About Matt Bove

I have a Bachelor's degree in journalism from William Paterson University in New Jersey. Currently a high school sports writer for NJ.com, who has had a huge passion for the Yankees since birth. Contact or follow me on Twitter at @RAYROBERT9.

Can CC Sabathia be 2013 Andy Pettitte?

The Detroit Tigers were about as bad a matchup on paper as CC Sabathia could have possibly gotten for his opening start of the 2016 season. Eight of the Tigers’ nine batters were righties, including sluggers Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez. Sabathia’s splits against righties and lefties were drastic last season with righties having a .370 wOBA against Sabathia compared to a .231 wOBA for lefites.

The Yankees were desperate for a six inning start since neither of their first four starting pitchers achieved that. Since you can’t predict baseball, Sabathia was able to do it as he allowed three earned runs over six innings, including retiring the first nine Detroit hitters. It was extremely clear that Sabathia was trying to reinvent himself as a new pitcher trying to follow what Andy Pettitte did with great success at the end of his career. Continue reading Can CC Sabathia be 2013 Andy Pettitte?

The Fun Yankees Middle Infield

The thing I’m most looking forward in the 2016 New York Yankees season is watching how Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro progress. They have a chance to be an extremely exciting and fun duo to watch this season. Sure, the obvious answer to what I’m most looking forward to the most should probably be watching the fireworks show that is Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, but there’s no mystery about how awesome they will be this season. Gregorius and Castro, on the other hand, have had many ups and downs in their careers, but if both are on Continue reading The Fun Yankees Middle Infield

Should the Yankees Consider Justin Upton?

[caption id="attachment_79992" align="aligncenter" width="570"]Justin Upton Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption]

(Editor’s Note- This post originally appeared on ESPN’s SweetSpot yesterday evening.  Thanks to the mothership for giving us a shout out)

The New York Yankees have yet to add any unrestricted free agents of note this offseason and have made it known that they are waiting until their big contracts come off the books until they go back into the high-priced free agent pool. They have managed to improve through trades for Starlin Castro and Aroldis Chapman, but not spending any money has left the team still weak in a few areas and with many questions.

There is, however, a free agent out there in his prime who could be exactly what the Yankees need to make another playoff push in 2016.

The top areas of concern may be the middle of the order and right-handed power. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran all turned back the clock in 2015 and were extremely productive when healthy. Rodriguez was the biggest surprise, coming off a full year suspension to hit .250/.356/.486 with 33 home runs and a 129 wRC+. Teixeira was having an All-Star season after his wrist was finally healthy, hitting .255/.357/.548 with 31 home runs and a 141 wRC+ until a fractured leg abruptly ended his season at the end of August. Beltran proved he still could produce after playing through an injury in a disappointing first year in the Bronx. He stayed healthy all season and came through with his usual big hits toward the end of the season. Beltran finished 2015 with a .346 wOBA and a 119 wRC+.

Betting on all three to repeat in 2016 is risky, given their advanced ages and injury histories. Once Teixeira went down, so did the Yankees’ offense. The lineup lost all balance and it was amazing to see how much it missed him. It was September and the Yankees had other players wearing down, but Teixeira could have made a big difference. The Yankees hit .233/.309/.393 with a 92 wRC+ as a team in September, which showed just how thin a tight rope they were walking when one of their big hitters went down.

For 2016, the Yankees are relying solely on Rodriguez and switch-hitters Teixeira and Beltran for their right-handed power. Castro will help balance the lineup, but doesn’t help in the power department. Aaron Hicks could be an overall upgrade over Chris Young, but Young had lethal power from the right side against left-handers. The Yankees traditionally build around lefty power because of their ballpark and that’s wise; however, they need more balance when facing tough lefties, as Dallas Keuchel showed in shutting them down in the wild-card game. Continue reading Should the Yankees Consider Justin Upton?

Yankees To Be A High Variance Team Again in 2016

Entering the 2014 season the New York Yankees had a ton of different variables that were going to alter the course of their season. They were completely unpredictable and it was impossible to know what the answers to the variables would be. It turns out the Yankees got mostly good answers. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda stayed mostly healthy. Luis Severino and Greg Bird were ready to contribute. Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira were able to turn back the clock. Didi Gregorious and Nathan Eovaldi took steps forward. As we fast forward to this season, many of those same questions have to be answered affirmative again for the Yankees to get back to the postseason and they’re once again almost impossible to figure out. Continue reading Yankees To Be A High Variance Team Again in 2016

Trying to Decipher the Yankees’ Plan

The New York Yankees have behaved very differently in the past few offseasons than they have at any point in recent memory. Their transactions have been aimed at acquiring young players who have many years under team control and should theoretically have their best seasons ahead of them. They have not been in the conversation for any big money players despite there being some very good ones available this winter. They’re not even in on small money guys either.

Clearly the Yankees aren’t a championship caliber team at the moment, with questions everywhere, and they’re not aggressively trying to fill those holes. The only conclusion that leads us to is that the Yankees are trying to rebuild and winning is not a priority right now. The Justin Wilson for Luis Cessa and Chad Green trade perfectly exemplifies exactly what the Yankees are doing right now. When Brian Cashman tells you the team is trading a quality reliever because he is going to make some money soon, that tells you all you need to know.

“Wilson is an arbitration-eligible player with three years of control who is entering the money making years,” said Cashman. “I get two starters that when their service clock starts are going to have upwards of 12 years of control between them in an area of need for us.”

Wilson was a big part of the Yankees’ bullpen strength last year. Maybe Jacob Lindgren and James Pazos can do just as well, but there is no guarantee for sure. The Yankees were short on innings last year and they’ve already traded away two pitchers who gave them quality innings.

It’s hard to believe they traded Wilson over a few million dollars, but that’s what Cashman says. The Yankees are under-spending on payroll, as pointed out here by E.J. The Yankees’ old business model gave them a chance to win every single season. It didn’t guarantee them a championship, but it guaranteed a legit championship shot, which is more than the team can say now. Despite the mainstream media narrative of the changing rules making that model obsolete, it would still work the same if the Yankees spent what the Dodgers are, which they can easily do and go beyond. Continue reading Trying to Decipher the Yankees’ Plan

Current State of the Yankees’ Rotation

[caption id="attachment_79339" align="alignnone" width="594"](NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)    in action against the at Yankee Stadium on October 1, 2015 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 4-1. The Yankees clinched a wildcard playoff position and won their 10,000th regular season game. .[/caption]

The awfulness of the New York Yankees offense down the stretch got most of the attention and blame for the downfall of the second half, but the starting pitching played a role as well and the Yankees are in an interesting spot this offseason when it comes to their rotation.

The Yankees finished 18th in starters ERA at 4.25, but eighth with a 3.75 xFIP. The biggest issue was a lack of innings, as the Yankees finished 21st in MLB in starters innings and it felt worse than that. CC Sabathia of all pitchers led the team with 167.1 innings. This really manifested itself down the stretch when the bullpen performance fell off due to too many innings.

The things with the Yankees starting rotation is that it’s tantalizing with potential, almost like a tease. We’ve seen Masahiro Tanaka perform like an ace at times. We’ve seen flashes from Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi that suggest they can be good second and third starters. The problem is that between injuries and their own inconsistencies it hasn’t been shown enough.

Tanaka’s peripherals were better than his overall numbers last year and he fell victim to some bad home run luck. Tanaka held opposing batters to a .217 average in 2015 grounders were slightly up, his hard contact given up fell by four percent and his soft contact given up lowered by two percent. The velocity was a non-issue, as he threw harder in 2015 than in 2014, but the effectiveness of his fastball remains a big issue. It’s hard to be a top of the line starter without having an effective fastball. He allowed nine homers and a .318 average against his four-seam fastball last season.

Pineda is definitely the most baffling player on the Yankees. His 2.95 xFIP far outweighs his 4.37 ERA. His 8.74 K/9 ratio compared to his 1.18 BB/9 ratio is terrific, as is his 48.2 percent ground ball rate. Was it just horrible luck for Pineda with his .332 BABIP? It seemed like when things went bad for Pineda they snowballed. That seemed to happen when he didn’t have his good slider. Obviously, developing the changeup more would be big to help that. Maybe it’s a case of Pineda being around the plate too often since he doesn’t walk anybody. Larry Rothschild usually has pitchers overachieving for the Yankees and not underachieving. Pineda underachieved, so it needs to be figured out what exactly happened after his awesome start to the season.

Eovaldi definitely improved greatly over the second half of the season with his splitter, but you want to see it for longer to be completely convinced. Luis Severino made a great impact down the stretch, but outperformed his peripherals a little bit and should the Yankees rely on what will be a 22-year old at the top of the rotation?

The depth is pretty good if both Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchel are considered starting pitchers. If Sabathia is the fifth starter by default again than Warren, Mitchell and Ivan Nova are some talented arms and  form a pretty good 6-7-8 to put in when the inevitable injuries hit.

This all screams for an ace pitcher who you could depend on for over 200 innings. It would make such a huge difference to slide everybody back a spot. You could conceivably have Eovaldi as your fifth starter. How awesome would that be? There are certainly guys like that available from David Price to Zack Greinke to Johnny Cueto. Of course the Hal Steinbrenner Yankees are much more likely to trade or sign a mid rotation innings eater pitcher and try to convince Yankees fans that Tanaka, Pineda and Severino will lead the rotation at the top based off flashes. That’s a risk that didn’t really work out last year, but since it’s the cheaper option it probably won’t stop the Yankees from doing it again. Continue reading Current State of the Yankees’ Rotation

Potential Wild Card Matchups

With six games remaining things are close to certain for the Yankees as to where they stand in the playoff picture. They can clinch their first postseason berth since 2012 with a win tonight and losses by the Twins and Angels. They’re going to be in a one game playoff with the only question being who will it be against.

It’s hard to say which team you want to play in a one game playoff because one game in baseball can be so random, which is why the idea of a one game playoff is silly. The Yankees scored 21 runs in one game against Texas and allowed 11 runs to the Philadelphia Phillies twice. Baseball should be about the 162 game grind. However, the one game playoff is good for drama and ratings, so it stays.

The Houston Astros are a 1/2 game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels and 1.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins. This is probably the best case scenario for the Yankees if it stays this close. The Yankees will be able to rest players if they clinch, and some of their hitters look like they can use it right now. They already have their ace Masahiro Tanaka lined up for the game.

Meanwhile, if the race for the second wild card comes down to the last game of the season the opposition will not be able to set up their rotations. This is especially important against the Astros, who can line up either Dallas Keuchel or Scott Kazmir. Keuchel has shut the Yankees out twice this season and avoiding him at all costs in a one game playoff is key. The Astros have been the worst team out of the three in the second half of the year, but with Keuchel on the mound they’re just a different team. Kazmir would be tough as well because losing Mark Teixeira has made the Yankees even more vulnerable against left-handed pitching.

The Angels do not have a lefty like Keuchel or Kazmir. Hector Santiago‘s 3.52 ERA looks good on he surface, but his 5.02 xFIP and his 32.6 percent hard hit ball rate tell a different story. Also, his 53.7 percent fly ball rate is not a good thing for Yankee Stadium. Garrett Richards is the best pitcher for the Angels, but he has not been nearly as good as his CY Young caliber season last year.

Clearly what scares you about the Angels is Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Either one of them could win one game on their backs. We already saw Trout do that against the Yankees this season in one game when he robbed Chris Young of those two scorched doubles. The Angels have nobody else who really scares you, so the obvious plan is not to let those two beat you. That’s easier said then done considering that’s probably everybody’s plan when they play the Angels.

It seems unlikely that the Twins would be able to pass two teams, but nobody expected them to make it even close to the playoffs, so you never know. Miguel Sano is a monster and Brian Dozier is a powerful bat, but with the Yankees’ dominance over the Twins and the fact that they have no dominant starter they would be the obvious team you would want to play.

The Astros would seem like a good matchup for Tanaka and if they can avoid Keuchel or Kazmir you would probably pick them over the Angels. They strike out at a 23.7 percent clip against righties, which is the second highest mark in MLB. They’re a lot like the Yankees in that they’re build on home runs, but they do not walk as much as the Yankees. The Astros are free swingers who would seem like good candidates to be swinging over a lot of Tanaka splitters. The Yankees would also have a big edge in experience, though who knows how much that matters. As a home run hitting team you would think the Astros like to feast on fastballs, which Tanaka does not rely on. Of course all of this could mean nothing and the Astros could cream Tanaka like they did in Houston. It’s one game after all.
Continue reading Potential Wild Card Matchups

Going Back to the Trade Deadline

“Yankees Twitter” was filled with its normal outrage and cynicism after the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Troy Tulowitzki and David Price among others at the trade deadline and the Yankees only acquired Dustin Ackley.

We can get a little better picture of what has happened since then. Obviously, this season it has worked out better for Toronto. They went on a huge run to pass the Yankees in the division and they haven’t really looked back since. David Price has been amazing for them, while Tulowitzki struggled and got hurt.

Even though the Blue Jays have clearly gotten the better of the Yankees this season we can see why Brian Cashman did what he did. Yes, if the Yankees had Price they would likely be winning the AL East this season. It still would not have guaranteed anything in the playoffs. However, if Price would have left as a free agent anything less than a championship would be a failure. Especially, since it would have cost likely cost both Luis Severino and Greg Bird.

Bird and Severino have already showed you why they had to be kept, as they have been two key cogs that have kept the Yankees afloat and in a great spot in the wild card race.

Bird has shown off his sweet swing and light tower power with nine home runs. He has shown the ability to go the other way and has the second highest off the bat velocity in MLB among players with at least 20 at-bats. Clearly, he cannot continue to strike out nearly 30 percent of the time, but at 22 years old you can accept that with the other things he has done, and you know that with his good batting eye that will improve. Bird’s .369 wOBA and 135 wRC+ are awesome for a rookie, and he is doing this while filling in for a player who was the team MVP.

Severino has been just as good, if not better, and he can redeem himself of his only blemish with a good start against Toronto tonight. He has the look of an ace who won’t get rattled by anything.

His fastball is one of the fastest among starters in MLB with an average of 95.5 MPH and has shown command of it on both sides of the plate. His slider has generated a lot of grounders, is thrown extremely hard (89.4 MPH), but can use more depth. The changeup has been a viable third pitch and was more hyped coming out of the minors than the slider. Severino has averaged 9.35 K/9 and has induced ground balls at a 45 percent rate. He’s doing this all at 21 years old.

Even the much maligned Ackley trade has worked out well since he’s returned from injury. It kind of reminds me of when Cashman signed Chris Young to a minor league deal last year and Twitter went crazy for no reason. That worked out pretty well huh? Ackley has hit.357/.367/.714/1.081 in 30 at-bats for the Yankees and has seemed to taken over the second base job from Stephen Drew. The Yankees have no reason not to ride Ackley while he is this hot. He hit a huge three-run homer of R.A. Dickey, a big triple against Noah Syndergaard and a home run Sunday night.

You know the Yankees have liked Ackley for awhile and maybe the change of scenery has helped get some of that potential out of him. If he keeps playing well the rest of the season he will play himself into consideration for the starting second base job next season. Not bad for a guy they acquired for a player they were going to have to release due to a numbers crunch.

The smart thing for the Yankees would be to pursue Price in the offseason and add him in addition to Bird and Severino. That’s how you built a contending team going forward, not just for one season. The playoffs are too unpredictable to put all your eggs in the one season basket while giving up Severino and Bird. It’s not impossible that the Yankees could win a series and the Blue Jays don’t. Even though they’re unlikely to win the division, the Yankees’ decisions to hold onto to Severino and Bird and to trade for Ackley have been vindicated. Continue reading Going Back to the Trade Deadline

Quick Hit: Yankees Testing Jorge Mateo at Second Base

This article from George King of the New York Post about the Yankees possibly giving top prospect Jorge Mateo second base reps during the Instructional League is pretty intriguing, This makes all the sense in the world with Didi Gregorius looking more and more like the shortstop of the future. That’s probably a big reason why the Yankees were willing to include Mateo in a deadline deal for Padres closer Craig Kimbrel. Second base has been such a hole since Robinson Cano left, and that decision is looking more regrettable by the day since they gave Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million and Continue reading Quick Hit: Yankees Testing Jorge Mateo at Second Base