Joe Girardi

For the second straight year, the Yankees are overachieving

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Katie Sharp at the Yankees blog IATM notes that, for the second straight year, the Yankees are poised to do something historic. Not, like, gloriously historic, but historic nonetheless:

If the Yankees maintain their current season pace, they would become the first team in major-league history to post back-to-back winning seasons while being outscored by at least 20 runs in each year.

Last season the Yankees went 85-77 despite a run differential of -21, their worst mark since 1991 (-103). Based on the amount of runs scored and allowed, the team was expected to win just 79 games.

This year they could easily end up with an even lower run differential and still produce a winning record – they currently have been outscored by 27 runs and are five games over .500.

Katie analyzes why this may be and chalks it up to good hitting in close-and-late situations. Whether that’s a skill or not is often debated. I’ve not seen a lot of great evidence that convinces me that it’s a skill, so it may be luck.

But you can’t just say the Yankees have been lucky, either. They’ve had a good back end of their bullpen, and good bullpens help in close games (losing the blowouts + winning the close ones often = outperformance of run differential). Another constant: Joe Girardi. I don’t think anyone has the market cornered on managerial analysis any more than we have it cornered on close-and-late hitting being a skill, but managers doing harm often lead to a run being blown or forgone here or there. Girardi never seems to mess up like that. And maybe he’s doing some good things too in that dark area of managerial unknowns.

Not that any of this will make Yankees fans feel a lot better if their guys don’t make the playoffs for the second straight year. But it’s probably worth noting that it could’ve — and maybe should’ve — been way worse for them than it has been.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.