2016. His first homer off Sale came back in 2014 during an interleague series between the White Sox and Padres.
The point being, Headley is really important here. I’m not sure I expected to be saying that, but here we are. Headley has similar numbers off the person I would say is Sale’s most logical current comparable, Madison Bumgarner. He has three home runs and 10 hits in 36 at-bats off Mad Bum. Go figure.
Only three other Yankees have multiple hits off Sale: Carter, Castro and Hicks. Hicks is 4-for-12 with a double, Carter is 2-for-13 with a double and a homer, and Castro is 2-for-11. Unsurprisingly, Carter has struck out seven times vs. Sale. Ellsbury and Gardner are a combined 1-for-16 with two walks, a hit-by-pitch and nine strikeouts. Welp.
3. Time for the Baby Bombers: I’m unsure if the Yankees were trying to be cruel last May, but they had Gary Sanchez make his first MLB start as the DH facing Sale. You will no doubt be shocked to learn he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
However, this is where having a few young, dynamic, right-handed bats comes in handy. Sanchez may be hurt right now, but he’ll get more opportunities off Sale during the next few seasons. Sanchez, Judge and even Clint Frazier or Gleyber Torres can give the Yankees an element few teams have vs. Sale: An all-righty top of the lineup that can withstand him. They’ll surely have some troubles off him like Sanchez last May, but they’re NYY’s best shot. These guys will get plenty familiar with Sale over the next few years.
As for Greg Bird, it makes sense to bench him for Carter in terms of trying to win that day’s game. However, starting Bird vs. Sale would be interesting for the long-term. Giving him some at-bats against him now could give Bird a chance against him in future meetings, plus Bird has hit lefties well in his early MLB career.
4. If he wasn’t on the Red Sox/facing the Yankees, Sale would be a lot of fun to watch: Sale’s mesmerizing. His herky-jerky motion is not something you’d teach any kid and that may be part of what makes it so effective. It’s different and it’s been nearly impossible to hit. He’s a consistent Cy Young contender for a reason and despite a motion many in baseball would label a concern, he’s remained pretty healthy, making at least 29 starts in four of the last five seasons.
And he’s quite simply fun to watch. He strikes out guys with ease, averaging 227 strikeouts a year since he moved into the rotation. How many pitchers do you see make hitters look like this?
Or make Sanchez look like this?
The Yankees are going to have to contend with Sale for a while and we may as well enjoy the ride. Pedro Martinez had some dazzling performances against the Yankees in the late 90s/early 2000s and beating him was a joyous occasion. It’d be nice to have a pitcher-against-the-Yankees rivalry like that going again and Sale is a prime candidate to make that happen. And even when he inevitably adds a win or two to his record vs. the Bombers, you’ll still be able to see one of the best of this generation take the mound.
New York Yankees: The Fix That Brought Luis Severino Back
Off to a tremendous start to 2017, ESNY digs into why New York Yankees young starter Luis Severino is experiencing progress.
New York Yankees 23-year-old right-hander Luis Severino entered the season faced with all the questions in the world and over his last three starts of the 2017 season, he is answering them with authority.
Following a poor start against the Baltimore Orioles on April 7, the right-hander has turned in three consecutive quality starts which include 22 innings, 27 strikeouts, three walks and an ERA of 2.05 against the Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox.
Additionally, he has surrendered just 11 hits out of the last 79 batters he has faced (.145 BAA) and after holding the Red Sox to zero runs on Wednesday, posted his third straight start in which he has allowed three runs or less — the first time since Sep. 16 to Oct. 3, 2015.
But what happened? We’re talking about a young starter coming off a season in which he went 0-8 with an 8.50 ERA in 11 starts and seemed as though he was destined for a late-inning bullpen role rather than becoming the “future ace” fans presumed him to be after a stellar rookie season.
There were a ton of glaring issues we all saw heading into the offseason and the main issue was the command of his fastball.
In 2016, opposing hitters maintained a batting average of .302 off Severino’s fastball and among starting pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched last season, Severino’s BABIP against of .378 was the third-highest in the sport. Not only was he throwing it a predictable 56.20 percent of the time (per Brooks Baseball), but he left it up and over the middle of the plate:
With the fastball consistently painted over the middle of the plate and up in the zone more than half of the time a pitch came out of his right hand, there’s truly no surprise that batters posted a .528 slugging percentage against off the pitch. Severino had success with the changeup (.394 SLG) and slider (.364 SLG), but the flaming fastball just wasn’t getting the job done.
Here in 2017, that’s a completely different story.
Through four starts, batters are hitting just .267 off of the pitch, which averages 96.7 mph (second-fastest average behind Noah Syndergaard), and are posting a line drives per BIP rate of 19.44. In comparison, the line drive rate was 32.23 last year and 30.67 the year before. Severino’s fastball has never been this dominant.
Furthermore, the location has been impeccable. Take another quick look at the graphic above from last season and then take a peek at his fastball’s zone profile here in 2017:
It’s not night and day, but Severino is using his cannon to paint corners and locate it much better than in his abysmal campaign a year ago.
As a result, his whiff rate on the pitch has jumped from 21.81 percent to 26.37 and most importantly, he is giving the Yankees quality starts with the second-best strikeout-to-walk-ratio in the major leagues (8.25).
There is one aspect of his game that needs improvement, however, and that’s an increased use of his new and improved changeup thanks to Hall Of Famer Pedro Martinez.
Against the changeup this season, opposing hitters own a batting average of .000 with a line drive rate (16.67) nearly 10 percent lower than his rate from 2016 (25), per Brooks Baseball. Despite this, he has thrown the pitch just 36 times so far (9.02 percent of the time).
Now, it’s very early in the season. As one of my followers on Twitter pointed out, that whole nine percent thing can change in a quick start. However, if he trusted the pitch more and mingles it into his arsenal more — something he failed to do in 2016 — Severino can take his game to a new level. Not saying that usage will continue and that he’ll never pull it out more, but it’s something to keep an eye out for as the season progresses.
In the end, you have to love what you’re seeing from the 23-year-old. Coming off a dismal year with a lot of concern, it’s nice to resort to nit-picking rather than scratching our heads looking for a solution to the problem.
Fastball command is back and dirtier than ever, his slider is working, as usual, the changeup is in his back pocket ready to be employed more consistently and the kid is building a ton of confidence. If Luis Severino continues to mature and improve, the sky is the limit.
Didi Gregorius’ return presents a Yankees lineup test for Girardi
Didi Gregorius, who played for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, is likely to play for the Yankees on Friday. Getty Images
BOSTON — When Didi Gregorius is activated from the disabled list Friday night, Joe Girardi will try and figure out where the left-handed hitting shortstop fits best into the Yankees’ lineup.
“I don’t know. I started going over it with some guys and I am going to have a flight and all day [Friday] morning to think about it,’’ Girardi said of adding Gregorius into the lineup against Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman.
Since Gregorius developed into a run producer last season when he hit .276 with 20 homers and 70 RBIs, he isn’t going to hit in the lower third of the order.
“I am going to have to make an adjustment now that Didi is coming back because you figure he is going to hit somewhere in the middle area,’’ Girardi said befor the Yankees’ 3-0 victory over the Red Sox on Thursday night at Fenway Park. “I am going to have to figure that out and how to separate the lefties.’’
When spring training opened, Gary Sanchez and Gregorius were healthy and that led to speculation Jacoby Ellsbury could be dropped to seventh. However, Ellsbury has hit first, second, fourth and fifth so far and is hitting .301 (22-for-73).
Gary SanchezBill Kostroun
One option for Girardi is to use Ellsbury in the leadoff spot and drop the ice-cold Brett Gardner (2-for-23) down to the lower third of the order. Gardner was on the bench Thursday when the Yankees faced Red Sox lefty Chris Sale with a .186 (11-for-59) average and Ellsbury led off.
When Sanchez returns from a right biceps injury, Girardi will have to adjust the lineup again.
Sanchez is scheduled to start a minor league rehab assignment Tuesday. It most likely will be for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but foul weather could change the location.
“He will catch a little bit and DH some,’’ general manager Brian Cashman said of Sanchez, who last played April 8 when he injured the biceps area swinging a bat.
Thursday was the first time since the injury Sanchez took batting practice on the field.
“I am happy to be able to hit outside. It’s a different feel than in the cage,’’ said Sanchez, who explained how he feels following the first game will determine how many rehab games he needs. I don’t think I need many games, but we’ll see how I feel. Physically I feel great, just a little bit out of rhythm, but that’s normal.’’
Sanchez still has to throw to bases and likely will do that Saturday or Sunday.
Masahiro Tanaka needed just 97 pitches to beat the Red Sox on Thursday night. That is the fewest by a Yankee in a nine-inning, complete-game outing since Chien-Ming Wang threw 93 against the Red Sox on April 11, 2008 at Fenway Park.
The Yankees improved to 13-7 and though they certainly will welcome Gregorius and Sanchez back, shortstop Ronald Torreyes and catcher Austin Romine have been capable replacements.
“They have done everything and then some,’’ Cashman said of the duo. “Anything you hoped any reserve would provide.’’
Torreyes had two hits off Sale Thursday and is hitting .308 (20-for-65) with 13 RBIs. Romine is at .273 and getting high praise from the pitching staff and Girardi for his game-calling and defensive prowess.
The plan for Torreyes with Gregorius back is for him to play short, second and third. And Girardi said he wouldn’t hesitate to use the 5-foot-8, 150-pounder in the outfield.
Infielder Pete Kozma is the prohibitive favorite to be designated for assignment to make room for Gregorius.
Girardi, Cashman and pitching coach Larry Rothschild repeated what Aroldis Chapman said following a shaky ninth inning Wednesday night: that the closer was OK.
After recording the final out of a 3-1 victory television cameras caught Chapman pointing to his left elbow. That and just one of his 33 pitches reached 100 mph and he gave up a run, a hit and two walks led to questions about Chapman’s health.
“He is healthy. At times you don’t have your best stuff,’’ Cashman said.
Despite throwing 33 pitches in one inning Girardi said he would not have shied away from using Chapman Thursday night if he had been needed.
“I think if his workload was heavier we would be more worried about it,’’ Girardi said.
According to Girardi, Aaron Judge was “a little sore’’ after crashing into and over the wall in foul territory Wednesday night when he made a sensational catch.
“He said he is ready to go and he is fine,’’ said Girardi, who explained Judge didn’t require any tests. Judge went 0-for-3 and was hit by a Sale pitch.
Dan asks: Aaron Judge‘s power tool was never higher than 60 on MLB.com. Do you think its that low? Also, do you think that with Judges Drago-esque strength, that as long as he maintains average contact rates, that he can hit 25 to 30 plus home runs?
I’ll answer the second question first: yes, definitely. Judge is more than capable of hitting 25+ or even 30+ home runs at his peak. That’s what he was projected to do as a prospect and we’re seeing him on that pace now. As for the first question, raw power and game power are different things, and I believe MLB.com ranks game power. Judge’s raw power, which is simply the ability to hit the ball hard and far, is clearly an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Anyone who can hit the ball on top of the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar in center field in batting practice on the regular has 80 raw power.
Game power is different. Someone like, say, Hunter Renfroe may have 70 raw power, but because he struggles to make contact and isn’t very disciplined at the plate, it plays more like 50 power. That’s game power. The ability to use that raw power in games. When he was coming up, putting a 60 on Judge’s game power seemed reasonable to me. He is so huge and there were legitimate questions about his ability to control the strike zone against MLB caliber pitching. 80 game power is rare, but I’m sure you could find some scouts willing to drop a 70 game power on Judge right now.
Joe asks: Is Starlin Castro walking at a higher rate than usual? What was his walk total through this point in the season in years past? Could be a maturing approach?
Eh, yes and no. Castro drew two walks in the first 13 games of the season, then drew three in the next four, so I think there might be some recency bias at play here. Going into last night’s game Castro had a 6.3% walk rate, which is below the 8.7% league average and up from his 3.9% walk rate last year. His swing rate on pitches out of the zone sits at 37.1%, which is basically identical to last year (37.5%). Starlin’s career walk rate is 4.8% and my guess is when the season ends, he’ll be somewhere in that neighborhood again.
Dylan asks: Can Carter be optioned to AAA? Would that make sense? If they did that who would they call up — Refsnyder? Is there precedent for a FA signing (that got some real money like Carter) being sent down?
Chris Carter is out of options, meaning he can’t go to the minors without first passing through waivers. More importantly, he now has five full years of service time, allowing him to refuse any assignment to the minor leagues. So the answer is: no, Carter can’t be sent down. He’d refuse the assignment. I’m not sure who the Yankees would call up anyway. Rob Refsnyder is the only real alternative and the only thing he offers over Carter is versatility. Meh.
There is no real precedent for sending a free agent signing to the minors because of that five-year rule. They all refuse the assignment because the minors stink. A few years ago the Yankees asked Jason Giambi to go to Triple-A for a bit when he was struggling, but he declined. We’ve seen plenty of veteran players come from overseas and get sent to the minors (Kei Igawa, Yasiel Puig, Rusney Castillo, Byung-Ho Park, etc.), but not many true MLB free agents. By time they hit free agency, they have enough service time to refuse a Triple-A stint regardless of their options status.
Richard asks (short version): Now that CC is successfully reinventing himself by adding an effective cutter, I was thinking, why didn’t he do this when he still had his dominant velocity? Why don’t pitchers in general SERIOUSLY consider adding or refining another pitch while they’re young?
Adding a pitch is hard! And if you’re peak CC Sabathia, a perennial Cy Young contender and 200+ inning workhorse dominating hitters with a fastball/slider/changeup mix, why risk getting beat on some crummy fourth pitch you’re tinkering with on the side? Pitchers mess around with grips and different pitches all the time. In Spring Training, when they throw on the side during the season, whenever. They don’t take those pitches into games because they aren’t comfortable throwing them in a competitive environment. Sabathia added the cutter once it became clear what he was doing before wasn’t going to work, and that’s a credit to him, because many pitchers later in their career can’t add another pitch and find success.
Dan asks: If Bird continues to struggle, and Tyler Austin is healthy, at what point do the Yankees option Bird and give Austin a shot?
We haven’t gotten an update on Austin in a month now, which doesn’t necessarily means his rehab has been slowed. It just means we haven’t heard anything. (The Yankees are fairly tight-lipped with injuries.) Based on the timetable provided at the time of his injury, Austin should start doing baseball related stuff fairly soon, if he hasn’t already. Then he has to go through minor league rehab games and all that. And because he got hurt so early in camp, Austin basically has to go through Spring Training. Point is, he’s not particularly close to returning.
Since Austin is at least a few weeks away, Greg Bird doesn’t have to worry about him coming to take his job yet. If Bird is still struggling when Austin is healthy, yes, the Yankees will have to consider making a change at first base. At that point we’ll be in May and Bird will be over 100 plate appearances. If he’s still not hitting then, that’s a real problem and the Yankees will have to consider alternatives, including Austin. Let’s see where Bird is once Austin is actually healthy and on the field with a few minor league games under his belt.
Brent asks: Donny Sands, is he a failed third basemen converted catcher or because we have a surplus of infielders they tried to add depth in other areas? Also, he seems to have struggled a bit with PB and people running all over him, not knocking him for it it’s a tough transition and hasn’t been too bad considering. How long is his leash as a catcher before they move him back to third or another position?
Failed third basemen don’t go behind the plate. They go to first base or maybe the corner outfield. The Yankees put Sands behind the plate because they feel he has the tools and aptitude to handle the position, and that’s where he would be most valuable to them long-term. They made the decision to put Sands behind the plate a while ago, possibly before they even drafted him (eighth round in 2015). It didn’t have anything to do with the infield depth. Catchers are harder to find than infielders, so if you have a kid who looks like he can catch long-term, give it a try. Sands has only been catching full-time since the 2015-16 offseason, so the passed ball issues and all that are due to a lack of experience. Not everyone takes to the position as quickly as Luis Torrens, a converted infielder who looked like he’d been catching his entire life as soon as he got back there.
Jackson asks: Even if the Yankees are contention at the trade deadline, with Washington’s problems in the bullpen, could you see NY trading Betances and/or Clippard for close-to-majors starting pitching in anticipation of next year? If the market for relievers is as tight as last year they could get multiple solid prospects.
I don’t think the market for relievers will be as robust as last year. Last year feels like a bit of an anomaly. If the Yankees do sell at the trade deadline — I think that’s a huge “if” — Dellin Betances would be their top trade chip. Betances or Masahiro Tanaka. Tyler Clippard? Eh. The Yankees got him for a Grade-C prospect last year and I see no reason to expect more at the deadline. He’s getting more home run prone with each passing year and getting outs isn’t quite as easy as it once was for him. I don’t think his trade value is all that high.
My guess is the Nationals end up acquiring David Robertson in a salary dump at some point. It makes too much sense. There’s an obvious need and the White Sox are already familiar with Washington’s farm system after the Adam Eaton trade and Chris Sale trade talks, so things could come together quickly. If the Yankees and Nationals do discuss Betances, I assume the Yankees will again focus on acquiring the best possible talent, not filling specific positions. If that leads them to close to MLB ready pitching, so be it.
P.J. asks: If the Royals become sellers and the Yankees buyers at the trade deadline what do you think of the Yankees going after Lefty SP Jason Vargas as a rental?
Vargas missed most of 2015 and 2016 with Tommy John surgery, and through four starts this season, he has a 1.40 ERA (1.50 FIP) with 28.9% strikeouts and 2.1% walks in 25.2 innings. He’s been phenomenal. We also have about 1,200 innings telling us Vargas is not actually this good, so a crash back to Earth figures to be coming. Vargas had a 3.85 ERA (4.24 FIP) in 554.1 innings from 2012-15, so he was solid for a few years before the elbow gave out. General rule of thumb: don’t pay for outlier performance at the deadline.
The Royals are terrible — they recently scored no more than two runs in eight straight games — and they have a lot of core players set to become free agents after the season, including Vargas. If they’re out of the race in July, GM Dayton Moore will have no choice but to consider selling. A healthy and effective Vargas would be a decent trade chip. Thing is, I don’t think the Yankees will trade prospects for a rental. I mentioned this last week when someone asked about Lance Lynn. Unless Vargas or another rental starter comes really cheap, I think the Yankees will focus their efforts (and prospects) on acquiring a pitcher they can control long-term.
Jake asks: With the Pirates reportedly looking for outfield help, what would they need to offer the Yankees for Brett Gardner for Cashman to take them seriously?
Not happening. I get why this question was asked, but Brett Gardner isn’t a fit for the Pirates. They’re a small payroll team and they’re not going to take on a $12M a year outfielder. And, even if the Yankees agree to eat money to facilitate a trade, it’ll mean they’d want a qualify prospect in return. The Pirates aren’t giving up a prospect for a 33-year-old outfielder when they have Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco locked up long-term, and Austin Meadows sitting in Triple-A. Pittsburgh is trying to trade a veteran outfielder (Andrew McCutchen). Not bring another one in. The best trade partner for Gardner still appears to be the Giants.
David asks: If you could only keep 1, would it be Gleyber or Didi? I bet this is harder to answer than you anticipate.
It is a difficult question. Gleyber Torres is a top notch prospect and a potential superstar. Didi Gregorius is an above-average Major League shortstop, in my opinion. Do you take the new big screen television, or what’s in the mystery box? Could be a trip to Hawaii, could be a sack of potatoes. It’s the known quantity vs. upside potential. In these situations I almost always take the proven big leaguer. In this case, I’ll take Torres, because I do believe he’s a budding star who will one day be the centerpiece of the next great Yankees team. I don’t think this is an obvious choice at all though. Gregorius is a really good player and Gleyber is a 20-year-old with a handful of games above High-A. You could easily argue Didi is the right pick. I’d roll the dice with Torres. Go big or go home.
Eddie asks: I’m not saying he’ll achieve it, but what type of progression do we need to see from Sevy to have him be considered the team’s Ace next year? Also, does Tanaka have to be gone?
Don’t worry too much about the ace label and who is the No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Just get as many quality pitchers as possible. Does Luis Severino have the potential to be an ace? It sure looks like it based on his start to the season, though it is only four starts, remember. Let’s see what happens once the innings pile up and the league gets another look at him. It’s impossible not be excited by what he’s done so far.
I don’t expect the Yankees to spend big on a free agent pitcher this offseason because of the luxury tax situation — I think it’s less than 50/50 they re-sign Tanaka if he opts out — and if that is the case, Severino almost becomes the staff ace by default. That doesn’t automatically make him an ace caliber pitcher. When I think of an ace, I think of a top 15-20-ish pitcher in baseball. A guy who pitches deep into games consistently, dominates on his best days, and keeps his team in the game on his worst days. I’m excited with what I’ve seen from Severino so far. I still think we’re a long way from considering him an ace though.
Anonymous asks: Which team would win more games (assuming identical league average pitching): 9 peak Ozzie Smiths or 9 peak Jason Giambis.
Fun question! My initial reaction is the Ozzies would be better because, at his peak, Smith was a league average-ish hitter. Giambi at his peak was never close to an average defender. The Ozzies are full of better athletes and would save a ton of runs in the field. Opposing teams might have like a .450 BABIP against the Giambis because they’d be so immobile in the field. Here is each player’s best seven-year stretch:
Ozzie Smith (1985-91): .278/.360/.350 (99 OPS+) and +40.8 WAR (6.2 WAR per 162 games)
Jason Giambi (1999-2005): .298/.436/.571 (164 OPS+) and +39.2 WAR (6.4 WAR per 162 games)
Close! At least in terms of bWAR per 162 games. That said, Giambi may have been a +6 WAR player at his peak at first base, but put him at shortstop and he might be a +3 WAR player because his defense would be so bad. Maybe even +2 WAR. Ozzie’s bat would be light at the corner spots, though I think he’d handle it better defensively. I think the Ozzies (average offense, average pitching, elite defense) would win more games than the Giambis (elite offense, average pitching, miserable defense).
Yankees Lead Majors With Best ERA, Tanaka Finally Helps
The Yankees least effective starting pitcher this season, Masahiro Tanaka, finally looked like his vintage self on Thursday night.
To say Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka got his groove back against the Red Sox would be an understatement.
Throwing just 97 pitches (72 of which were for strikes), Tanaka was able to toss a complete game shutout, while only allowing three hits — all singles — striking out three and not walking a single batter.
Arguably his most dominant outing since signing a 7-year, $155 million dollar deal back in 2014, the 28-year-old right-hander pitched like he was double parked — outdueling notable Yankee killer Chris Sale (4-1 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 career outings) in an abbreviated two-hour and 21-minute contest.
Following his duel against the lanky Red Sox hurler, Tanaka told the New York Post he relishes the opportunity to compete against top competition.
“I enjoy the competition. I think a lot of people thought about how well he was pitching up to this point and that Chris Sale had the upper hand,’’ Tanaka said. “I wanted to go in there and try to beat the odds, I guess.’’
Following two horrendous starts to open the 2017 season, Tanaka has righted the ship, going 3-1 with a 1.61 ERA. Perhaps without the weight of an entire pitching staff riding on his shoulders, Tanaka has finally reverted back to his dominant 2016 form.
That pressure has dissipated thanks in part to the rest of the Yankees’ pitching staff, that have combined for a Major League-best 2.90 ERA. No, that’s no a typo.
As a whole, Yankees’ pitchers have won 13 games, tossed 12 quality starts and have held opposing hitters to a .214 batting average (also number one in baseball).
Hard to believe? Not if you’ve watched the games.
Both Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are pitching for new contracts following the completion of this season. The allure of money is always a motivating factor.
Luis Severino, who is tied for sixth in the AL with 33 strikeouts, continues to show signs of a young Pedro Martinez in the making — something we first saw back in 2015.
Rookie, Jordan Montgomery has pitched much better than advertised through his first three starts. Adam Warren and his 12-to-2 strikeout to walk ratio have been lights out. And Bryan Mitchell‘s 0.58 WHIP is currently ranked within the top 15 pitchers in the league.
No longer is Tanaka asked to pitch the game of his life each and every time he takes the hill. There are reinforcements that can pick him up should he hit a rough patch… or two.
As we witnessed yesterday evening, this change in mindset can lead to a great many things for not only Tanaka but the rest of the club. After all, Tanaka became the first Yankee since Mike Mussina in 2002 to throw a complete game shutout against the Red Sox. Not too shabby.