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Series Preview # 10 : D-backs vs Yankees

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Timing is very important, but it isn’t everything.

Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Perhaps the most fun way to prepare for a series against the Yankees is to watch an old baseball movie. Better yet, watch several baseball movies. Some possibilities follow:

The Pride of the Yankees, 1942. Lou Gehrig, nicknamed ‘the iron horse,’ was the greatest first baseman ever. Yes, even better than Goldschmidt. He played in 2130 consecutive games. His career ended when he was diagnosed with ALS. In 1969, Baseball writers voted him greatest first baseman of all time. In 1999, fans voted him onto the “all Century Team.”

This season, who is the pride of the Yankees? Their highest paid player has similarities to Gehrig – named Most Valuable Player (MVP), 2-times silver slugger, 4-times All-Star. And what I admire most is he improved his mental game and his physical game by practicing yoga. His name is Giancarlo Stanton!

“The ballplayer who loses his head, who can’t keep his cool, is worse than no ballplayer at all.” — Lou Gehrig

The Babe Ruth Story, 1948. Babe Ruth, nicknamed ‘the Sultan of Swat’, was great at pitching, and even better at hitting. He holds the record for most seasons with 40+ home runs.

This season, a Yankee starting pitcher has 20 career hits, including 2 doubles. By far, that makes him the best hitting pitcher on the Yankees. But that doesn’t make him a modern version of the Babe.

This season, a pitcher hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, and home run) in the first month of the season. Not done since 2011, it had never been done in the first month of the season. His OPS is 1.731. In 2013, he won a silver slugger award. His name is Zack Greinke. Maybe we should call him Zack ‘Babe’ Greinke.

Greinke’s triple to complete the cycle!
Greinke’s triple to complete the cycle!
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” — Babe Ruth

Take Me Out To The Ball Game, 1949. This movie was about a fictional team. Likely, that team was based on the Yankees or the White Socks for two reasons:

  • The fictional team only played American League teams.
  • Gangsters are part of the story. Al Capone was born in New York and moved to Chicago. He attended baseball games.

In the movie, the owner is a strong-willed woman, K.C Higgins. In real life, the Yankees were owned by the strong-willed George Steinbrenner, may he rest in peace.

”George was The Boss, make no mistake.” — Yogi Berra

”Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing,” — George Steinbrenner

Damn Yankees, 1958. After a fan, Joe Boyd, makes a pact with the Devil, he is transformed into Joe Hardy, a 22-year-old slugger for the Yankees. In real life, the best match for Joe is 24 year-old Clint Frazier, with 6 Homers and 17 RBIs in April, before he went on the injured list.

“Wham! One long ball hitter, that’s what we need! Honest to God, I’d sell my soul for one long ball hitter!” — Joe Boyd

“Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.” — Lola

Safe at Home, 1962. A fan goes to spring training to convince his idols, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, to come to his little league banquet.

On 22 April, 2016, Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees) stole home. He started running from third base as the pitcher threw to the catcher. He slid into home head first. As the catcher lunged forward, he tagged Ellsbury a split-second too late – the runner’s hand had already touched home plate.

“I understand the importance of giving back, and that’s something I definitely want to do.” — Jacoby Ellsbury

Looking ahead:

Timing is very important. Better to play the Yankees now instead of when their best players are on the field.

  • Three (Stanton, Ellsbury, and Tulowitzki) of the four Yankees with the highest salaries are on the injured list.
  • Michael Baumann wrote that Yankee players on the injured list on 21 April, earned a total of 32.8 fWAR last season, which is a record high.
  • On 23 April, Baseball Reference showed 14 Yankees on the injured list.

Currently, the Yankee defense in the outfield is weak. Reasons follow:

  • Injuries to good outfield defenders. Aaron Judge (RF 9 Defensive runs saved (DRS) in 2017 and 14 in 2018), Aaron Hicks (DRS of 12 in 2017 and minus 3 in 2018) and Giancarlo Stanton (RF DRS of 10 in 2017 and 1 in 2018).
  • This season, Brett Gardner, playing center field has minus 3 defensive runs saved.

On 25 April, the Yankees acquired the speedy outfielder, Cameron Maybin. Maybin will improve their outfield defense until injured players return. In 2018, Maybin’s best defense was left field with 6 DRS, although he can play center and right.

The Yankees set a franchise record by striking out 18 times in a nine-inning game on 3 April against the Tigers. This season, Yankees strikeouts are near average in the Majors. However, in specific games Yankee strikeouts can be contagious.

“We’ve got to shorten up and put the ball in play.” —Marcus Thames, Yankees hitting coach

Timing isn’t everything. Despite the injuries, on 24 April the Yankees had won six games in a row against the Royals and Angels. The Yankees are a good team, albeit with weak outfield defense and hitters who can strikeout.

I predict the D-backs will split the 2-game series.

Who will pitch in this series?

Tuesday. C.C.Sabathia (195 ERA+, 6.6 SO/9, 2.4 BB/9) vs Zack Greinke ( 122 ERA+, 9.7 SO/9, 1.7 BB/9)

CC Sabathia has 2997 strikeouts. This game, he will likely reach 3000 strikeouts! He will be the 17th pitcher to reach that milestone.

Sabathia said he will retire after this season. One consideration - he is 38 years old. Another consideration - in December he had angioplasty to open a clogged artery.

Will Zack ‘Babe’ Greinke again hit for a cycle in May? Likely, fans from many teams are cheering for Greinke. Seeing his mussed flowing locks of hair at third base is a pleasant sight worth repeating.

Wednesday. Masahiro Tanaka (128 ERA+, 7.7 SO/9, 2.8 BB/9) vs Merrill Kelly (115 ERA+, 8.2 SO/9, 3.6 BB/9)

Twice in April, Masahiro Tanaka allowed 7 players to reach base. Each time, four runners scored. The number of D-back base-runners could decide the outcome of the game, although D-backs hit so well against relievers that they may win in any case.

Little noticed is Merrill Kelly’s defensive excellence. On 25 April, his 5 putouts as pitcher ranked 3rd in the NL. His 3.03 range-factor-per-9-innings ranked 3rd in the NL. Perhaps he learned defense from Greinke, who ranked above him on both statistics.