For a lot of reasons, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. It's hard to be the resident Optimist-In-Chief when you know you're in trouble after a 3-run homer. It's hard to be optimistic when the back of the lineup is an absolute black hole. It's hard to be an optimist when you have to play against the Astros and the home plate umpires. It's hard to be an optimist when you know your manager will be out-managed most nights. The Yankees are down 2-0 in a best-of-7 series. That's a tall order against a team this good. It's not impossible, but I'd be lying if I said it's likely. If the Yankees are going to win this series, they need to wake up, fast.
The flip side is that there were good signs early last night. The top of the order, Bader and Judge, consistently hit the ball hard and the stats say they both got unlucky on hard hit balls in the first inning. Sevy didn't have his best command by a long shot, but he did more than enough to keep his team in the ballgame. The bullpen held strong despite being decimated by injury. As I said, it will be an uphill climb, but I genuinely believe the Yankees are down, but not out yet.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll revisit the catching situation, pick the worst decision in the playoffs thus far. and roadmap how the Yankees win this series! Let's get at it:
Fuster writes: how much of an offensive upgrade do the Yankees actually need for the catching position?
assuming that they retain Judge, the team already has a prolific offense
without Judge, who knows how much they'll have to scramble?
but, anyway, Trevino and Higgy combined for 20+ HRs and 70+ RBIs
two very good defenders combining to produce nearly-average offense is good enough within the context of a high-scoring club.
it's possible to improve, but it's not a top priority,
getting a left fielder/ lefty bat
We are watching exactly how this plays out in a playoff series. Higgy and Trevino are capable of having some modicum of success against lesser pitching, but they are not capable of consistently producing against the best pitching in baseball. Few are capable of above-average performance in those situations, to be fair, but anyone who has watched the Yankees play in the ALDS and ALCS can see that Yankee catchers are a black hole offensively against better pitching. If the Yankees are going to produce results in the postseason, they have to be able to get some occasional contribution from the bottom of the order. Catching is a realistic spot where they can obtain that kind of upgrade.
The Yankees leaned on Jose Trevino more than he'd ever been leaned on in a previous season, and to my eye, he's worn down - understandably so! But it means he's struggling to produce competitive at-bats, and we've seen that Higgy is completely overmatched against good starting pitching. Higgy is an acceptable backup. Trevino can be part of the solution as a starting catcher, but sometimes the best way to gain on the field is to add to a strength.
I know I'm a broken record, but adding someone like Sean Murphy, who is near Trevino's equal as a framer while bringing one of the best catching arms in baseball and sizable offensive upside, to Trevino makes the Yankees' team much stronger heading into October's future.
Judge should certainly be the number one priority this offseason. After that, I think acquiring a Murphy-like catcher (who will surely be available) and a lefty bat younger than Benintendi and Carpenter should be the priorities. The Yankees need to do anything they can to deepen the bottom of the batting order.
Mike asks: What do you think the worst decision is of the postseason for the Yankees? Plenty to choose from...
Their biggest mistake began in August when they hesitated to install Oswald Peraza as the new starting shortstop. It became obvious that IKF wasn't capable of handling the position consistently by August, but the Yankees held tight to the veteran. They doubled down on IKF by deciding not to add Peraza to the ALDS roster, robbing him of a week's worth of at-bats heading into a matchup with the Astros, who have a devilishly good pitching staff.
Peraza showed his worth by making a couple of nice plays at SS that I don't think IKF makes last night, only now he's ice cold at the plate. I often give Brian Cashman a lot of credit, but Cashman, Boone, etc. all deserve significant derision for their short-sightedness here.
I think it will be very interesting (or heartbreaking) to revisit the trade the Yankees made with the Twins this offseason. I'm not ready to do it yet with bigger fish to fry right now, but there are numerous angles from which we can view this trade.
Larry asks: What's the roadmap to a Yankee win against the Astros after the game 1 loss?
Well, let's update this to roadmapping a Yankee win after falling behind 2-0 (sigh). As upset as all of us are following two straight losses, both games were close. For all of the hand-wringing over the Yankees' inability to produce timely hits, the Astros have struggled mightily with runners in scoring position as well. Frankly, even with a decimated bullpen, the Yankees and Astros are the 2 best pitching teams left in the playoffs, and we've seen evidence of that in the first two games as both lineups have been largely neutralized (save for Boone's mind-boggling bullpen strategy in Game 1).
Yankee starters need to continue to hold the Astros to 3 runs or less in 5-7 inning stints. The Yankees need the top-5 hitters in the batting order to string together hard contact in succession early against Houston's starters - in fact, neither Verlander nor Valdez looked locked in off the bat in Games 1 and 2, so the Yanks missed an opportunity there. They can't let that pass again. And Boone needs to get out of the way and ride the best 4 pitchers in his bullpen: Trivino, Loaisiga, Holmes, and Peralta. That's how the Yankees come back to win 4 more games.
That won't be easy, but I think it's doable.