Archives for posts with tag: Wild Card

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

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Welcome to rock bottom, Yankee fans. After an offseason that some (including myself) believed would be a pre-cursor to another 85+ win season, the Yankees start May 1 with a record of 8-14 and own the AL East cellar. So much for picking up where last season left off. Then again, maybe this is just a continuation of last September’s slide and no-show in AL Wild Card game against the Houston Astros. The Yankees are showing every characteristic of an aging squad: offensively flailing, defensively lethargic, and no fight whatsoever in late innings where 1-2 run deficits look like insurmountable odds. The Yanks are currently last in all of baseball in offense and don’t seem able to buy runs, even if they were in abundant supple at the local Dollar Tree. This is bad, and I’m not sure how much longer any of us can keeping saying, “Well, it’s only April.”

So, what to do? Here’s a few ideas:

1.       Bench Chase Headley – No one has been a bigger fan of the Yankee 3rd baseman than me since he came over from San Diego in 2014. Headley was a breath of fresh air when he arrived providing early stellar defense and professional high pitch at-bats. But as of today, Headley is off to a .150 start in April without a single extra base hit. Much like the rival Sawx did with high-priced Pablo Sandoval, the Yankees need to swallow their pride and let someone else take a turn. I would recommend using Ronald Torreyes at 3B against lefties and using Starlin Castro at 3B against righties, with Dustin Ackley getting time at 2B. Torreyes is hitting .381 in limited use and Ackley deserves a chance to pick up on his .288 Pinstripe debut from last year.

2.       Use the Farm – Just about every other team has seen flourishing results from bringing up talent in May, like Mike Trout with the Angels in 2012 or Kris Bryant and Carlos Correia with the Cubs and Astros respectively last year. The Yanks need a jolt, and while they may not have any Rookie of the Year candidates on deck there’s still plenty to choose from. My vote goes to Slade Heathcott who showed plenty of promise hitting .400 in 25 games last season. He can easily man RF while Beltran and A-Roid split DH duties. Also, it’s time to give Aaron Judge a shot. He may have had a dreadful spring but at this point the Yankee offense ain’t getting any worse. Try something new.

3.       Put Severino in the Pen and Start Nova – I hate given up on anyone this quickly but Severino looks like a shell of the player who pitched to a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts last year. Maybe it’s just the weather and he needs time to warm-up like fellow slow-starter Michael Pineda, but I would tap Nova for his rotation spot. Nova isn’t much of an upgrade but at least he has had good outings this year and he can eat up some innings while Severino re-gains some confidence when called upon in relief.

 

Aside from Starlin Castro’s solid start, Nathan Eovalidi returning to July form, and a monster bullpen that is of little use with no leads to protect there is nothing else to report at this time. The Yankees are in trouble. And that starts with a T and that rhymes with G and that stands for Girardi, who may want to start polishing up his resume. He may not have the horses but he’s got find a way to make something happen: light a fire, pick the lineup from a hat, blame A-Roid for everything. Something. Anything. Otherwise we might as well just become Rob Schneider’s Cajun character from The Waterboy proclaiming, “Oh, No! We Suck Again!”  Cause right now, we do.

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.

It took longer than it should have but the 2015 New York Yankees finally secured their slot in the Wild Card game last night with a desperately needed 4-1 win over the rival Sawx. The win salvaged the series finale and halted an untimely three game skid. If the Yankees could have simply won one of the first three games, they would have already guaranteed themselves the opportunity to host the “play-in” game. As it stands they now need to win one of three in Baltimore for that to become a reality. And with the monsoon conditions predicted who knows what games can even be played.

As for the current state of the Yankees, it continues to be a showcase of Jekyll and Hyde. Everytime you start to believe, they fall flat as witnessed by the first three losses in the Boston series. Everytime you count them out, they power up by displaying the 2rd best offense in baseball and their lights-out bullpen. The Yankees are nothing if not entertaining when they are not infuriating their fans.

Last night displayed just the right amount of veteran talent bolstered by the youth movement. C.C. Sabathia pitched another five solid innings and has a 2.17 ERA since returning from the DL. Adam Warren added three scoreless innings of relief and may prove to be the new Ramiro Mendoza, with his ability to provide long relief and spot starts. Carlos Beltran jump started the Yankee offense with his 2nd inning HR and has made a case to be the Yankees 2nd half MVP. Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder added solo HRs and are giving Yankee fans plenty to look forward to, even if this year ends after next Tuesday night’s Wild Card game.

The question is which Yankee team will show up on Tuesday? Will it be the team that had every cylinder clicking last night or the team that was unable to overcome shoddy starting pitching and left 30 men on base in the first three games of the Boston series? And more importantly, which Masahiro Tanaka will show up? Will it be the ace worth $155 million who seems to be the mighty Jays only kryptonite? Or will it be the pedestrian pitcher who has given up four runs in his last two starts against the Sawx? The problem with the one game playoff is the endless amount of questions that need to be answered.

In the short term, I am disappointed that the Yankees lost a seven game lead in the AL East to the Toronto Blue Jays and have to settle for the Wild Card game. But overall, it’s hard to not be excited about the Yankees future, currently embodied by Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Slade Heathcott, Rob Refsnyder, and Rico Noel. The Yankees are now approaching a crossroads where the next few seasons will see the passing of the torch and thinning of the payroll with players like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A-Roid likely to move on. I am not saying this is 1995 all over again but it’s hard to not see some parallels and the beginning of something special.

These are exciting and tenuous times in the Bronx. And Yankee fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

To stay realistically alive in the playoff hunt, the Yankees needed to sweep the Blue Jays this past weekend. They couldn’t even manage to win the series with yesterday’s 4-3 loss, which was indicative of their season long offensive struggles. With September beginning, the Yankees are nine games back of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East meaning they would need to win 22 of their last 27 while the O’s play just .500 ball. But this scenario is about as likely as a Sarah Palin presidency. Even the 2nd Wild Card play-in slot is a long shot. I do not like to lose hope as a Yankee fan but I also do not like to avoid the truth.

The 2014 Yankees are done playoff-wise. All that’s left is to evaluate the team that has been composed and look ahead to see who should stick around for 2015. It’s also time to truly relish in Derek Jeter’s final games in pinstripes. The Captain’s farewell tour is in its final leg and it has been very heartening to see players, fan, and commentators alike pay tribute to this living legend. So, my future blogs will focus on this upcoming off-season, and what we learned from 2014.

Next up for the Yanks is another series with the Sawx, who have had an even more disappointing season than the Yankees. Of course, the Sawx still have last year’s World Series victory in their belt. The Yankees and Sawx may not have the same bite this year as in years past but both teams are in the same boat in trying to figure out what their teams will look like in next year’s playoff push.

With the wild card games decided and the actual playoffs ready to begin, I thought I would give predicting a shot. So, here’s my playoff picture:

Red Sox over the Rays in 4 games

Tigers over the A’s in 4 games

Dodgers over the Braves in 3 games

Cardinals over the Pitates in 5 games

Red Sox over the Tigers in 6 games

Dodgers over the Cardinals in 7 games

Red Sox over the Dodgers in 6 games

As much as it pains me to say it, I’ve got the Sawx winning it all. The Red Sox have the best offense in baseball along with the 1-2 punch of Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester, not to mention the motivation of sticking it to Bobby V. Even a Yankee fan like me can live with that, even if I’m pulling for the Dodgers all the way.

After a season of injuries, disappointments, and resilience, the Yankees were officially eliminated from the playoffs last night. Considering all of the turmoil and turnover in 2013 maybe its still a significant accomplishment that the Yankees made it to game 157 with playoff hopes. I am still not convinced that a wild card spot in the new format is a real playoff birth, but it’s what was available. As for the Yankees, there will be no October and no final playoff run for Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees had their chances, in the last week and all season long, but fell short due to age, injuries, and lack of ability. Whether it was the middling starting pitching, the average offense, or the first rate bullpen that was incapable of perfection, the Yankees were unable follow through on their early mid-May success. With injuries to Curtis Granderson, A-Roid, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter, the plan was to hold down the fort until these All-Stars could return. They did return, but only as mere shells of the former greatness.

Of course, a season without a healthy Derek Jeter just doesn’t feel like a Yankee season at all. I know we are not supposed to count out Derek Jeter, ever, but this season has been a wake up call for Yankee fans. The clock is ticking, and The Captain is only getting older. Here’s hoping for some magic still left in the tank for 2014.

As for Pettitte and Rivera, we as Yankee fans have been preparing for this. Over the past decade, we have watched as Yankee greats like Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Mike Mussina, and Jorge Posada have walked away. Not all of them, if any, got to leave on their own terms or with any remnants of a storybook ending. Why should Pettitte or Rivera be any different? They are both legends in the Bronx and we will remember them for their great games and the World Series rings, not the final playoff run they missed out on.

As for the next four games, I’d like to see Ivan Nova get his tenth win tonight, giving the Yankees four starters with double digit wins this season. I’d like to see Eduardo Nunez continue to impress with his bat and glove. And I’d like to see Robinson Cano, since it might be the last time we see him in pinstripes. I’d also like to see if the Yankees can win win three of their last four and fulfill my spring training prediction of 85 wins. Like the wild card chasing Yankees this season, I will take what I can get.

#FarewellMoandPettitte