Archives for posts with tag: Brian Cashman

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.

Advertisements

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

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……..

  1. Stay the course. The Yankees are looking to get younger and there are plenty of stars in the making from Luis Severino to Greg Bird to Slade Heathcott to Rico Noel and slugger-to-be Aaron Judge. I wouldn’t be surprised if we are witnessing a return to the Core Four (plus Bernie Williams). By no means am I crowning any of these players as future HOFers but as a Yankee fan it is exciting to see young, homegrown talent that is hungry and anxious to prove itself. And I haven’t even mentioned the youthful double play combo of Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro.

 

  1. The improving health of CC Sabathia, physically and emotionally. The biggest surprise of last year was Sabathia’s request to leave the team before the Wild Card game to treat his little known alcohol addiction. It was especially surprising considering he was pitching his best baseball since 2012, with a sub 2.25 ERA in his last five starts. The Yankees have two more years of Sabathia and while he may zero trade value he can still be valuable at the back end of the rotation, as long as he is healthy.

 

  1. A hot April for Jacoby Ellsbury, so he can be traded immediately. I know the Yankees overpaid when they signed the former MVP candidate for 7 years/$153 million and he would never equal his 2011 campaign but the last two seasons have been injury-filled and promise-killing. Ellsbury has shown flashes of brilliance, especially in the field but his inability to remain in the lineup has worn out his welcome in the Bronx. Hopefully he can get out to another hot start this season, like in 2015, and Brian Cashman can find takers with the Yankees willing to eat significant salary. Also, moving him makes it easier for the youth movement of Slade Heathcott, Rico Noel, and Aaron Judge to get much needed playing time.

 

  1. The continued maturation of A-Roid. Despite an apocryphal August and September, the Yankee DH was a key component in the team’s offense, which ranked 2nd in the AL. A-Roid handled just about every game and situation with a newfound grace and humility. Not sure if he has a repeat performance in him but with two years left on his deal, Yankee fans are cautiously optimistic.

 

  1. Leave Joe Girardi alone. I have no idea how the fan base’s vitriol toward the Yankee skipper has gone from simmer to London broil but he has been the only constant holding this squad together for the last three seasons, in addition to being a perennial AL Manager of the Year candidate. Has he overused the bullpen? Yes, but did he have a choice with no ace to rely on. Despite having a fiery reputation, he has proved to be a calming influence on the at-times tumultuous Yankee locker room and has regularly deflected media attention to himself with Joe Torre-esque panache. There really are few mangers I would rather have managing my Yankees…until Don Mattingly becomes available.

So much the playoffs. While it looks like the Houston Astros ended the Yankees season with a 3-0 shutout in last Tuesday night’s AL Wild Card game, the Yankees season really ended in September with a 15-17 record. The Yankees essentially hit the wall in the marathon known as the major league baseball season. As for the Wild Card game itself, it served as a microcosm for the 2015 New York Yankees: adequate starting pitching supported by hot/cold offense.

There’s plenty to gloss over from 2015 and plenty to look forward to in the Bronx in 2016. We can gloss over the second half scuffling of star players like Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, and A-Roid. And don’t even get me started on Jacoby Ellsbury, whose contract is turning into the latest albatross. As for optimism, that comes in the form of a youth movement led by pitching ace in the works, Luis Severino, and homerun hitting first baseman, Greg Bird.

Despite the disappointing end to the 2015 season, it can be seen as the groundwork for a future sustained playoff run. GM Brian Cashman refused to mortgage the future at the trade deadline. Because of this risky/reasoned decision Yankee fans were treated to a glimpse of the future from the aforementioned Severino and Bird, as well as Rob Refsnyder, Slade Heathcott, Rico Noel and Bryan Mitchell. And at some point future super slugging Aaron Judge will find his way to the Bronx. Next season will be the start of a time of transition with Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran in the final years of their deals and A-Roid’s contract set to expire in 2017. The only other stroke of luck needed would be if teams developed interest in C.C. Sabathia and Jacoby Ellsbury, with the Yankees willing to eat a significant amount of money.

As for pitching, Joe Girardi became dependent on the bullpen because he had no other options. Not a single starting pitcher reached 180 innings, with Sabathia topping out at 167.1. There were plenty of flashes of brilliance from Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Masahiro Tanaka but nothing overly reliable. Toward the end the only consistent arm belonged to 21 year old Luis Severino, who shined with a 2.89 ERA in 62.1 innings. No idea if the Yankees are in the market for a free agent arm this offseason but they may want to give this batch another season, especially with Chase Whitley due to return from Tommy John surgery this upcoming season and Adam Warren available to return to the rotation when needed.

The bullpen did get a chance to succeed but like most bullpens eventually showed its’ cracks. Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve became that rare pair of lefties able to retire hitters from both sides of the plate. Andrew Miller joined the ranks of dominant Yankee closers with his solid year. And Dellin Betances escaped many a jam, many of his own creating with 40BBs in 80+ innings, but like the rest of team faltered down the stretch.

And while the majority of the team slumped in the season’s 2nd half, Didi Gregorius played the kind of SS desperately needed in the post-Derek Jeter world. Gregorius had a 2nd half slash line of .294/.345/.417 and played flawless defense that helped him finish the season with the best defensive WAR among AL shortstops. The Yankees would be smart to lock him long-term this off season. They should also give Dustin Ackley another year based on his .288 stint with the team since he also provides versatility by being able to play 1B and LF along with his natural position of 2B.

Overall, I see the Yankees early exit from this year’s October Merry-Go-Round as being very similar to their 1995 divisional round loss to the Seattle Mariners. Not saying that Yankee fans can look forward to another run of dominance like the late 1990’s but anything is possible and there is plenty to be positive about.

For a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2012, the 2015 Yankees are showing a considerable amount of patience. These aren’t your father’s Yankees and definitely not George Steinbrenner’s, aside from a few bloated salaries. The Yankees shocked all, especially their fans, by not making any big moves at the trade deadline, aside from picking up Dustin Ackley from the Seattle Mariners. Ackley will essentially replace Garrett Jones as a left-handed bat and utility option on the bench. But the Yankees seems content to move forward as is or at least they are not willing to mortgage the future for any 2nd half player rental.

As a Yankee fan, I can say I am satisfied with their actions, or inaction to be more accurate. The Yankees have a 6 game lead in the AL East and a farm system full of talent. The team has experienced a revival this year thanks to comeback seasons from Mark Teixeira and A-Roid and with talent like Aaron Judge, Rob Refsnyder, and Slade Heathcott still developing, the window for future winning seasons is opening wider. The starting pitching is still a precarious factor but holding on to Luis Severino, who will make his MLB debut this Wednesday against the Sawx, may prove to be the winning ticket for entry into this year’s October bonanza.

Best of all, one could say that Friday night’s 13-6 win over the Chicago White Sox could be seen as validation for this year’s trade deadline policy. The Yankees finished the weekend by taking two of three from the ChiSox while outscoring them 27-17. This helped the Yanks finish their ten game road trip at 6-4, buoyed by an offense that scored 78 runs in that span. Perhaps Brian Cashman’s new mantra is “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

And yet, you do wonder if the Yankees might have been served by picking a starter last Friday. Michael Pineda could miss up to month with his forearm issue. Masahiro Tanaka continues to be hit and miss. Nathan Eovaldi gets the brunt of Yankee run support but still can’t make it to the 7th inning on a consistent basis. And C.C. Sabathia keeps testing Joe Girardi’s faith. Or perhaps Girardi cannot fathom the ridicule of putting a $25 million/year pitcher in the bullpen for mop-up duty and lefty matchups.

The Yankees’ season may continue to rest on the explosive offense and ever-expanding bullpen. The Yankees continue to pummel opponents with the 2nd best offense in all of baseball. The usual suspects leading the charge continue to be Teixeira, A-Roid, and Brian McCann. Teixeira in particular has been on a roll, seemingly taking his lack of sugar, carbs and wheat out on every opposing pitcher with 5 HRs in his last four games. I just hope MLB doesn’t pass a “No Gluten-Free” policy anytime soon.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have hit a bit of a rut lately but continue to be threats at the top of the lineup. Even the bottom of the lineup is contributing to the juggernaut with Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius hitting .370 and .317 respectively in the month of July. Each has also improved on their early season defensive woes. Gregorius in particular is showing improved range and a strong arm. Throw in Stephen Drew about to cross the Mendoza line with yesterday’s 3-4 performance, and every bat in the lineup now needs to be accounted for.

But as I have said all year, and as it has been demonstrated, it’s all about the bullpen. The Yankees win games they are supposed because of a reliable and growing pen of arms. Despite yesterday’s hiccup, Chasen Shreve has proven to be reliable against hitters from both sides of the plate and for multiple innings. Justin Wilson and Adam Warren continue to wiggle starters out of jams in the 6th and 7th innings. And Dellin Betances/Andrew Miller is a two headed beast that no hitter wants to face with the game on the line.

From here on out the Yankees have been blessed by the scheduling gods, with a majority of their games played at home and not a single game to be played outside the Eastern Time Zone. The team is healthy, offensively explosive and gearing up for a strong final two months of the season. The course is set and the Yankees control their own destiny, along with hopes of playoff dreams for their highly-opinionated fans. I’m all in on this squad. And apparently so is Brian Cashman.