SSTN Weekly Mailbag: The Offense And Managing The Bullpen!
Every week, I sit down to write the SSTN Mailbag and once I finish answering the questions that have come in throughout the week, I take a break and write the introduction either very late Thursday night or early Friday morning. Over the past two years, it was often a depressing intro to write, and no matter how much I tried to weave in different topics, I often found myself at a loss for words just based on how boring Yankees' baseball had become. Fascinatingly, I now have the exact opposite problem; every week, no matter what is happening in the Yankee ecosystem, the Yankees have won 65-75% of the their previous week's games. The Yankees come into Friday having won 7 of their last 10 games while most recently sweeping the Angels in convincing fashion. Consequently, as happy as I am, it makes for a boring intro to say, "The Yankees keep winning!" Luckily, Michael Kay and Carlos Beltran saved me at the 11th hour. For a second, we are going to ignore just how brutally awful it is to listen to Beltran on the broadcast; he drags down the quality of everyone around him, as even David Cone (my personal favorite) isn't as interesting with Beltran around. Michael Kay often has to work really hard to drag anything resembling analysis out of him, and it nearly devolves into a scene from Major League when Bob Uecker tries to drag words of any kind out of his sidekick, Monty. Last night, however, gave us a truly stunning conversation, courtesy of Michael Kay. I've scoured the internet to find video of the conversation, but if it exists, I couldn't find it. Last night, in totally unironic fashion, Michael Kay peppered Carlos Beltran with questions about using video at the ballpark to find "tells" in pitcher deliveries to help predict the coming pitch. Beltran opened right up on everything hitters could use modern video technology to see, and noted that when he played, he used everything he could to try to find an edge. Yeah, Carlos...we know. Carlos Beltran has spent his life in baseball, and while I don't believe he deserves a lifetime ban, his utter inability to have any sense of discretion when talking about the use of video in baseball actually had me laughing out loud at the TV last night. Before anyone says anything, I am fully aware that watching video to find tells in a pitcher's delivery is perfectly legal, it's the source that makes the conversation almost unbelievable. I needed the laugh yesterday, so even if it was a darkly cynical laugh, I have to hand it to Michael Kay and Carlos Beltran; they provided in my time of need.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll discuss the offense and managing the pitching staff in its current state! Let's get at it:
Tom asks: While the statistics say that the Yankees offense is better than average there are many nights where it doesn't feel like the team really strings at bats together and it looks like most of the damage is always done by 3 or 4 guys. On a scale of 1-10, how worried are you about the offense and what can be done to improve?
It's funny, I find that I sometimes feel the same way about the offense, but I think that part of that comes from the fact that offense is so depressed around baseball that most of us still haven't re-calibrated our idea of what a good offense looks like. Here's where the Yankees are ranked currently in the AL in some key statistical categories: 3rd in Runs Scored; 1st in Home Runs; 5th (!) in Stolen Bases; 3rd in On-Base Percentage; and they're 1st in OPS+. Sure, there are a few guys having good-to-great years, but the Yankees wouldn't be there without contributions throughout the lineup. Jose Trevino has been a revelation, a fantastic defensive catcher who surprisingly has ridden his recent hot streak to above-average offensive contribution (really, he has a 112 OPS+ as of today); Judge is making himself a very rich man by doing Judge-type things; Matt Carpenter looks like a perfect fit as a lefty who gets part-time duty; and Stanton, Torres, and LeMahieu all have contributed at well above-average clips. Whatever it seems like, the Yankee offense is rolling.
However, I'd put my worries at 3.5/10. Below are three stat lines; name the player:
Player A: .177/.282/.308
Player B: .214/.342/.246
Player C: .167/.268/.313
Any guesses? Two of these should be pretty easy if you read any of the local papers. Player A is Joey Gallo and Player B is Aaron Hicks. I'll bet you're having trouble with Player C...because I cheated a little. Player C is Anthony Rizzo in the month of May. I know he had the big hit last night, but Rizzo has been every bit as bad as Gallo and Hicks, just with more playing time and without any defensive versatility. Not only is that 3/9 of the lineup, but it is almost all of the lefty protection/balance that the Yankees have on the roster. In one year, Cashman and crew worked hard to acquire left-handed bats that could impact the lineup and protect Judge and Stanton from stacked bullpen arms. That only works if the lefty thumpers, you know...hit.
Rizzo got the big hit in last night's game, but his bat has been pretty awful since a hot start. This lineup can withstand a couple of guys not hitting, but I worry about the fact that none of the lefties (besides Carpenter) have hit in a month. Rizzo has flown under the radar, but if he keeps up the above pace, he won't for much longer, as he's counted on to be a middle-of-the-order threat.
The Yankees need to hope for some bounce-back from these guys, but I am sure that Cashman and crew are on the lookout for left-handed upgrades. Carpenter is a nice bargain buy who I think will pay dividends down the road. I would not be shocked if a bigger upgrade is in the offing closer to the trade deadline. Overall, I'm happy with the lineup this year, but I think the conversation will turn to lefties again in short order.
Mark asks: With the bullpen so banged up, how would you organize the pitching staff in an ideal world?
Well, I wouldn't touch the rotation; it's the best in baseball. I want to mention that because I think I was the only guy writing on the internet who thought this rotation would be top-5 in baseball, and I think even I under-sold it. So, that leaves a minimum of 8 spots for additional bullpen help until Loaisiga and Chapman return. Let's get the easy ones out of the way:
RP Clay Holmes
RP Michael King
RP Wandy Peralta
RP Clarke Schmidt
RP Lucas Luetge
RP Miguel Castro
Some might be surprised to see Schmidt there, but I've never particularly believed that he'd hold up as a starter, and I think he can be dominant in a 1-4 inning fireman role. That leaves us with two swing spots. One should be a shuttle spot for the time being, while the other should be a full-time role. I do believe in Ron Marinaccio, despite his most recent disaster outing. Let him work in low-leverage to find his sea legs, and I think the fastball/slider/change-up combination will work with a bit more control. In the last spot, I think the shuttle should consist of the following guys:
I think that German will likely get the gig once he's healthy, and that's coming soon, but until then, I really want to see Banuelos and Sears get the majority of the work. Both have earned it down at AAA, and Sears in particular looks electric. McKay is the guy you swing back and forth when you don't need a 6th starter and the bullpen is well-rested.
While the pitching staff is depleted, this still looks like a good bullpen on paper.