A surprise post

Posted by Baseball Bob at 09:33
Jun 112017

The Yankees exploded yesterday, scoring 9 runs in the first two innings, getting a great start from Severino, and blasting the Orioles 16-2, their fourth straight start scoring 8 or more (and their 20th of the year). Oddly, that’s not what I want to talk about.

My sister has a daughter who is a good friend of Nik Turley, who is starting today for the first-place Minnesota Twins in his major-league debut. He is a pretty amazing story: he was drafted by the Yankees in the 50th round of the 2008 draft, the 1502nd player chosen (!) and second-to-last overall. He pitched 8 innings of rookie-league ball in 2008 as an 18-year-old, allowing a single earned run (ERA 1.12). Back in rookie ball for 2009 he was 2-3 2.82 in 54 IP. In 2010 (aged 20) he pitched 72 innings between rookie and low A, with a 3.86 ERA which is a bit deceiving because he allowed 6 unearned runs, some of which is obviously his fault. Continuing to pitch in leagues where he was younger than the average, he had a good year in 2011 in A-ball (4-6 2.61) and a couple of rough starts in high-A (7 IP 6.14). In 2012, now 22, he pitched 112 innings for high-A Tampa (9-5 2.89) earning a 1-start promotion to AA, where he allowed 3 ER in 5 IP.

Here is where it gets a bit weird, for me. I didn’t know, at all, that my sister and her daughter were following this career avidly, but I do vaguely remember hearing about this marginal Yankee prospect (in the days when the Yankee minor-league system was pretty weak) who was a 50th round pick and now rising in the system.

In 2013 he pitched all year in AA ball (139 IP, 11-8 4.47) and once again got a 1 start opportunity in the next step (AAA) (6 IP, 1 ER). In AA ball at age 23 he is still 1.6 years younger than average: not a top prospect by any means, but a potentially useful piece. In April of 2014 he experienced tightness in his right (non-pitching) arm, and was released by the Yankees. I can’t find out exactly how it came about, but at some point he was picked up again, and he was 5-3 4.62 for AAA Scranton, but in only 60 IP. He was released after the season. Picked up by the Giants he pitched in the PCL in 2015, 102 IP 7-8 4.56. The PCL is a hitter’s league, so 4.56 is not really bad but now at 25 years old he is no longer young for any minor league, and was released after the season. He was picked up by the Red Sox, assigned to AA Portland (my sister went up there and saw him pitch) but was released mid-season after 35 IP of 4.35. He pitched for Somerset of the NJ independent league the rest of the season, and also in the Dominican winter league. Tina tells me he pitched in Mexico, probably in 2014 before returning to the Yankees.

Released again, he was signed to a minor-league contract by the Twins, and has 50 IP of 2.02 this year, between AA and AAA. He struck out 15 against the Scranton Yankees (take that!) and now, finally and amazingly, he will start a major league game, for a first-place team, debuting a few months before his 28th birthday. He is a lefty with a decent track record of strikeouts and a sometimes control problem. I wish him all the best.

Rolling?

Posted by Baseball Bob at 10:31
Jun 102017

The Yankees got a solid start (GS 66) from rookie Jordan Montgomery, and lots of late offense, led by Aaron Hick’s sixth and seventh inning homers to bomb the Orioles 8-2. Since this game was 2-2 after 5 and 3-2 after six, it was a lot closer than the score. But one difference between this team and other recent Yankee teams is their ability to tack on runs. Last year NY led all of baseball in first-inning runs, but was below average from the sixth inning on. This year the opposite might be true (no data).

Fun fact one: this is the Yankees first 3-game stretch with at least 8 runs in each game for several years. The last time they accomplished the feat, they lost all three games!

Fun fact two: the Yankees are back to 12 games over .500, their season high. The last time was at 21-9 (they are now 35-23) so they went 14-14 over that stretch.

I thought I might take a moment and revisit the report cards that I used to produce. It has been years, so let me briefly state what they are meant to show, and how they are calculated: for offense, hitters are graded together based on runs each game. In 2017 run environment, 4 runs is considered a half a win, 5 or more a win. Individually, hitters are graded on OPS+ compared against an arbitrary scale, as follows: C 85 SS 90 2B 95 CF 100 3B 105 RF 110 LF 115 1B 120 DH 125. The actual grade has to do with how far above or below these lines a player is. For starters, I use Bill James’ game scores (available at espn and baseball-reference) and consider that a GS below 40 is a loss, 41 is .05 of a win, 42 .10 etc. By this scale 59 is .95 of a win, and 60 and above is a win. Thus each starter gets a W/L record. For relievers it is trickier, and I won’t bore you with the math, but each outing is rated as Effective, Ineffective, yikes or YIKES! These in turn are given the value of +1, -1, -2, and -3 respectively. The sum of these values is the player’s value – a positive number suggests value.

Too much information! But wait, there’s more: each record W/L or OPS+ by position or relief scored divided by appearances is then converted by an arcane formula into a grade from F to A+. Too much work to do by hand, but I used to have a spreadsheet to do it. But the spreadsheet depended on B-R and buying a subscription, and when they changed their stat format so I would have to redo the formulas, I dropped it. Whew! Good thing no one much really reads this stuff.

Anyway, here goes (for the Yankees, naturally):

Team offense: (Source)

Games scoring 3 or fewer runs: 22

Games scoring 4: 7

Games scoring 5 or more runs: 29

Offense deserves a record of 32.5 – 25.5 .560 Grade B+

Numbers are OPS+

C Sanchez  118 A+++

Romine    55  F

1B Carter    75  F

Bird       23  F—

2B  Castro  126 A+++

SS  Gregorius  115  A++

3B  Headley      75  F

LF  Gardner    127  B

CF  Ellsbury    105  B-

RF  Judge        185  A+++ (many as you want 145 is A+++)

OF  Hicks        186  A+++ (better than Judge! And a more valuable fielder, too)

DH Holliday   134  B-

IF   Torreyes     75  D  (rated as a SS)

Comment: this SEEMS like an A+ offense. But the fact that they score a LOT of runs in their wins is a slight detriment – if they took a few runs from those 9 and 10 run outbursts and put them into making the 3s into 4s and the 4s into 5s they would rate better. Also, if you look at the individual grades you see some real holes: 3B, 1B in particular, and they are not bad, they are BAD. So B+ seems right.

Rotation:

The Yankees are one of only 2 MLB teams to use exactly 5 starters this year, and that will change tomorrow, it was announced. But for now:

Tanaka 12 GS, deserves 4.55-7.45 .379 F

Pineda 12 GS, deserves 8.5-3.5 .708 A+++

Sabathia 12 GS, deserves 7.2-4.8 .600 A

Severino 11 GS, deserves 8.05-2.95 .732 A+++

Montgomery 11 GS, deserves 6.35-4.65 A-

TEAM 34.65-23.35 .597 A

Bullpen (listed by IP) – numbers are rating/games/grade

Warren          6  22  B+

Holder           3  26  C

Clippard        9  27  A

Betances      19  21  A+++ (off the charts 8 of 21 is A+, 19 is impossible)

Green             5    7  A+++

Shreve            9  11  A+++

Chapman       6  14  A++

Mitchell        -1  11  F

Layne            -2  18 F

Gallegos         0   6  D-

Cessa             -1    1  F

TEAM           53  164  A

Overall record 35-23 .603 A – that’s what you get when you have a B+ offense, an A rotation and an A bullpen. And (scarily) room for improvement: 1B has to be better, and at some point if Headley doesn’t improve we’ll see Torres at third. Room to falter, of course, as well: Sabathia could return to 2013-15 form, Montgomery could fall back to expectations, people could get hurt, etc. But the report card suggests that the record is no fluke – and it was compiled with Sanchez and Gregorius both out for a month.

Lots of work, but worth it if anyone cares. Does anyone have a team they would like a report card for?

Been a While

Posted by Baseball Bob at 12:30
Jun 092017

Life has been busy; today it eased up: last day of seminary. Perhaps I should explain: I teach a scripture study class each school day at 6:00 am for High School students. Between getting up early to teach the class, going to bed early so I am not exhausted, and preparing lessons, this is a time-consuming activity; today was the last day of school for Seniors, so it was the last seminary class as well. I expect to have more time and energy for baseball going forward. We shall see.

The Yankees have been treading water since their great start: they are 13-14 since starting the season at 21-9. Since 13-14 is more like their preseason projections, we might well expect to see a .500 team going forward: if they were to go 53-52 in their remaining 107 games, that added to their 34-23 current record yields 87-75; their best season in a number of years, and a wild-card contending record. Clearly, Yankee fans are expecting more.

There are signs: the rotation has settled down – four of the five starters are pitching quite well (the exception, oddly, is Tanaka), and starting pitching was always this teams’ projected Achilles heel. Judge’s home run rampage is slowing, as expected, though he still leads the league with 18. But his OVERALL offensive game has actually improved: teams are respecting his power, and pitching him more carefully, with the result that he is walking more, and hitting more singles. His strikeout rate is rising, though nowhere near last year, but some of that is unfair: there is a clear indication that umpires aren’t yet adjusted to how high his knees are! Not that many 6’7″ hitters around baseball at the moment. Judge’s slash line is .330/.436/.670 – slugging down (but still great) but BA and OBP up.

There’s one other thing that helps predict better things going forward: first base has been an offensive (and defensive, truth be told) black hold for New York; and how hard can it be to find a first baseman that can hit (and field a little)? Bird was hurt and awful, Carter has been healthy and awful. But Tyler Austin is healed, and he is unlikely to be as bad, and Bird should be back soon, and there are indications that he is unlikely to be as bad. Headley has faded but Gardner is on fire, Castro has cooled off but Hicks has heated up. And Gary Sanchez hit two homers off David Price last night, so HE may be on the upswing, as well.

The Yanks took 2 of 3 from Boston, Battering Porcello and Price in the process (and losing to Pomeranz, go figure). And their two young starters, Severino and Montgomery, both missed this series: the Yanks started Tanaka (awful), Sabathia (amazing) and Pineda (almost as amazing). Go New York!

Do we care about the all-star voting? Usually not, but when has a rookie LED all players in the voting (Judge, of course)? Never in my memory.

Meanwhile, can the Astros really be this good? On pace for a 114 win season, they are THIRTEEN games up after 61 games. How are they doing this? Well, they have only ONE regular with an OPS+ under 100: Aoki in left at 76. But several others (3B Bergman 100, DH Beltran 101, 1B Gurriel 106) are pretty much average. But they DO score a lot of runs – if your DH and 1B and 3B are average, they are productive players (hitters positions) and if your 2B and SS are 155 and 152 then, well, you ARE going to score.

Their pitching is not as good as I thought, as 3 of 5 starters have ERA+ under 100 (that is, below average) and THREE of their 5 most-used starters are on the DL, including the unhittable Dallas Keuchel. Still, they roll along. I think they’ll falter big-time. I only predict them for 107 wins.

Life is fun. stay tuned

 

OK, I admit it

Posted by Baseball Bob at 12:02
May 242017

OK, OK, I confess. I post more faithfully when the Yankees are winning. What can I say?

They have been struggling recently; some of the early season success stories (Headley, Ellsbury, Romine, Torreyes) have been pretty bad, and the Yankees lead the AL in HRs but recently they are climbing the leaderboard in HR allowed, as well. For example, last night rookie Jordan Montgomery pitched his best game of the season: after 6 IP he had faced 19 batters, allowing only one scratch single. NY led 2-0 on two solo HRs. But he allowed a HR in the 7th, and left leading 2-1. Warren, Holder and Layne allowed a HR each, and they lost 6-2. I think they have lost 8 of 12 or something like that. So it is not that much fun to write.

I am working on a simple projection system to try to guess how a team will finish based on its start plus its projection.

In my mind, there are three elements to consider:

  1. Record to date – obviously, whether lucky or great or bad, the wins and losses to date are in the books, and barring a pine tar incident (don’t know that one? You are young, my friend. Look it up, it’s really a good yarn) they aren’t going to be taken away.
  2. Runs scored and runs allowed – this is the basic measure of team performance, even more than wins. If a team is, say, 25-10 but has scored 150 runs and allowed 160, that is clear evidence that they are NOT a .700 team (.714 actually) but if they are 25-10 and score 250 while allowing only 160, that IS some indication that they are a .700 team.
  3. Preseason projection – some sites (e.g. Fangraphs) update their projections daily, but then I should just use their projections. I think they don’t really take into account true increases, and I’m trying to do something simpler.

I’m not done, but here’s a peek:

Suppose we think of their likely result as follows:

The first X games are their record right now. Let’s call YTD% the percentage of the season already in the books (X / 162). Then we could say that the balance of the season projection should be YTD% based on 2017, and 100 – YTD% based on preseason projection. So my proposed formula, would be something like:

Record after X games + Pythagorean projection % for the next YTD% times (162 – X) games, plus Preseason projection % times remaining games.

For example:

Yankees are 26-17

43 games is 26.5% of the season

Yankees preseason consensus record was 82-80 which is .506

Yankees have scored 238 runs while allowing 185. By the Pythagorean principle, they “deserve” a winning percentage of .623 (actual winning percentage .605)

So by this theory, they project to:

26-17 + 20-12 (.623 over 26.5% of remaining games) + 44-43 (.506 over the rest) = 90-72

As the season progresses, of course, the games in the books account for more of the total, AND the way those wins and losses were compiled accounts for more of the remainder of the season, and the preseason expectation accounts for less.

I have time for one more, let’s do the Red Sox.

Sox are 23-21

44 games is 27.2% of season

Sox preseason consensus was 95-67 which is .586

Sox have scored 207 and allowed 194, a deserved winning percentage of .532

Projection: 23-21 + 17-15 + 50-38 = 90-72

Maybe there’s something wrong with my methodology, and everyone projects to 90-72. But I think what this says is that my method predicts a tight race between the Sox and Yanks. Maybe I’ll do the Orioles tomorrow.

Go Yankees!

May 182017

Sorry friends. It’s been years since I was truly excited about a Yankee team, and when I have only a little time I can’t seem to focus very often on anything else. One of these days I’ll have several hours to spare and I’ll write about what has happened to the Giants, or the Mets, or the Astros or the Twins. But for now, NYY it is.

The Yankees have scored 7 or more runs four games in a row. Last night they actually scored 11, and that game was started by the MLB ERA leader. OK, Jason Vargas was a bogus ERA leader (4.00+ career and a long career) but he started the day at 1.01 (!) and had allowed 0 or 1 run in 6 of 7 starts, 5 ER overall. So I was thrilled when they scratched across a first-inning run (Gardner single, Castro 2-out double) but it looked like Pineda was going to struggle (first inning included a single, a steal and a wild pitch). The predicted pitcher’s duel seemed to materialize over the next two innings, as Vargas allowed nothing at all, and Pineda only a walk, plus a couple of hard-hit outs.

Then in the top of the fourth with one out, Castro hit a fly ball that induced a rare misplay from Cain: he started back, looped left and forward, dove, made the catch, and flopped awkwardly to the ground. His wrist bent back (ouch – it reminded me of a play that cost Matsui most of a season) and the ball bounced out for a double. Cain appeared to be all right, he stayed in the game. Perhaps today’s lineup will tell us something. Judge then had an interesting at bat: he took three straight out of the zone, for a 3-0 count. Turned loose on the 3-0, he took a swing that would have put a 87-mph fastball into ORBIT, only Vargas threw him a 3-0 changeup and Judge was WAY out in front. On 3-1, same pitch, same swing, same result. Aaron did not come close to making contact with either pitch. Now the mind-game: does Vargas come back with the fastball, or stay with the change? And if the latter, is Judge sitting on it? Answer: he threw another change, not in the zone, and Judge did not even flinch. Walk, runners on first and second. Headley flied out on a 2-2 pitch, and my thought was “here we go again!” But Didi pulled a 1-2 pitch to right, they sent Castro with two outs, and when the throw missed the cutoff Judge took third as Castro beat the ball home. 2-0 Yankees. Hicks watched 4 pitches go by (strike, ball, strike, ball) and then belted a 3-run homer to left. 5-0 Yankees. Ken Singleton called the homer a “rally killer” (more like a rally finisher I’d say) but anyway there were now 2 outs and no one on, so you’d think the rally was done. Think again: Carter, he of the .200 batting average, singled through the shift (INTO it, not the other way) and Gardner pulled the ball into the right field gap. With 2 outs Carter is running as hard as he can from contact (I am not sure he is actually faster than I am, though I’d probably have a heart attack running 270 feet in a circle as fast as I can go) and the coach sent him. Gardner at that point is rounding second but continues on to third as Carter actually beats the throw home. The gave Gardner a triple, which is fine with me, though I personally would score it a double and takes third on the throw. But he didn’t visibly hesitate, and he MIGHT have made third even if the throw had been cut off so I guess it’s fair. 6-0 and the Yankees had scored more earned runs off Vargas in 3 2/3 innings than his other 7 opponents combined. Vargas’ ERA doubled to 2.03 (still pretty good, though).

Pineda gave up 2 singles and a HR in the bottom of the fourth, but it was only 2 runs because the first single was followed by a DP. Big lead, throw strikes, but he was hit pretty hard. And then the Yankees did something that has been missing from their repertoire for about 5 years: they didn’t stop hitting with the lead. Having batted around in the fourth, Castro got to lead of the fifth and he singled. Judge got a 3-1 count, saw a pitch he liked but swung through it, and then resisted the temptation to swing at a ball out of the zone for his second walk in two innings. Headley singled, Castro scoring, Gregorius singled, Judge scoring, and Hicks walked, loading the bases with no outs. Carter was 3 for 4 on this night, but this is the other one: a ground ball to short. They got the force at second and the speedy (???) Carter beat the relay to first for an RBI (run would have scored anyway). Gardner then hit a sac fly to make it 10-2, and Carter motored into second (he is beginning to BELIEVE that he can run!). Sanchez then drilled the ball to left field, and Carter attempted to score. There was a close play, he was called safe, but it was reversed (correctly) on review. But NY had an 8 run lead. Pineda allowed another HR (10-3) in the fifth. At this point the only Yankees without a hit were Judge (2 walks though) and Holliday. Both took care of this with singles in the sixth, but no runs scored. For good measure the Yankees loaded the bases AGAIN with no outs in the 8th and with Judge at the plate. Sadly, he struck out, but they scored another run on an out, and won 11-4.

Well, no, actually. In the bottom of the ninth, with the score 11-4, the Yankees gave a brief audition to Mike Gallegos. His job, as my son Joe would say, was to create a save for Betances, which is a tall task with NY up by 7. But Gallegos was up to the task: He started single, strike out, fly out – one on with one more out needed. Four straight singles plated 3 runs, and voila! He had done it. The Yankees now led by 4, but the tying run was on deck, the very definition of a save, so Betances came out of the pen, induced Hosmer to tap back to him, and notched the save. Somehow, I don’t think Gallegos will get much credit for this outing, even though he got his job done, creating the save.

This was Pineda’s worst start since his first of the year, and I guess he struggled, but actually I though he was pretty good. His game score (49) is ordinary, but he basically gave up NOTHING until he had a big lead. Then he began to pour in strikes, and a couple of them got turned around. He threw 57 strikes out of 98 pitches, and I’m pretty satisfied with the outing. This was a fun game to watch only if you are a fan – they put it away in the middle innings, and I’m sure it was boring for most people after that. But I’m having fun watching this team and enjoyed it all. With Baltimore’s loss they lead the Orioles by 1 1/2 and the Red Sox by 4.

Fun times.

May 122017

The Yankees were dominated by Houston pitching last night. They actually managed some baserunners, especially in the late innings (no so much against Keuchel in the first 6) but were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Pineda was good but not great (GS 56, 3 ER in 6.2 IP) but they trailed 3-1 in the ninth inning. They managed to get two on base and in fact had a classic finale set up: 2 runners in scoring position, two outs, fast runner (Ellsbury) on second, and Gary Sanchez at the plate. Four possible outcomes, in order of likelihood: 1) strike out, 2) hard hit out, 3) game-tying hit, 4) walk-off home run.

The fates dictated a sad variant on #3 – a game-winning hard single to left field, followed by a game-saving perfect throw from Marisnick to nail Ellsbury at home and preserve a 3-2 win (Win: Keuchel, Save: Marisnick). The send was automatic and correct – it takes a perfect throw to get the speedy Ellsbury (reached the catcher on the fly!) so that even though he was out “by a mile” I would say the odds that he scores on that play were above 90%. Add in that Marisnick was not even in the game at the start (normal left-fielder Aoki started (no way Aoki throws out Ellsbury) and you get my frustration.

New York fell a half game behind idle Baltimroe for the division race, and Houston moved to 24-11 on the season.

Busy today – maybe a longer post tomorrow.

I still love this game, though, even when it frustrates me.

Back on Top

Posted by Baseball Bob at 09:31
May 112017

Brilliant play by the Yankees pushes them back to the best record in Baseball, a massive .001 ahead of Houston, which is their next opponent. The play, of course, was in taking the day off, while Baltimore was blowing a 6-2 lead after 7 and falling to Washington 7-6. Houston is actually a half-game up on New York, but their records are so gaudy that playing 3 extra games and going 2-1 HURTS your winning percentage. Yankees are 21-10 .677 and Astros are 23-11 .676. Yea for us!

And don’t look now, but here come the Dodgers. Winners of 5 straight and 8 of 10, they have passed surprise team #1 Arizona and now have surprise team #2 Colorado in their sights – they trail the Rockies by 1 1/2 games. Their run differential is +53, second to the Yankees (+56) in all of MLB. The Nats are +51, but the drop from there is more precipitous: Astros +40, Snakes +23, everyone else below +20. On the negative side, the Giants are an amazing -68 and the Padres are right there with them at -58. The Royals are -45, and there are three teams in the thirties: A’s -37, Braves -35, Pirates -33. These run differentials mostly track a team’s record, but when they don’t, is usually means a team is under or over performing in the W-L department. So the Orioles, at 22-11 but with a differential of just +13 are unlikely to be as good as the Yankees, with essentially the same record (21-10) but +56.

Looking ahead to the Houston at New York 4-game series, you might well think that the Astros have the edge. Thursday pits Dallas Keuchel vs. Michael Pineda, a clear edge for Houston. Friday it’s Lance McCullers (2-1 3.40) against rookie Jordan Montgomery (2-1 3.81), again edge to Houston. Saturday Fiers vs. Severino clearly favors New York, and Sunday Morton (4-2 3.63 vs. Tanaka (5-1 4.36) which appears to favor Houston. What equalizes this series is the fact that NY is dominant at home (12-3) and Tanaka has been very good since a couple of bad starts that balooned his ERA. I won’t predict the series, but I do think that the most likely outcome is a split. The Yankees haven’t lost a series since April 21-23 at Pittsburgh and have won every home series of the year. The Astros have been good on the road (9-5) and have won their past 4 series, though only one of those (Angels) was on the road. Fun times!

The Orioles have one more game against the Nats, and then they get the woeful Royals for 3 games: I look for them to gain a game on New York over the next four games.

I love this game!

Still Going

Posted by Baseball Bob at 09:03
May 092017

The Yankees won their 6th straight last night, scoring 10 runs and getting length from Tanaka, ameliorating the concern about a depleted bullpen. They scored 3 in the first to take the pressure off, and than added on throughout the game. It really never felt like Cincy was going to get in the game, and they didn’t (final 10-4). They had a TON of baserunners: 13 hits, 7 walks, 3 HBP (all in the same inning!), 1 by error, 1 by fielder’s choice. They left 11 on base, which is a high number, but normal-to-low when you score 10 runs. The Reds numbers were more typical: 12 baserunners, 4 runs and 6 LOB.

The Yankees, of course, continue to sport the best record in the game (hard to lose that distinction if you win) but the second best record is in their own division: the Orioles who have almost matched this streak (5 straight) are 21-10 to the Yankees 21-9, 1/2 game behind. Many pre-season prognosticators had these two teams 4-5 in the division. That could still be true, of course, as it is early days. But most projection systems now have the Yankees winning something like 93-95 games, due to their hot start and their run differential. The Yankees are +58, best in baseball, but the Orioles are only +13. Thus the projection systems see them as lucky, and are still only projecting them in the 84-86 win stage, despite the hot start. I would buy more into this were it not for the fact that Baltimore under Showalter has outperformed its run differential EVERY SINGLE YEAR since Buck arrived. That makes it hard for me to bet against them doing it again, though I know that it is likely that  SOME team will outperform its pythagorean projection five years running.

The Dodgers are on a tear (3 straight, 8 of 10) and seem in the process of reestablishing order in the NL West. They have passed the Diamondbacks and are within 2 of the Rockies, and seem destined to soon be ahead of both. And the Indians are back on top of the AL Central as the Twins and White Sox return to earth. As Houston and Washington, preseason favorites both, are well ahead in their own divisions, and the Cubs were back on top until they ran into the Yankee buzz saw, it now appears that the only division in which the original favorite is favorite no more is the famed AL East. The Red Sox are playing better, but hardly seem like the juggernaut that they projected to be.

FanGraphs is the only place that still projects the Red Sox to triumph over the Yankees (91 wins to 90) at this moment – most sites have NY ahead by 2-4 games. Everyone still projects the Indians, Astros, Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers though.

Tuesdays are busy for me. More tomorrow I hope.

May 082017

Yes, the Yankees currently sport the best record in baseball. The margin is razor thin: they are 20-9 .690. The Nationals are 21-10 .677, The Astros and Orioles are 20-10 .667. Thus NY is the only team in baseball who has not reached double-digits in losses. In (the unlikely) case you were wondering, the 1998 Yankees didn’t lose their 10th game until their 41st game (thanks for asking) so this edition, to match that 31-9 record, would need to add 11 more wins to their current 5-game win streak. Pretty unlikely, I would say.

Last night they had a BAD game. They wasted a great start from Severino (GS 73) but built a 4-1 lead entering the ninth inning. Cue Aroldis Chapman. Ooops: 2 K, 3 H, 2 W, 1 HBP and Chapman departs with a BS (Blown Save. Shame on you!), a YIKES! and 36 pitches thrown. First time this year he has been pulled mid-inning. Clippard stopped the bleeding and pitched another inning. Warren pitched 2 innings despite having thrown more than an inning the night before. Holder had pitched more than an inning (1.2) only once this season, so naturally he pitched 3 scoreless innings. The Chasen Shreve, who was in AAA a couple of days ago, came on. He hasn’t exceeded a single inning all season, and HE went 3 innings as well. Who knows who might have pitched if the game went another inning (Ronald Torreyes?)

The game lasted 18 innings, 6 hours and 5 minutes, both records for interleague play and for longest game this season to date. The Yankees struck out 22 times, besting (worsting?) by FIVE their previous high. But they also struck out 26 (!!) Cubs, besting by SEVEN their previous best, and the combined 48 strikeouts between the teams bested the all-time MLB record by FIVE.

Such inept offensive effort (or superb pitching) could not end with a home run, or even a double/single. It ended with a bunt single (a good throw gets him) and a bad throw, putting Hicks on second with no outs. A bunt by Torreyes put him at third with the infield in, and a ground ball by Castro and bad throw by Addison Russell scored him in the 18th. Shreve, dead tired, got two on with two out (visions of a single tying the game and it CONTINUING) but no, a strikeout (what else) ended it with NY on top 5-4, and in first place. Whoo-hoo.

Castro, Gregorius, Headley and Romine, the original 5-6-7-8 hitters in the Yankee lineup, were a combined 0 for 30 (!) and Castro say his league leading batting average fall by .023 and STILL lead the league (he was 0 for 8 but still drove in the winning run). Whew!

Who predicted that the Yankees and Reds would open a series on May 8 with both of them in first place? Not I, that is for sure! Go Yankees.

May 062017

The Yankees were stifled last night by the World Champion Cubs. While they out-hit the Cubs, with 9 hits in 8 innings to the Cubs 4, the Yankees were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position (and that one hit did not drive in a run), the Cubs had 2 HRs in their four hits and sported a 2-0 lead. But Wade Davis had been used for three consecutive nights, so they called on Hector Rondon to close out the game. Gregorius grounded out on a 2-2 count to open the frame, but Headley hit a 3-1 fastball to left for a single. What must the Cubs thought about the Yankee lineup when they saw that 2016 NL Home Run leader Chris Carter was batting eighth? Anyway, Carter came up and Rondon’s first pitch went to the backstop, Headley taking second. This was relevant, of course, because Carter has not three but four true outcomes: HR, K, BB, GIDP 😉 Carter did his thing, getting to 0-2, fouling off 3 of the next four pitches while taking one ball, and striking out on a 1-2 slider that broke back over the plate. 2 out, 1 on. Ellsbury pinch hit for Holder (the pitcher) and the bat never left his shoulder in a 5-pitch walk. This brought up Gardner, who up until 5 games before had NO RBI on the season, but who had had a recent hot streak. After 3 pitches in which there were no swings, he was down in the count 1-2 and forced to swing. He fouled off two good pitches, took a ball outside, and the stage was set. The catcher called for the ball low and outside, it was actually low and inside (probably not a strike), but Gardner saw it clearly, swung low and met it squarely, and put it about 6 rows deep in the rightfield stands, fairly near the line but in no danger of being foul, nor of being caught, despite a wind that was blowing in. 3-2 Yankees. And Chapman and Betances were BOTH available. Headley made a two-base error on the leadoff batter, but with Chapman on the mound it didn’t matter: strikeout, groundout, strikeout and NY moved to 18-9.

It broke a long Cubs streak: the previous 152 times they entered the ninth inning with a 2-run lead they had won the game. And in only a couple of them had they given up the tying run and won it in extra innings (like the Yankees loss to Toronto, where they turned a 4-2 deficit into a 4-4 game dramatically, but lost 7-4 in 11).

But some prognosticators have stopped dismissing the hot start out of hand, and think the Yankee resurgence may well be real. Their pitching is erratic (Sabathia has 3 great starts and 3 awful starts, for example) but overall pretty solid, they are scoring a bunch of runs and it’s not just Aaron Judge, and while some players (Headley, Castro, Hicks, Judge) figure to get worse, others (Sanchez, Bird, Gardner) figure to get better. It IS a scary lineup; 41-HR Carter WAS batting 8th in an NL park. ESPN currently projects them for 97 wins – no one else in the AL East projects for more than 85. I don’t buy those numbers, but I do think they might win in the low 90s, and that might be enough to win the division.

It’s certainly early days. but last year they won 84 games with an 8-17 start. if they only play as well as they did the rest of last year, hardly a blistering pace, they’ll win 92 games and be in the hunt all season. And they could well be better than that.

For sure they’ll be more fun.

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