o reiterate what I stated earlier this year when I first wrote this article: The purpose of this exercise is to be bold and predict things that could happen but odds are that they will not. I went on to say that I would be happy if 1 out of my 4 bold predictions were to be correct by the end of the season. To put it bluntly… I am pacing for a nice Golden Sombrero with some real ugly hacks up there!
Anyhoo… let’s take a look at these 4 predictions individually and see where we stand at the halfway point of the season.
#1. Jordan Montgomery leads the Yankees starters (not named Severino) in K’s
I put the caveat of “all Yankees starters not named Severino” in this prediction because Severino is our bonafide ace and Cy Young candidate and that would just be unfair to compare the 2nd year Montgomery to a guy of his caliber. Gumby had a fantastic rookie season last year which completely flew under the radar due to the success and hype around Aaron Judge and other Yankees stars. By almost all measurements, Montgomery was the best rookie starting pitcher in the MLB last year.
Reasons I believed in this:
Setting the innings pitched threshold last year to 150 and looking at the leaderboards: Montgomery’s 33.2% O-Swing % was 9th best in the league for SP’s, Montgomery’s 55.9% O-Contact % was 13th best in the league for SP’s and his 12.2% Swinging Strike % was 15th in the league for SP’s.
Well, Montgomery lasted 6 games started this year before hitting the shelf with an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery. It looks as Montgomery may have been injured since the beginning of the season as well as almost all of his numbers were down from last year. His fastball velocity was down 2 MPH, K% down 2.4%, BB/9 up from 2.95 to 3.95 BB/9, etc…
Safe to say this prediction is not going to come to fruition due to the fact that we will not see Montgomery on the mound for the remainder of this season.
#2. Dellin Betances becomes 5th in line of bullpen
Now before you all jump to call me an idiot and say that you knew Betances was going to rebound to an all-star caliber reliever, let me just say that I was doing this as a form of reverse psychology! I knew that if I wrote this bold prediction, he would read it and have that extra motivation to come out this year and prove the haters (like me) wrong!
Setting the innings pitched threshold to 50 from the 2017 season, Dellin Betances lead the league in BB/9 at 6.64 BB/9. That alone was a major cause for concern and not going to cut it in a bullpen riddled with elite arms. It got so bad last year that at the All-Star game, Bryce Harper was mic’d up telling the first base coach “I feel like he’s a guy you just go up there and take”. By the end of the year, he had lost the trust of the coaching staff and only pitched 4 innings in the postseason altogether.
Well, Dellin came out this year and struggled right out of the gate and looked like the same pitcher we saw in the latter half of last year. In Betances’ last 16 games pitched out of the Yankees bullpen, he has regained his elite form that he showed before the downfall last season. In his last 16 games Betances has pitched 15.2 Innings giving up 0 runs, only 2 Hits allowed, 26/11 Strikeout/Walk ratio in 60 batters faced.
On the year, his K/9 is an elite 15.71 and he has somewhat limited the free passes this year by lowering his BB/9 down to 4.17. The results have followed as well as he currently sits with a 2.70 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 12 Holds. Safe to say that Betances has firmly entrenched himself as Boone’s #2 option out of the bullpen. Hopefully, he can continue his dominance into the All-Star Break, through the rest of the season and carry us deep into a playoff run!
#3. Gary Sanchez leads the Yankees in HR’s
I did a fun little exercise when I initially posted this back in Spring Training… running the numbers from the start of 2016 I calculated a HR/162 Games average for the Yankees big 3 righty bombers- Stanton, Judge and Sanchez. Clouded by the massive 2017 seasons from Stanton and Judge both blasting 50 balls into the stands, I expected Gary Sanchez to be the low number here by a decent margin. Surprisingly… I was wrong with that notion.
|Giancarlo Stanton||50.1 HR/162 Games|
|Aaron Judge||49.8 HR/162 Games|
|Gary Sanchez||49.1 HR/162 Games|
As we calculated, entering the start of the 2018 season these 3 had an almost equivalent HR rate per 162 games played.
I wrote a couple days ago about the struggles of Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird so I won’t go into too much detail here. Gary is actually having a decent start to the year in the power department, however, this potential month-long DL stint for a groin issue is definitely going to put a cloud of doubt on this prediction. Judge currently sits at 23 HR’s after last night’s game and Stanton is sitting on 19 long balls, but let’s not completely rule Gary Sanchez out yet! We all know the kind of tear he can go on in a limited number of games…
#4. Aaron Hicks puts up his first 20HR/20SB season
My boy Hicks has always been touted for his potential. He was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Minnesota Twins for his toolsy profile and major hype coming out of high school in Southern California. In that year he was tabbed as a Baseball America Rookie All-Star and named the Twins organization top prospect across multiple publications. He didn’t end up debuting in the pros with the Twins until 2013 but never really put together a quality season until last year in 88 games with the Yankees. In those 88 games, he slashed .266/.372/.475 with 15 HRs and 10 SBs which was good for a 127 wRC+ and 3.3 WAR.
I was extremely optimistic about Hicks’ gains last year in plate discipline, power and overall as a player in all 3 facets of the game. Heading into this year, Hicks looked to have the everyday CF job locked down and was going to bounce around all over the batting order considering he’s a well-rounded switch-hitter with power and speed. Well, he has done just that in the first half of the season- playing CF on a regular basis and rotating from leadoff hitter against tough lefties to any spot 5-7 in the batting order when Gardner leads off.
Hicks currently sits at 2.4 fWAR (2nd on the team behind Aaron Judge) with a triple slash line of .261/.347/.509, 14 HR’s and 6 SB’s.
He has a pretty good shot of eclipsing 20 HR’s this year barring any injury or major slumps, putting the first part of my projection in good standing. Sitting on 6 SB’s at the halfway point doesn’t bode well for him getting up to 20 SB’s on the year and giving him his first 20HR/20SB season. This team just doesn’t steal very many bases considering they have HR power 1 through 9 in their lineup. His success rate is extremely good though when he does run this year (6 SB/7 attempts) good for an 86% success rate. If Boone and the coaching staff let Hicks try to get some swipes a little more often in the second half this prediction could come to fruition. Let him run skip!
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***Stats from Fangraphs.com