The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Tipping the cap: A Royal and universal tradition

World Series Tipping the Hat Baseball

Obviously there’s not much attention on the Yankees these days. Most of the baseball world is focused on the World Series, but I actually thought this Associated Press story had some universal appeal. It’s all about tipping a cap in baseball. Although it’s written with a focus on the Royals, the act itself is pretty common throughout the game, including with the Yankees. I think we all remember Casey Kotchman tipping his cap at first base when Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit. So here’s the story from Dave Skretta as we wrap up this day with no real big league action.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Nobody seems to know when the tradition of doffing a hat began, though most historians date the practice to the days when bowlers and boaters were in vogue.

Nobody seems to know when the Royals picked up the tradition, either.

At some point this season, though, Kansas City players started tipping their caps whenever an outfielder made a spectacular catch, or shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman Omar Infante turned a difficult double play, or third baseman Mike Moustakas snagged a hard line drive.

It was a modest acknowledgment, almost a throwback to another era. But it quickly caught on, becoming one of the iconic images of the Royals’ run to the World Series.

“I think it started about halfway through the year,” said left fielder Alex Gordon, whose jarring catch at the wall in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series not only left him bruised and battered, but also got him a stadium full of hat tips.

While Gordon can’t recall for certain, he thinks that starting pitcher James Shields was the first to do it. It makes sense, too, given how the staff ace has been so instrumental the past two years in turning a losing clubhouse culture into a winning one.

Shields has paid tribute from the mound, and teammates have followed his lead.

“The whole dugout does it now. It’s pretty cool,” Gordon said. “I know it means a lot to the pitchers every time we make a good play, so it’s kind of their way of showing it.”

While the Royals were sweeping their way to the World Series, which begins Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants, the hat tips became one of those memes that pops up everywhere, from hat-tip hashtags on social media to compilations of spectacular catches on YouTube.

The Angels may have their Rally Monkey, the Cardinals may have their Rally Squirrel, but the Royals have gone decidedly genteel when it comes to their October signature.

“Someone just started that in the dugout and we took it and ran,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “This group likes to have fun. It’s just a sign of us enjoying ourselves.”

Like helmet stickers in football, hat tips can be awarded to anyone on the field, even the pitcher. But the majority of the salutes are sent to the outfield, where three-time Gold Glove winner Gordon has teamed with center fielder Lorenzo Cain, right fielder Nori Aoki and speedy super-sub Jarrod Dyson to form a black hole for just about every fly ball.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest they might be the best in baseball.

From the world of advanced statistics comes DRS and UZR, which stand for defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating. Essentially, both stats try to place a value on a defense’s prowess, and the Royals happened to lead the majors in both categories in the regular season.

Gordon, Cain and Dyson each ranked in the top 10 in DRS individually.

Then there’s the evidence fans can see with their own eyes, the kind that doesn’t require a calculator. The Royals have provided plenty of that this postseason.

In Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Angels, Cain made a pair of spectacular catches, one climbing about 10 feet up the wall and the other to snag a diving liner. A few innings later, Aoki deftly tracked down a drive to the wall as Cain seemed to leap right over him.

“It seems like there’s five of them out there,” said Royals starter Jason Vargas, who was on the mound that night. “Unbelievable is the best way to describe it.”

Cain made another memorable catch in Game 4 of the ALCS against Baltimore, running impossibly far to track down a fly ball early in the game. Dyson made an impressive catch at the wall later, helping the Royals clinch the series.

Of course, the most memorable catch — heck, the most memorable play — of the series wasn’t made by a Royals outfielder. It happened in Game 3, when Moustakas toppled over a railing and into a dugout suite, only to emerge unscathed and with the ball in his glove — the great defense extending to the Royals crowd.

“Hats off to the fans in the dugout suite, pick him up and put him back on the field,” Hosmer gushed afterward.

“We’ve been doing it all year,” Moustakas said. “There’s still some plays that I’m sitting back like, Wow, I don’t know how Cain got there or how Gordo got there. But it’s almost like you expect them to make those plays.”

When they do, they’ve come to expect a hat tip in return.

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 9:59 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Mets hire Kevin Long as new hitting coach

Here’s the announcement from the Mets with a quote from Long:

Kevin Long, Derek JeterFLUSHING, N.Y., October 23, 2014 – The New York Mets today announced the club has named Kevin Long the team’s new hitting coach. The club also tabbed Dustin Clarke, their new Major League Strength and Conditioning Coach.

“Kevin’s experience, success and wealth of knowledge make him the perfect fit as our hitting instructor,” said Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson. “This is a very positive step for the Mets. We welcome Kevin, and his wife, Marcey, to the Mets family.”

“I’m excited to get the opportunity to work with a team that I think is on the rise,” said Long. “I had a great meeting with Sandy and Terry yesterday and I can’t wait to get started and help in any way I can.”

Long, 47, had spent the previous eight seasons (2007-2014) as the Yankees hitting coach. Under his guidance, the Yankees led the majors in runs scored three times and finished second twice. Before he joined the major league team, Long served as the Yankees’ Triple-A hitting coach with Columbus of the International League for three years (2004-2006).

Prior to joining the Yankees, Long was the hitting coach for the Triple-A Omaha Royals from 2002-2003 and the Double-A Wichita Wranglers’ from 2000-2001. Long was named the Northwest League Manager of the Year after leading Spokane to the title in 1998. He began his coaching career with Wilmington in the Carolina League in 1997.

Long was a second-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 in 1989 at the University of Arizona. The outfielder was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 31st round of the 1989 First-Year Player Draft and played eight years (1989-1996) in Kansas City’s minor league system reaching, Triple-A.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 6:28 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Notes from winter ball: Bird on a roll in Arizona

JudgeEarlier this week, Jim Callis wrote quite a bit about the Yankees currently playing in the Arizona Fall League. He understandably focused on breakout right field prospect Aaron Judge, noting that Judge is wrapping up the longest stretch of baseball he’s ever experienced.

Pro ball often forces a young player into a longer and more rigorous schedule than he’s used to, but Judge’s adjustment was delayed because of last year’s quadriceps injury.

“After you get drafted, you just want to show people who you are,” Judge told Callis. “It was kind of a blessing in disguise, though. I met a lot of great big leaguers while I was down in Tampa rehabbing. It kind of helped me with the mental side of baseball. Everyone’s going to have ups and downs, and just trying to stay even keel through that whole process is a huge part of it.”

Check out the Callis story. It has some basic scouting details on all of the Yankees players down in the Fall League.

A few other notes from winter leagues:

Bird• The Yankees top first base prospect, Greg Bird, has played in 12 games in the Fall League, and he has a hit in every one of them. Four of those hits have been home runs. It’s an offense-heavy league, but a .333/.382/.627 is awfully good. The guy can hit. It’s not reflected in the numbers here, but Bird doubled in his first at-bat today, so make that a 13-game hitting streak.

• After getting time at right field, first base and third base in the minor leagues, Tyler Austin is getting some time in left field while on assignment in the Arizona Fall League. In fact, he’s playing left field again tonight (while Judge plays right). It will be his fourth turn in left field, which can’t be a bad thing for a guy who could earn some sort of big league role next season, possibly as a corner bench player. Austin’s had two hits and and two RBI in two of his past four games. Hasn’t shown much power so far, but after 36 at-bats his slash line is a not-bad .278/.366/.361.

• Interesting for Yankees fans that the Scottsdale team has often gone with Yankees prospects in the 2, 3 and 4 spots in the lineup — Austin, Judge, then Bird as the cleanup hitter. Judge has been in the No. 3 spot for each of his starts down in Arizona. He’s hitting .276/.313/.448 with eight RBI in seven games.

Bichette• Off to a slow start in Arizona, Dante Bichette Jr. has now reached base seven times in his past four games, which has helped his slash line. He’s still hitting just .226/.306/.226. Only 31 at-bats, though. In his MLB.com piece, Callis notes that Bichette might eventually end up as a DH. The bat is his ticket to the big leagues. Needs the power that he showed his first season of pro ball.

• As expected, catcher Kyle Higashioka is only getting occasional playing time down in Arizona (he’s part of the roster that’s only occasionally active) but he’s making the most of it so far. Through two games, Higashioka has five hits, a home run and a stolen base. The Yankees have long liked his defensive ability, but he’s never shown much offense at all in the lower minors.

• The group picked by the Yankees for the Fall League is heavy on position players, and the pitchers sent to Arizona remain somewhat underwhelming statistically. Alex Smith has allowed at least one earned run in each of his five outings and currently has an 11.81 ERA with more walks (6) than strikeouts (4). … Caleb Cotham has 10 strikeouts and just two walks through seven innings. He also has a 7.71 ERA. Last time he pitched was Monday when Cotham allowed six hits and three earned runs through two innings. … Kyle Haynes hasn’t pitched since Saturday. Through 5.2 innings, he has yet to be charged with an earned run, but he’s allowed three unearned. Has a solid 1.24 WHIP. Tiny sample size, of course.

Moreno• Looking for more encouraging pitching numbers? Reliever Diego Moreno, who had some solid moments with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, has pitched well as a closer in the Venezuelan Winter League. He’s 4-for-4 in save opportunities, and he’s allowed just two hits through 5.1 innings. He recently re-signed a minor league deal to return to the Yankees system.

• Also down in Venezuela, Cuban outfielder Adonis Garcia continues to be the regular left fielder and usual No. 3 or 4 hitter for Navegantes del Magallanes. He’s hit for a strong average and stolen a couple of bases, but Garcia’s still waiting for the winter power to show up. He’s hitting .283/.313/.304. Last winter he hit .325/.347/.502 in Venezuela.

• After getting just six winter at-bats last year, and 13 at-bats the year before, young outfielder Ramon Flores continues to get fairly regular playing time this winter. Two weeks into the Venezuelan season, Flores has played in seven games and hit .333/.429/.500 through 18 at-bats. If he weren’t left-handed, Flores might be an even stronger candidate for the Yankees bench next season. As it is, some winter playing time couldn’t hurt after missing so much time this season with an ankle injury.

• Notable at least partially because of the Yankees total lack of standout shortstop prospects in the upper levels, utility type Ali Castillo continues to hit in Venezuela. He’s playing shortstop everyday — he was the regular shortstop for Trenton this year — and he’s hitting .395/.429/.447 through 38 at-bats in 10 games. He’s also stolen five bases in seven attempts. He’s been hitting leadoff. The same winter ball team used Castillo all over the infield and hit him ninth last year.

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 3:56 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

No Yankees among Gold Glove finalists

Not that this should come as a surprise, but there were no Yankees mentioned in today’s announcement of the Gold Glove finalists. Rawlings made the announcements one-by-one on Twitter. Winners will be announced next month. Former Yankees Robinson Cano and Russell Martin are finalists. Here’s the list:

Robinson Cano, Alex RiosAMERICAN LEAGUE

Pitcher: Mark Buehrle (Blue Jays), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), Dallas Keuchel (Astros)

Catcher: Alex Avila (Tigers), Yan Gomes (Indians), Salvador Perez (Royals)

First base: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Eric Hosmer (Royals), Albert Pujols (Angels)

Second base: Robinson Cano (Mariners), Ian Kinsler (Tigers), Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox)

Third base: Josh Donaldson (A’s), Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Kyle Seager (Mariners)

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar (Royals), J.J. Hardy (Orioles), Alexei Ramirez (White Sox)

Left field: Michael Brantley (Indians), Yoenis Cespedes (Red Sox), Alex Gordon (Royals)

Center field: Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox), Adam Eaton (White Sox), Adam Jones (Orioles)

Right field: Kole Calhoun (Angels), Kevin Kiermaier (Rays), Nick Markakis (Orioles)

Russell MartinNATIONAL LEAGUE

Pitcher: Zack Greinke (Dodgers), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)

Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers), Russell Martin (Pirates), Yadier Molina (Cardinals)

First base: Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers), Adam LaRoche (Nationals), Justin Morneau (Rockies)

Second base: DJ LeMahieu (Rockies), Brandon Phillips (Reds), Chase Utley (Phillies)

Third base: Nolan Arenado (Rockies), Pablo Sandoval (Giants), Juan Uribe (Dodgers)

Shortstop: Zack Cozart (Reds), Adeiny Hechavarria (Marlins), Andrelton Simmons (Braves)

Left field: Starling Marte (Pirates), Justin Upton (Braves), Christian Yelich (Marlins)

Center field: Billy Hamilton (Reds), Juan Lagares (Mets), Denard Span (Nationals)

Right field: Jason Heyward (Braves), Gerardo Parra (Brewers), Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins)

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 2:22 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Not always according to plan: Yankees starts by position

Yangervis Solarte

Thinking about the Yankees defense this season, it seems worthwhile to look back at who exactly was getting the playing time at each position. It’s easy to find many of the Yankees flaws simply by looking back at which players got a significant number of starts at certain spots (23 games at first base for Kelly Johnson?).

Here are the number of starts, position by position, for the Yankees this season:

Red Sox Yankees BaseballCatcher – McCann-101, Cervelli-39, Murphy-21, Romine-1

Brian McCann regularly caught more than 100 games in a season with Atlanta. Add in his time at first base and designated hitter and McCann had more plate appearances than in any of his previous three seasons.

First base – Teixeira-116, Johnson-23, McCann-11, Headley-6, Cervelli-5, Sizemore-1

Used to be a given that Mark Teixeira would start some 140-plus games at first base. Now it’s been three years since he reached that number. And as you can tell from the list of other first-base starters, the Yankees didn’t have an experienced backup at the position. Just a bunch of guys plugging the hole and learning on the fly.

Second base – Roberts-85, Drew-31, Prado-16, Solarte-13, Ryan-12, Pirela-3, Anna-2

When the Yankees traded for Stephen Drew, it was with plans of making him their regular second baseman for two months. He instead got basically a month’s worth of playing time at the position. The Yankees gave Brian Roberts every opportunity to prove he had something left.

Third base – Solarte-56, Headley-49, Johnson-33, Wheeler-10, Prado-8, Sizemore-4, Ryan-2

Yangervis Solarte came into spring training as a largely unknown minor league free agent. It seemed that he might be able to play a utility role at some point, but he wound up with the most starts at third base. Kelly Johnson was the third baseman on Opening Day, and he wound up with fewer starts at the position than Chase Headley, who wasn’t acquired until just before the trade deadline.

Shortstop – Jeter-129, Ryan-19, Drew-8, Anna-5, Solarte-1

It really is kind of amazing how little Brendan Ryan played this season. Given Derek Jeter’s especially rough second half, I wonder if Jeter might have gotten more DH time down the stretch had Carlos Beltran been able to stay in right field. Although he broke camp with the team, Dean Anna really didn’t stick around very long or get many chances.

Carlos Beltran, Jacoby EllsburyLeft field – Gardner-120, Young-16, Soriano-8, Almonte-6, Suzuki-6, Prado-3, Wheeler-2, Johnson-1

This position more or less went as planned with Gardner cementing himself as a quality everyday player. Add in his 20 starts as the backup in center field, plus that one start in right, and Gardner started 141 games in the field. His previous high was 134.

Center field – Ellsbury-138, Gardner-20, Perez-2, Suzuki-2

Hey look, it’s Eury Perez! Ultimately, Jacoby Ellsbury stayed healthy most of the year and started more games at a single position than anyone else on the roster. The combination of Ellsbury and Gardner is the reason the Yankees don’t necessarily need a fourth outfielder who’s capable of playing more than a passable center field.

Right field – Suzuki-86, Beltran-31, Soriano-23, Prado-7, Richardson-5, Wheeler-5, Almonte-2, Gardner-1,
Johnson-1, Young-1

Don’t forget that the Yankees opened the season with both Beltran and Alfonso Soriano. It seemed Ichiro Suzuki was going to be a fifth outfielder without a clear role, but he instead wound up getting the bulk of the time in right field. Kind of amazing that Beltran played so few games in the field. Easy to realize he didn’t play a ton of games out there, but I would have guessed more than 31.

Designated hitter – Beltran-76, Soriano-25, Jeter-15, McCann-13, Ellsbury-5, Teixeira-4, Pirela-3, Johnson-2, Young-2,
Almonte-1, Drew-1, Gardner-1, Headley-1, Romine-1, Suzuki-1, Wheeler-1 (None: NL Park-10)

Those first two names are a pretty good place to start when looking for things that went wrong this season. Soriano simply didn’t earn at-bats, Beltran simply couldn’t play the field, and that was a problem on many levels.

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 11:37 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Easy winter goal for Yankees: Upgrade infield defense

Derek Jeter

Gold Glove finalists are being announced later today, which reminds me: Shouldn’t the Yankees be able improve their infield defense this offseason almost without even trying? It wasn’t pretty last year, especially in the first half of the season.

Turns out, an aging shortstop, an aging second baseman, and a couple of out-of-position third basemen aren’t a great combination in the infield.

How did the Yankees get into that spot in the first place?

“Alex suspended, waiting for that decision to come down,” Brian Cashman explained late in the season. “Derek coming back from ankle surgery at his age. Robbie goes to free agency, so you wait for that to declare itself, and then you have to deal with the alternatives — what’s available — and you plug the holes the best you can. The initial personnel were placeholders until something better came along.

“Obviously we definitely upgraded with Chase Headley. We tried to upgrade with Stephen Drew. Tried to mix and match and work it, then Prado came into play. All of it at the end of the day wasn’t good enough. A lot of our in-season acquisitions were improvements. Just not enough.”

Brian RobertsWhen infield coach Mick Kelleher was fired earlier this month, Cashman said it wasn’t because of the infield’s defensive problems. That blame fell more on the front office than anything else.

“I think the defense in the first half especially had to do with personnel,” Cashman said. “… When we lost players like Cano, for instance, who was an exceptional defender, to free agency, or when we lost Alex to a suspension, for instance. We had Derek Jeter coming back, as well as Mark Teixeira, from injury. Those players possessed a certain amount of ability, and I think Mick addressed that to the best of his abilities. As we were able to acquire better defenders as the season wet on and they presented themselves, we obviously improved our team defense. I would not hold Mick Kelleher responsible for any defensive deficiencies. That was personnel related.”

So now the personnel has to get better.

The Yankees took one step toward that goal by acquiring Martin Prado, who looked pretty good at second base (though the FanGraphs metrics suggest he’s a better third baseman). The Yankees could add another strong defensive infielder if they re-sign Chase Headley (and for what it’s worth, advanced metrics don’t hate Pablo Sandoval’s defense; hard to know what to expect from Alex Rodriguez’s glove). The Yankees could make shortstop defense a real strength by re-signing Stephen Drew to play alongside Brendan Ryan (but defense wouldn’t be nearly as good if the Yankees went with either Hanley Ramirez or Asdrubal Cabrera at short).

Otherwise, the Yankees defense isn’t awful. Brian McCann has a pretty good pitch framing reputation, and the outfield defense is a plus with Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner handling two of the three positions (that’s a good start, even if Carlos Beltran defense has faded significantly in right field). Mark Teixeira has been an elite defender in the past, even if he didn’t always look that way this season.

The Yankees likely didn’t have any Gold Glove winners this season, but they could — and should — have a better shot next year with some improved pieces at three key spots.

Associated Press photos

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 8:55 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Royals try to start new postseason winning streak

World Series Baseball

Last night, the Royals took their first loss of the postseason, and that was mildly significant because it kept intact the Yankees’ record for consecutive playoff wins. In just a few minutes, the Royals are going to try to start winning again to pull even with the Giants in the World Series. Here are the longest postseason winning streaks. The Giants’ streak came to an end earlier this postseason.

12 — New York Yankees, 1998-99
12 — New York Yankees, 1927-32
11 — Kansas City Royals, 1985-2014
10 — San Francisco Giants, 2012-2014
10 — Oakland Athletics, 1989-90
10 — New York Yankees, 1937-41
9 — Boston Red Sox, 2007-08

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 8:00 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Mid-day notes and links: Long, Hillman, draft class

A few mid-day notes and links:

Kevin Long, Curtis Granderson• The Mets are reportedly set to interview Kevin Long today. If Long were to move across town to become the hitting coach at Citi Field, it would setup an interesting reunion for Curtis Granderson, who had success with a mechanical change under Long’s guidance years ago.

• Good stuff from old friend Evan Drellich, who wrote about new Astros bench coach Trey Hillman. At 51 years old, Hillman decided to return to the field after working in the Yankees scouting department. According to Drellich: “Hillman said that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman asked if he wanted to take over control of the Yankees farm system from Mark Newman, who retired after staying with the club for 26 years. It’s a great job, but Hillman was steadfast: he wanted to be on a major league coaching staff if at all possible.”

• The crew over at Baseball America evaluated the Yankees 2014 draft class. The full report is behind a pay wall. No overwhelming surprises. Top two picks Jacob Lindgren and Austin DeCarr get quite a bit of praise. Ninth-rounder Vince Conde apparently has a glove that could be good enough to stick at shortstop (though, frankly, the lowest levels of the Yankees system are so crowded at shortstop that he might have to fall into a utility role).

• Remember power-hitting prospect Peter O’Brien? The Yankees shipped him to Arizona in the Martin Prado trade, and Nick Piecoro writes that O’Brien is facing familiar questions about whether he can stay behind the plate or might eventually move full time to a corner position. “He just needs to catch more,” Diamondbacks farm director Mike Bell said. “He needs more consistent reps behind the plate. With his bat, that would be a nice weapon to have (playing catcher).”

• On a personal note, an old friend and editor John Murphy — who laughed and told me I’d be alright in New York when I told him I’d accepted this job — passed away on Tuesday. He was an incredible man to work alongside. Having his approval on a story always made me feel like an overwhelming success. He was a powerful presence in that Scranton newsroom. I’m better for having known him.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 5:32 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Big Game Jon? Sabathia picks Lester as his must-win pitcher

CC Sabathia

On ESPN Radio this afternoon, CC Sabathia talked a lot about his repaired knee, his early throwing sessions, and his future in the Yankees rotation — all the stuff you’d expect him to discuss. Then Sabathia was asked who he’d want on the mound in a must-win, postseason game, and his answer was a bit unexpected.

Or maybe it was tactical.

“I think it would have to be, I guess, Jon Lester,” Sabathia said. “I like Lester.”

Interesting that Lester is going to be a free agent this winter.

“Yeah, well, it ain’t my money to spend,” Sabathia said. “I leave that up to the front office.”

CC Sabathia, David OrtizA few other things from Sabathia’s radio interview:

On his offseason recovery
“I’m actually feeling real good. I keep telling people I’m 100 percent. I feel great. I’ve been playing catch down at the stadium two times a week, just doing rehab and stuff. The other days, I’m here at my house working out. I feel good. I’ll definitely be ready to go come spring training and ready to have a healthy season. … I think I can definitely get back to being able to go out and dominate a game, and just be myself.”

On what kind of pitcher he needs to be
“Healthy, first of all. That’s the biggest thing is just getting back out there. For me, talking to Brian (McCann) last year during spring training, and getting the chance to work with him, I think we have a pretty good plan. Throwing the two-seamer now. Just trying to work both sides of the plate with all my pitches. That’s something we were getting accomplished and started getting going in spring training – I had a pretty good spring training – and I think certainly going forward that I can use and make myself a better pitcher.”

On what the Yankees will miss about Derek Jeter
“I think just jokes. I think a lot of people don’t realize how funny he is. Just having him around and some of the stuff he chimes in, I think people are going to miss. I’m happy for him that he’s retiring and getting a chance to move on his life, but he’ll definitely be missed. … He’s the captain. He’s won five championships. He’s played in New York for 20 years. That’s unmatched. Of course we will (miss him), but he left us with some good lessons and tools, and you use that to move forward.”

On (weirdly enough) the best Fantasy Football player in the clubhouse
“I have to say McCarthy. … But I think everybody in there thinks they’re a guru. Gardy thinks he’s definitely the best guy. Dellin Betances is pretty good. There are a lot of guys in there. We have fun.”

Associated Press photos

 
 
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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 4:48 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

How the Yankees stack up against the Royals and Giants

Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter

Last night, when I posted Mike Fitzpatrick’s position-by-position comparison of the Giants and Royals, I found myself thinking about how the Yankees compared at each spot. Where were the Yankees stronger? Where were they weaker? How did they matchup, position-by-position, with the two teams playing for a ring? Today I tried to find out.

The final analysis: It’s really no wonder the Yankees aren’t playing this week.

This is a position-by-position comparison of the Giants, Royals and Yankees. And for clarification, I’m basing my rankings on this very moment. Basically, if the Yankees were playing right now — with the players who likely would have been on the roster and in the lineup for the postseason — how would they have stacked up against the two teams currently playing in the World Series?

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TeixeiraFIRST BASE

Giants: Brandon Belt
Royals: Eric Hosmer
Yankees: Mark Teixeira

To Teixeira’s credit, when he was in his late 20s, he would have been seen as a better player than either of these two. But now that Teixiera’s in his mid 30s with steadily declining numbers, he’s fallen behind the kids. Belt was hurt this season, and Hosmer’s career has been pretty up-and-down, but Teixiera’s coming off such a bad second half that it would have been hard to rank him ahead of many first basemen heading into October.

Ranking: 1. Hosmer, 2. Belt, 3. Teixeira

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DrewSECOND BASE

Giants: Joe Panik
Royals: Omar Infante
Yankees: Stephen Drew

I’ve never had an appendectomy, but WebMD says patients generally return to normal activities within two or three weeks. I’m assuming that’s an estimate for non-athletes. Basically, Martin Prado might have been ready to play by now, but he finished the season on the 60-day disabled list, so I’m going to keep him out of this discussion. Without Prado, the Yankees are left with a strong defensive player who was drastically underperforming most of the year. In fact, if the Yankees were still playing — and if Prado weren’t available — it’s worth wondering whether Jose Pirela would have hit his way into the regular second base job by now. For whatever it’s worth, I would have been tempted to rank Prado at the top of this list, especially if he’s stayed hot through the end of the season.

Ranking: 1. Panik, 2. Infante, 3. Drew

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JeterSHORTSTOP

Giants: Brandon Crawford
Royals: Alcides Escobar
Yankees: Derek Jeter

Two young defense-first shortstops, and then a 40-year-old icon whose best days are certainly behind him. Let there be no doubt that Jeter’s career stands heads and shoulders ahead of anything Crawford or Escobar is ever going to accomplish, but right now, the two young guys are superior players in every aspect except perhaps clubhouse leadership.

Ranking: 1. Escobar, 2. Crawford, 3. Jeter

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HeadleyTHIRD BASE

Giants: Pablo Sandoval
Royals: Mike Moustakas
Yankees: Chase Headley

Pretty diverse group of players here. Some raw power. Some defensive ability. Some disappointment followed by big postseason at-bats. Moustakas has hit some big home runs in October, but I have hard time buying into his bat after yet another largely underwhelming season. Headley is a nice defender who did a nice job getting on base with the Yankees, but Sandoval’s bat has to be considered the cream of the crop here. Four positions in and the Yankees finally rank somewhere other than last.

Ranking: 1. Sandoval, 2. Headley, 3. Moustakas

___

McCannCATCHER

Giants: Buster Posey
Royals: Salvador Perez
Yankees: Brian McCann

Clearly Posey is the best of the bunch here, but the decision between Perez and McCann might be closer than you’d expect. Perez has to be considered one of the better young catchers in baseball, and in the long-term, he’s clearly the one you’d want ahead of McCann. But those two actually put up fairly similar slash lines this season, and McCann was on a real roll at the end of the year (Perez, meanwhile, was going to the other direction and has been awful in the postseason). For the long-term future, I’d rather have Perez. Right now, I might prefer to have McCann.

Ranking: 1. Posey, 2. McCann, 3. Perez

___

GardnerLEFT FIELD

Giants: Travis Ishikawa
Royals: Alex Gordon
Yankees: Brett Gardner

I don’t necessarily buy into Gordon’s impressive WAR. I think he’s a nice player, just don’t think he’s realistically one of the 10-or-so most valuable players in the game. That said, I do think he’s the best left fielder in this group. Gardner had a really nice year, and Ishikawa clinched the NLCS, but  Gordon’s mix of offense and defense still makes him the favorite here. Gardner, though, isn’t a bad consolation prize at the position.

Ranking: 1. Gordon, 2. Gardner, 3. Ishikawa

___

EllsburyCENTER FIELD

Giants: Gregor Blanco
Royals: Lorenzo Cain
Yankees: Jacoby Ellsbury

Cain probably had the better year, and much like Ellsbury, he wound up being used as a bit of an unusual No. 3 hitter. But Cain has also been a little more erratic throughout his career, and I’m just not sold on the idea that you’d rather have Cain starting in center field ahead of Ellsbury at this point. Cain’s been really good, but if I had to pick one of these three to start in center field tomorrow, I’d still go with Ellsbury.

Ranking: 1. Ellsbury, 2. Cain, 3. Blanco

___

SuzukiRIGHT FIELD

Giants: Hunter Pence
Royals: Nori Aoki
Yankees: Ichiro Suzuki

At the end of the season, Carlos Beltran was clearly finished playing right field. Even that idea that he might be able to DH a few more days seemed pie-in-the-sky at best. Ichiro was supposed to be a fifth outfielder — assuming Alfonso Soriano was supposed to be the fourth outfielder — and he wound up being the everyday right fielder. In that role, he was basically a lesser version of Aoki.

Ranking: 1. Pence, 2. Aoki, 3. Ichiro

___

YoungDESIGNATED HITTER

Giants: Michael Morse
Royals: Billy Butler
Yankees: Chris Young

Who exactly were we considering the Yankees everyday designated hitter at the end of the year? Beltran was technically active, but his elbow was clearly shot. Francisco Cervelli was getting some at-bats and doing quite a bit with them. Pirela was getting some regular playing time, including some DH starts. I’ll go with Chris Young, who was mostly playing the outfield but seems like the best fit as a postseason DH. Morse barely played late in the season.

Edge: 1. Butler, 2. Young, 3. Morse

___

TanakaROTATION

Giants: Madison Bumgarner
Royals: James Shields
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka

Just listing the ace of each staff. If you assume Tanaka would have been healthy to headline a rotation with Michael Pineda, Brandon McCarthy and Hiroki Kuroda, then the Yankees would have had a rotation fully capable of matching up favorably with both the Giants and the Royals. It’s kind of a tough call and all depends on Tanaka being both healthy and effective. Without Tanaka, the Yankees are clearly at the bottom of this list. With him…

Edge: 1. Giants, 2. Yankees, 3. Royals

___

RobertsonBULLPEN

Giants: Santiago Casilla
Royals: Greg Holland
Yankees: Dave Robertson

Just listing the closer for each team, but just like the rotation, these are strengths for each team. There’s a reliable closer in place — Holland has to be considered the best of this bunch — along with legitimate depth. Consider the setup trio of Sergio Romo, Wade Davis and Dellin Betances. Those are three potent eighth-inning guys. I might keep the Yankees at the bottom of the list largely due to their lack of a go-to lefty, and because the Giants and Royals seem a bit deeper.

Ranking: 1. Royals, 2. Giants, 3. Yankees

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 11:50 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post


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