Yankees: Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman join Aaron Judge as All-Stars

yankees, gerrit cole

You wouldn’t know it for the way they played over the weekend, but New York Yankees’ pitchers Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman were selected as members of the American League roster for the All-Star game, which will be played at Coors Field, in Denver, on July 13.

But the season is longer than a weekend, and both Yankees hurlers have merits to be part of the Midsummer Classic. Their selections were announced on Sunday during the 2021 Google MLB All-Star Selection Show on ESPN.

The non-starters were chosen through a combination of fan voting and the Commissioner’s Office.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Cole said. “I’m always humbled because it’s a player vote relative to the pitchers. That holds a special place for me and hopefully, we can get back to pitching to that type of level here soon.”

The Yankees are sending two hurlers to Colorado

The Yankees’ ace, who had his shortest start of the season on Sunday (he allowed four runs in 3.1 innings, with three walks and six strikeouts) receives his fourth All-Star selection, as he played in 2015, 2018, and 2019.  

This year, he is 8-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 17 starts, conceding 81 hits and 20 walks but striking out 135 hitters in 105 innings.

Chapman, meanwhile, is the Yankees’ closer, but is in the middle of a rough stretch that has inflated his ERA to 4.71.

This will be his seventh Midsummer Classic and the third with the Yankees.

“It’s one of those achievements that definitely go under the resume of your playing career,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “It’s one of those opportunities that I think every player wants the chance to be a part of at least once. To be selected means a lot.”

He was unscored upon in April, but the wheels fell off in June and July.

“The way I started the season and the performance those months gave me an idea that it could have been a possibility,” Chapman said. “It’s surprising and nice, given that the past couple of weeks have been tough for me. It’s great to hear it.”

Both pitchers join Aaron Judge, who will be a starter and is slashing .284/.381/.529 with 19 home runs and 43 RBIs in 76 games.

31 questions to Bears camp: Which WR is a threat to Anthony Miller?

As the Chicago Bears get ready to report to Halas Hall later this month for training camp, fourth-year wide receiver Anthony Miller will be one name under the microscope. Throughout his first three seasons, Miller has been inconsistent in terms of production, with multiple calls going against the former second-round pick in critical moments.

Analyzing the Bears’ depth at wide receiver, Miller will enter training camp later this month as WR3, behind veteran Allen Robinson and second-year WR Darnell Mooney. Besides Miller, Chicago has a number of intriguing options at slot WR that include Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin.

Goodwin opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns but last played for the San Francisco 49ers from 2017-2019, where he totaled 91 receptions,1543 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns, averaging 17 yards per reception, showcasing top-notch speed and playmaking ability.

Byrd enters his sixth season, with his fourth different team. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound speedster started 14 games for the New England Patriots last season and 47 receptions, 604 receiving yards, and one touchdown, averaging 12.9 yards per reception.

The common theme between Goodwin and Byrd is that both are speedsters but neither have really been top-tier options for any quarterback. Miller must enter training camp later this month with the mindset that he’s the only WR on the roster and that he isn’t guaranteed a roster spot.

2020 wasn’t necessarily a defining year for Miller’s career but the emergence of Mooney did raise questions about how good Miller could be. In year three, Miller logged just six starts, the second-fewest of his career, and averaged just 9.9 yards per reception, the lowest mark of his career. After leading Chicago with seven receiving touchdowns as a rookie, Miller has just four total TDs over the last two years.

The hope is that consistent quarterback play can revive Miller’s career but the additions of Goodwin and Byrd make it clear that there are multiple players on Chicago’s roster that can be considered threats to Miller in what is a career-defining year for the former Memphis product.

 

New York Yankees: A tale of two different teams, Mets series takeaways

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

Yesterday, the New York Yankees suffered an embarrassing loss in game one of a day-night doubleheader after another loss on Saturday. Still, they salvaged the night game, just another series loss. Yesterday was a microcosm of the whole Yankee season. Down, up, and down again. The Yankees, at the halfway point of the season, are now ten games behind the East-leading Boston Red Sox and are only trailed by the Baltimore Orioles.

The New York Yankees have suffered all season long with poor pitching at times and poor hitting most times. The was evident in yesterday’s two games. In game one, the Yankee pitching completely collapsed, with Yankee ace Gerrit Cole having his shortest outing as a Yankee. Then the bullpen imploded behind him. In game two, the pitching was much better, with Nestor Cortes Jr. getting his first start of the season and Chad Green having one of his best games of the season, resulting in a win. However, the hitting was mostly missing as the Yankees only mustered up eleven hits between the two games.

Game one, Pitching collapses:

Yankee ace Gerrit Cole has been struggling recently and had his shortest outing since being acquired by the Yankees. Cole went only  3.1 innings giving up 6 hits and 4 earned runs, one of them a home run. Giving up long balls has been a problem for him recently. Loaisiga replaced Cole, and Green came in and pitched two scoreless innings.

Then Aroldis Chapman came in for the save as they were ahead 5-4. In his last few outings, Chapman, who has struggled mightily, immediately gave up a home run into the visitor’s bullpen in left to Pete Alonso blowing the save. Then hit a batter, followed by walking one. Next, Boone came to the mound and removed him. He was charged with 3 earned runs. From the game, Boone brought in the usual good Lucas Luetge, who made things even worse, giving up another 3 earned runs for the 10-5 loss.

There isn’t much positive to say about the game. The New York Yankees did get seven hits in the game, but they weren’t timely. The brightest spot in the game is when catcher Kyle Higashioka hit a double, driving in two runs. But, unfortunately, the Yankees hit no home runs.

Game two a different story

The disaster in game one of the doubleheader caused manager Boone to use Michael King in the game. He was scheduled to start the second game, but having to pitch on Friday thrust Nestor Cortes Jr. into a Sunday start. Then, after Justin Wilson gave up 5 runs Saturday, Boone had to call in King to pitch  4 innings for the Yankees, preventing him from getting the start on Sunday.

Reliever Cortes who had pitched 18 innings with an ERA of 1.02, finally got his chance to shine in a start in game two, and shine he did. Cortes Jr. went 3.1 innings for his longest outing of the season, giving up just one earned run while striking out four. Chad Green, who got the win, pitched three scoreless innings, including an immaculate inning in the seventh when he stuck out the side with nine pitches. Nestor Cortes Jr. now becomes an option for future starts.

The Yankees could only make five hits in the game, but the stellar pitching saved the deficient lineup. The hitting star of the game was Gio Urshela hit a two-run homer giving the Yankees the three-run lead.

A tale of two different teams

The New York Yankees at the beginning of the season a the team to beat by baseball analysts. So when they opened the season, winning only 5 for their first 12 games, it was shocking. Unfortunately, that shock has disappeared, and the Yankees have done the same thing all season. They have had good stretches, but bad ones follow them. They tease fans by becoming the Bronx Bombers we all know and then losing the next few games in a row. At the start, the Yankees just could not hit, scoring less than three runs a game. More recently, the Yankees’ pitching has been subpar. With the loss of Corey Kluber, who had a no-hitter, to shoulder problems, the Yankees starting pitching, and even the bullpen has struggled at times.

Now that we are at the halfway point of the season, getting out of the hole the Yankees have dug for themselves seems more and more remote. They are certainly not out of it mathematically, but they have much work to do with being five games out of getting a second wild card slot.

Giants set to improve in one major category on offense in 2021

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Sterling Shepard

During the 2020 season, the New York Giants had only one receiver who averaged at least 3 yards of separation per reception. Sterling Shepard was that player, representing one of the only options for Daniel Jones who could create a cushion between himself and the defender.

Behind Shepard, the next closest was Evan Engram at 2.9 yards, per Next Gen Stats, but his inability to catch the football plagued the offense, having dropped 11 passes and being connected to six interceptions, which was half of Jones’s total.

The next best Giants’ receiver was Darius Slayton at 2.3 yards of separation, a significant difference that presents an issue heading into the 2021 season. However, the Giants went out and signed multiple receivers in Kenny Golladay, John Ross and drafted Kadarius Toney out of Florida. Toney is a separation creator, which should aid the offense in catch rate and completion percentage.

Interestingly, Kenny Golladay was one of the worst separators in the NFL during his lucrative 2019 season, so this statistic can be skewed in some ways. During that campaign, Golladay finished with 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns, but when you have a 6’4″ frame, you don’t need much separation to haul in passes with an exemplary catch radius. There are physical traits that can mask the deficiencies of route running, and Golladay has an extremely large wingspan paired with solid hands.

When looking at the yards of separation statistics, alternative factors play a role, so it shouldn’t be taken as an end-all, be-all variable. For Golladay, having size masks his lack of speed, and Shepard should increase his total from 2020 exponentially, going up against lesser corners while Golladay attracts CB1 attention.

Overall, it is a statistic that should improve drastically next season, and while it is considered a major category specifically among receivers, I would look to catch rate for a better indication of hands and success. Even yards after catch might be a better variable to harp on, as it indicates play-making ability and athleticism.

Overall, the Giants injected plenty of new talent into the offense, which should help Daniel Jones tremendously, and most of the categories they failed in last season will change with more reps and chemistry.

Should the Knicks consider bringing back Alec Burks for the 2021-22 season?

alec burks, knicks

One of the New York Knicks most impactful players this past year was shooting guard Alec Burks, who was an instant offensive producer off the bench for Tom Thibodeau’s squad. Burks signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Knicks last season, and at 29 years old, proved he can be an adequate player that produces on a daily basis.

The former first round pick back in 2011 averaged 12.7 points, 2.2 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game this past year. Playing 25.6 minutes per night, he also connected on .420 from the field and had nearly a 42% success rate from downtown. Overall, he was a sufficient scorer, offering clutch moments when the team needed him most in the 4th quarter (he had numerous double digit 4th Q performances).

While the Knicks’ offense struggled at times last year, Burks had the ability to score at three levels, handling the ball, operating off the pick and roll, and creating shots for others. Keeping him around for another season should be a no-brainer, as he also offers high effort defense and experience among a team filled with youth.

The only reason the Knicks wouldn’t consider bringing Burks back:

Unless the veteran is asking for a multi year deal with a significant pay raise, this should be an easy decision for the Knicks, who need as many solid depth pieces as they can possibly find. However, you could make the argument that the emergence of a Immanuel Quickley could eat into his time and make him irrelevant. After testing Quickley as a point guard last year, it is clear his future will likely be as a shooting guard — he is 3 inches shorter than Burks, and doesn’t offer the same ability to feature in isolation.

Overall, Quickley shouldn’t be the reason the Knicks pass on resigning Burks, and in fact, his impact would likely be far greater than the alternative, having adjusted to Thibodeau’s system and reliance on defense. A two year, $16 million deal with Alec might be sufficient, and would offer the Knicks familiar chemistry and experience with a team that is preparing to turn over in free agency to a degree.