The regular catcher is Gary Sanchez, who is 24. The 22-year-old Clint Frazier — acquired for Miller — is quickly becoming a fixture in left field. Aaron Judge, 25, has been baseball’s most productive hitter this season.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Todd Frazier, the veteran third baseman who arrived from Chicago with Robertson and reliever Tommy Kahnle. “Clint Frazier, man, he’s talking a little smack already — in all the best ways possible. I told him I’m going to switch lockers with him pretty soon if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut, just joking around.”
Todd Frazier, 31, had a homecoming of his own on Tuesday. (For that matter, so did Kahnle, a former Yankees prospect who was lost to Colorado in the 2013 Rule 5 draft.) Frazier spent the day off at home in Toms River, N.J., for a spaghetti dinner with family. He still spends his winters in Toms River, the town he carried to glory at the Little League World Series in 1998.
Frazier remembers trading pins with other Little League teams that summer in Williamsport, Pa. — he still has two bags full of pins back home. He famously took the field with Jeter before a game at Yankee Stadium after Toms River’s triumph.
“The team we had, we weren’t necessarily the best team, but we were scrappy,” Frazier said. “We weren’t the biggest team, but we still hit more home runs than the rest.”
With Judge, Sanchez and Matt Holliday, Frazier’s new team might actually be the biggest, and they hit more home runs than most. But they can also rightly call themselves scrappy — as younger, athletic teams tend to be.
The Yankees steal bases and take extra bases (two on a single, three on a double) more often than most teams. They are also the runaway major league leader in reaching base on an error, having done so 55 times before Tuesday, according to baseball-reference.com. No other team had more than 42.
Frazier has an older player’s skills — lots of home runs, strikeouts and walks, to go with a .203 average before Tuesday. He makes up for some of it with his optimism and intensity, but he is more than a mascot.
“From a statistical standpoint, he’s a lot better than what the numbers would suggest this year,” said Reds Manager Bryan Price, who spent years with Frazier in Cincinnati. “He showed it to us in Cincinnati — he can hit, and he certainly can field. He’s kind of an underappreciated third baseman.”
That helps, of course, although with Robertson and Kahnle, the Yankees reinforced their commitment to the strikeout, a sensible and obvious pitching strategy. The top seven teams in strikeouts, before Tuesday, were all in playoff position.
The Yankees were averaging 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, tied with Arizona and Boston, just ahead of Washington and trailing only Houston, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees need minimal work from their shaky rotation with Robertson, Kahnle, Chad Green, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman lined up in the bullpen.
“I think if you can go five innings, we should be able to nail it down,” Robertson said. “Even though I’m the softest-throwing guy in the bullpen, which I happened to hear the other day in Seattle, I still think I can get the job done — and these guys behind me are throwing thunder. It’s amazing what they can do.”
According to Fangraphs, Robertson averages 91.4 miles per hour with his fastball, essentially the same as he did when he left. He throws more curveballs than ever now, though, and still strikes out almost 13 hitters per nine innings. Four other Yankees relievers — Betances, Chapman, Green and Kahnle — also average at least 12 per nine innings.
“They perform very well, and all the parts are somewhat interchangeable,” Manager Joe Girardi said, adding, “There’s a lot of strikeouts down there.”
The Yankees sprinted to a fast start, yet have lost much of their cushion. But the newcomers help, and General Manager Brian Cashman has the time, the prospects and the cash to add another starting pitcher before Monday’s nonwaiver trading deadline.
It makes good business sense, too, as the Yankees strive to make their product as alluring as possible down the stretch. Even Todd Frazier, who makes $12 million, set a limit for tickets he could buy for the hundreds of friends and family who showed up from Toms River on Tuesday.
“I’m only leaving about 22, to be honest with you,” he said. “They get a little more expensive over here.”