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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Worries, Gil, And An Idea For The 1st Round Bye!


Why can't we have nice things? It feels like every time I get around to writing the opening for the SSTN Mailbag lately, something happens to put a damper on the Yankees' good time. The Yankees won their 8th straight game last night, which is fantastic! Unfortunately, Juan Soto did not return after the rain delay, admitting that his forearm has been bothering him for a couple of weeks, and the team didn't think it was smart to push it coming out of an extended break. This is a terrifying development. As good as the team as a whole has been, it is impossible to overstate what Juan Soto has meant to this roster. Aaron Judge has been an all-world hitter since his slow start, but Juan Soto has been right there with him, protecting him from the left-side. Soto is consistently on-base in front of Judge, and he does plenty of damage himself. Losing Soto for an extended period of time would be a serious blow to the Yankees' championship hopes. It's early to be this worried, but we've seen too many instances of "forearm tightness" or other similar ailments become serious injuries once scans are performed. Until Soto receives results from his tests, I'll be holding my breath. This may be hyperbole, but it feels to me like the Yankees' hopes hinge on the results of Soto's scan.


As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll talk about my worries for the team, Luis Gil's dominant start, and an interesting idea for the break a 1st round team will receive for a 1st round bye in the playoffs! Let's get at it:


Mark asks: The Yankees have gotten off to a fast start and [it's] really easy to focus on everything that is going well. Is there anything going on beneath the surface that gives you concern about this roster going forward?


Absolutely no team is perfect, so I think there are always concerns that any honest evaluator will have about a team. I have tried really hard to focus on how much fun I've had watching this Yankees' team as opposed to what is wrong with the roster. That being said, there are things I've noticed that are of concern to me as the season moves along:


  • While Marcus Stroman's bottom-line results have been solid, I think he's pitching with a lot of smoke and mirrors. He has produced a near-stellar 3.18 ERA, but all of the peripherals are of concern. He has the lowest strikeout rate of his career (save for 27 innings in 2016), his walk rate has skyrocketed to 10%, and his groundball rate has fallen significantly, which means his elevated home run rate isn't a fluke. To my eye, Stroman hasn't located his pitches as well as he has in the past, and he hasn't found a put-away pitch yet this year. I think his 4.82 FIP is a much truer representation of his actual performance this season.

  • Giancarlo Stanton is bashing homers at a strong rate, making him a plus out of the DH spot, but despite a recent homer off of a 94 MPH fastball, I'm not convinced that Stanton can still be an asset against good pitching like what the Yankees will see in the playoffs. Stanton struggles against high velocity, and that makes him susceptible to good breaking and off-speed stuff. I fear that while he'll be an above-average hitter in the regular season, he won't be able to find the same gear in the playoffs.

  • The bullpen is really thin. If we're still talking about Dennis Santana blowups in September, I'll be very concerned.

  • Injuries happen. The Yankees have been relatively lucky so far, but this team relies on a few key players to perform in order to win ballgames. A significant injury to Judge, Soto, Volpe, Clay Holmes, or Luis Gil would be catastrophic.

  • As I said last week, I think Rizzo is cooked. The Yankees should give him a long leash, but if he remains this ineffective by the trade deadline, he needs to move to the bench.



David G. asks: Luis Gil has been unhittable this season and I think he's a real CY Young candidate. What is behind his emergence and will it continue all year? How will they manage his innings coming off of Tommy John Surgery if he keeps this up?


Luis Gil does look like a Cy Young candidate. Frankly, I'd put Gil's early season performance up there with some of the best pitching I've ever seen from a New York Yankee. Gil's stuff matches peak Luis Severino, and he's putting all of the pieces together. However, Gil has not pitched a whole lot in his career. Sometime in his next 4-5 starts, Luis Gil will likely match or exceed his high for innings pitched in a season...at 96 innings...which happened in 2019. Between the pandemic, injuries, and Tommy John Surgery, Luis Gil just hasn't done a ton of pitching. The Yankees need Gil around for the long haul, so they need to be careful to keep Gil fresh for the playoffs and beyond.


Luckily, teams have a lot more data to understand player performance and evaluate how tired a player is getting than we have. Pitch counts are a good start, but we can't tell pitch-to-pitch if a pitcher's arm slot is dropping, etc. The Yankees' track record on preventing injuries is...not good, to say it politely. I expect that the team is using all data available to it to help keep Gil healthy.


At some point, I expect that the Yankees will begin limiting Gil's pitch counts and skipping some of his starts so that he gets a breather. As long as he keeps pitching like this, it will be tough to shut him down completely for any length of time.


Jeff K. asks: I wanted to get your opinion, as well as the readers opinions on an idea I have.

There is a very good chance that the Yankees will finish the season in first place. 


With the newest post season format, the two first place teams with the best record get a "bye" and can take about a week off while all the "Wild Card Series" are going on. This can be a blessing or a curse. On one hand, it is good to be able to rest the regulars, rest the pitchers, and set the starting rotation exactly as the team wants it to be. But on the other hand, the layoff seems to have stopped the "momentum" of a lot of very good teams, causing an "upset" in the Division Series round of the playoffs. We have seen very TWO very good first place Atlanta Braves teams and TWO very good first place Los Angeles Dodgers teams eliminated by 2nd place or 3rd place Wild Card teams fairly early in the post season. Many blame this on the long layoff (the "bye" week) and the "momentum" lost as a result. 


So to avoid this happening, should the Yankees hold on to first place at the end of the season, maybe the Yankees should play two Exhibition Games during the bye week? It could be against independent Atlantic League teams like the Long Island Ducks or the Staten Island FerryHawks, for example.  Or maybe against the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets "High A" farm team. (I would rather they play Brooklyn than their own affiliate in that league, the Hudson Valley Renegades, because it makes for better competition to play another team's prospects than to play against your own team's prospects). It could be a 2-game "home and home" series in the middle of the "bye" week, one game in Yankee Stadium, and one game in their ballpark.  It would be a great experience for those Atlantic League teams, or for the Brooklyn Cyclones, to play against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium (The Yankees would likely CRUSH them!), and then "hosting" the Yankees the next day in their own ballpark, and it could be a great revenue generator for those Atlantic League teams if the Yankees traveled to THEIR ballparks in Long Island or Staten Island, or Brooklyn, to play them, which would draw sell-out crowds. Playing Exhibition Games like these could be a way to "keep the momentum" going, and to keep the Yankees sharp when the next round, the Division Series starts.  Rather than being stale and "too well rested" the way those first place Braves and Dodgers teams seemed to be the last two seasons.  What do you think?


This is a really creative and fun idea. I actually think plenty of people would come out to watch, and it would be really cool for fans. I also think, as you said, there are ways in which it could be beneficial for independent league teams, who run on tight margins and could use all the financial help they can get.


However, there's almost no chance of this happening. If I were running a team, I'm making a risk assessment for everything we do as a team prior to the start of a series. Ramping up for an exhibition game and risking injury tips the scales in the wrong direction. I completely understand the the competitive advantage that could be gained by staying sharp, but the risk of injury outweighs that advantage. What do our readers think?

30 comments

30 Comments


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
6 days ago

Soto is NOT in tonight's line up. And so it begins . . . .

Like
fuster
6 days ago
Replying to

I also would worry if kissed by Boone,

but until the radiologist's report is released

the word is inflammation.


the team can afford to sit Soto for a week or two


5.0 runs scored/gm

3.2 runs allowed/gm


figure the scoring to decline by 25%

figure the defense to improve by 3%


Like

etbkarate
6 days ago

Great points on stroman, Andy. I see rizzo bouncing back, though.

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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
6 days ago
Replying to

Wish I shared the enthusiasm both of you show. I don't see anything left in the bat.

Like

jjw49
6 days ago

My glass is half full on Soto injury .... for now. Can we trust Yankees regarding injuries... absolutely not. If he goes on IL for an extended time, then Yankee mojo will take a significant hit!

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
6 days ago

I like the idea of the series against the Independent teams. Fun. But there is no way I'd do it. Can you imagine a player getting hurt and then missing the playoff run because they played a scrimmage? The risk/reward isn't worth it.


(I like how Jeff put "momentum" in quotes. I don't buy "momentum" at all.

Like
Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
6 days ago
Replying to

Playing against their Minor League affiliate is an option, too. I suggested the Mets Brooklyn affiliate as a possibility so they wouldn't have to compete against their own prospects. But the Yankees own Hudson Valley or Somerset affiliates could be a possibility.


To minimize the risk of injury, they could treat them like Spring Training games, where the regulars only play for the first 3 innings, and then they are replaced by the backup players or by prospects the rest of the way.

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
6 days ago

Andy- Your take on Soto and his importance is right on. I cannot believe after Rizzo played through a concussion, Trevino played through a hurt wrist, Dominguez played throw arm pain, that the Yankees wouldn't be more proactive with JUAN SOTO. I'm in continued utter disbelief. This is why the fans have very little to no faith in the entire organization. Do they never learn? Ever? If he's badly injured, they should all be fired, including Hal who lets this go on. (Obviously I am being hyperbolic, but enough is enough.)


Like
Andy Singer
Andy Singer
6 days ago
Replying to

Not necessarily disagreeing, but based on natural musculature, it can be really difficult to maintain a leaner physique. When I pitched, I had to work incredibly hard to de-bulk my shoulder, bicep, and forearm. In fact, there were certain exercises from which I had to completely abstain in order to keep the right physique at a high level. It's a very, very tricky balance.

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