OK I lied, one more player and that is Tyler Wade. Last year, I thought he was lost; he showed he was not ready at all and I didn’t like his swing or his approach. The Yankees brass all say that what we saw wasn’t him and he is really good. The question is what happened? He was anemic in the majors last year, but he had an OPS of .842 as a 2nd baseman in the minors and the scouts say he had a great winter. (UPDATE: Getting Walker means Cashman was not ready to give Wade part of the 2nd base job with Torreyes (who is a decent backup), but if Wade is what the scouts think that is great news…have to see a lot more maturity, but at 23 Wade can be a lot better.
I am not as down as many about our starting pitching and mostly because Severino and Montgomery are a year older and we have Sonny Gray all year. Of course, CC is a year older and while he made the transition into a pitcher from a thrower, it would be shocking if he pitched better this year than last year. Tanaka is 29 so he is in a good spot pitching. I think he will be better than last year where he nibbled too much and saw his strikeouts go up but his walks and HR’s went up. I think nibbling caused him to be behind in the count too much and just flat out grooved too many pitches. He will always allow a lot of homers, but last year was absurd allowing 35 HR’s in 178 IP; he allowed more than a HR in every start! I didn’t look up stats but that had to be one of the worst in baseball.
Severino – Hard to think his stats can get better with an ERA of 2.98 and it probably won’t, but man he has a crazy strong arm. The fact he can hit 100 MPH on his 100th pitch is special! He has also done a great job of not giving out free passes. The hope is he can control his pitches even better, specifically his off speed pitches. Right now he is a 3 pitch pitcher (fast, slider and changeup) and that is OK, but one slower pitch would be better. His slider and change are both around 87-90 and while the change should fade to the right and the slider will go down and to the left, if he can either take something off his slider at times, I think it would be very beneficial. That being said, he is a stud and we need him healthy.
Gray – 28 and in his prime. He had 2 excellent years followed by an awful year and then a good one last year. If he can give us another 3.72 ERA, he should win at least 2x as many games as he loses with this offense and bullpen.
CC (37) – had an ERA of 3.69 last year and was 14-5 (which is almost 3x as many wins as losses. I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw CC’s ERA climb over 4, but if he stays around 4 I will be happy. There is a high chance of DL as well with CC
Montgomery – At 25 years old he has upside, but if he can duplicate a 3.88 ERA I would not be disappointed either. He is pretty savvy for a 25 year old, but he could improve by lowering his walk total a little bit and fine tune his control within the strike zone.
Bullpen: The depth of quality arms is crazy. We have many guys who could close if needed and we can really shorten a game if we need to. I won’t go into all of them, but it is a group that throws really hard. Chapman is the closer and while he can be shaky, he still throws hard. I think he needs to trust his breaking ball more and get a good feel for it. Last year was by far his worst year seeing his ERA over a run higher than his career. He is 30 and a big guy so I don’t see him slowing much for the next year or two. If he falters you can pick between, Robertson, Green, Kahnle and the wild card Betances. At 30 years old, he should have harnessed his windup by now, but his stuff is the most electric on the team, if not the league. He can be so frustrating, but if he could get a little more control, he is as lights out as anyone (he reminds me of Rob Dibble with less control). We also have a very solid pitcher in Warren who would probably be the first call into the rotation as juggling these guys won’t be easy in terms of keeping them busy. Warren was excellent last year with a 2.35 ERA. Chapman and Shreve are the only lefties and Shreve is there as a LOOGY. While Shreve wasn’t great last year, he did hold lefties to an OPS of .498. That is excellent. Now for perspective, Austin Romine who hit .218/.272/.293 had a very weak .565 OPS. Think about this, Warren, Robertson and Green had OPS’ against of .491, 488 and 454 respectively! THREE guys with sub .500 OPS against. None of those guys are our main closer either!
Manager – It is impossible for me to say what kind of manager Boone will be. I view the manager of the Yankees to have 4 main legs. There are the X’s and O’s part of game management, the ability to handle the pressure of the NY marketplace including the media, the relationship with the players to maximize their attributes and finally hiring a competent staff. Then there are the adjustments to all of these, especially as Boone becomes more familiar and confident. A big portion will be for him to make the moves he feels are correct and not worry about how he gets roasted for the ones that don’t work out, BUT, he must also have the self-reflection to understand why something didn’t work out and then analyze if it was a miscalculation on his part or sometimes the right decision just doesn’t work out. Then, he must resist the problem that Girardi had where he would come up with a totally BS excuse that anyone who understands the game knows is a disingenuous answer. I used to write about how I hated how condescending Girardi was to cover up a bad decision; his, “I know better than you” cover-up. Managers will make mistakes; the good ones make a lot less than the bad ones and more importantly put their players in a position where their skills can be accentuated and limit their exposure to their flaws. Boone talks the game correctly and is humble as well as smart (we need more of that). To be fair, Girardi was a good X and O manager; much better than Torre was, but Girardi didn’t handle the media well and didn’t relate to the players that much. It all came to a head when he basically lied and failed to own his mistake(s) when he didn’t want to challenge the foul tip into Sanchez’ glove which unfortunately led to a grand slam to blow an 8-3 lead and we fell behind Cle 2 games to 0. Whether it was overturned or not isn’t the issue, it was Girardi’s excuse for not taking a shot in the 6th inning of a game where there was little chance he would have a review close to the same significance the rest of the way…Girardi said, "Probably being a catcher, my thought is I never want to break a pitcher's rhythm, that's how I think about it." I blew my gasket when I heard that BS…as did Cashman obviously and that was it. To the credit of Girardi and this team, we came back and beat Cleveland, but it was a bad decision and an equally bad excuse. BTW, the fact we overcame this is one of the reasons I am excited about this team.
Finishing my thought on Girardi, he overall handled the pressure of NY OK, but didn’t handle the media well and supposedly the players were indifferent to him. I think his X and O management was pretty decent and his preparation was excellent. He was average at surrounding himself with good people; I think mostly of leaving Robby Thompson at 3rd much longer than he deserved as he was very bad at 3rdbase (I lost count how many guys we got thrown out at home with 1 or no outs…this blog has accounts of my issues with him). Overall Girardi was not a bad skipper, in fact he was at the worst average and probably a little better than that (you can see I value the preparation and x and O more than the rest, especially when you consider he is obviously a pretty good guy and had no scandals or issues at all.
Gardner, Judge, Didi, Stanton, Bird, Sanchez, Hicks/Ellsbury, 3rd base and 2nd base
UPDATE: with Bird out, I would juggle the lineup and matchup to the pitcher a little more. I would put Walker 5th most likely.
The key here is having the lefties in between Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez. I like Didi in the 3 spot slightly better because he doesn’t walk as much (more of a free swinger) as Bird and I would expect that slot to have pitchers go at the hitter more with Stanton on deck. Bird is a patient hitter and takes many grooved 1st pitches and while that is a strength at times, it could hurt him a little in that spot always falling behind as the pitcher does not want to walk guys in front of Stanton. It is not as critical which one is in that spot but I do like to split the righties up to make matchups harder later in the game for specialists. I like Judge 2nd as he is a little more disciplined than Stanton and gets on base more. Judge had an OBP of .402 and a slug% of .627 for an OPS of 1.049. Stanton had an OBP of .376 and a slug of .631 for an OPS of 1.007.
The expectations are high as they should be and I am very optimistic about this year and future years as well!