Posts Tagged ‘yankees’

h1

Rafael Soriano or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Three Year Reliever Deals

January 17, 2011

In my place of work (“Work!” you might say? Yes, I do indeed have a regular job to fill the days I don’t update this blog, which is basically all of them) the climate of the economy has forced pay cuts across the board for employees. Now, percentage wise it is the same for everyone. But 15% of the pay for some of the higher ups making, say, $300k a year adds up to a lot steeper pay cut than what I have taken. Still, it comes across as very disingenuous for someone so wealthy to try and complain side by side with me about how bad we all have it with the pay cuts. They might be losing out on $45k a year, but that’s probably double what the low tier employees make total, before the pay cut. They’re also still left with $255k a year, enough, I would presume, to get by.

By the time Soriano's contract is up the Rays will probably have turned the Yankee's draft picks into a 4 star OF prospect.

The Yankees are the rich executives of the sports world (let’s ignore the fact that basically everyone in the professional sports world is rich). When they blow over 30 million dollars on a soon to be 31 year old reliever in Rafael Soriano it stings as a fan, because it is clearly a waste of money. However, I have trouble convincing myself that this will in any way hamstring them in the near future. It won’t impact the draft, it won’t impact international free-agency, and it most likely won’t affect how they go after other free agents, this year or next. The Yankees don’t have infinite revenue, and they don’t have an unlimited salary, but they do have the closest thing to it in modern sports. So even when they give away stupid money to a reliever (already a bad idea) who is over 30 (worse idea) and has an injury history (see where this is going) for three years (worst idea), I can’t get too angry without feeling entirely hypocritical. This isn’t the same as the Reds blowing more than 16 percent of their payroll on a closer.

Now on the other hand, let’s remove the money from the equation. If Soriano sucks, he can be demoted to the back of the pen and someone can be paid to replace him. If he gets hurt, the Yankees can eat the money. Soriano was a Type A free agent, and the Yankees were nowhere near protected pick status. For the most part, it is just fine to give up a draft pick to acquire a player of need. This particular transaction hurts in more than one way. The Yankees are now one first round draft pick poorer, and the Rays (who do fantastic job of drafting) are one richer (not to mention the supplemental pick they also gain from losing Soriano). So the final cost of our 70 innings middle reliever comes to:

$35mm

1 first round lost

1 first round pick gained by division rival

I also have to mention here that Grant Balfour, while not quite the reliever Soriano was, was had for 2 years and $8 million by the A’s.

A much finer bargain.

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

That’s a Wrap

November 5, 2009

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!

h1

Yankees Clinch Division and Home-Field Advantage

September 28, 2009
Hopefuly we'll be seeing this a few more times.

Hopefuly we'll be seeing this a few more times.

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.

That’s a pretty stupid thing to even argue about though since anyone who shares that idea is old, fat, or retarded.

Coming tomorrow: Playoff previews! Enjoy these select photos of Yankees in awkward and semi-disturbing poses.

Not pictured: CC's bitches.

Not pictured: CC's bitches.

No, I don't know who that dude on the right is either.

No, I don't know who that dude on the right is either.

You won't see Mariano smile this big again until Jesus returns.

You won't see Mariano smile this big again until Jesus returns.

h1

David Robertson and Jonathan Papelbon Are Not As Different As You Think

August 19, 2009

Jonathan Papelbon is in the midst of his fourth full season in the majors, and has made the All-Star team in each of those years. He is generally regarded as being one of the top closers in baseball, boasts intimidating velocity, and seems like he’s a pretty big douche. Now before I get any further, I agree with the consensus that he is a fine reliever (though I still think it’s dumb that the Red Sox didn’t give him more of a chance to start instead of shoe horning him into the closers role, minimizing his potential right off the bat). He has a great strikeout rate (10 per 9 inings) and a good opponent’s batting average (.231 this year, which is actually a career worst).

You earned it Pap, you save the game about as often as Eddie Guardado.

You earned it Pap, you save the game about as often as Eddie Guardado.

But, whether it is because he is plays the most over hyped role in sports or because he is over the top on the mound and plays for the Red Sox, Papelbon has evolved into a very over-valued player.

Papelbon has a career number of 141 saves, against 18 blown saves. That comes to 88.6% of the time that he saves the game, which is only slightly ahead of Eddie Guardado’s career rate, and pretty near Matt Capps (sicne he has been closing). Now, the point here isn’t to put Paps down, it’s to compare him to a guy on the Yankees who’s getting his first extended look in the majors, David Robertson.
Let’s compare a few key numbers between the two this season:

Robertson Papelbon

D-Rob: Just as valuable as Papelbon?

D-Rob: Just as valuable as Papelbon?

ERA+        142                    216

FIP            2.98                  3.47

WHIP        1.34                   1.24

k/9            13.11 (!!!)         9.95

k/bb          2.63                  2.80

hr/9          .79                    .89

babip        .339                  .304

A lot more similar than I expected. The two of them seem to pitch with the same ulcer inducing style of putting men on base more often than they should via walk before finishing innings with strikeouts or weak contact. Oddly enough Robertson has an OAV of .218 even with the high babip. I think both are great relievers, and of course Papelbon has been at this a lot longer than Robertson. It’s still amusing to see how closely they compare this season (and there’s no reason to think Robertson can not continue to succeed after the way he’s pitched his minor league career). Papelbon will be making $6.3 million this season (and will be getting a raise before next year in arbitration), while Robertson is pitching on a league minimum deal. Papelbon will also continue to get the bulk of the fan fare (nationally, anyway), while Robertson quietly pitches in increasingly important games for the Yankees (setting up for the best relief pitcher in history of course).

If I were Theo Epstein I would be cashing in on the inflated value Papelbon has, there are a lot of teams that would pay a pretty penny for a closer with as big a name as he has. He might be a fan favorite at the moment but it isn’t like the Sox can’t alter that at their will (Nomar and Manny were two of the most popular Red Sox ever, and they got the the boot as the team saw fit).

Stay tuned for some in depth coverage from the Yankees/Athletics game tomorrow. I will be in attendance and I will try and steal an interview with the man I just wrote about. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

One Hell of a Start

April 9, 2009

Early season projections are great. Emilio Bonifacio is on pace for 162 steals; six guys have hit a homer in each of their games; Ubaldo Jimenez will not give up a run all season, and Joe Girardi will be fired by Tuesday. Yes indeed, the Yankees are 0-2. We should probably all start panicking now, because starting 0-2 is a harbinger of bad things.

More amusing than the Yankees struggles to hit the Orioles questionable starting pitching is that I wrote last week about how great Bruney, Coke and the Yankees bullpen would be. My, oh my! I don’t think it is anything to fret over, as Coke was on his third inning of work and the homerun was of the shady variety, headed probably inches over the wall. It likely would have been caught by Damon as well, if not for the quick hands of the O’s fans in left field. Boy, I hate it when that happens.

There are way more positives to look at than negatives. My favorite thing to take away from the first two games is how good Cano looks. He’s going to have a monstrous rebound year. Jeter homered today, so the weak wrist/hand that plagued him last year should be no more, and hopefully he has learned his lesson about playing through injuries when they actually impair your capabilities. And even though Wang got knocked around earlier today, he still got on the mound for the first time since last July. It’s been a lot longer than it seems since he started a game.

Essentially, stay away from the New York papers. Any hype drawn from these first two games is just as valid as the red scare. I guess that would make Mike Lupica Joe McCarthy.

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

A.L. East Catchers 2009

March 4, 2009

As promised several hours ago, here is my breakdown of the positions around the American League East starting with the catchers. Catching isn’t exactly the same as the rest of the every day positions, but don’t fret! I have devised an ingenius way of analysing it to attempt to level it out with the other positions; Typical every day catchers play around 75-80% of the innings behind the plate (unless you work for Joe Torre in which case its more like 85-90% and your “off days” are actually just days at a position other than catcher). Putting together the starter and the primary backup should give you, at least prospectively, a combination covering near 100% of the team’s innings.

Let’s start with Boston, who is currently deploying the fearsome duo of Jason Varitek and Josh Bard (Well, fearsome if you are a fan of the team). Both are switch hitters, and each of them had a horrible season at the plate last year. That creates some mystery as far as who is going to get the majority of the playing time. Before re-signing with the Sox, Varitek’s agent Scott Boras let it be known that his client wanted full time catching duties somewhere. There is zero chance of that,  but a near equal split seems likely. Both players put up a negative VORP last year (which shows just how terrible their bats were, since VORP accounts for position), though Varitek did have a WARP of 1.5 due to his defensive contributions. Bard, on the other hand, was atrocious throwing out runners, nailing 15% of them.

Varitek has the potential to bounce back to a below average catcher, rather than a replacement level one. Since he was an all star last year in a season where the Red Sox may have been better off DHing for the catcher instead of pitcher, if he improves to simply “bad” then he should win MVP. Bard is going to improve simply by virtue of leaving Petco, but even then there is not much hope on either side of the ball for him.

Assuming a 50/50 split (I would guess Varitek will get penciled in for slightly more playing time, but he’s also 37 this season), what will the combination of Varitek and Bard do this season? I’m going to use Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections. Let’s assume 625 plate appearances for them, batting at the bottom of the order and with the possibility of occasional pinch hitters. Weighing each equally, the Red Sox can expect a season of  .242/.325/.390 with a .245 EqA. Of course, there is always the possibility that Varitek regains some of his form from 2007, when he was a legitimate bat. There is also the magical ability of his to catch no-hitters, which can be 100% attributed to Tek and not to the pitcher. In any case, Boston is coming off of a trip to the ALCS and any marginal improvement from the catchers would be a boon.

The Yankees catching situation has significant more upside than the Red Sox, though that does not altogether say much. Jorge Posada has been one of the best hitting catchers in baseball for the better part of a decade, but is coming off shoulder surgery. His backup and the starter for much of last season, Jose Molina, combines one of the worst bats in the majors with one of the arms forged in the mythical womb of Mama Molina, who has birthed three stellar major league defensive catchers. The Yankees may also have a contribution from Francisco Cervelli, though his ceiling is probably a major league backup.

Posada will probably end up seeing a fair amount of time at DH, and at 37 years old physical ailments are inevitable. Excluding his potential time at DH, the best case scenario for New York is that he ends up playing half of the games behind the plate (PECOTA projects him for only 257 PA’s total, so even this may be looking on the sunnyside of things). So, like Boston, we will be assuming a 50/50 timeshare behind the plate for the Yankees. The projected line for this would be .239/.309/.409 with a .243 EqA. Jose Molina’s bat is so inept that it completely negates the huge slugging advantage Posada has over his Boston counterparts. Molina is of course excellent defensively, but for the Yankees to hold any advantage at this position within the division Posada needs to play a significant role, one that physically I don’t think he’ll be up to filling.

Continuing around the division, the Tampa Bay Rays have, like they do at just about every position, a solid young player. Dioner Navarro bounced around as a one time highly regarded Yankees prospect, being traded to the Diamondbacks in the Randy Johnson deal, then to the Dodgers and finally to the Rays , where he has been since midseason 2006. Navarro struggled in just about every major league stint from 2005-2007, though his defense was and is valuable. Always with a low strikeout rate, Navarro finally made something of his talent for making contact with a .295/.349/.407 line. His BABIP was not excessively high, so while a batting average regression is to be expected, it also should not be expected to crash completely to the levels he was at prior to 2008. Note, though, that Navarro’s offensive value came mostly from his atting average last year, as he does not have a lot of power and his walk rate isn’t particularly high. Either way, he will bring strong defense (he threw out 38% of runners last season) and is only 25 years old, so showing improvement last year does not necessarily indicate a fluke.

Navarro’s backup last season, Shawn Riggans, has some power, makes very low contact, and if your child were strapped to a bomb on second base and someone had to throw a baseball there to disable it, you would choose Michael Barrett before Shawn Riggins. And be warned, if this situation ever arises and your choices really are Shawn Riggins and Michael Barrett, welp. This should be a hollywood blockbuster starring Jean-Claude Van Damme; we can call it Sudden Death II: Extra Innings.

Remember when we were talking about catchers? Me too. Navarro had 470 PA’s last season (and 434 the year before), and Riggins had 152. Navarro’s time accounts for 75% of the catchers PA’s (six plate appearances were as a pinch hitter), so let us assume that this trend will continue and he will start three-fourth’s of the upcoming season’s games. Now, PECOTA has Navarro dropping down to 381 at bats with a 26% attrition rate, which predicts the likelihood of a drastic decrease in playing time, and has Riggins pegged for  246 PA’s. This would be the almost the same total number of plate appearances as last year (only 5 more), but I think Navarro’s age, durability the last two years and defensive talents will keep him in the lineup no matter what so I’m going to stretch PECOTA’s projected line for him out to cover the 75% playing time he had last year, and contract Riggins to cover the remianing 25%. The weighted line would then be .255/.319/.398 and a .250 EqA. PECOTA is pretty down on Navarro, but even if this line holds up (remember, it is a weighted combination of the two catchers) Navarro  will have value on the defensive side.

Well, we’ve already discussed Michael Barrett in the context of saving children strapped to bombs, and concluded that this would be a great movie idea. Now, let’s discuss him as a baseball player, and catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. Rod Barajas is the projected starter after having taken over for the injured and now departed Greg Zaun last season. Michael Barrett and Raul Chavez each were brought in on minor league deals to compete for the backup job. The two combined for a .280 on-base percentage last year; this is good news for Barajas because his .294 on-base clip only looks good in comparison.

This is certainly the worst catching core in the division, as Barajas is no better than backup material, and his backups will be hard pressed to exceed replacement level offense. Barajas and Chavez are at least decent defensive players; Barajas has an above average arm, which along with his middling power are his only assets. With a lack of competition for the job, Barajas should be locked into the starting role, but there is little difference between the three, particularly if Barrett rebounds from injury back to mediocrity. It’s likely that only one of Barrett and Chavez will make the team out of Spring, and that they interchange throughout the year, but I think Barrett’s past season’s of good offense will get him the job over Chavez. Barajas had 57% of the playing time last year, and only took over as starter in Late May after Zaun’s injury. A full year as starter will probably net him closer to 70% of the playing time, and I will allocate the other 30% to Barrett. The weighted line of these two hitters is .246/.307/.399 with an EqA of .245. Surprisingly this is a slight step above the Yankees, and on par with Boston, but there is less potential here and the defense isn’t quite as good. By the end of the season 2007 first round pick J.P. Arencibia could be on his way to the majors, so there is still hope in Toronto as far as this position goes.

For the Orioles, the one position outside of right field where they have an advantage over their division rivals could be catcher. Matt Wieters is pretty much the consensus top prospect in baseball; he is ML ready after tearing up both single and double A last season to the tune of a combined line of a 1.054 OPS with 27 homers in only 437 at bats. He takes walks, he has power, and he plays defense. He has every tool outside of base-stealing, andaside from Russ Martin any stolen bases your catcher gives you are probably more of a fluke than anything.

He is ready for the big leagues now, and will be the catcher on opening day unless they decide to let him simmer for a month or two in triple A (which would delay his arbitration and give them an extra year of control over him). This is a guy who, like Langoria and Braun, will get locked up to a long term deal before he goes to arbitration anyway, so I don’t think the team will wait unless he really tanks in spring training. He has an all star caliber bat at any position, but when you consider he is a catcher he stands out even more.

PECOTA absolutely loves Wieters (essentially declaring him the best catcher in the league for 2009 and one of the best in the league with a projected 59.6 VORP), and the Orioles did themselves a service by signing a solid backup in Greg Zaun. I think Wieters will be starting opening day, and playing a majority of the time in the big leagues. Since he is young and the Orioles are not going anywhere without a starting rotation, I’ll take a conservative approach to his playing time and say he takes 75% of the time behind the plate (around 120 games). He won’t be in Russ Martin territory but starting 130 games at catcher would not surprise me. With his bat he can also DH on off days, so expect to see a lot of him this coming season. The extraordinary expectations of PECOTA probably need to be tempered slightly, but the combined line of Wieters weighed with 25% time from Zaun is .287/.376/.502 (!) with a .299 EqA (!!). And that is the line AFTER factoring in 25% of Zaun’s weak line. Couple that with plus defense and the Orioles are set at catcher for the next decade or more.

I’ll conclude this wordy article by saying that aside from Wieters, there isn’t much to get excited about as far as the catching position goes. Jorge Posada, while aging and unhealthy last season, still has a chance to hit for power with a good on base percentage. The Red Sox and Blue Jays have little to get excited about this season. Tampa should be set, but at best Navarro still is not a star. It is a transitional year for the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays at this position, except there is no one immediately ready to take the reigns. The Blue Jays and Yankees may have help in 2010, and the Red Sox have pitching depth which could be used to deal for a young catcher (Teagarden or Saltalamacchia perhaps), but for the time being it is 32 year old plus or 25 and under in the east.

Later this week: A.L. East First Baseman!

h1

Motivation and Why I Love Baseball

February 19, 2009

The 2009 MLB season gets underway six weeks from now, and with its shadow comes the annual spread of great things; fantasy baseball is back, baseball prospectus 2009 is out, Mike Hampton is injured and pitchers and catchers have reported. And while I enjoy them dearly, What if Sports, Baseball Reference and MLB Network no longer have to provide me with my main intake of baseball.

For someone who grew up watching and playing baseball, all of those sources of historical information are a Godsend. Going through old box scores, reading statistics of players I’ve never seen, and watching games I can remember watching a decade ago can all make a person quite nostalgic. It is also quite easy to indulge such feelings, and I earlier came across the box score of the single greatest event I’ve ever attended.

The 2001 World Series between the Yankees and Diamondbacks was an incredible matchup, a seven game stretch of great baseball with four of the games being decided by a single run, two extra inning games, and three walkoff wins. The particular game that I attended was game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Mike Mussina, the Yankees brand name signing from the previous off-season, was starting against Miguel Batista, who was coming off an inexplicable career year in which he posted an ERA+ of 139.

Even before the game started I could really feel the excitement of the World Series. The entire pre-game was like Christmas morning, and the ceremonies for each game in the stadium were particularly moving, with 9/11 a very recent memory. The Blue Angels and a bald eagle both flew above the stadium, and the entire cost of admission was worth it just to be there before the game even started.

I should thank my mother for paying 15 year old Brian’s way into the game, and my Aunt and Uncle who brought me (along with two of my cousins). I did not grow up poor, nor did I ever do without something I needed or without many things I wanted, but baseball games are certainly a luxury and my birthday is a long way from October (or November, I should say). Undoubtedly the most unexpected gift I’ve ever gotten.

One debate I remember having at the game was over how boring the game was (this was probably in the 7th or 8th inning). Not everyone enjoys great pitching, and a 2-0 game in which the home team is losing for 8 innings isn’t most people’s ideal game, but I was thrilled the whole way (this was as opposed to my cousins, both of whom fell asleep at one point or another).

In the 9th inning, all star closer (not a typo) Byung-Hyun Kim was brought in, and in spite of the fact that he had given up a homerun to Derek Jeter the night before he had been lights out all season prior. Jorge Posada led off with a double, almost as good a start as the Yankees could ask for. Kim recovered to  turn away the next two hitters; Arizona was now holding a comfortable two run lead with two outs, and Scott Brosius came to bat, the number 8 hitter with a career 94 OPS+ and who had hit 13 home runs all season.

The entire crowd was already standing, clapping and yelling before Brosius even got a chance to swing. When he finally did, hammering a homerun to tie the game, the stadium literally began to quake. The enormous concrete and steel structure of Yankee Stadium was shaking rather violently from the crowd jumping up and down. Alfonso Soriano came to bat next, and flew out, and all the while the noise level never dropped one bit.

Several innings later in the bottom of the 12th, in a quick strike of National League style baseball, the Yankees scored a walk-off victory:

C Knoblauch Single to CF (Line Drive to Deep SS)

S Brosius Bunt Groundout: 1B unassisted/Sacrifice; Knoblauch to 2B

A Soriano Single to RF; Knoblauch Scores

I have always had a love of baseball, but I had never (and haven’t since) been to a game or in an environment as exciting as that one. The game was great, and the ending was perfect. Better yet was being a part of a massive group of people in a great and recovering city. Nothing will compare to the way people got along in the weeks and months of the autumn, and cheering together for the city’s favorite team was just a small part of that, but a small part that was thrilled to be a part of. There are very few memories I hold that I can still close my eyes and not only picture but feel them; It was cold and it was late, but it was perfect, and things like this are why I want to have this blog to share with everyone.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.