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Yankees Mailbag: Pitching helmets, six-man rotations, and batting attributes

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Get the answers to this week’s mailbag right here.

New York Yankees Summer Workouts Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Good morning everyone, get your answers to this week’s mailbag here. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

David asks: What is the likelihood the Yankees will require, or at least recommend, their pitchers wear helmets and what is your opinion about this issue?

This conversation comes up every time that an unfortunate incident occurs on the mound, as it did last week when Masahiro Tanaka was struck by a Giancarlo Stanton line drive, and it’s an important one to have. There’s been resistance to the idea of pitchers wearing helmets no matter what the severity of the injury is, as the Guardian pointed out back in 2017 after Matt Shoemaker caught a line drive that ultimately required surgery to stop internal bleeding in the brain.

Even back then they noted that it would fall on MLB to institute a mandate for pitchers to change because they simply wouldn’t mess with what’s familiar to them, and the same is true now. It may only have the opportunity to happen a handful of times in a season, but the possibility of a pitcher taking those unavoidable line drives is serious and highly dangerous. It took a long time to properly institute helmet protection for the batter, but it got there, and it needs to get there for pitchers too.

That said, unfortunately I don’t envision it happening right now, and I don’t think the Yankees will be the team to push for it. Tanaka was able to walk away without any significant issues as far as we can tell, and the team seems to view it as a lucky break. I hope that MLB reconsiders this issue again, because I don’t think the Yankees or any individual team will be able to convince their players to make the adjustment necessary and have it stick.

Andrew H asks: Does a 60 game season make a six-man rotation more or less viable compared to a 162 game season?

I think it depends on the team. There’s definitely going to be a sprint-like atmosphere to this season compared to the usual marathon, and there’s not a lot of off days to keep guys fresh for it. The expanded roster should help in the beginning, but eventually it’ll wind down to the 26-man roster that everyone was envisioning at the start of the year.

For the Yankees, there are some benefits that you could consider. They have a host of pitching talent in the upper divisions of their minor league system, and some of them — guys like Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Michael King — could be considered ready to arrive in the majors in 2020. Adding one of those players into the rotation wouldn’t be the same as some other clubs throwing in their emergency starter.

On the other hand, the Yankees have Gerrit Cole. An ace like Cole should be getting the ball every fifth day, no questions asked, and that can’t happen with a six-man rotation. Perhaps the Yankees will work with an opener to balance the need for rest while maintaining the benefits of having one of the best pitchers in baseball, as they have quality relievers like Chad Green to make it work. Regardless, while some teams may want to consider it, the short season shouldn’t be enough for the Yankees to go with a six-man rotation.

Kenny R asks: If you could take any player’s batting attribute and maximize it, who would you pick and what would you maximize? For example, making Miguel Andujar’s plate discipline be in the 99th percentile, or making Giancarlo Stanton’s contact be in the 99th percentile.

Sign me up right now for a Giancarlo Stanton with 99th percentile contact. Stanton can rival Judge for absolutely demolishing baseballs any day, but he has struggled less with an unfair strike zone and more with the traditional swing and miss strikeouts. Giving him the ability to shred any ball he touches would be a glorious sight, and would be my first choice.

Another compelling option would be Gleyber Torres with 99th percentile vision. Torres has already displayed an electric bat throughout his short time in the majors, but one fault you could point out would be that Torres tends to be a bit too aggressive chasing pitches. His walk rate plummeted after his jump from the minors to the Yankees, and his strikeout rate has continued to hover near 25 percent. Give him Aaron Judge’s eyesight at the plate, and he could skyrocket to the top of the league.