Aaron Boone has a lot on his plate in managing the final eleven games of the regular season. Nevertheless, there are some subtle things he should be doing…
Aaron Boone is facing a slippery slope of events with time running out to address all of them. At one time or another, we’ve highlighted most of the issues facing the Yankees manager here.
First and foremost, is for Boone, together with his analytics gurus, to make up the composition of the Yankees postseason roster. As we are seeing, this is a complicated process filled with nuances. The Yankees will field a team when the ALDS begins.
Aaron Boone is also in the process of deciding on his Game 1 starter. James Paxton appears to have taken the lead, but Masahiro Tanaka‘s 1.50 ERA in the postseason is hard to deny.
Then, of course, there’s the day to day reports from the doctors, trainers, and the players themselves as to who is ready and who is not ready to play.
Dellin Betances pitched two-thirds of an inning last night and Luis Severino is scheduled to make his first start of the year Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium when the team begins its final homestand.
Finally, there’s Giancarlo Stanton, the elephant in the room. Boone’s challenge here is to nurse Stanton along to not risk a reoccurrence of injury, against the need to provide Stanton with a sufficient number of at-bats and chances in the outfield. Gary Sanchez remains a big question mark.
However, beyond all of the challenges mentioned above, there are more subtle but still important areas that need to be addressed before time runs out.
Boone: Manage As Though Games Are The Playoffs
Understanding the roster is not yet set, there are a number of strategies Boone can employ as a tool to prepare for the postseason. Some of this Boone is already doing. Using CC Sabathia and Domingo German in their probable roles as relievers is a good thing.
But assuming J.A. Happ has earned a spot in the rotation and Jordan Montgomery is not quite ready, one of the two will fill out the rotation as the fourth starter.
Sabathia and German both need to know what their role is – now. Yes, Sabathia is a veteran of many wars and he could handle a last-minute switch, more comfortably than German.
But still, the mindset between starting and relieving is vast and does take well well to back and forth maneuvering.
The other possibility, of course, is Boone using either or both as openers in games that are followed by an off-day. The Yankees can empty out their bullpen after the opener, using all of the A-Team, and still be assured each reliever can come back in the next game.
But again, this is an idea that could well be part of Boone’s thought process, but not yet practiced.
Manipulating The Yankees Position Players
Similarly, is there a chance that Gio Urshela will sit for a game while DJ LeMahieu plays third base so Luke Voit can start at first base? Sure, there is. And just as surely, Aaron Boone will have a need to call on Urshela to pinch-hit in a tight situation.
Might it be a good idea for Boone to hold Urshela from the lineup two or three times over the next eleven games to “practice” his role as a pinch-hitter? Ditto Voit.
Here’s another one. Given Didi Gregorius‘s paltry .197 batting average this year against left-handed pitching, might it be a good idea to give Gleyber Torres a couple of games at shortstop to keep him fresh there? Likewise, Gregorius needs the feel of coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter.
A couple of notes on Yankees pinch-hitting this year, especially with an eye toward the World Series when games will be played in National League parks with no DH.
Gregorius has no appearances as a pinch-hitter and Voit has two at-bats. The Yankees best pinch-hitter is Mike Ford, who has four hits including two home runs in eight appearances.
These are small little things that can mean everything when the Yankees enter the postseason crapshoot. Boone is doing a lot as a bonafide candidate for Manager of the Year to prepare the Yankees. But he needs to do more over the final eleven games of the season to ensure his team is running on all cylinders…
Here’s the man himself in a press conference earlier today…