I noticed this kicking around the Twitterverse last night and this morning, but the meme developed fully this afternoon: Oh noes! The Yankees don’t play well against good teams!
That’s the refrain from the New York Times today, which notes:
The Yankees’ struggles against better teams have received little
attention, and it is no wonder why. In recent weeks, the team has played
well over all, and the numbers seem to tell a story of a team that is
among the hottest in baseball . . . But many of those wins have come against bad teams.
I touched on this last week (and totally mangled the facts, but whatever), but the fact remains: bad baseball teams are much easier to beat than good baseball teams, and even championship baseball teams have worse records against the winners than the losers. In fact, a major league source who asked for anonymity because he’s not permitted to share such information revealed that beating good teams is much, much harder than beating bad teams. It’s true!
But maybe saying stuff like that — or saying the thing that best describes what happened to the Yankees against the Phillies the last two nights (i.e. that the Yankees lost because they just weren’t playing well) is too boring.
It’s much more interesting to create some overarching theme that invokes mental toughness or the lack thereof than to simply chalk it up having trouble with junkballers, the bullpen pitching poorly at the wrong time and simply having the bats go to sleep.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP