by Paul Semendinger
October 20, 2022
The Yankees lost a game that they could have possibly won, but the pitching decisions last night helped to doom them. It was some bad bullpen management along with the fact that the Yankees lineup just doesn't hit. We have seen this year-after-year-after-year.
What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing again and again and again and expecting a different result.
After getting past Cleveland, the Yankees left me very optimistic. I felt that they would come into this series, a statement series, and they'd pull off the impossible. It looks less likely now. Much less likely.
Many people will disagree with some of what I write here, but, as always, these are my perspectives, my take on the game, the team, and the decisions.
I have said this a lot, but the Yankees do not put any fear into the Astros. Just as the Yankees always defeat the Twins when they play in the post season, which leads to great confidence, the Astros feel the same way about the Yankees.
The Yankees did little to inspire confidence that they can do the impossible and defeat the Astros. It was clear that the better team, in every way, won last night.
The better team does not always win a short series. The Yankees can win this thing, but they have to have the manager make better decisions, they have to put the correct players in the correct spots in the lineup, and they have to, ummm.... hit the ball. A team can't win when they strikeout 17 times - not against the Astros.
Yes, the umpire last night at home plate was terrible. Awful. Maybe if this was the first time I saw the Yankees perform like this in the post season, I'd blame the ump more, but we've seen this a lot - noncompetitive at bats in big games so, at some point, this is also on the players.
It wasn't like the Yankees were hitting the ball all over the place against Cleveland. In the five games, the Yankees had 5, 6, 5, 6, and 6 hits. The Yankees managed only 28 hits in the five games against the Guardians. Cleveland had 44 hits off Yankee pitching. That can't happen in a series against Houston. (Last night, the Yankees had only five hits.)
As a team, for the post season, the Yankees are batting .176 (33-for-187).
In six post season games, Yankees batters have struck out an unheard of 70 times.
I know the talking point. I get it. Where would this team be without Harrison Bader? Harrison Bader has been so so so good. And he has been. He's been fun to watch. He is a quality ballplayer. "See," they say, "That was a brilliant trade. Cashman was a genius." Ok. In one regard, Bader has looked great and I'm glad he's a Yankee.
BUT, the Bader acquisition was part of the Yankees' decision to punt the summer months. In July and August (and early September), the Yankees lost and lost and lost. In that period, they traded a pitcher who could have helped them in Jordan Montgomery. In that period, as they looked ahead to the post season and because they lost so many games, they also the lost home field advantage for this series. That cannot be forgotten. That was part of the plan. "We won't win now, we'll win in October." That was the Yankees' strategy - to lose in August in order to win in October. When that's the strategy, you better darn well win in October... and not just a Division Series. No, no, no. If the plan was to set up the team to win in October, they need to win in October.
For all the talk about the travel and such ("The Yankees had to travel to Houston after the game against Cleveland. They couldn't even celebrate enough."), if they had been more competitive in those summer months, last night's game would have been played at Yankee Stadium. Tonight's game as well.
The Yankees' poor play cost them home field advantage. I don't want to hear anything about how tired they are, how they traveled so much. They rested on their laurels in August. That's why they're in Houston right now and not New York.
So, yes, Harrison Bader has been so so so good. BUT, the Yankees might not be in this situation, down 1-0 already, on the road (and tired), against a team they struggle against in Houston, if they had kept Jordan Montgomery. So so so often we look at the immediate (Bader has hit four homers) and we forget what preceded it. Over the summer, the Yankees punted. They traded for an injured player, as they explained, for the playoffs. (They also put Luis Severino on the 60-Day IL even though he said he could pitch. They also refused to play some of their young talent, especially Oswald Peraza, one of the crown jewels of the system.) In doing all of that, as they lost game after game, time and again, they also lost the home field advantage. It was a bad strategy then. And it is hurting the team now.
The Yankees have one left-handed relief pitcher on the ALCS roster. That's just bad planning. Again, Jordan Montgomery would have been an option. But, enough about him. Lucan Luetge was also an option. They dropped him. Why? For Frankie Montas? For Miguel Castro? To me, it makes no sense.
It is amazing seeing all these young players on the other teams, rookies in fact, playing so well against the Yankees. Why don't the Yankees instill the same confidence in their young players? They play them only reluctantly.
I might have been the only person to feel this way, but Matt Carpenter should not have been starting last night. He didn't look good in the small sample we saw in the ALDS. It was nothing more than hoping for magic to assume that he'd be able to come up big, after not playing for months, and pick up where he left off. If it happened, it would have been amazing. But setting up a lineup to hope for unlikely magic is not the way to put a team in its best position to win. It's just not. It would have been great if he came up big, but the odds were so long against it. I would have rather seen Oswaldo Cabrera, one of the few players that brings a ton of positive energy to the team, playing.
But Cabrera is a rookie. And in big spots, the Yankees always fall back to the same pattern - defer to the veterans, even if it is unlikely they'll produce.
In order to not play Oswaldo Cabrera, the Yankees put the shortstop they benched (IFK) back on the field, they inserted a DH (Carpenter) who hadn't started a game since August 8 in the lineup, and they put a player in the outfield (Giancarlo Stanton) who hadn't played in the field since July. Again, the Yankees were hoping for magic. That magic did not materialize. Game One of the ALCS, against a team that they struggle against, is not the time to play the long shots in the hopes that something good just might happen. It usually doesn't. And it didn't.
All post season, Aaron Boone has had a quick hook with his relief pitchers. So last night, after Clarke Schmidt somehow got out of a situation that was almost a disaster, he sent him back out for another inning even though he had better options available. The inevitable happened. Schmidt got beat. Two homers later, it was all but over.
If you're going to lose, lose with your best. Clarke Schmidt was not the best option in that situation.
Then, to make matters worse, Aaron Boone took out Lou Trivino, who did look good, and went to Frankie Montas. This was another guy who hasn't pitched in a long time (his last outing was over a month ago) and who wasn't so good when he did pitch. Why go to him with the game still only 3-1 when better pitchers were available? One batter in, boom!, another Astros homer. I'm sorry, that is just bad bad bad managing. It's a bad use of the bullpen. The Yankees' only hope was to keep the score where it was by using their best arms in order to have a chance. Instead, Boone went the other way.
Bringing in Miguel Castro for the 8th inning was from that same bad line of thinking. Castro has pitched two innings since July. He hadn't pitched since October 5. The fact that Castro got three outs does not mean that bringing him in was the correct move.
Aaron Judge made a tremendous diving catch that saved the game (at that point) for the Yankees. It was awesome. Still, he went 0-for-4 and didn't look good in the process. He and Giancarlo Stanton seem to perform similarly in these series... they tend to bat under .200 (sometimes under .100), they strikeout a lot, and they occasionally run into a pitch and hit it out. Judge is now 4-for-24 in the post season. I'm sorry, that's just not good enough.
Part of being a $35 million dollar (plus) ballplayer is performing on the big stage. Judge hasn't done that in recent years. Since 2020, Aaron Judge is batting .155 in the post season. We're now talking 58 at bats. That's getting to be a not-so-small sample size. I'm not hating on Aaron Judge, I am stating the pure facts. He is the superstar. He wants to be paid like one. He needs to be able to carry the team in the big spots. I hope he starts doing that tonight. But for the last few years, he has not done that. And that's a problem.
There just isn't enough talent around Aaron Judge for this team to be able to win if he's not hitting.
Judge and his biggest supporters can't have it both ways. He can't be free from criticism and also paid like the elite players in the game. One of the things that comes with being the best paid players is higher expectations. If you are paid like the best, you have to be the best - both during the season and in the post season. Aaron Judge has struck out 22 times in those aforementioned 58 post season at bats since 2020. That's 38% of his at bats. That's just not good enough. It is fair to note this. And, no matter where he goes, and it would be great if he stays a Yankee, once he's paid at the top echelon, the expectations will also rise. With big money (HUGE money) will come gigantic expectations. You don't get one without the other.
Jose Trevino had an amazing season that came out of the blue. The Yankees find players like this, a lot. They come out of nowhere and perform at a super high level for a period of time before the magic wears off. He was 0-for-4 last night. Previously, he hit .091 in the ALDS. He also batted .177 from September on. Yet, with the game on the line, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, there he was batting against Ryan Pressly. Shouldn't that have been the time to pinch hit with Oswaldo Cabrera?
When these players come out of nowhere and perform for the Yankees, the Yankees seem to assume that they'll just stay remarkable, even when it is clear that the magic has worn off. It's great while it lasts, but it never seems to last. The players come back to Earth. They often fall fast. I'm not saying that Trevino shouldn't play. The Yankees need his defense, but he should never be batting late in a game if a modicum of hope is there. And, it was a longshot, but there was a tiny bit of hope... just a bloop and a blast... the top of the order was next. But Boone stuck with Trevino. It was not the right move.
Is all lost? No. I thought the Yankees would have performed better. They had their chances early. They didn't come through. That's also been a pattern. They just don't come through with men on base. But, still, they play again tonight. A win evens the series. Hope springs eternal.
Put Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza in the lineup. Matt Carpenter should not be starting. Giancarlo Stanton should not be in the field. IFK was benched for a reason...
A win and the series is evened up. It can happen. I hope it does. I predicted the Yankees would win in five games. They now have to win the next four.
Let's Go Yankees!!!!!