The Wire – A New York Yankees preview

I’m not sure whether there’s a point at which a team starts to see diminishing returns from further improving their bullpen, but the New York Yankees seem determined to find out.

On July 24th, the Yankees acquired Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles. Britton experienced plenty of forearm soreness last season and his command suffered. He missed much of this season due to a ruptured Achilles, and the version that emerged has struggled with his control even more than the 2017 version. The Yankees traded for him hoping that he could reclaim something close to his 2015-16 form, when he was one of baseball’s most dominant relievers.

The thing is, even if Britton rebounded to serve as a great high-leverage arm, he’d be just another guy in the Yankee ‘pen. He joins Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Jonathan Holder, and A.J. Cole in the Bronx relief corps. All six of those players have a strikeout rate of at least 10.0 per nine innings except Holder, who still carries a 2.91 FIP. Britton will give them extra balance from the left side, as the closer Chapman is the only other southpaw, but this bullpen is so frightening and dominant that the Yankees don’t have to concern themselves with the platoon advantage all that much. It’s on pace to be the greatest group of relievers ever by fWAR, with the 9.6 mark set by the Eric Gagne-led 2003 Dodgers looking truly vulnerable for the first time.

That alone is why no team is going to want to face the Yankees in the postseason. Their rotation is weaker than you’d like from a playoff team, but recently the Royals and Indians have made it to Game 7 of the World Series with a mundane starting staff. The Yankees have their legitimate ace in the hard-throwing 24-year-old Luis Severino. Behind him, there’s a series of more vulnerable pitchers that might only need to throw four innings or so in a playoff game. Much was made of Masahiro Tanaka‘s homer-driven decline last year, and he’s posted basically the same peripherals this season, only with more BABIP luck.  CC Sabathia has reinvented himself as a LAIM (League Average Innings Muncher) these past three seasons, as he’s become more reliant on movement than velocity and employs a cutter heavily.

The Yankees plugged a gaping hole in their rotation by acquiring lefty J.A. Happ, who’s also in the midst of a nice season. On paper, Happ is a fastball-heavy pitcher, but there’s such a great spread between the vertical movement on his fourseam and sinker that the latter functions almost as an extra breaking pitch. That’s been a large driver of his success since the beginning of his late-career surge in 2015. Sonny Gray has considerably fallen off since his days as an Oakland A’s ace to the point where the Yankees demoted him to the bullpen in favor of the recently-acquired Lance Lynn, who was in the midst of a rough year with the Twins thanks to a high walk rate.

The Yankee lineup is a little banged up right now thanks to a wrist injury to Aaron Judge and a groin injury to Gary Sanchez, but they still have plenty of firepower. The big offseason acquisition, Giancarlo Stanton, was often met with choruses of boos during his struggles earlier this year, but I’m guessing Yankee fans have had no choice but to warm up to him, as he’s hit .313/.362/.557 since the beginning of June. Top prospect Gleyber Torres has taken over at second base and he’s been fantastic, as the 21-year-old has clubbed 17 homers in under 300 plate appearances.

This statement would have sounded insane in 2016, but the New York Yankees, a good team that is trying to win games, has been batting shortstop Didi Gregorius and center fielder Aaron Hicks in the 3-4 spots in the lineup. Both players have earned their keep. Gregorius is a tough lefty to strike out that began hitting for power a couple years ago and provides the Yankees with plus defense at short. Hicks simply looks like a late bloomer; the hard contact started to come last season to go along with his sterling walk rate.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since Greg Bird‘s first postseason appearance with the Yankees. He’s been healthy so infrequently that he’s yet to reach 600 plate appearances in the majors. For the time being, he’s a regular in the Yankee lineup, contributing power and walks that are generally offset by a low, strikeout-plagued batting average and that pesky first-baseman position adjustment. Better with the bat has been third-sacker Miguel Andujar, as he leads the Yankee regulars in batting average. However, three out of three defensive metrics agree that his range at third base leaves much to be desired.


These recent iterations of the Bronx Bombers have been uncharacteristically young; all of their regular lineup save Brett Gardner consists of players aged 28 or under. Their firepower, combined with devastatingly good bullpen work, should make them a threat if they survive the Wild Card Game. It’s unfortunate for them that they’re stuck behind a juggernaut in the Red Sox in the AL East. Given how many times that particular script has been flipped, it’s really hard to feel too bad for them.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Probable Lineup

  1. Brett Gardner – LF
  2. Giancarlo Stanton – DH
  3. Didi Gregorius – SS
  4. Aaron Hicks – CF
  5. Gleyber Torres – 2B
  6. Greg Bird – 1B
  7. Miguel Andujar – 3B
  8. Austin Romine – C
  9. Shane Robinson – RF



This concludes the 2018 team preview series on Sox Machine. Per Jim’s demand, every preview this season (except the one for the Pittsburgh Pirates) has shared a title with an episode of HBO’s critically acclaimed crime drama series, The Wire. I hope you all found these some combination of entertaining and informative. Thanks for reading!

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Patrick Nolan
Patrick Nolan
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Considering how large of a lead the Yankees have (and have had) in the Wild Card standings, I’m shocked they are burning a year of control with Torres. The playoffs have never been in doubt, and now Torres can walk after 2024, right in the middle of their championship window. Poor roster management.

Eagle Bones

I feel like I’m in danger of being whooshed here, but there’s that whole winning the division thing that would have been nice.

sausalito pale hose

They are not a cinch for Wild card. A’s now 2.5 games behind; with Seattle close by.


Yankees were at 89% before a pitch was thrown this season and are at 99.8% now according to Fangraphs. This is brutal, brutal roster management by Cashman… Torres walking in the middle of a championship window in 6 seasons is beyond brutal.

And I didn’t want to bring this up, but Torres hasn’t even checked all the boxes. He was only hitting .347/.393/.510 at AAA. Eloy, who as we all know has a long way to go, is doing slightly better .376/.425/.679 in AAA. Yankees rushing Torres to fight for a playoff spot they were gonna get anyway and then lose him before 2025 when their window is open? Brutal. I’m surprised more Yankee fans aren’t calling for Cashman’s head.

Eagle Bones

Sorry, the correct answer was simply “whoosh”.

Josh Nelson

Awesome work as always, Pnoles!

Ted Mulvey

Thnaks for all the team previews, Pnoles! Does Jim shut you down and store you in the closet, now?


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lil jimmy

even though you may be in the closet,(not that there’s anything thing wrong with that.) you have pro-created once, so you have that going for you.

karkovice squad

We need to call a police welfare check for Reindeer Games. It’s been almost an hour and he hasn’t congratulated Patrick on the sex.

Eagle Bones

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I somehow missed all of these Wire references until you explained this just now. I hang my head in shame, though paging back through the titles now did provides a few chuckles. Well done pnoles!


Great work. Thanks for all the preview Pnoles!
Let’s see if the sox can take advantage of these ailing yankees or the more likely result of the yankees recovering from their ails via the sox. Though I still remember that highly improbably shields win over them last year including the Judge HR that pretty much everyone thought went out.

Jim Margalus

Thank you for all the Wire titles, which I of course realized from the very first one.