Category: Yankees

The Yankees signed Andrew Miller and acquired Didi Gregorius in a three-team trade.

Didi Gregorius making a play for the Diamondbacks in 2013.

Didi Gregorius making a play for the Diamondbacks in 2013.

On Friday morning, the Yankees acquired Didi Gregorius, a 24-year-old shortstop from the Netherlands, in a three-way trade with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks. The relief pitcher prospect Robbie Ray went from the Tigers to the Diamondbacks, and the Yankees sent starter Shane Greene to the Tigers.

The Yankees only had to give up Greene, who is already 26 and started 14 games last season only because the Yankees had many injuries in their rotation, to get their shortstop who will take over for Derek Jeter. The Yankees have depth in their rotation, which means that this is a deal that they had to make.

Gregorius is coming off of a season where played in 80 games with the Dbacks and hit only .226 with six homers and 27 RBIs. However, he played more games in 2013 (103) and his offensive production was better as he had 16 doubles versus nine in 2014, a .252 average, seven homers and 28 RBIs. He had a .310 average in 57 games in 2014 while playing for the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate in Reno, which proves that he has the ability to hit for a higher average.

(Stats in the Pacific Coast League are usually inflated based on the ballparks since it is known as a hitter friendly league, but it was only his average that was higher and not his power numbers.)

Gregorius, who is known for his defense, might not have the ability to hit 15 homers in a season like Derek Jeter did nine times in his career, but he is a plus defender with the ability to go to his left and right. Jeter wasn’t able to have much range during his last few seasons, which means Gregorius will be an upgrade in that regard. In 67 games at shortstop in 2014, Gregorius had five errors, had a .983 fielding percentage, turned 39 double plays and had 189 assists.

In the minors, he had six errors in 19 games during the 2014 season at shortstop. He is athletic and has shown promise while playing for Arizona, which means that he has the ability to improve. Gregorious came out of left field because the Yankees would usually have acquired a higher profiled shortstop, but since they only had to give up Greene to get this young shortstop with promise the deal makes sense.

Former Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers had very complementary words to say about Gregorius in 2012. “When I first saw him he reminded me of a young Derek Jeter,” Towers said. The test will come in April when he will have to show if he can handle the media scrutiny in New York City after previously playing in Cincinnati and Phoenix.

The Yankees offense needs a bounce back this season, but in order for it to do so Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira will have to perform better than they did las season. It will be a successful first season offensively if Gregorius can hit .255 with eight homers and about 55 RBIs.

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On Friday afternoon, the Yankees continued their busy day with the signing of relief pitcher Andrew Miller. On Wednesday, Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees were a finalist to land him along with the Astros, and he ended up being correct. The Yankees signed the dominating lefty reliever to a four-year, $36 million contract.

The 29-year-old is coming off of a season where he pitched in 50 games for the Boston Red Sox and 23 for the Baltimore Orioles while recording an ERA of 2.02, 62.1 innings, 103 strikeouts, five wins and only 17 walks. David Robertson might not return because he also wants a four-year contract, but the Yankees should have a hard-throwing shutdown bullpen with Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley, Jacob Lindgren and Esmil Rogers.

Lindgren was a second-round pick in June out of Mississippi State who is projected to make an impact. He had a 2.16 ERA across four levels of the minors this season.

Miller and Betances both have the ability to close, and they could be the closer by committee this season so they can both pitch in high leverage situations. Miller faced 64 batters in save situations last season and held them to a .070 average with 36 strikeouts. Miller (42.6%) and Betances (39.6%) ranked second and fourth among all relievers last season in strikeout rate. That’s a dominating and imposing lefty-righty combo at the back of the bullpen.

Miller has a career ERA of 4.91, but that is inflated because he struggled early in his career. From 2006 until 2011 his season ERA was never under 4.84, but he never pitched in more than 29 games in any of those seasons. He has proved to be much more successful the past three seasons with an increased work load in the prime of his career. He had a 3.35 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 2012, and in 2013, Miller had a 2.64 ERA with 48 strikeouts.

If Miller has a season similar to the one he had last season, and if Lindgren, Wilson or Warren can emerge as a reliable seventh-inning option, the Yankees bullpen could turn out to be similar to the one that helped the Kansas City Royals advance to the World Series in 2014. However, this bullpen dominance and comparison to that of the Royals last season would be even more comparable and if David Robertson returns.

Update: First game of the doubleheader is at 1:05

Hiroki Kuroda pitching

Hiroki Kuroda pitching

The Yankees will be playing a day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers because of the rain that postponed the game last night.

Hiroki Kuroda will be pitching the first game against Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu is a rookie who is in contention for the National League Rookie of the Year. He only has a 2.85 ERA in 85 innings pitched. The Yankees have lost the last five games that Kuroda has pitched, but in Kuroda’s last start he had everything working for him since he only allowed two runs in eight innings.

In his 12 day starts for the Yankees during his two seasons with the team, Kuroda is 7-2 with a 2.18 ERA. In four seasons pitching for the Dodgers before coming to the Yankees as a free agent, Kuroda had 41 wins, never allowed more than 49 walks in a season and his worst ERA was 3.76 and best was 3.07. Surprisingly, in the offensively superior AL East, Kuroda (38) has only gotten better. This should be an exciting match-up between a young pitcher coming into his own and a successful established pitcher finishing out his career.

In the second game, Phil Hughes will pitch for the Yankees and the veteran Chris Capuano is expected to pitch for the Dodgers during the night game. Hughes (4.89 ERA) has had some solid starts this season but has mostly been unreliable, but hopefully Hughes will be able to bounce back from his last start by continuing to dominate National League opponents.

Brett Gardner (.294), Vernon Wells (.301), and Ichiro Suzuki (.358) are all hitting well against lef-handed pitchers this season so hopefully that will help them have success against Ryu.

The Yankees clash with the Dodgers will bring back memories

Phil Hughes in the dugout.

Phil Hughes in the dugout.

The Yankees finished their west coast road trip against the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with a disappointing 4-6 record. They  will now start a nine game homestand. The Yankees will play the first of two games tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Los Angeles will play a regular season series in New York City for the first time since they were known as the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. The Yankees have played the Dodgers 11 times in the World Series, including the classic three homer run game by Reggie Jackson, and the game in which Jackie Robinson sole home against Yogi Berra.

The Dodgers are managed by Don Mattingly who played for the Yankees his whole career. Don Mattingly had his number 23 retired by the Yankees after hitting 222 homers, driving in 1,099 runs, slugging 442 doubles, recording 2,153 hits and ending his career with a .307 average. Mattingly, along with Joe Girardi, were the two candidates who were in consideration to replace Joe Torre after the 2007 season. This is the first time that they will go head-to-head since then.

The Yankees come into the series struggling on offense, as mentioned in the previous post, but hopefully their game against the Angels on Sunday, where they scored six runs, is a sign that their bats are coming alive. The Dodgers have lost three out of their last four games, and are in last place in the National League West.

Their pitcher in the opening game of the series, Hyun-Jin Riu, will be a challenge for the Yankees offense, but it is possible that pitching in Yankee Stadium for the first time will throw him off his game. In his last six starts the rookie Riu has a 3-0 record with a 1.94 ERA. However, he pitches much better against righties than lefties, which could be a good sign for Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki.

Brett Gardner has a .294 average and two homers against lefties and Ichiro has a .358 average and four RBI against southpaw’s this season.

Phil Hughes will be the starting pitcher who will oppose the National League Rookie of the Year candidate. Hughes has been the definition of inconsistent this season as he has a 4.89 ERA. He had an awful start in his last outing, but in his first start of the road trip, against Seattle, he threw seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts.

If the Yankees are lucky he will throw a quality start tonight given the pattern of his last two starts. On the other hand, Hughes has a 6.52 ERA at Yankee Stadium this season. But, the Yankees are facing an NL team, and Hughes has a 1.93 ERA in two starts this season against NL opponents.

Another factor that will make this series intriguing is that the Yankees will get a look as Puigmania. Yasiel Puig, the rookie outfielder from Cuba, who was called up as a result of injuries to Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp, has hit an astounding .479 in 13 games, with four homers and 10 RBI. Based on the 13 games that he has played so far he deserves a spot in the All-Star game at Citi Field.

Both teams are struggling coming into the game, but the Yankees need to show signs of offensive ability back in the Bronx against the inter-city rivals from back in the day.

Review of the movie Mr. Baseball

Mr. Baseball

I saw this movie before I left for school and I definitely recommend this flick from 1992.  You should see it if you are a baseball fan or just enjoy a story about adapting to a new culture.

Jack Eliot, played by Tom Selleck, is shown as a former productive first baseman for the New York Yankees, but those years are behind him. He struck out in many critical at-bats and as a result of the rookie first baseman (played by Frank (Big Hurt) Thomas) hitting moonshots during batting practice the coaches come to the decision that Eliot is not needed anymore.

When he is called into the coaches office he thinks he might be traded to Cleveland, (he probably thought they were the only squad that would want him since they were at the bottom in 92) but he is very surprised when he realizes that the only interested team is in Japan. He is initially angry that he has to go all the way to Japan to play baseball.

At first, Eliot has a lot of trouble adapting to the culture because and unique style of play in Japan. He has a personal translator, but when the press interviews him he is overly honest and sometimes critical, which is frowned upon in Japan, so the translator has to spin it in another direction.

Another main character in this movie is the attractive Hiroko.  It seems like she is somebody who is assigned to the American when they first join the team in order to help them enjoy/adapt successfully to the culture.

The first time they meet is on the field at practice and she says they need to connect later in the day at his apartment. He is shocked to realize that she knows where he lives.  Eliot thinks that she is a prostitute because of the circumstance, but she assures him that is not the case.

He has differences with his manager’s style, so Hiroko tells him how to adjust and deal with the Japanese team-first style.  He has trouble doing this because he is used to trying to hit home runs and never bunting. A memorable scene from one of Eliot’s first games is when the third base coach gives him the sign to bunt, but he emphatically refuses because it was never his style to bunt in a game.

He gets fined what seemed like a lot of money, but Eliot did not really care, and willingly picked up another fine by throwing all of the helmets to the ground.  This would not really merit a fine in America, but they are all about the team and portraying the right image.

Dennis Haysbert’s character was the other American on the team, and in addition to Hiroko, he tried to tell him right from wrong.  Haysbert had the correct mindset of trying to excel in Japan in order to get a call from an MLB team, and it would take until towards the end of the movie for Eliot to have the correct mindset.

He would start to observe and accept the Japanese culture after more time spent with Hiroko.   They went to a traditional Japanese garden together, she taught him to accept Japanese food and she even gave him a massage with words that she thought would motivate him.

This was all part of the process for Eliot, but Hiroko’s last resort was taking him to a surprise destination.  He had no idea what to expect,  given that this mystery was outside of the city, but once he met the host it is revealed that Hiroko is the coach’s daughter.

I will not give away too many details of this at first alarming encounter, but he reluctantly decides to eat the traditional Japanese meal prepared by Hiroko’s mother while listening to more advice from his coach aimed at being helpful.

Towards the end of the movie, he observes the correct customs in the locker room, is a leader for his teammates, starts hitting consistently with power, while using a team-first approach to help his team beat their rival for the championship.

The championship victory helps both Americans get back to the MLB.  However, Eliot and Hiroko develop a relationship and some tension arises before the final game.  Eliot informs Hiroko that he can’t refuse an offer from the Tigers, which makes her think that he is being selfish.

However, the fact that he put team over self in a critical moment, which lead to victory, made Hrioko want to come to the States with him.  The movie had a happy ending while proving how one can benefit from spending time in a new culture.  He only started to excel at the plate when he embraced the Japenese on-field style, and the country’s cultural differences.