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Weekly Mailbag: Didi, Robertson, Replay, and Yankee Stadium II


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This week’s mailbag brings us questions about replay, Didi’s recovery, David Robertson’s elbow injury, and Yankee Stadium II. Let’s get at it:

Mark asks: Can you explain what is considered when the ball is in the glove during replay reviews?

I have heard conflicting explanations by broadcasters. Some say it is when it hits any part of the glove. Some have said it is when the ball is within the glove, even if it isn’t physically touching the glove. Another even said it is when the ball hits the back of the glove.

I looked around to see if I could find an official, MLB-sponsored answer to this question, but I came up short in my research. The closest I can find to an answer is in the MLB rule book in section 5.09(a)(10):

After a third strike or after he hits a fair ball, he or first base is tagged before he touches first base.

Not much to go on, huh? I view replay on plays at first base, or any other base at which there is a force play, as a pretty simple matter. On the field, the umpire would judge a player safe based on whether he heard the player’s foot hit the bag or the ball hitting the mitt first. Replay should require the umpire to make the same judgement. There is no codified standard for control with regards possession of the baseball when a player tags a base. Additionally, the replay umpire also has the added benefit of knowing for certain that the fielder successfully made the catch at the base at which the force play occurred. Given each of those factors, I would argue that the umpire should be looking at when the ball hits the mitt of the fielder.

Now, when it comes to catching a fly ball or a sinking liner, the MLB rule book is more specific with regards to what constitutes control. The fielder must make the catch with the mitt or bare hand, and a catch is ruled once the player has complete control of the baseball, no matter how much juggling occurs in the process of making the catch as long as the ground or a wall (i.e. a “trap”) is not used in the process of making the catch.

Tim asks: So Gleyber looks solid at SS. How about easing Didi back at 2B? Yes, all new position but shorter throws after TJS and can work in with DJ playing well there so can platoon. Gets him back in action sooner?

This is definitely a popular idea in the Yankee Universe right now – I got a few questions similar to this. I can certainly understand the logic behind the idea of bringing Didi back as a 2B, but it is not an idea I am on-board with right now.

To start, no, prepping Didi to come back as a 2B will not help him come back sooner. Tommy John surgery is a significant procedure for any player that uses his arm to throw a baseball. Didi is considered a long-term asset to the Yankees, and they are not going to risk his health by rushing him back. Yes, the throws are shorter from 2B, theoretically, but they will still require intensity. With a surgery like Tommy John, intense throws prior to complete healing lead to surgical revisions. No matter what position Didi plays in the field, Yankee fans have to wait until complete healing has occurred.

The point I have to concede is that Gleyber Torres definitely looks more comfortable at SS than he did at 2B. This is not surprising given the fact that Torres played almost nothing but SS prior to last season. Prior to 2018, Torres only played 11 professional games at 2B. It would be unreasonable to expect Gleyber to be a better 2B at this phase of his development. The angle the ball comes off the bat is different, he has to make an opposite pivot on double-play balls, the communication structure is different when a runner is stealing 2nd base, and even the arm angle is different when a 2B throws to 1B. It is a lot to learn. Gleyber was on his way to becoming a solid defensive 2B. Torres is a solid defensive SS, but not a great defensive SS.

Prior to TJS, Didi was an above-average defensive SS (I would argue elite, but we’ll go with averages regarding his year-over-year defensive metrics). His bat also projects to be lighter than Torres’s bat for the next few years, so the Yankees get more value keeping Didi at SS, assuming he comes back healthy. Additionally, everything I said about Torres playing 2B goes double for Didi. Didi has a lot of years at SS at this point, so changing his angles will be that much more difficult, even given the fact that Didi has a few professional games at 2B.

If Didi shows significantly diminished arm strength following TJS, the conversation will shift. Until we have any evidence that Didi is having issues with arms strength, I like Didi at SS and Gleyber at 2B.

Scott asks: A lot of Yankees fans were whining when they didn’t re-sign Robertson this year.

Now he’s on the shelf with an elbow injury and a big contract.

Any sense that the Yankees knew or suspected something might be wrong with Dave and this is why they passed on him?

Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory? While this theory is certainly more within the realm of possibility than, say, the moon landing was staged in a Hollywood studio, I still think that we need to look at the facts.

David Robertson has been a professional pitcher for 13+ seasons (including his one season in the minors), with plenty of high-leverage innings on his arm even prior to that. To my knowledge, Robertson has never spent any time on the IL with an arm injury. To some extent, that is miraculous. As a rule, pitchers get hurt. For every Nolan Ryan, there are thousands of guys who break down. Still others have some nagging issues, but those issues don’t quite reach the level of requiring a stint on the IL. I am sure that Robertson has had some issues like that throughout his career, because all pitchers have problems like that.

Could the Yankees have known that Robertson was an injury risk? Sure. Robertson is 34 years old with a ton of high-leverage innings under his belt. I have no doubt but that the MRI on Robertson’s arm had all kinds of red flags after the 2018 season, because all pitchers have red flags in their MRIs (reminder: pitching is an unnatural act…it hurts).

Following the 2018 season, given the choice between signing the 34 year old Robertson or signing the 31 year old Zack Britton, I wanted Robertson. That said, once a pitcher hits his mid-30s, skill or health-based decline can come rapidly. With that in mind, there is an argument to be made that choosing the 31 year old pitcher, when expected performance was similar, was a smart move by the Yankees.

I don’t think that the Yankees thought that Robertson was damaged goods. I think that they used a combination of factors in their decision to let him walk.

Mark asks: The old stadium had a few select players that could hit the black seats in center. A few more that hit glorious upper deck shots into empty seats.

What does the new stadium offer us? The extremely few that can hit upper deck home runs? The few that hit the restaurant in center? What will we remember in 50 years from now?

I admit, Yankee Stadium II is not my favorite ballpark, and I miss Old Yankee Stadium dearly. For those of you that have read my bio on this site, you’ll note that one of my earliest baseball memories is of seeing the field at Yankee Stadium.

There is a sterility to the new stadium that will always keep it from matching the mystique of Old Yankee Stadium. Some of that also comes from the fact that baseball fans (myself included) are really good at looking at the past with rose-colored glasses, and the fact that Lou Gherig, Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Joe D, Mickey Mantle, and hosts of other legends stepped on the field at the Old Yankee Stadium means that the Old Stadium will never be eclipsed by the new.

That said, I think that new memories are already being made at the new stadium. My biggest complaint about the new stadium was the fact that it never felt like it got loud. I freely admit that I could have that feeling because of the fact that it literally felt like the upper deck of the old stadium might fall when the place got loud, but I digress. I’ve changed my tune since last August 2017 when Sevy went toe-to-toe with Chris Sale. I was there for that game, and the place was electric.

In terms of stadium features that will be remembered, I think you hit on one of them: will any of us forget that Judge’s first career HR was off of the restaurant in dead CF? Baseball is a sport that lends itself to storytelling – events will occur over time that make Yankee fans remember different locations around the ballpark.

#DavidRobertson #DidiGregorius #GleyberTorres #ZackBritton

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