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Ask Pinstripe Alley 6/25/17: Masahiro Tanaka, Aaron Judge, and Joe Girardi’s bullpen management

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The answers to your Yankees questions are in.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

We put out a call for Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag questions last Monday. Since then, we received over a dozen questions! I’ll answer a few this afternoon. If I don’t get to yours, don’t worry, another editor might take a swing at it later in the week.

CayNorth asks: Is it too crazy to ever think of a Tanaka trade before the deadline? Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the more optimistic fans, but I haven’t really bought into him since he came here as an ace and I think this season Severino could be eased more into the ace role and Tanaka could get a number two depending on what happens.

I can’t see a scenario where the Yankees trade Masahiro Tanaka. From what I can tell, the organization wants to win, not sell off pieces. If this free fall continues, it’s more likely that this team buys at the deadline to shore up weaknesses. Besides, given his rough season, you would be hard pressed to find a buyer willing to pay top dollar for Tanaka. The Yankees need him to win, so he’s far more valuable to them than the return he would fetch.

I could see being down on Tanaka this season, but since arriving, he’s been nothing short of an ace. From 2014 - 2016, he accrued 10.0 fWAR, which ranks 21st among 121 qualified starters. Tanaka sits right behind Felix Hernandez on the list. His 3.12 ERA over that period jumps him up to 16th place, which bests the marks of names such as David Price, Cole Hamels, and Dallas Keuchel.

For whatever reason Tanaka doesn’t get enough credit for being the Yankees ace. I get there’s a recency bias with his dreadful performance this year, but that doesn’t take away from his results over the last few years. He’s hovered around the top-20 of all starters in baseball, and if that’s not an ace, I don’t know what is.

Stephen Miller asks: Sabathia & Pineda: Both have pitched really well this year, and both are in their last year. If the Yankees only wanted to re-sign one of them, who ya got?

This one’s tough. I think that CC Sabathia would come cheaper, and is far less likely to require a multi-year deal. He’s also shown that his late-career reinvention isn’t a fluke. He’s pitched to a 3.78 ERA with a 50% groundball rate since the start of the 2016 season. He’s been largely consistent, while Michael Pineda is the paragon of frustration.

That said, Sabathia will turn 38 next year. He also has a lengthy injury history. Pineda, for his part, has been healthy for several seasons now. In that case, give me the younger and healthier pitcher. Maybe my answer changes as the season wears on, but right now, I’m taking Pineda.

John Erving asks: Are the Yankees Doomed™?

In a cosmic sort of way, yes. Next question.

NYCKING asks Should Judge participate in HR Derby?

Even though I already wrote about why Aaron Judge should compete in the Home Run Derby earlier this week, it’s worth repeating. He absolutely should participate. The risks are little more than fiction, and my goodness, who wouldn’t want to see him face Giancarlo Stanton in a dinger mashing contest? Accept the invitation already, Judge.

Bob Stoner asks: This recent slump started when the Yankees essentially had a bullpen day which taxed the bullpen and, after an unforeseen CC injury, led to several bullpen meltdowns. Compounding this is Giardi's unwillingness to be more creative in his use of his relievers, which had Betances watching while his teammates gave away several leads. Is is unfair of me to pin the blame for this west coast slump on Joe?

Is it fair to blame the entire slump on Joe Girardi? No, probably not. He can only work with who he has on the roster. It’s not really his fault that Tyler Clippard and Jonathan Holder lost the ability to keep the ball in the park. Plus, injuries to Aroldis Chapman and Adam Warren shortened the length of the bullpen.

That said, Girardi severely mismanaged his relievers over the last few weeks. Sine June 12th, the Yankees bullpen has posted a 5.15 ERA. That’s not great! The fact that Girardi repeatedly went to a struggling Clippard and Holder has something to do with that. It also doesn’t help that he let Dellin Betances sit idly for long stretches of time. These last few series won’t make Girardi’s highlight reel, that’s for sure.

There exists a vocal crowd of Yankees fans who are ready to part ways with the Yankees manager. I think that’s unwarranted, but you can’t ignore Girardi’s peculiar decision-making. If this persists for the rest of the season, though, then he’s going to be in some trouble.