New York Yankees on Empire Sports Media: First Half Review of the Bullpen

The New York Yankees approach the end of the first half of the 2018 campaign with a 61-32 record, 3.5 games behind division rival, the Boston Red Sox (66-30).

The Yankee pitchers are second to Houston (2.94) in ERA with a 3.46 mark, fifth in K/BB with 3.27, and again, second to Houston (.211) in batting average against with .223.

With the early season injury to Jordan Montgomery and the more recent injury to Masahiro Tanaka, and the addition of AAA pitchers Domingo German and Luis Cessa, on occasion, the Yankees rotation has not taken on the form that Yankee fans envisioned when the season opened.

As predicted by many before the season started, however, the Yankees relief corps has been elite and consists of Aroldis Chapman at the top of his game, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, David Robertson, Adam Warren, Tommy Kahnle, AJ Cole, Giovanny Gallegos and the erstwhile Yankee, and now newest member of the KBO’s Hanwha Eagles, David Hale.

Fans may recall that Fangraphs predicted the Yankees bullpen in 2018 to be “possibly historic,” based on the 2017 results and the fact that everyone from 2017 was returning. Certainly in the first half of the season, they are proving to be just as good as advertised.

In April, though, fans asked, what is wrong with the Yankees bullpen? Betances and Kahnle stumbled out of the gate and Green (3.60) and Robinson (5.40) struggled to get their ERA’s under control. Then the injury bug hit Warren and Kahnle and it seemed the bullpen had hit a snag in it’s bid for history.

Since June 1, however, the unit has posted a 1.64 ERA, as Erik Boland shows below, with a lower mark than everyone else in Major League Baseball and with Houston (2.70) in second place during that stretch.

Of course, the most conspicuous and most effective of the Yankee relievers, Chapman, has led the way for this elite crew. He has 26 saves in 40 innings pitched along with a 1.35 ERA.  Others such as Betances, Robertson and Green have all made adjustments and steadily improved throughout the course of the first half of the season.

Warren and Kahnle have returned from the disabled list; however, Kahnle has yet to right the ship and is currently in AAA at Scranton Wilkes-Barre.  Warren has been effective since his return and is always a solid option for Yankees Manager Aaron Boone when the situation calls for a multi-inning reliever.

The Yankees bullpen has impacted the team’s success at every opportunity this season.  The bullpen is certainly set to accomplish that historic pace Fangraphs predicted.

The second half promises to be even better for this hot unit of the Yankees team!

New York Giants: Darkhorse Corner Looking To Break Through The Ranks

At just 5-foot-9 and 163-pounds, New York Giants cornerback, Donte Deayon, stands tall. His pride and grit are the staple of his personality and motivation to continue forward in his ultimate dream – start for an NFL team.

As the Giants approach training camp, Deayon will be seeking what might be his final chance at getting onto the active roster. In his rookie season, Deayon played in just four games, recording seven tackles. While his statistics don’t shine, and taller, more physical receivers toyed with him in coverage, his determination has not swayed.

After just 94 snaps of live-action, Deayon was forced to injured reserve with a forearm ailment. He finished the season with a Pro Football Focus grade of 59.1. Despite his porous start to his professional career, there was one intriguing number that stood out.

The good news for Deayon:

The Giants failed to put together a strong secondary with depth this offseason, which ultimately opens up several positions for the taking. This is Deayon’s opportunity to strike, as there’s little depth behind Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and William Gay. There are spots for the taking and the big-hearted corner has the mental strength to get there. Unfortunately, Deayon’s fate lies in the hands of his physical attributes and abilities.

Behind the starting three, B.W. Webb, Teddy Williams, Curtis Riley and Chris Lewis-Harris all offer competition. Deayon’s one year of experience with the Giants helps, but it might not be enough to guarantee him a spot. The bottom line, there’s two backup cornerback spots available, and there are five players vying for it. This will be a competition to keep an eye out for during training camp and pre-season.

New York Jets: Leonard Williams Primed For A Breakout Year

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Jets will be looking to take over the league with a young and rejuvenated defense, and defensive end Leonard Williams will play a massive role in this approach. After having a down 2017 in which Williams racked up just two sacks and 47 tackles, he will look to bounce back in the season ahead.

In 2016, Williams finished with 68 tackles and seven sacks, proving to be a fantastic addition with tons of potential. Well, the sophomore slump is a real thing, don’t you doubt it.

With a stout secondary and a developing but knowledgeable linebacker core, this could be the year for Williams to do what he does best – sacking the quarterback. With Trumaine Johnson locking up the No. 1 receiver and Morris Claiborne holding the opposing No. 2, we can only hope they can provide Williams with the time to beat his assignment and get after the quarterback.

Not to mention securing the run game with his buddy Steve McLendon right beside him who has shown promise with a career high 46 tackles and a career medium of 1.5 sacks. More will be expected from the two defensive lineman in 2018, as head coach Todd Bowles will look to utilize them in specified packages and every-down duties.

It’s Williams’ time to shine for the New York Jets:

After Sheldon Richardson took his talents to the Seattle Seahawks two years ago and Muhammad Wilkerson sped off to the Green Bay Packers this year, we are left with one defensive stronghold left, Leonard Williams.

Both Wilkerson and Richardson combined for a total of 51 sacks and 483 tackles in their four-year span together from 2013-2016. That averages out to about 12.5 sacks and 120 tackles per season. I predict that Williams will reach at least 10 sacks this season and will have at least 60 tackles. These predictions are not bold, because this is the last year on Williams’s rookie contract after it was exercised by the Jets.

New York Giants: Evan Engram Weighs In On OBJ And NFC East Chances

New York Giants, Evan Engram

One of the key players that can make or break the New York Giants’ playoff chances next season is Evan Engram. The 2017 first round pick plays one of the most important positions for a modern passing offense, tight end, and set franchise records last season.

He had the most touchdowns in a season by a rookie tight end, and also the most consecutive games with a touchdown for a rookie tight end. In 2018, it would be a significant help to the Giants if Engram keeps up the same production and builds on what he did last season. Especially with Eli Manning coming off of a down season and looking to bounce back, despite his age.

What did Engram have to say about some of the Giants’ other players, however? This was his take on Odell Beckham Jr.

“He looks really good. He’s running all his routes, making all his breaks, making all the cuts. He’s getting his confidence back. Definitely he looks like his old self. He’s definitely motivated and excited about the opportunity he has this year to be 100 percent and ready to go.”

Engram was, of course, referencing Beckham’s recovery from the ankle injury that ended his 2017 season far too soon. In a way, that injury was the turning point in the Giants’ season. It represented the wheels coming off fully, and the Giants wouldn’t recover from losing their biggest star.

The news that Beckham is looking like his old self is something relieving for the fanbase, as there was much offseason discussion about whether the Giants should spend big to renew a player coming off of an injury. Engram didn’t just talk about Beckham, though.

He reminded everyone how much talent is on the offense this year, and agreed with Ben McAdoo’s prediction that the Giants will win the NFC East. “I’m glad he said it. It’s really realistic. As competitors, that’s the goal, to go out and win games and win as many as you can. We’re not worried about last year. It’s a new year. We have a really good team.”

The Giants have a good team indeed this year, one that Engram will play a big part in. After all, if he made the All-Rookie team during a 3-13 season, it’s easy to imagine him doing even better now that the entire roster has been upgraded.


What The New York Mets Should Expect From Jeff McNeil

When you’re evaluating New York Mets prospects, Jeff McNeil’s name doesn’t exactly shoot to the top of your head. But maybe it should? A 13th round draft pick in 2013 out of Long Beach State. McNeil’s stock has risen faster than any other Mets prospect this season, and at age 26, it’s hard to label him as a prospect. But one thing is for sure. McNeil knows how to hit.

This season alone McNeil has been crushing minor league pitching, splitting time between double-a and triple-a, McNeil is collectively hitting .349 with 19 homers and 66 RBI’s halfway through the season.

This breakout has caused Mets officials to take notice. Especially the noticeable increase in power production.

When the Mets drafted McNeil he was a 165-pound contact hitter not really known for a particular standout tool. However getting him healthy and putting on additional muscle mass has allowed him to tap into his power potential.

McNeil missed the majority of the last three-seasons from sports hernias and is finally 100% and producing in a full season of work.

The question Mets management has to look at is whether or not McNeil could actually be the second basemen of the future for this team. With the Mets still employing Jose Reyes and an Asdrubal Cabrera trade seems imminent, why not give McNeil a shot after the all star break?

Videos confirm that it looks like he can be an impact bat at the second base position and the Mets are in a perfect place to give McNeil the opportunity to show what he can do in the major leagues.

With the season being essentially over, McNeil may actually offer a small glimmer of hope to fans if he continues his strong bout of hitting.

New York Giants: The Roles of Barkley, Gallman, And Stewart

It’s easy to assume that New York Giants’ first-round pick, Saquon Barkley, will handle most, if not all of the duties on offense. But there’s one question I want to raise as we take a look the roles of each player: Should we conserve Barkely’s health and not throw him into the fire immediately?

Often times, I will watch a rookie running back succumb to injury in their first season as a professional, why? Because they try to do too much and end up hurting themselves in the process. More times than not, it’s a non-contact injury. Resort back to Dalvin Cook and others.

For Barkley, he will be the lifeline for Eli Manning and the offense along with Odell Beckham Jr. Without him, the Giants revert back to their 2017 self – a bad version that we don’t want to experience again. So, being that we want to ensure Barkley remains healthy and fresh for the entire season, it’s important to assign rules to each running back on the active roster.

Let’s start out with Barkley:

The Giants will rely on their first-round pick to pick up the slack in the running, receiving, and blocking game. His abilities are unparalleled and offers the team the best chance at success and points. Having him on the field as much as possible is a priority, but giving him a rest at the right times could be the difference in him sustaining and injury or not.

Barkley is a three-down running back, and he will play the majority of drives, with the exception of a few here and there.

Jonathan Stewart’s role:

The Giants signed veteran back Jonathan Stewart with the idea that he would mentor Barkley and teach him how to protect himself from unnecessary hits, but also to take them in short yardage situations. There’s no doubt that Barkley can be the power back to carry defenders for several yards to pick up the first-down, but taking those head-shots can take a toll on a running back.

We should anticipate Stewart taking the short yardage runs and suffering the big hits from spear-headed linebackers. This will keep Barkely fresh and allow the veteran to wiggle his way for first-downs. He has a similar frame to Barkley and will ultimately be about as effective running into the pile.

Wayne Gallman’s role:

Second-year running back out of Clemson, Wayne Gallman, will play an important role on the offense. He will be considered the change of pace back. While Barkley likes to bounce the ball outside and use his lateral agility to leave defenders in his wake, Gallman prefers to run downhill and exploit gaps in the defense. He’s not as athletic or strong, but he is surprisingly quick and shifty in the open field.

We should see him in the passing game more-so than on the ground where Barkley will take most of the snaps. He could play a third-down role or even stand alongside Eli Manning in a two-back stance.

Here’s a solid clip showing his ability to run straight through the defense while protecting the ball. His slim frame almost offers him an advantage to squeezing through the gaps and finding extra yardage.