Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

h1

My Favorite Players for 2010

March 10, 2010

Am I the only person who finds themselves randomly attached to players and teams that have nothing to do with your own fan base? I don’t mean rooting for guys who have moved on from your own team, like Chien-Ming Wang and Jason Giambi. Just players who seem genuinely likable for one reason or the other; they’re exciting players, they seem underrated, or they just plain seem like nice guys. Every year there’s a couple of players and teams I find it hard to root against, even if the Yankees are involved. Last year for me was the Upton brothers. This year there are a bunch more, but the three in particular that I plan on watching religiously are Brett Anderson, Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Kemp.

As you may or may not be aware of depending on your level of reading comprehension and attention to my blog, I have been spending the better part of my time in northern California. Between that and my fiance being a A’s fan the team has begun to grow on me (the same could be said for the Giants, and who could resist Tim Lincecum and his luscious hair). I watched a lot of Brett Anderson last year. I heard a lot about him in the minors, both before and after he was traded for Dan Haren from Arizona. I’m sure a lot of you know him, but you really need to watch him pitch. Just look at his stat line, it is a thing of beauty: A 4.06 ERA, a 3.69 FIP, 7.70 k/9 against 2.31 bb/9, all as a TWENTY-ONE YEAR OLD ROOKIE. Absurd. Oh yeah, and he’s a lefty. Bold Prediction: Brett Anderson will start the all star game this year.

Troy Tulowitzki is a bit more seasoned than Brett Anderson, and probably much more widely recognized. Appearing in a World Series as a rookie will do that for you. I have liked Tulo’s game since he came up, and even my A’s loving lady has had an obsession with him since his rookie year, one matched only by Tulowitzki’s own obsession with Derek Jeter (by the way, since I have mentioned her twice, her list of favorite non players would probably be topped by Tulowitzki and Nick Swisher). Jeter and Tulowitzki make for a fun comparison. Discounting Tulo’s injury plagued off-year of 2008, the two match spot on in wOBA, and the small difference in OBP is made up for by an inverse difference in slugging and speed.

Tulowitzki’s defense was vastly superior to Jeter’s early career, but Jeter’s immense improvement has closed that gap and each can now be considered a good defender.

My explanation for Matt Kemp is a lot simpler. He has a cool twitter page. He is dating Rihanna. And this picture is awesome:

I'd wear my jersey EVERYWHERE if I were in the big leagues.

For an almost creepy amount of Matt Kemp photos check this out.

h1

The Mark Buehrle Rule

March 8, 2010

Do you ever read one of Ken Rosenthal‘s foxsports articles just to get a glimpse into the mind of a madman? Insane? Maybe. But fun? Definitely. Don’t you enjoy concocting crackpot scenarios in which the Yankees end up with Bonds and Griffey, and we wouldn’t have to give up that much? Do you pop in MLB The Show or Baseball Mogul and take pride in the ability to swindle the Giants out of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain with a package of 5 star low A relievers?

Now, the differences are obvious. Ken Rosenthal works for a national sports company. He is on TV. He writes for a major website. So maybe it is strange when he suggests realigning baseball with little logic or reason (the last one is my favorite, move the A’s into the Yankees and Red Sox division in a format that groups teams by payroll, then plunk them in New Jersey). These are the kind of ideas I expect to hear from my friends after a fine afternoon spent huffing paint and watching PTI. This is not what I expect from a national sports writer. But maybe that is a good thing. If Ken Rosenthal can do it, so can I! So I hereby grant myself license to both make up news and write about inane ideas. The best part is that unlike Mr. Rosenthal I can’t have my articles pulled by the big bosses, as so frequently happens to him.

Here is what I propose as my grand change to baseball: speed up the games!

Groundbreaking, eh? I guess perhaps I am not as creative as my fellow writer, but I really don’t see the need or benefits of realignment, of eliminating or standardizing the DH, of changing the mound height, or of putting a salary cap in place. Baseball is great because of the oddities and differences between the leagues and between teams.

Every team operates with a different strategy. Depending on your league, your home field, your budget and your personnel your team will develop an independent persona. The cap seems unnecessary because in spite of the issues of “unfairness” any team can be competitive with competent management. I’ll save any further arguing against a cap for another day, because it will inevitably come up as a national topic at some point during the summer and I will turn to this screen to rage against the man on TV.

But back to my wholly unoriginal but entirely important idea. I see no issues with the mechanics of the game, so the efforts should be turned to streamlining it. Faster games would mean several things: You can watch more of them (hooray for mlb.tv), the playoffs won’t end so late on the east coast, and casual fans will be more inclined to watch something with a less boring pace.

The Hardball Times has a list (from 2008, mind you) of the fastest and slowest paced pitchers in baseball, and if you’ve seen him pitch (especially during his perfect game) you’ll probably see just the man you expect to be at the top of the list: Mark Buehrle. Another article from the same site mentions baseball’s rulebook, which states that the ball must be delivered within 12 seconds, with timing beginning when the pitcher has the ball and the batter is in the box ready to bat, and ending when the ball is released. Not only is that not the norm, but it is pretty rare to see the ball delivered that quickly.

So it seems to cure for this issue isn’t to change a rule, but to simply enforce a rule that is already in place. Even extending the rule to 15 seconds would work, and would allow for pitcher to move briskly without being rushed. Small fines (such as the fines handed out to Jonathan Papelbon last year) won’t cut it. On field penalties are the only way to make sure the rule is followed, and the rulebook itself calls for a ball to be added to the count whenever there is a violation. It would be simple for the umpire to enforce, it can be counted off the same way several violations are counted off in basketball, or they could use a watch/scoreboard clock.

Barring putting the Mark Buehrle rule in place I suggest something a little more… extensive.

h1

Yankees Will Miss Wang (in 2011, Anyway)

February 28, 2010

On February 19th the Nationals made one of the more underrated moves of the off-season when they signed Chien-Ming Wang to a one year, $2 million deal (potentially worth $5 million with incentive bonuses). The Yankees reasoning for cutting ties with Wang seemed to be that they hit their monetary threshold for this off-season, and their other needs were more pressing than a guy who would likely be 7th on the starting rotation’s depth chart. The latter can’t be argued, it was definitely more beneficial to the team to bring in Curtis Granderson and to add depth with Randy Winn. This does support an argument that, as ludicrous as the Yankees payroll is, even they have limits. But what was even stranger than the fact that the Yankees couldn’t go slightly over their payroll to bring Wang back is that he received (at least publicly) so little attention and pursuit.

Wang had one of the worst 40 inning stretches in baseball history last year. 2009 was a mix of awful results and injuries. I wrote last April about what I thought was wrong with Wang, and I still think that the foot injury he suffered in ’08 was the cause of his issues last year and ultimately his shoulder injury. I will never approve of Dave Eiland after everything that went on with Wang last year. He was clearly favoring the foot on the mound, whether because it was still injured or because he was afraid of re-injuring it. Either way that is something that should have been addressed and corrected.

My point with that is that I don’t think Wang simply fell apart because he lost the ability to pitch. He just needs to get back into pitching shape and re-establish the mechanics and ground ball ability he had shown since the Yankees called him up to the majors. $2 million dollars is a paltry investment when the potential is there to receive 3-4 months and possibly 100+ innings of above average pitching. Wang is throwing off of flat ground, and should be moving on to a mound rather soon with the hope that he will be back in the majors by sometime in May.

Someone like Wang would have been a perfect investment for a team like the Mets, who lack quality pitching and have the money to spend. As bad as they were last year, most of their issues are injury related and with good health they could make a serious wild card run. Half a season of league average pitching, a reasonable expectation, could potentially put them over the other wild card contenders. However, my gripe with the Yankees not signing Wang has more to do with the fact that Andy Pettitte will (probably) retire after this season. There is of course plenty of time and resources to be acquired between now and the 2011 season, but bringing Wang back on a test run for 2010 could have been a perfect set up to round out the rotation next season.

Wang is only 29 years old (he’ll be 30 March 31st), so his age as of next season is no concern. Bringing him back and finding him to be healthy could have left the Yankees with a guarantee of at least five quality starters:

1. C.C. Sabathia

2. A.J. Burnett

3. Phil Hughes

4. Joba Chamberlain

5. Wang

2010’s ballclub of course has the newly acquired Javier Vazquez, but he is a free agent after the season and it remains to be seen if he will want to stay a Yankee past that time (and if the Yankees will want him back). Retaining both Wang and Vazquez also could have made Hughes or Chamberlain expendable in a  trade. That’s not to say that I favor trading either of them, but the more options the better.

DNE wishes Chien-Ming Wang success and good health in Washington. The Nats are definitely on their way up and have made a ton of great moves the past two off-seasons (just look at how their outfield was put together with the steal of a signing in Adam Dunn and the steal of a trade for Elijah Dukes). Losing Wang most likely won’t result in any major set backs for the Yankees but any time you can retain talent (especially homegrown, popular talent) for a minimal price it probably should be done.

h1

Late Spring Yankee News

April 2, 2009

A quick rundown of what went on the last day or two:

Not exactly Earth shattering news but Jeter did have 24 GIDP last year, 4th in the A.L. and 7th most in baseball, so this should cut down on those a bit as long as Damon doesn’t turn into a groundout machine, too. Being lefthanded and faster doesn’t hurt in those situations, either. Jeter has a better bat, and the better hitter should ideally hit second, but I’m fine with this move.

Gardner demonstrated a much better eye and more patience in the minors than Melky Cabrera ever did. Both are superior defenders, though Gardners excellent range is offset by a Damon-esque throwing arm while Melky’s is on par with any centerfielder in baseball. Neither exhibits a lot of power (Gardner did finally show improved drive this spring with a new batting stance). Gardner is actually a year older than Cabrera, but for the time being he has more potential, and his base running alone will make him a better option if he can get on base at even an average clip.

Jonathan Albaladejo nabbed the final spot. He was swapped for Tyler Clippard at the end of 2007, so if he turns out to even be an average arm in the pen it’s a win for the Yankees. Brett Tomko was (thankfully) cut, in spite of a very good spring which had me suspecting he would make the team. The final roster is essentially set; the only move left is deciding who will have the last bench spot for the duration of A-rod’s time on the DL. That will be one of Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena, a pretty inconsequential decision unless you own one of these and are still hoping for a return to his rookie of the year form.

One last note looking over that roster: the Yankees bullpen is going to be outrageous this season. Phil Coke is very good; his debut last year (while only 14 innings) was as good as Joba Chamberlain‘s, only with out all of the fan fare.

Coke, Brian Bruney, and Edwar Ramirez were a 26th round draft pick, waiver pickup, and independant league free agent signing, repsectively.That is the reason big money is better spent on offense and starting pitching, my friends. And, they all make a very fine pen, especially combined with Mariano and Damaso Marte. As a bonus, if the bullpen shines then perhaps the immortal pining for Joba to return to the pen will come to an end.

h1

A.L. East Third Basemen 2009

March 25, 2009

Opening day approacheth! And all the while, the timer for my previews ticks down. You have no idea of the kind of pressure I am under over here. So, quick everyone! To the preview-mobile.

Third base in the A.L. East: where hip labrums go to die. Mike Lowell and Alex Rodriguez have each suffered a torn hip labrums in the past 8 months, both in their right hip. The hip is a huge joint, and unlike the shoulder labrum supports the weight of the entire body on it. The sensitvity of these types of injuries is compounded by the fact that both men are right handed hitters, and their push off legs have been compromised.

Lowell appears to be back in business, and A-rod (at least, according to his doctor) should show no ill effects and minimal risk of re-injury once he is ready to go. That will, hopefully, be in early-to-mid May. A-rod’s line from PECOTA is projected at .287/.379/.541, in 624 at bats. This projection was out well before it was known Alex would need an operation. This line, even coming off of injury, does not seem out of reach for A-rod; it is a very slight drop from 2008 (and a massive drop from his incredible 2007). What needs to be adjusted is the time he will miss. Estimating an early May return, lets say he misses 35 games, approximately 140 plate appearances, or about 22% of his projected 624 PA’s. Combining 78% of A-rod’s time with 22% of a replacement level bat (let’s use Jose Castillo, a third baseman with a VORP right near zero last season). Cody Ransom will probably fill the role, and I would expect a mediocre-to-average bat from him (and below average defense) but for the purpose of providing a modest estimate, Lopez’ line of .281/.314/.313 will do. That gives the Yankees an assumed averaged line of .286/.364/.491. and a .300 EqA Overall, the Yankees still sport a well above average third base year, but this is only if A-rod returns on time and is healthy and productive right away.

Lowell checks in with a projected .264/.327/.446 and .267 EqA. He has limited range but he’s at the right position for that, because he still has a superb glove. If I weren’t feeling so spry I would copy and paste those last two sentences and place Scott Rolen‘s name right where Lowell’s is. They’re within a year of age, they’re an injury liability, they’re good defenders and they’re projected for nearly the same OPS and EqA. Rolen’s PECOTA line in this case is .261/.336/.430 with an EqA of .268. Neither player is spectacular, but both are very solid veterans, if still unreliable health-wise.

In the same veign of aging third baseman is Baltimore’s Melvin Mora. Mora is older than either Lowell or Rolen, but he has also averaged 600 at bats over the last three seasons. He had an incredibly torrid second half, which was tempered by his ice cold first half, but finishing the year with 23 homers and an .825 OPS certainly isn’t bad for a 36 year old father of quintuplets. A more even keeled season should be expected, and the PECOTA line of .269/.332/.443 and .268 EqA seems accurate.

Rounding out the division is the player who could, if A-rod proves to be something other than his usual self, be the best third baseman in the division. Evan Longoria has a very good glove, arm, and bat, all at 23 years old. Longoria is only going to improve; his on-base skills are even better than the .343 OB% he put up last year. PECOTA forecasts a season similar to last years, with a slight drop in slugging (which makes sense; his slugging spiked last year from the numbers he had been putting up in the minors). His line of .270/.346/.507 and .289 EqA are all-star worthy, particularly if he keeps up his stellar defensive play. And whether it actually counts for anything or not, Longoria is one of the most confident players in baseball. It doesn’t take something as complex as PECOTA to see that great things are emerging for Longoria.

Next time around: Shortstops!

h1

Why You Should Care about the World Baseball Classic

March 21, 2009

The semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic begin today, with a game between Venezuela and Korea at 9 PM Eastern. In the second go round for the tournament, the reviews and commentary have been, at best, very mixed. The typical opinion of the games seem to be that they’re sub par baseball, mainly because the United States team is not putting out it’s best roster. Unfortunately for anyone not watching, the games have been filled with wonderful baseball, players who care about what they’re participating in, and even a March Madness style Cinderella story, courtesy of the Netherlands (long live honkbal!).

The U.S. team is obviously devoid of many of their stars, but those who did show up are still some of the best in the world. The roster of team U.S.A. features seventeen former all stars and several players with all star potential in the future (like Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta). Better yet, the roster is filled with people who really want to be there. They’re playing to win, and playing with an edge after what happened in the first baseball classic (Chipper Jones described their elimination by Canada as embarassing). If you don’t think that the United States team cares as much as the other countries, check out what happened to David Wright, who injured his toe in an essentially meaningless game this past week. After fouling a ball off of his big toe, cracking the nail in half, he remained in the game because the team had no other infielders to put out there.

Aside from the supposed lack of passion, that also points to another reason there is such a large amount of hate towards the tournament: injuries. While it is true that injuries can pile up at the games (Wright, Chipper Jones, Kevin Youkilis and a few others), there’s no assurance that players won’t be injured anyway. Guys have been known to get hurt in spring training games, too. It is a part of baseball and any physical activity, injuries and accidents occur. Better it be in an all around entertaining tournament for national pride than in an untelevised and meaningless Spring Training workout.

Team U.S.A. faces defending champion Japan Sunday at 8 PM Eastern. The other nations may have more at stake in these tournaments than the United States because this country has already established it’s athletic dominance, but the best players from around the world deserve our attention; the gap has closed, and the games are better than you think.

h1

A.L. East Second Baseman 2009

March 12, 2009

As it turns out, it is a lot of work writing and maintaining a blog. I have been spending many hours slouched with poor posture over my computer, snacking on bulk-purchased leftover Halloween candy, trying to project starting lineups and time-shares. And why do I do it, the love of baseball or the growing need to put my seemingly useless college degree to use (even if it is via a profitless internet site visited by a single-digit number of people each day)? You decide.

Self-loathing aside, second base is a pretty deep position in the east. The discussion must, of course, start with 2008 A.L. MVP Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia had a supreme season in which he started well and finished even better. The award is debatable, but Pedroia’s production is not. He put up an OPS of .869, hit 54 doubles, and just to top it off stole 20 bases while being caught only once. He also played exceptional defense, rating as the fifth best second baseman in baseball by the Bill James fielding bible plus/minus system. Oh, and he has a sweet commercial as well.

Pedroia bats far better at home, even though he is a well above average hitter for his position on the road. PECOTA sees a slight drop in his numbers, down t just about what his 2007 production was (when he won Rookie of theYear), with a projected line of .294/.358/.451 with an EqA of .283. I think he’ll split the difference of his first two seasons, which quite honestly are not that far apart. And remember, that superb bat is coupled with a very good glove, making Pedroia easily the best second baseman in the A.L.

Talent wise, Pedroia should have a lot more competition for that title from Robinson Cano. Cano is three inches taller, twenty-five pounds heavier, has one of those cliche sweet lefty swings, and is incredibly athletic in the field. All of that makes him probably the most frustrating Yankee to watch on a daily basis.

Cano has two major flaws with his game (or perhaps his on-field personality): he is a free swinger and he is prone to mental lapses. The former is something that he improved from 2006 to 2007, though that improvement stagnated last season. The latter is something that Larry Bowa, former third base coach for the Yankees, was almost personally responsible for preventing. However, Bowa left with Joe Torre after 2007 and coincidence or not, Cano’s defense and offense both suffered.

While his offense, which is predicated on the ability to hit for a high average, is likely to fluctuate throughout his career because of his low walk rate and moderate power, his defensive dropoff is astounding and befuddling. Once again diving into fielding bible, Cano was a +17 in 2007, good for the fifth best rating amongst second baseman. In 2008 Cano dropped to sisxth worst with a -16.

Cano’s terrible season at least capped off on a positive note, as he closed the year with 19 hits in his last 42 at bats, and his overall OPS in the second half was .815. It should also be noted that this is not an instance of a lefty in need of a platoon partner, as he hit far better against left-handers last season, and is even slightly better against lefties for his career. Cano is heading into his fourth season and is still only 26, so a bounceback after two good years should be expected. PECOTA projects him with a line of .289/.328/.446 with a .265 EqA. I think that is underestimating Mr. Cano, and I think that with proper focus (a crapshoot with that) his defense will be above average once again this season.

The Rays turnaround last year was the most talked about story in baseball, and equally famed was the turnaround for their defense. The middle-infield was their biggest upgrade over 2007, as Akinori Iwamura brought his range and glove-work to a new position by moving from third base (with Jason Bartlett coming over to play short). The previous years version of the Rays featured a combination of B.J. Upton, Brendan Harris and  Ty Wiggington, a trio that (at least in Upton and Wiggington’s case) inspires significantly more fear with their bat than their glove.

Iwamura took second, while Upton moved to center, where his speed and range are not countered by his inability to make basic plays on groundballs. Iwamura is only an average (at best) offensive player, even as a second baseman, but his defense gives him value. PECOTA has him at .263/.340/.400 and a .261 EqA in 2009. This is a slight dropoff as Iwamura enters his age 30 season, but if his defense is consistent once again then he shouldn’t have trouble getting his 2010 option picked up, or finding a starting role elsewhere.

Speaking of contracts, Brian Roberts signed a new deal with the Orioles three weeks ago, ensuring for the first time in about two years that the persistent trade rumors, mostly of Roberts going to the Cubs, are dead. Roberts received a four year deal worth $10 million each season, and when you look at what you are getting production wise the deal is a great one. Roberts is also very durable, his only major injury coming late in 2005 on a freak accident, as he collided with former Yankee Bubba Crosby and dislocated his elbow.

Roberts draws a good share of walks, has very good speed, and is capable of double digit homeruns. The forecast from PECOTA for him is  272/.356/.434, to go with a .282 EqA. A very solid season, though perhaps underestimating his on-base abilities which have improved with his age.

The final stop on this tour is in Toronto, where the Blue Jays have one of their better position players stationed. Former first round pick Aaron Hill never played a game at second in the minors, and his debut season in the majors had him primarily at third base. In 2006 he finally settled in at second, where he has played since, and played it well. In 2007 he led all second baseman in plus/minus, and has a career 98.6 fielding percentage there as well. Last year was a lost season due to a concussion he suffered in a collision with David Eckstein (perhaps the first and only time in history that someone else came out on the wrong side of a collision with Eckstein).

Hill has a huge breakout in homerun power in 2007, hitting only three less than he did in his 876 career minor league at bats. As one of the best defenders in the league at his position, Hill has positive value even if mediocre with the bat. A line of .261/.318/.394 with an EqA of .250 is what PECOTA expects (to go with a drop to his career norm in power, with 8 homeruns). If he can put up even an average on base percentage and hit double digit homeruns then Hill is an extremely valuable player under team control throgh (potentially) 2014, though his contract is heavily backloaded with three expensive option years. If Hill’s bat doesn’t recover from post-concussion effects then he can kiss those options goodbye.

These always end up longer than planned, but hopefully it is worth it for anyone reading through them. The most amusing part of this for me, aside from poring through varying statistics and box scores, is getting feedback and comments, so don’t be shy with those.

Next preview: third base!

h1

A-Rod has Surgery; Out 6-9 Weeks

March 9, 2009

As the title implies, A-Rod had his surgery today. He must have read my complaints from the other day, as the original plan was to rehab the injury.

This is a good compromise for the situation; Alex will only miss the month of April, and when he returns should be full strength. Rehab could not have guaranteed such a return, and the best case scenario would have him missing several weeks anyway. The arthroscopic procedure is only a temporary fix, but it is one that will get him through the season, at which point he can have the more invasive and permanent procedure done. This should also leave him ready to go next season.

For such a major injury, seemingly out of nowhere, it seems like it was handled well (though if his hip has been hurting for quite some time, as was said by the Yankees, then he probably should have had it checked out sooner). A-Rod could be back for Boston’s first series in the New Yankee Stadium the first week of April, and Yankee fans can get back to booing our best player once again.

h1

A.L. East First Baseman 2009

March 6, 2009

Welcome to the next stop in a trip around the diamond! Earlier this week I went into a comparison of the catchers in the division, examining the PECOTA projections of the top two catchers on each team, weighted by playing time and combined to form a hypothesis on how much production each team can expect out of the position. This time I want to  do the same for the first baseman for each team. This, and the rest of the hitting positions, are a bit different than catcher. They don’t don the tools of ignorance, for one. They also tend to have more stable, every day players. There are always platoons, like what we will probably see in Toronto, but even an “everyday” catcher can not catch every game. That makes the comparison that much easier, though in the case of potential platoons I will of course account for that. Perhaps this will also show that two mediocre players who hit their opposite handed pitcher well can in the end add up to more than a single above average hitter who hits both hands equally.

Let’s start once again with the Red Sox, and their first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Owner of the worst facial hair in the world Youkilis is a far more athletic man than you would expect from someone of his build. He plays an excellent first (as well as a good third), draws a good share of walks and has good power, taking advantage of his home field in Fenway (he slugged 88 points higher at home last season).

Mike Lowell’s age and injury history could always shift Youkilis over to third, where he is still an excellent player, but for the time he is the everyday first baseman in Boston. Next year could bring the arrival of top prospect Lars Anderson, which would also shift Youkilis over, but Lowell is signed for another year after this at $12 million. In the mean time, what does PECOTA expect from Youkilis, coming off of a career year? A regression back to his 2006-2007 levels and a .267/.360/.480 line and .290 EqA. That, coupled with high quality defense, still leaves Youkilis as an above-average first baseman, with a bat most teams would love to have at any corner position. His 2007 OPS+ of 117 would have placed him 15th in the league last year at his position without considering his defense (He actually finished 4th in the league at first base with a 143 OPS+). While a drop is to be expected, his numbers exceeding those projections wouldn’t be extraordinary circumstances, particularly in Fenway.

Next in line is the newest member member of the 100 million dollar club, Mark Teixera. The Yankees were (and always are) linked to every single free agent, particularly all-star worthy players. Ironically though, with the early off-season acquisition of Nick Swisher, the Yankees seemed set at first and were fine letting division rival Boston and playoff nemesis L.A. of A. duke it out for the his services in 2009 and beyond. Two days before Christmas the Yankees announced him as their newest player as he signed an eight year, $180 million contract.

While it may seem exorbitant, from the Yankees stand point he will actually cost $1 million less than Jason Giambi cost last season. Teixeira is not a superstar player, but he is most certainly in the next tier of first baseman below Albert Pujols. Tex plays an excellent first base, gets on base at an above average clip, is very durable (averaging 150 games per year his career, including two years of playing every game) and is a lock for 30 homers. He is only twenty eight, solidly in the midst of his prime, and has the type of swing and on base skills that should carry throughout the duration of his contract, even if the Yankees had to overpay to bring him in.

Now that’s all well and good but how does PECOTA foresee his 2009 season? .285/.383/.527 with an EqA of .308. Essentially, right in line with his career averages, and exactly what the Yankees should expect for the next several years.

What is one thing that the Red Sox and Yankees have in common? Annoying fans. Oh, they also both gave away Carlos Pena (as did the Tigers, Rangers and Athletics). Pena has a valuable skill set, including massive power, a very good eye and a great glove, but often had those overshadowed by what he could not do: hit for average or make consistent contact. So, he made his rounds until he ended up in Tampa, where he broke out in 2007 to the tune of a 46 homer year. His batting average was abnormally high that year, 31 points above his career norm, which skews his line a bit, but even with last year’s regression he proved that he is still a high quality major leaguer, not the journeyman he was playing like earlier in his career.

Pena followed the 46 homers with 31 last year, to go along with a .377 OB%. PECOTA expects him to keep that up, as 2009’s projection is very similar to 2008’s, with a slight drop in OB%. Quoth the BP: .243/.363/.500 and an EqA of .294. A great line for a former scrap heap pickup.

The Blue Jays have been using Lyle Overbay as their everyday first baseman since 2006, when he came over from Milwaukee. Overbay has been a fine player in his career, an average power hitter with a good eye and potential for a lot of doubles each year.

When a right hander is in need of a platoon partner, teams typically don’t wait around to go get one. Since a majority of the pitchers in the world are right handed, anyone who can’t hit them is at a disadvantage more often than not. However, when a lefty has trouble against lefties, the problem is more easily passed over (see Curtis Granderson circa 2007). If they hit righties well enough to keep their line afloat, even while the flail against lefties, than the problem stays hidden. Overbay is one of those everyday players who is in need of a platoon partner. The difference in his line against righties vs. lefties is -.012/-.063/-.057. That is quite a drop for a guy who is to begin with only an average at best offensive first baseman. The Blue Jays finally came around, though, adding another player who last year did not hit his pitching counterparts as well in Kevin Millar.

Millar is still a sub par hitting first baseman with an abysmal glove, but he will be a significant upgrade on Overbay on the days when a lefty is on the mound. In 2008 26% of Major league pitchers were left handed, so to find the combined line for Toronto’s first baseman I am going to weigh the line as if Overbay wil play 74% of the time with Millar taking the remaining 26%. That produces a projection of .250/.330/.407 with an EqA of .264. A pretty weak line, but the platoon will at least squeeze the most out of each player.

Finally, once again, we end up with the Orioles. The Orioles lost Kevin Millar, but upgraded his spot with the addition of Ty Wiggington. Aubrey Huff, primarily DH last year, will probably see more time at first this year. Overall, there will probably be a three way rotation at first base and DH, amongst Huff, Wiggington and Luke Scott. Scott should be used primarily against righties (at DH and LF), Wiggington Primarily agianst lefties, and Huff against both. Huff is much more fun to listen to than to watch in the field, but Wiggington is hardly a gold glover himself. What will probably be seen is Wiggington at first and Huff at DH against lefties, and Huff at first and Scott DHing against righties. Using the stat mentioned above that 26% of major league pitchers are lefties, that would leave Huff playing 74% of the time at first and Wiggington playing the other 24%. Unlike the Blue Jays, the first basemen/DH’s for Baltimore all have the versatility to play in the outfield or third base as well, so that will likely muddle up the percentages, but in any case Huff will be playing every day regardless, so the estimate should not be far off either way. The projected combination of Huff and Wigginton produces, via PECOTA lines, a season of .274/.339/.471 with a .277 EqA. A very respectable line for a solid offensive team.

The Yankees went from the up and down Giambi to the supremely consistent Mark Teixera, and in doing so gave themself the best first baseman in the division, especially once you account for the expected decline of Youkilis, who is still a very good player himself. Pena should repeat last year’s performance; Toronto has a long way to come at the position, and Baltimore, while aging, has a solid offense all around at first base.

Next time: the second basemen!

h1

Hip to be Square: A-Rod Has Torn Hip Labrum

March 5, 2009

If anyone is questioning the groan inducing title puns, I am trying to get a job for the New York Post.

Alex Rodriguez is having a hell of a Spring. Yesterday it was noted that he had a sore hip, this morning his brother let it be known that Alex had a cyst on his hip that would require surgery, knocking him out for up to 10 weeks. Now, his agent, Scott Boras, and Brian Cashman both acknowledged that in addition to the cyst A-rod has a torn larbum in his hip. This ESPN article has been updating throughout the day, if anyone wants to follow it along.

Now, while details have been minimalized for the time being, a torn hip labrum is the same injury that Chase Utley played through last season and had operated on in November. He is set to make his Spring debut this week, and has been running already. That’s a recovery time of approximately 3 and a half months. For the time being, the cyst will be drained and the Yankees have said Alex is going to rehab in an effort to get back on the field faster, and opt for surgery later on if it is necessary.

This is probably the worst course of action for a few reasons. One, he is likely to miss several months regardless. Why jeapordize his health for the entire season to get him back sooner when he is already missing a chunk of time? Opting for immediate surgery could get him back by June fully healthy and recovered, rather than getting him back in mid-May with the risk of re-injuring or not even healing to begin with, in which case he could miss the whole year.

I’m sure the Yankees are already exploring a host of possibilities, including perhaps a trade for a third baseman. A few who are likely to be available are Adrian Beltre, Brandon Inge, and Hank Blalock. Beltre and Blalock are free agents after 2009, while Inge is signed for one more year after this. Other options could be shortstops Miguel Tejada or Bobby Crosby, both of whom could move to third and are in the last year of their contracts.

Out of all of the potential trade options, Crosby would probably make the most sense; he’s not exhorbitantly overpaid and would come for little more than taking on his contract. The best bet for the Yankees is probably to avoid any trade for the time being, unless it becomes apparent that Rodriguez is going to miss the full season. The Yankees sport depth in the other three corner positions, with Nick Swisher, Xavier Nady, Mark Teixera, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Whoever does not end up in center out of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner are also capable corner outfielders (with the glove, certainly not with the bat).

Matsui will likely DH most of the time (if he is healthy), Damon, Cabrera, and Gardner are outfielders only (though Damon has played a bit of first for the Yankees). Teixera has played all four corners at various points in his career, including 15 less than stellar games at third in the majors and a full season of mediocre third in the minors.

The ideal solution for the Yankees has to be to let Nady and Swisher share time at third for the Spring. The Yankees have apparently been looking to move one of them, exploring trades with the Braves amongst others, but if either can play a competent third base it may be a blessing that they held onto them both. Most seem to be penciling Cody Ransom into the starting role as the main utility man and de facto starting third baseman, but looking elsewhere within the 25 man roster provides two vastly superior bats who have bodies and athleticism to handle third base.

I don’t expect to see any gold glove caliber play by either of them, but if one shows to be a fair fielder then the Yankees are much better off working from within, not giving up talent, and just hoping A-Rod can come back healthy.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.