New York Giants: Don Martindale’s Choice Of Offensive Coordinator Make Him An Intriguing HC Candidate

Don Martindale

The New York Giants are once again searching for a new head coach after firing Pat Shurmur on “Black Monday.” It was time for a change as the Giants went a pathetic 9-23 under Pat Shurmur. New York has fired two head coaches in four years and needs to make sure they hire the right guy this offseason.

Currently, the Giants’ top two candidates are Matt Rhule and Mike McCarthy. These are two excellent head coaching candidates that are tremendously different from each other. But it is no guarantee that the Giants will;l be able to land one of these candidates. McCarthy had a successful interview with the Dallas Cowboys and Matt Rhule is happy with his job at Baylor.

If these two candidates do not get the Giants’ job there is no reason to panic. Luckily for the Giants, there are numerous solid head coach candidates available this offseason. Don “Wink” Martindale should be the next name on the Giants’ list because of his success in the NFL and his intriguing potential offensive coordinator.

Don “Wink” Martindale

The Baltimore Ravens’ top-tier defense has been led by defensive coordinator Don Martindale. Don, nicknamed “Wink,” has been serving as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator since the 2018 season. In 2018, Martindale’s unit ranked first in the league in total defense yards per game at 292.9 yards. The Ravens followed up an impressive 2018 season with the fourth-ranked defense this season, allowing 300.6 yards per game, forcing the eighth-most turnovers (25), and surrendered just 17.6 points per game, the third-least in the league.

Martindale’s coaching career began in 1986. He has worked as a linebackers coach for the Raiders, Broncos, and Ravens, and has coached the likes of Wesley Woodyard, Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, and more. He also served as defensive coordinator of multiple college teams, as well as the Denver Broncos.

“Wink” has found great success in recent years, leading him to head coach consideration this offseason. Martindale has tons of experience as a defensive coach in the NFL, though he has never been a head coach before. However, Martindale seems fully prepared for a head coaching job- he even has his offensive coordinator picked out already.

Joe Brady

There are two Joe’s to know at LSU: Joe Burrow and Joe Brady. Burrow, the 2019 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, has been coached to greatness by Brady, LSU’s passing game coordinator/wide receiver coach. Joe Brady served as an offensive assistant for the New Orleans Saints from 2017 to 2018 before being promoted by LSU.

Joe Brady completely overhauled LSU’s offense, implementing a no-huddle spread attack that has helped lead Burrow to a record-breaking year (Sports Illustrated). His fast-paced, modern offense has done wonders for the number-one ranked college football team.

The idea of Don Martindale bringing Joe Brady up to the NFL as an offensive coordinator is highly intriguing. Brady does not have a ton of NFL experience but has proven himself as an excellent play-caller with LSU. Brady and Burrow achieved an incredible 5,208 passing yards and 56 touchdowns this season. With a young franchise quarterback in Daniel Jones, Giants fans should be excited by the possibility of pairing Jones with Joe Brady.

New York Mets: Steven Matz and the importance of consistency

Jacob deGrom is consistently great. Noah Syndergaard is great, but not always consistent, just like Marcus Stroman. And after that, the New York Mets have Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha and Steven Matz fighting for two spots in the rotation.

Porcello, Matz and Wacha are veterans with the potential of being solid middle-of-the-rotation starters. Matz was just that last year. That’s why the southpaw should have a spot in the Mets’ staff if we judge by skills and nothing else.

However, since the three hurlers are good, one of them will most likely go to the bullpen. There is no clear indication as to who may be left out.

A sneakily consistent starter for the Mets

We can say that Steven Matz has been, for the most part, pretty consistent, injuries aside. If we take out his ugly 66.2 inning showing in 2017, his performance has somewhat remained stable.

Pitching in the bigs since 2015, Matz posted a 2.27 ERA in that year, 3.40 in 2016, 3.97 in 2018 and 4.21 last season. That 2017 season seems like the outlier, and he didn’t even pitch 70 frames. Remember that he visited the injured list two times that year because of elbow issues.

We can conclude, then, that Matz is a quality pitcher if healthy. He has a high floor and appears to be more consistent than Wacha and offer a bit more upside than Porcello at this point in each hurler’s career, even though the former Red Sox earned a Cy Young in 2016.

Matz has a bit of a homer issue (1.34 HR/9 for his career) but nothing too outrageous. It would be a shame if he lost his rotation spot in 2020.

We can’t make any conclusions as we don’t know the New York Mets’ plans for 2020. For all we know, they may go with a six-man rotation. However, these things tend to sort themselves out one way or another.

Injuries always occur, and a trade is within the realm of possibility. But right now, given the options available and his skill level, Steven Matz doesn’t deserve to lose his place.

New York Mets: Chris Flexen Year in Review

Chris Flexen’s first two years with the New York Mets were the complete opposite of thriving. It was evident that he needed more work before contributing at the big league level, and it showed again during the 2019 season.

Flexen came into Spring Training in better shape than in previous years. Out of necessity, Flexen made a spot start on April 20, and it was precisely the type of outing Mets fans had seen before. He only pitched 4.1 innings and allowed six runs while walking four batters.

Bullpen Only

At this point, the Mets sent Flexen back to the minors and decided he would become a reliever. His velocity increased and recalled him for the May 4 game against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was a game which left very bitter tastes in everyone’s mouths. The Mets wanted to avoid using Flexen due to his lack of success, but they had no choice by the time the 17th inning came around.

Flexen escaped the 17th without any damage, but the 18th was a different story. The combination of his lack of control and Angel Hernandez behind the dish led to three walks to load the bases. Ryan Braun had a two-run single to steal the win away from the Mets.

Flexen went back to Triple-A the following day and waited until June to return. It was the only point of the season where he stayed in the big leagues for an extended period. He allowed three earned runs in his six appearances and had good strikeout numbers. It was not enough for the Mets to deem him as a valuable asset to the bullpen. After June ended, Flexen only made one more appearance all season.

The Mets released Flexen in mid-December, and it put an end to a horrendous career with the Mets. His career ERA is 8.07, and he always struggled with walks, allowing 7.1 per nine innings over his career. Flexen still has a live arm, which may intrigue some organization to take a risk with him in the minors.

Grades:

Pitching Repertoire: D, Fastball gained velocity in the bullpen, but his off-speed was often flat and down the middle.

Control: F

Composure: F, Not the guy you want in the game if you want to win

Intangibles: C

Overall: F

New York Mets: Brad Brach Year in Review

Brad Brach spent most of the past decade as one of baseball’s most reliable relievers. After he struggled with the Chicago Cubs, the New York Mets were desperate for his services and gave him a chance to regain his All-Star form. It was always Brach dream to play for the Mets, and he lived it out in 2019.

Brach arrived with the Mets on August 8 after the Chicago Cubs released him. He was in the middle of the worst season of his career. Brach’s ERA was over five, and his walk rate was higher than expected. The move was very underrated because the Mets signed a reliever with past success for virtually nothing.

Home Sweet Home

Brach’s mostly pitched in middle relief but regained the effectiveness he lacked throughout the year. During his 16 outings, he had a 3.68 ERA and only walked three batters. Right-handed batters were only hitting .211 against him. The arm was an addition after Robert Gsellman went to the Injured List.

Brach regained the deceptiveness he ones had with his slider/cutter combination that was underutilized with the Cubs. His unique delivery continued to create very uncomfortable at-bats for right-handed hitters. Lefties were hitting over .400 vs. Brach, and that number certainly has to go down for him to be an asset in 2020.

Brach resigned with the Mets on a one-year/ $850 k deal to help deepen the Mets bullpen. People forget how nasty he was just a couple years ago. If he can continue the success he had in 2019, the Mets bullpen will be a force to be reckoned with in 2020.

Grades:

Pitching Repertoire: B+, His fastball sits around 93, but his slider and change-up still have the same nasty movement. His cutter also came on as a beneficial pitch.

Control: A+, The control issues which existed in Chicago, completely disappeared.

Composure: A, Solid job when he needed to get outs in big spots.

Intangibles: A

Overall: B+, He went above the Mets expectations from day one.

New York Yankees: 2020 Projected Starting Rotation

The New York Yankees signed Gerrit Cole over the offseason to bolster their starting rotation, shaking things up a bit. Here is my projection for their 2020 starting rotation.

1. Gerrit Cole

When the Yankees signed Cole, it was the obvious expectation that he would become the ace. For $324 million, he better be the ace. He’s coming off a year that saw him go 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, but wasn’t charged with a loss after May 22nd.

The expectation of the ace is a dominant pitcher with both power and finesse, and he sure fits the bill.

2. Luis Severino

Severino isn’t far from an ace, which is why it makes sense that he would be the number two pitcher. He only pitched in three regular season games in 2019 due to injuries, but was 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 2018. He hit a wall in the second half of 2018 and struggled through some starts, but that’s kinda expected with someone that young.

I have full confidence that he will bounce back in 2020.

3. James Paxton

Paxton is the number three starter in my mind to split up the two lefties. I think that Tanaka may be a bit better than Paxton overall, but it’s better if the two lefties don’t pitch back-to-back starts.

Big Maple was 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA in his first year in pinstripes, but was much better in the second half of the year. If he can continue to stay healthy, he will thrive in the three spot in the rotation.

4. Masahiro Tanaka

As I already said, I put Tanaka at the four spot to split up the two lefties.

Tanaka was 11-9 with a 4.45 ERA in 2019. His numbers are higher because of his inconsistency. Normally, the starts that he wins are because he is completely dominant, and is completely dominated in games that he loses. However, he did manage to get an all-star nomination in 2019. If he’s just more consistent, then him and the Yankees are golden.

5. Jordan Montgomery

Montgomery missed most of the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to Tommy John surgery.

In his 2017 rookie campaign, he was 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA and was one of the best fifth starters in baseball. I feel that he will come back strong in 2020 with similar numbers.

I left JA Happ off this list with the expectation that he will be traded. Domingo German was left off the list due to his suspension, but I suspect that he will take Montgomery’s spot once eligible again. Montgomery would then shift to the bullpen.

 

The two biggest changes the Yankees made this offseason

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone, Gerrit Cole

The 2019 season proved that the New York Yankees have the talent to win a World Series, but their lack of run support in the ALCS held them back from the ultimate goal. Timeliness and momentum played a significant part in the demise of the team late in the season. Still, they sought to address the deficiencies this offseason, starting with the starting pitching rotation.

Owner Hal Steinbrenner gave GM Brian Cashman the green light to explore every avenue in free agency, and the team elected to spend a big chunk of their money in one spot — Gerrit Cole. Steinbrenner signed off on a nine-year, $324 deal to feature as the Yankees’ ace, alongside Luis Severino, James Paxton, and others.

That was the first significant change the Yankees brought upon themselves to help supplement a lack of starting pitching support last season and the 63-game suspension to Domingo German.

However, the second change might have been the most significant of all, and that was the overhaul of the strength and conditioning program.

How did the New York Yankees address their injury issues?

In 2019, 30 Yankee players spent 39 separate stints on the injured list. Multiple players were forced to miss virtually the entire season, putting reserve players in positions to start and make significant impacts on the team’s success. The Bombers still managed to scrape 103 wins out of an injury-riddled campaign.

Last month, the Yanks fired their strength and conditioning coach, Matt Krause, after spending six seasons with the club. A lot of the injuries seemed to be soft-tissue issues that emerged with over-use, but the increasing amount couldn’t be ignored.

The Athletic’s Lindsay Adler reported that the Yankees would hire Eric Cressey to take Krause’s place. Cressey is highly regarded in the industry and is expected to make sweeping changes across the regimen. Having worked with All-Star pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Corey Kluber, and Max Scherzer, Cressey will work closely with Gerrit Cole to ensure his health.

The Yankees’ longtime athletic trainer Stevie Donohue will also be moved to a different role after serving in the same position since 1986. Keeping him was a loyal move by the Steinbrenners, but changes needed to be made.

New York Yankees: An Imperfect Man’s Perfect Day

New York Yankees, Don Larsen

The former New York Yankees pitcher had a career record of 81-91. One season he led the American League in losses with 21. He never won more than 11 games in any one season. Yet of all the men ever to start a World Series game, it was Don Larsen who would author the most incredible stories in the history of the Fall Classic by throwing a perfect game.

Larsen started Game Two of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, but couldn’t get out of the second inning as the Yankees squandered an early 6-0 lead, losing 13-8. No one knew that just three days later, Larsen would weave his October magic.

Monday, October 8, was a beautiful day at Yankee Stadium as the teams prepared for the pivotal fifth game as the series was tied two games each. When Larsen came to his locker, he noticed a baseball in one of his spikes. That meant he was starting that day. Teammate Hank Bauer said that Larsen took a big gulp when he saw the ball.

Using a no windup delivery, Larsen had it going from the get-go. Of course, he did a couple of breaks go his way. In the second inning, Jackie Robinson hit a shot that hit off third baseman Andy Carey right to shortstop Gil McDougald, who threw Robinson out at first. In the fifth, Gil Hodges hit a shot to deep left-center, but center fielder Mickey Mantle ran it down to make a nice backhanded catch.

The Yankees gave Larsen a little offensive support starting in the fourth when Mantle hit a solo home run off Brooklyn starter Sal Maglie. They would add another run in the sixth when Bauer singled home, Carey.

Larsen would retire the Dodgers in order in the seventh and eighth. Now he was three outs away from something that hadn’t happened in 34 years, and never in the World Series: a perfect game.

First up was Carl Furillo; he flew out to his counterpart Bauer in right. Next up was Roy Campanella, who bounced out to second baseman Billy Martin. Now only one man stood between Larsen and a date with history: Dale Mitchell.

Mitchell was acquired from Cleveland in August as the Dodgers were looking for a left-handed off the bench. He fell behind Larsen 1-2. On his 97th pitch of the game, Larsen fired a fastball that Mitchell took. Home plate umpire Babe Pinelli, in his last World Series, called it strike three despite Mitchell’s protestations. Yogi Berra, who called a great game as Larsen’s catcher, ran to his pitcher and leaped into his arms as the Yankees poured out of their dugout to mob Larsen.

After his career ended, Larsen would come back to New York regularly to attend Old Timer’s Day, where he would receive a rousing ovation when being introduced. Larsen’s passing on New Year’s Day at age 90 now makes baseball a little less bright, a little less fun, a little less…well, perfect.

New York Knicks: RJ Barrett’s Rookie Wall

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

New York Knicks rookie shooting-guard RJ Barrett has been inconsistent as of late. Many are wondering if the rookie wall is upon him suddenly.

RJ Barrett was averaging 37.5-minutes per game during the preseason. The first two months of the 2019-20 NBA Season, RJ Barrett averaged 34-minutes per night all under prior coach David Fizdale. There are some questions about whether or not former head coach David Fizdale burned out the Maple Mamba forcing the rookie to hit the Rookie wall hard later this season. For the Month of December, RJ Barrett averaged 11.7-points and shot only 35.1% from the field. Barrett also shot a porous 30.2% from three-point range in December.

There are other possibilities that might be contributing to RJ Barrett’s recent struggles from the field. Teams around the league seem to have gotten use to RJ Barrett’s tendencies on the offensive end. With more game film being out against the rookie, opposing coaches are doing better strategizing game plans against Barrett. The improved scouting against RJ Barrett has slowed him down offensively and makes the game even more difficult for him which results in RJ turning in silent performances like the one against the Phoenix Suns on January 3rd, 2020.

Overall, one important factor to pay attention to is the fact that RJ Barrett is unhappy with his struggles and his confidence never seems to waver. He will become better in the off-season. His improvement is inevitable because of his ferocious work ethic. Therefore, there is no place for RJ Barrett to go from here other than upward. People forget Barrett is only 19-years-old with plenty of upsides. Honestly, New York Knicks fans should grab their popcorns and enjoy Barrett’s growth.

Yankees news, rumors: Castro signs with Nationals, Relief Pitching market updates, potential Backstop pecking order

New York Yankees, Zach Britton

The other day I was saying how the Yankees may be looking into signing Starlin Castro, as he was sitting on the market just waiting to be signed. However, the Washington Nationals ended up signing him to the tune of a two-year deal worth roughly $12,000,000. I was also slightly mistaken by my estimate on how much Castro was to be paid by the Marlins, as apparently, the club chose to decline his $16,000,000 option to return this season, which makes all the more sense if you’re Miami to let him walk — they ultimately ended up using that money instead to bring in Corey Dickerson for two years at $17,500,000. Don’t look now, but the Jeter led Marlins are making solid offseason moves, as they’ve now acquired Jesus Aguilar from Tampa, Jonathan Villar from Baltimore, signed Francisco Cervelli for pennies on the dollar, and now have brought in Dickerson.

Castro was, in my opinion, one of the few infield options that I like to believe Cashman and Steinbrenner were looking at bringing in for depth. What that says to me is that hopefully, they have faith in Tyler Wade and even Thairo Estrada to be competent backup infielders and utility options. Castro, as mentioned, is very consistent and is an excellent pure hitter, but the other dimensions of his game are lacking, or average at best. With Wade, there are numerous facets of his game I love and believe he can improve on. With Estrada, there are the tools there to make a quality backup infielder — solid speed, decent peripherals, above-average defense. Castro joins a Nats team that’s, of course, coming off their first World Series title in their club’s history.

The RP market — and potential trade candidates for the New York Yankees

The demand for Free Agents, as of now, is starting to dry up. While everyone still awaits Josh Donaldson’s decision — which apparently, DEFINITELY won’t be the Twins, as he so kindly said he’d not like to be a part of their team — one of the main topics for the Yankees these past few weeks has been the bullpen. On the market currently, the best bullpen options that are available would have to be: Jeremy Jeffress, Sam Dyson, and Steve Cishek  — in my opinion.

With all three of those names, none of them are lefties, thus seemingly negating the genuine need for any of them. The Yankees bullpen right now features only three lefties, with one not even being guaranteed on the Opening Day roster — Stephen Tarpley. The other two are, of course, Zack Britton, who I am a big fan of and recently did a piece on, and also Aroldis Chapman. I think out of those three names, the most enticing one is Steve Cishek, as his numbers are excellent, and it is surprising to me that he is on the market still. I imagine it is because of his arm slot and the fact that he’s a submarine pitcher, and he is also 33 years old. However, over the past four seasons, his ERA is sub 3.00, and his LOB% has never dipped below 83%. With that being said, since he has that low arm slot, and is a groundball inducing pitcher, his FIP and general peripherals are average, at best.

The other option for Relief Pitcher help is, of course, via trade. Everyone has been following with eyes taped open, the rumors and speculation around Josh Hader. However, I have my worries about trading away such a large package for him. After reading my colleague Daniel Cunnigham’s piece on the “Deal or No Deal” for Hader, I further reinstate my idea that trading for Hader may not be the best option. Especially with other lefty arms being available on the trade market, I imagine, like potentially even Brad Hand, should Cleveland flounder in the first half of this season. The Indians have already traded away their former ace, Corey Kluber. They have made no effort in bringing in any offensive help, but instead showing the door to various players and have been actively shopping Francisco Lindor. I believe Hand would come at a far lower price, and the Yankees wouldn’t have to give up Deivi Garcia to get him.

Keep your eyes open in the coming weeks for potential RP news and trade rumors as well.

“The Backstop Boys”

One of the more significant questions heading into 2020 is what the Yankees plan to do in regards to the Catcher position. I am a firm believer in Gary Sanchez, as, despite his struggles with health and consistency, he still is one of the best in baseball. Since 2016, in only 370 games, Gary Sanchez ranks fifth in the entire league for Catcher fWAR (11.5), first for wRC+ (123), and first for OPS (.847 — a significant gap ahead of second-place Willson Contreras at .821). The point is that while Gary is subject to a massive amount of criticism and sometimes overly harsh at points, he is still one of the — if not the –  best catcher in the league, at least from an offensive standpoint.

The backup options for Gary, as of today, are Erik Kratz and Kyle Higashioka. Longtime backup, Austin Romine departed to Detroit and will be vying for playtime with James McCann there. For Kratz, the odds of him ever seeing MLB time this year are low, as the 39-year-old doesn’t provide much aside from decent defensive peripherals, and overall veteran experience — however, despite his age and being in and out of the show for nearly a decade, he only has amassed 921 PAs. I think the Yankees should run with Higgy behind the plate as the backup this year, but ultimately the catching position is the one that every fan will nitpick and not be satisfied with until Gary Sanchez slashes .350/.450/.600 — and the backup is also a sure thing.

For New York, ultimately, the only questions about this team are whether or not they can put together a healthy season. Depth is a critical facet to every great team’s success, and while the Yankees have some solid depth as of now, there are most definitely question marks along with those players.

Look for New York to continue monitoring various FA’s and keeping tabs on trade options as well.

New York Ranger Go Winless during Their Western Canada Trip

New York Rangers, Brett Howden, Filip Chytil

The New York Rangers certainly thought that after notching two wins in the first part of this critical five-game swing that they would be able to carry that momentum into the three-game section of this trip to Western Canada. That did not happen. The Rangers lost all three games after falling 2-1 to the Vancouver Canucks. That loss was made more difficult by the fact that the Rangers played well in that game, only to see the Canucks score the game-winner with just over a minute to play in the third period.

What Went Wrong for the New York Rangers

In the first two games, slow starts and poor defense led to leads that the Rangers could not overcome. On Saturday night, the Rangers ran into a red-hot team with an equally hot goaltender. Jacob Markstrom made 36 saves for his sixth straight win for the Canucks.  Vancouver outscored opponents 30-17 during their win streak. Markstrom made his best saves with the Canucks being outshot and outplayed by the Rangers for long stretches of the third period. The best of those happened when he made a diving glove save to rob Jacob Trouba with under four minutes remaining. Despite the pressure, the Rangers could not get that second goal past him. Also, some of the big-name players for the Blueshirts seem to be in a mini-slump. It was the second straight game without a point for Rangers forward Artemi Panarin, who had 21 points in his previous 11 games. Not too worrisome as Panarin is still on pace for career highs in most of the major stat categories.

Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev started the game because Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined with an illness. Lundqvist took part in warmups after skipping the morning skate and was the backup but did not sit on the Rangers bench. Georgiev made 25 saves in the game.

The Rangers will not make the long trip back to New York and host Colorado on Tuesday night.