I don’t know if any of you are familiar with this “Twitter” but I just became a part of it. Maybe it will catch on now that I have joined!
I don’t know if any of you are familiar with this “Twitter” but I just became a part of it. Maybe it will catch on now that I have joined!
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:
2. A.J. Burnett
3. Phil Hughes
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.
In case you hadn’t noticed I have been completely inactive since the World Series ended. Lazy offseason, or four month long celebration? Or perhaps I was busy with the Jets having an awesome year out of nowhere. But now I am left with only the lowly Nets and turn to the Yankees for comfort.
When the team last left us, Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon were playoff heroes and there was no way the Yankees could part ways with them. Well, unfortunately, baseball is business and players play for money as well as rings (Johnny Damon doesn’t seem so shy about parading this, and that’s something he should be respected for).
Strangely enough the Yankees have a payroll cap, and apparently hit it this offseason. So, Damon is now a Tiger and Matsui an Angel. The former I can live with, but this is a sight I will never be able to absorb:
Somehow, losing two guys who put up a combined 5.8 WAR and were very clutch come playoff time was probably the right direction to go. Both are older players, one can not play the field and one can not play the field well, and both were replaced by younger players with as good or better potential for the upcoming season.
Matsui’s replacement did not turn out to be significantly cheaper, and he also may be the most injury plagued player in baseball east of Mike Hampton. But Nick Johnson, who is returning to the Yankees after being shipped out as part of the trade for Randy Johnson way back in 2005, provides something you can never have too much of: great patience and on base skills. You just can not go wrong with a player who has a career on base percentage of .402, especially when it comes with the potential for 50-60 extra base hits. Playing DH should minimize Johnson’s injury risk, as should the fact that he is going to get a good portion of days off whenever Posada and A-rod need to DH as a day off. Another thing to consider is the nature of Johnson’s injury history. While the list of his injuries is extensive, there is also the same stroke of bad luck throughout Johnson’s career that painted Mark Prior’s path. Johnson broke his leg in a late season collision in 2006, and has also suffered from wrist injuries throughout his career. Those were no-existent last season, however, and hopefully that will spell a healthy season for Johnson, which in turn would almost assure a productive and valuable one.
The Yankees’ other fan favorite replacing player is someone who is certain to be at least as popular as his predecessor. Curtis Granderson is a well spoken and happy go lucky dude who should fit in right along side of fellow awesome guy Nick Swisher.
Granderson is a player who has had some serious issues with left handers in his career (as his splits will corroborate). He has been so good against righties in his career that it’s been masked for the most part, aside from his down season last year. Yankee Stadium is going to mask a lot of those issues, though. Granderson is going to enjoy the same kind of advantages that Johnny Damon took while playing there, and could very easily top 30 homers. Then again, he could just as easily end up a platoon player, which would also make him overpaid for his last several seasons and is also probably the reason the Tigers wanted to be rid of him. But again, a mix of Yankee Stadium’s short right field and an occasional rest versus lefties should get Granderson to rebound to his ’07 or ’08 form.
The Yankees also featured a lot of turnover in the pitching department, something I’ll ramble about later on. In the mean time be warmed through the icy winter by the knowledge that I am back with hopefully regular updating. Or if not that then this.
I think I am obligated to at least mention that THE YANKEES WON THE WORLD SERIES tonight.
Hopefully my fellow Yankee fans will not be unbearably smug about everything, because the Phillies definitely played a good series. It was an A-rod 9th inning hit away from a 7 game series, and anything could have happened in a game 7.
I’ll save more for when I have more time to do a proper write up, but the playoffs were a thrill to watch (A-rod turning into a crunch-time superstar, some great come back wins) and the World Series was great. Matsui is absolutely the MVP, even as a DH in a series with 3 games in an NL park where he still managed to do damage as a pinch hitter.
Congratulations to the Yankees and my fellow fans. It seems strange that when they won the last of their string of championships I was 14. Here’s hoping to the beginning of a new run!
(This was a discussion on Something Awful’s Sports Argument Stadium, which I decided to string out and further here)
By the end of the 2008 season it seemed like it was becoming obvious that Bobby Abreu wasn’t going to be back. He was 34 (now 35), with a walk rate that had declined each of the previous two seasons and a continuous and worsening absurd fear of the outfield wall. Offering him arbitration would have likely meant skipping the signing of one of the big three acquisitions last off-season, and would have handed Abreu a hefty salary that he probably didn’t deserve.
Now, that last statement was not meant to be a knock on Abreu. He’s been a remarkably consistent player, in spite of his gradual downgrade with age. But a minimum salary of near $13 million (arbitration would have resulted in a contract of no less than 80% of Abreu’s $16 mm salary) seemed like an obvious pass in the economic climate of last year. Being that Abreu only signed for $5 mm (with another million headed his way in bonuses) should tell you whether the Yankees made the right business move.
In his place the Yankees acquired Nick Swisher (though it didn’t turn out Swisher would be the regular right field until after the signing of Mark Teixeira and the injury to Xavier Nady) for minor league pitcher Jeff Marquez, infielder Wilson Betemit, and the key pieces of the trade, magic beans and sexual favors. Those last bits I have assumed, because why else would a team dump a young outfielder/first baseman who OPS’d .836 and .864 the two seasons prior to a BABIP ravaged 2008? A guy who also plays average or better defense at three positions, all while making a reasonable salary? All for a minor league pitcher yet to show any improvement on several mediocre minor league seasons and an infielder who can neither hit nor field.
Well as it turns out both Swisher and Abreu bounced back from (while not terrible) below standard seasons to have excellent 2009’s. The question I am pondering is whether or not the Yankees made the right decision in letting Abreu walk and replacing him with Swish.
I’ll assume Abreu would have gotten the minimum allowed salary via arbitration of $12.8 million for 2009 (while he only signed with LAA for $5 mm, if he were to remain a Yankee it would have been through arbitration). He in all likelihood would have made more than that, I can’t think of any instance where someone was awarded the bare minimum in an arbitration hearing, and Abreu didn’t exactly have a bad year. Swisher on the other hand made $5.3 mm for 2009 (and is signed for 2 more years plus an option year for a three year total of $26 mm). That’s a savings of $7.5 million, almost equal to the salary given to Andy Pettitte for this season. Also, by no means am I insinuating that the Yankees wouldn’t have been able to afford Pettitte if they kept Abreu, but even they don’t have an infinite bankroll. Someone else from the 2009 roster wouldn’t have been here (probably Burnett).
Abreu has been for the bulk of his career a vastly superior player to anything Swisher has ever been, but in 2009 they were near equals. In fact, Swisher probably has an edge due to his defensive advantages. Swisher was near neutral in the outfield with a total UZR of -1.9, while Abreu’s was a -4.6.
A quick offensive side by side:
BA .249 .293
OBP .371 .390
SLG .498 .435
wOBA .375 .367
The biggest difference was that Swisher belted almost double the homers (29:15). Abreu’s on base advantage (due to his vastly higher batting average) creates a near wash of the two in terms of offensive output. All in all, you can’t go wrong with either player. But Swisher, for a savings of $7.5 mm, with a contract that runs potentially until 2012, and for a player who is not yet 29 years old (more than six years younger than Abreu) appears to be a better deal both this year and in the next several seasons.
The Yankees could be facing the same situation this off-season with Johnny Damon’s contract expiring. Hopefully the left field spot transitions as smoothly and successfully as the right field position did. There’s a host of possibilities for this but I’ll save those for an off-season article. There are more important things to look forward to this week! The whole point of this discussion, of course, is that Swisher and his counterpart are meeting in the playoffs starting Friday night. My gut/instincts/women’s intuition tell’s me Yankees in six. Hopefully Chone Figgins doesn’t make us his plaything like usual and the Yankees can take it in four.
Oh and just for fun, here is perhaps the best picture of A-Rod ever taken:
The Twins and the Tigers each won today, which means the winner AL Central will come from a tie breaking 163rd game to be held on Tuesday (at the incredibly awkward time of 5:07 Eastern/4:07 local time; that is a gripe for another day). I’d been planning on doing a quick preview on here because they are fun to do and I enjoy reviewing head to head match-ups. Instead I waited the entire weekend only to see the Tigers flounder in their series against the White Sox. Luckily for you I have, as usual, concocted a scheme to make all well again: a three team head to head to head comparison!
It seems to be common perception that pitching and defense are what wins in the playoffs. That may or may not be true, but either way you have to score to win. You can hypothetically win a game in which you allow twenty-three runs; you can’t win one scoring zero. So let’s begin with offense:
The Yankees led the majors in runs scored, by a pretty fair margin, with 905. The Twins were seventh in all of baseball, something that surprises me each time I look at it. I think I am still used to the buntbuntbuntscrap days of the Twins, but they’re a fairly dangerous offensive team (in spite of a few of the dreadful regulars in their lineup). At the other end were the Tigers, who were fourth worst in the AL in runs scored (17th ranked in all of baseball). With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what made up each of their offenses.
The Yankees set a team record for homeruns this season (with 242), as well as homeruns at home (129). There is good power in almost every slot of the lineup, as well as on the bench. A lot was made of the absurd homerun rates at New Yankee Stadium, but that seems to have cooled lately. There were only 16 more homeruns hit at home then on the road this year. Whether the “wind tunnel” will turn out to be an annual Spring/early Summer surge, or if it was simply an aberrational stretch, it seems a lot more evident that the homerun records for this team were the result of the lineup more than anything.
The Yankees, like in runs, pretty handily led the league in homers. In spite of their low run totals, the Tigers actually finished tenth in baseball in homers (in a rather large park) with 178, six ahead of the 13th ranked Twins. The Yankees also (surprise) led baseball in slugging and isolated power (ISO). The Twins were ninth and 15th, the Tigers 16th and 12th in those respective categories.
As far as getting on base, the Tigers (.330 OBP) were way behind both the Yankees (.362) and Twins (.344). The Tigers also finish a distant third to the Twins and Yankees in batting average and total walks. It’s pretty clear why they’re offense sputters, in spite of the decent homerun totals.
The pitching matchup is not quite as lopsided. In ERA, the Yankees come in 12th in baseball (but 4th in the AL) with a 4.30 line. The Tigers are just about on the level with them, 6th in the AL with an ERA of 4.35. The Twins (once again, this was a surprise all season) had a 4.51 ERA and actually had the best bullpen ERA of the three teams, which further shows just how iffy their rotation can be. I guess it shouldn’t be as unexpected to me as it is, they don’t exactly have a Johan Santana in their rotation anymore.
(By the way, in their most important game of the year, the Twins started Carl Pavano on 3 days rest. They’ve come a long way.)
For a more nuetral look at the pitchers performances, let’s check out their FIP. The Yankees were right in line with their ERA with a 4.31 FIP. The Tigers were at 4.53, and the Twins 4.38. That highlights the defensive differences in the two teams, with Tigers pitchers receiving more help (thanks, Adam Everett!) than those for the Twins (thanks, Delmon Young!).
Speaking of defensive help, the Tigers pretty much have three things going for them if they make the playoffs: at least two games from Justin Verlander each series; Miguel Cabrera; and their defense. They were third in baseball with a 50.5 team UZR, tremendously ahead of the Twins and Yankees, who were at -36.3 and -16.2, respectively. I think the Yankees play a little better than that number, but they’re still definitely behind Detroit. Robinson Cano, for example, played better than his -5 UZR this year (so I think, anyway… defensive evaluations get much better next season when batted ball and player data begin to be tracked and examined in the same fashion as pitch fx).
As their records would indicate, the Tigers and Twins are fairly well matched and the Yankees are far ahead of either of them in overall talent. The Twins are going to have home field advantage for the play-in game, and in a game where the pitching matchup is fairly even (Scott Baker for the Twins against Rick Porcello of the Tigers) you have to go with the team that was better offensively all season long.
tl;dr: Yankees will win in 3 or 4 games, regardless of this rounds opponent.
I promise to be less smug if/when the Yankees make the ALCS; like any sane Yankee fan, I respect the Red Sox and am deathly afraid of the Angels, who turn the Yankees into a little league team every season.
Hopefully the network friendly broadcast schedules don’t run the games or prevent anyone from seeing their hometown team (though I’m sure this will happen). Every series should be fun. Nothing beats playoff baseball!
After missing out on the postseason for the first time since baseball went on strike, the Yankees started anew by clinching the AL East and homefield advantage in the playoffs. On top of that, thanks to the arbitrary all star game rule (AL won, receives home field in the world series), the Yankees have home field for the entire playoffs.
It’s been a foregone conclusion that they’d make the playoffs this season, but it is still an exciting day to be a Yankee fan, if only for the glorious hive of sexually awkward photos that come from the clubhouse.
I also heard some rumblings in the past week about players celebrating clinching playoff berths. Apparently they didn’t have celebrations “back in the day.” On top of this being not true (players were just as big dicks 40 or 50 years ago as they were today), it’s also terrible logic. Or maybe I’m one of those sassy gen-Xers who doesn’t respect his elders and listens to music too loud. Perhaps we should go back to the days when racism was more prevalent, polio was a legitimate concern, TV was in black and white, and leadoff hitters ran the bases with all the discretion of Kanye West on crank.
Coming tomorrow: Playoff previews! Enjoy these select photos of Yankees in awkward and semi-disturbing poses.