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New York Yankees

The 2018 Yankees outfield could be an all-time great

Matt Gregory

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are a good team, a world series contender. Expectations were high with the addition of Giancarlo Stanton over the winter. I want to put a measuring stick to see how the outfield stacks up to the expectations coming into the year.

Let us start off with a comparison. The first number is what FanGraphs season preview had projected the Yankees outfield to be worth in terms of WAR. Projections are obviously haphazard. Either due to injuries or just plain wrong predictions of playing time and performance. That projection also included Jacoby Ellsbury reaching 140 plate appearances, again projections can get it wrong.

12.9 WAR 2018 projection Yankees Outfield (50/50 Mix of Steamer and ZiPS)

12.4 Current WAR 2018 Yankees Outfield (through 7/9/18)

The second number is the current WAR of the Yankees outfield through 89 games. So, in just over half a season, the Yankees outfield has nearly reached its projected WAR total for the year. This is a very good outfield. FanGraphs projected the Yankees to be second in the major league in terms of outfield WAR, second only to Mike Tr- er, the Angels.

Giancarlo Stanton came off a 7.1 fWAR season while Aaron Judge won Rookie of the Year with an 8.2 fWAR season. The question marks were in centerfield. What was the overall value of Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury and even Clint Frazier? The answer was… middling. Gardner was projected 1.4 WAR, while Hicks was cautiously at 2.4 WAR. Ellsbury was projected at .4, which even now feels like a stretch, while Frazier was only expected a handful of plate appearances.

Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner have already surpassed their season projections in terms of WAR. The biggest boost to the outfield has been Aaron Hicks. The Yankees bet on him when they traded John Ryan Murphy to the Twins and Hicks struggled in his first action with the Yankees, while battling injuries along the way. Now, he’s healthy-ish and reaching the heights that the front office was betting on. Hicks was worth 3.3 WAR in 89 games last year, and 2.7 WAR in 70 games, and on pace to play more than 89 games this year. He has provided a fantastic offensive year with good defense in center field.

This cannot be overstated, Hicks being in centerfield more consistently allows Aaron Boone to cycle through Gardner, Judge, and Stanton in the corner spots, with Gardner occasionally occupying centerfield. Gardner has played center field in 184 innings this year already surpassing his innings total in centerfield from last year but FanGraphs sees him as a better left fielder defensively.

More importantly, the cycling of Stanton, Judge and Gardner keeps them fresh. Gardner has always been an ironman but plays at 100 miles per hour and is the oldest at 34 years old. Stanton had one of his first fully healthy seasons last year, so the Yankees have used him as a designated hitter to give his legs a rest (he has had knee surgery and dealt with hamstring strains in the past). Judge is the crown jewel of the outfield, keeping him healthy with occasional spells at designated hitter is a luxury the Yankees can now afford.

Where is this post going exactly? Well, it is time now we have a conversation about where this outfield ranks among all-time Yankee outfields. Stop laughing, why are you laughing at me? I am serious.

The answer is obviously still to be decided. In 1927, Babe Ruth, Earle Combs, and Bob Meusel produced 24.0 fWAR. This current outfield, using an average of ZiPS and Steamer, is projected to produce 8 WAR for the rest of the season. Putting them at 20.8 WAR. It is a close one, though it is very hard to overcome a 12.4 WAR season from Babe Ruth. I believe the projections are being slightly bullish on Stanton, given he has produced a 154 wRC+ in the second half for his career and is showing signs of heating up. If he repeats his 2017 second half, then they become a legitimate challenger to the throne.

While most of the best outfields are usually anchored by one player, 2018 has potentially two all-stars in Stanton and Judge, with two very good regular starters in Hicks and Gardner having potential for 3-4 WAR. For reference, here are the top five Yankee outfields by WAR I could find (I did as best I could with manual searching and adding of WAR totals, if there is an outfield you think is missing, give me a shout).

1. 1927 24 fWAR
2. 1941 22.3 fWAR
3. 1961 19.6 fWAR
4. 1940 19.3 fWAR (Technically, George Selkirk and Tommy Henrich did not meet minimum plate appearances but then this outfield only has two outfielders without them)
5. 1939 19.1 fWAR

1927 had Ruth as mentioned above but also had Earle Combs and Bob Meusel providing 6.8 and 4.2 WAR respectively. 1939-1941 had Joe DiMaggio in center and a rotation of others, George Selkirk and Charlie Keller posted 5.7 and 4.9 WAR respectively in 1939. 1940 had Selkirk (3.2 WAR), Tommy Henrich (3.0 WAR) and Charlie Keller (5.6 WAR). 1941 again featured Selkirk (7.3 WAR) and Henrich (5.2 WAR) to support DiMaggio’s 9.8 WAR season. The 1961 outfield featured Mickey Mantle (10.1 WAR) and Roger Maris (7.1 WAR) with Yogi Berra (2.2 WAR) and Bob Cerv (1.3 WAR) rotating as third outfielders. This is a who’s who of Yankee legends.

Most of these outfields only had three players (1940 and 1961 being the exceptions) in their WAR totals. Obviously, 2018 has four quality outfielders, which should not discount them from being in the discussion. It only speaks more to the quality of the rotation the Yankees have. Any one of the four would be a starter on another team. They have a legitimate shot at being one of the greatest Yankee outfields and in turn, one of the great outfields in the history of major league baseball.

Born and raised in New Jersey in a Yankee household, Matt works with computers by day but has always loved baseball. When he's not doing either of those things, he's probably thinking about Villanova basketball way too much. Follow him on Twitter @MattchewGregory.

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New York Yankees

The Yankees are missing the mark when it comes to social issues

Matt Gregory

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The Journal News-USA TODAY NETWORK

Locked On Yankees is a Yankees blog, first and foremost. We talk about the on-field product and analyze it on a microscopic level. But, baseball is a sport that holds cultural significance at a global level. Because of that, it is important to talk about the cultural impact the Yankees have or in this case, have not had this year.

The inspiration for this post was this tweet:

The wording of this tweet is extremely important.

Suspending.

The Yankees are not terminating their relationship with Papa John’s. They are suspending, which ostensibly means they could restart the relationship later. They are not alone, other major league baseball teams have also suspended their relationship, with the MLB indefinitely suspending its relationship. But this is a Yankees blog, so we will focus on the Yankees.

The bar was set extremely low for the Yankees to do something worthwhile. Forget that the quality of Papa John’s pales in comparison to literally any New York pizza joint and the relationships the Yankees could build with those local businesses.

All the Yankees had to do was end the relationship, full stop. Cutting ties with a now toxic brand is not hard. Sure, it hurts monetarily short term, but overall it is a more positive action. Instead, they suspended, because the possibility of money in the future when this all blows over is still real.

John Schnatter’s recent racist remarks directed at African Americans (and the comments he made about football players driving his sales down) should have been enough. The Bronx, per the Census Bureau, is 43.7% Black or African American as of July 1, 2017. If you walk around the Bronx for even ten minutes, you will see countless people wearing Yankees gear. The Yankees and the Bronx are forever connected. At the very least, ending the relationship with Papa John’s would have shown a core of the Bronx population, that the Yankees do care. Instead, they did the bare minimum.

In an area with such a large African American population, engagement with the fans should be a priority. The RBI program and Play Ball initiatives are good on face value, but in terms of meaningful progress, have amounted to little. On Opening Day of 2018, only 8.4% of Major League Baseball players were black. In the 1970s that number was 18%. Making baseball more appealing and more accessible, i.e. with cheaper ticket sales and impactful cultural nights, is something where the MLB and the Yankees have failed.

Which brings up another failure that is just as important. The Yankees, as of 2019, will be the only team in Major League Baseball to never hold a Pride Day/Night. In 2018, the Yankees and the Angels were the only teams to not have a Pride Day/Night event. Again, you may believe that a single Pride event is not nearly enough to show an organization cares about the LGBTQ+ community. I agree but it is at least something. Especially in New York City, which is host to one of the largest Pride parades in the world, this is a complete failure by the organization. A Pride event is the first step to a longer and more meaningful relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.

The LGBTQ+ community has had a long, tumultuous history in the city, starting with the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969. Sports teams have slowly come around to holding pride events during pride month in June and the Yankees, being in the epicenter of the pride movement’s beginning, still have not held a Pride Night for their fans. Skipping over the fact that this would bring in thousands of fans to the stadium, it is disrespectful to the LGBTQ+ fan base to not even acknowledge them or their movement.

As the New York Times notes, the Yankees have “shied away from promotions with ethnic or cultural flair,” though a team spokesman noted that there is far more going on behind the scenes. Both Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s executive who works to promote inclusion in the sport and David Kilmnick, chief executive of the LGBT Network had reached out the Yankees on separate occasions for a pride night but received no response. Bean noted that not “having a pride event does not paint an entire picture of the organization’s position on inclusivity” but followed up that it opens more opportunities with the LGBTQ+ community.

Baseball has an issue with engaging Millennials and younger generations. The millennial generation is one of the most inclusive. Nearly half of millennials surveyed by the Institute for Public Relations said that diversity and inclusion were important in their workplace. Minor league teams are now running promotions like this as some type of joke?

They seem to think we are all still children who like having our intelligence insulted. The thing about my generation and the even younger generations is that we care. We care about social issues, we care about inclusion because the older generations did not, and we must do the work to fix their shortcomings.

So, when sports teams do things like failing to reach out to historically marginalized communities, we respond by ignoring them and choosing not to pay for their product. If it creates hundreds of think pieces stating that “Millennials are killing baseball,” then it is worth it because maybe Major League Baseball will pay attention. Money talks.

Bringing this all back around: the Yankees are instantly recognizable around the world. If they fail to engage and do small acts of outreach to their fans, people notice. These are acts of social outreach, acts of goodwill towards your fanbase that they should be doing and should have been doing for years. Showing that you care about your fans and care that they support your team. Instead, the Yankees have maintained their reputation as a business, or more simply, they have put money first.

Sources

MLB sees continued increase in diversity
https://www.mlb.com/news/major-league-baseball-increases-diversity/c-271509694

MLB race and gender report card shows progress still needed
http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/19185242/mlb-race-gender-report-card-shows-progress-needed

Black MLB participation inches up, but is still pitifully low
http://www.stlamerican.com/sports/sports_columnists/sports_eye/black-mlb-participation-inches-up-but-is-still-pitifully-low/article_2bf5fef4-4377-11e8-8b3b-bf6d1d5f2b41.html

Left Out
https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/left-out

Yankees set to be only MLB team not to host LGBTQ Pride Night
https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/yankees-set-be-only-mlb-team-not-host-lgbtq-pride-n889101

25 Major League Baseball teams to host LGBT Pride nights in 2018
https://www.outsports.com/2018/5/3/17228268/mlb-lgbt-pride-nights-2018-list

As More Teams Host Gay Pride Events, Yankees Remain a Holdout
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/07/sports/baseball/gay-pride-nights-baseball-yankees.html

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New York Yankees

Series Preview | The Mets against the Yankees, Part 2

Stacey Gotsulias

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

After an All-Star break that felt like three weeks long, the Yankees are finally back in action Friday night. The Mets are visiting Yankee Stadium for the second edition of the Subway Series. The last time the two teams met, the Yankees took two out of three in Citi Field and lost Masahiro Tanaka to hamstring injuries. This time, the Yankees will be facing both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom while not countering with their ace Luis Severino. He gets to watch from the dugout. Syndergaard had been out with an injury but returned to action on July 13 in a 4-2 win over the Nationals. And speaking of returning to action, Gary Sanchez was activated just in time for the series. He had been out since June 24 with a groin injury. Kyle Higashioka was sent back down to Triple-A. Rookie Gleyber Torres is still out with a hip injury and won’t be playing in this series.

On Friday night, Noah Syndergaard will be making his first ever start in Yankee Stadium. He’s matched up against Domingo German who hasn’t won a game since June 19. German has pitched 78 2/3 innings so far and has given up 50 runs and 72 hits—14 of those hits were home runs. In his last start, German lasted only four innings and he gave up six runs on five hits. He also walked four while striking out six. Syndergaard missed all of June but his return against the Nationals last weekend was encouraging. He threw five innings, gave up seven hits, one run and he struck out two while walking one batter.

Saturday’s game is an afternoon start which pits Steven Matz against Sonny Gray. Gray’s last start was a bit encouraging. After not being able to clear the third inning in his previous two starts against Boston and Toronto, Gray pitched six strong innings against Baltimore. He didn’t allow a run, gave up three hits and struck out eight batters. Gray faced the Yankees last season and pitched six innings and gave up two runs on five hits with five strikeouts. Matz is coming into this series with two losses in his last three starts. His season ERA is 3.38 and he’s 4-7 but he’s pitched to a 2.91 ERA since the beginning of May. Matz pitched 6 1/3 innings against Washington in his last start but picked up the loss.

In Sunday night’s finale, Masahiro Tanaka and Jacob deGrom get the start. Tanaka was on the shelf for a bit after injuring himself in the last Subway Series. Luckily for him, he won’t have to run the bases in Yankee Stadium. He’s made two starts since returning from the disabled list and in his last one, he pitched 6 1/3 innings while only giving up two runs against the Indians. He didn’t factor into the decision as the bullpen blew the game. One issue plaguing Tanaka is his penchant for giving up the long ball. He hasn’t made a start without giving up a home run since his start in Houston on May 3 and he’s only made two starts all season with giving up at least one home run. deGrom’s name has been in the news thanks to a statement from him and from his agent regarding his future with the Mets. He’d like to remain a Met but if they’re not going to do anything to improve the team, why would he stay? deGrom is the biggest victim of the Mets’ ineptitude this season. Right now, deGrom is 5-4 with a 1.63 ERA but he also has 10 no decisions. Either the Mets offense can’t get enough runs to support him or his bullpen blows his leads.

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Podcast

The trade deadline, the Yankees needs and the Subway Series

Stacey Gotsulias

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Locked On Yankees, your daily podcast covering the New York Yankees as part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

In today’s episode, Sean and Gary discuss the Yankees needs, take a look at who’s still available and what the Yankees could/should do before the trade deadline. They talk about how the Yankees have done thus far this season and evaluate individual performances. And finally, they preview the Subway Series Part 2.

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