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Ask Pinstripe Alley 8/20/17: Aaron Judge, Joe Girardi, Luis Cessa, and very good bat dogs

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The answers to your Yankees questions have arrived.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

Last Monday, I asked for your best Yankees questions. You responded in a big way; we received nearly a dozen submissions! I’m going to try my hand at a few this morning. Don’t worry if your question doesn’t get answered here. Another editor may give it a swing later in the week.

David asks: What is the biggest adjustment that Aaron Judge has to make now that MLB seems to have adjusted to him?

It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Yankees right fielder. He hit at an historic clip in the first half, posting a .329/.448/.691 batting line with 30 home runs. That adds up to monstrous 197 wRC+. Since the All-Star break, however, he’s slowed considerably. Heading into Saturday night’s game, he’s hit to the tune of .181/.342/.379 with seven home runs. That’s a touch below league average, with an 89 wRC+.

What explains this drop off? David’s right on target. The league adjusted to Judge. Opposing pitchers discovered a hole in his game and they’re capitalizing on it. There are two areas where Judge appears to struggle at the moment. He’s having a difficult time with fastballs up in the zone and with sliders away.

It’s easier to visualize this breakdown with heat maps. First, the fastballs:

Credit: FanGraphs

Now the sliders:

Credit: FanGraphs

That’s the pitching game plan against Judge. Elevate the fastballs and break the sliders off the plate. He has a propensity to chase, which makes these pitches so effective. It’s especially notable when checking out his swing tendencies. In the below chart, O-Swing% represents swings at pitches outside of the zone. Z-Swing% is the opposite, the tendency for a batter to swing at strikes.

Judge’s O-Swing% has climbed in the second half, which is a bad sign. This backs up the eye test. Judge has spent too much time chasing pitches out of the zone. If he hones his eye in on strikes and recognizes the ball’s spin, then he should have some more success. This is easier said than done, of course, but Judge has shown he’s capable of it.

In short, Judge has to be more selective at the plate. Lay off the soft stuff away and resist the urge to climb the ladder. I’m extremely confident in his ability to rebound. Judge has shown that he’s among the game’s elite at making adjustments. Few athletes are better at this than Judge. Give it time, and he’ll bounce right back.

XrayReb asks: Is this season make or break for Joe Girardi? Does missing the playoffs completely mean that he will not be offered a new contract in the winter?

Girardi is currently in his tenth season as the Yankees manager. By all accounts he has the full confidence of Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family. He’s generally a fine manager, save for the occasional mismanagement of the bullpen. I know that a lot of folks across the Yankees Universe want to move on from Girardi. There are far worse options out there, though.

Now if the Yankees miss the postseason, that will be the fifth time the club didn’t the playoffs on Girardi’s watch. Four of those would come over their last five years. That’s not a great optic in New York! Hal Steinbrenner recently noted that missing the playoffs in 2017 would count as a failure in his books. Will that result in a change in leadership? Possibly. This might be the most tenuous contract situation Giardi’s been in since taking over in 2007.

That said, I think he stays on board for at least a little while longer. He seems to have a great rapport with the young core of players, and that’s important. The Yankees would hate to shake that up. If he wants to come back, I have few reasons to believe he won’t.

John asks: It seems to me that, when he's been out there, Chad Green has been reasonably effective. Luis Cessa, on the other hand, has most certainly not. So why do we keep running the latter out there when we need a starter? He eliminates any chance of building momentum with a winning streak. He's the opposite of a "stopper".

Cessa, 25, has struggled this season. Over 36 innings in the major leagues, he’s pitched to 4.75 ERA. His peripherals are subpar as well. He owns a 5.66 FIP with enormous 4.25 BB/9 and 1.75 HR/9 ratios. He hasn’t exactly pitched well for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre either.

Why is Cessa starting over Green? There are two reasons. First, Cessa legitimately has four pitches. He throws them regularly, too. That’s what one wants to see from a starting pitcher. He simply has a deeper repertoire than Green.

Second, Green has found success in his current role. He’s pitched incredibly well out of the bullpen. It’s no exaggeration to call Green a relief ace. One could make the case that he’s the best reliever on the team. He’s been that good. Why mess with that? Some pitchers are just meant for the bullpen, take Dellin Betances for example. The Yankees have something special with Green and they know it.

With a healthy rotation, Cessa is essentially the club’s seventh starter. One would be hard pressed to find a team with any good options for their number seven pitcher. When you have to run out that guy, things aren’t going well to begin with. It’s not pretty when he gets a start, but I guess a team could do worse than Cessa.

jjpf asks: I’d like to know the breed, age, name, sex of the Trenton Thunder AA team’s bat-dog. The one who appeared at the end go a milb.com video of Zack Zehner’s 7/4/17 home run. And if you can throw in the name of the dog’s agent, that’d be a plus.

Those bat dogs would be Derby and Rookie! They’re both boys and Golden Retrievers. In fact, Derby is Rookie’s dad. Chase, Derby’s father, served as bat dog from 2000 until his passing in 2013. It’s a family affairs over in Trenton. For more information on these very good doggies, visit their page on the Trenton Thunder’s website.