Monday Morning Food For Thought: The Road Warriors

On the morning of July 24th, the Yankees were 5.5 games up in the division and heading out on a 10-game road trip.  At the time they were a sub-.500 road team and their inability to score runs away from the short porch of Yankee Stadium was starting to become more of a concern.  10 games against pseudo-Wild Card contenders the Twins, Rangers, and White Sox would be a good test for the offense and the team as a whole.  If they were going to make the playoffs and make any kind of noise in the playoffs, the Yankees had to start figuring out how to score and win on the road.

10 days later and I’d say they passed the test with flying colors.  The Yankees went 6-4 on the trip, securing that winning record with a big victory yesterday afternoon in Chicago.  Not only did they find a way to score more runs outside of Yankee Stadium, they found a way to score a ton of runs.  …

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How About That Triple-A Bullpen Carousel?

In a game that had precious few Yankee highlights, one of them last night was Caleb Cotham‘s MLB debut.  As described in the recap, he pitched 1.2 scoreless innings and struck out 4 batters without issuing a walk.  In doing so, he became the 12th different rookie pitcher the Yankees have used out of their bullpen this season and the 8th to make his Major League debut.

That might seem like a sign of major performance/injury problems, but it really hasn’t been the case.  While there have been a few instances of that happening (see “Carpenter, David” and “Miller, Andrew”), the Yankees’ strategy lately in shuttling guys up and down to fill out the back end of the bullpen has been mostly a proactive one.  They know they need to have fresh arms available to cover for their rotation, they know they need to be able to give their bullpen regulars enough rest, and they know they have a stockpile of useful arms in Triple-A to help serve those purposes.…

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Top Five Yankees Storylines of the First Half

The New York Yankees have reached the all-star break with a 48-40 record and a 3.5 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. They had some crazy highs and lows, but the Yankees finished strongly before the break, winning six of their final nine games.

The Yankees have outperformed most expectations and sit in a very good spot. Fangraphs currently gives them a 76.6 percent chance of making the postseason, which is the second highest mark in the AL. Also, Fangraphs has them with a 60 percent chance of winning the division and projects them to win it by a comfortable six games. The even better news is that there is no dominant team in the American League. Here are the some of the biggest stories of the first half so far for the Yankees:

1. Alex Rodriguez’ Comeback Season

I tweeted this yesterday, but if Alex Rodriguez doesn’t win AL Comeback Player of the Year the award should be retired.…

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Quick Hit: Let The Gary Sanchez Heat Up Commence

With the Severinos and Judges and Birds of the world performing well and getting moved up to Triple-A, former #1 organizational prospect Gary Sanchez has fallen a bit by the wayside this year.  That’ll happen when those other guys are doing what they’re doing and you’re opening your second return trip to Double-A with a .246/.328/.351 month of April.

Lately, however, Sanchez has been on a tear.  He homered for the 4th straight game last night, giving him 12 for the year and continuing an absolutely torrid start to this month.  He had a pretty good May (.789 OPS), a down June (.672), and now in 29 July plate appearances he’s hitting .335/.448/.962 with the aforementioned 4 homers, 3 doubles, and 7 runs scored.

I can’t think of a single Yankee prospect who’s experienced the negative effects of prospect fatigue more than Sanchez has this season.  It feels like he’s been around forever, and that’s partially true.  He’s been in the organization since 2010 and playing full-season ball since 2011, and the fact that he hasn’t reached Triple-A yet is going to make people forget about him and move on to the next shiny new prospect toy.  …

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Short Analysis: How Many Players of Tony Renda’s Height (5’8″) Make It?

[Note: I’m just under Renda’s height, so I have in-group privilege to make all the short jokes in this post.] Tony Renda seems mildly promising, from what I’m reading: a second-round pick who’s a solid contact hitter with a great eye; defense that’s not only solid, but improving, at a position of need; and someone who could earn promotion in short order, as a 24 year-old playing pretty well at AA. Conceivably he’ll grow into a AAA job when Refsnyder is promoted, and then who knows, he could be a utilityman after Ryan and Drew leave, or even a potential full-time 2B if Refsnyder stagnates. But Renda is 5’8″, so you fear his utter lack of power (4 HR in 1640 PA in A-AA) is a real sign, not something he’ll grow out of with better contact.

Yesterday I happened to be reading opinions about whether women will ever play in MLB, and I take this side: (1) yes; (2) the biggest barrier is how softball diverts girls away, but some girls do play little league through high school baseball; (3) fewer women are 6′ or musclebound, but some are, and you see plenty below 6′ in positions where agility and talent can thrive without raw strength and size – 2B, SS, LF, CF, and to an extent P.…

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The Underrated Brett Gardner

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That home run swing is getting real pretty too. Courtesy of Getty Images

All things considered, the Yankees are humming right along this season.  They’ve been healthier and more productive than expected in some areas and less so in others, they’ve successfully dealt with their injury problems, and the overall mediocrity of their division has helped to keep them in first place.  There has been no shortage of important stories to follow as well, be it the surprising turnarounds of A-Rod and Teix, the unfortunate injuries to Tanaka and Ellsbury, the emergence of Big Mike, or the decline of CC.  All of those stories and players have helped get the Yankees to where they are in some way.

And underneath all those big stories and big names and beneath the big, bold headlines being written about them sits Brett Gardner.  Starting left fielder and #2 hitter for most of the year, starting center fielder and leadoff hitter lately, Gardner is once again putting together a very good season.  …

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Dellin Betances and Must See Baseball

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I had a brief conversation on Twitter with Katie Sharp last night. I asked her (since she is so good at such things) if the Royals had been struck out in order in any inning this season. Her reply was, “You mean, how many times have they been Betances’d?” I laughed and said exactly. She later came back and said that it did not appear to have happened to them before Dellin Betances put them away in order last night on fourteen pitches. Betances has become must see TV.

There are several players that I would pay more to watch play baseball. Mike Trout comes to mind, Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw. Dellin Betances has become in that company for me. As soon as he comes in the game, adrenalin kicks in, the heart rate rises, anticipation becomes overwhelming and then awe once the inning (or two) is over. His outings are mesmerizing.

I am not sure even those of us who watch baseball every day understand what we are seeing.…

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Slade Heathcott’s Long and Winding Road to the Majors

sladeAs you likely know by now, Slade Heathcott made his major league debut Wednesday night when he pinch ran for Mark Teixeira in the eighth and then played center. This is not just notable because arguably the Yankees’ most important offensive piece, Jacoby Ellsbury, hit the DL, causing the Yankees to call up their first round pick from the 2009 Draft. Hopefully, Heathcott gets an opportunity to pick up his first hit sometime soon, but as we wait for that I thought I’d look back on Heathcott’s long road to the Bronx.

If you have followed the Yankees’ farm system at all the last five or six years, you know the name Slade Heathcott and why I am so excited to see him finally break into the majors. Granted, his stay may be a short one for any number of reasons, but considering how miniscule the percentage of minor league players to ever make an appearance in the majors is, this is no small feat.…

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Quick Hit: Slade Heathcott’s Big Chance

By now everybody knows the bad news.  Jacoby Ellsbury is on the 15-day disabled list with a knee injury and it’s still not exactly clear how serious it is.  Given how quickly he went from leaving the game to getting MRI’d to getting put on the DL, it stands to reason that it might be more severe than just a 15-day DL trip.  Ellsbury is a key part of the Yankee offense, maybe THE key part, and he’s the team leader in fWAR.  Losing him for any amount of time is a blow.

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that Ellsbury’s injury created an opportunity for one of the farm system’s more interesting stories.  Roughly 6 months from being non-tendered, removed from the 40-man roster, and then re-signed in January, Slade Heathcott will come up to the show and get his chance to be a Major League ballplayer.

From 1st round draft pick to top organizational prospect to injury-prone bust, it’s been a long road through the Yankee system for Heathcott since he was drafted.  …

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