The New York Yankees are coming off a disappointing season and postseason. They lost the division and the postseason to the same team, the Tampa Bay Rays. Since there exit from the postseason, there has been much bantering and reporting on what went wrong and how to fix it before the 2021 coming season.
Today via Zoom, New York General Manager Brian Cashman addressed several subjects. Among one of the most intriguing subjects was if Gary Sanchez would be the team’s everyday catcher. Cashman would not commit to an answer but offered that it was a very fair question.
Brian Cashman discusses the Yankees catching situation heading into 2021 with Gary Sanchez & Kyle Higashioka. pic.twitter.com/mIhISwm8p3
Cashman indicated while he tiptoed around the question, saying that Gary Sanchez is a very talented player. He couldn’t decide whether his poor play resulted from the coronavirus or for some other reason. He pointed out that Kyle Higashioka stepped in at the end of the season and was able to do what he did. Higashioka caught New York Yankee ace Gerrit Cole and others very well. He had fewer passed balls and fewer errors than Sanchez, based on a regular season. He was also a more timely hitter, striking out fewer times and had a batting average of nearly .100 higher than Sanchez.
Gary Sanchez started with a bang in 2016. He hit 20 home runs slashing .299/.376/.557 in 229 plate appearances, but his offense and defense have been inconsistent since then. In 2019 he had a career-high 34 home runs but only garnered a .232 batting average. In 2018 his batting average was just .186, and this year a worse .147. Also, this year his defense at backstop reverted back to passed balls and errors.
The Yankees have long supported Sanchez as the Yankee catcher of the future. With his horrible performance this season, that support seems to be waning. Late in the season, Manager Aaron Boone benched him not only in Gerrit Cole’s starts but in a few others as well. When the postseason came about, the Yankees went with Kyle Higashioka four of the seven games. With the cracks in support, it’s a fair question to ask if Sanchez with be the catcher as we advance, or if they will go with Kyle Higashioka, or maybe look to acquiring a catcher like J.T. Realmuto.
In the Zoom interview, Cashman touched on many other subjects as well, including the questionable play of Gleyber Torres at short.
"We're going to evaluate all circumstances" when it comes to Gleyber Torres at shortstop, says Brian Cashman. pic.twitter.com/8KLlxkm5ki
Cashman also commented on Luke Voit’s foot issues saying that Luke Voit has plantar fasciitis. He will be in a walking boot for one week. They believe that will resolve the issue. Along with Luke Voit, he spoke about Gio Urshela’s right elbow bone spur and Luis Severino’s recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Brian Cashman updates the latest on Luke Voit, Gio Urshela and Luis Severino's recovery from Tommy John surgery. pic.twitter.com/TPCzVwO9tc
The New York Yankees are playing for survival tonight. They will face the Tampa Bay Rays at Petco Park, in San Diego, in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. The Bombers are down 2-1 in the best-of-five affair, and if they don’t win tonight, they will return to New York empty-handed.
In the win-or-go-home affair, Yankees manager Aaron Boone will once again start Kyle Higashioka over Gary Sanchez at catcher. What started out as a “personal catcher” situation, given that ace Gerrit Cole feels more comfortable with Higgy, is now becoming a trend, and despite Boone recently saying that the situation would be a “day-to-day” thing, it seems like he is sticking with inferior offensive option.
Are the New York Yankees making a mistake by not starting Gary Sanchez regularly at the catcher position? Some will say that the Kraken has struggled this season, and he has. After all, he hit .147/.253/.365 in the regular season with a 69 wRC+ and Higashioka hit .250/.250/.521 with a 102 wRC+.
The Yankees’ catching controversy
However, it’s unfair to dismiss four seasons of being one of the most dominant offensive backstops in the game (.236/.320/.502, .346 wOBA, 117 wRC+ career line) and judge Sanchez for 49 games, not to mention that Higgy’s performance came in only 16 games. That’s just not enough sample to determine he is the best option to be in the Yankees’ lineup over Sanchez.
And while Higashioka does offer good defense behind the plate, the difference is not so big that it can justify leaving Sanchez on the bench for three of the four games of the ALDS.
If your ace express a strong preference to throwing to the backup catcher, it is understandable to let it happen, which has been the case when Gerrit Cole takes the mound. However, the Yankees haven’t even let Sanchez get into any kind of groove by not giving him enough plate appearances and essentially making him a backup option.
The New York Yankees advanced to the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, a matchup that will see the best of five games move on to the Championship Series. It will start on Monday in the city of San Diego, per the new format adopted this season by the league.
The no-brainer decision to send Cole for Game 1 will also set him up to start another contest should the series go that far. The first club to win three games will move on, and the other one will go home.
The Yankees will keep their tandem
Cole is fresh off a dominating start on Tuesday, as he stymied the Cleveland Indians for seven innings. He allowed only six base hits and two runs, with no walks and 13 strikeouts. His teammates said after that game that that type of performance was what he was signed for. For reference, Cole put pen to paper to a a nine-year, $324 pact over the winter.
The decision to start Cole in the first game of the Tampa series was as easy as it gets. However, the person that will catch him is a more complex one for several reasons, the main one being that Gary Sanchez is a superior offensive talent than Kyle Higashioka.
Yesterday, the Yankees wrapped up their 2020 regular season. They finished as the fifth seed in the AL and will be taking on the Cleveland Indians starting tomorrow night. A player who hasn’t seen much time over the last week was Kyle Higashioka.
The Yankees had a lot to play for over the last week. They came extremely close to dropping all the way to the eighth seed in the playoffs. After being red hot, the Yankees played Higashioka in two games while Sanchez played seven.
In those seven games, Sanchez went a whopping 2-20 a plate with seven strikeouts. Sanchez finished the regular season hitting an astonishing .147 for the Yankees. Sanchez became the only player in Major League history to hit at least 10 home runs and fail to hit above .150 for the year.
What the Yankees should do?
The writing is on the wall for what the New York Yankees need to do. Kyle Higashioka is going to likely start tomorrow because Gerrit Cole is on the mound. When Higashioka catches the Yankees‘ ace, his ERA is nearly 3 runs lower than it is with Gary Sanchez behind the plate.
However, Higashioka needs to be behind the plate for game 2 as well and the rest of the playoffs. Gary Sanchez hasn’t earned a damn thing this year, and the Yankees need to be playing for wins here and not protecting their sensitive catcher.
The New York Yankees haven’t been to or won a World Series in a decade. They need to put their best team on the field, and that team does not include Gary Sanchez right now. Not from an offensive perspective and especially a defensive perspective.
The Yankees have said that the catching position will be decided on a day-to-day basis in the playoffs. In reality, it should be much more simple. If you want to keep Gary Sanchez as your starter in 2021, I completely get it, and it makes sense.
However, there is no reason and no argument for Sanchez getting any playing time during the playoffs. Unless Boone has a side bet where he needs one of his guys to strikeout, ground into a double play or have a passed ball/”wild pitch”, Kyle Higashioka needs to be the starter for the Yankees in the playoffs.
The New York Yankees, back home at Yankee Stadium, lost their fifth game in their last six games, and that was coming off a ten-game winning streak. The shocker is that they lost the game allowing only three Miami Marlin hits. As in their last loss, the Yankees again committed four costly errors, allowing the Marlins extra outs.
With only two games left in the regular season and the playoffs starting on Tuesday, the only momentum the Yankees have is losing and playing sloppy baseball. The bright spot in the game was that the New York Yankees’ pitching was outstanding, allowing just the three hits. J.A. Happ in the first inning with two outs, walked two batters, the Marlins Garrett Cooper then homered to right, and just like that, it was 3-0 Marlins. That was the only mistake that Happ made. He continued to pitch the next four innings, not allowing another run. Happ pitched much better than the stats on the game would suggest.
At the bottom of the first inning, manager Aaron Boone no longer holding frustration in from the recent poor play, erupted and got himself thrown out of the game right off the bat. Aaron Judge, who has had a career of being struck out on bad calls due to his size, took to the plate in the second at-bat of the game. With two strikes on Judge, umpire John Tumpane delivered one of the worst called strike threes in recent memory. The slider off pitcher Alcantara was ankle-high, yet called a Judge out. Judge showed frustration, while Boone chirped from the dugout. But, when Tumpane called another bad strike on Aaron Hicks, who followed Judge, Boone wasn’t going to have it, and he got thrown out. He came bursting out of the dugout with an expletive-laced rant against the young umpire. With no fans in the stands, the exact language could be easily heard.
With bench coach Carlos Mendoza now managing the game, he tried to find a way for the Yankee to regain the lead. That happened as the Yankees did get within one run. In relief of Happ, Jonathan Loaisiga pitched two clean innings. Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman had clean innings as well.
At the bottom of the eighth inning, the Yankees managed to tie the score at three apiece when Judge, with his second hit of the game, singled in a run. The score remained tied causing extra innings. At the bottom of the tenth, the Yankee’s fourth error of the night caused pitcher Chad Green to lose the game. A botched rundown by Higashioka, between home plate and third base, saved the Marlins the third out. A sac fly followed that, and the Yankees lost their second game in a row.
The Yankees now have the major league record of the most errors committed in the regular season (47). New York Yankee’s manager Aaron Boone said after the game:
“There’s plenty of time,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We control everything. If we go play really good baseball, we can be champions. We’ve got to play better, clearly, but that’s in our hands right now. We don’t need anyone’s help. We just have to go out and do what I know we’re capable of doing.”
For the Miami Marlins, the win against the Yankees, and with the loss by the Philadelphia Phillies, the Marlins captured their first berth in the playoffs since 2003. Tonight the Yankees will again face the Marlins at the Stadium, with Deivi Garcia on the mound. The last game of the season on Sunday will most likely be a bullpen game for the Yankees.
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 secured a place in the 2020 MLB playoffs on Sunday night at the Stadium in the Bronx. They didn’t do it on their own, they had the help of the Seattle Mariners, losing to the San Diego Padres. With that loss, the Yankees were guaranteed to be in the playoffs. As it stands now, they will face the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in the Wild Card round. Where it goes from there is anyone’s guess.
In an already crazy season, the playoffs will be no different. 16 of the 30 MLB teams will make the postseason. Eight teams in each league will take part in wild-card games. Not a single playoff, but a three-game round. MLB plans to play the entire postseason in a “bubble” that has already started a week ahead of the first game. The New York Yankees are already in that bubble that has them quarantined in their Buffalo hotel. The only way they leave that hotel is to travel to Sahlen Stadium, where the Blue Jays are playing their home games.
When they return to New York for the final three games of the season, they will still be in that bubble and will not come out of it until they win a 28th World Champions or are eliminated earlier. But, the players could be in that bubble for up to six weeks. This adds to the difficulties General Manager Brian Cashman and Manager Aaron Boone have in setting up the 28 man roster, and the 14 man taxi squad. These taxi squad players will also have to be in the bubble at the alternate site in Scranton, without knowing whether they will ever get to play. According to Cashman, several of the players at the alternate site have already opted out, although he did not name them.
“We’ve even had offers for players to be in the alternate site in this taxi squad bubble moving forward and they’ve opted not to be a part of it because it could be six more weeks away from their family if you’re fortunate enough to advance the whole way and with no guarantee of either getting on (the big-league roster) or winning a prize at the end or getting voted a (playoffs) share.
“Some of them said, ‘You know what? I’m not doing it.’ So when you have those conversations, they’re disappointing, but you get it at the same time and just move on.”
Not knowing who those players are, it would seem logical that players that have been in Scranton all season, but were never called up during all the Yankee injuries would be the ones likely to have opted out. Players like Brantly, Duffy, Granite, Lyons, Thole, and Zych. It wouldn’t be surprising if Gil, Kriske, Adad, Sawyer, and Mercer may have opted out as well.
“It’s like, ‘Who’s all in, because that’s what this is going to be about,” Cashman said. “Who’s all in? Cashman added: “And you can even argue this might be the toughest World Championship to ever win given the circumstances we’re dealing with. Not for the Yankees. I’m talking about the industry and then the level of playoffs that you have to navigate to be the last team standing. It’s going to be quite the accomplishment.”
Gerrit Cole: Gary Sanchez or Kyle Higashioka?
Other than setting up the rosters, the Yankees’ most challenging question may be who catches New York Yankee’s ace, Gerrit Cole. Cole, who will definitely start game one of the Wild Card Series, and will end up pitching in the most games if the Yankee make their way to the World Series. Also, in this crazy “bubble” set up between the wild card series and the World Series, there will be no days off. Considering the constant play, the Yankee back up catcher, Kyle Higashioka, will have to catch some of those games.
If Deivi Garcia pitches any of the games, you may also see Erik Kratz in the mix as the Yankees will want three catchers available. But the question of who will catch Cole is a bit deeper. Cole has pitched better and won his last two games with Higashioka as the backstop. Another consideration is that both Higashioka and Kratz have better batting averages and OPS’s then the deminished Sanchez. Also, Cole has an ERA of just 0.90, with Higashioka catching him. I guess that “Higgy” will catch Cole throughout the postseason. Manager Boone had this to say:
“Especially if we’re fortunate enough to get through the best-of-three scenario, then you’re talking about a potential five games in a row [in the American League Division Series], followed by a potential seven games in a row [in the AL Championship Series] with no off days,” Boone said Monday. “So I think it even adds to that. Your backup catcher needs to play a role in that scenario.”
Gerrit Cole speakly very diplomaticaly had this to say:
“I think I can work with pretty much anybody,” said Cole, who has tallied a 3.91 ERA in eight starts throwing to Sanchez. “I think there are some things that have worked out in the last few starts that may lead the manager to lean one way or the other. But ultimately it’s not my call, and I’ll be ready whoever’s back there. I think both backstops that have caught me this year have done a great job, and whoever catches me going forward will continue to do great work.”
Domingo German will not pitch in the postseason
Last year Domingo Germán made the team’s rotation amid countless injuries and turned out to be the New York Yankees best 2019 pitcher, amazing a record of 18-4 in 24 starts with an ERA of 4.03. However, German was involved in a domestic violence incident and was suspended for 81 games, after an investigation. The result was he missed the last games of the year and could not pitch in the postseason.
If this season had been a normal New York Yankees 162 game season, German would have been back with the Yankees at the end of July. But the season was shortened to only 60 games due to the coronavirus, meaning that German would miss almost the whole season. After a bunch of on again, off again tweets, German made it clear he was going back to the Yankees. On Sunday at Yankee Stadium, German comes off suspension, and there has been much speculation as to if he would pitch in the postseason.
“No, no! Because, obviously, he hasn’t gotten to work out with us or throw with us,” Boone said. “So to be able to ramp him up and put him in this kind of situation, I don’t think it’s really fair to anyone. We look forward to Domingo being hopefully a really significant part of our team again heading into next year,” the manager concluded.
Throughout the entire 2020 season, fans have been frustrated with Gary Sanchez. The New York Yankees catcher has been pretty terrible overall when you look at the numbers. Sure he’s hit some home runs, but he’s left a lot to be desired.
Despite his abysmal performance, Sanchez wasn’t really pushed from the backups. Last year, the Yankees had Austin Romine who really pushed Sanchez in terms of internal competition. If Sanchez couldn’t perform, Romine was right there for the Yankees.
However, the Yankees didn’t have the luxury of someone like Romine this season. However, Kyle Higashioka has completely turned heads over the past week. Higashioka smacked three home runs in the Yankees win over Toronto on September 16th.
He’s hitting the ball hard, and Higashioka looks very comfortable at the plate. Not to mention the fact that Gerrit Cole loves pitching to him. Cole has looked sensational with Higashioka catching him. All of these attributes for Higgy are actually good for Gary Sanchez.
Yankees Catcher Competition = Motivation
If there’s been one knock on Gary Sanchez over the past few years it’s been his motivation. We hear stories all the time of how the Yankees say he’s working hard, but a lot of the times it leaves fans scratching their heads due to the lack of improvement.
Sanchez has been called out by Yankees fans for his lack of hustle. However, Sanchez didn’t have to experience too much pressure because nobody was threatening his job. That’s been changing as of late.
Now that Giancarlo Stanton is healthy, there’s a very real chance that Gary Sanchez doesn’t get to start the Yankees first playoff game. I’m not sure the Yankees will deviate from having Higashioka catch Cole.
However, Sanchez can force their hand if he continues to play well. We’ve seen an uptick in Sanchez’s performance as of late. His batting average has climbed over 30 points in the last ten days, and he’s looking more comfortable at the plate.
The Yankees catcher needs all the motivation he can get. Higashioka playing as well as he is will only motivate Sanchez. Sanchez is looking at being benched to start the Yankees playoff run, and if that doesn’t motivate him, I don’t know what would.
The New York Yankees, after scoring 20 runs off the Toronto Blue Jays, just a day ago, last night scored another 13 runs off the Blue Jays. It was Gerrit Cole’s 100th win in Cole’s career and the seventh straight win for the Yankees. The Blue Jays just haven’t been able to hold down the Yankees soaring power behind the plate. The Yankees scored their 13th run of Jays pitching in just two games. The Yankees will try for the sweep of the Jays tonight.
In just the past week, the New York Yankees fortunes have made a dramatic shift from losing multiple games in a row to winning multiple games. Just two weeks ago, the Yankees looked as if they might miss the postseason entirely. Now the Yankees progressing to the postseason seems almost inevitable. It started with Luke Voit, firing up home runs, and it became infectious as more and more Yankees started hitting the long ball with men on base. Last night catcher Kyle Higashioka hit three homers in the game. Higashioka became only the fourth Yankee catcher to accomplish that feat; the others are Tony Lazzeri, Mike Stanley, and Gary Sanchez.
Gerrit Cole started the night in the first inning by striking out two jays and shutting them down with just ten pitches. Cole would go on to pitch seven innings for his second game in a row. He allowed three hits, with one earned run, two walks while striking out 8 Jays. Jonathan Loaisiga, in his return from the IL, pitched a clean eighth, and Nick Nelson pitched the ninth allow the Jays one more run. The winning pitcher was Gerrit Cole, and the loser was Tanner Roark, who the Yankees hammered for six runs.
The Yankee offense, as in recent games, got started early in the game. In the Yankees first inning, DJ LeMahieu stepped to the plate and hit the first ball he saw from Roark into the right-field stands. Next up was the returning Aaron Judge; Judge remained hitless in the game as did Giancarlo Stanton the night before, while they find their timing. Next up was Kyle Higashioka, who hit his first homer of the night, a two-bagger, and it was 3-0 Yankees. At the bottom of the fourth, Clint Frazier’s quick bat registered his home run far into the left-field bleachers. 4-0 New York Yankees.
DJ followed up in the Yankee’s fourth with his second long ball of the game, a two-run shot. Yankees 6-0. At the bottom of the fifth, Clint Frazier got his second RBI, driving in Aaron HIcks with a single. At the bottom of the sixth, “Higgy” hit his second homer of the night, a solo shot to left. Luke Voit followed in the sixth with a three-run long ball, making it 11-1 Yankees. Higashioka, in his fourth at-bat of the night, hit a two-run shot, his third homer of the night, making it 13-1 Yankees. Higashioka when rounding the bases couldn’t help but have a broad smile on his face. The Jays got their second run of the night in the last at-bat of the game. Joe Panik homered for the Jays.
After seven straight wins, the Yankees will again face the Jays in the series, finally at Yankee Stadium. Tonight Masahiro Tanaka will face Jay’s right-hander Chase Anderson. The Yankees will then travel to Fenway Park for a weekend series with the Boston Red Sox.
Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Aaron Boone and the New York Yankees announced a few pieces of significant news.
The team reinstated Zack Britton and Kyle Higashioka from the IL. Britton went on the IL after suffering a hamstring strain on August 19th, while Higashioka has been out for nearly a month with an oblique strain.
To make room for Britton and Higashioka, the team DFA’d infielder Jordy Mercer and optioned pitcher Miguel Yajure. Yajure made his MLB debut on Monday, and impressed with three scoreless innings.
Right now, the Yankees are carrying three catchers as they kept Erik Kratz. Right now, the team is expecting Deivi Garcia to make another start on Friday with Kratz behind the dish.
The two worked extremely well together in Garcia’s debut on Sunday, and the two have experience working together in AAA. Garcia threw six innings on Sunday without allowing an earned run, striking out six. He’s not currently on the roster but will be added by Friday.
The 40-year-old Kratz has been big for the Yankees this year, and been one of the guys stepping up big time. He’s bat .300 and called some great games, and his start with Garcia was no exception. Plus, he’s been a clubhouse presence along with Brett Gardner, filling the shoes of CC Sabathia in a way.
If Kratz and Garcia continue to have success, then the both of them could be around for the final month of the season. Kratz is looking to keep reps away from Higashioka, while Garcia is trying to keep the ball out of the hands of guys like JA Happ and fellow rookie Michael King.