Yankees

The Closer Fallacy

The Yankees lost a gut-punch game last night and while Delin Betances meltdown takes some heat off of Girardi this morning, it shouldn’t. Joe made the classic mistake modern managers do today, he treated the 9th inning as the most important. Let’s dig in.

This game was an old school pitchers duel with Luis Severino and a Jose Quintana dominating. The White Sox took a 1-0 lead into the 8th, but the Yankees broke through for three runs and took a 3-1 lead. With Severino at 105 pitches, Girardi didn’t want to push him and turned to the bullpen.

That’s understandable, but the first mistake he made was not putting Betances in at that point. Now Joe is going to say that Chapman was unavailable and he wanted Betances to pitch the 9th. The problem with that logic is you don’t know what the score will be in the 9th, nor do you know how many pitches Betances will need to pitch the 8th. Maybe he sets the side down in 8 pitches and you feel good about brining him out for the 9th. Maybe the Yankees tack on a bunch of runs in the 9th and blow the game open. You can’t predict that, but you know that with a two-run lead in the 8th, you are in a critical spot.

And Girardi turned to Domingo German, a guy with just over 60 innings of experience above A-ball. Let me emphasize that, A-ball. Not surprisingly, German walked the two batters he faced. Now Girardi makes his second mistake, going to Clippard over Betances. Clearly, Girardi didn’t want to use Clippard, or he would have started the inning with him over the inexperienced rookie, but then he turns to him when there are two guys on and no one out? Clippard promptly threw a wild pitch and then walked the bases loaded. And Girardi makes mistake number three, leaving him in.

And amazingly, this one paid off, but it really shouldn’t have. Clippard got two guys out, then walked in a run to make it 3-2. Then, on a full count, he got a strike out to let the Yankees escape the 8th. It was ugly, and it probably should have ended with him imploding, but it didn’t.

Ironically, that was Betances’ job as he didn’t have it and lost the game in the bottom of the 9th. Some will say that his meltdown is proof that Girardi did the right thing. But it isn’t. The Yankees had three choices for the 8th, the rookie, the guy who has been hit all over the park recently, and Betances. You have to pick Betances, hope he gets you to the 9th, and go from there. Managers used to know that.

Clean it Up

I will always love the Yankees on the field, but off the field their behavior can drive me bonkers. I hate the fact that they built a stadium financed with tax-free bonds when New York City has so many things much more deserving of financing. And I don’t like this report from today’s New York Times on their “community” charity, which doesn’t look good at all.

Now the article doesn’t directly implicate the Yankees, but the Yankees need to think about the fact that their name is on the masthead and they could have tremendous influence over the charity. The ballclub does a lot of great things, HOPE Week being one of the best. But, that doesn’t excuse this. I hope the team will stand up, correct the problem, and make sure the money in the charity only goes to things in the neighboring communities.

This is Silly

The Yankees opened the season with their starting shortstop on the DL. Assuming Starlin Castro goes to the DL after tonight, every other opening day starter, apart from their DH, 3B, and LF, has been on the DL. Add in Aaron Hicks, and the Yankees’ lineup has been wracked with injuries.

You can also add the closer, Chapman, the 7th inning guy, Warren, and the 3rd starter, Sabathia, to the total. Their opening day DH may hit the DL and the 3b has skirted the DL. The Yankees should encase Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner in a protective shield.

We don’t know what will happen with Castro at this point, but Tyler Wade has been removed from his game in Scranton, and is probably on his way to Chicago. Losing Castro would be a big blow, but bringing Wade to the bigs could be a huge lift. For all the injuries, the Yankees are lucky they have depth.

Carter Released

The Chris Carter era is over for now as the Yankees DFA’ed him after 57 games and a .204/.286/.383 line. His low average was not a surprise, he is a career .217 hitter, but he never delivered the power the Yankees hoped for. He might end up at Scranton, because I’m not sure any major league team will give him a shot.

Now the Yankees turn to Tyler Austin, one of the three rookies they brought up last August. Austin’s foot injury opened the door to Carter, and his recovery closed it. Greg Bird is waiting to see if his cortisone shot worked. If it didn’t, and Austin doesn’t produce, the Yankees will have to go to plan D at first.

A Night in The Bronx

I made it to my first game of the year last night, and while the result was disappointing, the atmosphere was not.

It’s been awhile since I have seen the Stadium like that. I got there right before 5pm when the gates were about to open and it was already really busy. Lots of fans had lined up to get into the game to see batting practice. The outfields were pretty packed with fans trying to catch balls and things were loud. The attendance was announced at 39-thousand something and I would believe it. Not a lot of empty seats anywhere in the ballpark. Ownership must be thrilled. A mid-week game on a school night drew almost 40,000 fans.

It will be interesting to see what happens from here with attendance and the Yankees. NYC schools get out June 28th, so that should help. Continuing this seven-game losing streak would clearly not. But even if they continue to struggle, fans want to see Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. There were a ton of those jerseys in the stands last night and both of them rewarded their fans with long balls. It’s funny how Sanchez has been a bit lost in all of the Judgemania. In 2016 he was Judge, with 20 homers in the final 53 games. He got hurt early in 2017, missed a month, but look at him now. 12 homers in 41 games.

Who knows where the season goes from here, but based on a Tuesday night in the Bronx things look pretty good and the fans seem pretty energized.

When It Rains…

The Yankees just announced that Gleyber Torres is going to need Tommy John surgery to repair a UCL tear in his elbow. This is obviously very bad news, but the saving grace is that the injury is to his left, non-throwing, elbow, so he should be ready to go at the start of next season.

However, he clearly won’t be able to help the team this year. That’s not a huge deal because I am not sure he would have been called up anyway. The Yankees probably would have turned to Tyler Wade before Torres. But it also means he is going to lose 1/2 a season of experience in the minors, which will delay his arrival in the Bronx next year.

All of this because he tried to slide into home face-first. Teams really should spend time teaching players to slide feet-first. So many more things can go wrong when you go in face-first, especially to home plate.

Why Chance It?

The MLB Draft is one of the more inexact sciences in life so critiques of individual picks should be used sparingly, but the Yankees have left me scratching my head with their first-round pick. Clarke Schmidt has a lot of the things you would want in a future Yankee. He’s reportedly a great kid, he throws really hard and he went 4-2 with a 1.34 ERA for the University of South Carolina this year. The only problem is, he had Tommy John surgery in May.

That means he will definitely miss the rest of this year. And he will probably miss at least half of next year. I get that he is reportedly one of the top arms in the draft, but his arm doesn’t work right now and might never work the same way again. And unlike many of the past years, the Yankees were picking in the middle of the draft (16th) rather than the back of the draft. In fact, you can draw an uncomfortable parallel between this pick and the Andrew Brackman pick of ten years ago. Brackman was hurt when the Yankees picked him, but they defended the choice by saying that next to David Price, he had the best arm in the draft. The Yankees were picking thirtieth overall then, but consider some of the guys they could have drafted instead of Brackman- Chris Sale (Round 8), Jordan Zimmerman (Round 3), Corey Kluber (Round 10), Craig Kimbrell (Round 14), Rick Porcello (Round 27) Danny Duffy (Round 2)…you get the idea. Instead they turned to Brackman because they were so desperate for a top-end arm they thought it was worth the risk.

It’s way too early to tell if this will pan out. They may not even sign the guy, but it seems like a dumb risk at this point. The Yankees are probably not going to be picking anywhere as high as 16th next year. They already have an injured, first-round pick recovering from Tommy John, in James Kaprielian. (Ironically also the 16th-overall pick in 2015.) Why double down?

Make This Team Better

The Yankees have almost reached the point where you start to think about the ways to improve this team to make it a legitimate playoff contender. The problem is, that is going to be harder than it looks.

Reflexively, I think most fans would say that the starting rotation is the place to upgrade, but dig a bit deeper. Throw Tanaka’s performance to date out of the equation, and the Yankees have the lowest starter ERA in the majors. The quartet of Pineda, Sabathia, Severino, and Montgomery have been that good. And while advanced stats suggest they are slightly overrated, it isn’t by a huge amount.

So maybe you say Tanaka is the guy to go, but his contract makes that impossible. He can opt-out after this season, or he can stay with the Yankees and keep on earning $22-million a year for the next three seasons. If you remove him from the rotation, he stays and you pay him $66-million to sit in the bullpen. That’s not realistic, so the Yankees really have no choice but to keep sending him out there.

The bullpen has been a strength, and with Chapman due back soon, there is no need to improve it. The Yankees have four guys they can rely on late- Chapman, Betances, Clippard, and Warren, and they have plenty of interesting arms that could add to that quartet.

That leaves the lineup, and there are two obvious holes, first and third. Chris Carter has not been good, but Greg Bird is on the mend and will absolutely get a chance to fill that hole. So that leaves third, and Chase Headley, but the Yankees may also have the answer to that problem internally

Tyler Wade is hitting .307/.372/.449 in Scranton. He has played every position outside of catcher and first. Gleyber Torres is off to good start at Scranton (.273/.403/.418) and he is rotating between second, third and short. Either of them is worthy of a promotion if the Yankees are going to try to replace Headley.

And the Yankees may have set the sequence in motion tonight that leads to that move. They DFA’ed Tommy Lane. That’s because they decided to push Tanaka back a day and need Chad Green to start tomorrow. Since Green is no longer stretched out and they will need to go to the bullpen early, they recalled Domingo German. German was a part of the Prada-Eovaldi trade and he is stretched out. He was also on the 40-man roster, so the Yankees now have an open spot. I would bet that goes to Wade in the very near future.

And that’s why is I expect the Yankees to look inside the organization for help. If a big injury comes along, that could certainly change. But for now, the only logical move is an internal, and not an external, one.

A Big June Start For Big Mike

Michael Pineda may be the most frustrating pitcher I have ever seen in a Yankees’ uniform. He can go out and absolutely dominate a game and then get absolutely torn apart in his next start. He’s now made 83 starts for the Yankees and his record is a mediocre 29-30 with a 4.05 ERA. I don’t think he is in the team’s future plans. In fact I would suspect the best-case scenario for the Yankees is that Pineda pitches well enough to make an arbitration offer a no-brainer and the Yankees can then let him get his riches elsewhere while pocketing a draft pick. But, if there is any hope of the Yankees unlocking the vault for a contract extension, he needs to show them they can trust him in a big spot.

Tonight is one of those starts. The Yankees have a chance to win the series over Boston and send them away trailing by 3 in the division. Conversely, a loss puts the race at a game and gives Boston the series win. Which Mike will show up? Nobody knows, but throughout his career he holds a 4-5 record against Boston with a 4.73 ERA. The Yankees will face David Price, a guy they usually hit well (He’s 14-10 against them, but with a 4.55 ERA) so they should have some chances, but only if the “good” Pineda shows up.

It will be fascinating to watch and I am sure Brian Cashman and his team will take note of what they see. They have a big decision to make about Pineda in the next few months.

Conspiracy Theories

David Ortiz has come up with a doozy. According to Ortiz, the Yankees were behind the New York Times report that named him as one of the players who failed the 2003 PED test. According to Ortiz, this was because “The only thing that I can think of, to be honest with you, a lot of big guys from the Yankees were being caught. And no one from Boston.” This is breathtakingly stupid in a number of ways.

1- How did the Yankees leak the information? How could they have gotten it if no other club had it?

2- The New York Times owned a piece of the Red Sox when they published that. I don’t think they were interested in helping the Yankees.

3- The Mitchell Report was written by a director of the Red Sox and commissioned by an owner of the Brewers. If you want a conspiracy theory, maybe that’s why not a single Red Sox or Brewer was named in it?

Ortiz still hasn’t admitted to it or come up with the reason he failed the test, like he said he would years ago.

He is however probably right that the leak came from New York. After all, MLB’s offices are right on Park Avenue in midtown.