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Yankees Mailbag: Trades, Astros’ offense, Clint Frazier

The answers to this week’s mailbag have arrived.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Hello, friends, and welcome to another Friday mailbag! I have five questions to answer this week. Remember to send submissions through our weekly mailbag call or e-mail them to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Bill asks: There is a concept known as the law of unintended consequences. Are the Yankees making trades more difficult by using their exceptional understanding of analytics to unearth prospects and talents other teams haven’t seen? Will teams negotiating with the Yankees wonder why the Bombers are interested in a player, dig deeper in an attempt to see what they’re seeing, and then demand more in return for that player?

The Yankees have done an extraordinary job of finding unheralded batters and transforming them into borderline stars. Luke Voit, Mike Tauchman, and Gio Urshela come to mind recently, but even Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks count. Their track record with position players rivals that of the Astros’ success with trading for pitchers.

I suspect some teams will wonder what they’re missing when Brian Cashman calls and asks for a Quad-A batter in a trade. Will that prevent them from making deals? Maybe. After all, the Mets supposedly had reservations about trading their players to analytically-savvy teams.

That said, I think rational teams will trade with whoever places the highest bid. That’s especially true when it comes to lesser-valued players. Will other general managers actually hold on to a 28-year-old outfielder in Triple-A because the Yankees have had success with them in the past? Probably not.

YankeesFan1973 asks: The goal of an offense is to score runs, right? Please explain to me how the Astros can have “the best offense in 88 years” when they don’t even have the best offense in MLB this year.

True, the Astros have not scored the most runs in baseball this season. As of Thursday afternoon, they sit in third place behind the Yankees and Twins. Runs scored, however, doesn’t paint a complete picture when it comes to offense. We can learn more from wRC+, a weighted rate stat that adjusts for park factors, leagues, and given years.

For a detailed breakdown on the stat, check out FanGraphs’ glossary explanation. The short of it, however, is that a score of 100 represents league average. A number over 100 means an above-average offense, while anything under 100 suggests a below-average performance.

Consider the 2019 team wRC+ leaderboards:

  1. Astros - 125
  2. Yankees - 117
  3. Twins - 116
  4. Dodgers - 112
  5. Red Sox - 106

So, by this measure, the Astros indeed have the best offense in baseball. How does that stack up to historic numbers, though? Compare the current Astros to the all-time best teams in terms of wRC+:

  1. 2017 Astros - 121
  2. 2003 Red Sox - 120
  3. 2007 Yankees - 119
  4. 2015 Blue Jays - 117
  5. 2009 Yankees - 117

If Houston keeps this up, they will break their own record for the best offense in baseball history. Goodness.

#UsetheOpener!!! asks: With Tauchman done for the year and Cameron Maybin hurt as well as slumping, is the door open for Clint Frazier to grab a postseason roster spot?

This question came in before Edwin Encarnacion suffered an oblique injury in Thursday’s doubleheader. So forget just outfielders, the Yankees may need an impact bat available in October. As demonstrated by his 147 wRC+ in April, Frazier can carry an offense for periods of time. The Bombers would be wise to play him regularly down the stretch and maybe carry him on the postseason roster.

PSUHist14 asks: Looking at the current situation, how likely are the Yankees to win it all, on a scale of 1 – 10? One being you may as well just start thinking 2020, 10 being to begin making plans to head to the Canyon of Heroes.

I’ll say eight. That’s right around where I was in the 2017 postseason. Check back again next week as I’m sure I’ll have a different answer.

thedozen asks: Who pitches Game Two of the ALDS?

It’s too early to say. If James Paxton gets Game One, does Luis Severino take the ball in Game Two? Or vice versa? How about Masahiro Tanaka? The Yankees have a lot of options and I suspect timing will play a significant factor in deciding the rotation order.