Off Day Dreaming: Home Run-Happy Yankees Make Me Happy

The Yankees' need for home-field advantage in the postseason goes hand-in-hand with their home run prowess

After losing on Monday to the Rangers, the Yankees won on Tuesday and Wednesday to win the three-game series and continue their home series winning streak, which dates back to April. If you don’t think home-field advantage matters in the postseason, like the Yankees seem to think, you might want to rethink your stance on that.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees on this off day as usual.

1. I missed this feeling. This feeling is the feeling of knowing September Yankees games are meaningless (aside from home-field advantage) and that the result ultimately doesn’t matter because of their enormous division lead. For the four NFL Sundays in September, I can watch football and not be completely focused and worried about the Yankees. It’s been a while since Yankees fans have had this luxury and I forgot how good it felt. I won’t take it for granted.

2. The Yankees aren’t going to go all out to win home-field advantage. I think they need it to win the American League pennant and get past the Astros in a potential ALCS matchup, but clearly the Yankees don’t feel the same. Aaron Boone has shown us they don’t feel the same.

In Sunday’s game, Boone brought in reliever Ryan Dull with the game tied to start the seventh inning against the A’s. Dull had already been released by the A’s and Giants this season, found his way to the Yankees and somehow was a September 1 call-up. Why? Because he’s in the Top 20 percent in spin rate.

3. This is Dull’s line pre-Yankees this season: 9 IP, 19 H, 13 R, 12 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 4 HR. Throw in the one batter he hit and he put 24 baserunners on in nine innings. How is he on the Yankees’ 40-man roster and how did he get a September 1 call-up, and why is he pitching in the seventh inning of a 0-0 game? Dull was every bit as bad in that seventh inning as he was prior to joining the Yankees. His line: 1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K.

Later in that same game, Boone brought in Adam Ottavino with the Yankees trailing. So he goes to the shouldn’t-be-in-the-majors reliever when the game is tied and he goes to the elite, top-tier reliever with the team trailing. If you don’t think Boone’s logic and bullpen management is going to be a problem in October, you must have missed last October.

4. The Yankees came back to win the game 5-4, thanks to back-to-back home runs from Brett Gardner and Mike Ford in the bottom of the ninth off Liam Hendricks, who can’t seem to ever get the Yankees out. Because of the win, Boone was saved from being questioned about his nonsensical bullpen management as the postgame focus turned to the second walk-off win in as many days. But not for me. I was happy the Yankees won, but not happy about how they won because it’s decisions like pitching Ottavino when the team is losing and using a lesser reliever when the game is tied that will arise in the postseason. Boone was dealt a 15 with the dealer showing a 10. Boone inexplicably stayed. The dealer flipped over a 3, pulled a 2 and then a 10 to bust. Boone thinks he made the right decision because he won the hand.

This type of bullpen management happened last October after everyone spent the entire regular season under the idea Boone would manage differently in the postseason. If you’re not scared about Boone ruining this season, you should be.

5. I updated my Postseason Rotation Power Rankings on Tuesday, but didn’t really update them since I’m currently staying with Masahiro Tanaka in Game 1, Domingo German in Game 2, James Paxton in Game 3 and Chad Green as an opener in Game 4. If Luis Severino comes back then everything changes. Or if Paxton continues to pitch the way he has since the beginning of August.

After the Yankees lost all five of Paxton’s start in July, he has won seven straight. His line over those seven straight wins: 42.1 IP, 25 H, 14, 14 ER, 15 BB, 51 K, 5 HR, 2.98 ERA, 0.944 WHIP. That’s the Paxton the Yankees thought they were trading for with opposing hitters posting a .545 OPS against him.

6. Through all of his ups and downs over the last two seasons, I have never said, written or tweeted anything negative about Gary Sanchez. How could I as President of the Gary Sanchez Fan Club? And after last year’s dismal season which ended with offseason surgery for Sanchez, he has repaid those who believed in him and ridiculed those who wanted Austin Romine to be the team’s starting catcher. (That will always be the most ridiculous Yankees storyline of all time.)

Sanchez homered twice on Tuesday night to give him 34 on the season, breaking his Yankees’ single-season home runs for a catcher record he set in 2017 with 33. After becoming the third fastest player ever to 100 home runs, Sanchez is the second fastest to 14 multi-home run games. He’s the best hitting catcher in baseball and the Yankees’ biggest advantage in the lineup because of his position as a middle-of-the-order bat.

Now I just need Sanchez to continue his record-setting slugging ways in October, where he already owns five postseason home runs in 18 games and 75 plate appearances.

7. Aaron Judge hit his 20th home run on Wednesday night and Sanchez said he thinks Judge can get to 30. That would be 10 more home runs in 21 games, most of which Judge won’t be playing the full game or playing at all since the Yankees will have clinched the division.

Judge isn’t going to get to 30 this season, but his 20 in 84 games is the equivalent to hitting 39 in 162 games. His 27 in 112 games last year was also the equivalent to hitting 39 in a full season.

Judge’s only full season so far has been his Rookie of the Year 2017 season, in which he hit 52 home runs and had a 1.049 OPS, finishing second for the AL MVP to Jose Altuve. It’s unlikely Judge will ever match his magical age-25 season, but it would be nice to see if he actually could by playing a full season in 2020. Can we please get one freak-injury- and oblique-injury-less season from Judge? Is that too much to ask?

8. If the Indians don’t blow their 3-1 lead to the Cubs in the 2016 World Series or finish off their remarkable comeback in Game 7 of that World Series then Aroldis Chapman for Gleyber Torres might be the worst trade of all time. A closer for a middle infielder with 40-home run ability? If not for the Cubs’ World Series comeback to end their 108-year championship drought, it would go down as the worst trade of all time.

Torres already has 58 home runs and an .855 OPS in 251 career games despite being 22 years old and playing two premium defensive positions. Judge and Sanchez might get all the attention now as this being their team, but it won’t last long with a superstar up the middle for the foreseeable future.

John Flaherty brought up a good point during Wednesday’s broadcast about looking forward to seeing how Torres performs in the postseason after he looked jumpy and not ready last October. I agree with Flaherty that Torres never looked like himself at the plate in the five postseason games last year, and I’m sure it had to do with the A’s and Red Sox’ planning for him as well as it being his first experience on that stage. Torres did manage to hit four singles in the postseason, but he was nowhere near the hitter he is now with the experience he has gained. Put Torres in the middle-of-the-order for good, Boone. It’s well overdue.

9. A year ago when the 2019 schedule came out, I figured this weekend’s four-game series against the Red Sox would cause me to finally purchase a respirator and quite possibly send me to the hospital. Thankfully, it means nothing other than for the Yankees to increase their odds at obtaining home-field advantage.

But it does mean something for the Red Sox who are clinging to the smallest of chances at a wild-card berth. The Red Sox are six games back in the loss column of the A’s and five games back in the loss column of the Rays and Indians with three weeks to play. The Yankees have a chance to go to Boston and officially eliminate the Red Sox from the division (the Red Sox’ division elimination number is 7), and also completely ruin the Red Sox’ chances at sneaking into the playoffs as a wild-card team. I want the Yankees to leave Boston with the Red Sox’ division elimination at 0 and their wild-card elimination greatly diminished (it’s 18 now).

10. My expected record for the Yankees in August (by expected record, I mean a record I would be content with them having) was 17-13. The Yankees finished the month 21-9, four games better than I would have been content with.

The Yankees are now 92-49 (my expected record for them in September is 15-10) and they have a 1 1/2-game lead over the Astros for the best record in the AL and a 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers for the best record in baseball. The Yankees only have to go 8-13 to win 100 games for the second straight season and 9-12 to beat last year’s 100-win total. It’s hard to know how the Yankees will play the final two-plus weeks of the season once the division is officially clinched, but they have a chance to win 105 games in a year in which they broke the record for the most players on the injured list a season. What a season it’s been.


My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is available!