New York Yankees: J.A. Happ speaks after failed appearance as the bulk reliever

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

In a surprising turn of events, New York Yankees‘ manager Aaron Boone decided to use Deivi Garcia as an opener and J.A. Happ, a veteran starter, as a “piggyback”, bulk-inning guy to follow him. The move was meant to take advantage of lefty splits, in concordance with the Tampa Bay Rays’ lineup.

It didn’t quite work out. Garcia allowed a run in his inning of work and Happ conceded four in 2.2 frames. The Yankees were in an early hole, as the strategy backfired. After the game, the veteran southpaw declined to give too many details, but did own up to his part of the blame.

“I didn’t get into a groove,’’ Happ said. “I wish I could have performed better, for sure.”

“I’ve been here for two years and if anyone has heard me make an excuse for my performance in two years, they can speak up,’’ Happ said according to the New York Post. “It didn’t happen. I’m not gonna make an excuse.”

It was clear that Happ wasn’t a happy man with the piggyback strategy. But when asked about what he thought about the plan, he said: “I’ll let Aaron [Boone] speak to that [strategy].’’

He put the Yankees in a hole

It was disappointing to see the Yankees’ lefty getting rocked by the Rays, especially when he finished the regular season on a high note and registered a 3.25 ERA even when his first two starts were completely forgettable.

When all was said and done, Happ allowed a couple of two-run shots to Mike Zunino and Manny Margot.

In the end, the Rays ended up beating the New York Yankees 7-5 in a game they dominated from the very beginning. The American League Division Series is now tied 1-1, and both clubs will face each other tonight. Charlie Morton will take the ball for Tampa, while Masahiro Tanaka will be charged with the responsibility of giving the Yankees a 2-1 edge going into Thursday.

The Houston Astros are up 2-0 in the other series against the Oakland Athletics. The winners will meet in the American League Championship Series.

More than just umpiring cost the New York Yankees in ALDS game two

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The New York Yankees were unable to follow-up their ALDS game one victory over the Tampa Bay Rays with another win, dropping game two by a score of 7-to-5.

One of the headlines of the game was the poor performance from home-plate umpire CB Bucknor. He’s infamous for poor calls, and Tuesday’s game was no exception. The calls were brutal for both teams, but seemingly more so for the Yankees. He screwed the Yankees in big parts of the game. Check out this call on a pitch to Gleyber Torres in the ninth inning:

As bad as the umpiring was, it wasn’t the only reason the Yankees lost. The umpiring certainly contributed to it, but it was by no means the only reason for the loss.

Aaron Boone sent rookie Deivi Garcia out to start the game, the first postseason start of Garcia’s young career. But within three pitches, JA Happ was warming in the bullpen and came in after just one inning of work by Garcia. The Yankees were trailing 1-0 after one inning, but they had planned on having Happ piggy-back off Garcia early.

Happ isn’t comfortable in relief, and he’s on eight days rest. The hope was to take advantage of lefties in the Rays lineup by throwing the curveball of pitching Happ. The Yankees played with fire on this one, and got burnt. Happ gave up four runs in 2.2 innings, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

Should Happ have been better? Absolutely. But, in his defense, pitching in relief isn’t always very comfortable for starters, especially after long rest. Pitchers get in a rhythm of starting every five days. His post-game interview expressed his displeasure of coming out of relief.

And now that the Yankees burnt two starters in an already depleted rotation in just one game, the team could have serious pitching problems in a potential game five. The speculation is that the Yankees will likely set Jordan Montgomery as the game four starter, but who starts game five? Gerrit Cole on three days rest? Garcia?

The other massive issue with Tuesday’s game was that the team struck-out 18 times. Does having a bad umpire affect your approach and the pitches that you swing at? Absolutely. But regardless of the umpire, 18 strikeouts in unacceptable. They only got five hits. That can’t happen, nonetheless in the postseason.

Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez looked lost all night, combining to go 0-for-9 with six strikeouts. Their at-bats were short with both players taking massive cuts each swing. They didn’t have a base-hit approach. They wanted to hit 500 foot home runs.

The only thing that the Yankees can take away from game two is the performance of Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton. Both players were great for the second-straight night; Stanton going yard twice while Hicks walked twice and picked up a hit.

Everyone in the Yankees clubhouse needs to erase game two from their memories completely. The game was just flat-out ugly in every aspect for them.

When they wake up on Wednesday, the Yankees have a three-game series facing them. Masahiro Tanaka, historically their best postseason pitcher, is on the mound. If the Yankees want to advance to the ALCS for the third time in four years, they desperately need to win game three against the Rays.

New York Yankees: Good news and bad news in Happless loss in game 2

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The New York Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in game two of the ALDS on Tuesday evening. In what started off problematic for the Bombers, only ended up worse, as their pitching faltered and their offends sputtered to a halt.

An emphatic win in game one did not provide the momentum the Yankees needed to secure game two and take a significant advantage in the series. The Rays clawed their way back in, with starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow lasting five innings and allowing four and runs.

However, he struck out 10 batters, as the Yankees totaled 17 strikeouts on the evening. The Rays’ bullpen was also effective, limiting the Yankees to just one hit over four innings.

FINAL SCORE: 7-5

Good news and bad news for the New York Yankees:

GOOD NEWS:

The good news, Giancarlo Stanton has finally found his postseason form. He launched two homers and was responsible for all four of the Yankees runs. His homer in the second inning just barely reached the right-field wall, tying the game at one.

In the fourth inning, he launched a behemoth blast that drove in Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit. The crack of the bat was all you needed to hear to know that his home run was monstrous.

Aside from Stanton, the only other Yankees that managed to record hits were Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, and DJ LeMahieu. Otherwise, a majority of the lineup struck out consistently.

BAD NEWS:

Unfortunately, game two had more negatives than positives in comparison to game one. Offensively, the Yankees’ best hitters struck out a problematic number of times.

Leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu uncharacteristically went down twice and Judge struck out three times. Voit also had a strikeout hat-trick and the bottom of the order was saved from embarrassment by one Frazier hit.

As for their pitching, the New York Yankees utilized an interesting ideology going into the game. They started Deivi García but pulled him after just one inning. Racking up 27 pitches to start the game was an issue, and management made the executive decision to replace him with J.A. Happ.

Over 2.2 innings, Happ allowed four earned runs and three walks. Overall, he was awful and put the Yankees in a terrible spot. The bullpen wasn’t much better, as Adam Ottavino allowed one run, and Jonathan Loaisiga did the same. They made it all the way through their bullpen and landed with Nick Nelson to close out the eighth inning, as he struck out two batters.

The Yankees’ loss to the Rays was mainly due to their ineffective pitching. Their starters were questionable and the bullpen failed to get the job done. If not for Giancarlo Stanton, the game might have been a blowout.

The Yankees’ 18 strikeouts on the evening was a postseason record for the franchise. They cannot replicate such a number in game three if they wish to move forward.

Miguel Andujar best serves the New York Yankees as a trade piece

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

Now before the Andujar fans start to attack me, let me be clear, I like Miguel Andujar. I would love for the New York Yankees to figure out a way to get his bat into the lineup every single day. He’s a tremendous hitter with such a natural feel when he’s at the plate.

Disregarding his defense, Miguel Andujar is a great baseball player. The problem is that he doesn’t fit in anywhere with the Yankees. It’s not his talent level, and it’s not his inability to be flexible for the team as you saw this year from him trying to play the outfield.

Andujar has done whatever he could to get back on the field with the Yankees. However, there is just no room for him anywhere. Gio Urshela has turned into a star for the Yankees. He’s just as productive at the plate as Andujar, but he combines that with gold glove caliber defense at third.

Andujar tried out left field this year, but Clint Frazier has claimed that spot moving forward. Frazier’s drastic improvement defensively to go along with his great bat have locked up a corner outfield spot for him. We also all know that Giancarlo Stanton has the DH spot locked up for years to come.

What the Yankees should do?

Believe me, it pains me to say it, but the Yankees should really look to move Andujar in the offseason. About a month ago, I wrote asking fans the question on if the Yankees should deal Andujar. The results were pretty split in the comments mainly because of the love for Miggy.

I get it. Andujar became a fan favorite back in 2018 when he came up and shined for the Yankees. That year, Andujar should have won the rookie of the year award in my opinion. However, that honor was given to Shohei Ohtani.

The Yankees are going to be busy this offseason. Priority number one should be locking up DJ LeMahieu. DJ has been the anchor for the Yankees the last couple of years and he’s going to finish in the top four of the MVP voting for the second consecutive year.

Once the Yankees lock up LeMahieu, the infield and the outfield will be set for the future. All of those spots are locked up without Andujar. The focus should then turn to pitching. The Yankees have Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and James Paxton all hitting free agency.

The Yankees bullpen has also been shaky at times during this season. If I’m Brian Cashman I’m calling up teams ready to deal Andujar for pitching upgrades. Andujar re-established his value with the way he swung the bat towards the end of this season.

Sure, his value still isn’t as high as it was after 2018, but I don’t think it ever will be. No matter how much it hurts to say it from a fans perspective, the right move would be for the Yankees to trade Miguel Andujar and either bolster their starting rotation or get another solid piece for the back of the bullpen.

New York Yankees: Probable three-man rotation for postseason

Despite a 10-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox that night, the New York Yankees clinched another playoff spot when the Seattle Mariners lost to the San Diego Padres. This will be the Yankees’ fourth season in a row heading to the playoffs.

The Yankees rotation this year has been up and down with major inconsistencies. However, there’s a clear three that should be in the three-man rotation for the playoff series.

Gerrit Cole

One of the most obvious ones, Gerrit Cole will be the number one for the playoffs. Having Cole on the mound for three of the four games the Yankees need to win is going to be huge. Cole finished the regular season holding a 7-3 record and a 2.84 ERA. Despite having a three-game layoff where he struggled for a bit, he was dominant in every other start.

Yankee fans should be excited to watch Cole pitch in pinstripes during the postseason this year. He’s consistently been great during the playoffs throughout his career. In seven different series, Cole holds a 2.60 ERA through ten games started.

Masahiro Tanaka

In his final year of the seven-year contract with the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka had a bit of a rough season. He finished the year with a 3-3 record and held a 3.96 ERA through seven games started. However, Tanaka has always been known to hold it down during the postseason. In eight games started, Tanaka holds a strong 1.76 ERA. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in a single outing during the postseason. His best game during the playoffs was during the 2017 season where he went 7.0 innings against the Astros where he allowed no runs and only three hits.

J.A. Happ

Yankee fans should have more hope in J.A. Happ. He proved during the final few games of the season that he can still hold down a major league lineup. He finished the year with a 2-2 record and a 3.25 ERA. As long as J.A. Happ has his stuff, he’s unhittable.

New York Yankees: Kyle Higashioka or Gary Sanchez in the postseason?

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka

Last night, the New York Yankees duo of Gerrit Cole and Kyle Higashioka continued to do their thing. It’s been noticed that Cole has pitched significantly better when Higashioka is behind the plate as opposed to Gary Sanchez.

So far this year, the Yankees ace had pitched eight games to Gary Sanchez with an ERA approaching four at 3.91. With Higashioka, Cole’s ERA is below one. Cole went 7 strong innings last night again only allowing one run from the Blue Jays in a victory.

I started thinking and looking back over the year. It’s not just Gerrit Cole who has pitched well to Higashioka. When Higashioka is behind the plate, the Yankees starters have pitched to a combine ERA of 2.61 in 14 starts. There is definitely something there with Higashioka.

Aaron Boone was asked about it yesterday and didn’t seem happy about the prospect of the Yankees backup catcher starting with Cole in game one of the playoffs. However, it’s not just about Higashioka catching Cole better, he’s just been better in every area than Gary Sanchez.

The Yankees Dilemma

The Yankees find themselves in an interesting position. Obviously, Higashioka is going to start game one of the playoffs to catch Gerrit Cole. But what about games two and three? Boone said that those would be Sanchez’s games, but are we going to ignore how much better Higgy has been?

Higashioka is hitting .273 this year with 4 home runs and 10 RBIs. He had another big night at the plate last night hitting a two run double that was inches from a home run. Gary Sanchez has been atrocious this year hitting .147.

Yes, Sanchez is supposed to be the Yankees star catcher, but in the postseason, your best team needs to be on the field. The reality is that Kyle Higashioka is better than Gary Sanchez right now. This is not about potential, this about play on the field.

Also, it’s not just about Cole and Higashioka’s relationship. J.A. Happ has pitched a lot better to Higashioka as well. Higashioka was behind the plate for Happ’s eight inning shutout performance against the Red Sox.

I understand where Boone is coming from, but Gary Sanchez hasn’t earned a starting spot this postseason. His offense has been terrible, he’s not been good behind the plate, and Higashioka has been better. He deserves that spot a lot more than Gary Sanchez.

The New York Yankees played the J.A. Happ situation perfectly

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

One of the most pleasant surprises for the New York Yankees this year has been J.A. Happ. The expectations were not high for Happ given how bad he was during the 2019 season. Last year the Yankees‘ weakness was starting pitching.

Despite that being an obvious weakness, Happ didn’t start in the postseason because of how bad he was in 2019. 12-8 with a 4.91 ERA, a WHIP of 1.295, and giving up more than 30 home runs doesn’t earn you a spot in the postseason rotation.

Going into the shortened 2020 season, the Yankees were going to do everything they could to prevent Happ from vesting his option. No way did the Yankees want to be on the hook for $17 million in 2021 after what they had seen from Happ.

However, Happ has surprised everyone this season with his pitching. So far this year he’s pitched to a 3.25 ERA and a 2-2 record. However, if you take out his first two starts, Happ has pitched to an ERA of 1.93 which is absolutely incredible.

The Yankees got the best of both

The Yankees re-signed Happ after he looked great for them in the 2018 season. The market was fierce so the Yankees had to give Happ a 2 year deal at $17 million per year with a vesting third year option. The Yankees were hoping for the best of Happ, but only for two years.

Well, with the shortened season, it looks like they are going to get their wish. Happ is pitching the best the Yankees could have hoped for, and his option doesn’t appear likely to vest. Happ needed ten starts or 61.1 innings pitched. Happ is at eight starts and 44.1 innings pitched right now.

With the amount of games left, Happ will only get one more regular season start with the Yankees. Thus, his option is not going to vest and he will be a free agent after this year. The third Yankees starting pitcher that will hit the market this offseason (James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka).

The Yankees have played this perfectly. Happ is pitching at his best, and the bombers know that they won’t be on the hook for $17 million. Happ’s pitching is good enough to get him another 1-2 year deal with someone, but it won’t be for $17 million, and it won’t be with the Yankees.

New York Yankees’ JA Happ has been pleasant surprise in 2020

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

After a pair of rough outings to open the 2020 season, New York Yankees pitcher JA Happ has settled down and been quite good. Of his last five starts, four have seen him allow two runs or less.

Happ was skipped a few times in the rotation earlier in the season by manager Aaron Boone, and voiced his displeasure about it. It’s been ever since then that we’ve seen a new look Happ.

In his third start of the season on August 16th, Happ pitched 5.2 innings, allowing just three hits and a run. After being skipped, he pitched again on August 29th, tossing 7.1 innings of scoreless ball. That start locked himself back into the rotation.

After giving up four runs on September 3rd against the Mets, he bounced back, allowing two runs over 6.1 innings on September 8th against the Blue Jays. On September 13th against Baltimore, he allowed just one run across five innings.

Happ’s recent success has potentially made offseason decisions much harder for the Yankees. They’ll have a lot of starters and not enough spots. Happ has a vesting option for the 2021 season, and needs 10 starts in 2020 to reach it. He’s currently at seven, and only scheduled for two more starts this year as of right now. Even if he doesn’t reach the 10 starts, could the Yankees consider resigning him?

Even if he finishes strong in 2020, there are some risks to resigning him. He’s older, he’s losing velocity, and there are other younger pitchers looking for a spot. We’ve seen the success of rookie Deivi Garcia, and the team has Luis Severino and Domingo German coming back next year. They have young lefty Jordan Montgomery, and ace Gerrit Cole. Additionally, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are free agents this winter, and the team may have tough decisions to make with those two.

JA Happ has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees in 2020. He has a 3.98 ERA despite a 1-2 record. Is his performance a strong enough case for him to return next year?

If the playoffs started today, who would start game 3 for the New York Yankees?

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

After an extremely rough and depressing stretch, the New York Yankees finally look like themselves again. The bombers have won four straight games to pull within a half game of the second place Toronto Blue Jays.

A week ago, people were starting to wonder if the Yankees would even make the playoffs. Now, everything is starting to click for the Yankees from their hitting to their starting pitching and bullpen. Now, I’m starting to think about the playoffs and this Yankees rotation.

For the Yankees, the first two games are relatively easy choices. Gerrit Cole would obviously get the ball in game one, and likely Tanaka would get the ball in game two. However, game three isn’t very clear. Who would the Yankees start in a game 3 in the playoffs this year?

The Yankees Options?

Fortunately, the Yankees do have a few options for a third playoff game. If they were in a be in a do or die game three in the wild card round, Aaron Boone has three guys that he could look to for a solid start. None would probably give the Yankees fan base an extreme amount of confidence.

J.A. Happ

The first option would be the veteran lefty J.A. Happ. Happ has started six games this year for the Yankees and he’s pitched to a 1-2 record with a 4.31 ERA. Now, he has been much better over his last four starts. Happ has pitched to a 2.59 ERA since his August 16th start.

While Yankees fans aren’t extremely comfortable with Happ, he honestly might be the safest choice. He’s pitched in the playoffs, and when he’s on, you know what he’s going to give you. Given the experience, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Happ get the ball.

Jordan Montgomery

The next option would be the big lefty, Jordan Montgomery. There were high expectations for Montgomery entering the season given what he did as a rookie, but he’s seen a mixed bag of results so far in his 2020 campaign for the Yankees.

Montgomery has pitched to a 2-2 record with a 4.76 ERA in eight starts this year. Montgomery looked really good yesterday against the Orioles, but this comes just two starts after he couldn’t get out of the first against the Rays. Montgomery is a solid pitcher, but I’m not sure I’d trust him with the ball in a game 3.

Deivi Garcia

The final option for the Yankees would be the rookie, Deivi Garcia. I can honestly say that Garcia has far surpassed my expectations in his first three starts, Garcia has pitched to a 1-1 record with a 3.06 ERA.

His last start blew me away. With the Yankees sputtering, Garcia went out and pitched seven strong innings against the Blue Jays leading the Yankees to a win that snapped their losing streak. Garcia has proven that he belongs in the rotation. Would Boone give him the ball in a game 3 is the question.

The Yankees Decision?

I think that ultimately we are going to need to watch how these three pitch the rest of the season. If things ended today, I think that the Yankees would probably lean towards a rotation of Cole-Tanaka-Happ in the playoffs. While many would love to see Garcia get that start, I think Boone values the experience of Happ.

New York Yankees: Good news and bad news following win over Mets

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

With the rain holding back on Saturday afternoon as the New York Yankees took on the New York Mets, the Bombers managed to scrape out a victory in the final moments of the game. It seems as if DJ LeMahieu is a good luck charm, after all, losing seven straight before claiming a victory.

LeMahieu returned after spraining his left thumb against the Boston Red Sox about two weeks ago. He recorded one hit on the day, which was a triple to deep right field.

FINAL SCORE: 2-1

Good news and bad news for the New York Yankees:

GOOD NEWS:

The good news—victory. Finally, the Yankees were able to muster the energy to get back into the winning category, despite falling to 17-13 on the season.

While this was a close victory, the Yankees‘ offense sparked in the ninth-inning with Clint Frazier earning a leadoff walk and newly signed Jordy Mercer logging a one-out single to move Frazier to third base.

If not for a first-inning Luke Voit homer, though, the Yankees wouldn’t have been in the game at all. Dellin Betances threw a wild pitch to end the game, with Frazier scoring from third. This is a massive victory for the Yankees and hopefully will provide some momentum moving forward into a doubleheader on Sunday.

Pitching wise, starter JA Happ had a phenomenal game, lasting 7.1 innings and allowing just three hits. He tossed 90 pitches and proved that he should be in the starting rotation more frequently. Recently, he’s been under fire for indicating that the Yankees were keeping him out of the rotation, so they don’t have to pick up his vesting option in 2021. If he makes ten starts or pitches 60 1/3 innings, they have to pay him $17 million on a one year deal next year.

BAD NEWS:

The bad news, the Yankees just barely scraped out another win against a lowly Mets team.

Aroldis Chapman had a few scary moments in the ninth-inning, and Adam Ottavino gave up a game-tying homer in the eighth. Once again, the bullpen was tumultuous and cannot be relied on consistently. That makes three blown leads in the latter half of games the past two days. The Yankees had a lead four times during their seven-game losing streak, blowing all four of them and losing in the end.

The inability to produce any offense has been problematic, combined with skeptic pitching.