Today is a scheduled day off in Yankee land and it is needed. The Yanks started the season with ten games in ten days due to the Opening Day rain out. They finished that stretch this weekend by losing two of three to the Baltimore Orioles. Here are some random thoughts and observations I have on the Yankees first rest day of the year.
Boone ball returns
I’ll admit, through the first two series there wasn’t much to criticize Aaron Boone on. The first seven or so games he was managing pretty well. His best move of the year was pulling a struggling Aroldis Chapman in the last game against the Blue Jays, which is something he normally isn’t quick enough to do. His only real blunder was not pinch hitting Josh Donaldson a batter earlier in the opening game of the Blue Jays series. Other than that, not much to be mad about so far this season.
It didn’t last long. This weekend in Baltimore Boone ball returned in full force. It really came to a head Sunday. After putting up a whopping one run on Friday, and struggling half the game on Saturday, Boone decided the offense deserved to take another day off. Despite an off-day scheduled for Monday, Boone still found it necessary to give Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo a rest. The bottom four of the lineup for yesterdays game: Gleyber Torres, Kyle Higashioka, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Tim Locastro. Non-competitive. Even if you still count Gleyber Torres as a real hitter thats fielding what amounts to a six man lineup the day before an off-day.
I wouldn’t be upset if this hadn’t become the norm. Over the years Boone has done this with his regular numerous times as a way to “get them extra rest with an off-day”. What exactly are they resting for though? I am not expecting every player to play 162 games but come on. The offense is not putting up runs and sitting two regulars when you have four off days in the next 22 days makes little sense. I know Joey Gallo isn’t setting the world on fire, but i’ll take him at the plate over Locastro 11/10 times.
It’s not even like they got the full day off. Rizzo and Gallo both came in to pinch hit in the 7th and finished the game in the field. What is the point of sacrificing the lineup for six innings of rest if they’re both going to play anyways? If you want to give the guys a day off, ok i’ll bite. But maybe don’t stack them on the same day? The lineup simply can not absorb two regulars on the bench at a time. It doesn’t seem that hard to see for us as fans, I don’t understand why it’s so hard for Boone to see.
It didn’t stop there. In a 0-0 game in the 8th Jonathan Loáisiga was struggling, having loaded the bases with two outs. Lucas Luetge, a left hander who held same side batters to a .196/.204/.315 slash last year, was warm in the bullpen and ready to go. The Orioles brought up pinch hitter Rougned Odor who is a career .230/.297/.392 with a 80 wRC+ against left handers. Boone stuck with Loáisiga instead. Odor promptly hit a two run single up the middle to make it 2-0 Orioles. Boone then brought in Luetge with six consecutive right handed batters coming up. The Orioles tacked on three more runs to make the lead 5-0. Gross incompetence.
I’m tired of the way this team acts like they deserve a postseason spot and punt regular season games as a result. It feels like the Yankees are living in the “we got one game from the World Series in 2017” realm. They’re resting guys for a postseason that is not guaranteed. The Yankees were in the Wild Card game last year in large part because they lost eight games to the Orioles. The Orioles lost 110 games last year. 15% of the Orioles wins in 2021 were against the Yankees. Boone just doesn’t take these games seriously and it shows. Perhaps the biggest blunder of this competitive window was hiring Aaron Boone. Instead of owning up to their mistake, the Yankees doubled down this winter and gave him an extension. Baffling.
Switching up the lineup
Maybe it is time the Yankees try a different formula to get the offense going. In ten games the Yankees have fielded ten different lineups, so it’s not like things are consistent right now anyways, but the same guys have been more or less in the same spots this year when they are in the lineup. It kind of started in the Baltimore series. Aaron Hicks made his first appearance in the leadoff spot on Friday, and stuck there for the other two games as well. For all the Aaron Hicks hate, he’s hitting .333/.438/.444 this year with a 163 wRC+. He deserves to be there.
The only other player in the lineup consistently hitting right now is DJ LeMahieu. I know we are only ten games in, but DJ looks like his 2019-2020 self more than the 2021 version. Through nine games he is hitting .321/.424/.500 with a 180 wRC+. The thing that made the Yankees go in 2019 and 2020 was DJ raking at the top. I think the Bombers should try hitting those guys 1-2 and see what happens. Maybe something like this:
C Higashioka / Trevino
Maybe flip DJ and Hicks if we want to limit Hicks’ situational hitting opportunities? Either way I think they should try having Hicks and DJ in the top two spots. That will help get base runners on for Judge, Rizzo, and Stanton. It also takes some pressure off of Donaldson, who despite his Saturday home run, has been struggling so far. The proposed lineup also breaks up all of the big strikeout hitters, with none of them hitting back-to-back. Finally, I like Gallo in the bottom third of the lineup. I think Joey Gallo: Seven Hitter is perfect. He is misplaced in the top 2/3 of the lineup on a team like this.
Will it work? Who knows. With the way the team is hitting right now it might not matter. But the only way to know is to try. Getting your two most consistent hitters the most at bats in front of your sluggers seems like a no brainer. Hopefully the Yankees consider the change.
Miguel Castro throwing more sliders
So far, so good this season for Yankees right hander Miguel Castro. Acquired late in Spring Training, Castro has thrown four shutout innings so far for the Yanks, allowing no hits and striking out four. He still is walking too many, allowing four free passes, but he hasn’t been burned by it yet. The small sample size shows a change in his arsenal. So far, Castro has been throwing more sliders:
He went from 35% sliders last year to 50% so far this season. It makes sense. Before this season hitters had hit a combined .167/.165/.242 against Castro’s slider in his career. The pitch has also averaged 13 inches of horizontal break this season, up from the 11.5 inches last year. So far it’s a small sample size, but Castro has thrown 40 sliders and struck out four batters with it. It will be fun to see if this trend continues. Higher usage of your best pitch seems like a no brainer. Hopefully Castro can keep putting away batters with the pitch as the season goes on and emerge as yet another weapon in the Yankees dominant pen.
We knew this was coming right? I think i’ve drafted Andrew Heaney a half dozen times in fantasy baseball over the years thinking that it was finally the year he put it all together. The Yankees obviously liked something, as they acquired him last July. I don’t have to remind anyone how bad he was but I will anyways. Heaney pitched 35.2 innings of 7.32 ERA (6.93 FIP) ball in pinstripes and when he came in the game you knew it was over.
The Dodgers didn’t care. They gave Heaney a one-year, $8.5 million contract this winter. The Blue Jays were also supposedly in the mix. The Blue Jays and Dodgers are smart teams and they obviously saw the same thing the Yankees did. Yesterday Heaney pitches an absolute masterpiece against the Reds, going six innings, allowing just one hit, while striking out 11 batters. So far this year: 10.1 IP, four hits, three walks, zero earned runs, 16 strikeouts. Time will tell if this is real, but it feels real whenever the Dodgers do something like this. They have a track record of it.
This feels like the Lance Lynn situation again. The Yankees traded for Lynn mid-season and he pitched alright for them. He then went on the Texas, where he became a Cy Young candidate almost immediately. I guess the lesson is when the Yankees acquire a guy that makes you say “WTF?” maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt. The Yankees do have a track record of turning nobodies into somebodies. Their misses have been more on the bigger money players. I am not advocating that the Yankees should’ve resigned Heaney. I had seen enough. Just saying, maybe we need to have more patience with players that don’t seem to make sense at first.shares