The regular season is over and that means the over/under predictions for the Yankees are over as well. Before the postseason begins, let’s look back at my over/under predictions from the season and see where I went right and wrong.
Part of the write-up from March is italicized.
(This season’s win total in parentheses)
Gary Sanchez: Under 13.5 passed balls (7): WIN
Last season, Gary Sanchez led the majors with 18 passed balls despite only catching 76 games, 74 which were starts and 67 which were complete games. The year before, he led the league with 16 passed balls in 104 games caught, 99 which were starts and 91 which were complete games. Somehow, Sanchez increased his passed ball total despite appearing in 28 last games. No, that’s not ideal.
But I’m optimistic when it comes to Sanchez and think he will be better behind the plate in 2019, as long as he isn’t struggling offensively since I believed that affected his defensive work either. It would be nice to see him less, let’s say lazy, when he’s got his gear on and not letting fastballs go by him to advance base runners. Sanchez has to be better in 2019. I can’t go another season of listening to idiots call for Austin Romine to be the team’s starting catcher.
After leading the league in passed balls in back-to-back seasons, Sanchez only had seven this season. He caught 14 more games than he did in 2018 and 14 less than he did in 2017, but significantly cut down his passed ball total.
Miguel Andujar: .299 batting average (.143): LOSS
For a long time, having a .300 hitter on the Yankees wasn’t unusual, considering they had Derek Jeter for two decades and during his years also had some pretty good players. But since Jeter aged and Robinson Cano left, it’s been a while since you could look at the big screen in center field at the Stadium and see .300 next to a Yankee late in the season. Andujar’s rookie season and his contact ability are the perfect combination to believe that will change.
Technically, this is a loss, but I feel like it should go down as an incomplete. Andujar only played in 12 games, and played with a significant injury in nine of them, posting a .143 batting average (6-for-47).
It’s going to be interesting to see what the Yankees do at third base in 2019 when Andujar returns after Gio Urshela’s breakout season at the plate. Unfortunately, it’s a storyline that’s not going to go away this offseason or in spring training or in the regular season next year unless one of them is traded.
Aaron Hicks: Under 145 games played (59): WIN
Everything about the Aaron Hicks contract extension is great except that he could be playing center field for the Yankees as a 36-year-old in 2026, and I’m not about to go back to 2013-16. The good news is if he sucks then or really at any point in this deal, it’s not an overwhelming amount of money the Yankees owe him or would have to eat. At $10 million per season for a starting center fielder in this center field climate, it might be the best contract the Yankees have ever had on their payroll.
The biggest problem with Hicks is that he can’t stay healthy, which he is showing once again as he won’t be ready for Opening Day and probably not for more than a week into the regular season. Hicks needs to find a way to avoid his one to two injured list stints per seasons. It’s the last piece of the puzzle for a player who saved his career and was awarded life-changing money.
Hicks didn’t ended up missing the first series of the season or the first week, he ended up missing the first six-plus weeks. Then after coming back from the long and weird back injury, Hicks hurt his elbow in early August and hasn’t played since, finishing the season with 59 games played.
Hicks turns 30 tomorrow and the Yankees have him for six more seasons. For a player who never played a full season in the majors in his 20s, I don’t expect him to be healthier on the other side of 30. Thankfully, his contract won’t prevent the team from making necessary moves in the future.
Gleyber Torres: Over 25 home runs (38): WIN
The Yankees have Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and their best player in 2019 and possibly beyond might be Gleyber Torres. The 22-year-old middle infielder was an All-Star in his first season, carrying the Yankees for the first few weeks of his arrival before hitting a wall in the dog days of the season.
As excited as I am for this Yankees season and the first season in what was always expected to be the first season of this window of opportunity, I’m especially excited to see how Torres grows and adjusts to a league that will certainly have adjusted to him after what he did last year. A sophomore slump for Torres? I don’t see it.
Torres laughed at the idea of a sophomore slump or teh league adjusting to him as he batted .278/.337/.535 with 38 home runs and 90 RBIs, easily covering the home run total set here. Aaron Boone finalyl relized it wa s time to stop batitng TOres ninth and moved him up int othe top half othe order and there’s a chance he could be hitting as high as third in the postseason.
James Paxton: Under 160 1/3 innings (150 2/3 innings): WIN
When you look at James Paxton’s numbers, you see a pitcher with not a lot of miles on his arm and just 582 1/3 innings as a now 30-year-old. The reason there isn’t a lot of miles on his arm is because there’s other problems with his arm, and his shoulder and his back, and so on.
In theory, Paxton is a great fit as a power left-hander pitching half of his games in Yankee. The problem is Paxton’s career high for starts is 28 and innings is 160 1/3, and they both came last season. It would be a miracle if Paxton were to get through the 2019 unscathed to start 32 times and give the Yankees 200 innings. Until he has a season in which he’s able to avoid the injured list even once, it’s hard to believe it will happen.
Paxton finished the season at 150 2/3 innings, thanks to his annual injured-list trip, which came early in the season. Paxton was solid in his first season as a Yankee after a 10-game winning streak to end the season (minus his last start) saved his overall numbers. He had a 4.72 ERA at the end of July, but finished with a 3.82 and 15 wins in 29 starts.
There were great moments and awful moments, in a season which was really two seasons for the left-hander: Opening Day through the end of July and August through September. It was exactly the type of season I expected from an inconsistent left-hander with “great stuff”.
Aaron Judge: 118.5 walks (68): LOSS
The number most people care about when it comes to Aaron Judge is home runs. and rightfully so. But after that it should be walks.
Judge led the league with 127 walks in 2017 and was on a 110-walk pace last season if not for the broken wrist (he ended up with 76). When Judge is getting his walks, you know he’s going right, and he’s setting the table for the guys behind him and tiring the pitcher on the mound for Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.
If were up to me, I would bat Judge leadoff. I get that Aaron Hicks is a solid leadoff candidate, but he’s not Judge. Judge has a .409 on-base percentage over the last two seasons and seems to always be in full counts. He’s not going to give away an at-bat or swing at the first pitch and ground out to short. I want the best hitter on the team to get the most at-bats over the course of a season and the best hitter on the team is Judge. It’s certainly not Brett Gardner.
You can’t plan for injuries and for the second straight season, Judge missed significant time, which caused this number to go under at 68. After last season’s broken wrist, Judge landed on the injured list for two months with an oblique injury. Judge missed the end of the 2016 season with a oblique injury, played through a shoulder injury in the second half of 2017, had the broken wrist in 2018 and then the oblique injury in 2019. Can we get a full healthy season of Judge? Especially with the current state of the baseballs.
Masahiro Tanaka: Over 13.5 wins (11): LOSS
Masahiro Tanaka has never thrown 200 innings in the regular season for the Yankees. He came within one out (199 2/3 innings) in 2016, but aside from that his best season was 178 1/3 in 2017.
Another thing Tanaka hasn’t done is win more than 14 games. He’s won 13, 12, 14, 13 and 12. And while I’m not big on pitcher’s win totals since it’s more of a team effort and a lot more is needed that the pitcher simply going at least five innings and pitching well, it’s definitely shocking Tanaka has been unable to reach even 15 wins in what has been a very good career in the majors (64-34 with a 3.59 ERA in 132 starts).
Tanaka needs to give the Yankees quality starts (and starts period), especially at the beginning of the season with two-thirds of the rotation out. If he does that, with this offense, against the crap teams they will see in April, Tanaka will be well on his way to crushing this win total.
When Tanaka had a 1.47 ERA through his first three starts I thought he was well on his way to crushing the over. Then he made a habit of blowing leads with a single crooked-number inning each start and the offense gave him little to no run support in other starts and he finished with 11 wins.
Tanaka received a decision in six starts in which he went at least six innings and gave up two earned runs or less, and that was the difference in him going over the win total. But as long as Tanaka pitches in October the way he has in five previous October starts, that’s all I care about.
Brett Gardner: Under .340 on-base percentage (.325): WIN
Gardner looked finish last season. He finished at .236/.322/.368, which are catcher-like numbers for a guy who was given the chance at the most at-bats by the team for the first five months of the season. I didn’t want Gardner back in 2019 and wanted the team to go in a different direction like Michael Brantley, who the Astros signed, and will undoubtedly have a big hit or hits against the Yankees in the postseason. Because Clint Frazier would need time to get back to playing baseball every day after losing most of the 2018 season, the Yankees couldn’t go into 2019 thinking he would be a full-time Major Leaguer. So they brought Gardner back on a one-year, $7.5 million deal, thinking his veteran leadership and clubhouse presence were needed and that his sharp decline last season wasn’t indicative of what he has left in the tank.
Gardner enjoyed a career resurgence with the new baseball, hitting an astonishing 28 home runs in season win which he wasn’t supposed to play every day and a season in which he started out looking like he was more than finished as a major leaguer. Now he’s most certainly going to be back with the team in 2020.
But even though Gardner experienced a power surge, he didn’t experience an on-base surge and was unable to return his old self when it comes to getting on base. Yes, his OPS went from .690 to .829, but his on-base only went from .322 to .325, the second-worst of his career. As long as Gardner continues to hit home runs, his on-base percentage dipping won’t matter, but if he regresses power-wise, he’ll turn back into the player who lost his leadoff spot and job completely in 2018.
Giancarlo Stanton: Under 200 strikeouts (24): WIN
Giancarlo Stanton was OK in his first season as Yankee. Yes, a .266/.343/.509 hitter with 38 home runs and 100 RBIs was just OK.
Here are the most common excuses from the Stanton fan club heard last season:
1. He’s with a new organization
2. He’s in a new league and has to learn new pitchers
3. He’s playing his home games in colder weather at the beginning and end of the season
4. He needs to get acclimated and adjusted to living in a new city
Maybe some or all of those are true, but they are no longer valid. Not in Year 2, not in 2019. Unfortunately, we can’t go back and redo what happened in October, we only know it can’t happen again. As a Marlin, Stanton would supposedly go to Europe during the MLB postseason since it was too painful to watch. Well, he better change his approach at the plate and with runners on or he’s going to being going to Europe a lot during the World Series as a Yankee.
If I’m going to take a chap loss on Andujar’s batting average, I’m going to take the cheap win on Stanton’s strikeout total. Stanton only played in 18 games, so it was impossible for him to not go under. In those 18 games, he struck out 24 times, so if he had kept that pace for 162 games, it would have translated to 216 strikeouts, but you have to figure he wouldn’t have played all 162 games. The number would have been close had Stanton been healthy all season, but I’ll gladly take the win here. Now it’s up to Stanton to redeem himself in the postseason for his forgettable 2018 postseason.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!