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Posts tagged ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’

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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A Yankees fan walks into Nationals Park…

It’s good to be back writing about baseball!

To explain my absence, I have to start with on a personal note: I’ve taken a very unusual educational path in my life. I have to take a college chemistry class in the fall, but since it’s been so long since I took any chemistry class, I had to take a review course first. So, this past semester I’ve been studying chemistry in my “spare time” in preparation for the punishment of real college chemistry later.

To celebrate the end of my course, my friend Allie and I went to the Yankees-Nationals game in DC this past Wednesday. Of course it was another disappointing loss for the Yankees, but the experience itself left me with many things to remember – both good and bad.

First, there was the actual trip to the stadium. While I only live about 30 miles away from Nationals Park, I’ve lived in Maryland long enough to know how bad DC traffic can be. It is what it is – and on Wednesday, that 30 mile drive took a solid two hours.

We arrived at the center field gate just in time to see Brett Gardner stepping into the batter’s box on a screen inside the gate. Great! Even after a horrible drive and walking from the parking lot several blocks away, we arrived just in time!

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Except that we didn’t make it through the metal detectors for two innings. Going into the game, I didn’t expect much for the Yankees – they had already been in a slump while the Nationals were hot – and I know what a fantastic pitcher Jordan Zimmermann is. Truthfully, I didn’t expect the Yankees to score much (if at all) off of Zimmermann, so missing the only two runs they scored while standing outside the stadium was disappointing, to say the least. We also missed a solo homerun by Ian Desmond in the bottom of the 1st and made it to our seats just in time to see the Yankees jogging off the field after the 2nd inning.

I’ve been to Nationals Park one other time (pre-metal detectors), so I know it’s a great park and the game would be an enjoyable experience no matter who won (and, mostly because of proximity, I do consider myself to be a semi-serious Nats fan; they are the only NL team I consistently follow). Anyway, this trip proved to be no exception. Our seats were in right center field below the scoreboard (it’s awkward not having somewhere to watch replays and challenges) and were reasonably priced for a popular visiting team on a weeknight. Our row had just seven seats: five Yankee fans, me, and Allie on the end wearing her Nationals hat.

In front of us were several school groups from all over, including Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Ohio. None of the school kids seemed particularly interested in the actual game: more than once they were yelled at by us and by the row of Nats fans behind us for blocking the view. The Massachusetts group started a “Let’s go Red Sox” which lead me to suspect their presence might have been part of a conspiracy by the Nats to anger the large number of Yankee fans in attendance (kidding). At one point, one of the girls in the crowd was walking around offering her friends some of her snack – a very generous offer, except that the snack was a can of sardines that literally stunk up all of section 242. (And no, I’m not making that up.)

As for the game itself, of course the loss was disappointing to me…but you never know what you’re going to get in a baseball game other than the final score.

Obviously, there are some really great players on both teams, and players that will certainly go down in baseball history. I always appreciate any games I see in person because you just never know what you might witness.

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Bryce Harper is an incredible baseball talent – I don’t think there’s anyone that will argue that fact. While he is unbelievably gifted on the field, his actions make it difficult for me to fully like him. I hope some of his poor choices (such as spiking his helmet off the first base line after grounding into a inning ending double play during Tuesday’s game) are a result of his young age and/or immaturity. All that aside, he already – at just 22(!!) years old – has a historic career. If he quit today, he would still go down in history. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him play twice, and will see him play again in the future. That type of player is the one you tell your kids and your grandkids about.

But never in a million years did I expect to see Bryce Harper ejected during an at bat, let alone him and manager Matt Williams ejected at the same time. There are a lot of opinions about what exactly happened at home plate (the only thing I’m sure of was that Williams’ dirt kicking was phenomenal entertainment), but it will certainly be a moment fans remember.

Jordan Zimmermann may not be remembered as one of MLB’s greatest pitchers of all time (then again he might be – I don’t know what the future holds) but he’s been a damn good pitcher for Washington. His no hitter last season was one of the most exciting DC sports stories I can remember. Even though he earned the win against my favorite team, I’m glad I got to see him pitch. On the other had, as I mentioned earlier…I’m just glad the Yankees hit him!

I had originally planned to wear my Jacoby Ellsbury shirt to the game. Afterall, A-Rod wouldn’t be playing in an NL park, and Ellsbury is much less controversial to non-Yankee fans. As we now know, Ellsbury sustained a knee injury during Tuesday’s game which sent him to the disabled list. As a result, two things happened –

I wore my A-Rod shirt and did not receive a single negative comment (and saw at least two other Rodriguez shirts from my seat) –

And Slade Heathcott was called up from AAA to fill in for Ellsbury.

There aren’t many times I remember being overly excited about one particular thing in baseball, but hearing Heathcott got the call was one of those moments. If you haven’t heard his story yet, you need to. After all the personal and professional challenges he’s had to overcome, I am so happy to see him get his first chance in the Majors – and that I was there to witness it. Sure, it was only an offensive substitution (PR for Mark Teixeira in the top of the 8th) and half an inning in the field, but that will always the first MLB game of his career. That’s historic – and he must be making an impression since he started the next two games (and counting?) in center field at Yankee Stadium.

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I cannot remember the last time I was ever excited to see another player more than Alex Rodriguez, but I definitely was for Slade Heathcott. Ellsbury is honestly one of my favorite Yankees, and as much as I hate for him to be on the DL, if it gives Heathcott a little more time to make an impression, I’m okay with that.

This has been a rough and disappointing week and a half for Yankee fans – particularly the last two embarrassments against Texas. We’re all hoping for luck (or management, depending on your point of view) to change in the coming games. In the meantime, hang in there. You never know what you might miss if you give up.

A Yankees fan walks into Nats Park…two innings late. Sees a hot headed superstar and his manager ejected from the game. Witnesses a rookie’s first MLB game. Goes home sad about a loss, but excited about a new career.

You can’t predict baseball!