The IIATMS Mailbag, Volume 1

On Tuesday afternoon, I made a call to arms as a means to both encourage discussion, and to ensure that I am writing about something that the readers are interested in. And the fact that our first crack at this exercise resulted in ten-ish (mostly) quality questions is simply gravy. Let's jump right in, shall we? Courtesy of Jay Robertson:

Do you really believe the Yankees can get to the playoffs with their current starting rotation; if not, do you think the team will suck it up and stand pat; if they do get a starter – who would they get, and at what cost?

Heading into last night's action (thirteen starts), the Yankees rotation had the following line:

73.2 IP, 5.01 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 51.6 GB%, .338 BABIP

That's the second best GB% in baseball, the third best BB/9, the tenth best K/9, and ...the fifth worst ERA. There is some bad luck at play, as evidenced by the very high BABIP (the third worst in the Majors) and the large gap between the team's ERA and FIP (the fourth highest differential). They're middle-of-the-pack in metrics like HR/9, hard-hit percentage, and HR/FB, which somewhat belies these discrepancies, but it's also so early that most if not all of these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

Why bring them up, then? Because they illustrate just how weird baseball is.

All that being said, I don't think that this is the rotation of a playoff team, unless said playoff team is an offensive juggernaut. The Yankees don't appear to have the same sort of 'oomph' that they had last season (again, though, small sample size), and I'm skeptical that the bullpen can make up for the rotation's issues. There has been a great deal of discussion about Sabathia being toast, Pineda throwing too many strikes, Eovaldi being style over substance, Tanaka's elbow, and Severino's inexperience ... and, even if most of that is unnecessary handwringing, we watch much of this story unfold last season.

The Yankees need Tanaka to continue to pitch like a top of the rotation starter, and at least two of the other guys to step-up and perform as competent mid-rotation starters. If that can be done, they could certainly make a push. I don't know if a trade is really out there at this point (the pending free agent class stinks), but I do think that James Kaprielian could be the ace in the hole, a la Severino just last season.

Courtesy of James Dogg:

Cashman comes back from lunch and he has two messages-

1. Colorado Rockies called and they offer Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez for Nova, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge.

2. Florida Marlins called they offer Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart, and Justin Bour for the same 3 plus Arod.

Which, if either, should Cashman do, and which will be a better deal come say October of 2017.

Gonzalez is only under contract through the end of next season, and I don't really see a spot for him on the roster right now - and I'm not sure that I'd want to make room, either. He's a career .257/.312/.444 (102 wRC+) hitter on the road, and he has a lengthy history of injury problems. If Ellsbury wasn't around, I may be spinning a different tale. But as it stands, I don't want Gonzalez.

I'm a huge fan of Arenado, and he had no real home/away split last season, with a 120 wRC+ in Coors and a 119 mark on the road. He just turned 25, and he's a potential franchise player - the greatest issue I see is that he doesn't have great plate discipline, and his high-contact approach can be a blessing and a curse. And I think Headley would be much easier to move than Ellsbury (and such a move would be much more likely).

With the Marlins deal, I similarly don't care all that much about Cosart or Bour (though, I suppose Bour would replace Rodriguez as the DH). Fernandez is obviously incredible (both as a talent and a personality), and he won't be 24 until this Summer. Having a Tommy John Surgery on his resume is a bit disconcerting, though, and there has been a great deal of talk regarding his mechanics leading to further injury.

All that being said ... I think the Marlins deal makes more sense right now. Having to make additional moves can cause several issues, and I don't think that it would look great for the Yankees to have to bench or move at least one of Headley, Ellsbury, and Gardner (unless CarGo went to the bench). That's my concern with the Rockies deal. That, and the fact that I'm always at least a bit skeptical of Coors guys. Under the gun, though, I'd probably do both deals - Arenado and Fernandez are young, legitimate studs.

As for the end of 2017, I'm not sure which would look better. Probably the Marlins deal, at least artificially, as Judge and Sanchez will look a hell of a lot better hitting in Coors...

Courtesy of yankeerudy:

What’s the over-under on Big Papi HR this season?

ZiPS had him at 30 this season - a mark that he has reached in each of the last three seasons. I'd probably set the over/under right around there; say, 30.5? And I'd take the over. As much as I hate to say it, Ortiz is still an incredible hitter.

Courtesy of anonymous:

Are you a closet Red Sox fan?

I'm not sure that I've ever been accused of being a closeted fan of any team, let alone the Red Sox. I try to be as unbiased as possible when writing about or discussing baseball ... so much so that I don't know if this is a joke that I'm humoring, or an actual accusation. The answer is no, though. I like several of their young players and prospects, but I could never root for that organization.

I admittedly have soft spots for the Rays and Mets, though. The former because of how much I admire the organization's strategies, and the latter because much of my family and friends are Mets fans. I never root for either over the Yankees, though.

Courtesy of Longtimefan:

Realistically can we look forward to getting to the playoffs and if so going deeper than last season with primarily the same offense that disappeared last September?

If they make it to the Wild Card game again, anything can happen - particularly if Tanaka is on. Winning that game is technically getting deeper in the playoffs, right?

I don't think that that's the spirit of your question, though. I've worried about the team as a whole since the off-season, as I always kind of felt that the offense peaked last season, even with some of the injuries and underperformance. I'm trying to avoid confirmation bias with the early season struggles, but their offense hasn't changed my mind thus far.

Again, though, it's so early in the season that we're still a couple of weeks from worrying too much (barring a significant injury, of course).

Another from James Dogg:

Will Ellsbury be worth $21 mil in 2020?

or

Will Ellsbury’s production in 2020 be more worth $21 mil than Arod ‘s will be worth $21 mil this year? 2017?

The answer to both may end up being yes as salaries escalate, and the value of a win increases. And that's the only way I see the answer to the first question being yes.

Last night's 3-for-5 performance notwithstanding, Ellsbury hasn't looked like a legitimate hitter since last May. I know that he was hurt at that time, but his injury history is so extensive that I have to wonder if the cumulative effects are simply too much for him to completely recover from. The fact that his defense and base-running appear to be slipping don't help matters, either.

That being said, I don't know what to make of Rodriguez's value. FanGraphs pegged last season's performance at $21.4 MM, so he just made it. I'm not sure if that happens again, considering his late Summer swoon, early season issues, and age. I'd rather have Rodriguez's next two years than Ellsbury's next five, though.

Courtesy of Nate the Great:

Is there anything to Luis Severino’s early struggles?

Most of the discussion about Severino's flaws hinges on mechanics and size. His delivery is not the most efficient, and he's on the smaller side for a power-pitcher. That being said, the greatest issue with his mechanics is not the injury risk - it's the fact that his command has been consistently inconsistent as a result. His release and landing points often shift dramatically over the course of the game, and that oftentimes results in him leaving the pitch up and over the plate (which happened last night, resulting in a home run by Mark Canha).

To be fair, though, I don't think that there's anything new to worry about. The defense torpedoed his efforts in his prior start, and last night he was fine but for one pitch. I'm not too concernced.

Courtesy of Allen:

Can we get a podcast soon?

I shall do my best to get one in the works. We have plenty to talk about, after all.

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Game 11 Quick recap: Yankees 4, Mariners 3

Alex Rodriguez's 689th home run not only snapped an 0-19 skid, but it helped the Yankees win today's game, stave off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners and it helped avoid an overall five-game losing streak.

Phew!

Other good stuff from today's much needed win:

  • Masahiro Tanaka became the first Yankees starter this season to pitch through the seventh inning. Coming into today's game only the Yankees, Reds, and Marlins were among that elite club of ineptitude. Tanaka gave up three runs on six hits in those seven innings and he also struck out six. Another good sign from Tanaka was that he was reaching 94 on the radar gun. Velocity issues? What velocity issues?
  • Dellin Betances came into the game in the eighth inning and struck out the side. He's done that in each of his last four appearances.
  • Andrew Miller came into the game to close and boy did he ever. He also struck out the side. This is what their last nine innings look like: 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 23 K which works out to a 22.5 (Betances) and 21.6 (Miller) K/9. Can you imagine what the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings will look like once Aroldis Chapman joins the team?

Shocked-Cat

One bad thing: The Yankees were 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position this afternoon. But hey, it's better than having an 0fer, I guess.

Another bad thing: Jacoby Ellsbury's misplay in the fifth on Norichika Aoki's triple which led to Seth Smith tying the game on a single. This is not the first time that a Ellsbury misplay in the outfield has hurt the Yankees, but thankfully, they scored in the sixth and ended up winning the game.

The Yankees get to enjoy today's win with an off day tomorrow before welcoming the Oakland A's to the Stadium for a three-game series that starts Tuesday night.

Game 10 - CC vs The King

The New York Yankees are in a bit of a slide and can use a win. Facing the ace of the Seattle Mariners' staff doesn't seem to help. If the Yankees can make Nathan Karns and Vidal Nuno look like All Stars, how will they compete against Felix Hernandez? The beauty of baseball means anything can happen. CC Sabathia goes for the Yankees.

The Lineups:

Seattle Mariners:

  1. Nori Aoki - LF
  2. Ketel Marte - SS
  3. Robinson Cano - 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz - DH
  5. Franklin Gutierrez - RF
  6. Chris Iannetta - C
  7. Dae-ho Lee - 1B
  8. Leonys Martin - CF
  9. Luis Sardinas - 3B

Felix Hernandez - SP (0-1, 0.69 ERA)

New York Yankees

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury - CF
  2. Brett Gardner - LF
  3. Alex Rodriguez - DH
  4. Mark Teixeira - 1B
  5. Carlos Beltran - RF
  6. Starlin Castro - 2B
  7. Chase Headley - 3B
  8. Didi Gregorius - SS
  9. Austin Romine - C

CC Sabathia - SP (1-0, 4.50 ERA)

The game starts at 1:05 and can be seen on The YES Network and on The MLB Network. Enjoy the game!

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Can CC Sabathia be 2013 Andy Pettitte?

The Detroit Tigers were about as bad a matchup on paper as CC Sabathia could have possibly gotten for his opening start of the 2016 season. Eight of the Tigers' nine batters were righties, including sluggers Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez. Sabathia's splits against righties and lefties were drastic last season with righties having a .370 wOBA against Sabathia compared to a .231 wOBA for lefites. The Yankees were desperate for a six inning start since neither of their first four starting pitchers achieved that. Since you can't predict baseball, Sabathia was able to do it as he allowed three earned runs over six innings, including retiring the first nine Detroit hitters. It was extremely clear that Sabathia was trying to reinvent himself as a new pitcher trying to follow what Andy Pettitte did with great success at the end of his career.

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Tonight's game has been postponed

Thanks to Mother Nature acting like it's February instead of April, tonight's game in Detroit has been postponed. The makeup date is July 28 according to Marly Rivera. So now the Yankees have two off days before starting their series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday and that's a good thing for everyone, I think.

Quick hit: Nick Swisher's back with the Yanks

While it's only a minor league deal, old friend Nick Swisher is returning to the Yankees organization. Per Chad Jennings:

Nick Swisher is working out at the Yankees minor league complex. Team anticipates signing minor league deal as DH/1B/OF depth.

Swisher's contract pays him $15M this year, all but the minimum will be paid for by the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians. Presumably this puts some pressure on Dustin Ackley, but unless Swish hits, it's just a trip down memory lane.

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About Last Night: Alex Rodriguez finally gets a hit

Our long national nightmare is over, Alex Rodriguez finally got a base hit. In fact, he hit two! Entering yesterday's game, A-Rod was 2-10 with three walks and was not looking great at the plate. This, of course, led to some people, mostly dunderheads on Twitter, declaring his career over because as we all know, everything about a baseball season, and a player's future performance, should be based upon a handful of at bats.

But I digress.

Here's Alex's spray chart for the day.

arodspraychart4716

Those are the three balls he hit yesterday—the two line drives were his singles.

Next up, the pitches thrown to him broken down by pitch category. As you can see, he was thrown almost entirely fastballs. (13 fastballs, 1 off-speed)

Brooksbaseball-Chart (8)

Rodriguez finally broke through and got his first hit of the season in the fifth inning off Houston's starter Mike Fiers. No, he didn't hit it for a home run, but it was a solid line drive, RBI single that tied the game at five and it came off a 91 mph fastball that got too much of the plate.

This is about a millisecond before Alex makes contact with the ball.

arodsinglestillshot

And here's video of that same fifth inning RBI single:

Once Rodriguez got that first hit out of the way, he followed it up with another line drive single in the seventh against Houston reliever Ken Giles. As you can see from the spray chart above, the singles landed in nearly the same spot.

Alex saw three pitches from Giles and he swung at all of them. He swung through the first two which were clocked at 97.2 and 98.0 mph respectively, and it looked like Giles would just blow him away on the third pitch, but he didn't.

The third pitch was just a little bit harder than the second—it came in at 98.1 mph. But the thing about Giles' pitches were that they weren't really moving and were all thrown straight into the strike zone. Sure, they were very hard fastballs, but Alex Rodriguez is a 20-year veteran of MLB and if you're just going to keep throwing straight fastballs at him, he'll eventually adjust.

And he did.

So stop worrying about the old man. Now that he's gotten hits number one and two out of the way, he should be fine.

About Last Night: Starlin Castro

If you're like me, you're enjoying what Starlin Castro has done in the last two games. (Yes, minuscule sample sizes abound.) So I thought we could take a look at his hits: Where the pitches landed, what pitches he hit, the velocity, etc. Let's do this.

Here's his run scoring double off Dallas Keuchel on Opening Day:

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (7)

It was an 0-1 cutter, it was 85 mph, it was inside and Castro was able to keep it fair.

Yesterday was a much bigger day for Castro who couldn't stay off the bases. He went 4 for 5 with a home run, a double and two singles.

He started things off with a single in the Yankees' big first inning.

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (8)

It was a 3-2 fastball (93 mph) off Michael Feliz who had come in to relieve starter Collin McHugh who was already knocked out of the game. Castro went after a high pitch, hit it into the ground, but hit it where there weren't any fielders and it turned into a single.

In the bottom of the second, after the Astros turned the Yankees' somewhat-comfy five-run lead into a not-so-comfy, honestly-quite-sweaty one-run lead, Castro unloaded on Feliz and hit a three-home run.

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (5)

This time, it was an 81 mph slider that didn't slide enough, got too much of the plate and Castro deposited it into the visitor's bullpen.

I included the video so you can really see where the pitch landed in the strike zone:

In the sixth inning, Castro hit a double off Tony Sipp.

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (6)

It was a 76 mph slider that, again, got way too much of the plate and didn't slide.

And for his finale, Castro hit an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh that made the score 16-6.

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (9)

It was a 93 mph fastball that didn't catch any of the plate and Castro was able to smack between first and second.

Here's a still shot, right before he makes contact with the pitch.

Castro7thinningsingle

So there you have it. All of Starlin Castro's hits so far. Let's hope he keeps it up!

Pack it up, the season's over

I'm sorry everyone, but the 2016 season is over for the New York Yankees. The reasons? Masahiro Tanaka is awful and throws too many splitters, Dellin Betances can't throw strikes and doesn't know how to hit runners in the back in order to get an interference call, Aaron Hicks can't play left field and turns sure outs into doubles, and both Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley are cooked at the plate.

It was a nice run while it lasted—a whole nine innings—but it's over now.

So, here's a list of things that are pretty awful, but still not as awful as the 2016 Yankees:

  • Have you watched Fuller House yet? It's awful - but not as awful as the Yankees.
  • Being tortured like Prometheus but instead of having your liver torn out by a giant eagle every day, your body hair regrows and you get a full Brazilian body waxing daily. That sounds awful as well, but it's still not as awful as watching the Yankees play like the Bad News Bears.
  • Going down a razor blade covered slide into a vat of rubbing alcohol would be really bad, but not as bad as the 2016 version of Yankees baseball.
  • A perpetual bout of food poisoning would be better than seeing Brett Gardner standing on first base and not attempting to steal.
  • Being forced to watch nothing but Melissa McCarthy movies A Clockwork Orange style for three days straight would be less awful than watching the Yankees flailing away at pitches from elite starters.
  • In that same vein, being forced to watch the Red Wedding scene from Game of Thrones every hour for the rest of your life would be more enjoyable than watching the Yankees.
  • Waking up in a parallel universe where the only movies are Pauly Shore/Yahoo Serious collaborations would be better than watching Yankee pitchers give up two-run leads in the sixth inning.
  • Getting stuck in an elevator in the middle of summer with a person who hasn't showered in two weeks would be better than watching Chase Headley bouncing throws to first base.
  • Watching a two-hour long movie with a person who tells you every single thing that's going to happen before it happens is still better than the Yankees' offense's fruitless attempts at scoring runs.
  • Being stuck in traffic that doesn't move more than two feet per hour after drinking an extra large cup of iced coffee would be better than watching Carlos Beltran chasing after a playable ball in the right field corner.
  • Waking up in a parallel universe where all pizza is deep dish is pretty terrible, but not as terrible as Chasen Shreve's September 2015.
  • Someone pruning your fingers, knuckle by knuckle, with a pair of gardening shears would be more enjoyable than watching Dellin Betances walk the first three batters of an inning.
  • Watching a TV network that only shows the most depressing episodes of TV shows ever: The dead dog episode of Futurama, the episode of M*A*S*H where Henry Blake gets shot down, the episode where Matthew Perry dies on Growing Pains would still be better than watching the Yankees right now.

Even what's happening in this picture is better than being stuck watching Yankees baseball: Toilet_Paper535

And yes, this post is obviously sarcastic, and was written in response to the people who are already declaring the season over less than 24 hours into it.

Happy Wednesday!

[Thanks to Domenic Lanza for encouraging me to do this post and to Mathew Jackson for some of these suggestions.]