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TWiYB: This week in Yankees baseball – week 20

After a brief hiatus from This week in Yankees baseball (seriously, did anyone notice there was no TWiYB last week?!), I am back on the grind for week 20.

Nothing like the sorry Mets to get you back on track. After the heartbreaking loss on Sunday I declared that if the Yankees don’t take 3 of 4 from their cross-town rival, they don’t deserve to make the postseason. It turns out they agreed; the 4-game sweep not only gave the Yankees momentum heading into Boston, but was also a change from a terrible trend that has plagued them this season.

For whatever reason, the 2017 Yankees play to their competition. Against teams above .500 (aka the good teams), the Yankees have a winning record. Against teams below .500 (aka the crappy teams), the Yankees have a losing record. It doesn’t stop at winning and losing, although it does go hand-in-hand, but the Yankees can’t seem to hit bad pitching either. There was a recent stretch when they faced Anibal Sanchez (5.83 ERA), Jordan Zimmermann (5.35 ERA), Trevor Bauer (5.00 ERA), and Marco Estrada (4.85 ERA), and scored a total of 3 runs. For a team that has put-up the second most runs in the American League, it just makes no freakin’ sense.
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Rivalry Week

Guess what? I’m back in on the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. I realize in my lifetime that it will never match the intensity of 2003-04 again, but this past weekend brought me something I had lost for a time: hatred for the Boston Red Sox.

Let me be clear, I never liked the Red Sox. I was basically apathetic towards them from 2010-2016. The Yankees had finally won the World Series we all waited 9 years for, and then were the better team until the Red Sox stumbled into a championship in 2013. But by then the Yankees were over-the-hill and posed no threat to Boston’s run. It seemed that each year the teams traded-off being relevant; the Red Sox — believe it or not — sandwiched their 2013 championship with last place finishes, meanwhile the Yankees were dying a slow death of aging veterans and bloated contracts.

Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter retired and received grotesque farewells at Fenway Park. David departed Boston and received more than he was owed in a farewell at Yankee Stadium. The hatred was gone and replaced with forced respect (sorry, RE2PECT). It turned the best rivalry in baseball into just another game on the schedule.

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That all changed this weekend when the Red Sox visited Yankee Stadium. It was the latest the two teams had played in the season while being first and second in the AL East since 2011. The game finally had stakes, and the atmosphere reflected that. Watching the Yankees storm back with 5 runs late on Friday night elated me. Seeing Andrew Benintendi take Severino deep twice infuriated me. And my guts were ripped out when Aroldis Chapman blew the save on Sunday night. It was an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend and it was the most fun I’ve had watching a Yankees-Red Sox game in years. It’s the way it should be every time these two teams play.

Judgement Kay

Move over Adam Dunn, there’s a new strikeout king in town and his name’s Aaron Judge!

Judge has now struck out in 34 straight games, breaking Dunn’s 2012 record. Over that span Judge is hitting .185/.347/.378 with 58 strikeouts. He has slammed 7 homers, but has only 2 doubles and 14 RBIs. The insane thing is how little Judge is putting the ball in play. Combining his 58 Ks with his 29 walks means that 58% of his at bats since July 8 have ended without the ball being put in play.

A couple weeks ago The Ringer wrote a comprehensive math equation article about baseball’s three true outcomes (TTO): strikeouts, walks, and home runs. Don’t worry, I’ll save you the trouble of reading it. Baseball’s three true outcomes this season occur 33.4% of the time, up 5.2% from 10 years ago. Judge’s TTO% is a whopping 63% since his slump started. That number is so drastic that I’m hard-pressed to even remember a simple groundout to short or fly ball to center from Judge. Everything is a K, BB, or HR.

What does this mean for Judge and the Yankees? Dean wrote a blog yesterday that I pretty much agree with: Judge striking out is not a huge deal and will always be a part of his game. But what is a big deal is that Judge putting the ball in play just 42% of the time is too low. Hitting third means he’s up with runners on base, and recently not enough good things have happened with him at the plate to warrant that position in the batting order. He either needs to get his contact-rate up (doesn’t have to be where it was in the first half) or he needs to be hitting lower in the order. Right now Didi and Sanchez are better options to be hitting 3-4 in the lineup. Speak of the devil…

Sir Clutch and El Gary

Currently, Didi and Sanchez are the Yankees’ two best offensive players.

Since the break, Didi is hitting .349 with a .961 OPS. He’s been a consistent force in the lineup and hits with runners in scoring position (.307) — unlike many of his teammates.

Sanchez, on the other hand, just loves the month of August. We all remember what he did last year (11 HR, 1.290 OPS) and this month he’s hit 6 homers with a 1.155 OPS in 15 games.

Girardi is at the point with this lineup where he needs to ride the hot hand. These are all young players who aren’t owed anything. As much as we all love Judge, having your own fan section doesn’t earn you the right to hit third if you are hurting the team. Girardi should be managing for his job, however sometimes it doesn’t look like he is.

 

Follow me @Andrew_Rotondi

 

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