Archives for posts with tag: Aroldis Chapman

We are still a little over ten games away from the Sparky Mark (40 games), but this year’s New York Yankees show no signs of slowing down or going away quietly – best exemplified by Sunday night’s 18 inning marathon victory over last year’s World Series champion Cubs. Even the most optimistic fan, which I am often accused of being, didn’t see foresee this squad playing .690 ball and making a legitimate claim at being the best team in baseball. This team is far from perfect and yet is finding ways to excel and make a case for World Series talk this year, not next.

Biggest Surprise: Aaron Judge/The Bench (tie) – Following a brief 2016 campaign that saw this Baby Bomber K in 42 of 84 at-bats, Aaron Judge is attempting to lay claim to both the A.L. Rookie of the Year and MVP – and he may just succeed in both. After a slow start, Judge has left little doubt as to who should be the Yankees starting RF for the near future with 13 HRs (tied for MLB league) and surprisingly good defense. I doubt he will keep this pace up with pitchers either making adjustments or dolling out free passes, but Aaron Judge has shown an early knack for overcoming 1-2 counts and deflecting any praise with Derek Jeter-like humility.

While Judge looks like he can carry the team, both figuratively and literally, he has plenty of help from surprising contributors. Injuries to Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, allowed both Ronald Torreyes and Austin Romine a chance to step up and produce. Torreyes has hit .311 with a once team-leading 13 RBIs and Romine has a .281 BA to go with stellar game calling to ease along a young staff highlighted by Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery. And with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury needing the occasional spell in the field, Aaron Hicks has finally justified his #1 draft selection by the Minnesota Twins in 2012. Hicks is showing 5-tool ability with a slash-line of .338/.459/.662 to go with 5 SBs. No telling how long this Yankee 4th OF will need a chance to be a #1 somewhere else, for the right compensation.

Biggest Disappointment: Greg Bird – After a monster spring where he looked like the heir apparent to Mark Teixeira, Greg Bird is looking more like the next Nick Johnson. Hitting only .100 through 19 games, Bird is currently on the DL dealing with a bone bruise in his leg. Apparently the injury happened at the end of spring training and its severity is still unknown. What is known is the faith and commitment that Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have in the young Yankee 1B. In the meantime, Chris Carter and Matt Holliday will split time in his absence.

No Surprise: The Bullpen – Sunday night’s 3-run hiccup aside, the Yankees lay claim to the best bullpen in the game, and the sky is still the limit. The new three-headed monster of Tyler Clippard/Dellin Betances/Aroldis Chapman is beastly to say the least. Throw in impressive early work from Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, and the ever-reliable Adam Warren and the Yanks have little to worry about protecting a lead or giving their team a chance at a comeback as demonstrated in the 8-run rally against the Baltimore Orioles on April 28th.

Honorable Mention: Starlin Castro – In his 2nd year in pinstripes, the Yankees 2nd baseman is providing the type of offensive production that is making Yankee fans ponder, “Robinson who?” Surprisingly, Castro is flying under radar with his league leading .355 average along with 6 HRs and is 2nd to Judge in RBIs with 21. Despite a crowded field at 2nd with the aforementioned Cano, as well as Brian Dozier and Jose Altuve, Starlin Castro should garner serious All-Star consideration and I plan to do my part.

 

Depending on your point of view this year’s Yankees are either ahead of schedule or right on time. No longer being billed as a “re-building year” this team is ready to win now and is. Will they continue at this torrid pace? Most likely not. But they have shown they are adaptable to adversity and still have plenty of gems to deal in the farm system for any in-season adjustments (“Paging, Gerritt Cole”). In March, I had this team competing for a Wild Card slot but I see no reason they shouldn’t be jockeying for 1st in the AL East – especially once the Sawx inevitably get going.

Another great season of Yankee baseball lay ahead, along with the promise of a future filled with October baseball.

When this past off-season saw the usually big spending Yanks only make waves by re-acquiring Aroldis Chapman and giving Matt Holliday a 1-year flyer, most fans and analysts didn’t know what to think. This was not the Yanks of old. This was not the M.O. of a big-spending team that missed the playoffs for three of the last four seasons. This was definitely keeping with the new plan implemented by Brian Cashman at last year’s trade deadline. The Yankees are getting younger as we watch and the future is now…maybe a year off.

This year’s spring training was an introduction of new names and high double-digit numbers to a fan base desperate for a return to October baseball. And it was a very encouraging introduction with the Yankees playing .700 ball in the Grapefruit League. True, spring training is not a highly accurate predictor of the future, like Nate Silver’s election algorithms, but there was definitely something new and exciting on display.

The biggest surprise was the return of Greg Bird. After a 2015 mini-campaign that had him prepared to displace Mark Teixeira immediately, Bird was sidelined for all of 2016 with shoulder surgery. This spring saw him return with a vengeance, hitting .451 with a team leading 8 HRs. Displaying an ability to hit to all fields against righties and lefties, coupled with solid defense at 1B, Greg Bird may be the answer at 1B, this season and beyond.

Gary Sanchez picked up from where his 2nd place Rookie of the Year campaign left off, hitting .373 with 5 HRs and showing plenty of arm strength from behind the plate. I was a big fan of Brian McCann and sad to see him depart to Houston but Gary Sanchez’s talent at and behind the plate will not be denied and will be on display post haste.

Tyler Wade, Billy McKinney, Ruben Tejada, Clint Frazier, and Gleyber Torres all showed glimpses of future days in the Bronx. Torres in particular may see an early call-up, especially if Chase Headley continues to underwhelm in the 3rd year of his four-year deal. The jettisoning of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman bore many fruits that the Yankee organization is eager to pluck when fully ripe.

And the addition of 7-time All Star Matt Holliday should easily fill the void left when Carlos Beltran was sent to Texas. Holliday had a banged up 2016 campaign, but as a F/T DH should be plenty healthy to provide much-needed power and veteran leadership.

Starting pitching continues to be the biggest Achilles heel. But considering that an almost identical staff in 2016, minus the recently released Nathan Eovaldi, was good enough for 84 wins anything is possible. The right elbow of Masahiro Tanaka continues to be under more scrutiny than Price Waterhouse’s Oscar night decorum. If Tanaka finally gets to 200 innings this season, there will only be four remaining pitching questions marks. CC Sabathia will most likely end up in the bullpen by June and Michael Pineda has yet to find anything mirroring consistency – both will not be around for 2018. Thankfully, this means plenty of opportunities for Luis Cessa, Chad Green and Bryan Mitchell who have all had success in limited MLB exposure. And Luis Severino continues to be the wild card of them all. Will he return to ROY-esque form from 2015 or only be effective from the bullpen as in 2016? I do hope it’s the former but the latter works just as well.

More than likely, the Yankees will not make the playoffs this season. At best they will be in the run for a Wild Card slot, and anything can happen in that play-in game. I would give this year’s squad about a 15% chance of making it to the divisional round. I expect this year to be a repeat of last year, in the mix but not a true contender. I expect the young talent of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge (who also had an impressive spring) and Luis Severino to gain another year of big league experience in preparation for 2018. 2017 is the new 1995. The future is bright, shining with young talent and hungry veterans prepared to deliver new World Series rings to the Bronx and forcing Joe Girardi to change his uniform number into the 30’s.

The future is bright, Yankee fans, and we may be lucky enough to see Yankee championship history repeat over and over in the next decade….as long as $400 million are not wasted on Bryce Harper. #HeadCase

At the start of the season I had the Yankees winning the AL East. Call me a fanatic, call me delusional, I just saw something special happening this year. And it turns that I may just be right, about the special part, not the division. After going into sell mode at the trade deadline, a tactic that no Yankee fan or front office rep has ever been familiar with, the Yankees are slowly but surely moving in the right direction for future championship runs, and playing actual winning baseball in the meantime. After unloading Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova, the Yanks are flush with prospects. And the recent/timely release A-Roid means Aaron Judge his finally getting his shot this year. It’s an exciting time to be a Yankee fan.

The Yankees have won 7 of their last 10, which includes winning two of three from the contending Sawx and back-to-back wins over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yanks are back to a season-high four games over .500 and while they still lack the pitching for a serious AL East run they are currently giving fans a glimpse of the future. Gary Sanchez has gotten off to a .278 start in his career including a mammoth HR at Fenway that highlighted a 4-hit night. I do hope the Yanks hold onto Brian McCann so that Sanchez has a chance to develop behind the plate, with two years left on McCann’s deal. Yesterday’s 8-4 win was highlighted by Tyler Austin and the previously mentioned Aaron Judge both making the MLB debuts and both homering in their first at-bats, going back to back no less. I’m not saying we need to start the coronation of the next Core Four but I also wouldn’t be too hasty to write off any of these young hopefuls as the next Kevin Maas or Shane Spencer.

This new young trio of everyday Yankees are being aided in their early playing days by other young, more seasoned players like Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius. Castro seems to be in the midst of another hot streak with HRs in the last two games as well as 13 RBIs in 12 August games. And with the departure of Carlos Beltran, Didi Gregorius is now the most talented and MVP-worthy star the Yanks have. Hard to believe that just a year ago he was being doubted as he stepped into the shoes of a legend, now he’s flashing 5-tool potential and should garner serious All-Star consideration next year.

As far as pitching no word if any of the recently acquired prospects will be developed or be used as trade bait for traded targets like Chris Sale. In the meantime, last year’s phenom Luis Severino continues to show some progress. After returning from an extended minor league assignment, Severino responded with 8 1/3 scoreless innings over three relief appearances. Unfortunately, this was followed up by a 5-run outing courtesy of the Boston Red Sox. Severino may best be served working out of the bullpen for the short term. Speaking of the bullpen, the recent acquisition of former Yankee prospect Tyler Clippard and re-acquisition of Adam Warren have made up for the losses of Miler and Chapman. Not exactly No Runs DMC but they’ve been more than effective getting the ball to the new closer Dellin Betances.

There’s still plenty of baseball left and while I don’t see the Yanks making a playoff run I am encouraged by seeing young talent getting a chance to play. In the coming weeks, I will speak on A-Roid as well as the imminent departures of Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. In the meantime, I’m feeling something I haven’t felt in a while as a Yankee fan: hope. It’s hope for a winning season, hope for a winning future, hope for a return to championship form. Like I said, it’s an exciting time to be a Yankee fan.

The Yanks finished off a disappointing 1st half by taking three of four from the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians. And while you would think such a series victory would normally be celebrated it was only good enough to get them back to .500, again. This year’s squad will enter the 2nd half of the season at 44-44 and 7 ½ games back in the AL East, with three teams to surpass in the division for any hope of October baseball. The season has been ripe with missed opportunities, under-performing once-weres and a whole lot of injuries. Next up the Yanks must decide if it’s time to start selling and just how much is Brian Cashman willing to give up for much needed prospects.

The offense has been a sore spot all year-long with Walking Dead-like performances from A-Roid and Mark Teixeira. It’s hard imagine just a year ago that they were the sparkplugs. Now, they’re just duds. On the bright side, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are becoming consistent .350 OBP table setters. Didi Gregorius is following up a .337 June with a .351 July and getting serious 5th spot in the lineup consideration. Personally, I like him in the lower 3rd of the lineup to provide turnover, like Scott Brosius did during his four-year stint in the Bronx. Starlin Castro hasn’t shown brightly yet and is still on pace for a 20 HR campaign, as is Brian McCann who is providing more than enough offense from behind the plate. And Carlos Beltran is saving his best for last in the last year of his three-year deal. Currently, the Yankee RF/DH is leading the team in the triple crown categories and garnering plenty of interest from AL teams a little further up the playoff ladder.

Yankee starting pitching continues to be a crap shoot with no one ace able to emerge. Masahiro Tanaka continues to have issues with pitching on four days rest as most recently highlighted in last Sunday’s contest against the Indians where he couldn’t be trusted with an 11-1 lead and was lifted after 4 2/3. C.C. Sabathia’s “regained form” has become amorphous thanks to allowing at least 5 ER in each of his last four starts. Michael Pineda has finally gotten his ERA under 6.00 but there’s no telling when his troubles will start again. And Nathan Eovaldi has been sent to the bullpen because of his poor 1st half but may have found his niche with 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Tanaka on Sunday.

And the fact that the Yankees can’t seem to find consistent mediocre pitching becomes even more infuriating considering that their No Runs DMC bullpen only needs six innings to take the baton. Betances, Miller, and Chapman haven’t been perfect but I’m guessing most fans and experts have no problem with the game in their K-pable hands.

The next two weeks will be the determining factor for the direction of the season as well as the team’s future. The Yanks play 13 games against all above .500 teams and a losing spell here will most likely make up Brian Cashman’s mind. I would love to see Beltran and Chapman finish the season in pinstripes but I’m also enough of a fan to know that getting value through their trades would also be worthy. I was really hoping this team would be in the mix. But then again, I’ve seen enough winning in my lifetime to make any Cub fan envious.

After yesterday’s 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, the 2016 New Yankees have finally passed the most impassable of marks of early season success: the .500 mark. Sadly, it’s not that early in the season anymore at 37-36 and they are only over by a single game but Damnit, baby steps, Yankee fans. The Yanks have also been helped by having to only play five games this week with two luxurious days off. Regardless, the Yanks have taken advantage of their situation, for now, by winning three in a row, and six of their last eight hoping to build some sense of momentum with the mighty 1st place AL West leading Texas Rangers headed into the Bronx for a four game starting tomorrow. Of course the Yanks still have one more game against the Twins today to increase the newfound WINNING percentage.

The week was more of the same from this year’s Yanks, with a few surprises. Most of the surprises came in Thursday’s comeback win over the Colorado Rockies. The first surprise came in the form of Chase Headley’s 425-foot grand slam over the CF field wall that staked CC Sabathia to any early 4-0 lead. Headley may not be the same player that the Yanks signed for 4 years/$52 million last season but can still be counted on for solid defense and quality at-bats at the right moment. The next surprise came when CC Sabathia seemed to revert to his old ways, unable to hold the lead and not even being able to get out of the 5th inning. It was CC’s worst start in two months (though his ERA still stands at an impressive 2.71) and hopefully this is not an omen of things to come. But the biggest surprise came when the Yanks were facing an 8-4 deficit in the bottom of the 7th inning and came back, bit by bit. Carlos Beltran started things off with a three-run HR in the bottom of the frame, followed by an RBI single from Didi Gregorius in the 8th, and capped off by Starlin Castro’s game winning bomb over the LF wall in the 9th. This offensive output was aided by No Runs DMC being a tourniquet on the other end, keeping the Rockies lineup silent for the last three innings.

Probably don’t want to think too much into this win and yet there’s always that possibility that this is the signature win where everything falls into place. The Yanks best starter doesn’t have his best stuff, the offense finds a way to rally, and the lights out bullpen secures the win. It’s pretty much the equation that most in the Yankee hierarchy envisioned all season. The question is will it always compute? And what happens when all of the variables aren’t in place? For example, today Betances, Miller, and Chapman are almost certainly unavailable as Joe Girardi has made use of their extraordinary services in the last three games, all wins. Is this the day that Nasty Nate Eovaldi returns and gives the Yanks the 7-8 innings that he is more than capable of providing?

It’s gut check time for the Yanks today, again, even against the lowly Twins. At some point this team needs to get on a roll and stay on it. Otherwise, Brian Cashman will need to develop a better poker face than Howard Lederer as the trade deadline starts to loom. I certainly hope the Yanks do not become sellers since I think they have more than enough talent to make a run. Just hoping they get to running very soon……..

After yesterday’s 7-6 win over the Minnesota Twins, the 2016 New York Yankees find themselves back at .500. The last two weeks has seen them sweep four from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim then drop four in a row to the Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies (two games each) and are now riding a three game win streak thanks to a fortuitous stop at Target Field. The Yankees are running more hot and cold than Ben Affleck’s film career. As has been their M.O. the past few seasons, the Bronx Bombers show flashes of excellence alternating with periods of middling mediocrity. At some point the real Yanks need to step forward……..as long as they’re the excellent version, that is.

The offense continues to chug along in fits and spurts. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner seem to have the top of the lineup locked down. The pair have OBPs over .345, even though Grander is in the midst of a 2 for 19 funk. A-Roid looks to be returning to 2015 form with a big HR in yesterday’s win that has been the highlight of .293 June. The bottom of the lineup has been getting serious contributions from Didi Gregorius (.355 in June), Chase Headley (.450 for the week, .321 in June) and Rob Refsnyder (.375 for the week, .283 overall). Sir Didi in particular has been a spark with a much needed go-ahead HR in Thursday’s opener against the Twins and has been scorching left-handed pitching to the tune of .383 for the season. Refsnyder also deserves some notice as he is quickly becoming a much needed utility player, sharing time at 1B, 2B, and RF. Can you say Brock Holt?

Brian McCann continues to struggle, currently hovering at .207. There’s talk of giving more time to the more consistent-hitting Austin Romine but I think that may be an overreaction. McCann has been too good for too long, and unless he’s fighting some unpublicized injury he needs to get his regular at-bats to work out whatever’s ailing him at the plate. But the one Yankee who seems to not know of any type of struggles is the rejuvenated Carlos Beltran. The future HOFer (in my opinion) leads the Yanks in the Triple Crown categories and is making a serious case for any extension. I only wish there were a way to switch his and A-Roid’s contracts. Anyone interested in a Mission: Impossible-style break-in at the Yankee front office? Maybe some papers and signatures get switched around, just sayin’……..

Yankee starting pitching continues to be better than advertised, despite a few hiccups. Michael Pineda continues to have his issues in the 1st inning and yet leads the team with 88 Ks (10.24 Ks/9). The Ivan Nova experiment may be coming to a close as the Yankee’s reserve starter is looking at a 6.75 ERA over three June starts. And Nathan Eovladi may be pitching for his rotation spot today at Target Field with a 9.82 ERA over his three June starts. On the bright side, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia have been the anchors for this veteran rotation. Tanaka stumbled a little in last Sunday’s loss to the Tigers but recovered nicely in Friday night’s win with eight much needed innings of 1-run ball. And Sabathia continues to dazzle and mystify hitters and critics with a 0.81 ERA over his last seven starts and 2.20 ERA overall. Not sure how long Sabathia can keep this magic going but it may be enough a garner an All-Star selection in July.

The bullpen continues to be a regular topic of conversation, both in terms of effectiveness and possible trade-options. The Unholy Trinity is still doing their job when called upon, even though Aroldis Chapman made things more interesting than they needed to be by allowing back-to-back two-out HRs in yesterday’s 7-6 win. It’s also weird to see him and Dellin Betances with 3.00+ ERAs but that’s as likely to continue as a successful DC Studios slate. And Anthony Swarzek is becoming quickly indispensable with a 2.84 ERA over five appearances.

The Yanks are 34-34 and currently gifted with three more games against the Twins next weekend, in addition to today’s series finale at Target Field. True, the competition may not be of the highest caliber but at the end of the day if you have to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. It also helps to get lucky against the teams you aren’t supposed to beat. Here’s hoping for a little consistency and a whole lot of luck.

It only took two months but the Yankees have finally made it back to .500 and some assemblage of relevance. A four game sweep of the visiting Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (buoyed by 29 runs scored) followed by splitting the first two games with the Detroit Tigers has the Yanks primed to make a move to get back in the AL East race. This is especially true since the next two weeks see the Bronx Bombers fortunate enough to play four against the Colorado Rockies (Winning Pct. 468) and seven against the Minnesota Twins (.295). Talk about getting hot at the right time.

The biggest statement being made during this current run is from the bat of Brett Gardner. After starting the first two months hitting a boo-worthy .215, the Yankee LF has heated up with the weather, to the tune of a .459 June. Throw in Jacoby Ellsbury’s .316 over the same time frame and the Yanks have plenty of table setting from the top of the lineup. June has also been kind to Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius hitting .317 and .308 respectively. Even A-Roid’s contributing with a .289 June of his own. But the true Yankee fireworks have been consistently lit by the resurgent Carlos Beltran. Leading the team in hits (62), HRs (16), RBIs (44), and slugging pct. (.561), the Puerto Rican switch-hitter is making a case for both another All-Star selection as well as serious HOF consideration.

The only major concern is who can survive playing 1B. Recent call-up Chris Parmelee seemed to be the answer after getting off to a .500 start with a pair of HRs before injuring his hamstring while stretching for a throw. Teixeira, Ackley, Parmelee, throw in Greg Bird from spring training and playing 1B for the Yanks is like being the drummer for Spinal Tap. Hopefully, Rob Refsnyder can provide some relief. He may still be finding his footing in the field but his bat looks to be an upgrade over a struggling Teixeira.

Yankee starting pitching continues to be a pleasant surprise. Despite yesterday’s 4R outing against the Tigers, Masahiro Tanaka is becoming more and more dependable. He held the Angels in check for 2R over 7 innings on Tuesday and has 3.08 ERA overall. Michael Pineda seems to have turned a corner with back-to-back effective starts. Ivan Nova continues to earn his spot in the rotation with another quality effort in Thursday’s win. Nathan Eovaldi is still fighting high pitch counts and holding leads but if last year is an indicator, he should be heating up with the summer months. And after three injury-addled seasons, CC Sabathia is earning his big salary again with a 0.71 ERA over his last six starts, and 2.28 ERA overall. The 2009 Yankee ace is back and in fine rediscovered form.

The Yankee bullpen is still dominating as ever, even with Dellin Betances working his way back from a shaky early June. This week saw him strikeout four over three scoreless appearances. The recent acquisition of Anthony Swarzak looks promising after his first two scoreless appearances in pinstripes. And Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman are still holding down the late innings while attracting trade interest from teams trying to stay in the hunt. Hopefully the Yankees continue to have use for both of these relief aces into September and beyond.

It’s been a long road back to .500 and there are still plenty of miles ahead to reach the top of the division. The Yankees are proving to be equal parts resourceful and resilient. This squad shouldn’t be counted out anytime soon.