Feb 28, 2007

2007 Preview - Storyline

First off, Yankees: Five Things to Know.

This is the first part of a preview of the coming season. An overall season projection/prediction is first, followed by player projections and AL East team projections. I'll hold off on playoff predictions so not to jinx them (yes, I believe in that).

Opening Day Roster
OF: 4
Damon, Matsui, Abreu, Melky

IF: 9
Arod, Jeter, Cano, Giambi, Minky, Cairo, Phelps, Posada, Davis

SP: 5
Wang, Mussina, Pettitte, Igawa, Pavano

RP: 7
Mo, Farnsworth, Proctor, Myers, Vizcaino, Rasner, Villone (unfortunately)

Post-season Roster
OF: 5
Damon, Matsui, Abreu, Melky, K. Thompson

IF: 8
Arod, Jeter, Cano, Giambi, Minky, A. Gonzalez, Phelps, Posada

SP: 4
Wang, Mussina, Pettitte, Hughes

RP: 8
Mo, Farnsworth, Proctor, Myers, Vizcaino, Igawa, Britton, Sanchez

With the Yankees starting the season healthy (Pavano and Abreu coming back before opening day), they get off to a hot start, winning 18 games in April. Wang pitches decent enough, Mussina is great, and Pettitte struggles coming back to the AL, but is saved by an above-average month from Igawa and Pavano. Cano starts off hot, hitting .400, while Arod and Matsui each rack up 10 HR.

Mussina tweaks a muscle and goes on the 15-day DL. Jeff Karstens is called up and makes 3 starts with a 4.40 era. Giambi heats up, with a 1.000 OPS, while Abreu also gets hot, smacking about 10 HR.

Pavano's luck runs out and he tweaks his arm - 15-day DL. Karstens gets the call again. He pitches well, to a 4.30 era. Rivera pulls his groin, Farnsworth moves into the closer spot, and T.J. Beam gets the call over Britton or Bruney because of his advanced age and Britton's not-quite-ready secondary pitches and Bruney's continued control problems, but performs poorly. Jeter and Damon carry the offense, scoring 45 runs in the month.

Pettitte has arm issues, causing him to miss the whole month. Humberto Sanchez is the most ML-ready of the Scranton pitchers (with Karstens now the LR bullpen guy), so he gets the call, and pitches well, despite control problems, going 3-1 with a 4.30 era. But he also pulls a muscle, and goes down. Not wanting to bring Hughes up unless it's for good, Rasner gets 2 starts, going 1-1 with a 4.50 era.

The team is hit with a rash of injuries as Damon hurts his foot, Farnsworth tweaks a forearm, Wang experiences 'tightness' in his back, and Pavano gets his finger caught in a door. Melky plays a lot more in Damon's absence, with Kevin Thompson getting called up as the 4th OF. Bruney gets the call this time and overcomes his control problems to post an admirable era of 2.90. With 2 SPs down, Sanchez and Hughes are called up. Sanchez' control is improved, and Hughes pitches well, garnering a 3.90 era. Unfortunately, the trading deadline has passed, so Pavano is stuck with the team.


The Yanks enter with a comfortable 5 game lead over Boston. Matsuzaka is pitching well, and has a 3.40 era, but not too much better than Kei Igawa, who has a 4.25 era. Sanchez and Britton take over Villone and Rasner's bullpen spots, and Hughes takes over Pavano's rotation spot. Arod is the offensive hero of the month, hitting .380 with 10+ HRs. They cruise to another division title with 99 wins, 7 games ahead of Boston, and the best record in the A.L.

They take on Minnesota in the ALDS.

Feb 27, 2007

First Game of the Season

An intrasquad matchup between the Yogis (the A team, the major leaguers) and the Reggies (the B team, the minor league prospects). Kei Igawa started and pitched 2 scoreless innings, giving up one infield hit. Jeff Karstens started for the Reggies and also pitched 2 scoreless innings.
By the way, I love Iggy's pitch-face.

From MLB.com -

Torre said Jackson's starting pitcher, Jeff Karstens, stood out to him, as well as Berra's second hurler, Steven Jackson.

"I just like his arm," Torre said of Jackson, who was acquired in January's Randy Johnson trade. "It looks like he's really loose and the ball comes out of his hand fairly easily."

Guys flying under the ST media radar:

Hilarious article tearing the NY Times' Murray Chass a new asshole.

What can you get for $2.35 million?

You can get a baseball card. The 'Holy Grail' of baseball cards in fact, which was sold yesterday for that price.

Feb 26, 2007

Blackburn re-signed

Giants LB Chase Blackburn was re-signed on Friday to a $3.3 million, 4-year deal. I like this move a lot. Blackburn has been a very nice surprise since coming to the Jints as an undrafted free agent in 2005. He's very strong, plays smart and aggressively, and is the best tackling LB on the team. If speculation holds, and Antonio Pierce moves to OLB, Blackburn could be the starting MLB this year. The deal could be a bargain for the Giants.

Pavano has a 'bone bruise'

Pete Abraham reports. And it's unclear how long he'll be out. It could be a few days or a few weeks.

Pavano has started 17 games in 2 years with the Yanks. That works out to $1.7 million per start. The worst contract in Yankee history? You decide.

UPDATE: Bobby Abreu will miss 2 weeks with a muscle strain. It's better to happen now than in July.

New Stadium progress - Feb 2007

I'm planning to go up there once a month until it opens in April of 2009 to keep a visual notebook of the progress. I have several more photos from this month (although you're looking at the best of the group). If you'd still like to see them, drop me a comment.

Good Articles

Some good articles in the local papers this weekend.

Melky is going to get a lot of PT this year. Torre plans to use him at all OF positions and as an occasional DH. Joe, I couldn't agree more.

Mike Mussina has future pitching coach written all over him.

SABR stats are slowly making their way into the 'mainstream' sports media (in the form of OPS and GPA).
Yanks 2006 GPA leaders (with .265 being average, and .360 being exceptional):
Giambi .325
Jeter .308
Arod .307
Cano .296
Posada .291
Damon .282
Melky .260
Bernie .258

That's about right to me.


Legends Field security director Randy Baker is a bit overzealous. Yesterday he ejected a vacationing couple from two seats next to the dugout. They proved to be Brian Cashman's parents. Good luck finding a new job...
I absolutely HATE Yankee security, so hopefully Baker is fired and replaced by someone slightly less fascist. The same should happen in the Bronx too, I hope.

Feb 21, 2007

BP's Top 100 Prospects

Five Yankees made the list -
#2 Phil Hughes
#22 Jose Tabata
#56 Joba Chamberlain
#65 Humberto Sanchez
#92 Dellin Betances

Honorable Mention
Tyler Clippard

Joba is surprisingly high. He hasn't pitched a single professional inning for a Yankee affiliate. He pitched great in the Hawaiian Winter League, but it's supposedly very pitcher friendly. He should start this year in A Tampa, and if he's as good as the numbers and scouts say (and stays injury free), he'll finish the year in AA Trenton. How he's ahead of Humberto Sanchez, who succeeded at AA and AAA last year, I don't know.

This is also the highest I've seen Hughes ranked. On virtually every prospect ranking, he comes in at #3. This is the first time he's been ranked ahead of Delmon Young, the D-Rays superstar outfielder.

Feb 20, 2007

Baseball's 'Clutch' Hitters

Not to pile on Arod, but I was looking around BR.com, and found more telling stats. Arod has been known as the guy who does most of his damage with the game already decided. That view held true last year, when he did his best hitting when the margin of the game was more than 4 runs: 1.048 OPS. All the other margins (4, 3, 2, 1 runs and ties), his OPS was below .900. And while his 7th and 8th inning OPS' were excellent, both over 1.000, his 9th inning OPS was a staggeringly low .66o.

That shouldn't be too surprising to anyone. But how did he fare in his MVP season of '05? Much better.

Comparing his 'margins' hitting, he did his best in ties games, an 1.154 OPS. All the other 'margins' had him about as good or better than his overall OPS.

He also hit very well in the 9th inning, an 1.143 OPS. And while his 8th inning OPS was below his overall OPS, it was still a solid 1.000. However, he didn't hit much in the 7th, a .775 OPS.

And for further comparison, Derek Jeter's 2005 & '06 seasons.
Last year, Jeter did his best hitting when the Yanks were ahead or behind by 1 run. His worst hitting came when the margin was more than 4 runs, essentially the opposite of Arod's season.

But surprisingly, Jeter hit poorly in the 9th inning, only a .528 OPS. His 8th inning OPS was a solid .917, but the 7th inning was low, at .844.

Seeing these stats, it would be unlikely if Arod's clutchiness doesn't bounce back somewhat this year. It was about as bad as it could get for him in 2006, so assuming a regression to the (or his) mean, he'll have an improved 2007.

Now, to examine the game's (active) clutch hitters, I've decided to use a process I came up with myself. I'll look at a player's career OPS, and if his 'Late and Close' OPS is 25 points higher, I'll call him clutch. Another criteria is that the player must have at least 300 'Late and Close' PA.

Very Clutch

H. Matsui
.857 OPS
1.018 (289 PA) Clutch OPS
(qualifies because even if he went 0 for his next 11 LC PAs, he would still qualify)

.924 OPS
1.005 Clutch

D. Lee
.863 OPS
.911 Clutch

.847 OPS
.893 Clutch

.907 OPS
.941 Clutch

Kinda Clutch

C. Utley
.871 OPS
.894 Clutch

R. Howard
1.023 OPS
1.087 (only 200 PA) Clutch

.890 OPS
.909 Clutch

C. Lee
.835 OPS
.847 Clutch

.814 OPS
.825 Clutch

Andruw Jones
.850 OPS
.854 Clutch

.923 OPS
.925 Clutch

.739 OPS
.915 (86 PA) Clutch
Does Melky have the makings of a career clutch hitter? It looks that way so far.

Not Quite Clutch (Other notable players who missed the cut (most ML players are about 50 points lower in Clutch OPS))

.858 OPS
.854 Clutch

.851 OPS
.801 Clutch

.959 OPS
.897 Clutch

1.011 OPS
.913 Clutch
Manny borders on being un-clutch.

JD Drew
.905 OPS
.831 Clutch

.847 OPS
.825 Clutch

.789 OPS
.762 Clutch

.948 OPS
.897 Clutch

.902 OPS
.843 (259 PA) Clutch

J. Reyes
.748 OPS
.734 (283 PA) Clutch

.954 OPS
.908 Clutch

1.048 OPS
1.013 Clutch

.898 OPS
.842 Clutch

.790 OPS
.773 Clutch

E. Chavez
.839 OPS
.790 Clutch

.780 OPS
.727 (252 PA) Clutch

.822 OPS
.801 Clutch

.800 OPS
.725 Clutch

.835 OPS
.758 Clutch

.858 OPS
.781 (239 PA) Clutch

.974 OPS
.911 Clutch

.849 OPS
.773 Clutch

.870 OPS
.794 (225 PA) Clutch

.825 OPS
.803 Clutch

.875 OPS
.822 Clutch

.944 OPS
.934 Clutch

Un-clutch (players with Clutch OPS 100 points lower than their overall OPS)

V. Wells
.828 OPS
.725 Clutch

.839 OPS
.725 (280 PA) Clutch

J. Dye
.825 OPS
.622 Clutch

.985 OPS
.868 Clutch

M. Young
.797 OPS
.664 Clutch

M. Cabrera
.919 OPS
.794 Clutch

Some great hitters are surprisingly un-clutch.

Feb 19, 2007

News Roundup

'Heavy Legs' Pavano bounced back from his injury to pitch an afternoon bullpen session. What a gutsy player.

Bernie has not showed up in Tampa, and has not contacted Joe Torre or Cash Money to let them know his plans. Is he going to wait for an injury and a guaranteed roster spot? Or will he just retire? Please Bernie, for your sake and the Yankees, just retire and get your day at the Stadium.

Steve Swindal apologized for his DUI incident.

Ron Guidry is trying to teach minor league closer Kevin Whelan better control. He'll be AA Trenton's closer this year, and has tremendous stuff (touching 99 MPH at times!). He could be Mo's successor. He has very impressive stats in the minors: 78.1 ip, 110 k, 37 bb, 2 HR, .97 whip. Stats

Arod said his relationship with Jeter has cooled of late. No surprise there.

In non-baseball news, two companies are merging (hopefully), and that has me very excited. Howard Stern and MLB on one provider.

Feb 16, 2007

Cano tops another list

Of the best second basemen under 25 years of age.

He's projected to hit 7th or 8th for the Yanks this year. Maybe he should be moved up higher. The projected lineup is:

Is it out of the realm of possibility that Cano puts up a better 2007 than Giambi, Abreu, Posada or Matsui? Certainly not.

- John Sickels looks into Melky Cabrera's future.

- Phil Hughes was interviewed by Michael Kay today. It starts just before halfway through the clip.

- YES has a good, little story on Kei Igawa. He loves Shogi (Japanese chess), video games (who doesn't?), and RC cars. Definitely a character.

And some ST photos. Nothing makes baseball seem closer than seeing them actually practicing.

The Closer

Are closers overrated? When, really, is the ideal time to use your best reliever?

I've wanted to examine this topic for a long time, so now I'll attempt to do it before Spring Training really gets going.

The Closer role has become incredibly glorified since the mid 1970's, which (not coincidentally) also was the beginning of free agency. I don't have statistical evidence to back me up, but I assume teams became more wary of injury prevention with all the money they were spending on free agents ('investments'). Baseball saw some great relievers in that era: Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Sparky Lyle, Bruce Sutter and Mike Marshall.

I compared the stats for baseball's best active closers/relievers. No Papelbon or Zumaya because they only have 2 full seasons between them.

Looking at B.J. Ryan, Rivera, Krod, Hoffman, Gagne and Wagner, I found -

Rivera, Hoffman and Wagner have actually pitched better (in terms of OPS against) in the 7th and 8th innings than in the 9th inning or later. However, Ryan, Krod and Gagne have typically fared better in the 9th inning or later. Could this be the transition between the older generation closers (Rivera, Hoffman and Wagner are all 35+), and the newer generation (Ryan, Krod and Gagne are all younger than 32)? Are their bodies and minds geared more for single inning, save situations only?

Well, how do they fare coming in in the heat of a close game (OPS against with RISP):
Ryan, Rivera and Krod have been worse with RISP compared to bases empty situations. But Hoffman, Gagne and Wagner have actually fared the same or better with RISP. (Of course, this doesn't account for the fact that the pitcher may have allowed the hitters to reach 2nd or 3rd base themself.)

I think we can draw two conclusions from this admittedly quick study. 1. The closer is becoming ever more specialized for the 3 out, 9th inning role; 2. Each closer is different, and some are better suited for coming into games with men on base, or before the 9th inning, so it's wise for managers to use them accordingly.

Thanks to BR.com for the stats.

Feb 15, 2007

Top Outfield Arms

- Anyone who watched one Yankee game last year would know that Johnny Damon throws like a girl, while Melky Cabrera has a rocket arm. But now we have stats to back it up.

- One of the Yanks general partners was arrested for DUI early this morning. Eh... I don't really care, but you might. I'm actually surprised we don't hear about it more often, especially from the players.

Feb 14, 2007

Love for Baseball

On Valentine's Day, the love comes out for the greatest game in the world.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter: "I think because everybody can relate. You don't have to be seven feet tall; you don't have to be a certain size to play. Baseball is up and down. I think life's like that sometimes, you know. Back and forth, up and down, you're going through this grind. I think people like watching it. Baseball's like a soap opera every day."

Ernie Banks, Cubs legend and Hall of Famer: "It's just life. When I think about baseball, it's just life. It's really the way life is. It requires a lot of mental capacity to be involved in it. It creates a lot of joy for people and memories for people who follow it. It's a family. You like it because it's a family. You started with it and know all these people -- it's family, it's friends, it's fun, it's a beautiful game. All in all, baseball is amazing.

Joel Kweskin, 56, White Sox fan based in Charlotte, N.C.: "It's unique unto itself. Football, basketball and hockey are variations of the same concept -- back and forth in a linear progression to score a goal. Baseball, however, is mapped out on the field unlike any other sport. A running back or return specialist can run 100 yards, tops; a baserunner legging out an inside-the-park homer runs 20 yards farther. Baseball is the most democratic of sports -- any size can play, and because the ball is not controlled by the offense but rather the defense, every player at any given time is involved in a play. Along with the anecdotally accepted premise that hitting a pitched baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sports, so might be fielding a 175-mph line drive or grounder down the line. I love baseball because it is the greatest game ever invented."

Former Royals star Willie Wilson: "The first thing is, I don't think there's any criteria for size, so anybody can play. I think people can relate. A lot of people never played football; basketball, you've gotta be tall and be able to jump. But baseball is a game where you pick up a bat and a ball, and you catch it, you swing the bat and you hit the ball. Most people have played softball or some kind of baseball, so they can relate to the sport. For me, that's why I think America just embraces baseball, man."
Yankee Blogger Travis G.: Where to start? I think better when I make a list.
1. Players. The requirements to be a good baseball player are very undefined. You can be short, tall, thin, chunky, anything really. You name the greats and you get tall and chunky (Ruth), short and chunky (Yogi, Gwynn), tall and thin (Jeter, Mo), short and thin (Ichiro). They may not be the best athletes in the world (e.g. David Wells), but they're the best at the specific skill set that baseball requires.
2. The Mentality. Baseball requires more intelligence than any other sport (save for NFL QB). Simply put, every hitter that steps to the plate is trying to out-think the pitcher, and vice versa. 4-5 times a game, focus has to be completely on the man in front of him. Will he throw a fastball, curve, change? If you take an at-bat (or even a pitch) off, you're toast. Same thing with the pitcher. The only other sport that comes close is football, but it's mainly for the QBs. Baseball requires every single player to have good mental capacity.
3. The Field. Football, hockey, basketball and soccer all use essentially the same type of field/playing surface: a rectangle. Baseball uses a diamond. It's not only unique in that aspect, but every single ballpark is unique amongst the sport. Each park has its own quirks and intricacies that make it special. Not a single other sport can say that. Yankee Stadium has Death Valley, the short RF porch, and the facade. Fenway has the Monster. Shea has the apple. Wrigley has the ivy-covered brick. Pac Bell (or whatever it's called now) has the bay in RF. Houston has the hill in center. KC has the waterfall. Imagine if the RCA Dome's field was only 95 yards; that's the equivalent of Death Valley or the Green Monster.
4. One on One. Basically the speech DeNiro makes in The Untouchables. Baseball is a team game: 25 men. But each of them takes one turn - by themself - to help the whole team. Then the next batter gets a chance. Because of the batting order, a team can't simply send its best hitter up every at-bat. You can't just give the ball to Jordan or Shaq (Pujols or Ortiz) every time. A team's best hitter will get 4-5 chances a game to help his team. That's it. You need a complete team to win.
5. Substitutions. Once a player is removed, he's done. You can't just sub in the best defenders when you have a lead. You can't take out Jeter for an inning because he's tired. Could you imagine the way baseball would be played if there were no substitution restrictions? It would be bedlam. Players don't get any breaks (outside of the DH) during the game. Even late inning defensive replacements are a gamble if the trailing team comes back. And substitutions play an ever bigger role in the NL.
6. No Clock. No running out the clock. It doesn't matter what inning and what score it is, you still need 27 outs to complete the game. There's no easy way to 'seal' a win. You still have to face every batter, and record every out.
7. History. When Japanese kamikaze pilots flew their planes into American ships, they would often yell 'Fuck Babe Ruth!' No other American sport has the history baseball does. Some of the most iconic figures in our culture are Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Ripken, McGwire, Bonds, Aaron, Clemens, Jeter. It's goes all the way back to the 1830's. The 'Junior Circuit' (AL) had been going strong for over 45 years before the NBA ever started. The Yankees had already won 20 World Series before the first Super Bowl was ever played. I just love that feeling of history when I watch a game.
8. Summer. What better sport to exemplify the feeling of summer than baseball. The only summer sport we have. Warm weather, kids are out of school; remember the day games with your dad, drinking a soda, eating a hot dog? What's better than that?
9. Connection. This ain't football where the most ardent fans get to see a maximum of just 24 games (including the pre and post-season). Baseball is 3 hours a day, 6 days a week for 6 months. You get a minimum of 162 games. That's double basketball and hockey, and 10 times that of football. Not only do you get to see your 'guys' 162 times a season, but you actually feel close to them. They're not wearing masks to cover their faces (football, hockey), and you don't get that feeling of 'closeness' from other sports. And then when you add the fact that baseball plays 162 games, it's easy to understand where the connection comes from. When the season is over, it's like you not seeing your family for five months.
10. Home-field Advantage. Having the home team hit in the bottom of each inning assures that every team, every season (even Kansas City) will have its share of thrilling, bottom of the whatever, walk-off wins. It's nothing like football where you squib kick it or have the QB kneel down, or in basketball where you dribble out the clock or foul the opponent 10 times.

By the way, when is opening day?

Feb 13, 2007

Yanks Roundup

The Yanks sport the 4th best farm system in baseball. They rank 1st in pitching, but 18th in hitting.

Robbie Cano is the best young second baseman in baseball. He certainly is. Now if only he can improve his patience and defense.

Surprisingly, Scout.com ranked Venezuelan catcher Jesus Montero the Yanks 4th best prospect, ahead of Clippard, Chamberlain and Kennedy. Strangely, they have yet to rank: Hughes (given #1), Tabata (given #2), Betances and Sanchez. Something's amiss.

Ron Villone will join the Yanks in Tampa on a minor league deal. Too bad. I was hoping another team would sign him so we could get another draft pick.

Mo is pissed about Bernie's and his own contract situation.
I think this is pretty much a non-story. Cash Money will talk to Rivera and relax him. But I have no doubt he'll be resigned after the season for another 2 years (barring injury). At least this will take attention away from Arod for a while.

Feb 12, 2007

Giants release 3 starters

Lavar Arrington, Luke Petitgout and Carlos Emmons were all released today. I totally agree with the Emmons release, but why Arrington and Petitgout? Lavar was just starting to excel when he got injured, and it wasn't his normal knee problem, it was a torn Achilles tendon, basically a freak injury. And Petitgout was maybe the best offensive lineman the Giants had.

It will save some money under the salary cap, but it creates holes on the O-line and OLB. I suppose (and hope) and Giants think highly of Gerris Wilkinson, Reggie Torbor and Guy Whimper. Will David Diehl be moved permanently to LT, with Rich Seubert at LG?

This creates so many questions going into the off-season. Who will the Jints draft? OL, LB, CB? What about free agents? Clements, Samuel, Briggs, Thomas, June?

New GM Jerry Reese has certainly opened my eyes with his first big move. It'll be interesting to watch what else he does.

Feb 9, 2007

Yankee News - February 9 edition

Bernie rejects the Yanks offer.

Williams said he would not accept the team’s current offer to come to spring training as a long shot on a minor league contract and perhaps play himself onto the roster if another player got hurt.

Instead, Williams said, he would maintain a waiting game of sorts by staying home, staying in shape, spurning offers of guaranteed contracts from other teams and waiting for the Yankees to change their minds and offer him a guaranteed spot on the roster.
Please Bernie, it's not going to happen. You've been an awesome Yankee, but there's no room for you anymore. Just take the hint and retire with dignity, or just sign with another team. Don't try to force yourself onto the roster. It's not pretty for all involved.

Hughes continues to impress.
Hughes said last season gave him a low-pressure experience of what camp would be like. In one February workout, he buzzed a mid-90s heater past Alex Rodriguez, prompting the reigning AL MVP to ask a club executive, "Who the [heck] is that guy?"

"He's probably the best young pitcher we've had in this organization since I've been here, both in terms of stuff and in terms of performance," said [VP of baseball operations] Mark Newman, who joined the Yankees in 1989.

"[Hughes] had a month last year where he threw 80 percent fastball strikes. We've never had anybody do that. He went all year and didn't face a hitter with the bases loaded. All the performance indices we look at are off the charts."

Accordingly, the Yankees plan to increase Hughes' innings total this season to a ceiling of 180, no matter his level.
First off, I totally agree with the Yanks policy of limited innings. The very last thing we want is Hughes pulling a Liriano and missing 18 months. What I see (and hope) is that Hughes stays in AAA where his pitch counts can be easily monitored. He pitches lights out until August, going 5 innings a start, compiling about 80 ip (16 starts) of sub-3.00 ERA ball. Igawa and Pavano will still be the 4/5 starters, with mediocre ERAs (4.50 range), and the less effective of the two will be moved to the pen to make way for Hughes. He'll still have 100 innings to give, so assuming he has 8-10 major league starts in August and September, at 5-7 innings a start (40-70 ip), he'll still have 30-60 innings in the tank for the playoffs.

Of course, we may see Hughes much earlier if injuries or ineffectiveness strike the rotation. All the ML starters except Igawa have injury histories. But Hughes is not the first in line when Pavano (probably) goes on the DL in May. I expect this to be the order of pitching callups: Rasner, Karstens, White, Hughes, Sanchez, Ohlendorf, Clippard.

Best. Pitchers. Ever.

A good article.

Feb 8, 2007

Tabata vs. Martinez

The top hitting prospects for the Yanks and Mets, evaluated by John Sickels.

He has outstanding bat speed, and shows ability against both fastballs and breaking balls. His strike zone judgment is very good. All of his tools rate as average or better... He has the arm for right field, and with more experience his defense will play there without problem... His batting average and OBP could be more consistent than Martinez's, and Tabata should keep his running speed longer. He projects as an All-Star right fielder.

Feb 6, 2007

SB XLI, Hughes comps

- I was back in Boston this weekend for a Superbowl party. I didn't know about half the people, but it was still a good time. Most of the partygoers were pulling for Chicago because of Boston's hate for Peyton Manning. I also was pulling for Chicago, but because I have several relatives in the Chicago area. A very entertaining game, and it was funny to see all the corporate seats empty because of the rain. If those tickets go to real fans, no way are they empty. Anyway, congrats to Peyton and Dungy, and may Arod be next. But will it be with the Yanks?

- Hughes vs. Verlander
- Hughes vs. Prior & Beckett

But these articles don't tell the whole story.

Minors career stats:
(age 22) Verlander
1.29 era, 118.2 ip, 136 k, 26 bb (5.2 k/bb), .91 whip, .30 HR/9, 10.36 k/9

(ages 20-23) Beckett
1.75 era, 216.1 ip, 295 k, 51 bb (5.8 k/bb), .89 whip, .54 HR/9, 12.29 k/9

(ages 21-25 due to rehab stints, but primarily 21) Prior
2.96 era, 88.1 ip, 131 k, 24 bb (5.5 k/bb), 1.04 whip, .51 HR/9, 13.38 k/9

(ages 18-20) Hughes
2.13 era, 237.1 ip, 269 k, 54 bb (5.0 k/bb), .86 whip, .23 HR/9, 10.21 k/9

Ranking each of these categories:
Verlander: age - 4, era - 1, ip - 3, k/bb - 3, whip - 3, HR/9 - 2, k/9 - 3 = 19 (16)
Beckett: age - 3, era - 2, ip - 2, k/bb - 1, whip - 2, HR/9 - 4, k/9 - 2 = 16 (14)
Prior: age - 2, era - 4, ip - 4, k/bb - 2, whip - 4, HR/9 - 3, k/9 - 1 = 18 (14)
Hughes: age - 1, era - 3, ip - 1, k/bb - 4, whip - 1, HR/9 - 1, k/9 - 4 = 15 (14)

Wow. So adding up the rankings of age, innings pitched ('experience'), ERA, K/BB, WHIP, Homers per 9 ip and Ks per 9 ip, Hughes comes out on top (he's superior in WHIP, HR rate, innings pitched, and all while doing it at the youngest age). Even if you discount innings pitched, Hughes is still tied with Beckett and Prior. While Beckett and Prior are the pure power pitcher, strikeout/flyball guys, Hughes is more of a strikeout/groundball guy. ERA, K/9 and K/BB are the only stats where Hughes is below Beckett. But he excels in WHIP (he doesn't walk anyone), and HR rate (due to great groundball tendencies). Project Prospect only looked at BB/9 and K/9, but didn't mention how Beckett and Prior gave up over twice as many HRs per 9 than Hughes has. That's big. Hughes also has better BB/9 than Beckett or Prior, but slightly worse than Verlander. And Hughes already has more minor league innings than any of the others, a testament to his durability (knock on wood), experience, and adaptability.

- In other prospect news: TPA did a write up on Staten Island's Tim Norton -

A 7th Round pick of the New York Yankees in the 2006 Draft, pitching prospect Tim Norton got his career off to an impressive start and is another quality young arm to keep an eye on in the Pinstripers talented farm system. The 6'5" righthander was signed following his senior season at UCONN where he posted a 7-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 92.2 innings of work during his senior season. Norton continued his fine pitching as a pro going 3-3 with a 2.60 ERA and a New York-Penn League runner up 83 strikeouts in 72.2 innings at Staten Island. He held opposing hitters to a .222 batting average, allowed only one homerun on the year, and walked just 14 batters. Expect Norton, who turns 23 in May to begin 2007 at either Low-A Charleston or possibly even High-A Tampa due to his four years of collegiate experience.
And Pete Abraham reports -
Jorge Posada and Kei Igawa, as well as prospects Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Dellin Betances, Jose Tabata and Jesus Montero have already reported to the Yanks training facility in Tampa. Good to see that work ethic.

Feb 2, 2007

How important ARE sacks?

Since the football season is still another 2 or so days, I wanted to write this analysis before the Superbowl. We all know how glorified sacks are, but in the end, they're basically just negative running plays. But do they inflict some kind of psychological damage on the opponent?

I looked at the 2006 16 game schedules for 3 teams: the Gmen, Pats and Raiders. Examining every game's play-by-play (thanks NFL.com) for when sacks occurred, and what the outcome of each drive was, I compared the data to the average 2006 NFL drive.

- Sacks occurred in 18.7% of all drives (roughly 1 in 5).

- The most likely result of a drive after a sack occurred was a punt: 55.2% of the time. This is 16.1% higher than punting on an average drive: 39.1%. This is expected.

- Turnovers actually occurred less frequently after a sack: 20%. Compared to an average drive which produced a turnover 21.3%. The difference is slight, but I did not expect to find this. It must mean that offenses get conservative after a sack. Teams will take more chances on 3rd & 5 than on 3rd & 15.

- When a sack occurred, the offense failed (to score a TD or attempt a FG) 75.2% of the time. That's 14.8% higher than on an average drive.

- A TD or FG attempt occurred on an average drive 32.2% of the time. But when a sack occurred, it dropped to 13.8%. A big 18.4% difference.

- A TD was scored on an average drive 16.9% of the time. That dropped to just 2.9% on drives after a sack occurred. So basically, if a sack occurs, the offense can basically forget about scoring a TD. It happened just once out of every 34 drives with sacks!

Avg. drive
D holds (forces a punt or turnover) 60.4%
D fails (allows a TD or FG attempt) 32.2%

'Sack' drive
D holds 75.2%
D fails 13.8%


- So adding the percentages that the defense will get the ball back (either through a punt or a turnover), or minus the 'scoring chances' (TD or FG attempt), I'm left with: the D will hold (or the offense will fail) 33.2% more often after a sack than an average drive. In other terms, 2.2 times more often (61.4/28.2=2.2).

Do sacks equal wins?
The top 10 teams in sacks 2006 (with their overall D ranking):
SD, #10 overall defense
Baltimore, #1
Miami, #4
GB, #12
NE, #6
Seattle, #19
Car, #7
Buffalo, #18
Philly, #15
Chi, #5

Avg. ranking of #10. Only 4 of these teams missed the playoffs.

The bottom 10 teams:
Wash, #31 overall defense
TB, #17
Indy, #21
Tennessee, #32
Houston, #24
Cleveland, #27
Min, #8
Det, #28
KC, #16
NYG, #25

Avg. ranking of #23. Only 3 of these teams made the playoffs.

Obviously, sacks are a very large component to overall defense. Howevever, sacks are not the only determinant to defense, as Minnesota was among the last in sacks, yet ranked 8th in overall defense. Miami and Carolina had a lot of sacks and good defenses, but their offenses were not good enough to make the playoffs. The Colts, who were 2nd to last in sacks (and 21st in defense) are in the Super Bowl.

If you'd like the raw data, just let me know.

Colter Bean, Hughes

That Hughes guy.

Minor League pitcher Colter Bean is actually pretty good, at least according to a Baseball Analysts study. He has above average strikeout and groundball rates.