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Yankees Mailbag: Postseason opponents, home-field advantage, Gleyber Torres

The answers to this week’s mailbag are here.

MLB: AUG 25 Yankees at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello, everyone, and happy Friday! This week’s mailbag features five questions. If I didn’t get around to yours, don’t worry. You can always submit questions for next week.

Ranger Rider asks: Assuming the four remaining teams after the Wild Card Game are the Astros, Yankees, Twins, and Indians. The Astros hypothetically secured the top seed. Who would you prefer to play in the ALDS?

I’m ruling the Astros out right off the bat. I don’t dislike the Yankees’ odds against them, but why would you pick the best competition—who also has home-field advantage—in this scenario? That leaves Cleveland and Minnesota. In that instance, I’m taking the Indians.

Why not the Twins, whom the Yankees have handled with ease in previous playoff matchups? That’s simple. Their shared history has no bearing on this year’s postseason. The Twins are prodigious power hitters, sporting a 17.9% HR/FB rate. That does not match up well with the Yankees’ dinger-prone pitching staff.

The Indians, meanwhile, have middling power numbers. They have the best pitching staff in baseball according to ERA-, but I’ll trust the Yankees’ offense here. Besides, the Twins sports an 88 ERA-. They have good pitching and great hitting. Give me the team with at least one weakness.

Yanks4ever asks: Looking at the Yankees’ remaining schedule and then at the Astros’ remaining schedule, how likely are the Bombers to break away from Houston and obtain home-field advantage?

The Astros lost yesterday, so the Yankees have a one-game lead with 27 to play. According to FanGraphs’ Strength of Schedule projections, Houston will have an easier time down the stretch. They check in at .473 versus the Yankees’ .483.

The Astros also have a higher RPI, a metric that accounts for strength of opponent in the winning percentage. This essentially means that they have played better against tougher opponents than the Yankees. Not only do the Astros have a softer schedule, they have a better track record against stronger teams.

It will be a tough task for the Yankees to pull off, but they do have reinforcements working in their favor. The Bombers figure to add Luke Voit, Giancarlo Stanton, Edwin Encarnacion, Luis Severino, and Dellin Betances among others over the next month. That should go a long way towards navigating September. It won’t be easy, but they have a chance to do so.

SJComic asks: Gleyber Torres leads the Yankees in home runs with 32, tied for 13th in the majors. The Yankees are currently ran second in home runs behind the Twins. While I do not think New York will overtake them, but if they did, would they be the first team to lead the league in home runs and not have any individual placed in the top 10?

This is a great question. Since 1920, at least two teams have led the league in home runs without having a player crack the top 10. The Seattle Mariners did it in 1999 and the Yankees followed it up in 2004. Interestingly enough, Alex Rodriguez led both teams in home runs. A-Rod placed 11th in 1999 with 42 homers, and 15th in 2004 with 36 bombs. It would be cool if the 2019 Yankees made it three.

Credit goes to Josh Diemert for the research assistance.

thedozen asks: Where does Dellin Betances fit in the bullpen pecking order if all goes well?

A lot, of course, depends on how Betances’ stuff looks upon returning. If his velocity still plays and his breaking ball has bite, then he should go right back to a setup role. I trust a healthy Betances pitching in front of Aroldis Chapman rather than Zack Britton, that’s for sure. Give me the power arm who can miss bats every day of the week.

George asks: During the Yankees-Dodgers weekend series, both teams had number 45 patches on their sleeves. What was this representing?

Those patches commemorated Tyler Skaggs, the Angels pitcher who tragically passed away earlier this season. Chuck Schilken wrote a nice story on the occasion for the Los Angeles Time. It’s well worth the read.