E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

Author Archives: EJ Fagan

The Yankees Need to Platoon Mason Williams and Chris Young

The Yankees will call up Mason Williams to the big team:

You can read my recent post on Mason Williams to get my thought on him. Summary: He’s hitting well in 2015, could be really good, and also has a pretty high floor thanks to defense and a low strikeout swing. He’s been hitting even better at Triple-A since I wrote that post.

With Jacoby Ellsbury out, Chris Young has been getting a lot of playing time. The results haven’t been pretty. Check out these splits:

  • Vs. RHP: 77 PA, .149/.171/.284
  • Vs. LHP: 52 PA, .327/.407/.673

And Mason Williams in 2015:

  • Vs. RHP: .331/.414/.411
  • Vs. LHP: .280/.345/.360

This should be a no-brainer, and probably should have been the day after Ellsbury got injured: Mason Williams and Chris Young should be strictly platooned. Combined, the Yankees could have all-star level production simply by preventing each player from facing their weak sides.…

Read more

Are the Yankees the Best Team in the American League?

[Please note: This post was written yesterday before Kansas City won and the Yankees, Astros and Twins all lost.]

The Yankees are 33-25, tying them with Houston, Minnesota and Kansas City for the best record on the American League. The Yankees have been on top of the AL East for most of the season, but this is the first time that they are on top of the whole American League.

They’ve scored 271 runs (4.67 per game) and allowed 236 (4.07 per game), giving them a perfectly-matched 33-25 pythagorean record. Despite a killer back end of the bullpen, they are just 8-8 in one-run games. They’ve had key players (Ellsbury, Tanaka), miss a lot of time. Arod and Teixeira might come down to earth, but there is no evidence that the Yankees are just getting lucky to start the season.

Are they the best team in the American League? Let’s compare them to the teams they are tied with:

Houston Astros (34-26, 4.13 RS/G, 3.90 RA/G, 11-8 in 1-run games, 32-28 Expected)

I don’t buy the Astros.…

Read more

Five Reasons Why Mason Williams Might Be the Best Outfielder in the Yankee Farm System

The Yankees have a lot of outfielders in the high minors who will probably have some kind of MLB career. In book, that list includes, in no particular order: Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge, Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores, Jake Cave, and Mason Williams. Aaron Judge is still the best prospect of the group. But I think there is a decent chance that Mason Williams is the best player of the group. Here’s why:

He’s got a pedigree

It wasn’t that long ago that Mason Williams was considered a top-top prospect. In 2013, Baseball America ranked him #1 in the Yankee system and #32 in all of baseball. He was coming off an injury-shortened season where he hit .298/.346/.474 between Low-A and High-A as a 20 year-old, showing off a kick-ass 13% strikeout rate and just a .319 BABIP. He was a dynamo on the bases and in the field, and looked like a star.

Of course, Williams has played two full seasons since then, and the results have been horrible.…

Read more

Early Returns: Run Scoring Ticks Back Up

I’ve long been concerned about the state of run scoring in Major League Baseball. Run scoring has been on a decade-long downward trend, without any real indication that we’ve hit bottom. Well, that may have changed:


Early returns on 2015 have run scoring ticking upwards slightly. Scoring is still well below the historical average, but we’re now a tick above the disastrous 1960s levels. Good news.

What is going on? In part, strikeout rates have stabilized:


And power is ticking back up:


MLB run scoring doesn’t vary all that much month-to-month, so there is no reason to believe this is seasonal. We also have a decent sample size at this point. I think this is real. Which is very good news for baseball.

Read more

The Only Ever Split-Level Outfield: Texas’s Clark Field

I am now a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin. An older colleague, upon learning of my love of baseball, told me about the craziest thing I have ever learned about the sport. Until 1974, the University of Texas played in this ballpark:


Take a look at center field. First, you’ll see a 12 foot cliff that looks a lot like a (rather close) outfield fence. But, a closer look reveals that there is a green space above that 9 foot cliff. That space? In Play! The left fielder would have to run up the small path, called the “Billy Goat Trail” in order to catch the ball:


Unfortunately, I can’t find a lot of information on old Clark Field: I’ve found a few grainy black and white photos, one amazing article from Texas Monthly, and zero video. When I’m a little less busy, I may go on an archival search for more information. For now, we have these great anecdotes from that article:

“The cliff has contributed to some unusual baseball moments.

Read more

IIATMS Yankee Moment #6: Jeter’s Game-Winning Hit in Final Yankee Stadium Game

I don’t think that I was the only Yankee fan who was growing a little tired of the Derek Jeter retirement tour last September. Jeter was a shadow of his former self, and barely limping to the end of his career. It felt a little sad to watch a once=great player be so humbled by father time. And then, he gave us all a little bit more drama at the very end.

Jeter started the game out with an RBI double. I would have been happy for that to the final hit to remember his career by. He struck out in his next at bat, then reached on an error in the 7th inning. With the Yankees in the lead and David Robertson loaded up in the bullpen, everyone was expecting Joe Girardi to ceremoniously pull Derek Jeter in the 9th inning in order to send him off with a standing ovation. Girardi did no such thing, and David Robertson proceeded to blow the save.…

Read more

IIATMS Top Moment #13: David Wells’ perfect game

There was something about David Wells as a Yankee. He only played on the team for 4 non-consecutive years of above-average, but rarely elite, performance, but I think he looms larger in all of our collective consciousnesses than a lot of longer-tenured Yankees. He was fun to watch, a member of maybe the best Yankee team ever, and was a steady pitching force in a time of booming offense.

And the perfect game didn’t hurt either.

It’s hard to write about the perfect game. It happened. The game came in May, before we all knew how special the 1998 Yankees would be. Wells struck out 11 and didn’t allow a baserunner. 7th grade me was screaming at the television.

Instead of writing something long and pithy, here are some great anecdotes from the game, mostly courtesy of Baseball Almanac:

  • It was Beanie Baby day.
  • Don Larson and David Wells went to the same High School.
  • David Cone approached David Wells in the seventh inning and said, “I told him it was time to break out the knuckleball, he let out a big laugh.
Read more

Discussion: What Would You Trade for Cole Hamels?

At some point between now and July, the Phillies will trade Cole Hamels. A so-far-so-good Spring Training aside, the Yankees clearly have a need for pitching. Hamels is signed to a reasonable long term contract and coming off his best season. All of this makes yesterday’s new rumor predictable:

Many teams have called on ace Cole Hamels, but so far one club has enticed the Phillies more than the others.  Of the teams that have expressed interest in Hamels, the Yankees have come closer than anyone, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  The Bombers have offered a package of prospects for the 31-year-old that at least has given the Phillies a baseline for future talks.

Who knows how far along the Yankees got with trade talks. The Yankee front office is one of the least gossipy in the majors, so the rumor may not even be credible. Still, the news begs the question: What would you trade for Cole Hamels?…

Read more

IIATMS Top Moment #19: Jason Giambi’s Walk-Off Grand Slam

All but one of the moments that were ranked in this list fall under three categories: postseason heroics, perfect games, or historic moments in Yankee history. Jason Giambi‘s 14th inning home run against the Minnesota Twins in an otherwise unremarkable May game is the exception.

The Yankees had signed Jason Giambi to one of the largest average annual values in MLB history. After watching the dynasty team start to age and whither, the Giambi signing signaled the beginning of the Evil Empire phase for the New York Yankees–a big enough move to inspire Billy Beane to attempt the radical transformation of the post-Giambi A’s depicted in Moneyball. Giambi replaced a beloved player with his fair share of clutch postseason moments in Tino Martinez. Going into the game, Giambi was off to a slow (for him) start, and people were starting to question if he could handle the pressure of playing in New York.

But really, we don’t need all that off-field drama to make this an amazing baseball moment.…

Read more