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Posts tagged ‘Didi Gregorius’

Followup on my 2015 Wishes

Prior to the start of last season, I considered each probable starter for the Yankees and made one wish for the upcoming season. Now that we’re rapidly approaching a new season and the dust has settled from the previous season, it’s time to see which Yankees lived up to my (completely unimportant) expectations.

THE PITCHERS

Masahiro Tanaka “That the arm holds up. Let other teams speculate about your health and distract their focus against you.”

Notice my hope was only about the health of his arm – not his contract, his performance, or whether or not he’s an ace. Tanaka did start more games (24) than he did last year (20), and as a result pitched more innings (154.0) than he did last year (136.1), including one of only two complete games thrown by Yankee starters in 2015. He had one trip to the DL which lasted from 4/28/15 to 6/05/15. (The year before, Tanaka was out from 7/6/14 to 9/21/14.)

Verdict: He pitched more, was injured less, and his arm did not fall off. Good!

Michael Pineda “Keep up the good work, Big Mike. And if you want to wear your hat a little straighter, I won’t complain.”

There were good days (Mother’s Day, when he struck out 16), and there were meh days (too many to mention). We saw a lot more of Pineda this year after his return from injury (160.2IP compared to 76.1IP last year), but yet only one example of really good pitching immediately comes to mind.

Verdict: …at least there was no pine tar!

CC Sabathia “Have a better season than I’m fearing you’ll have.”

I was really hard on CC – and I mean really hard. I predicted a loss every time he started because I was so confident opposing hitters would destroy him. For the first part of the season, that was true; in the first 24 games of the season he was 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA. Then came the blessed knee brace! In his final 5 starts of the season, Sabathia’s ERA dropped to 2.17 – much more like the workhorse we’re used to. He is now 35 years old and has thrown 2988.2IP and recorded 2,574K in his 15 year career. This was a difficult year for Sabathia personally and professionally, but even if his body wasn’t performing as he wanted it to, his heart was always 100% in it.

Verdict: Glad the end of the season was more like the old CC – and knee brace for MVP!

Nathan Eovaldi “Be that young pitcher no one expects to be great, and then dominate opposing teams.”

There’s a big difference between playing for the Miami Marlins, and playing for the New York Yankees. For example – Eovaldi had a 6-14 record in 2014 with the Marlins, and a 14-3 record this past season with the Yankees. His ERA in 2014 and 2015 are roughly the same while his starts and innings pitched were down slightly in 2015 due to injury. The numbers that really stood out to me were his 175 hits (down from 223), 72 runs (down from 107), and 72 ER (down from 97).

Verdict: He didn’t exactly dominate, but he’s a work in progress, and seems to be progressing well.

Adam Warren: “Be consistent and pitch well – there’s a reason you won this rotation spot – and don’t be one of the pitchers we have to worry about.”

Remember when Adam Warren was a starter? Those were my favorite Adam Warren days! I was fortunate enough to see two of his starts in person – one a narrow defeat and one a win. Of course later in the season Warren was moved to the bullpen where he proved to be just as effective. There was a certain amount of comfort in having him out there if a starter totally tanked (and not that Chris Capuano ever did…) because we knew he could give length. Or a spot start. Or really, whatever the Yankees asked of him, because he would do it. And he would do it well, and always without complaint.

Verdict: If anyone met and exceeded all my hopes for 2015, it was Adam Warren. I’ll miss him in pinstripes, but wish him tons of success with the Cubs.

THE INFIELDERS

Brian McCann (C): “You’ve had a year to settle in to a new environment – now it’s time to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s right field.”

There isn’t a huge difference in McCann’s stats in 2014 compared to 2015. He only hit three more HRs, but he did have 19 more RBIs. He had 20 more strikeouts, but also drew 20 more walks. He’s projected to have roughly the same kind of numbers for 2016.

Verdict: I’m not sure we can expect much more from Brian McCann as we’ve seen the last two seasons. That being said, I’m not at all disappointed with him.

Mark Teixeira (1B): “Don’t be stubborn: teams are going to shift, especially when you outright say you won’t try to beat the shift.”

For quite awhile early this season, it seemed like Tex’s approach to beating the shift was just to hit everything right over the shift. It didn’t seem to matter where anyone was standing on the field – he was just going to hit the ball right out of the park, probably yelling “I’ll show you!” as he rounded the bases.

Verdict: This is, by far, the most hilarious example of being proven wrong I can think of from this season!

Stephen Drew (2B): “Crack .200 for your batting average and look like you can play 2B.”

What an odd player Stephen Drew turned out to be. I’m not sure anyone in baseball history has ever hit 17HRs while only hitting .201 for the season (of course he had to add that extra .001 to his average, just to spite me). As for his fielding, I have to give him credit for switching positions after age 30. He’s demonstrated versatility playing 2B, SS, and 3B during the season, as well as having some (very random) power at the plate. He could be a very good utility infielder for the Nationals this year.

Verdict: He just barely broke .200 before he was shut down for injury the rest of the season. He certainly wasn’t the best 2B in MLB last year, but he also could have been a lot worse.

Didi Gregorius (SS): “Don’t get rattled by replacing one of baseball’s biggest stars on one of the largest stages in the world.”

I’ll admit I was hard on Didi early in the season. He had a bit of a rocky start with a mental errors (working with a former Gold Glove shortstop helped), but showed great improvement as the season went on.

Verdict: Do we all love Didi yet? I think we all love Didi!

Chase Headley (3B): “Keep the good New York momentum going.”

In his nine years in MLB, Chase Headley has made 83 errors at 3B. In the first eight years of his career, he had never made more than 13 errors in a single season (2010) and even won a Gold Glove with the Padres in 2012.

During the 2014 season, I was extremely judgmental of anyone who tried to play 3B – mostly because they were “replacing” my favorite player, but also because they were pretty terrible. When Headley came to New York, it was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, there was someone competent who could play 3B – and then he signed a four year contract as a free agent. Things were good!

But then came the 2015 season, and a career high 23(!!) errors. At times, I wondered if the Yankees might actually get better defense from 40 year old Alex Rodriguez.

Verdict: Biggest disappointment of 2015.

THE OUTFIELDERS

Brett Gardner (LF): “Be that gritty player who flies under the radar and leaves teams wondering “Where the hell did that guy come from?””

Gardner always has a rough second half of the season. At this point in his career, I’m not sure that will ever change. One thing I absolutely love about Gardner is that he always, always gives it all he’s got. He doesn’t often get the recognition he deserves, especially for someone who had to fight just to play college baseball and is now an everyday player for the New York Yankees.

Verdict: Gardy finally got the recognition he deserves, being selected to his first career All Star game at 31 years old.

Jacoby Ellsbury (CF): “Steal a ton of bases – and maybe another steal of home.”
Bonus wish: “Have a ridiculously good game against the Red Sox. Just explode offensively and defensively, and silence those Red Sox fans who claim they’re happy you left Boston.”

Early this season, I really thought it was going to be Ellsbury’s year – he started the season hot. In the first month and a half of the season, he hit .324 with 48 hits, 29 runs scored, and an impressive 14 stolen bases. Every time I turned a game on, he was running – and it was like a dream come true. This is the Jacoby Ellsbury I wanted to see!

When things seem too good to be true, they often are. On May 19, Ellsbury sustained a right knee injury and spent May 20 through July 8 on the disabled list. As luck would have it, he injured his knee in the first of two games in Washington, and of course I had tickets for the second game. (It wasn’t all bad news though – I was there for Slade Heathcott’s MLB debut!)

For the rest of the season, Ellsbury was okay. Average. Definitely far less exciting than he started the season. There was no amazing game against the Red Sox either.

Verdict: If I could only judge Ellsbury’s season up until May 19, it would be a big success.

Carlos Beltran (RF): “Do something to make me excited you’re on the team?”

Beltran and Sabathia are similar in that I really expected zero from either of them. The difference between the two is that I actually feel bad for judging CC so harshly. I’m still not wildly impressed with Beltran.

In all fairness, his bat did heat up later in the season and often at key moments of the game. But the defense was terrible. Every joke about Beltran riding a Rascal around right field were completely justified. Outs turned into hits. Running looked nothing short of pathetic. At this point in his career, Beltran probably is best suited as a DH, but on this current roster, it’s just not possible.

Verdict: The excited moments were few and far between, but there were a few.

THE DESIGNATED HITTER

Alex Rodriguez (DH): “Don’t blow it.”

Remember when Alex Rodriguez returning from his suspension was the worst thing that could ever happen to baseball? We’ve come a long way.

Over the past year, he’s shown tremendous growth personally and professionally. We saw a man who, at forty years old, finally seems to be comfortable in his own skin – and proved he can still play professional baseball after spending the better part of the last two years watching from a distance. He has said and done all the right things, allowing many people to forget just how much they hated him just a year ago.

Verdict: No words could accurately express how happy I am to see this version of Alex Rodriguez.

 

The regular season starts in just a few short weeks! Hopefully, I’ll have a whole new list of hopes and dreams for this year’s team. Stay tuned!

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How to Keep Refsnyder

Yankee fans have been calling for – and praying, hoping, and wishing for – Rob Refsnyder to be called up to the Major League. Friday night, we heard he would be playing – and starting – on Saturday and Sunday in Boston. After two starts in the newly dawning Rob Refsnyder era, are Yankee fans satisfied?

In this very small sample size, Yankee fans have been (seemingly) pleased, at least as far as I can tell. Sunday’s game was particularly exciting for fans who saw not only Refsnyder’s first major league hit (a single to right field), but also his first major league home run. The home run was not only a beautiful two-run shot over the Green Monster at Fenway Park, but ultimately won the game for the Yankees with a final score 8-6.

Going into the All Star break, we’re riding a wave of Rob Refsnyder excitement – so much so, that many fans are declaring Stephen Drew’s days in pinstripes are over, or at very least numbered. I hope to see Yankee prospects be promoted and succeed just as much as anyone else, but in Refsnyder’s case, we can’t get too excited too quickly. He has been in the major leagues for two days – and is 24 year old converted outfielder who’s offense has been his weakness. As is the case with any rookie, he will struggle – and it’s important for fans not to give up on Refsnyder the moment he becomes the least bit shaky (as so many did with Didi Gregorius).

Assuming Ref plays well enough the Yankees just can’t demote him, what happens then? How do we keep him on the roster, and who is there if/when he does struggle?

As the roster is right now, the backup option would obviously be Stephen Drew. His bat has obviously been awful, but he has shown he’s capable of playing a decent second base. As I’ve said before, I have to give Drew credit for learning a new position late in his career, and especially for doing so successfully. But, shortly after the All Star break, the Yankees also have utility infielder Brendan Ryan returning from injury. Ignoring all other roster moves (Carlos Beltran will also be returning around the same time), this gives the Yankees three middle infielders for two roster spots.

The main battle will be for second base – Chase Headley is locked in at third base as Didi Gregorius is at shortstop. Let’s assume Refsnyder wins the second base job (since so many of us want him to anyway), and the Yankees are forced to chose between Drew and Ryan. My vote for backup infielder has to go to Stephen Drew.

As is often the case, money comes first. Ryan signed a contract for 2 years $4 million (2014-2015) while Drew signed this off season for 1 year $5 million (2015). Ryan is less expensive, but the Yankees would be more willing to drop a $2-2.5 contract than a $5+ contract.

In offensive and defensive categories, Stephen Drew beats Brendan Ryan in career batting average, and in fielding percentage at second base, shortstop, and even third base.

Career Batting:  .234 Ryan   .252 Drew
2B Fielding %:   .977             .982
SS Fielding %:   .978             .979
3B Fielding %:   .942            1.000
*Drew played only 13 innings at 3B
** Ryan has also played 1B and OF positions

That isn’t to say Brendan Ryan doesn’t have value as a utility infielder – his numbers really aren’t awful and there’s something to be said for a player who can fill in at so many different positions. He does have a big problem staying healthy, and has already had multiple trips to the DL this season already. It seems likely that as he ages, his trips to the DL will only increase.

Earlier this season, Joe Girardi more or less declared that Stephen Drew would be the backup at third base if Chase Headley was unable to play or needed a day off. At the time, the focus was more about what that meant for Alex Rodriguez – that Girardi was essentially saying he would not use him in the field (a choice that has been beneficial for both Rodriguez and the Yankees so far). But the peculiar thing about Girardi using Drew as the backup third baseman is that he already was – and until Refsnyder or anyone else definitively proves otherwise – the every day starting second baseman.

Jose Pirela is a possible substitute at second or third – if he hadn’t been sent back to Scranton late last week. Gregorio Petit is also a possibility, although his performance has been underwhelming at best. He was also signed in an emergency backup one of the times Brendan Ryan was put on the DL earlier this season. Assuming there will soon be an overabundance of middle infielders on the Yankees roster, there really is no need for Petit. If the Yankees are set on keeping him, they could send him back to Scranton – but they could also just as easily cut their ties to him completely.

With Pirela already sent to Scranton, and Petit and Ryan removed from the roster (by trades or any other means), that leaves Stephen Drew as the utility infielder for the Yankees. I am confident he can play shortstop, second base, and now third base in an emergency (although, I wouldn’t mind if he had a few more innings of work at third before giving a full vote of confidence).

Girardi said Drew would be Headley’s backup, which leaves second base open and Refsnyder recently added to the roster… (For what it’s worth, Girardi also spoke to Drew privately about Refsnyder before the call up was announced.) Perhaps Girardi was foreshadowing a move he knew was coming, or maybe it’s all just a wild coincidence. Either way, Rob Refsnyder made an impression in two short days, and will definitely make this an interesting All Star break for the Yankees front office.

My 2015 Yankee Stadium Adventure

This weekend was incredible. Not only was I in New York City (something went from in the universe; I swear I’m meant to live there) but I got to see two games at Yankee Stadium – one great, and one kind of terrible.

My travel companion was Michelle, an old friend/neighbor from Ohio. She drove the 5 hours from Ohio to Maryland on Friday, and Saturday morning we made the 4 hour trip to NYC. I had traffic in all the places in I didn’t expect – like getting onto the freeway near my house, and later crossing into NJ – and no traffic where I expected it – like going through the Lincoln Tunnel or across Manhattan on 42nd Street.

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   Here we are approaching the Lincoln Tunnel

Because Saturday’s game was Old Timer’s Day, fans were encouraged to be in their seats by 4pm. Since we arrived at our Midtown hotel just before 4pm, we were obviously a little late to the game. Amazingly, we didn’t miss a whole lot.

First, I have to mention my appreciation for the owner of Pinstripe Collectibles across from the stadium. I went in to ask about a jersey, and rather than sell me a an adult jersey for $100+, the owner convinced me to buy a child’s size for only $55. At 5’6” (let’s just say average weight) I’m not a petite woman, but the jersey still fits. And with a $40 Visa git card I saved from Christmas, my child size Rodriguez jersey was $15.

Saturday June 20: Tigers 3, Yankees 14
W: Nathan Eovaldi L: Alfredo Simon S: Bryan Mitchell

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      Hey there, Yankee Stadium…and rain.

The weather was the worst part of this Detroit ass-kicking. For most of the game, there was a fine misty rain, although never enough to delay the game. Concession stands probably ran out of napkins from fans wiping off their seats, and I can’t remember another June game when I wore a hoodie.

Old Timer’s Day: It’s always cool to see former players and members of the Yankees family back at the stadium, and this was the second year I was fortunate enough to be there. The most memorable, without a doubt, was Mel Stottlemyre. As if the surprise of honoring him with a plaque in Monument Park wasn’t enough, his speech really tugged at the heartstrings. To see a man, who’s battling cancer, stand there and say “If I never make it to another Old Timer’s Day” and reference coaching in Heaven… I’m not sure who the entire stadium wasn’t crying their eyes out because I almost did.

Yankees Museum: Somehow, I missed this gem last year. If you haven’t seen it yet – go. It’s free with your ticket and well worth the time. As luck would have it, the Yankees brought the plaques for both Stottlemyre and Willie Randolph (also honored) into the museum. Michelle and I were able to see the actual plaques right in front of us before they were hung in Monument Park.

As for the game, Nathan Eovaldi could not have had a worse night than he did his previous start in Miami when he gave up 8 runs on 36 pitches and couldn’t make it through the first inning. Saturday night he walked off the field to applause after allowing 6 hits and 2 runs in 6 innings pitched, walking just one and striking out 4. I think Yankee fans let out a collective sigh of relief after bracing for the worst.

In the bottom of the 2nd, Didi Gregorius hit a beautiful homerun, his 2nd in as many days and 4th of the year, over the right field wall. There were a few questionable defensive plays between Saturday and Sunday, but I think he’s settling in. He had another deep hit to center later in the game that looked like it would fall in for a hit, but incredible fielding by Anthony Gose shattered that dream.

Yankee fans know and appreciate him, but Brett Gardner should really get more recognition across MLB. He is a tremendous outfielder, and an outfield that with him and Jacoby Ellsbury is almost drool-worthy. Saturday’s Yankee outfield consisted of Chris Young, Gardner, and Carlos Beltran. Obviously, Gardy is the defensive strength of the three, and he proved that by robbing hard hitting Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez of hits.

Speaking of Yoenis Cespedes, the dude is built like a beast. I’ve never seen him in person before, but even from the bleachers it’s obvious the guy is 5’10” and 210lbs of solid muscle.

And on the subject of outfielders, Carlos Beltran is a source of constant frustration for me when it comes to his defense. Last year, I screamed the F word at Kelly Johnson because of his ineptitude at third, and I nearly did the same seeing Beltran attempt to field in right. He won a few points with me by hitting two homeruns in the game, and just for good measure he hit one from each side of the plate.

The Yankees have called up about a million players from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and one in particular for Saturday was Bryan Mitchell. I’m not really sure what it is about him, but I like him. It could be just because he was up last year and familiar, but whatever the reason it’s good to see one of the kids come up and perform well as he did in 3 innings of solid work (4 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts, and no walks).

The best part of the game (at least for me) was Alex Rodriguez’s monster night at the plate. I arrived one day after his 3,000th career hit, but saw his next two hits Saturday night. His 3,001st hit looked a lot like the 3,000th – except that it was a 3-run homerun (career number 668) to left field instead of a solo shot to right as it was the night before. (Ironically, this happened right after I said “I’ve never seen Alex hit a homerun in a game before.”) In his 3 at bats he totaled 2 hits, 2 runs, and 5 RBI. Considering that a year ago I didn’t know if I would ever see Alex Rodriguez play another baseball game – for any team – this was as great of a performance as I could have asked for.

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It’s just rain… You all didn’t have to leave...

Sunday June 21: Tigers 12, Yankees 4

W: Anibal Sanchez L: Masahiro Tanaka

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We’re back! And we’re 3 strong today!

Sunday Michelle and I were joined by another old friend, Sadie (now living in Queens) and the game was almost the complete opposite of Saturday in every possible way. The good guys didn’t win but it was hot and the sun was shining! Of the bleachers are in direct sunlight, which we anticipated – but we didn’t expect our sunscreen to be confiscated by Yankee Stadium security. And you just can’t do that to pale people!!

This is the second year in a row I’ve went to a Sunday game with Masahiro Tanaka pitching, and both years the Yankees have lost – badly. Victor Martinez hit one homerun and J.D. Martinez hit two homeruns off Tanaka (3 total in the game), while several other hits and 2 walks combined for a total 7 runs credited to Tanaka. Oof!

When Tanaka finally got the hook, he was relieved by Danny Burawa, who made his major league debut. From our seats, we can see when a pitcher is throwing in the bullpen, but we can’t see who. Sunday, we could hear the ball crashing into the catcher’s glove after each pitch – leading me to wonder who in the bullpen can possibly throw that hard? Enter Burawa, who consistently threw pitches faster than 95mph. He did not have a great MLB debut giving up 3 hits and 4 runs, but what a first impression with that speed!

In the 3rd inning I witnessed a miracle when Mark Teixeira beat the shift (!) for a single. Not to be outdone in miracles, Stephen Drew hit not one but TWO homeruns in the game. The second one came right as I said to my friends “Stephen Drew will not be on this team next year.” Impressive timing.

Honorable mention goes to Alex Rodriguez, because he’s my favorite. In a fairly weak offensive game for the Yankees, Rodriguez had just one hit, bringing his career total after this series to 3,003. I mention this because a Twitter friend (and fellow member of Team A-Rod) reminded me that even if I missed hit 3,000, every hit from this point on is historic – and that’s absolutely true. He’s still playing, and he’s playing well. Who knows when this journey will end for him, but we keep counting each hit and marking every milestone until the day he’s done. And when that time comes, we can look back and fully appreciate what he’s accomplished in his career.

One more quick note: during the 7th inning stretch Yankee Stadium witnessed an on-screen proposal. Luckily, she said yes! I would hate to see how much it cost to propose in such a dramatic way (but how cool!!), and if she had said no… Yikes.

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People even leave on sunny days? What is this??

Now I enter a stretch of almost a month before I attend another MLB game unless something happens between now and then. For now, I’ll count down the days until the end of July when I see the Braves play the Orioles in Baltimore, and I’m sure there will be plenty of baseball news between now and then.