Jan 29, 2007

BP's Yankee prospect list (finally)

Here's their take on Yankee prospects. #1 is some guy name Hughes:

The Good: The total package, making him the best pitching prospect in the game. His 92-96 mph fastball has good movement to go along with outstanding location, and his hard curveball gives him a second major-league-quality out pitch. His change-up is at least average, and has nice fade and deception. His size is ideal and his mechanics are nearly flawless.
The Bad: 2006 was Hughes' first season with no health problems, and he was treated with kid gloves at the end of the season. He's yet to prove that he can hold up under a full-season workload, although he was as dominant as ever at the end of the year.
The Irrelevant: In the first inning of games, opposing hitters facing Hughes hit .125 (11-for-88) with 34 strikeouts.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: An absolute ace--a legitimate No. 1 on any team.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low – The Yankees insist that they want Hughes to begin the year in Triple-A, but if he's lights-out in spring training, it will be hard to send him down. No matter what happens in March, he should be up before the All-Star break.
As I was reading this a thought occurred to me. What was it? I'm glad you asked. Well, Phil Hughes is considered by most the top pitching prospect in baseball (occassionally getting edged by Cincinnati's Homer Bailey), and I thought, 'What year did the Yanks draft Hughes?' I looked it up: 2004. Then I remembered that was the draft after Andy Pettitte was lost to Houston via free agency. Since the Yanks offered arbitration to Pettitte (something that should have been done with the 'retiring' Clemens), and he was a type A free agent, they received Houston's 1st round pick (#23) in the amateur draft (it was also the Yanks only 1st round pick that year). You can guess who that pick was used for: one Mr. Hughes.

Now the strange part. Andy Pettitte has rejoined the Yankees, and quite possibly will be teammates with Hughes sometime this season. So a pitcher the Yanks lost, and the pitcher they gained because of it will both be pitching for the Yanks this season. Life is funny...

Of course, the question is: would you have let Pettitte walk knowing how good the compensation would be? It's impossible to say right now, since Hughes hasn't throw a single ML pitch, but he's basically a 'can't-miss' prospect, who should be at worst a #3 starter in MLB for years to come. He's one of only four 'uber-prospects' currently in baseball. So at this point, I'd have to say yes. Hughes could join the Yanks and stink (knock on wood), but the odds are well against it. Most Yankee fans were upset when Pettitte left, but with the imminent arrival of a phenom, and the 're-arrival' of Pettitte, things are looking good in Yankee-land.

Jan 28, 2007

Giants 2006 Season Recap Part 4: The Future

A good, basic read on first time DC Steve Spagnuolo.

I love the draft. Everything about it. The excitement, hope and promise of a successful future often hinges on draft day picks.

My general feeling concerning the NFL draft (and other sports) is to take the BPA (best player available) early on (unless there's absolutely no need for it - like QB or DE for the Giants, or a desperately needed player is not far behind the BPA). That's how I feel the Jints should draft for the first two rounds, then concentrate more on need. With that in mind, here are my positions of need for the Jints.
1. CB
2. S
3. OLB
4. RB
5. DT
6. WR

What I expect:

#1 Oakland - QB Jamarcus Russell, Louisiana State (video - stats)

Most mock drafts have the Raiders taking Russell with the #1 overall pick. I would agree with that. With a tremendously weak offense, a scrambling QB is preferable to the more traditional pocket passer type, like Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. With the poor offensive line Oakland has, they'll need a QB who can escape the constant pass rush.

#20 Giants - DT Quinn Pitcock, Ohio State (stats)

I'm going with Pitcock because I think several better players (Marshawn Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Leon Hall, Ted Ginn, Amobi Okoye, Lawrence Timmons) will be off the board at this point. Pitcock will be the best value at #20, but I'd love to take Ginn, Okoye or Timmons. With injuries that ravaged the d-line (causing Adrian Awasom and William Joseph to play extended periods at DE), the Giants, despite having two solid DTs, need to shore up their overall d-line depth, which should mean a better pass rush and better run D, which was exhausted at the end of the season, allowing Washington and Philly to run at will.

Since CB is such a difficult position to judge through the draft, I'd love the Jints to sign either Asante Samuel or Nate Clements (two proven but young vets) to be the #1 CB, enabling them to focus on other areas come draft day. I'm not that high on signing LB Lance Briggs or Adalius Thomas, who I think are mostly products of their overall defenses.

Some other potential Giants picks:

The dream pick is Louisville's 19-year-old DT Amobi Okoye. He began college at 15, and will begin his NFL career at just 20. He is not the best DT right now, but because of his youth, has probably the most upside among all defensive players in the draft. Stats/bio.

In several mock drafts, Ohio State's Ted Ginn is taken #19 by Tennessee. Damn, would I love to see him drop one more spot to the Giants. I know WR is not a priority, what with Plax, Shockey, Amani returning, and Moss getting more playing time, but he's just so damn exciting. Simply from a fan's perspective, I would love to watch Ginn on a weekly basis. Kevin Gilbride has been talking about stretching the field next season, and there's no one better at that in the college ranks than Ted Ginn. However, after he (I expect) shines at the combine, he'll be taken in the top 15. Watching his highlights almost makes me want the Jints to trade up to get him - but then I remember what we gave up to get Eli... Video - stats/bio.

Now that Tiki is retired, the Giants (not necessarily me) may want to select a RB in rd. 1. The only reason I'd concur is if Cal's Marshawn Lynch falls to #20. Otherwise, I don't have a problem depending on Big J to be the primary runner in '07. He has two years under his belt, and should be primed to step into a full-time role. There are some other good RBs that can be had later in the draft: Florida State's Lorenzo Booker, Ohio State's Antonio Pittman, and Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe (just to name a few). They can be the lightning to Big J's thunder. However, I expect Green Bay to take Lynch with the 16th overall pick - they need a solid RB desperately. Video - stats/bio.

A common pick among mock drafts is Pittsburgh CB Darrelle Revis to the Giants. He apparently was so feared by opposing offenses that the ball was only thrown his direction 9 times all season! I can't verify this, but if true, it would be astounding. Some mock drafts have him as the first cornerback taken, so I would be surprised to see him fall farther than #17. Video - stats.

Another CB expected to be taken high is Michigan's Leon Hall, considered the best all-around CB in the draft. He was part of a great defense, and even returned punts. He's not as physically gifted (speed, agility, size) as some of the other CBs, but is smart and strong which should make him an early pick. The Giants would be lucky if Hall fell to them. Video - stats/bio.

A gaping hole was exposed after Lavar Arrington went down: speed at the LB position. Florida State's Lawrence Timmons is somewhat raw, but has tremendous talent. He could wind up being a better LB than his old teammate, Ernie Sims, who was taken 9th overall last year. I'm an FSU fan, so I watched him a number of times this year. He is capable of wreaking havoc on an offense (making a sick 18 tackles for a loss this year!), and has the speed to run down RBs from behind. However, I expect he also will excel at the combine and be taken before #20. Stats.

And do not forget about my sleeper pick of the draft, Maryland QB Sam Hollenbach. He was, honestly, by far the most accurate college passer I saw this season (something Eli needs desperately). And it's not just the touch and pinpoint precision, but the arm strength to throw beautiful deep balls, and the size (6'4") to succeed at the NFL level. Video - stats/bio.

I can't wait until April 28th. (Of course, there's one game left to play...)

Jan 25, 2007


Tidbits from Cash Money.

- Miguel Cairo was officially signed today and added to the roster. No word on who is being bumped off the 40-man yet.
Yay! I can't contain my excitement...
- Humberto Sanchez, contrary to popular belief, is being groomed as a starter and is targeted for the Scranton rotation.
Good. He can build up arm strength and work on a variety of pitches now.
- J.B. Cox fractured a bone in his throwing hand five weeks ago and won’t start a throwing program until the first week of February. Cashman refused to say how he broke his hand.
This is actually pretty good news. The injury won't cause Cox to miss too much time.
- Cashman talked in general terms about Bernie Williams. It seems like they’re waiting for Bernie to make some kind of decision. “His situation is that he’s a free agent,” Cashman said.
C'mon Bernie, just retire with grace already. Melky is a far better 4th OF at this point, and Kevin Thompson is probably a better 5th OF too. We love you but there's no room anymore on a team that wants to get younger.
- Carl Pavano is not going into spring training as a rehab case. He has been fully cleared to be on the same schedule as everybody else.
I'll believe he's pitching when I see him pitching. Until then, he's a guy coming back from an injury.

Another summary of the Yanks (and other AL easters) farm system.

The Stadium has been officially named as the host for the 2008 All-Star game.

And Robinson Cano switched from #22 to #24, so that if Roger Clemens pitches in the Bronx this year, his old Yankee number will be available. But the Yanks say he switched without any 'prompting.' It's likely that he's going with #24 because it's the reverse of his hero and namesake, Jackie Robinson, who wore #42. (Mr. Rivera is the current and last baseball player to wear #42 for any team.)

Jan 24, 2007

Beijing Yankees?

The Yanks have a press conference tomorrow about an 'international venture.' Are they going to try to generate baseball talent and popularity in China? The Times thinks so. Maybe even a minor-league affiliate or training academy one day (but that's my hope)...

Update: Here's the official story, with one very interesting quote from Ca$h Money -

Hopefully we don't have to wait a generation [to find a Major League player from China]. It can be years, not decades.

Cox's hand is broken

The reason J. Brent Cox won't be joining the Yankees at spring training was not known until today. His hand is broken. He was rated our 8th best prospect by BA and TPA. Fortunately, Rotoworld says he'll be ready for the start of the minor league season, and that he'll make his ML debut this season (assuming he recovers well, and is pitching in AAA). He has a chance to be an excellent ML reliever, if not closer. He has an excellent HR rate, decent K/BB, good WHIP, and fair K/9. Click his name for details.

A decent USA Today article summing up the Yanks off-season. But they made (at least) one mistake: Philip Hughes will turn 21 in June, not 22.

A video interview (dated Jan. 24) with one Mr. Hughes... and some other guys, but they're not important. ;)

Jan 23, 2007

Is Arod 'clutch'?

Using Baseball Musings’ excellent day-by-day database.

I would classify ‘clutch’ hitting as what the player does when his team is down by 3 runs to up by 1. So, from 2004-06, (Arod’s Yankee tenure) he has an overall OPS of .945.

trailing by 3 = .764 OPS

-2 = .774

-1 = 1.090

Tied = .941

Leading by 1 = .926

Trailing .905 (-40)
Tied (-4)
Leading .980 (+35)

Not quite as bad as I would have thought. The discrepancy between leading and trailing hitting could exist because opposing teams generally use their best pitchers when they’re ahead or tied. But to really understand, we have to compare him to his peers.

First, The Captain.
2004-06 OPS .854

-3 = .822

-2 = 1.064

-1 = .870

Tied = .883

+1 = .811

Trailing .896 (+42)
Tied (+29)

Leading .793 (-61)

Other than trailing by 2 or 3 runs, Arod has performed better. Even though Arod hits better when ahead, and Jeter hits better when behind, his trailing stats are still better than Jeter’s. The difference in perception comes from the fact that Jeter hits better (than normal) when trailing and tied, as opposed to Arod who hits worse (than normal) when trailing and tied.

Now let’s look at Adrian Beltre, who is right in the middle of the OPS rankings for the 131 hitters who had at least 300 plate appearances in 2006. He’s also a third-baseman so he will make a good comparison.

2004-06 OPS .841

-3 = .815

-2 = .837

-1 = .878

Tied = .889

+1 = .906

Trailing .850 (+9)
Tied (+48)

Leading .788 (-53)

Beltre is a very nice clutch hitter. He hits better when trailing, and much better in tie games.

And finally David Ortiz, who is supposedly the best clutch hitter in baseball.

2004-06 OPS 1.011

-3 = .945

-2 = 1.158

-1 = 1.057

Tied = 1.084

+1 = 1.012

Trailing 1.023 (+12)
Tied (+73)
Leading .940 (-71)

In conclusion, Arod is the only player among these four who hits worse when trailing and better when leading (over the last three years). Assuming trailing hitting is more important, I certainly wouldn’t call Arod ‘unclutch,’ because he does hit about his normal in tie games, but he is clearly not as ‘clutch’ as Jeter, Beltre or Ortiz. Is there a discernible reason for this? Did Arod hit this way before joining the Yanks? That could let us know if it’s consistent with his career, or whether it’s a New York thing.

Arod 1994-03 OPS 1.014

-3 = 1.105

-2 = .828

-1 = 1.050

Tied = 1.113

+1 = 1.029

Leading .984 (-30)
Tied (+99)
Trailing .967 (-47)

Rather interesting. The biggest difference is Arod's tied OPS. Before New York, it was 99 points higher than his overall OPS. Since joining New York, it is 4 points lower than his overall OPS. Meanwhile, his 'trailing' OPS has been lower than his overall OPS throughout his career. But the only area where he improved since joing New York is his 'leading' OPS. This is why some critics say Arod does all his production when the Yanks are already ahead.

Arod has never been a better hitter when trailing, but was a better hitter with the score tied (while his leading hitting is actually better in New York). Perhaps this explains people’s view that Arod does most of his damage early in the game (when the score is most often tied), as opposed to the ‘clutch’ innings of 7-9 (when a tie is less likely). Some people say that an RBI in the 1st inning is just as important as an RBI in the 9th inning. It’s true that a run is a run, but ‘clutch’ hits in late innings are more likely to ensure a win only because there are fewer innings to play: when a team takes a lead in inning 1, it probably has about a 60-70% chance of winning - when it takes a lead in innings 7-9, that probability must go up to 80-100%. I don’t have the exact data, but it’s easy to understand this idea. Late, close RBIs are more important than early RBIs.

Fan Graphs has equations for ‘clutchiness,’ and it’s pretty clear where Arod (and Jeter) stand. In 2006, Jeter was the 4th best clutch hitter, while Arod was the 158th best (or 5th worst, among the 162 qualified hitters). However, in 2005 (Arod’s MVP year), he was 54th in ‘clutchiness’ (barely in the positive), while Jeter was 78th (actually a negative clutch hitter). And in 2004, Jeter was 19th and Arod was 23rd. Over the last 3 years, Jeter is clearly the better clutch hitter. Arod has not necessarily been ‘unclutch,’ but throw in that he’s always compared to Derek ‘Superman’ Jeter (as I am guilty of doing), and that Arod is the highest paid player in baseball, it’s easy to see why he is considered ‘unclutch,’ which is an unfair sentiment. He’s just not as clutch as Jeter or Ortiz.

Jan 22, 2007

Just another manic Monday

Several tidbits to get you caught up.

- The Giants hired a new defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, the Eagles' linebackers coach for the past 3 seasons. During those seasons, Philly's D was ranked:
Total defense (NFL rank): 10th ('04), 23rd ('05), and 15th ('06)
Sacks (NFL rank): 2nd ('04), 26th ('05), and 8th ('06)
Takeaways (NFC rank): 7th ('04), 8th ('05), and 6th ('06)
Not exactly great, but at least aggressive.

- Two great games yesterday. I know the Saints lost by 25 points, but it was closer than the final score. If Nawluhns doesn't fumble twice in the first half, it's a totally different ballgame. That was some TD by Reggie Bush. What an exciting player! As for the AFC, that was just a classic game. I'm going to Boston for a Superbowl party, and I was dreading watching the game with a room full of Pats fans. I was rooting so hard for Indy yesterday, you'd have thought they were my team (and not the Giants). It was actually similar to the 2004 ALCS: the biggest rivalry in the sport, and the favorite goes up by a lot, only to see their opposition (who was known for choking in the playoffs) come up big and mount a huge comeback. Only this time it was Boston doing the choking. Life is funny...

- Major League Baseball is about to sell the out-of-market television rights exclusively to DirecTV. Meaning if you live outside the NYC area, you won't see any Yankee games unless you have DirecTV. With the possibility that I may be moving out of the NYC area, this will have a large effect on me.

- Pete Abraham has a good article on Ca$h Money. The future is in good hands.

- As I drove to work this morning on the Deegan, I saw a surreal image. The crane building the new Yankee Stadium was towering over the current (old) Stadium. Just an image of the changing times...

- But I did see the exterior sign on the Stadium: '23 days until Pitchers and Catchers.' Aight!

Jan 19, 2007

Giants 2006 Season Recap Part 3: The Bad

I will enjoy forgetting:

The collapse in Tennessee.
For some reason, even though the Giants were up 21-0, I felt Tennesse was going to make the game very close. It was lost on two plays: Kiwanuka's 'missed' tackle, and Eli's horrible pass to Pacman Jones. Because the NFL over-protects QBs, Kiwanuka let Vince Young escape because he thought he had thrown the ball and didn't want to incur a personal foul, automatic first down penalty (which happened to him several games earlier). Eli's throw was just an awful decision. He was falling backward, trying to make an impossible throw to Plax. One problem of Eli's and the whole passing offense is the over-reliability on Plax. With a healthy Toomer and Petitgout returning next year, Eli should feel more comfortable throwing to other targets.

The last 32 minutes of the Chicago game.

The Giants, despite the losses of Arrington, Toomer and Petitgout, looked like the best team in the NFC for the first 28 minutes of the game. Chicago was willing to go to halftime down by 7, and ran a draw on third and long. Demps missed the tackle, and Thomas Jones picked up the first down, and Chiago scored a TD before the half, bringing them within 3. The Giants still had a chance to win, and were inside Bears territory on fourth down when Tom Coughlin made his worst in-game decision of the year. He had Jay Feely (who had already missed a 33-yard FG) attempt a 52-yard FG in a wind-blown Giants Stadium, when Jeff Feagles is the best directional punter in the game. Instead of pinning the Bears, Feely's kick was short, and Devin Hester returned the kick 108 yards for a TD - the nail in the coffin. It was the start of a four game losing streak.

Eli's inconsistency.

Although he improved his completion percentage from 2005, he went hot and cold throughout the year. He looked like a pro-bowler at times, and Dave Brown at others. He passed for more than 240 yards the first four games, then didn't hit the mark until game 12. Then the final four games were a complete rollercoaster - QB ratings of: 97, 69, 41.3, 69.6. You really never know what kind of game he's going to have. At least he upped his completion percentage to a respectable 58% (from 53% last year), but his next step is to make better decisions, and follow through on more passes (meaning he has to take more hits); improving in these areas will cut down on his interceptions, second most over the last two years only to Brett Favre.

These guys have to go:
- Coughlin - Dammit, he's coming back. Why, Mr. Mara and Mr. Tisch, may I ask? This team has no discipline, no creativity, and no passion (at times). Why not Cam Cameron or Ron Rivera?
- Tim Lewis - (UPDATE: He IS gone.) Dom Capers to replace him? Nope, as he resigned with the Fins. Tim Lewis is now the secondary coach with Carolina. What are they thinking?
- Gilbride (now officially the OC). His recent comments about stretching the field are promising, but can it actually be done? He's been the QB coach for three years, and Eli still hasn't come close to reaching his potential.
- Scott Pioli declined the Giants GM job. (There are rumors of Belichick becoming the head coach in 2008. Would he install a 3-4 defense? What about Osi and Kiwanuka? They would never fit in that scheme. But it's all speculation at this point.)
- Emmons: way too slow and old. In the Saints game, watching him be in perfect position to tackle Reggie Bush on a reverse, only to get burned by him for 10 yards. Torbor and Wilkinson are in-house upgrades.
- Carter: was finally healthy, and with Toomer's injury, became a starter, but did virtually nothing despite loads of talent and playing time: 22 catches, 253 yards.
- Joseph: also got more than expected playing time due to DL injuries, but did what he always does - showed flashes of dominance, which were few and far between.
- Whitfield: oh god, do I really need to explain this one? Rookie Guy Whimper couldn't have done any worse. Why wasn't he given a single snap this year?
- Strahan: if his money prevents signing a better player, let him walk. His body is in serious decline, and while he's still very good when healthy, we still have three young, talented defensive ends. The money would be better spent on a free agent CB like Samuel or Clements, or a RB like Turner.

Wheeew... That was close - Zambrano

The Cubs held a press conference this afternoon, and there were reports they were going to announce Carlos Zambrano had been signed to a contract extension (he's a free agent after the 2007 season). Fortunately, that was not the case. It was only to announce that Notre Dame pitcher (and wide receiver) Jeff Samardzija has committed to baseball, and has signed a 5-year deal with the Cubbies.

And some prospect news.
BA write-ups -

Anthony Claggett

Claggett spent most of his first two years at UC Riverside as a backup infielder before becoming a pitcher as a junior. He showed enough to get drafted by the Tigers in 11th round in 2005, and he dominated in his first full pro season. Claggett posted a 0.91 ERA to help West Michigan win the low Class A Midwest League championship, opening the year as a setup man before inheriting the closer's job when Orlando Perdomo got hurt. Claggett converted 16 of 20 save opportunity, including both of his chances in the postseason. Afterward, he went to the Yankees along with Humberto Sanchez and Kevin Whelan in a trade for Gary Sheffield. Claggett relies on two pitches, a 92-94 mph fastball and an effective slider. He's working on a changeup, too. His stuff isn't spectacular, but it's helped by his deceptive delivery. If he continues his success in high Class A this year, he could start to move quickly.
Reegie Corona
Corona blossomed as a legitimate prospect in 2006, showing the Yankees athleticism, a solid line-drive bat and versatility. His emergence made it easier to part with 2005 first-round pick C.J. Henry--who was a disappointment anyway--in the Bobby Abreu trade. Corona has shown a good two-strike approach and barrel awareness at the plate. When he hits the ball, he hits it with the fat part of the bat. To drive the ball, he'll have to hit the weight room. Defensively, he took to shortstop, where his savvy and above-average hands helped his fringy range and average arm play up. Corona likely is better suited for second base, and he also played at first base, third base and the outfield. Because he's not averse to drawing walks, handles the bat and has above-average speed, Corona could be a No. 2 hitter. Otherwise, he'll have a nice utility-infielder package as a switch-hitter who can play all over, works hard and does it all with a smile. He'll begin the year in high Class A.

Hall of the Very Good

I have no problem at all with this year's HOF entries: Gwynn and Ripken. But it just reminds me of the multitude of Hall members who don't deserve to be there.

Do y'all remember the original HOF voting? Of course not, but maybe you are aware of who was and (more importantly) wasn't voted in. The first class, in 1936, was the elite of the Golden Era: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. This can be expected in the first year of voting, as no one had been voted in yet. But still, look who missed the cut that year: Cy Young, Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Mickey Cochrane, and Pete Alexander, just to name a few. The MIAs are among the greatest players in the history of the game. Even the second year, 1937, saw the absence of many tremendous players: Hornsby, Alexander, John McGraw, Willie Keeler, Eddie Collins and more. In later years, the quality of HOF members significantly declined. These players would easily get in to the HOF today. They would dominate the balloting.

When did the voters start electing merely 'very good' players? Perhaps 1954, when Rabbit Maranville was voted in (a great defensive player, but a .258 career hitter). Maybe 1967 when Red Ruffing was the lone inductee (a 4.26 career DERA. Hardly great, and not even very good).

Was there some reason for this? Did the the Baseball Writer's Association of America suddenly feel like they had to elect someone each year? They used to conduct HOF voting every other year from 1956 to 1966. And in the classes of 1958 and 1960, no one was voted in. It also happened (for the last time) in 1971 when Yogi, Early Wynn and Ralph Kiner missed the cut. So perhaps it was after that. 1976 may be the year, when Bob Lemon was voted in (4.20 career DERA, only 26 more Ks than BBs). Because of the precedents set by the voting in the aforementioned years, the bar has been lowered several notches. I guess the conclusion is that it wasn't one year that did it, but the sum of several years voting beginning in 1954. This has led to the induction of several candidates of highly questionable quality: Don Sutton (4.25 career DERA), Earl Averill (some great years, but not much longevity), Dave Bancroft (career .279 hitter, apparently in for his D, which was up and down throughout his career), John Clarkson (4.00 career DERA), Earle Combs (just 2 great years and a below average CFer), Rick Ferrell (in solely due to longevity), Jesse Haines (4.38 career DERA), and several more.

If I really wanted to be a stickler, I would throw out many more of the current members: Rizzuto, Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Billy Williams, McCovey, Doerr, Bunning, and more.

There should be some minimum requirements for HOF members. Like a player needs at least one of the following: MVP, Cy Young Award, best pitcher/position player on his team in a given year, 5 All-Star games, 5 Gold Gloves, 600 HR, 3000 hits, 500 sb.

I've been to Cooperstown several times (I even thought about having my wedding there), and the Hall of Fame is a beautiful place. Unfortunately, the significance of it has been lessened by inducting sub-par candidates. Perhaps the HOF should create a separate wing for the 'elite' players, e.g. Ruth, Cobb, Wagner, Hornsby, Mantle, Mays, W. Johnson, Gibson, Clemens, Koufax, Gehrig, etc.


Jan 17, 2007

Travis G. Handbook 2006 & K-Rod

Before the onslaught of stats, I thought I'd quickly mention an intriguing paragraph in today's LA Times -

With Mariano Rivera nearing retirement in New York, the Yankees are already said to be eyeing [Francisco] Rodriguez as a potential replacement. Rodriguez could command a deal in the four-year, $38-million range.
He would be a nice replacement for Mo, but it could be a pipe-dream. K-Rod won't be a free agent until after the 2008 season (assuming he doesn't sign an extension with Anaheim). He would be just 27 to begin 2009, and owns a 2.28 career era, a 1.05 whip, a 3.2 k/bb ratio, and an amazing 12.0 k/9 ip. His numbers are very similar to Mo's: 2.29 career era, 1.04 whip, 3.5 k/bb, 8.0 k/9 ip.

On to my 'handbook' of leader stats from 2006.

Good pitching stats

1) J. Santana
2) R. Oswalt
3) B. Webb
4) R. Halladay
5) C. Carpenter
8) C.M. Wang

Win Shares
1) J. Santana
2) B. Arroyo
3) B. Webb
4) R. Oswalt
5) C. Carpenter
13) C.M. Wang

Most durable pitchers
by total pitches
1) B. Arroyo 3852
2) A. Harang 3747
3) B. Zito OAK 3666
4) C. Zambrano 3629
5) D. Willis 3613
32) R. Johnson 3262

4 of the top 5 are in the NL. And the top 2 are both on Cincinnati.

Best strikeout pitchers
highest k/9
1) J. Peavy 9.56
2) J. Santana 9.44
3) C. Zambrano 8.83
4) B. Myers 8.59
5) J. Bonderman 8.50
18) M. Mussina 7.84

Most k/bb
1) C. Schilling 6.54
2) J. Santana 5.21
3) M. Mussina 4.91
4) R. Oswalt 4.37
5) D. Bush 4.37

Least bb/9
1) C. Schilling 1.24

Lowest Opponent OPS
1) J. Santana .618
2) C. Carpenter .643
3) B. Webb .650
4) M. Mussina .653
5) C.C. Sabathia .657

1) J. Santana 1.00
2) C. Carpenter 1.07
3) R. Halladay 1.10
4) M. Mussina 1.11
5) B. Webb 1.13

Least pitches/IP
1) G. Maddux 13.4
2) R. Halladay 13.9
3) C.M. Wang 14.0
4) B. Webb 14.2
5) D. Bush 14.4

Bad pitching stats

Highest Opponent OPS
1) C. Silva .892
2) J. Weaver .877
3) J. Marquis .873
4) J. Pineiro .872
5) J. Fogg .862

Least k/bb
1) M. Redman 1.21
2) J. Marquis 1.28
3) M. Batista 1.31
4) J. Pineiro 1.36
5) P. Maholm 1.44
6) C.M. Wang 1.46

Most Wild Pitches
1) J. Lackey 16
1) J. Contreras 16
3) M. Batista 14
4) M. Redman 12
23) C.M. Wang 6

1) D. Willis 19
2) R. Ortiz 18
3) D. Bush 18
4) V. Padilla 17
5) J. Marquis 16
12) R. Johnson 10

Good hitting stats

1) A. Pujols
2) R. Howard
3) D. Jeter
4) T. Hafner
5) M. Cabrera

Win Shares
1) A. Pujols
2) L. Berkman
3) M. Cabrera
4) C. Beltran
5) R. Howard
7) D. Jeter

Highest OPS
1) A. Pujols 1.102
2) T. Hafner 1.097
3) R. Howard 1.084
4) M. Ramirez 1.058
5) D. Ortiz 1.049
12) J. Giambi .912

1) B. Abreu 4.45
2) K. Youkilis 4.42
3) J. Giambi 4.37
4) F. Thomas 4.36
5) P. Burrell 4.32

Yanks have 2 of the top 5.

Most disciplined hitters
1) J. Giambi .190
2) B. Abreu .181
3) M. Ramirez .179
4) T. Hafner .177
5) J. Thome .175

Yanks have the #1 and 2 guys.

1) A. Pujols 1.84
2) S. Hatteberg 1.80
3) B. Giles 1.73
4) J. Mauer 1.46
5) T. Walker 1.45
13) J. Giambi 1.04

Best contact
1) J. Pierre 18.4

1) A. Soriano 43.4

Bad hitting stats

Lowest OPS
1) A. Berroa .592
2) C. Barmes .598
3) R. Cedeno .610
4) A. Everett .642
5) W. Taveras .672

Least pitches/pa
1) J. Payton 3.12
2) V. Guerrero 3.16
3) N. Garciaparra 3.20
4) R. Cano 3.22
5) Y. Betancourt 3.27

Most GDP
1) M. Tejada 28
2) M. Young 27
2) V. Martinez 27
4) P. Konerko 25
4) T. Glaus 25
9) A-Rod 22

Least bb/pa
1) A. Berroa .028
2) Y. Betancourt .029
3) R. Cedeno .030
4) J. Francouer .034
5) R. Cano .035

Least bb/k
1) R. Cedeno .16
2) A. Berroa .16
3) J. Francouer .17
4) P. Wilson .24
5) S. Hillenbrand .26

Jan 16, 2007

'08 All-Star Game in the Bronx

Assuming this report is true, I'm excited. The last All-Star game at the Stadium was in 1977, so this is the first time in my life that the Bronx will host the Summer Classic. It will be a great send-off for 'The House that Ruth Built.' That brings me to the 'new' Yankee Stadium.

I for one am looking forward to the new park. A lot of people are against it for nostalgic reasons, and I completely understand that. But Yankee Stadium is not the same Yankee Stadium as it was from 1923-1973. Then it was truly the 'Cathedral of Baseball.' The renovations took down the beautiful facade, pushed fans farther from the field, and gave it a more 'modern' feel, and influenced by the '60s era of cement and cookie-cutter parks, it lost some charm and character.

However, there are some aspects that cannot be replaced. The first HR ever hit at the Stadium was by the greatest player ever, Babe Ruth, in a win over Boston. The Yanks also won the Series the year it opened. Lou Gehrig made his 'Luckiest Man' speech there, Roger Maris hit his 61st HR in the final game of the '61 season, Reggie Jackson hit 3 HRs in one World Series game, Derek Jeter became Mr. November, and Aaron Boone launched a pennant-winning knuckler into the LF seats.

Maybe it's because I've lived almost my whole life in NYC, or I attend 5-15 games a year, or because I wasn't alive for most of those moments, but I don't think of those things every time I'm there. I did 15 or so years ago when I first began attending games, so maybe the nostalgia and awe have worn off since then.

The pros outweigh the cons: better parking, better bathrooms, better food, better seats, more space, the return of the facade, and a gorgeous exterior. The memories will still exist, and the fans will have a better experience. The only thing I wish they were adding to the new stadium is a retractable roof. I had to leave 2-3 games last year because of rain outs/delays.

Check out (video) the beauty (images).

Giants 2006 Season Recap Part 2: The Good

Will not forget:
The Philly comeback. With the Giants looking at an 0-2 start, they stormed back from a 24-7 4th quarter deficit to win in overtime, 30-24. Eli (despite 8 sacks) and Plaxico led the comeback. The best win of the year.
Ballin' in Dallas.
In what may have been Drew Bledsoe's last game as a starter, the Giants dominated from the opening drive, when Plax caught a 50-yard TD pass on the Giants 5th play. The D harassed Bledsoe and Romo all day, sacking them 6 times, and causing 4 picks. Bledsoe's poor play resulted in Tony Romo getting a shot as Dallas' QB. He played poorly in this game, but exceeded all expectations the rest of the season, leading Dallas into the playoffs. But we all know what he did against Seattle...
Tiki dominating games.
Against Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, he ripped off 185, 141, and 234 (a team record) yards respectively. It was beautiful watching him as he carried the team at times.
Plaxico's leaping catches.
I was in San Diego recently and heard their 'sports radio guys' talking about Plax. A guy was ripping him even though he had 10 TDs, saying he only gets them in bunches: '4 in one game, 3 in another, and 4 in another,' and that he does nothing in the remaining games. He couldn't be farther from the truth - especially this year. Of Plaxico's 10 TDs, guess how many games they came in (of the 15 he played in)? Yeah, 10. You can't diversify your scores any better than that.
Despite Plaxico's occasional laziness, he was almost solely responsible for several wins: Week 2 vs. Philly, Week 7 vs. Dallas, and Week 14 vs. Carolina. Now that Tiki is retiring, Plax will be the Jints #1 skill player in 2007. If he keeps consistent focus, he could be an elite WR (he's on the cusp).
J-Shock's helmet-less catch-and-run.
It was Tiki's season, but perhaps the play-of-the-season goes to Jeremy Shockey. In the midst of this tumultuous year, the team and fans could always count on J-Shock to bring passion and excitement to the field every Sunday. In a must-win game, Shockey's helmet was knocked off by a Philly defender, but whereas most players would curl up and avoid contact, Shockey tried to engage contact. With his long, blond hair flying around, he picked up a first down, and fired up the whole team. The Jints tied the game late in the 4th quarter, but the D couldn't hold the lead. How bad did the team want it? I don't know. But I do know how bad J-Shock wanted it.
Fred Robbins' breakout season.
Our DT was known as a perennial underachiever, and DT was viewed as the weakest part of the Giants D. It turned into a strength as Robbins lived up to and exceeded his expectations. He was a big reason the Giants D was even moderately good. He stuffed the ran and rushed the passer - a tough feat for a DT.
Big J.
There's no other player I enjoyed watching on a consistent basis as much as Brandon Jacobs. He'll likely be the starter in 2007, and I can't wait. Now I don't know if he will have as many punishing runs while carrying the bulk of the carries, but it's hard to doubt his DE-sized frame (6'4", 264) and seemingly limitless energy. He loves contact, the way Walter Payton, Larry Csonka, and Jim Brown did. Countless times he dragged half the defense for extra yards, and if not he was destroying DBs. He averaged 4.4 yards a carry but next year, when he's on the field more often, he'll raise that average. He's been used almost exclusively in short-yardage situations where the D knows he's coming. His stamina will be tested in 2007, but I'm sure he'll pass with flying colors.

Giants MVPs
Offense isn't hard: RB Tiki Barber, the Man - 2127 total yards, 5 TDs.
But a not too distant 2nd is WR Plaxico Burress, who also carried the team, but would occasionally succumb to laziness. Still, was Eli's best and most reliable target - 988 receiving yards, 10 TDs.

Defense is harder to quantify, but it would have to go to DT Fred Robbins, who turned a supposed weakness into a major strength. He finally had the kind of season everyone hoped he would have - 46 tackles, 6.5 for losses, 5.5 sacks, 3 pass deflections, and even 2 picks.
Coming in a close 2nd is MLB Antonio Pierce, the heart of the D - 140 tackles, 7 for losses, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 9 pass deflections, and 1 pick.

Jan 8, 2007

Unit, Igawa, and our new prospects

Now that Randy has accepted an extension through 2008 with Arizona, and passed his physical, the trade is complete. The Yanks get a solid ML reliever, and 3 decent prospects.

Speaking of RJ's departure, Kei Igawa was introduced at a press conference at the Stadium a few days ago.

Scouting report of 3 returning prospects.

Sorry about the lack of updates. I'm out of town and busy. Updates soon to come...

Giants 2006 Season Recap Part 1: The Story

Like the last game, the Giants 2006 season was a roller-coaster from start to finish. Going all the way back to draft day, myself and countless other Jints fans were dumbfounded by Ernie Acorsi's 1st round pick, only to find out during the season how valuable that pick really was. From visiting Giants training camp, to cursing the team with a string of obscenities I wouldn't use on my worst enemy. There was the Manning Bowl, which was decided on a phantom offensive pass interference call against Tim Carter. There was the Philly comeback, the high point of the season. Then came the Seattle debacle - yet that wasn't even the low point. After the bye, the Jints won 5 straight games, and (despite losing Arrington and Toomer for the season) were sitting atop the division at 6-2. They even had a 10-3 lead on the Bears... And that's when it all fell apart. Luke Petitgout went down. Will Demps forgot how to tackle. The whole team had a collective brain fart as Devin Hester ran back a missed FG for a TD. The Giants lost that game and lost another 3 straight. The backbreaker being Tennessee's 21 point comeback. The Giants limped into the playoffs on the legs of Tiki Barber, who had another tremendous season. Unfortunately, it would be his last. He's carried the team for the last 3 years, but it wasn't enough Sunday, as Eli Manning's inconsistency reared it's ugly head, and prevented the Jints from opening up the game after numerous chances.

On the bright side, Tiki went out at the top of his game. He finished in the top 5 in rushing for the 3rd straight year, and has accounted for over 40% of the entire Giants offense the last 3 years. He also eliminated his fumble problems, coughing up the ball just 9 times in 1170 touches over the last 3 years. He is probably the greatest Giants running back of all time (ranking 17th in NFL history in rushing), and his gutsy and versatile play will be missed, as well as his infectious personality.

Jan 7, 2007

At least they weren't shut-out

The Giants season is over, and what a roller-coaster of a final game and season it was.

The D did mostly a good job tonight, but the game wasn't lost in the last seconds when Akers kicked the field-goal - it was lost 3 quarters earlier when the Giants dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, but only accrued a 7 point lead. The offense was given incredible field position on 3 successive drives, and scored 0 points (gaining just 10 yards). If you didn't see the game tonight, it'll be hard to explain how frustrating the offense was (not to mention throughout the season).

The only upsides are that Tiki had a very nice last game (152 yards), and with the ridiculous amount of penalties (tonight and during his 3-year tenure), Tom Coughlin should be released in the next few weeks.

- This HAS to be Carlos Emmons' last game with the team. It was actually sad last night, watching him be in perfect position to tackle Philly WR Donte Stallworth on a reverse, only to get juked and burned for 10 yards. He is too old and slow to be an NFL starter anymore.

- What a warrior J-Shock is! Long after he retires, Giants fans will remember his helmet-less catch-and-run against Philly.

- A hidden turning point was Tiki's 41-yard run where he was knocked out of bounds at the 3. There was an Eagles defender trailing Tiki, and another one (CB Lito Sheppard) ahead of him, and instead of Plaxico taking out Sheppard, he levelled the DB who was already trailing Tiki. The Sheppard pushed Tiki out, and the Jints had to settle for a FG on that drive. If Plax takes out the correct defender (Sheppard), Tiki goes in for a TD, and the Giants take a 14-10 lead instead of tying the game at 10.

- I know Plaxico can be a giant pain in the ass sometimes (Tennessee game), but 3 things to remember: 1. he is clearly our best receiver (not just WR), 2. he has been solely responsible for several wins (and near wins), and 3. is one of the best WRs in the NFL. He and Eli led the Giants on their game-tying drive. If only he complained less and played hard all the time.

- It seems Gibril Wilson has suddenly become a good cover safety. He's made a huge pass deflection in each of the last 2 games. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough tonight.

23-20 Philly

3*: Tiki, 28 touches, 152 yds
3: Plaxico, 5 catches, 89 yds, 2 TD
1: Osi, 4 tackles, 1 sack, 3 QB hits
1: Wilson, 4 tackles, 2 pass deflections
1: Eli, 16-27, 161 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT

(At least the Cowboys lost in (more) heart-breaking fashion.)

Giants season recap coming soon...

Jan 5, 2007

Giants-Eagles Playoff Preview

Philly offense
2 overall, 2 passing, 5 rushing
Giants D
25 overall, 14 passing, 13 rushing

Giants offense
14 overall, 20 passing, 6 rushing
Philly D
15 overall, 6 passing, 24 rushing

Turnover differential
NY -2
Philly +5

Once again, the Jints will have to rely on Tiki to win. If Shockey returns, it will be a big help to Eli. A better preview than I have time to write (except for the prediction).

Giants 27, Eagles 26

Jan 4, 2007

So how do you spell Mientkiewicz and Ohlendorf?

I guess I'll have to learn, because Minky's now a Yankee. Although the Yanks were looking for a right-handed 1b, Mientkiewicz is probably the best remaining overall option. At 32, he's still a very good defensive 1b, and can swing the stick a little. Last season he went (surprisingly): .283/.359/.411 in 314 ab (and hits LHP better than RHP). His career OPS+ is an average 99. But his glovework is where he excels. Compared to an average 1b, he has saved 17 runs during his career (including a Gold Glove in 2001), but allowed 6 more runs last year. Still, he was tied for the 5th best Fielding % at 1b last year, 9th in Range Factor, 3rd in Zone Rating, 15th in Model of Range, 2nd in 'Runs Saved,' 1st in John Dewan's +/-, and among the best in 'Stude's Fielding Awards.' With the variable throws of Jeter and (particularly) Arod, D-Mint (that's easier to type) will save a lot of runs, and be especially loved by 'Worm-Killer' Wang. Even if he doesn't hit a lick, his D will be solid. And he can always be replaced by Phelps, Philips, or a transitioned OFer if he completely bombs. (Hat tip to Steve Lombardi for 'Worm-Killer.')

It seems the Randy trade is finally done too. Apparently the Yanks are getting 4 decent to good players in return: RP Luiz Vizcaino (the only MLer), SP Ross Ohlendorf, SS Alberto Gonzalez, and SP Steven Jackson. The latter 3 are ranked 18-20 by John Sickels evaluation of Arizona's farm system. The reason the Yanks aren't getting a top 10 prospect is because they're paying just $2 million of RJ's ($16 million) 2007 contract. Gonzalez is rated the 8th best Arizona prospect by Top Prospect Alert.

In case you are worried about losing the Unit, look what he did against some of the Yanks top competition in his time here (2005-06).
vs. Boston, 61 ip, 4.87 era, 1.51 whip
vs. Toronto, 23 ip, 9.00 era, 2.17 whip
vs. Tampa Bay, 39.1 ip, 7.55 era, 1.58 whip
vs. Mets, 24.1 ip, 7.03 era, 1.68 whip

And there are his declining stats (all of which have declined the past 3 years: pitches/inning, OPS against, k/9, bb/9, k/bb, ERA, WHIP).

Not to mention the fact that he recently had back surgery and could miss the first month of the season.

Now to the players coming back.
RH reliever Luis Vizcaino (age 32) - career: 4.24 ERA, 103 ERA+, 2.3 k/bb, 138 PRAR, 4.07 DERA, 4 STF. 2006: 3.58 ERA, 133 ERA+, 2.5 k/bb, 34 PRAR, 3.19 DERA, 20 STF. Surprisingly, righties fare much better against Luis, .748 OPSA RHB & .710 OPSA LHB (in his career). Arizona is also a poor pitcher's park (a good sign).

SS Alberto Gonzalez (23) - career (328 minor league games, highest AAA Tucson): 1120 ab, .283/.339/.386, 129 k, 74 bb, 26 sb, 13 cs. Reports say that Gonzalez is an exceptional defensive player, and could player any IF position. His Plays Above Average (per 150 games) is 30, which is very good.

RH starter Ross Ohlendorf (24) - career (368.2 ip in the minors, highest AAA Tucson): 3.76 era, 3.1 k/bb, 1.32 whip.

RH starter Steven Jackson (24) - career (342 ip in the minors, highest AA Tennessee): 4.05 era, 2.2 k/bb, 1.42 whip.

If you glance at that Baseball Analysts article, it's promising for the future defense of the Yanks. Four Bronx prospects, in fact, made the list of 'best minor league defenders,' including 3 in the top spots for their position (Tim Battle in RF, Mario Holmann at 2b, and Ramiro Pena at SS).

Jan 3, 2007

Best Season for a Yankee Pitcher

With the (hopefully) Unit trade done, and 2 or 3 young pitchers coming back, the Post believes Cash Money may be stockpiling prospects in case Johan or Dontrelle becomes available.

Ok, All-time. If I did just since 1974, Ron Guidry's '78 season would easily win. It'll be more interesting and competitive to determine the best ever.

I still think Guidry's 1978 season is the frontrunner, but perhaps Jack Chesbro's 1904 season where he racked up 41 wins will edge Gator out. I'm not counting relievers, because as great as they sometimes are (Rivera, Gossage), they simply do not pitch enough innings (roughly 70-120 vs. 200+ for a starter) to gain more importance than a starter. Here we go.

Using Prospectus and Reference - PRAR (Pitching Runs Above Replacement [player]: how many runs did the pitcher prevent over a replacement pitcher that year) - DERA (Defensive Independent Earned Run Average: the pitcher's ERA if he were on an average defensive team) - STF (Stuff: 'A rough indicator of the pitcher's overall dominance, based on normalized strikeout rates, walk rates, home run rates, runs allowed, and innings per game.' 10 is average.) - ERA+ (Earned Run Average relative to the league average ERA and the pitcher's home ballpark).

1904 Jack Chesbro
ERA+ 148 , PRAR 119 , DERA 3.47 , STF 18

1910 Russ Ford
ERA+ 161 , PRAR 106 , DERA 2.77 , STF 27

1920 Bob Shawkey
ERA+ 156 , PRAR 95 , DERA 3.25 , STF 22

1924 Herb Pennock
ERA+ 146 , PRAR 104 , DERA 3.11 , STF 18

1937 Lefty Gomez
ERA+ 191 , PRAR 124 , DERA 2.83 , STF 41

1932 Red Ruffing
ERA+ 132 , PRAR 92 , DERA 3.37 , STF 35

1943 Spud Chandler
ERA+ 197 , PRAR 93 , DERA 3.10 , STF 27

1952 Allie Reynolds
ERA+ 160 , PRAR 96 , DERA 3.54 , STF 24

1964 Whitey Ford
ERA+ 170 , PRAR 87 , DERA 3.24 , STF 18

1968 Stan Bahnsen
ERA+ 141 , PRAR 94 , DERA 3.33 , STF 12

1975 Hunter
ERA+ 141 , PRAR 112 , DERA 3.49 , STF 14

1978 Guidry
ERA+ 208 , PRAR 121 , DERA 2.69 , STF 41

1980 Rudy May
ERA+ 159 , PRAR 72 , DERA 3.09 , STF 23

1993 Key
ERA+ 141 , PRAR 86 , DERA 3.38 , STF 24

1997 Pettitte
ERA+ 154 , PRAR 90 , DERA 3.19 , STF 20

1997 Cone
ERA+ 158 , PRAR 77 , DERA 3.07 , STF 37

2001 Mussina
ERA+ 142 , PRAR 102 , DERA 3.11 , STF 30

ERA+ ranking
Guidry 78
Shandler 43
Gomez 37
Whitey 64

PRAR ranking
Gomez 37
Guidry 78
Chesbro 04
Hunter 75

Guidry 78
Russ Ford 10
Gomez 37
Cone 97

Guidry 78 - Gomez 37
Cone 97
Ruffing 32

So it comes as no surprise that Gator's 1978 is clearly the best ever pitched by a Yankee. Not too far behind however, is Lefty Gomez' 1937 season.

The following are their advanced stats for their career years. I'm also adding the best seasons of Roger Clemens, Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez for comparison.

1997 Clemens: 226 ERA+, 138 PRAR, 2.17 DERA, 45 STF
2000 Pedro: 285 ERA+, 130 PRAR, 1.74 DERA, 58 STF
2004 Santana: 182 ERA+, 118 PRAR, 2.53 DERA, 42 STF

1978 Guidry: 208 ERA+, 121 PRAR, 2.69 DERA, 41 STF
25-3, 273.2 ip, 248 k, 72 bb, 1.74 era, .946 whip

1937 Gomez: 191 ERA+, 124 PRAR, 2.83 DERA, 41 STF
21-11, 278.1 ip, 194 k, 93 bb, 2.33 era, 1.171 whip

What this leads me to say is that the Yankees have not had a truly dominant pitcher since Ron Guidry, and despite owning many of the best offensive seasons ever, have very few of the best pitched seasons ever. That could change in the next 5-10 years. With the potential additions of Phil Hughes, Humberto Sanchez, Ty Clippard, Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Dellin Betances, and other prospects (and maybe Johan Santana and Carlos Zambrano), the Yanks have more pitching depth than they've had in a long, long time. Cash Money is learning how to build a long-term (and relatively cheap) title contender.

From the Daily News -

With Ohlendorf, Sanchez, top prospect Philip Hughes, No. 2 prospect Tyler Clippard and last year's highly regarded draftees Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Dellin Betances, the Yankee farm system is arguably the deepest in baseball in terms of quality arms - a dramatic two-year turnaround since Cashman was put in charge of the entire baseball operation, including the draft, which still has not produced a single starting pitcher of any consequence since Andy Pettitte was taken in the 22nd round in 1990. From 1991, when they took ill-fated Brien Taylor No. 1, to 2004 when they made Hughes their No. 1 pick, the Yankees drafted a total of 405 pitchers. Of the more than half they signed, other than '96 No. 1 Eric Milton, who was traded to the Twins for Chuck Knoblauch, not one had any impact on their staff. You can't even try to scout that badly.