Weekly Mailbag: Stanton’s Roster Spot, Aaron Hicks, CC’s Injury, Yankees’ Chances,
Well, that was deflating, wasn’t it? I thought Tanaka looked great – 1 mistake makes his start look a lot worse than it was. Green then, of course, compounded that mistake with one of his own. I sat there, thinking about the multiplier effect that mistakes have in baseball as Sanchez whacked a homer over the wall for what would have been the game-tying homer had Green not missed with a fastball. That’s baseball, I guess. All I can say is that I don’t envy the people that work with me today – I may be a bit cranky.
This week, we’ll talk about Stanton’s inclusion on the ALCS roster, Aaron Hicks, CC’s shoulder injury, the Yankees’ chances, and CC’s replacement on the ALCS roster. Let’s get at it:
Brian asks: Do the Yankees regret keeping Giancarlo Stanton on the roster for the ALCS?
This is an easy one for me to answer, but obviously a harder one for the Yankees to answer. The Yankees have held out hope that Stanton would wake up one morning and magically be able to run the bases and hit. Through Game 4, that has not happened, and Stanton has now missed 3 games in a row.
The easy answer is yes, the Yankees will regret playing with a 24-man roster during the ALCS. I know that the Yankees loaded the roster with pitchers with the intention of stretching the bullpen against the Astros, but Stanton’s injury has left the Yankees with just 11 available hitters, one of whom is Austin Romine, who will not see the lineup unless Sanchez gets hurt.
The Yankees could have used a left-handed bat in the lineup against a right-hand-heavy pitching staff. I’ve said it a couple of times, but Mike Ford deserved a place on this roster. Hindsight is obviously 20/20, but Gio Urshela has not done anything over the last month to deserve an assured starting spot in the lineup everyday during the playoffs. In the month of September, Urshela hit .207/.258/.397 with 15 K and just 3 BB in 62 Plate Appearances. Add in the fact that the ball has obviously been de-juiced, and it puts into question Urshela’s ability to perform offensively in the current environment.
Mike Ford showed top-of-the-scale plate discipline and real power during the season. I know that some of the comments I made about Urshela, particularly his ability to make an offensive impact with a de-juiced baseball, are valid arguments that can be made against Ford, but Ford hits the ball harder and launches the ball at a more ideal angle on average when compared to Urshela, according to Statcast. I think that Mike Ford could have made a significant impact on the ALCS roster. Sit Urshela, play LeMahieu at 3rd base, and play Ford at 1B. While the defense is weaker, the Yankees desperately need offense.
These are hindsight arguments, but the Yankees could have made any number of other moves (Tyler Wade, Luke Voit, etc.) that would provide greater value than Stanton warming the bench. I know the Yankees view Stanton as a better player than any of the aforementioned guys, but he’s now missed the majority of the regular season, and he’s dealing with a strain to one of the largest muscles in the body that helps with stability at the plate and directly impacts his ability to run. Waiting for Stanton seems oddly passive for a short series against a juggernaut like the Astros.
Maybe Mike Ford would have struggled to deliver against Astros pitching much like the rest of the Yankee lineup, but now we’ll never know. I am trying to be rational, but I admit to being frustrated by Stanton’s inclusion on the playoff roster when he is clearly not healthy enough to play.
Jeff asks: You wanted Aaron Hicks, and you got him – how do you think he’s looked?
Honestly, I think he’s looked like early season Aaron Hicks. His timing is a bit off at the plate, but he has controlled the strike zone well, and he has played typically excellent defense. I’m not sure I understand Boone’s decision to bat him 3rd last night, but I can even understand the justification or it – Hicks sees a lot of pitches, and the Encarnacion/Gardner combination at 3-4 has been anything but patient the last couple of days. Hicks sees pitches and draws walks, so I could be persuaded to agree with the decision to put him in the middle of the order.
Yeah, I’m pretty happy with Hicks, which is more than I can say about a lot of guys on the roster right now.
Jim asks: CC left with a shoulder injury tonight…I’m not sure that I have a question, just thought someone should talk about it!
This was (obviously) a late email, but I’m including it today because CC is on my mind as well. CC’s injury was just the icing on the cake last night. I was totally heartbroken watching him walk off the mound. As soon as he released his last fastball, it was obvious that something wasn’t right. I know that many people will use this as an opportunity to say that CC didn’t deserve a roster spot to begin with, and that decision will be second-guessed just as I second-guessed the decision to include Stanton on the roster. I am probably in the minority on this one, but I understand the justification for CC’s inclusion on the roster – he seemed capable of providing a bit of length, and he’s a good match-up for left-handed hitters like Brantley.
Assuming that this is the way that CC goes out, you can’t help but feel for the guy. Everyone wants to retire having just pitched the final out of the World Series, but it usually doesn’t go that way. Quite simply, CC has scratched and clawed at the back-end of his career for every ounce of success he’s had. CC has pitched hurt, and come up big for the Yankees even when he couldn’t reasonably be expected to. Unfortunately, his ability to fight his body as finally diminished to the point that he just can’t pitch at the Major League level anymore. It’s even sadder that CC’s realization of that fact happened in the middle of an ALCS game when the Yankees were trying to make a comeback on national television.
The baseball gods work in mysterious ways – you can love baseball, but it doesn’t always love you back. I’m glad that CC got a standing ovation; I’m sorry he couldn’t finish his playing career in more glorious fashion; and I’ll hold out hope that the Yankees can rally around CC, and make this series interesting the rest of the way.
Either way, cheers on a great career CC – thanks for everything.
Mark asks: Do the Yankees still have a chance?
A lot of late entrants last night (I wonder why…), and this cuts to the core of the mood Yankee fans are in this morning. Let me walk you off the ledge: yes, the Yankees still have a chance. Facing Verlander and Cole is an uphill battle, but if games 2 and 3 proved anything, it’s that both guys can be beaten. The Yankees were patient against both pitchers, and the offense put themselves in positions to capitalize on runners in scoring position – they just didn’t execute. That can all change with a few swings of the bat, and this Yankee team is still one of the best offenses in baseball.
I also think that being able to throw Paxton and Severino in the next two games (yes, I feel confident that we’ll get two more games) is a real positive development for the Yankees. Paxton and Sevy can go toe-to-toe with Verlander and Cole on their best days. While we haven’t seen their best yet this postseason, the ability is still there.
The Yankees were one of the 3 best teams in the Major Leagues this year, and it’s only a matter of time until that team returns. I, for one, maintain hope that it could happen overnight.
In the words of Yogi Berra: it ain’t over ‘til it’s over!
Paul asks: Who should replace CC on the ALCS roster?
I would put Mike Ford or Tyler Wade on the roster. Ford is the left-handed hitter the lineup desperately needs, while Wade provides a speedy bench player that could prove useful in a pinch running situation late in a close game. I’d be fine with either. The Yankees do not have another pitcher on the 40-man roster that I would call-in right now.
That’s all for this week. Let’s hope the Yankees make a series of it, starting tonight. I’m hoping for a big-time start from Paxton…6 innings and 10 Ks sounds about right. It may be wishful thinking, but a guy can dream, right?!?! I’m not ready for the off-season yet, and I don’t think the Yankees are either.