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Yankees mailbag: Opening Day, Aaron Judge, Rule 5 Draft

The answers to this week’s mailbag are here

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Hello, everyone, I hope you’re hanging in there this week. We have four answers in this week’s mailbag. Remember to pass along your submissions in our weekly call for questions or the by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com. Enjoy!

Shoducky asks: What’s everyone’s guess at the start date for the season? I’m going all-American and seeing July 4th doubleheader’s across the land. Huzzah!

As athletes grow more amenable to playing games without fans, it looks like Major League Baseball could pull off a short season this year. I agree with July as a realistic starting point, and Independence Day would make for quite the party. It sounds like the league has its eyes set on an earlier date, however, with Matt Spiegel reporting a proposed July 1st Opening Day. That would give them a 100-game season, more than I expected, frankly.

David asks: How will MLB handle Rule 5 Draft players, like Rony Garcia, in this shortened season?

Garcia, 22, went to the Tigers in the Rule 5 Draft last December. He had a strong spring, pitching 6.2 innings, allowing just two earned runs. Given Detroit’s bullpen depth chart (oy), he had a legitimate chance of breaking camp with the club. If he stayed on the 26-man roster all year, then the Tigers would get to keep him throughout his entire controllable term.

Does this change in a shortened season? Nobody is quite sure. Rob Bradford recently checked in with his sources and the league has yet to make a decision. I guess we just have to wait for more guidance from the Commissioners Office.

Steve asks: Isn’t the main issue with Aaron Judge that he concealed his injury last year? Reading a lot of people here blaming the medical staff for not diagnosing the collapsed lung, but did he even get tested last fall?

Remember when Judge disclosed that he had a collapsed lung? Wow. That feels like a whole lifetime ago. The injury itself likely dates back to September 18th, when he attempted a diving catch against the Angels. At the time, he insisted on staying in the lineup, and Aaron Boone basically deferred to Judge.

“I think he’s fine from [that dive], but it was something last night before he left, I let him know that I was going to have him down today,” Boone told Betelhem Ashame. “Just felt like it was a good idea. I haven’t seen him yet today; hopefully he’s fine. I believe he is, but it was just something that I wanted to give him a day.”

Regrettably, players hide injuries all the time. Judge refused to admit anything was wrong with his shoulder during the second half of 2017. I can’t fault him for not speaking up, because I know I wouldn’t want to sit out so close to the playoffs. Let’s just say that he must have one high tolerance for pain.

Henry asks: Concerning the all-time good Yankees post, would DJ LeMahieu have jumped Willie Randolph if he had played his usual Gold Glove defense at second base for the whole season rather than bouncing around?

Dan Carty took a look at some of the great Yankees to never make the Hall of Fame earlier this week. For this answer, I turned the mic over to him.

Interesting question! LeMahieu had 5.9 bWAR last season (a career high) compared to Randolph’s 6.6 bWAR in 1980. And, as mentioned, he bounced around, playing 579.2 innings at second base, 400 at third, and 262 at first.

Not all defensive positions are created equally, of course. According to Baseball Reference’s positional adjustments, an average second baseman is worth about 12.5 runs more than an average first baseman in defensive runs saved. Second baseman are worth just one run more than third baseman. Would the benefit of playing at second all year have closed the gap with Randolph? There are surely skilled number crunchers who could calculate the adjustment pretty easily and give an exact answer. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

I suspect that, given the fact that LeMahieu already played nearly half his innings at second, there just wouldn’t be enough improvement to be had if we converted LeMahieu’s first and third base innings into second base innings. He’d be better, but I don’t think by enough.

Now, you said “usual Gold Glove defense at second,” which I haven’t factored into this mental exercise for a simple reason. LeMahieu was quite good at second last year, but a ways off his best. He registered 14 defensive runs saved in 2018 and 12 in 2017. Last year, if you prorated his defensive performance at second over 1,200 innings, he would’ve had 6. I don’t think it’d be fair to “Frankenstein” his season and give him the benefit of his very best defensive performance, because then we’d have to do the same for Randolph, which would have been comparable if not better.