Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’

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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.

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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.

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Swisher and Abreu Matched Up

October 15, 2009

(This was a discussion on Something Awful’s Sports Argument Stadium, which I decided to string out and further here)

Angels Mariners BaseballBy 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.

mulletguy_7In 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:

                Swisher          Abreu

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:

Just waiting for that roofie to kick in.

Just waiting for that roofie to kick in.

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Playoff Preview: ALDS

October 2, 2009

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:

arod

migueljoe-mauer

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.

ccverlanderTwins Tigers Baseball

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!

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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!

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