Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Sad news

Good evening.  This is Jayne, William's wife.  It is with deepest sorrow that I have to inform you that William passed away November 11th.  Needless to say, it was quite unexpected.

I did want to say thank you to all of you who read and commented on his posts.  His love of baseball was unsurpassed and he enjoyed so much coming here to write his blog for you to read.

He will be missed by many, he was a one in a million man.  Irreplaceable.

So to all his readers, live, laugh and love.  There are no promises of tomorrow so make each day count like it's your last.  I know that sounds kind of morbid, but appreciate what you have, the little things as well as the big.  Don't ever be afraid to tell someone you love them or to give a hug.  You never know when you might not have that chance again.  Take nothing for granted and be grateful for all your blessings.

Praying you all have a wonderful holiday tomorrow and apologizing that my timing isn't so great--writing this before a holiday.  But I didn't want him to just "disappear" without letting you know why.

God bless you all!


Jayne Tasker

Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Flagrant Fan's Baseball Off Season Survival Guide

The World Series is over and the Washington Nationals are the surprise toast of the baseball world (unless you love political-mongering). Spring Training is months away, and if you are like me, you only have a secondary interest in the NFL and non-interest in the other sports. How do we survive this time without baseball? And while we are surviving, how do we filter through all the rumors and noise of the off season?  Well, I've been doing this a long time and here's my survival guide to help you through.

Missing Baseball

The worst thing about this time of year is missing the games themselves. Let's face it, during the season, the beauty of baseball is its constant presence. Just about every day, there is a game to watch, to think about, to pour over the box score and watch the highlights. Suddenly, the season ends and we are left with the violence and politics of the NFL and the "load management" of the new NBA. Or you have hockey. Meh. That's just me. If you like all those things, I encourage you to enjoy yourself. But this article is not really about you.

If you are a baseball lifer and baseball is your favorite sport (or only sport), then this time of year is a drag. Here are some tips:

  • Go back on and re-watch old games. It is not the same, but it helps.
  • Spend your free time pouring over Here you have every box score since time began. What endless fun!
  • Play Strat-O-Matic baseball or join a league. I just joined one and I am looking forward to it.
  • Learn your favorite teams' prospects. Who had good years, who got bumped up several levels. Dream about their potential and future.

These are just a few tips of learning to cope without baseball every day.

Curbing Expectations

Let's face it, every fan wants to know what their team is going to do over the winter to improve your team. You want that big free agent or that sensational trade that will fill you with excitement for the coming season. Slow your heart rate down. Some moves do not seem that much and turn out to be and the odds of your team getting the biggest studs on the market are slight.

I will mention two or three players that were greeted by ho-hums by fans and the media when the deals happened: DJ LeMahieu, Howie Kendrick and Jake Odorizzi. Now imagine their teams without them this past season? Front offices are often filled with talented evaluators who, surprisingly, know what they are doing. Think about Yankee fans last off season who said, "DJ LeMahieu? Who? Where is he going to play?"

Often, a move that fans are very excited about fizzles under the glare of reality. Giancarlo Stanton, David Price and Andrew Miller come to mind.

And what about those huge free agents on the market? The reality is that your favorite team has a one in thirty shot of landing a Gerrit Cole. Well, if you eliminate the historically cheap teams like the Royals, the Rays and some others, then perhaps the odds are more like one in twenty. The thing is, one team's fan base is going to be very excited and two-dozen others are going to be disappointed. My way of coping is to manage my expectations and not get excited unless there is an actual signing and then not getting too concerned about my team having to go different routes.

Do NOT Listen To Rumors!

Since we miss baseball, our minds have to fixate on something and so we buy into the rumor mill and every single article and tweet that speculates about who is going where. The fact is, we will not know until we know....yanno?

There is an entire site devoted to MLB rumors. You know who they are. Every sports site in the world right now is featuring their predictions and speculations of who is going where. Do not get sucked into this stuff. It is meaningless. They do not know as much as you and I do not know. Heck, we still get surprised when a team signs a manager we never expected. Things will play out when they play out. This is one time when you want to be a reactionary and not a speculator.

There is one prominent baseball journalist who is suspected of supposedly being fed false information by Scott Boras. Not only are those rumors wrong, but they are intentionally wrong whether or not this baseball hack is aware he is being used or not. To be sure, he is probably not the only one. Misinformation and misdirection is a part of the scheme of agents. What better way to drive up prices for their clients than creating a competitive climate (whether it exists or not)?

Baseball sites need one thing and they need them desperately: clicks! Every site needs clicks to either make money or to be relevant. Me, I've given up trying that gig. I am like John Lennon watching the wheel spin round and round. These sites need clicks even more now because there is no on-the-field news they can report.

And so, those clicks are speculation, rumors, predictions and all this supposedly knowledgeable reporting that is based on air. Again, no one knows and no one will know until a free agent signs with his new team. And even then, when a new round of speculation begins on what the signing means, do not get sucked in and manage those expectations.

The bottom line here is that surviving these three excruciating months without baseball is to get your buzzes where you can by looking at stuff that has already happened, manage expectations and shield yourself from the rumor mill. Before you know it, we will know who is going to play for our teams and rosters will show up in Florida and Arizona again to start the cycle all over in gloriously new circumstances. If you need a hug, let me know.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Cole Or Strasburg Critical For The Yankees?

I have had a week to mourn the passing of the 2019 New York Yankees season. The sting is slight and if the Nationals can finish off the Astros, then all the better. While I congratulate the Astros fans for their season and World Series appearance, I hate that team with a passion. There is not a rational reason for the feeling. Hey, I am a fan and a fan just randomly feels stuff. With all that said, I can finally start to ponder next year and what the Yankees will do between now and then. I will start with a few categories for members of the 2019 team:

Things I am hoping will happen:
Things I am semi-okay about happening:
Things I would be unhappy about:
Let me offer some insight into those feelings. There are times when emotions overrule common sense. I call it the "Aubrey Huff Rule." Remember the year Huff had in 2010? And then he had a great post-season and he was everyone's hero. Never mind that his year was an outlier or that he was aging. The Giants resigned him and he went Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius are those two guys for me. They are both great team players. They are both full of great Yankee moments. But, perhaps their time has passed despite Gardner's surprising (or not with the baseball) homer total and Didi's big series against the Twins. I think that JA Happ was an Aubrey Huff Rule-break by the Yankees. Now, they are stuck with him.

Mike Tauchman is the new Brett Gardner. Losing Didi puts DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres at the positions they belong. I hate to see them go. But I hated to see Bernie Williams go too.

Edwin Encarnacion also had some nice moments for the 2019 Yankees. But Giancarlo Stanton is going to play a lot at the DH spot and if the Yankees can get a combo of Luke Voit healthy along with Mike Ford, you have all you need for the DH and first base. Of course, if JD Martinez opts out of his deal with the Red Sox, you can get creative if you want to. Cameron would be a decent outfield backup, but I am okay if that does not happen. Austin Romine is not exciting at all, but his last two years at backup catcher have been above league average and not too many teams can say that.

As good as the Yankee bullpen was all year, Dellin Betances was a huge loss and I think it was felt in a lot more ways than most people think. You add Betances to that mix and the relievers can be spread out more over games and not depend on the same four. I think Ben Heller is a heck of an option in there too. And he is a lot more affordable than Betances. I still think Betances is worth a two or three year deal, which he would take after missing an entire season.

As for Larry Rothschild, look at the fact that Lance Lynn got better after he left the Yankees as did Sonny Gray. Whatever magic sauce the Astros use to up their pitchers' velocity and spin rate has to come from a fresh face and not Rothschild.

All that said, the only question is finding a replacement for Aaron Hicks. Which leads me to ask what possessed the Yankees to give him that long-term deal with his injury history.

The big story line all winter will be about the Yankees going after Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. I would love the latter but there is no chance the Yankees get the former. All indications are that Cole wants to go home to California.

What if the Yankees get neither? Is that a disaster? I don't think so. Have we already given up on Jordan Montgomery? I think we have and should not. After Domingo German serves his suspension, you are left with a rotation of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, and Domingo German with JA Happ and Jonathan Loaisiga in the mix if you want to banish German, which is understandable. I think that can be a pretty strong rotation.

I think the Yankees should forget their stats a little bit about the third time through an order and work hard at getting the starters to be efficient and go for six innings at least per start. You cannot ask or think that the bullpen (no matter how good they are) can get twelve or more outs per game. And, please, no more "Openers!"

If the Yankees can swing a big deal with Cole or Strasburg, sure, go for it, but, again, unless you have new life in the pitching leadership (coaching) department, will those guys continue to dominate and is it ever smart to give a starting pitcher $300 million? So much can happen during that term. CC Sabathia worked out fine, but the Yankees did not get more than three (out of ten) of his peak years.


What went wrong in the ALCS? I agree with Aaron Boone that the Astros made one or two plays better than the Yankees did in each of the losses. The Yankees were a few big hits away from having a chance in that series.

I will say this in hindsight. To me what really hurt the Yankees was a lack of continuity going from the Twins in the ALDS to the Astros in the ALCS. Think back to the Twins series. The Yankees used the same lineup in all three games. And that lineup raked except for Encarnacion, who was probably rushed back with the hope that he would be able to hit and hit for power. He was not. Mike Ford would have been a better choice.

Now jump to the Astros' series. Aaron Hicks was added in.  Giancarlo Stanton was injured out and Boone shuffled his lineup in each game. That was a mistake in my opinion. Hicks did hit that big three-run homer in the first game. But that was it. He was not a factor (except negative) the rest of the way. Gleyber Torres should have batted third in every game. He did not. Hicks had one single the rest of the way. Yes, he did walk four times and saw a lot of pitches. I will give him that.

The Yankees had zero continuity in the lineup during the regular season. Injuries had a small part of that. But the constant lineup tinkering has got to stop in 2020. The Yankees got away with it during the season because it was a marathon and not a sprint. Even so, I think the Yankees would have had a better record with less rest days and more continuity in the lineup. Consider that Gleyber Torres had more than fifteen starts at five different lineup positions and ten in a sixth. Ridiculous.


The F chant toward Jose Altuve and the abuse to Zack Greinke were terrible things. As a fan of the Yankees, such behavior was embarrassing and made all Yankee fans the object of derision and scorn. Not all Yankee fans are so insensitive and classless. It stinks to be lumped into the hate the actions of a few caused for all fans.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

MLB Playoffs: Is It Too Easy For Davy To Beat Goliath?

The New York Yankees emerged from the four division series as the only team that had an easy time moving on. Of course, for Yankee fans, that was a lot of fun. For Twins' fans, not so much. But the other three series have been utterly fascinating while going the distance. We had a blowout Game Five in Atlanta as the Cardinals surprisingly moved on. And we had heartbreak in Los Angeles for Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Tonight we find out who will emerge from the remaining division series as those scrappy Rays take the Astros to the limit.

The five-game series format of the division series does post angst of whether it is the best format for this stage of the Major League Baseball season. It seems to make it easier that the best team can be beaten in the frenzy. The Dodgers were easily the best team in the National League and they are going home. If the Rays pull off the impossible and beat the Astros tonight, then the best team in the American League will go home. That is a big "If" of course. But if it does, that means that both of the bests and most favored in their respective leagues will end their seasons against wildcard teams.

The wildcard gives those teams the sense of being the underdog with absolutely no pressure. The underdog is not expected to win. So they can play with abandon while the Number One seeds have all the pressure to go the distance because of the expectations. Since the five-game format does lead to such excitement, and because nobody wants to play baseball in the snow, I would leave that format as is, but I would make one tweak.

There has to be a bigger benefit for a top seed against a wildcard team. There has to be a premium for having the best record and winning a division. A wildcard team does not have home field advantage with the 2-2-1 format. But I think the format still gives a wildcard team a route to get a playoff series win. If the wildcard wins its two games at home, then you are guaranteed a Game Five (unless the wildcard team took one of the first two on the road). And anything can happen in a Game Five as we have seen.

I propose that the wildcard team only gets one home game out of the five. Again, there needs to be a reason to win a division and have the best record. Would a team such as the Yankees have fought harder down the stretch for the best record in the AL if they knew it meant four home games in the division series? I think so. As for the wildcard team, there has to be a real disadvantage for not winning a division. I think a 2-1-2 format does that.

This will never happen, of course, as there would be an outcry from the Nationals or the Rays about lost revenue. But my answer to them would be, "Then win the division!" If you think about it, the wildcard teams have just as much of a shot as the Twins and Cardinals received. I don't think that's right. There has to be a real benefit for winning the division and a real cost for not winning a division.

The National League Championship Series will feature the unlikely match-up of the Nationals against the Cardinals with the Cardinals getting a 4-3 home field advantage. I am not sure I would mess with that as a seven-game series seems to benefit the best team. But if a wildcard was involved, you could make it a 5-2 split something like 2-2-3. But, again, the seven-game format does make it harder for the emotional edge a five-game series gives a team as an underdog.

The American League is yet to be determined. And even though my Yankees are involved, I would want them to play the Astros. You want the two best teams slugging it out. There is a reason a heavyweight fight draws more than a welterweight. Plus, having half the games (or three of them) in that abomination of a stadium in St. Pete is not good for baseball. Plus, the Yankees have played the Rays 19 times already. Enough already! Facing the Rays in the ALCS is like playing Whack-A-Mole after winning the division over them in the first place.

It has been a fascinating playoffs already. And the buzz is good for baseball. You cannot ask for much better than having three of the four series go the distance. On the other hand, you want the best teams slugging it out in the Championship Series and the current format only gives division winners a slight advantage of making that happen. With apologies to wildcard teams and not denigrating the accomplishment of making it as a wildcard team, there should be a bigger penalty for not winning the division. We need to make it harder for Davy to beat Goliath.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Yankees Look In Mirror At Twins

The Tampa Bay Rays already blew up my playoff bracket before it had much of a start. No longer needing to worry about my picks, I can concentrate on this ALDS between the Yankees and the Twins. With a five-game series, all conventional wisdom is blown away and the outcome is nearly impossible to predict. What can easily be said is that the Yankees and the Twins are so similar in structure that they could be the same image in a mirror.

Both teams have tremendous power as the Twins broke the season home run record this year and the Yankees finished one behind. The loss of the record (which really doesn't matter except for bragging rights) is another example of how the Yankees' last week of the season was atrocious. The Twins, on the other hand, finished super strong and barely ran out of time to catch up to the Yankees' win-loss record.

Both teams have very good managers. All Aaron Boone has done is win a hundred games in both of his seasons. Rocco Baldelli took the Twins to a hundred wins in his first season. One of them, probably Baldelli, will get Manager Of The Year. There is no advantage to be had here. The Yankees had a better record against teams over .500 and won the season series against the Twins and have historically beat the Twins in post season play. But all of those facts are meaningless heading into this series.

The pitching seems about as even as the offense. The Twins have had some bright spots in their rotation but no "stopper." The same can be said for the Yankees unless either James Paxton or Luis Severino are really on their games.

Boone recently announced that the rotation for the Yankees will start with Paxton, then Masahiro Tanaka at home in Game 2, and then Severino in Game 3 in Minneapolis. I am happy with that rotation and also happy (though sad) that CC Sabathia will not make the playoff roster (at least in this round). Tanaka is much better at home and Severino will give the Twins a new wrinkle they haven't seen in their home ballpark. In a short series, will the Yankees want to mess around with an "Opener" or a JA Happ in Game 4? Perhaps there will be enough days off for Paxton to pitch the second time.

One would immediately think that the Yankees have a big edge in the bullpen. I do not see it that way when it comes to the Twins. Their top four guys had great seasons with high strikeout rates and they walk less batters than their Yankee counterparts. For the Yankees to win, they need to win early.

Again, the offenses for both teams are a wash. The Yankees look like they will have the most bashable lineup of the season ready for the Twins with Edwin Encarnacion ready to play. They need him as he can be a game changer. The Twins' only question is whether Max Kepler is healthy and it looks like he will be.

I believe that one edge the Yankees have is defense. The Twins made the second most errors in the American League and all of their infield guys are in negative runs statistics. They lose a lot on defense with Byron Buxton out as it leaves the Twins without a true center fielder. The Twins do not throw out stolen base attempts on par with league average. The Yankees do.

The Twins were a much better team on the road this season than they were at home. That somewhat negates the home field advantage the Yankees hold. So really, there is no clear cut favorite in this series. Both teams are so similar and so close that it will come down to the bounce of the ball and which team makes the best plays and can do the best job pitching in the series.

What would you do with the Yankees' lineup? I have played a few scenarios in my head and like Sanchez as the DH with Romine behind the plate. But Romine would be a weaker play in the lineup.
I guess I would go something like this:

  1. D.J. LeMaheau 1B, 
  2. Aaron Judge - RF
  3. Edwin Encarnacion - DH
  4. Gleyber Torres - 2B
  5. Giancarlo Stanton - LF
  6. Gary Sanchez - C
  7. Brett Gardner - CF
  8. Gio Urshela - 3B
  9. Didi Gregorius - SS

I do think that the Twins were the best possible outcome for a first series match-up for the Yankees. The Astros are going to be tough no matter what. I was really afraid the Yankees facing Oakland and am less so of Tampa Bay. All that said, playing the Twins is no walk in the park. If the Yankees do not pitch well, this series will end up poorly.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Winning Means Being Quiet?

This post is kind of personal. It shows a thin skin on my part and I am probably an idiot for writing. But writing has always been my outlet. I spent much of my adult life being the adult in the room...the steady rock that guides through the storm. Sports is where I can show my full passion whether it is ecstasy or being crushed. And I write about that because I have never pretended that I was a journalist. I write from a fan's perspective. Just look at the name of this place, for Pete's sake. Lately, I have been criticized on Twitter because I have expressed frustration with the Yankees. Apparently, the common thread is that right now, as a fan of that team, I should be basking in only good vibes because my team is going to win and not ever complain. Bull-ticky.

Most of these posts are by friends I have had on Twitter for years. I can accept those. They have earned the right to tell me what they think. Others have come from fans on terrible teams. I understand where they are coming from. But their teams have not always been terrible and might not be terrible forever.

You get it worse when you are are a Yankee fan and I get that too--or a Patriot fan for that matter. In both cases, my fandom began before their successes. Well, to correct that statement, I became a Yankee fan as a boy in the mid-1960s. I missed the glory years and started loving the Horace Clarke, Roger Repoz, Tom Tresh Yankees. I have been a fan of the Patriots since the Steve Grogan days. So I am not just a coattail guy.

I have been watching the Yankees for over fifty years. They and the Beatles are stitched into my life just as much as losing my dad young and living an--at times--stressful teen years. I think I have a right to express things about what I am watching after fifty years. Am I wrong? I am not dumb when it comes to baseball. I am not an analytical maven, but I understand them just enough to see and enjoy their benefit. So I would like to think that after all these years, my criticism is fair. I can admit to being wrong unlike the other William who writes about the Yankees always from the perspective that Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner are terrible and should have their impaled heads hanging on the Yankee Stadium gates.. I would say that I am negative maybe half the time. The other William is 100%. That's not me.

How different am I than fans of the Red Sox this year? The Red Sox have won it all four times since 2004 and had a magical season for the ages last year. Despite that success, when this year's Red Sox team became a clunker, the team and leadership were lambasted by their own fan base. Am I worse than that?

I've always tried to be magnanimous. When the Red Sox won, I congratulated the Red Sox fans and told them to enjoy it. I meant it. I have meant it when congratulating other successful teams and their fan bases. A team cannot win it every year. Not any more anyway. I know how good these fans of other teams feel. I have been there at every level. Of course I want them to bask in the glow of success. Who understands being a fan and begrudges that!?

There is a window for these team opportunities. The Astros might lose Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander might actually age some day. They have a window. The Red Sox had a window and took advantage of it. Now the Red Sox have questions going forward. That is how it works. The Yankees have not won it all after 2009. They have not even won the division most of the time. The team has a unique window. And in New York and for its fans, it is all or nothing on those windows!

So if I see things that can trip the team up and cause them not to take advantage of this window, I'm going to say so. Yeah, they are going to win over 100 games. But having home field through the post season is still up for grabs. The Yankees need that if perhaps they face the Astros for the ALCS. One extra home game could make a difference there or in the World Series. Shouldn't that be more important than resting players that have had plenty of rest on the DL or with natural days off? Shouldn't that be more important than resting a bullpen and letting three games get away from them in Detroit and Toronto? I think the home field advantage is more important than ANYTHING!

The Yankees lost the first game in Detroit as Aaron Judge and DJ LeMaheu sat. Perhaps the game would have been 13-12 instead of 12-11 if both those players had played. Perhaps they would have won if Nestor Cortez Jr had not become this year's version of Hector Noesi. The pitching lineup that day was just awful.

And, yes, I am going to spout off about the Yankees' medical and training staff when so many of these injuries have been muscular. Yes, the Yankees have thrived despite the injuries, but at no time this year has the team had all of its best players on the field at the same time. Employment is based on success. When I managed my customer service team, I had fifteen measurable stats. They were posted every week. Everyone knew where they stood. Lack of success meant stepping aside for someone who succeeded. The Yankees' medical staff and trainers have failed. They need to step aside. That is how I see it and I will say it out loud or on Twitter.

I will complain when umpires fail doing their jobs. I am not a conspiracy theorist and looking for evil plots around every corner for the Yankees as a team. I am talking about calling the strike zone. The "Framing" stat is so bogus because it shows the catcher fooling an umpire after a bad call. We should be feting these catchers or fighting the poor umpiring? I think the latter. To have SO many of these frame possibilities to create a statistic is pathetic.

I will continue to call out Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge for looking at strikes down the middle of the plate and then swinging and striking out on pitches that are not strikes. They can do better. They should be more aggressive. When they are, they are both terrific. The announcers always say that Gardner can ambush a pitcher at times. At times? How about all those other times when Strike One and usually Strike Two are right down the pipe? Hey, that is what I see. I'm not allowed to express it when the Yankees win 100 games? I guess not.

The resting thing is what I get hit the hardest about when questioning the Yankees' sanity. Has rest helped the team this year when it comes to injuries? Uh no. I can see trying to limit a position player to 150 games. Personally, I do not see any statistic that guarantees that doing such a thing works. But if a guy has missed 70 games due to injuries, does he need regular rest? How absurd.

To me, what makes the Patriots the most successful is that they do not lessen the value of any game. They are all important. I have watched far too many games this season when the best team the Yankees could field were not on the field and the feeling seemed to be, "Maybe we can somehow win this while giving guys some rest." Yes, tell us that when the Yankees' season ends in the seventh game in Houston's ballpark. Oh right, the odds of a series going the full seven games are a long shot. I forgot.

Maybe some thought has gone into this. I can admit that I like a series against the Twins a lot better than a series against the Oakland Athletics. The A's can actually beat the Astros and then the Yankees would have to face them anyway (if they beat the Twins, which is a crapshoot too).

Frankly, I am petrified about the post season. This team has been smoke and mirrors all season. Aaron Boone should get Manager Of The Year. He really should. I think the Yankees will have a better team next season. But I want desperately for them to win this season because of that window thing. And, of course, because I am a big fan. So yeah, if you think I should be happy-go-lucky due to the team's success, oh well. That's not going to happen.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Toying With The Yankees Playoff Roster

The New York Yankees have just a handful of games remaining before the team starts its Post Season scramble. There are no easy roads as any series poses strong obstacles to overcome for the Yankees to grab the top prize. The interesting aspect of that coming time is the makeup of the 25-man roster the Yankees need to shape heading into the team's run for the glory. The team has a plethora of decisions to make and most are not as easy as they sound.

Setting up the pitching staff seems to be the most important aspect of this exercise, though, certainly not the only important piece. For a deep Post Season run, pitching, offense and defense are all critical. Let's look at the pitching decisions the Yankees need to make and then we'll look at some of the different scenarios and how the Yankees might attack them.

First, the bullpen no brainers (5):
Now, we need to add three more.

I am going here with a "best case" scenario. It is hopeful that the first two can contribute strongly and the playoffs require power pitching. Loaisiga looked great against Boston throwing 98 mph gas.

That leaves out Nestor Cortes Jr. Luis Cessa and Cory Gearrin. If either Severino or Betances cannot answer the bell, then add Cessa.

If all eight can be ready, you have an unbelievable bullpen of eight strong pitchers.

The Starters (4):
James Paxton
Masahiro Tanaka
Domingo German
JA Happ

That leaves out CC Sabathia. While that sucks emotionally, it just feels like the guy is done. Of course, if Sabathia was to pitch and had a great game, the emotional factor could be huge. But what are the odds of that happening? Happ has one strong start in his favor and a decent history. It is not a great choice, but Happ, at least, is healthy.

With only four starters, I can see an "Opener" scenario with Severino and perhaps you do add Cessa to give the team thirteen pitchers.

If the Yankees win home field advantage, then Masahiro Tanaka and Domingo German need to start at home. If the Yankees do not have home field advantage (Astros), then Paxton needs to lead off the series because he has the pure "stuff" to succeed on the road.

Happ would get the fourth game and then go with the Opener scenario for Game Five and back to the beginning for Game Six and Seven (if needed).

Okay, we more or less have our thirteen pitchers. Now we need twelve position players. Here is where it gets dicey. If Giancarlo Stanton can get a few games in, then you almost are forced to include him. I am glad I am writing this after seeing Mike Tauchman's injury (which sucks). I rule out Aaron Hicks completely. See you next year, Aaron.

If you include Stanton, then you've clogged up the DH because do you really want Stanton in left? Perhaps it might help to build the known commodities and their positions to see what we have remaining:

There are eight of your twelve. In my mind, you have to have Edwin Encarnacion. He either plays first or splits time at DH. That's nine. There are only three spots left.

Losing Mike Tauchman Sunday night to a calf injury changes things. I definitely would have penciled him in to start in Left. He, along with Judge and Gardner gave the Yankees superior outfield defense and Tauchman brought enough to the plate to keep him out there. I am pessimistic about this injury. According to Bryan Hoch, Tauchman had already been receiving treatment for his calf before this injury. His season may be done.

I still do not want Stanton in Left. Does that mean the Yankees go with Cameron Maybin? What other choice is there? Clint Frazier? That's a thought, but no. So Maybin is your tenth guy. He's also a good dugout guy and brings that dynamic. We only have two spots left. We have not settled first base yet, which seems strange.

Luke Voit has not been very productive lately. He has only played 24 games since the halfway point of the season and his OPS in those 24 games is only .741 with a paltry .373 slugging percentage. In my mind, he has forgotten what led to his success last year which was driving the ball the opposite way on outside pitches. His pull percentage is up a full seven percentage points this year. His hard contact rate has tumbled nine percentage points from last year. He has hit five homers since the end of May. It is really tough, but I would leave him off the Post Season roster.

But we have two spots! Here is probably a surprise. But I would add Tyler Wade. He can backup every position. And if you need a guy to run the bases for some of the big, slumbering runners on the team, you call on Wade. This gives you five guys on the infield. You start Encarnacion at first and replace him in the late innings with DJLM. You start DJLM at third and when he goes to first, you slide Urshela in there.

We now have three guys on the bench: Urshela, Wade and Romine. That pretty much matches what the Yankees have gone with all season. You can use the last spot for a pitcher. That could be either Cody Guerrin or CC Sabathia. Guerrin can mop up lopsided games and perhaps CC would be an opener and pitch three innings to start a game before bringing in Severino or Loaisiga. Okay, let it be Sabathia.

To sum this all up, let's look at a depth chart:

  • Left Field - Maybin, Stanton with Wade if needed
  • Center Field - Gardner, Maybin
  • Right Field - Judge
  • First base, Edwin Encarnacion, DJLM
  • Second Base - Gleyber Torres, DJLM, Wade
  • Shortstop - Gregorius, Torres, Wade
  • Third base - DJLM, Urshela
  • Catcher - Sanchez, Romine
  • DH - Stanton, Encarnacion, Sanchez (Sanchez needs to bat every game).

Pitching (relief)
Ottavino, Britton, Kahnle, Chapman, Green, Betances, Loaisiga

Pitchers (starters)
James Paxton, Tanaka, German, Happ

Pitchers (swing)
Severino, Sabathia, Cessa

The starting lineup for Game 1 should be:

  1. DJLM
  2. Judge
  3. Gleyber
  4. Encarnacion
  5. Sanchez
  6. Didi
  7. Stanton
  8. Maybin
  9. Gardner
The choices are difficult. But you want your best arms and your most dominant lineup in the playoffs with a few options for flexibility. That lineup looks scary, but would be scarier if that was Tauchman in the eighth hole and not Maybin. Apologies to Luke Voit, but this seems the best to me and the overall process has given me confidence that the Yankees are well placed to make a run at the title.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Aaron Judge's First and 100th Homers Nearly Identical

Aaron Judge, the New York Yankees' fan favorite slammed his 100th career home run last night in Seattle. Judge's 100th homer was hit some three years and eleven days after he hit his very first Major League homer at Yankee Stadium. The remarkable thing about the first and the 100th were how similarly they were hit.

See for yourself. This was Judge's first career homer, courtesy of

Here is Aaron Judge's 100th home run, also courtesy of

They look pretty darned similar, didn't they!? Both were hit to center and though they were hit in two different parks, both homers banged more than half way up the batter's eye. How similar were they beyond this eye test?

Aaron Judge's very first MLB homer on August 13, 2016, traveled 446 feet. Last night's homer was projected at 462 feet. That is within 16 feet of his first one. Masahiro Tanaka was the starter for both games: Judge's first and last night. Both Judge homers made the score, 2-0 in the Yankees' favor. The pitches Judge hit for his first and last homers were in similar quadrants and both were up in the strike zone. The following is from Brooks Baseball and shows the placement of both. The first one is the first career homer off of Matt Andriese and the second is the 100th homer:

The similarities pretty much die down after that. Judge was batting eighth when he hit is first homer. He homered on the fourth pitch and it was an 87 mph cutter. Last night, Judge was batting second, hit the first pitch and it was a 92 mph fastball.

The one huge similarity with both homers is that they add to the Aaron Judge legend. For many of us, he is the reason we stay up late when the games are on the West Coast. He is the anticipation every time he comes to the plate. And when he hits one, he is the thrill that makes baseball so fun to watch.

It has been a fun ride watching Aaron Judge from his first game until now. Last night was a milestone. Hopefully, it will not be the last.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Yankees Season Heads To The Sewer

The New York Yankees' 2019 season heads to the sewer this week...Oakland Coliseum that is (Lord, forgive me). It is my second worst baseball venue just behind Tropicana Field. The Coliseum is a place that has been outdated since a few years after they opened the place in 1966. The foul ground is famous and ridiculous and seems to cover more area than Rhode Island. The sewers there have been known to back up, of course, and that is the inside joke. But this series is not a joke as once again, the Athletics have put yet another surprise season together and have been playing .600 baseball since June. And, they are very good at home.

You look at the A's roster and you wonder how they do it. Four or five of their regular lineup members have a lower OPS+ than 100. The starting pitchers are a hodge-podge of castoffs from other teams and closer, Blake Treinen, has had a disappointing season compared to last year's amazing one. Treinen has been picked up by Liam Hendriks. Yes, that Liam Hendriks. Out of nowhere, Hendriks is having an incredible season with over twelve strikeouts per nine while walking less than three per. His ERA of 1.54 is backed up by a FIP of only 1.94. He has more than made up for Treinen.

The A's starting rotation has been solid despite not having any big arms or stars. Mike Fiers, the much-traveled 34-year-old has found a good home in Oakland. Since his pickup as a trade deadline deal a year ago, he has gone 16-5 in 35 starts with a solid ERA of 3.53 over that span. His WHIP this season is a solid 1.109. The Yankees will face him Wednesday night.

Brett Anderson has been a solid starter as has Chris Bassitt. Their best starter, Frankie Montas, is serving an 80-game PED suspension and will not return until September 25. The A's went out and looked for bargains in the rotation that could fill the gap and came up with Homer Bailey and Tanner Roark. The latter has been good while the former has not been good. The Yankees will see them both sandwiched around Fiers.

The bullpen is decent. Treinen is still trying to work it out, but Hendriks is getting the bulk of the closing duties. Middle-aged relievers Yusmeiro Petit and Joakim Soria still know how to get people out. The rest of the bullpen does not have flashy arms and have high walk rates. So if the Yankees can crack the bullpen early, they can do well.

As mentioned, the Athletics' lineup is spotty, which rhymes with Piscotty, who should be back for this series from the DL. That is actually good news as he does not hit that well. The catching corps for the A's have been an offensive drag. Josh Phegley is the regular, but no one would consider him a great-hitting catcher.

Second base has also been a disaster for the A's. Jurickson Profar continues to disappoint and the A's have recently experimented with old friend, Corbin Joseph. Joseph has yet to prove he can hit in the Majors.

Elsewhere, Robbie Grossman, Khris Davis and the aforementioned Stephen Piscotty have had disappointing seasons at the plate. It is difficult to forget, though, that Khris Davis kills the Yankees.

The good hitters the A's have are really good. Matt Olson at first, Matt Chapman at third and Marcus Semien at short have all had outstanding seasons. The Yankees are fortunate that center fielder, Ramon Laureano, is out with an injury. He had been mashing the ball as well. Mark Canha has been a major boost to the team and as a fourth outfielder, has played 90 games and has an OPS of .887.

Basically, the Oakland Athletics has a middling offense with some great hitters and a slightly above pitching staff with a lot of duct tape. But here they come again.

If you decide to stay up late this week to watch, here is what to expect. The Yankees have a better than good chance in Game 1 as Domingo German matches up really well against Homer Bailey. In Game 2, I favor Mike Fiers over JA Happ. In the finale, I would give the Yankees a slight edge with Masahiro Tanaka pitching in a big park against Tanner Roark. It will be an interesting series and one we might see again in the playoffs.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Yankees Middle Relief Brings No Relief

Sunday's loss to the Cleveland Indians really highlights a huge issue for the otherwise juggernaut team. If the starting pitcher has a bad day, the Yankees do not have pitchers who can stop the bleeding. The team's strength, of course, is the team's offense and the back end of the bullpen. But since the Yankees rely on all four members of the back end in games where they are ahead and they are never asked to pitch more than two games in a row, the middle area of the bullpen must close the gap. And they cannot.

The problem begins with the starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka and Domingo German average slightly above five and two-thirds of an inning per outing. JA Happ, CC Sabathia and James Paxton average just slightly above five innings per outing and less than five and one-third. Everyone who follows the team knows that the lack of length (in innings) by this starting staff is a huge weakness. But since the Yankees did not (or would not) address the problem at the trade deadline, it is what it is and cannot be fixed.

If the Yankees are ahead in the game, then Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman must all pitch to cover the last four innings of the game. If the Yankee starters could go seven innings, then you could split the four and use two a night. That does not happen with this 2019 version of the New York Yankees. If you use all four two nights in a row, then the rest of the bullpen has to get the outs. They cannot. And sadly, the rest of the bullpen cannot even hold big leads forcing the back end of the bullpen into action when things seemed to be a done deal.

Let's look at the list of long relievers, middle relievers and the sad sacks of the rest of the Yankees' bullpen:
  • Jonathan Holder did a great job last season but has been a disaster this season. Now he is injured. His ERA is a bit inflated, but his FIP is not sterling and sits at 4.45. The strikeout rate is good, but he allows too many hits and homers.
  • Nester Cortez Jr. was cute for a while and heaven knows the Yankees' radio broadcasters love him. The cuteness has worn off and Cortez Jr. cannot seem to stop those tack-on runs from the other team that put games out of reach. He now has a 4.56 ERA and a FIP of 5.05. His WHIP is rapidly approaching 1.4.
  • Chance Adams did not work out. As much as Yankee fans who love prospects rooted for him, Adams does not look like a MLB pitcher. His numbers are simply horrid.
  • Stephen Tarpley has gotten a lot of air time and, at times, looked very good. But they have been too few and too far between. His WHIP is over 2, he walks too many batters and he gives up (like all on this list) a startling number of homers. He is now on the injured list.
  • Jonathan Loaisiga has only pitched in five games. And he has the proverbial "great stuff." But he cannot harness that stuff. His ERA is 5.94 and his FIP is slightly lower. His lack of command makes him unattractive. He has the stuff of a Luis Severino or a German. But until he can figure out some consistent way to make it work, he is not a good option.
  • Luis Cessa is a personal pet peeve. The ONLY reason he made the team out of Spring Training was that he was out of options and the Yankees did not want to lose him. That reality has made him like a Rule 5 player selection where the Yankees must keep him as part of the team all season. His ERA is 4.36, but his FIP is closer to five at 4.92. Cessa's most maddening trait is to get the first two outs of an inning and then walks a guy and all hell breaks loose.
  • Joe Harvey, Joe Mantiply and Brady Lail. Thanks for trying. We rooted for you.
  • David Hale is the only middle reliever that has gotten the job done. But he has a back issue and that is never good. He is out of action until, at least, the end of the month.
  • Chad Green has been a puzzle. At times he looks brilliant and then at times he is a mess. His overall numbers are bad. His ERA is 5.59 but his FIP is 4.19. His strikeout to walk rate is sparkling. But his WHIP and hits per inning are ugly. He was doing well as an "opener" and then he was not. 
What options do the Yankees have at this point? On the immediate end, there is not much. The team will probably give Loaisiga and Domingo Acevedo a shot at some point. The latter is intriguing. He has put up great strikeout rates an does not walk many (2.4 per nine). But he has given up a boatload of hits and homers for the Railriders in his first ten games. He is already on the 40-man Roster. And at some point, the Yankees will see what they have with Ryan Dull. Dull is also on the roster.

In the longer term, the Yankees can hope that Luis Severino can get back soon. He could pitch the remainder of the season in the bullpen, be an opener and add some quality innings. The same could be said of Jordan Montgomery. But Montgomery does not seem as close to returning as Severino. And, it would be great if Dellin Betances was ever available and can pitch close to his usual dominance.

It could not hurt things to try Loaisiga, Dull and Acevedo right now and DFA Cessa and Adams. The former has had four years to make his mark and has not. The latter simply does not seem to be a prospect any longer. Keep Chad Green and hope you get more good than bad. Hope that Hale comes back soon and limit Nester Cortez Jr. to one or two innings.

The reality is that the starting rotation will not get better. They cannot seem to limit the pitches per batter and per inning to get longer into games. The Yankees have to get a combination of relievers that can hold the other team to whatever damage the starters have allowed and give the offense a chance to get back in the game. Sabathia left after giving up four runs on Sunday. The Yankees scored four runs. Unfortunately, the bullpen coughed up another four runs making things a moot point and a loss.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Things I Worry About With the New York Yankees

The bottom line for the New York Yankees 2019 has a nice flush to it at the mid-point of August. The team has a healthy ten-game lead on the second place Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox are out of it (if not mathematically). And the Yankees are fighting among three teams for the best record in baseball. Those are all good things, right? Then why do I worry so much? Is it just my nature to worry? Or are my concerns legitimate? Let me list them out.

Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge does not look fearsome at the plate. If anything, he looks tepid and easy to pitch to. His fly ball rate has shriveled up. He seems to have lost his sense of the strike zone. Pitchers are exploiting his weaknesses at will (good pitchers and not-so-good pitchers alike). What is wrong with the big guy? Has he lost his way? Is it just a slump? Is it lingering effects of his torn abdominal muscle? When he is right, he adds a dimension of fear into the Yankees' lineup. It gives fans a sense of anticipation and hope. None of those things are there right now. Gosh, I hope it is just a slump.

Bullpen Walks

Nobody seems concerned that all the big guns in the bullpen cannot manage to pitch an inning without a walk or two. It concerns me greatly. Adam Ottavino has more walks allowed than Domingo German and CC Sabathia. He is only two behind Masahiro Tanaka and three behind JA Happ. Zack Britton is only three walks behind Ottavino. Even closer, Aroldis Chapman is walking four batters per nine innings.  The addition of Jonathan Loaisiga does not help that proposition with his five walks per nine.

Sooner or later, these walks will catch up to the bullpen. In many ways, it already has. Ottavino coughed up a lead this week. I long for two things. One is 1-2-3 innings from these "big" relievers. And two, I long for each and every one of them to stop fooling around with two strikes and go after the hitters. Tommy Kahnle is the only one who consistently throws strikes when he comes in to pitch.

Starting Pitching

Yes, there have been some better starts lately. But they have come against bad teams. I have absolutely no confidence in any starter as a "shut down" pitcher and none of them can consistently get to the fifth inning with less than 100 pitches. Paxton has been showing signs of figuring things out. But put five good starts together before any kind of comfort level returns. Tanaka is a different pitcher in each and every outing. Which he will be on any particular night is impossible to predict. And Happ is just not there. He cannot get his fastball command no matter how often he pitches.

Injuries Continue

Yes, the big story has been the "next man up" mentality shown by fill in players playing for the Yankees' stars. But how soon does Cameron Maybin return to what he has always been before? Will the magic last for Mike Tauchman and Gio Urshela? Do you really want Mike Ford getting post season at bats? Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks have been total injury busts. Luke Voit might get back at the end of August. Edwin Encarnacion was just starting to deliver and he is gone. It just never seems to end. Does it worry anyone else that this "magic" can turn to sawdust at any time? Will these surprising players hold up against post season pitching? Its worrisome.

The other thing about injuries is the lack of continuity it causes. Somebody comes back, has to get his timing back and then hope that he does not get injured again. The great Katy Sharp told me that the Yankees have had the same lineup less than five times all season. Holy smokes!

Aaron Boone And The Bullpen

The Yankees' manager has been exemplary in most ways this season. The success has to be given to him at least partly for his indefatigable nature. But one area of weakness is the opposite of Joe Girardi's. Girardi always had too quick of a hook. Boone always seems to be two to three outs too late. He completely ruined the feel good story of Brady Lail the other night by pitching him an inning too long. Now the poor guy has been DFA'd. I hope you had a nice moment, Brady. Luis Cessa always pitches an inning too long as does Nester Cortez Jr. It has been a consistent problem. Add in the pressure of the post season and what happens?

So, yes, I should be rolling along with this train as it rides toward what seems to be a division win. I should be enjoying this ride. But I do not. I worry. I fret. And I hope like everything that my fears are all unfounded.