Where Does Jordan Montgomery Fit in the 2020 Yankees?

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

New York Yankees fans, including myself, were happy to see Jordan Montgomery return from Tommy John last season. But, it was a very short-lived return. He threw only 4 innings, with a 6.75 ERA. It wasn’t great. Now, with a stacked rotation, and Brian Cashman throwing his full weight behind JA Happ as the number 5 man in the rotation, just where does Monty fit in on the team?

Stop Gap for German

Domingo German is suspended through June. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Happ can be traded by June, clearing a spot in the 5 man rotation for Monty to stay in the rotation when German comes back from (obviously) a couple of tuneup starts in the minors. But you still have to fill the void between Opening Day and German’s return from suspension. I’m completely against openers, especially with how we saw the bullpen implode at the worst possible time last season (the ALCS). And with the new rules about “You have to face 3 batters, if you’re not the guy who gets the final out of an inning”, the Yankees should steer clear of an opener during German’s suspension.

Long Man in the Pen

One of the confusing parts about the use of Chad Green as an opener was that they only had him throw one inning. We know he’s capable of at least 2. If we’re going to go with the opener, why would we empty our pen every 5 days, why would we not use Monty and Cessa as a tag team for the opener days? Monty throws 3 innings, Cessa throws 3 innings, then Ottavino, Britton, Chapman. That way, we develop a couple of you g, controllable future fixtures in the starting rotation, while keeping our arms in the pen fresh, and we’d have 2 long men out of the pen, which helps us in the situation where we get blown out.

Option Him to Scranton

He has a couple of options left, like Andujar. He could start the season at AAA, then get called up. But, AAA hitters aren’t Major League hitters. Monty could slay for the Rail Riders, but get shellacked on the big club. We know Monty is a major league caliber pitcher, he should start on the big club. It’s just anyone’s guess where he’ll end up.

Why 2020 is Bigger for the Yankees Right Fielder Than Giancarlo Stanton

New York Yankees, Giancarlo Santon

Everyone in Yankee land is talking about how all the pressure is on Giancarlo Stanton to show up in 2020. Here’s the thing, Giancarlo doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone during the regular season in 2020. And he was just starting to hit in the ALCS when he got sidelined by that injury. The back of his baseball card suggests that Stanton is going to be fine.

All the pressure really is on Aaron Judge.

He’s Got to Play a Full Season

Since Aaron Judge came up, he’s been injury-prone. Even his Rookie of the Year season was hampered by injury, getting his tooth chipped on Brett Gardner’s spiked helmet, and he had to get surgery on his left shoulder after the season. In 2016, he was shut down after 27 games due to a lat injury, 2018 was his wrist, and then he missed 2 months last season due to another lat injury.

Some say I’m being too hard for including his broken wrist in 2018 as part of his injury history. Well, it doesn’t change the fact that Stanton (including the 18 games played last season) has appeared in more games since 2016 than Aaron Judge.

He’s Still a Strikeout Machine

His Rookie of the Year season was incredible, but not without flaws. On top of leading the league in walks, runs scored, and home runs, Judge lead the league in strikeouts. In fact, in 396 games played in his career, Judge has struck out 543 times. In 2017, 38% of his at-bats ended in strikeouts. It was 37% in 2018 and 2019 as well. Yes, he’s a big guy. Yes, the umps call a lot of low strikes on his 6’7″ frame. It’s on HIM to adjust to this fact. He has to learn to hit lower pitches with greater regularity. By comparison, Mike Trout has a career strikeout rate of 26%. Stanton is at 32%.

He Has to Improve in the Playoffs

The deeper the Yankees get into October, the weaker Aaron Judge becomes offensively. Judge finished the 2017 ALCS with a .250/.357/.708 slash line, 3 home runs, 7 RBI’s, 4 walks, and 11 K’s. Last year, .240/.321/.360 slash line, with 1 home run, 2 RBI’s, 3 walks, 10 K’s, and a .681 OPS. This was after clubbing the Twins in the ALDS, which was a continuation of how he fared against Boston in the 2018 ALDS, after posting a .050 batting average against the Indians in the 2017 ALDS.

It doesn’t matter what you do in the Divisional Series. You have to win the CS to get to the World Series. And the regression Judge had in the CS last year, doesn’t bode well for him if the Yankees make the playoffs.

I understand and fully appreciate just how important Aaron Judge is to the Yankees as a whole. But this man IS our lineup. If he’s not right, the team doesn’t look right. He has to post another full season, the first of several in a row. End of discussion. The back of Stanton’s baseball card suggests that he’ll have a good/okay season in 2020, and then crush it like he’s known to by 2021. He showed with respectable (for a power hitter) numbers that he can produce offensively in 2018.

Judge has yet to show, aside from his 2017 season, that he’s half of what Giancarlo Stanton is. It’s tough for me to write that as a fan of his, but it’s the truth. And we need to accept his very human qualities.

The Two Yankees Under the Heaviest Scrutiny in 2020 Are…

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

Spring Training is merely weeks away, and the Yankee universe is all abuzz. Who’s going to make the cut? Who’s going to start the season in Scranton? Are the Arenado rumors worth anything? How’s our starting rotation going to shape up?

I don’t know the answers to those questions just yet. But I can tell you this. There are two Yankees who will be under the heaviest scrutiny for 2020. And they are…

Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole

Stanton and Cole are teams that drastically improve your team. Stanton is a lethal force in your lineup, capable of bashing 30+ home runs and driving in 100+ RBI’s on a regular basis. Cole emerged as a filthy animal on the mound in Houston, with back to back seasons with an ERA under 3.00, and over 600 strikeouts in 2 seasons. Our daily chances of winning increase dramatically with Cole starting, and Stanton in the lineup.

But they are 2 players each earning $300 million or more. People are going to expect them to show they are worth the hefty price tag by April 6th.

Stanton is under the heaviest scrutiny. His injury-riddled 2019 was frustrating, especially with the promise he was showing at the end of September and the ALCS prior to the injury. I mean… he hit a home run off Zack Greinke in Houston for crying out loud. But getting paid $26 million for only 18 games played is a tough pill for any fan to swallow.

And if Cole comes shy of an 18-5 record, 2.75 ERA, 205 innings pitched, 290 strikeouts, and a 0.996, everyone will talk about how one year into the 9 years $329 million contract Cole signed this December will be a failure. I can count on 2 hands the number of times Yankee fans were calling for Gary Sanchez AND Brett Gardner to get cut last season.

Both men HAVE to show up in 2020 in big ways. There’s no other way to put it.

Mets and Yankees Fans Should Be Pleased with MLB The Show

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

It’s peculiar to realize that it’s been 20 years since the Mets and Yankees met in the World Series. The Yankees are trending as one of the top teams to beat in the American League, and the Mets are posed to make it back to the playoffs with much more believable prospects at a Wild Card berth. And as we saw from the Mets in 2015, ANYTHING can happen when you get in.

But, now, similar to the way Madden projects who’s going to win the Super Bowl, MLB The Show thinks a new Subway Series is well within the cards.

MLB The Show Predicts Mets and Yankees as World Series Favorites

Both teams are projected as winning 91 or more games. The game picked one champion for each division. The sole exception being the NL East, as the game predicted the Mets AND Braves will both win 91 or more games. The other teams the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, LA Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs. There is no Wild Card contender predicted in the American League.

Now, basing anything on the projections of a video game is… well, silly. But, thinking back to Madden, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they are right about something. Madden predicted 10 out of 16 Super Bowl results since 2004. And as predicting division winners isn’t the same as predicting the World Series winner, 4 of the 7 teams predicted as playoff contenders for 2020, did make it to the Championship Series for each respective league last season.

The New York Yankees Were Cheated by the Astros, Again

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve

After the investigation into the Astros confirmed what’s been suspected for years, the New York Yankees will love nothing more than to kick the snot out of the Astros in 2020. But, through whatever rationale, the Yankees have been cheated (once again) by the Houston Astros.

New Houston Manager Means he’s the All-Star Game Manager?

The Astros signed Dusty Baker to replace the recently sacked AJ Hinch. Signed to a one year deal with a team option for 2021, it seems pretty innocent enough, right? Especially for an older manager (who is out of vogue in baseball these days) who hasn’t managed since 2017.

But… Baker gets what seems an unfair bonus signing with the Astros. Since the Astros were the AL team in the World Series, that team’s manager manages the league they’re in during the All-Star Game. It gives credence to those arguing that MLB really wasn’t interested in punishing the Astros as an organization, but was merely forced to investigate when the story became public in the Athletic.

Unnecessary Drama for a Harmless Exhibition

Since doing away with the silly rule “Whichever league wins the All-Star game, receives home-field advantage during the World Series”, the All-Star game returned to it’s the truest form, an exhibition. But, the Astros were found to have been guilty of cheating… blatantly cheating. It resulted in the Astros manager getting suspended for the entire season.

Why should the Astros manager still manage the All-Star game, when AJ Hinch would have still been serving his suspension during the game? The next obvious managerial candidate for the game is the manager who came in second to the Astros last season, Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees.

Baseball has to make up its mind once and for all on the Astros. Are they going to punish the team, or not?

New York Yankees: Is J.A. Happ The Right Man to Round Off The Rotation?

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

In the past week, New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman has come out and stated that JA Happ had been named the fifth man in the starting rotation, as we approach Spring Training with a full head of steam. Many fans were disappointed with Cashman naming Happ over the likes of Montgomery, Loiasiga, and Luis Cessa. I am not disappointed in the decision, as I feel it was the smartest and safest call, but also because I believe Happ has more to prove.

JA Happ’s Past Performances

JA Happ hasn’t won the hearts and support of many Yankees fans, due mainly to his disastrous 2019 season. The Yankee faithful don’t want to have someone with an ERA and FIP of around 5.00 pitching every fifth day. In 2019, Happ posted an ERA/FIP of 4.91 and 5.22. He paired that with a WHIP of 1.30, across 161.1 innings. Across those innings, he posted a K/9 of 7.81 — his lowest since ’14 — and one of the more abrupt outliers was his HR/9, which sat at 1.90 — the highest in his entire Major League career. Interestingly enough, despite the career-high in HR/9, his HR/FB% (18.3%) was lower than that of Chris Sale (19.5%). I think that the Happ that we saw in 2018 is more likely to return to the mound than that of this past season.

The 2018 version of JA was the better of the two, and it’s not close. Happ’s 2018 ERA and FIP splits were: 3.65 & 3.98 — an ERA of 2.69 with NYY — across 177.2 total innings with both TOR and NYY. His K/9 was a much more formidable 9.78, and his HR/9 — though up from ’17 — sat at 1.37. The point is that Happ had a far more consistent and reliable season in 2018. If he can channel even a portion of that season’s competitor in 2020, he will be a weapon in an already destructive rotation.

What Happ brings to the table is a fastball that dances around the plate, and has been a valuable pitch, according to Fangraphs’ Pitch Value ratings. His two most valuable pitches in 2019 were his Fastball and his Curveball — as they were the only two pitches to post a positive PV, at 6.6 for his FB and 0.7 for his CB. His Slider, which in 2018 was one of his best pitches, posting a PV of 3.4, was down 200% at -3.5. Although his FB still was one of the better pitches, its value had also decreased from 2018, in which the Pitch Value of it was 14.5.

The point is that while Happ was a far better pitcher in 2018, there were the pieces and signs in 2019 that he has more left in the tank than he showed. Happ’s 2019, when looked at initially, seems like its lost season entirely. However, when looking at some of the advanced stats, and comparing them to both 2017 and 2018, there are more similarities than one would think. Happ put together — from the advanced peripheral POV — somewhat comparable years (info via Fangraphs):

YEAR 2017 2018 2019
Contact % 80.1% 78.3% 78.4%
HH% 26.7% 30.9% 39.6%
Swinging Strike % 9.4% 10.4% 10.3%
HR/FB % 12.3% 13.4% 18.3%
GB/FB Rate 1.39 0.95 1.03

Now, looking at the table, the apparent outliers are the HH% and the HR/FB%, which makes perfect sense. Happ interestingly enough gave up the same Contact % in 2019, but the difference was that he wasn’t able to induce as soft of contact. It’s interesting because both his GB% and FB% are down from 2018, but his Line Drive % at 21.7% is the highest since for Happ since ’16. The problem for JA wasn’t that his stuff wasn’t of quality or that he struggled finding the strike zone and getting outs, but rather he was unable to minimize “big hits.” Having given up a SLG% of .474 as a starting pitcher, giving up 34 HR & 26 2B’s lead to an OPSA of .792, which was up from his ’18 season total of .677. His SLG% in ’18 was .389, and in ’17 it was .395, showing that in 2019 Happ was unable to limit the line drives and gappers that inevitably led to the running up of the score on him in a majority of his appearances.

Expectations out of Happ

If Happ is to adjust, and bring that HH% and LD% back down, closer to his career average (roughly < 32% HH% & < 20% LD%), he will be a solid fifth man in the rotation. I don’t doubt Happ’s abilities, and I think the veteran southpaw has just enough left in him to produce a solid 2020. I don’t expect him to revert back to his ’17 and ’18 seasons, but a year in between ’18 and ’19 in terms of quality and production, is definitely in the cards. I look for Happ to once again touch 160.0 innings pitched, and I think his HR% and overall hard contact and meaningful hits will decrease. Happ isn’t this “diamond in the rough” and he shouldn’t be treated as if he’s this hidden gem in the shadows. If he is to post an ERA and FIP of around 4.00 each, I would consider that a fantastic season — as he’d likely reach that 160.0 innings mark, tack on a handful of K’s and limit the BB’s, and hopefully bring that HR/9 back down.

Look for JA Happ to bring himself back down to earth after that abhorrently bad 2019 season that saw him on the chopping block for the vast majority of this offseason. I expect him to earn back the respect and support of Yankees fans that he had warranted and earned in 2018, and I think he’ll have a bigger impact in 2020 than most realize. Having a one-through-five in a rotation where they’re all able to go 160.0 innings, and go out there to toss quality start after quality start, is one of the most underappreciated things in the game today. With so many teams putting massive emphases on the bullpen and even front two starters, it’s rare to find a competent 1-5, in which all guys can throw a set number of innings in a season. Happ brings veteran leadership to a rather young team — and a rotation that will likely feature numerous young pitchers; Severino, Montgomery, Loaisiga, and German, throughout this next year.

 

New York Yankees Look to Improve Andujar’s Availability

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

New York Yankee fans are quick to forget that Miguel Andujar’s bat in the lineup is too good to pass up. They just worry about his defensive capabilities at third base. Why on earth would you not try to find a spot that Andujar could potentially excel at, providing necessary depth in case we see more of the injuries that the Yankees were plagued by last year.

Aaron Boone Heads to the Dominican Republic to Tell Andujar

Aaron Boone recently flew down to the Dominican Republic, Andujar’s home, to tell him to his face that he’ll be learning two new positions this spring. And Andujar appears to be open to the idea. Jack Curry of YES Network reported about Boone’s encounter with Andujar:

“Aaron Boone told us off camera that Andujar’s eyes lit up when he was told that versatility could be his ticket to more at-bats.”

The added depth at first base and left field could prove to be very useful. Look at Stanton’s injury history, as well as the injuries that hampered Luke Voit’s 2019. After looking at Stanton’s past seasons, next season will prove to be average for someone of his skill set, with an explosive 2021 and a very solid 2022. Should Aaron Judge be given a day off in the field, Tauchman playing right and Andujar playing left sounds pretty good. And with DJ being our everyday second baseman in 2020, you won’t have him as readily available to play first.

Then, you’d still have him as an option at third in case Gio gets hurt. Andujar can prove to be the next Eduardo Nunez. Someone who does improve defensively switching positions. He may not become a Gold Glover, but any improvement is a good one.

 

New York Yankees Great Ended Relief Pitcher’s Career

New York Yankees, Yankees, Derek Jeter

The New York Yankees saw ANOTHER member of their historic franchise enter Cooperstown with Derek Jeter’s inauguration. With storybook moment followed by storybook moment, Jeter’s life seemed absolutely charmed. Even his last game at Yankee Stadium featured an incredible end to the captain’s amazing career. But, that iconic hit was also the last we saw one major league pitcher.

Who Was This Pitcher?

At the bottom of the 9th, Buck Showalter brought in relief pitcher Evan Meek. Meek was a former All-Star reliever in Pittsburgh. But a few injuries resulted in him bouncing around. But September 25th, 2014, on an RBI single to right field, he would never pitch in Major League Baseball again.

He would spend the next season pitching in the minor leagues for Syracuse and in Korea. By 2016, he was throwing in independent leagues. By 2017, he hung up his spikes for good.

He’s At Least Good Natured About It

In a phone interview with the New York Post, Meek was asked about his final Major League appearance as a pitcher. His response was:

“I could tell you I didn’t really want to be remembered that way, but baseball’s bigger than all of us, it was a really cool moment to be a part of.”

“It was a pretty damn incredible moment in sports.”

He may never get to the Hall of Fame, but he’ll forever be an interesting part of Major League Baseball trivia. And that’s better than nothing.

Why The Yankees Universe Needs to Back Off That One HOF Voter

New York Yankees, Derek Jeter

New York Yankees shortstop of my formative years as a Yankees fan, Derek Jeter, justifiably made it to Cooperstown on January 21st. One of only two men inducted this year, no one can deny that Jeter was justifiably a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But everyone is overlooking the fact that Jeter got into the Hall by focusing on the fact that one guy left Jeter off the ballot.

I mean… what is baseball right now if we’re only focusing one guy here and not that Jeter got in?

Yes, Jeter Was THAT Good, But It’s Not Surprising He’s Not Unanimous

Jeter was a STUPENDOUS shortstop, and he was proof that playing the game the right way is as important as being a great player. Jeter finished 6th in all-time hits (3,465), a career batting average over .300 (.310), a 14-time All-Star, a World Series AND All-Star Game MVP in the same year, most games played, at-bats, hits, doubles, runs scored, triples, AND singles in the postseason, and was the inspiration for some of the best shortstops the game has seen in decades.

But he had his shortcomings. Defensively, he was good, but not great. And when we look at the advanced sabermetrics regarding fielding, Jeter was very, VERY bad. Voters are using these same statistics to justify handing out the Cy Young award to pitchers who are at .500 or below. How can you justify saying “This guy is the best pitcher in baseball,” when you’re a sub .500 pitcher? Just like, how can you justify calling Derek Jeter a bad defensive shortstop, when if it weren’t for him, we’d have lost that 2001 ALDS because of THE FLIP!

Also, let’s face it, writers are just as judgmental as fans. Fans despise Derek Jeter simply because he was talked about so much over their other teams and their other favorite players. So, no, I’m not surprised Derek wasn’t unanimous. And none of us Yankee fans should be surprised either.

Let’s Clear One Thing Up About the Yankees in the Astros Debate

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve

The New York Yankees are pretty embroiled in the Astros scandal. But some altered information is beginning to surface painting the boys in the Bronx in a less than favorable light. A light that makes them look like beneficiaries of the investigation into the Astros.

The Yankees/Red Sox Sign Stealing Debate of 2017

In an August series between the Sox and Yanks, the Yankees accused the Red Sox of electronically stealing signs. It was discovered that the Red Sox DID steal signs, and relayed them back to the dugout using Apple smartwatches. The Red Sox, in turn, accused the Yankees of stealing signs via a feed from the YES broadcasts. MLB investigated both claims and fined both teams. The Red Sox were found to have been guilty of using electronics to steal and relay signs to the Boston dugout. The Yankees were fined for improper use of dugout phones, not for stealing signs electronically. Later that year, the commissioner issued the ruling on electronic sign-stealing that is part of the basis for the Astros punishment.

What ACTUALLY Was Revealed About the Yankees Electronically Stealing Signs

In an article from Andy Martino, the Yankees WERE found to have committed the same crimes the Red Sox and Astros are being punished for today. But, and this is important (if albeit semantics-based) but, the Yankees were found to have committed these crimes back BEFORE the commissioner took the stance he took in 2017 on electronic sign stealing. The Yankees inevitably stopped the sign stealing, which helped clear the Yankees of further punishment.

Why Is This Important?

The Yankees, while found to have been guilty of past electronic sign stealing, weren’t in violation of MLB rules and regulations, as this rule came into effect AFTER the Yankees were done with their practice. The Red Sox and Astros are being punished for electronically stealing signs AFTER it was deemed a punishable offense by the commissioner’s office.

Is it a loophole like how Beltran wasn’t punished by baseball? Not really. Look at The Purge. For one night, you can do whatever you want without legal repercussions. If it wasn’t a punishable offense, why should the Yankees be punished for doing something that was legal to do?

Let’s stop acting like David Brosius, who committed slander accusing Mike Trout of taking HGH. Get your facts straight, and be informed before jumping to wild conclusions.