SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
Having underperformed expectations for the entire season, a wild card round victory might be what is needed to. save Aaron Boone’s job.
Up! Ever since they reeled off that 13 game winning streak, they’ve gone 10-14. However, they are 7-3 in their last ten and are coming off a sweep of the lowly Rangers.
9/24: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Gerrit Cole, 7:10 PM ET (ESPN)
There’s a lot of debate over whether Nathan Eovaldi is the ace of this staff or not. On a cumulative basis, there’s no one better. 173 2⁄3 innings of 3.58 ERA ball with his peripherals is worth a lot. The home run regression has come, but it hasn’t mattered as the damage he gives up on those shots are minimized because he rarely walks anyone. His strikeout rate has jumped to over 30% in the 2nd half, while he’s lowered his walk rate even further. He could be the guy you want on the mound for a Wildcard Game, even over Chris Sale.
If there were any concerns about Cole after the sticky stuff crackdown, they’re gone now as the strikeout and walk rates are still elite since the ban. He’s given up more hits than you’d like, but he’s still performing like a top-end starter and hasn’t shrunk into a corncob just yet. I was kinda hoping he would, but Cole is so much fun to watch when he’s on that it would be a shame if he was a total creation of Spider Tack.
9/25: Nick Pivetta vs. Nestor Cortes Jr., 4:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)
Nick Pivetta’s second half ERA of 5.29 is more what we imagined when he was given a full-time rotation spot at the beginning of the year. There have been starts, even in the second half, where he’s looked dominant against good teams, but more often than not he gets blown up. An inability to throw quality strikes on a consistent basis will haunt him until he can routinely hit the edges of the strike zone, a skill that’s hard to develop in your late 20’s.
Néstor Cortes rules. A deception fiend, Cortes gets an edge on hitters by changing the timing of his motion like Johnny Cueto and altering his arm slot much like former Red Sox reliever Tommy Layne. He is a junkballer with a well rounded arsenal where everything plays up. The fastball sits around 91, which is up significantly from last year in Seattle, and he mixes in a slider and curve with a change as a show me pitch. His curveball usage has increased dramatically in what has been a career year for him.
9/26: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Jordan Montgomery, 7:08 PM ET (ESPN)
Eduardo Rodriguez still hosts the largest ERA - FIP difference in baseball (min. 130 innings). It’s been more of the same in September with excellent strikeout, walk, and home run rates, but allowing over a hit an inning. Eddy’s season will be interesting to look back on in the oncoming years. I believe pitchers play a role in the contact they allow. Teams do too, which is why I don’t give much credence to FIP, but outliers like this should be studied, especially when they’re not giving up hard contact all around the yard.
If Montgomery makes it through 5 2⁄3 innings on Sunday night, he’ll set a new high mark for his innings count in what’s been his best season since his 2017 rookie year. Montgomery has bounced back well from Tommy John and has fulfilled his ceiling as a major-league mid-rotation starter. Montgomery is a unique pitcher with his two primary pitches being secondaries. His changeup and curveball ride in the front while his sinker, four-seam, and cutter play second-fiddle.
Notable Position Players
DJ LeMahieu has had a down year at the dish. The standard for LeMahieu since becoming a Yankee has been MVP-caliber play, and he’s fallen well short of his new standard this year, posting a league average 100 wRC+. The 33-year-old plays all over the field, but has been manning the hot corner lately.
Anthony Rizzo has virtually xeroxed his line from the Cubs minus 20 points of slugging. He’s been a perfectly adequate first baseman for them, which is what they were aiming for when they traded for him.
Aaron Judge has stayed healthy this season and will get down-ballot MVP votes, hitting for average and power while getting on base.
Giancarlo Stanton has quietly had a quality season at the plate, serving mostly as the everyday DH, though the last two months have seen him split time between DH, left field, and right field.
Joey Gallo has not been the dominant three-true outcomes slugger we’re used to (pandemic season notwithstanding) since being traded to New York. Low batting averages are to be expected with him, but .169 is too low, and that drop in BA has seen his production slip from a 139 wRC+ in Texas to 110 in New York.
Gleyber Torres has rebounded after a dismal first half, but his second half performance doesn’t hold a candle to the lofty heights he showed in 2019. He’s only 24, so there’s plenty of time for the second baseman to regain the magic.
Gary Sánchez hasn’t been terrible despite what some Yankee fans might tell you. Despite the hideously low batting average he’s hit at an above-average level, which is an accomplishment for any catcher. He’s not Austin Hedges behind the dish, but he’s not the worst defensive catcher in baseball, either.
Brett Gardner has been pressed into the lineup more times this year than expected with injuries to Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier, but the 37-year-old has been serviceable this month, hitting .250/.324/.469
Gio Urshela’s had a rough season. He’s suffered a laundry list of nagging injuries and spent a lot of time on the IL with a hamstring strain in August. His strikeout rate has shot skyward and the average that carried his profile the past two seasons has atrophied. He’s not the puddle of mud he was the first three seasons of his career, but an awful second half has sunk his season line.
Aroldis Chapman looked to be headed off a cliff right before the All-Star break, but he righted the ship back to being one of the best relievers in baseball. He’s striking out over 40 percent of batters he’s faced in the second half and has a .150 batting average against. The walks are still a problem, but when you’re striking out 40 percent of the men you face, you can get away with a free pass or two.
Chad Green is not the fastball fiend he was in 2018. Green only throws his heater 64 percent of the time now and has added a curveball over the past two seasons in lieu of his slider. With the back end of the Yankees’ bullpen on the IL, he’s been pressed into a set up role.
Clay Holmes is a hard throwing sinker-baller acquired from the Pirates at the deadline. Specializing in weak contact, Holmes saw a massive velocity bump this year and now throws his hard sinker at 96 as opposed to 92. He’s posted an ERA of 2.01 since joining the Yanks in part because he’s stopped walking people, which was a big problem during the year in Pittsburgh.
Miguel Andújar was moved to the 60-day IL a month back. He’s been out since July with a left wrist strain.
Clint Frazier is out for the rest of the season. He removed himself from a game in July after suffering a dizzy spell. Here’s to hoping that his head problems aren’t permanent.
Aaron Hicks is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on his left wrist in May.
Tim Locastro tore his ACL in mid-July, a mere nine games into his Yankees career. He’s out for the remainder of the season.
Jameson Taillon tore a tendon in his left ankle in early September. He pitched in a rehab start on Wednesday for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which means he should be back soon.
Zack Britton is out for the remainder of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Jonathan Loáisiga strained his rotator cuff at the beginning of the month and could miss the rest of the season.
Darren O’Day will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn left hamstring.
Rain looks to be in the forecast for both Friday and Saturday with Sunday offering a reprieve from showers. Temperatures should be in the low 60’s on Friday and in the high 60’s on Saturday before dipping into the high 50’s on Sunday night.