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Yankees Mailbag: Wild Card shenanigans, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and the fourth starter

The mailbag touches on plenty of topics for next month.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time for another edition of the mailbag. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

The Gregorius B.I.G. asks: It looks very likely that the three wild card teams will be TB, TOR, and SEA. NYY is the next most likely team to take one of those spots. The top two will face each other, while the last wild card will get the far more favorable matchup against the AL Central winner. At what point is it advantageous for TB or TOR to tank for playoff success?

I don’t think it will be worth it, beyond my general dislike of the practice. In a short series anything can happen, and surrendering home field advantage for potentially three games is a lot to ask just to match up against a weaker opponent. Cleveland and Chicago might not hold up well in a five- or seven-game series, but they can throw some stud pitchers out for a three-game set and hope for the best.

Hankflorida asks: My question is how you can answer these many fans who do not want IKF at short as they give these statistics on why his .335 BA with RISP doesn’t mean much because he is a singles hitter and would rather have Peraza or Cabrera take his place? They also cite his fielding as below average. I can’t understand them as he seems to come through when the chips are down when they really need runs to win not in a blowout. How would you rate his ability on the importance of his hits to start a rally, steal a base and get the runner home? I am not talking about the future but now as we are fighting for the division and the playoffs.

I don’t want to add onto the IKF firestorm that the internet has become, but these arguments don’t hold a lot of weight. RISP statistics are notably inconsistent even for elite hitters, and that Kiner-Falefa gets his big moments mostly via ground balls that find a hole or soft singles only adds to the lack of trust. It isn’t a sustainable skill, and even if you’re completely unconcerned with anything but this season it just doesn’t lend much credibility to his case. As for starting a rally, he really hasn’t shown that he can do that. His sample size with nobody on is much larger and much worse, showcasing that he’s a below-average bat that needs to play excellent defense to warrant the starting time. The Yankees have found some metric that lets him shine, but in general he’s shown very lackluster defense at a crucial position and makes a lot of mistakes on routine plays. That latter point is what particularly drives the conversation — it’s the main issue that folks had with Gleyber’s defense at short, with none of the offensive upside.

At this point the team seemingly needs Oswaldo Cabrera in the outfield more often than in the infield, so this comes down to a discussion of wanting Peraza or IKF on the field more. Peraza is naturally going to garner supporters because of his status as one of the team’s top prospects, and especially because the team refused to deal him at the deadline and opted to call him up at last. Peraza was a glove-first prospect, and has found the hits in the minors to warrant the early look — it’s hard to blame people for wanting the team to give him a real shot.

Craig D. asks: Beyond Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes the backend of the Yankees rotation is a huge question mark. Who do you see Aaron Boone and Matt Blake depending on to be their solid No. 3 and 4 come the playoffs?

So, this question is a bit tricky to answer. Who do I see Boone and company going with. It will be Severino and Montas, assuming everyone stays healthy/returns from injury in time. Who deserves to be the last two starters? That’s a tougher answer to figure out.

Montas has had a shaky arrival to New York, and has had sparingly few good starts along with some truly brutal outings. He has the established results from before the trade to warrant a postseason start, but the way it’s gone lately that’s a tough call to make. Adding onto that is the fact that Domingo Germán has made the most of his return to the starting rotation, and it’s suddenly a conversation worth having.

A big part of postseason managing is being proactive and accurately forecasting off of some incredibly small sample sizes. The hot hand rules the day until tomorrow, and the quick hook is either the optimal way to go or a death sentence (just ask Kevin Cash). Both pitchers will likely be on the postseason roster, but choosing which one of them deserves the bigger workload is a critical task to handle. It’s very similar to how Cole and Cortes were at the end of last year, with Cortes’ ascension not yet trustworthy and Cole’s slump an unsolved riddle. Cole’s massive contract and ace status won deference in the end, but Montas doesn’t have that same status on this team, so it’s a closer call than you might think.