Archives for posts with tag: Chasen Shreve

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.

The youth movement in the Bronx is continuing to pay winning dividends. The New York Yankees have won seven games in a row and show no signs of slowing down as they play themselves back into serious playoff contention. Not only are they jockeying for position in the Wild Card standings, where they are currently one game out of the 2nd spot, but are now only three games back of the rival Sawx in the race for the AL East. Yep, this is the same team that held an early “Back to School” sale at the trade deadline. And the result? A record of 24-13 and a month long display of what the future may hold in the Bronx.

After a ten game homerless streak where more than a few commentators starting squawking about Kevin Maas, Gary Sanchez returned to early August form with HRs in each of the last two games. The big hitting catcher also pulled a Kelly Leak when he whacked an intentional ball to deep left center, which was good enough to merit a sacrifice fly. Seriously, good luck pitching around this guy. Brian McCann seems to have adjusted to his new role as DH and back-up catcher with a .313 week highlighted by 3 HRs. McCann should easily eclipse the 20 HR mark for the ninth straight season with one more blast. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are back to early season form hitting .391 and .318, respectively, over the last week. Gardner in particular saved Tuesday night’s 7-6 win against the Blue Jays when he tracked down Justin Smoak’s line drive to end the game. And Tyler Austin is making a serious case to be the Yankees new full-time first baseman. Next spring, he will have to complete with Greg Bird, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery that has sidelined him this year, but Austin is garnering plenty of favor after Thursday night’s game winning HR over the Rays. At the very least, Austin should be the new 4th OF with Aaron Hicks now thankfully dispensable.

Despite my reservations, Masahiro Tanaka continues to impress as the much needed Yankee ace. Tanaka has won two games during the current win streak and has lowered his ERA to just above 3.00. Most importantly, he has proved to very effective against the explosive line up of the Toronto Blue Jays. Over three starts this season, he has a 2.60 ERA which will be counted on again as the Yanks have one more trip planned north of the border. Bryan Mitchell’s first start of the year was fruitful as he held the aforementioned Jays scoreless over five innings. And while Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are having their recurring struggles, Joe Girardi is having no issues using his newly expanded September bullpen to get outs. Luis Severino has blossomed in his new middle relief role. Tommy Layne and Chasen Shreve have found success in their recent outings. And even Blake Parker came up big when he found himself in the unfamiliar role of having to get Dellin Betances out of a jam in Tuesday night’s heart-attack inducing 9th inning. Despite the hiccup, Betances should be fine especially with fellow relief ace Tyler Clippard along for back-up.

Another September and the Yankees are playing meaningful baseball. More importantly, they are hot at the right time and not stumbling to the finish line. Not sure they will challenge the 2007 Colorado Rockies 21-1 run but the Yankees are finding many ways to win with a new hero almost every night. There’s plenty of baseball and plenty of hope left in the season.

Not exactly the way I imagined my AL East Champion Yankees starting off the season but at 4-6 to start the season, it could be a lot worse. Of course, it could also be a whole lot better. After taking two of three from the playoff-worthy Houston Astros to open the season, the Bronx Bombers have shown brief glimpses of winning baseball and are now mired in a 4 game losing streak. Thankfully, it’s still early enough that top to bottom in the division is separated by a mere 4 games.

The Good: Starlin Castro has been as good as advertised, and even a little better. His first 10 games in pinstripes has seen him hit .342 and leading the squad with 9 RBIs, in addition to flashing some serious leather at 2B. Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have picked up from where they left off last year, slugging .630 and .649 respectively. And the bullpen has done its job, protecting each Yankee win and making up for minimal length from the starting staff. Johnny Barbato seems to be fitting right in with five scoreless appearances, complimenting Chasen Shreve who has five scoreless appearances of his own. And the two-headed monster of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller know no other mode than beast mode with a combined 21Ks over 9 scoreless innings.

The Bad: Yankees starting pitching, which realistically only needs to provide six innings of sufficient work to pass the baton to the bullpen, can’t seem to last that long. Only C.C. Sabathia has even seen the 7th inning so far. Those middle 3-4-5 innings are more problematic to Yankee starters than Batman Vs. Superman is to the DC film franchise 10 year plan. Perhaps it’s a matter of getting to warmer weather, especially for notable slow starters like Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka, but Yankee starters need to find a way through lineups the pesky 3rd time around.

The Ugly: The 2016 New York Yankees have a $214 million payroll and still can’t seem to buy a hit with RISP. This has been particularly frustrating in the last two games against the Seattle Mariners, where they are 0-24 in such situations. These last two games have seen the Yanks collect 16 hits, 13 BBs (6 from King Felix yesterday who only lasted 5 innings), and leave 24 men on base. I feel like I’m watching The Natural in the midst of that “Losing is a Disease” montage. So while the Yankees may be 9th in all of baseball in OBP, they are just league average in hitting. I’m talking to you, Sabermasochists, all the walks in the world don’t mean squat unless you get the actual HITS to make them count.

And there’s A-Roid, off to a 3-30 start. Sadly, benching him really isn’t an option. Unlike the Sawx ability to sit the $18 million/year bust that is Pablo Sandval, A-Roid A) keeps himself in shape and B) is only one year removed from a 33 HR renaissance. Believe it or not, I actually have faith in the big steroid created lug. He will turn it around……or start collecting his checks from the bench.

Today, the Yanks hope to salvage their Seattle series with Tanaka facing off against Hisashi Iwakuma. Don’t be surprised if the Bronx Bombers break out of this slump and tee off on the perennial Cy Young candidate. Or maybe the Yanks will keep wasting more opportunities than Steve Howe. What do I know anyway?

A new baseball season starts today. Well, technically it started yesterday with three contests but the rest of the baseball world begins their quest for a ring today. And with the start at hand, here are a few thoughts about the upcoming season where I see the Yankees winning the AL East. It’s not the best Yankee team I have seen but I do believe they have just enough to win a very evenly matched division. Here’s my breakdown on the Yanks using DefCon ratings because I am a geek for WarGames, and please know that DefCon 5 mean “no worries” and DefCon 1 means “Buy, Buy, Buy at the Trade Deadline:”

 

Offense: Last year the Yankees had the 2nd best offense in the bigs. I may have mentioned it before, and often. The Yankees have the same lineup in place led by the final contracted years of Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, HR hitting backstop Brian McCann, an older but still productive A-Roid, and a healthy 1-2 punch of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. Throw in the addition of 2B sparkplug Starlin Castro and there’s no reason for the Bronx Bombers to not keep churning out runs. Age may be a factor late in the year but expect offense to be a staple in victory. DefCon=4

 

Defense: The Yanks suffered in the field in 2015, at least during the 1st half. The 2nd half saw Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley workout their early season issues. I expect Sir Didi to compete for a Gold Glove at SS this season. Didi will be helped up the middle by the newly acquired Castro. The OF may be aging but the combo of Garnder, Ellsbury, and Beltran, being aided by Aaron Hicks and Dustin Ackley should be more than enough to stay competitive. DefCon=4

 

Bench/Pipeline: Austin Romine is more than adequate to backup Brian McCann but at some point big hitting catching prospect Gary Sanchez will find himself with the big club this season. Aaron Hicks will provide plenty of late-inning OF relief and the occasional day off for the Yankee veterans. Dustin Ackley hit .288 after his late season acquisition from the Seattle last year and is available to play 1B, 2B, and OF. Former Astro prospect Ronald Torreyes will backup Chase Headley at 3B, as well as 2B and SS. And even Starlin Castro will get in the mix as the recently converted SS can backup Sir Didi at SS.

What Yankee fans can be truly excited about is the wealth of prospects that include Ben Gamel, Slade Heathcott, Rob Refsnyder, Nick Goody, James Pazos, and slugger in-the-making- Aaron Judge. Each of these players will be seeing playing time in the Bronx this year and may be the key to the Yanks making a playoff run. DefCon=5

 

Starting Pitching: Last season saw Yankee pitching hover around league average, which was good enough to lock up the 1st Wild Card slot. All the same arms return with the exception being that we can look forward to an entire season of rookie phenom Luis Severino. The rest of the rotation includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and C.C. Sabathia, with Ivan Nova on ready alert 5. Each starter has the potential to dominate for any portion of the season, but may also be hindered by their own respective recent injury history (with the exception of Severino). But Joe Girardi should have just enough leeway to get the 800-900 innings he will need to compete this year. Besides it’s all about the Bullpen….. DefCon=3

 

Bullpen: Just like last year, the best part of this Yankee squad is the lights out bullpen. And the addition of Alroldis Chapman just made the games even shorter. Chapman won’t be available until May 9th but there are still plenty of options for Girardi to choose from, be it the proven Chasen Shreve, spring training standouts Johnny Barbato and Kirby Yates or Ivan Nova, who will be available for long relief until he is needed to aid the rotation. In the end, AL hitters will have to get through the indomitable super duo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Very simply, if the Yanks have a lead after 6 innings, they will keep it. DefCon=5

 

Hope I don’t sound like too much of a homer but I see the Yankees winning the division. I don’t necessarily see them making a deep playoff run, or even making it out of the 1st round, but the Yanks can win enough to take the AL East. And with the youth movement at hand things are just looking up for 2017. Go Yanks!

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.

After salvaging the series finale to the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, the Yankees seem to be back on track having subsequently won two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. But with the Jays also winning two of three against the Atlanta Braves, the Yankees stay locked in second place in the AL East by a deficit of three games. On the one hand, the Yankees have surprised everyone by how far they have gotten this year with a mixture of first year talent and fragile veterans. On the other hand, they are so close to becoming a top tier team that anything less than a division series win would be a disappointment.

This past week was highlighted by first rate pitching. Masahiro Tanaka continues to be the only antidote for the hot-hitting Blue Jay bats with another much needed gem. Luis Severino is the best deal the Yankees didn’t make at the deadline and only suffers from a lack of run support, while sporting a 3.12 ERA in his young career. And even C.C. Sabathia is showing signs of life with 6+ shutout innings in Monday night’s series opener.

A-Roid has handled every challenge and clutch at-bat this season with a surprising amount of grace and fortitude. Without him, the Yanks would most likely be hovering around .500. While the entire lineup is slumping in general, there are some bright spots. While only hitting .184 in September, Brett Gardner is riding a power surge with 3 HRS in the last week. Greg Bird continues to fill in admirably for Mark Teixeira with a .505 slugging percentage over 29 games. And Slade Heathcott may have hit the most important HR of the year with his 3-run bomb to win Monday night’s game. Heathcott may see more time in lieu of the struggling Jacoby Ellsbury.

The bullpen is still an effective if shaky weapon late in games. While Justin Wilson and Andrew Miller have been key in these most recent September games both Chasen Shreve and Dellin Betances are starting to show wear. Betances in particular has been the creator of his own problems with 7 BBs in his last 8 appearances. Joe Girardi has been criticized for overusing Betances but the real issue has been Betances’s in ability to pitch efficiently, using 30 pitches when only 10-15 should really be needed.

The next six days see the Yankees matchup against the crosstown 1st place New York Mets and the mighty Blue Jays. The Yankees are in line to host the AL Wild Card game but considering that it would entail hosting the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, or Cleveland Indians (all teams with true #1 starters) they really need to find a way back to the top of the AL East. The Yankees need to win four of the next six games just to stay significant and not hinge their playoff future on a 50/50 play-in game.

The more things change, the more they stay insane. Last week started with the Yankees losing two of three to the lowly Cleveland Indians. Not the best time in year to start to slide, especially since it allowed the surging Toronto Blue Jays to take over 1st in the AL East and inspired every baseball analyst to declare the 2015 New York Yankees DOA. Then the Yanks showed up in Toronto against an invigorated team and their fanbase (which sold out all three games) and proceeded to take two of three to jump back into the lead in the AL East by a ½ game. Suffice to say, there’s plenty of baseball left and plenty of flip-flopping to be flipped.

The Yankees did make a statement over the weekend. And that statement was the equivalent of Rocky Balboa finally figuring out Clubber Lang’s weakness and proclaiming, “Ain’t so bad!” Of course it helps when solid starting pitching is supported by timely hitting. Yankee pitching held the hot Blue Jays bats to only seven runs over the three game series. The highlights were Ivan Nova’s seven inning outdueling of David Price on Friday night and Masahiro Tanaka’s masterful one run, five hit complete game on Saturday. Despite a solid outing, Luis Severino lost in the series finale on Sunday and continues to be a victim to minimal run support. Overall, Severino is still impressive with a 3.18 ERA over his first three big league starts and may be just enough to help the Yankees starting pitching heading into September.

The Yankee offense continues to be a hit and miss project but remains second in all of baseball. Jacoby Ellsbury is showing signs of life hitting 7-18 over his last four games. A-Roid has cooled off considerably and may need a little more time off to cope with the long season. Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira are only hitting .190 and .192 respectively in August. And yet they are still power threats with McCann hitting 4HRs in the month and Teixeira adding 3HRs of his own.

But the key to a consistent Yankee offense may be the resurgence of Carlos Beltran, who is finally justifying his three year/$48 million deal. Beltran is hitting .324 in August including a three-run pinch hit HR in Friday’s victory. That at-bat, which saw Beltran in a 1-2 hole against Blue Jays reliever Aaron Sanchez, may be seen as the turning point in the season if the Yankees can find a way to win out. Joe Girardi will need to find ways to keep getting the best out the 38 year old Beltran with frequent platoons with Chris Young, who has been effective in his role as 4th outfielder.

The Yankee bullpen continues to be the best bet late in the game with Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren getting much needed outs in the 6th and 7th innings. Dellin Betances is still a beast in his set-up role. And Andrew Miller has tested more than few heart rates in his most recent outings. His twelve pitch, eight minute showdown with Troy Tulowitzki was a heartstopper, to say the least. Miller needs to be wary of the walks he allows down the stretch.

The Yankees start a ten game homestand tonight against the Minnesota Twins, followed by visits from the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. The schedule continues to favor the Yankees and the only question that remains is if they can take advantage. Seven wins in this stretch is a must and certainly within reason with September just around the corner.