Monday, April 22, 2019

Late Baseball For The Yankees

The hobbled New York Yankees managed to fly to California for a West Coast swing without bumping their heads with turbulence. It is a good start to what could be a promising trip. The first seven games consist of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the West Coast of The United States and then the San Francisco Giants. The Angels are currently in last place with a 9-13 record. The Giants are in last place with a 9-14 record. Let's take a look at what is ahead.

The Yankees have announced JA Happ and Domingo German as the starters respectively for tonight and tomorrow. It is a little disconcerting that they have not announced who is pitching beyond that. Let us hope it is not that abomination called an "Opener," coming up this week. Gosh, that is so anti-baseball. But, whatever, Happ needs to get his act together and German needs to not lose his way when things get a little difficult. Mike Trout is back and he is always a factor. His On-Base Percentage is higher that most players' Slugging Percentage.

Right now, Trout and Tommy La Stella (I coulda been a contenda!) are about the sum of the Angels' offense. Tyler Skaggs will be back on Wednesday so the Yankees are fortunate to miss him for the first two games. Albert Pujols is doing pretty well for this geezer stage of his career. At least his OPS+ is over 100.

I always look for the player who has been really cold at the plate. Zack Cozart has been that guy. His current slash line looks like this: .102/.141/.119. Yeesh! Why do I look for the cold guys? Because the Yankees always seem to warm up such players. It happens every time.

The Yankees lineup looks like an away Spring Training game but this is the regular season. They have a chance though because the Angels cannot deliver a good pitching performance these days. Tonight, they face Matt Harvey and his 1.821 WHIP and tomorrow it will be Chris Stratton who has a shiny, even 2.000 WHIP. Translation, they have been getting cuffed around. The bullpen has not been effective with far too many walks. This is a pitching staff that coughs up a lot of dingers, walks too many people and does not strike out enough batters.

But still, you really have to worry about this Yankee lineup. It can be had right now. A split would not be a good outcome for this series. Just on pitching talent alone, the Yankees should win three of the games. But that is why they play the games, right, John Sterling?

The San Francisco Giants have been pitching well. The team's staff's only problem has been the home run ball. But the Giants' overall ERA is second in the National League. So far, the problem with the Giants has been offense. They are dead last in the National League in OPS and, of the regulars, Steven Dugger (who?) is the only one batting above .240. Brandon Belt has a decent OPS due to his four homers and nine walks, but is batting .213.

The Giant series could be a problem for the Yankees as they will have to let their pitchers bat and lose the DH (which, hopefully, will end some day). With their Triple-A lineup and strong pitching for the Giants, the team might really struggle to win games. A lot of 2-1 or 3-0 games could result from that three-game series.

The Yankees always have a difficult task with West Coast swings. It is fortunate that the first seven games will be against struggling teams. In the Yankees' current state, the only question is whether the team from the Bronx are catching teams when they are down or providing those teams with a rebound. The second week of the swing will come against the Twins and the Seattle Mariners. I'll talk about those series later in the week.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Realistic View Of The AL East

The title might be more of a reach as biases will surely crop up here. The one thing that is realistic is that the American League East is nowhere near where anyone expected it to be. The Tampa Bay Rays have jumped the season and its AL East rivals to build a quick five-and-a-half-game lead on the second place New York Yankees and an eight-and-a-half-game lead on the last place Boston Red Sox. How many people saw that coming?

The Yankees' rough start can be (in part) attributed to injuries. No team in baseball has a longer list of disabled players (I will never use the newfangled IL thing, so sue me). The bullpen has not been as much of a strength as expected. Who knows what having a healthy Dellin Betances available at the start of the season would have meant for the Yankees. The offense has been spotty with too many regulars missing and 4-A players getting too many at bats. Then there is the Red Sox.

The Red Sox have started the season in a real funk. Is it a World Series hangover? Did the long post-season take too much out of the starting pitchers? They have some holes, particularly at second, third and behind the plate. Expecting Dustin Pedroia to be able to come back was a pipe dream and now the Red Sox are stuck with an over-the-hill Eduardo Nunez who is terrible in the field and Brock Holt who seems unlikely to repeat last year's career year.

And, finally, there are the Bay Rays who never seem to lose in a similar way the Red Sox never seemed to lose last year. The Rays were projected as a 90-win team and, frankly, I thought that was high. The projection has now shifted to 94 wins and a division title. A lot has gone right for them so far. They lead the Majors in hard hit balls and their offensive OPS is terrific. Pitching was expected to be good, but it has been REALLY good as has the bullpen. Add to all these things the Rays' defense and you have a winning formula.

But let's be realistic here for a moment and try to remain as unbiased as possible. I do not care what the numbers are saying (run differential, offense, pitching), the Bay Rays are not this good of a team. Heck, I'll eat those words if I am wrong, but I do not think I am. Why exactly?

First, look at the early schedule thus far. Yes, they opened the season with the Houston Astros and beat them three out of four. The Astros were not themselves those first four games. The Astros started the season with a slumbering offense. That offense has since woken up and they are playing dominating baseball again. If the Rays were to play THESE Astros, the results would be far different.

After the Astros, the Bay Rays have faced the dregs of the dregs of baseball teams. The Rockies are a bad baseball team. Then they played the Giants, another bad baseball team. Those two teams are going to spar for last place in the NL West. Then they played the White Sox, another team that is not going anywhere. Then, to bring us up to date, the Rays have played five games against the Blue Jays and the Orioles. To recap, they had two series against the worst two teams in the NL West, a series against an also-ran in the AL Central and the two worst teams in the AL East.

The Rays' schedule stays somewhat soft until June. They do have two series against the Red Sox coming up, but those games are sandwiched around two series against the Royals. The other thing to look at is who the Rays are winning with on their roster. Their offense consists of a bunch of guys who they assembled and it has all miraculously worked. Ji-Man Choi? Brandon Lowe? Yandy Diaz? Austin Meadows? These guys have no track records. Are they this good? All of them? We'll see.

Plus, the only serious injury thus far is to Joey Wendle, last years ROY candidate. Ian Snell broke his toe, but he'll only miss one start. The Rays have zero depth. If anything happens to any of its players, they do not have replacements. The return to form of Kevin Kiermeier has been great and Tommy Pham was a good pickup as he has been an on-base machine.

I believe the Rays' pitching will hold up. But I do not believe in this offense over the long season. I still think that after all is said and done, they will be a 90-win team. That is good. Will it be better than the Red Sox and the Yankees?

Let's start with the Red Sox. Chris Sale will be better than he has started. He has been too good for too long to think otherwise. David Price will be fine. Nathan Eovaldi showed good signs last night of getting back to last year's form. The big question marks in the rotation are Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez. Porcello has had a very odd career where he has gone from Cy Young to terrible and back and forth. If this is another of those stinker years for him, that will hurt. Rodriguez still hasn't proved he can take his "stuff" to a winning level.

The offense will not be as good as last year, but it will be better than it is now. Mookie Betts is too talented not to think this is just a slow start. Andrew Benintendi is very good. Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland will contribute meaningfully. JD Martinez is one of the best hitters in the game. The offense will be fine despite a black hole at catcher and at second. Rafael Devers is still only 22-years-old so who knows what he will be. Somehow, the Red Sox will find a second baseman and this offense will be fine.

Can they win 90 games? Yes, sure--even if it does not seem likely at the moment.

And then, there is the Yankees. Realistically, Aaron Judge has not gotten going yet. The jury is still out on Luke Voit long term. Gleyber Torres has been effective but can be so much better. Clint Frazier has found it. DJ LeMahieu has been a great pickup. Giancarlo Stanton will come back as will Gary Sanchez and the ball will start flying around the park again.

The Yankee bullpen will be fine even if Betances does not get back any time soon. Joe Harvey has been a nice find. It would do the bullpen good if CC Sabathia was treated as a five-inning "Opener" with Luis Cessa designated as his caddy (or Gio Gonzalez if they choose to go that route). The Rotation is not killer, but it is good depending on how well Domingo German can hang in there.

The bottom line? Can the Yankees win 90 games? Sure they can. Will they? I still think they will. The injuries sucked off several games of the team's original projection, but you would think things will have to improve on that front eventually.

The Bay Rays are not as good as they have appeared. The Yankees are not as mediocre and the Red Sox are not this bad. Injuries to the Yankees and the bad start by the Red Sox have guaranteed a three team race. But that is what it will be in the end. The Rays are not running away with the division, not in my humble opinion. But talk to me again in July and my perspective might be different.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Cat Has Nine Lives - A Bird Is Not A Cat

I wrote during Spring Training about the need to resist hope about Greg Bird finally becoming the player Brian Cashman has kept saying he was going to be. Greg Bird had a great spring for the New York Yankees. There was a lot of talk from manager, Aaron Boone, and Cashman about Bird making a significant contribution to the Yankees. After yet another dismal start to Bird's season and his .555 OPS along with his failure to scoop up throws at first base, we now learn that Bird has a left plantar fascia tear and is out indefinitely. I have not been this shocked at either development since the days of Nick Johnson.

And really, that is a solid knock on Nick Johnson. Yes, Johnson had injury after injury and his career was never what it should have been. Johnson's one full season for the Nationals showed what a healthy Johnson could have been like. So, yes, Nick Johnson was a constant disappointment. But at least he produced at times when he was available. Except for Greg Bird's first 178 Plate Appearances for the Yankees in 2015, Greg Bird's production has been a black hole with scorched earth.

Sometimes I feel badly about writing such a piece. Greg Bird seems like a nice guy. He seems earnest and nice and it is not his fault that his legs have been a mine field since that 2015 season. And I am quite sure he was trying his hardest to perform better on the field than he has. Unfortunately, baseball is a business and it is about what you have produced lately and what you can be expected to produce in the future. And four years of history has shown us that he has about as much chance of being a "significant contributor" at some point for the Yankees as Jacoby Ellsbury.

It is time for the Yankees to cut the cord on Greg Bird just like they did with Nick Johnson years ago. The injury is unfortunate. The body of work, though, does not lie. And his spring did not fool any of  the smart folks who put together evaluations and projections. A .710 OPS was the highest projection he received. That is not anywhere close to what you want from a first baseman, especially a first baseman that is not very good at defending that position.

Bird's injury piles on to the Yankees' physical misfortunes thus far. But his injury is the least significant. That says something right there. Ben Heller on the DL hurts more right now than Greg Bird.

So what should the Yankees do when Greg Bird returns? That might not be a question that can even be answered right now. This particular injury is a terrible injury that could possibly end his season. He is listed on the injury report as, "No timetable for recovery."

If I were running the Yankees, I would totally and unequivocally dismiss Greg Bird from any future plans. If he comes back this year, he should either stay in the minors or be traded. Or he could be released. In some ways, Greg Bird has held first base hostage for the Yankees since Mark Teixeira's retirement and that should end immediately.

For the Yankees, it is an addiction that should be quit cold turkey. They have held onto, hoped and wrung hands that Greg Bird would take his sweet swing and become a star with the Yankees. It is not going to happen. Enough is enough and it is time to move on. I am still not convinced that Luke Voit is the answer. We will see how his season goes. Come on down, Mike Ford, whatcha got?

Personally, this Greg Bird addiction led against looking at a guy like Mike Moustakas, who has been killing the ball for the Brewers. For basically chump change, Moustakas could have stepped in at third when Miguel Andujar went down or he could have played first. Maybe Moustakas was not the answer. But something creative has to be done about the future of first base for the Yankees. Heck, Giancarlo Stanton would be a big target over there. I still think Stanton is a better player when he is not the designated hitter.

Nice guy or no, earnest or not, a Bird is not a cat. There is not nine lives and Greg Bird's Yankee lives are burned up. It is time to move on or at least let him try to move on someplace else.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Unbelievable Facts About Chris Davis

Chris Davis, the much-maligned, obscenely-paid first-baseman for the Baltimore Orioles established a record for batting futility that may never be reached again. Nobody has ever gone as many at bats in a row without a single base hit as Chris Davis has from the end of the 2018 season to today. The record is his alone and is the benchmark for putrid batting forever. But Davis' failure to hit is not a recent phenomenon. It actually goes back to the last month of the 2017 season. And the numbers are unfathomable.

I cannot grapple with my feelings about Chris Davis. A large part of me feels like I am piling on. Failure is no fun for anyone. At the same time, Davis is rich beyond his wildest dreams and will continue adding to that pile for years to come. I do not know. I guess mostly I feel badly for him.

The real problem for Chris Davis started in the last month of the 2017 season. His numbers were not great for the years 2014, 2016 and most of 2017. His batting average and strikeout rates were terrible. But his OPS+ hovered around league average for those years because of his walk rate and the decent power numbers. But then you get to the last month of 2017.

In that month, Chris Davis came to the plate a hundred times and he had 88 official at bats. He only had 14 hits and struck out 40 times. That works out to a .159 batting average, a .260 OBP and since he only had 29 Total Bases in 26 games, that worked out to a .330 Slugging Percentage. That gave him a .590 OPS for the month. Things have never improved since.

In 2018, Davis had arguably the worst batting season of all time. In 522 Plate Appearances and 470 At Bats, all Davis could muster was 79 hits and 41 walks. His season's batting average was .168. His On Base Percentage was .243 and his Slugging Percentage was a puny .296. His OPS of .539 was good for an OPS+ of 50 (100 is average) and rated a 46 in wRC+.

Let's add together the last month of 2017, all of 2018 and his zero for 28 start (with four walks) for 2019. That gives us a line of: 654 (PA), 586 (AB), 48 Runs, 93 Hits, 15 doubles, 20 homers, 59 RBI, 56 walks, 6 HBP and 247 strikeouts. What does that all add up to?  A .159 Batting Average, a .237 On Base Percentage and a Slugging Percentage of .287. His OPS for all of that would then equal .524. Wowzers! His strikeout rate would be 38%. Consider that his 247 strikeouts far outpaced his combined total of hits and walks by 98!

It gets worse the more you look at it. In 2018, Chris Davis had a .327 OPS in games considered Late and Close. That is lower than many batters' On Base Percentage! His OPS was .399 in what were considered High Leverage situations. He had a .484 OPS facing "Ground Ball Pitchers." His OPS against "Power Pitchers" was .463. His OPS against pitchers with an average fastball was .485. He had a .493 OPS against left-handed pitchers.

These are all bizarre numbers! Here is another one for you: Since 1867, Chris Davis' -2.8 rWAR was tied for the eighth worst baseball-reference.com WAR season total ever. Fangraphs.com came in with a -3.1 fWAR which would have ranked Davis' 2018 as the fourth worst all time. Chris Davis' 127 times on base last season was tied for the sixteenth lowest all time for a player with over 500 plate appearances. And it was the worst since Todd Cruz in 1982 playing for the Mariners. And his .168 Batting Average of a year ago is the worst all time for a player with over 500 Plate Appearances.

Those are all numbers for the 2018 season. He has big fat zeroes for 2019. So stretching back to the last month of the 2017 season, no one has batted lower than Chris Davis...ever!

And, I can guarantee you that none of the players worse than Davis in WAR in a single season ever made $23 million for doing so.

What would you do if you were the Baltimore Orioles. The team cannot keep running him out there, can they? The money is a wash. It is bye bye. There is no way they will get any value from the deal. And the deal runs three more years after this one! The Orioles should simply cut their losses. It is totally embarrassing for a team to have a national television cut in to see if Davis would break the futility record. And the networks got their money's worth. Chris Davis needs to be put out of his misery and the fans need to have closure on this legendary saga of batting garbage dumpage.


Monday, April 08, 2019

Thoughts After Six-percent Of The Yankees Season

The New York Yankees have played nine games of their 162-game season. To put any kind of emphasis on trends so far would be pushing the short sample size mantra to a throbbing level. Can anything be gained from such an early look at how things are going? With ten players on the disabled list (take that!) and three series against teams headed for "also-ran" status, it would seem even more absurd to take any pulse thoughts at this early point. For the sake of an exercise (and because I felt like writing), let's take a look at the Yankees after six-percent of their season has been completed. Take it all with a grain of salt.

After watching Aaron Judge all spring, I really thought he would put up a better strikeout rate this season. I have been disappointed that he is striking out at prodigious rates and at 38%, his strikeout rate so far is the highest it has been since his 2016 cup of coffee season.

Gary Sanchez does appear to be back as an offensive force with a bat in his hands. After his pathetic showing of a year ago, that is welcome news. However, he does still have his penchant for driving fans crazy with bonehead plays. Getting picked off third with the bases loaded and no out is forgotten by a barrage of homers. But it was the second day in a row of getting picked off.  The catcher looks better at blocking pitches behind the plate and is socking the ball. But, man, give us a week of smarts too please.

If you ignore his walk rate, Domingo German is doing a pretty good Luis Severino impression right now. The key will be how that translates to better clubs than the Tigers and Orioles.

For the first time ever, I do not seem to mind that Luis Cessa is on the roster. It feels weird.

I have a strong feeling that Aaron Hicks is the next Jacoby Ellsbury without the MVP season on his resume. The guy just cannot stay on the field. And after watching what a bad back did to Don Mattingly and David Wright, I am not optimistic at all.

Good or bad, Luke Voit is fun to watch. The guy is the "Everyman" on the Yankees who wears everything on his sleeve. I do hope he picks up the pace though!

Who would have thought the Boston Red Sox would have such a start after last season? And who would have thought that the Red Sox' rotation looks terrible and the bullpen looks great? But...:::pinch:::...it is only after the first three series of the season.

I predicted Gleyber Torres to have a great season and he is making me look good so far! Love that kid.

Thus far, the signs are pointing in favor of me falling in like with DJ LeMahieu. Gio Urshela is growing on me too.

How can you not smile for Clint Frazier? If Mike Tauchman starts another game, I might have to get an Aaron Boone voodoo doll. I'm just kidding! I would never wish harm or threaten harm on anyone! Whew! One has to be so careful about what is said these days.

The Yankees really need Dellin Betances. The bullpen is obviously one body short right now. Most of the bullpen regulars are getting the job done, but we are missing that guy to come in and blow people away. Plus, his absence forces Jonathan Holder to pitch multiple innings and he should be limited to one. I hope this late start doesn't mean no extension and walking papers for Betances after the season.

I cannot help it. A little part of me dies inside when Austin Romine starts a game. I cannot help it! I long for the Cervelli days...

Speaking of Jonathans, Jonathan Loaisiga is in the same mold as Severino and German, but cannot locate his fastball. If he could get a clue where it was going occasionally, he will be a terrific pitcher.

I have been thinking about Sonny Gray's complaint about being forced to throw sliders with the Yankees. I think he may have a point. Are there any Yankees pitchers that do not feature a slider? Tampa Bay for years preached the change up. The Yankees under Larry Rothschild, seem to preach the slider. Just something to keep an eye on.

I hope J A Happ's first two starts do not mean that he is an aging pitcher with his best years behind him. He has not looked great at all.

The first nine games have shown that Zack Britton is not yet all the way back from where he was. Maybe he'll never be that guy again. I think the Yankees are better off with him, but if he could put some command together, it would make the world of difference for the bullpen.

Speaking of bullpens, yes, it is early yet, but the Yankees' mercenary refusal to engage David Robertson looks like the right call so far. He was brilliant for the Yankees in 2017, but much less so last year. Chad Green looks like the new Robertson except that Green does not walk anybody.

As much as people love him, I still insist that Brett Gardner is over-the-hill now and should only be a reserve. The occasional walk and his long at bats are nice, but the reality is that both Greg Bird and Luke Voit have better OPS figures than Gardner. And those two are considered to be struggling! I would point out that Bird's current OPS is right where PECOTA pegged him to be.

I am not worried about James Paxton. He looks terrific.

The Yankees did not maximize their opportunity for a strong start against two bad teams to start the season. They need to hold their own against the Astros in Houston for three games and then have a great home stretch against good and bad teams before having to endure a West Coast swing. Nine games does not mean a whole lot. But currently sitting 5-4 feels a lot better than sitting 2-4 did. Onward!

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Good Thing The Yankees Can Afford To Give Away Games

Perhaps I should not write this post right now. I should probably wait until I cool off. But I am just so angry I cannot contain myself. I am not a journalist. I don't have to be fair or partial. This is my page. So here it is. Why am I so angry? I am angry because the Yankee manager (probably on orders from above) is all about resting players. And so on any given night, the Yankees can decide that the strategy of resting players is more important than winning the game. I am thrilled that the Yankees are SO confident that they think they afford to throw away games to follow their resting strategy.

The Yankees just lost two key players yesterday. Both were cogs in their powerful lineup. So without Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar, the team is already without two of its best hitters. Gary Sanchez has hit homers the last two games. There has already been one day off this season in between the four games Sanchez has played. Well, the Yankees can afford to give games away, so you might as well rest Gary Sanchez. Right? After all, the stat people calling the shots say that resting players will boost their value output over time.

There is only one problem though. A loss in the standings does not overcome a Win or a percentage of a Win in WAR later on. That L in the loss column is never going to go away.

But Sanchez was not the only one. Greg Bird, who supposedly is a "different" hitter this year, was "rested" as was Troy Tulowitzki. Instead, Tyler Wade, Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman got to play. Until proven otherwise, they are Triple-A or even Four-A batters. . And, of course, we cannot forget to combine them with Austin Romine.

So you take a team like the Detroit Tigers, a team that will most likely lose 90+ games this season. And you field a lineup that makes you very similar to the Tigers on the field. Nice. Good move. What a joke.

And then you have the bottom of the ninth and you are trailing, 3-1, because your lineup cannot produce anything with those players and with only one chance left in the game, you let both Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman bat!? Incredible.

The goal of analytics should be to make sure your team has the best chance to win. If the decisions are counter-productive to that goal, then there is a problem. Rest a player once in a while. Personally, I do not think it is necessary. But please, for gosh sakes, do not rest them all at the same freakin' time! Despite what your logic tells you, the Yankees are never going to get this loss back.

The Yankees Best Laid Schemes...Go Awry

The title of this series of thoughts paraphrases the great poet, Robert Burns, whose words of 1785 still ring true today. Yankee fans had salivating thoughts coming into this season. The team was loaded with talent. The lineup was stacked. The pitching was led by an ace and a free agent brought in with the stuff of an ace. The rest of the rotation seemed solid. Many pundits and predictors positioned the Yankees as the team to beat. This was going to be fun! Wee! But then it started crumbling.

And it started fast. First there was the pitching ace, Luis Severino, who felt something pop in his shoulder before his first spring start. Then there was Aaron Hicks with a funky back. We should have all seen that coming. Hicks has had problems staying on the field his entire career. Is he another Jacoby Ellsbury?

Then the team lost Dellin Betances and that boom-boom-boom-boom bullpen lost a boom. CC Sabathia was always going to be a late start, so that was no surprise. Then the season started and the losses have mounted. Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar went on the disabled list on the same day! The latter might be looking at a season-ending surgery.

Combine it with the TJ surgery for Didi Gregorius and top-pitching prospect, Jordan Montgomery, and the Yankees currently have nine players on the disabled list. And no, I will never call it the Injured List. It has been the Disabled List for generations and Disabled List is what I will write. Sheesh.

So here we are four games into the season and a lot of the wind has already left the sails. One wonders about training in Florida in the warmth and then having to play in the bitter cold of New York City. Would Stanton and Andujar's injuries happen if this scenario had not happened? It is hard playing baseball in the cold. It is akin to playing golf in the cold. The swing is not free and easy. You are wearing layers instead of having free motion. Maybe the season IS too long and expecting teams to play in 36 degree weather is asking too much.

All these players could return and play a significant factor this season. But what if some do not? What if Severino never gets right without surgery? What if Andujar needs surgery and needs to miss the season? Nobody is going to weep for the Yankees or the team's fans. But, man, this is not how we all envisioned it.

If you look back to the most recent championship seasons for the Yankees (2009, 2000, 1999, 1998), you see teams with limited injury situations. Particularly with the starting pitching, the Yankees received 29 or more starts from at least four of its starters in every one of those seasons. The most a position player was lost to the team was typically for 20-25 games. But there were no major losses of talent that drained its fans of all color.

Did you watch the game last night? When Gleyber Torres came up flexing his thumb after whiffing on Gary Sanchez's throw, did you not expect the worse? I know I did. How much do you want to bet that he will be "resting" in tonight's game? By the way, that should have been his error and not Sanchez's. The throw was there and the runner should have been out. Sanchez has made some errant throws but that was not one of them and Sanchez looks MUCH improved on blocking balls in the dirt.

Well...our dreams of a dream season with a homer record and All-Stars at nearly every position have pretty much been dampened. But this team is not done. The Red Sox look considerably weaker as a team and Tampa Bay is not this good. If a couple of the replacements for injured players play well, the team can get through this early part of the season. It is too early to lose all hope.

It is just sad when things do not work out as hoped and players do not get the chance to shine as expected. Warm weather will come and some of the wounded will come staggering back. We will all just have to see how it goes.

             ***************************************************************

I should not be as negative about Greg Bird as I am. So I apologize right up front. But I remember watching the first game against the Tigers and Brett Gardner was on first and Bird was at the plate. Gardner stole second and I remember thinking, "That was a mistake," because it put Gardner in scoring position with Bird at the plate. It also freed the pitcher from really having to worry about what Gardner was going to do. The predictable happened and Bird looked awful striking out to end the inning.  Bird is simply useless with runners in scoring position. Just a small observation in three hours of baseball action.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Live Blogging The Yankees 2019 Opening Day

The best day of the baseball season is here. It is Opening Day and The New York Yankees will host the Baltimore Orioles. Mariano Rivera just threw out the first pitch! What can be better than that!? It is Masahiro Tanaka against an Oriole team that lost 114 games a year ago. But that Orioles team gave the Yankees more fits than should have occurred. The Yankees need to feast on teams like this.

And the first pitch from Tanaka! A ball. But two ground outs followed and then a single to right. It took a while for Tanaka to put away Trey Mancini, but Mancini's ground ball to the right hit the runner! When is the last time you saw that! Good sign? We'll take it.

Tanaka looked crisp and sharp and hit 93 on his fastball. He looks good. The Yankees are coming up!

Brett Gardner led off and got blown away by the Orioles starter, Andrew Cashner. One out. Aaron Judge lined a single (108 mph) through the right side! Yeah! Giancarlo Stanton lined a single to right. It was hit hard, but Aaron Judge still took third. Here we go! A 3-1 count on Luke Voit. Boom! Three-run homer to dead center! Wow! Miguel Andujar flew out to the wall in left for the second out. Gary Sanchez singled to right. Greg Bird struck out to end the inning. A great start!

I saw on Twitter that Robinson Cano homered in his first at bat for the Mets. That's cool.

Tanaka got a 1-2-3 strikeout to start the top of the 2nd. Another 1-2-3 strikeout for the second out. But then Chris Davis comes up. I have no idea why Yankee pitchers always get behind on this guy. The odds of him hitting the ball are so low. Davis went 3-0. Tanaka fought back to 3-2 and then struck him out. Super inning! Tanaka looks great. Or the Orioles look awful. You choose.

Gleyber Torres hit the first pitch he saw for a single. Troy Tulowitzki is up and I am rooting for the guy. Nuts. Tulo grounded into a 6-4-3 double-play.  Brett Gardner went ahead in the count, 3-1, but flew out to center. He is a quick 0-2.  End of two, Yankees, 3-0.

Tanaka started the top of the third with a ground out to short. Tulowitzki made his first play of the season at short. No problem. Tanaka then struck out Richie Martin who is making his MLB debut. Two out. Cedric Mullins bounced one over Tanaka's head, but Gleyber Torres made a nice running play to retire the side in order. It's time for da Judge.

With two strikes, Aaron Judge put the ball in play and hit a slow roller up the middle and got himself another single. Strikeouts are NOT okay. Contact is good! Cashner got ahead of Giancarlo Stanton, but in a great plate appearance, Stanton took a walk. Men on first and second, no outs with Luke Voit up. Voit walked on four pitches to load the bases. Miguel Andujar grounded into a double-play to short. Aaron Judge scored his second run of the season. Gary Sachez flew out to deep left and the Yankees finish with a 4-0 lead after three innings.

The age old argument comes to mind after that half inning. Do you discourage Andujar's natural aggressiveness and ask him to be more patient, or do you leave him alone?

Speaking of Andujar, Tanaka started the top of the fourth with a fly out and a ground out to second. Then a ground ball was hit over the third base bag. Andujar made a nice play on it and a strong throw that would have beat the runner if he had a decent fielding first-baseman. But Bird could not come up with it while stretching and Andujar was given an error and a runner was on second. A single highlighted the play as it plated the run before Tanaka was able to end things with a fly out to center and Brett Gardner.  I never, ever liked Mark Teixeira. But I sure miss his glove at first.

Greg Bird struck out for the second time. Yeah. Nothing has changed there. Gleyber Torres then hit a smash to third that bounced off the third baseman's chest. Torres was thrown out on a nice play. Tulowitzki then flew out to right.  End of four, Yankees, 4-1.

Chris Davis led off for the Orioles and (Surprise!) struck out for the first out. Sucre flew out to Judge in right (sweet! Get it?). Richie Martin flew out and Tanaka was through five with a 1-2-3 inning.

The Yankees started the bottom of the fifty with walks by Gardner and Judge and are, once again, set up. Those walks finished off Andrew Cashner. Cashner used to be a live arm with huge upside. Now he is mundane with no out pitch. Mike Wright came in to face Stanton. But he walked him and the bases are loaded with no out for Luke Voit. Voit was hit by a pitch to pick up his fourth RBI of the game. Miguel Andujar again flew out deep to left and plated Judge. Judge must lead the Majors in runs scored by now. Heh. Gary Sanchez served one to right but Rickard made a great play on the dive for the second out. Greg Bird looked at a strike right down the middle and then struck out looking to end the inning.

The two first basemen in this game are now 0-5 with five strikeouts and a no-play at first to cause an error and an unearned run. Sterling!  But the Yankees lead, 6-1 after five.

With Adam Ottavino warming in the bullpen, the efficient Tanaka did not seem to need any help. He recorded the first out on a comebacker. Tanaka then got rocked for a hit off the wall in right, but Aaron Judge played it perfectly and held it to a single. So impressive! Tanaka then induced a weak grounder to first. Bird made the safe play at first for the second out. His decision to not go for the lead runner cost the Yankees (and Tanaka) a run as the next batter rapped one to center. It appeared that Brett Gardner did not pick it up and it sailed over his head without even an attempt. Tanaka was taken out and on comes Ottavino to make his Yankees' debut in his home town. This should be fun!

And it was! Ottavino showed some great movement. But the batter did not bite out of the strike zone. The count went to 3-2 and then the new Yankee pitcher froze the batter with a 3-2 slider on the outside corner for the punch out. Tanaka's final line: 5.2 6 2 1 0 5 0. Both runs would not have scored with better defense. It was a good start to the season for Tanaka.

Gleyber Torres took a five-pitch walk to start the bottom of the sixth. Tulowitzki, who reminds me in looks of Fred Stanley, struck out on a foul tip. Brett Gardner flew out to right. Aaron Judge ended his perfect season by striking out.  End of six, Yankees, 6-2.

Ottavino had no problem in the top of the seventh as he struck out two of the three he faced. This guy is going to be fun to watch!

Giancarlo Stanton flew out to center for the first out in the bottom of the seventh. Luke Voit walked to remain perfect for the season. Andujar lined a single to center. Gary Sanchez had a thirteen pitch at bat but finally succumbed to a popup straight up the chute. But the catcher dropped the ball which resulted in a weird double-play to end the inning. Weirdness.  Yankees, 6-2 through seven.

Clarification: The popup was ruled an infield fly rule. But the runners did not stay put and thus were dead ducks.

Zack (notice the "K") Britton is on for the Yankees. A weak popup to center was the first out. Britton then walked Cedric Mullin. Drew Jackson pinch hit for his MLB debut for the Orioles. Jackson grounded to third and Andujar got the force at second for the force out. Kevin Villar singled on the ground through the hole at short. Gleyber Torres saved the day, though, with a brilliant play at second and threw out the batter from his butt. Nice!

Greg Bird was down 0-2 but hit a homer on a sweet swing to right-center. Gleyber Torres struck out on a 3-2 pitch. Tulowitzki drilled a double to left for a double and looked very emotional at second. It was a touching moment. Gardner grounded off the pitcher on a close play at first. Aaron Judge walked on four pitches. But Stanton ended the inning by striking out. End of eight, Yankees, 7-2.

Aroldis Chapman entered the game to finish things up for the Yankees in a non-save situation. He was greeted by Hanser Alberto who beat out an infield single. Chapman then struck out Joey Rickart on a well-located slider. Chapman is only throwing 94 mph. Renato Nunez flew out to center and the Yankees were an out away. A grounder to Torres finished it off and the Yankees had an Opening Day win.

Tanaka and the Yankees start the season, 1-0. Luke Voit starts the season with four ribbies and Aaron Judge scored three runs. A fun first game and the kind of game the Yankees need to play against competition against teams like the Orioles.