Jan 31, 2008

Coming Soon

ESPN's Keith Law presents his Top 100 Prospects, followed by BPro's Kevin Goldstein's Top 100. Both lists have five Yankees.

- Cliff Corcoran says we should be glad we didn't get Santana. And I agree with him.

- Pinstripes Plus just finished ranking their top 50 Yankee prospects. The top five: Tabata, Montero, Jackson, Betances, Horne. (Joba and Kennedy must have been considered ineligible.)

During the Superbowl

I'll be somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. My wife and I were planning a Winter cruise months ago, and I told her the Superbowl is on the first Sunday in February. That wasn't enough, so I said what if the Giants were in it? She looked at me like I had two heads. She was right - the Giants were picked by some to be the worst team in football. So alas, there I'll be, wandering about a giant boat, trying to find a bar with the game on, hopefully without any New England fans present. Wish me luck.

PS: check out the new Stadium pics from last weekend.

The inside scoop

from Jon Heyman:

If you can really fault the Twins, perhaps it was for failing to pounce on the Yankees' offer of top young pitcher Phil Hughes, center fielder Melky Cabrera, pitching prospect Jeffrey Marquez and a fourth undetermined prospect when it was briefly on the table for the first couple days of the winter meetings back in early December. Instead, the Twins pressed for the Yankees to also include another top young pitcher, Ian Kennedy, going for the grand slam. If you want to hit the Twins, hit them for that.

The Yankees' proposal, however fleeting, may have been the best one. Even the AL scout who defended the Twins thought so, saying, "I think the Yankees' deal would have been better because those two guys (Hughes and Cabrera) already showed what they can do in the big leagues.''

Even if that's true -- and Cabrera is no world-beater yet (even those who don't love Gomez say he's "a tick above'' Cabrera in terms of value) -- it's still hard to knock Smith for ignoring Hank Steinbrenner's quick deadline and pressing for more.

Who could have thought Hank the Yank would actually stick to the deadline this time? In Steinbrenner the Junior's tenure at the top, he has showed he is willing to change his mind (hence the re-signing of A-Rod), to seal certain deals by giving away the store (thus a fourth year for 36-year-old catcher Jorge Posada) and even to over-rule general manager Brian Cashman (both A-Rod and Posada). So it's understandable why Smith still hoped for more.

But as we know by now, Cashman made a strong stand, building a convincing case regarding Hughes' toughness and potential. Then Hank's younger brother Hal, who controls the purse strings, tightened hard before Hank could loosen them again.

When the Twins made a last pass at the Yankees on Tuesday, it was too late. So when Cashman told the Twins yet again that Hughes was off the table, the Twins went for the gusto, requesting that instead Cashman send them both Kennedy and Chien-Ming Wang to go with Cabrera and Marquez. Why not? By then, it was clear that there was only one place left to go, and that was the Mets.

Jan 29, 2008

And there it is

So Carlos Gomez was pulled from Winter ball as part of a trade. Frankly, Minnesota got screwed here. Both the original Boston and Yankee offers were better. Instead, rookie GM Bill Smith overplayed his hand (a phrase that's quickly become cliched over the past week) and got a disappointing haul for Santana: Gomez, Humber, Mulvey and Guerra (the Mets 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th best prospects). In early December, Minny had their choice of Phil Hughes, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury - all better than any of the Mets trade chips. A Yankee offer of Ian Kennedy, Alan Horne, Melky and AJax destroys that Met offer, so perhaps it really was about the money (for the Yanks). I can't believe the Twinkies caved and accepted an FMart-less offer. The deal still isn't 100% done, as the Mets have 72 hours to reach an extension with Santana, but that should merely be a formality. It seems Smith was going to either (1) try to fleece an AL team, or (2) get him out of the league for the best offer he could muster.

Thank goodness the Sawx didn't acquire him, because they would've been nearly unbeatable for the next three years with Santana leading the rotation. They probably could have acquired him for only Lester and Ellsbury - yes, two good prospects, but certainly not studs, and Santana would have locked up the division for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the money seems to have been too much for them too. This is a win for both Boston and the Yanks. A true rarity.

Credit should be given to Brian Cashman for not overreacting to Boston's (and Hank's) interest. I'm relieved he didn't go to Boston and that we didn't lose Hughes, but also pissed the Mets got him for a considerably inferior offer.

The only real loser is Minnesota. If you want to feel real pity (by reading the disgusted opinions of Twins fans), visit here.

- Now that that's finally over, I can close the 'Santana to the Yanks' poll on the right. An overwhelming majority were against trading Phil Hughes for Santana (73%), 19% were in favor of it and 7% wanted to know who the 'mid-level' prospects were. Thanks for voting!

Jan 28, 2008

Johan trade finally happening?

For the Mets that is. Carlos Gomez was pulled off his Winter League team. Could be nothing or could be something.

- Brian Banister gave a great interview (also at MLBTR). I especially liked his description of the three types of quality ML pitchers.

- The Cano deal's been finalized. $30 million guaranteed, with the potential to make $57 mil.

- If the Jints want to win on Sunday, they should cheat, just like the Pats.

DID Hughes change his mechanics?

I'm certainly no expert on pitching mechanics, but a famous (or infamous) article about the differences in Phil Hughes' delivery between '06 and '07 says that Hughes' arm slot was lower in his stellar year of 2006. The video clips that Carlos Gomez used in his analysis were a one-inning stint from the 2006 Futures Game and his ML debut.

Instead, I used a regular season start from 2006 (Trenton vs. Binghamton) and compared it to his LDS Game 3 outing. I don't know the exact date of the Double-A game, but in two games (13.1 innings) against Binghamton in 2006 (before the Futures Game), he allowed 14 hits, 2 HR, 3 bb, and 18 Ks. Pretty damn good. And he appears to have the exact same arm slot as he did in the LDS. (The Futures Game had him throwing about 2 o'clock compared to 1 o'clock in Trenton and the LDS.)

Isn't it possible that in that one inning in the Futures Game, Hughes was a bit amped up, causing him to throw a bit differently? I mean, if we're going to get a truer look at his 2006 delivery, isn't a normal regular season Trenton start more telling than a one inning relief appearance in the Futures Game? Going by that and Dave Eiland's re-appearance (and the effect that had on Hughes), I believe his September and October mechanics were virtually identical to his '06 delivery when he had his best year. The same arm slot and the same fantastic results make this quite probable. So did Hughes ever change his arm slot? Perhaps not.

(Wish I could capture the screenshots I'm talking about, but no can do with YouTube and WMP.)

Jan 27, 2008

Odds & Ends

The '27 Yankees were good. So good, in fact, that their team OPS+ was 137 and their team ERA+ was 120! They led the league in both categories.

- are steroids responsible for the power surge that began in the early '90s? I still say yes (at least partially).

Jan 25, 2008

Heyman has the details

$28 million over four years, with a $2 million buyout and two option years, one for $13 mil and the next for $15 mil. Heyman doesn't say if the options belong to the team or the club, but we have to assume it's the team.

- the Yanks signed an Australian teenager to a minor-league deal that begins in 2010 (after he finishes high school), and is expected to begin as a catcher with the GCL Yankees. Don't know anything about him, but it'll be tough to surpass Montero, Cervelli, Romine and Weems.

Jan 24, 2008

Love it

Great Q & A session with Phil Hughes over at his place. The best part:

Your mechanics/delivery seemed to get a lot closer to where it was before the hamstring injury (first 2 starts) upon the arrival of Dave Eiland back in September of last years, do you credit your late season success to this?
After coming back from my injury last season my mechanics were a little out of whack. This led to a little loss of velocity and command. When Dave arrived in September we were able to work out some things and I think that had a lot to do with the success I had at the end of the season. It was nice to finish off the year on a good note so I have something to work toward to get back to my normal self in 2008.

Good to know that it was in fact Dave Eiland that allowed Hughes to have a great September and October. I'm very looking forward to a full season of his tutelage.


Something newsworthy: the Yanks and Robbie Cano are close to signing a four-year extension worth $30 million (with two team option years). It would buy out all his arbitration years and one or two years of free agency (through his age 30 season). Even if Cano never got any better, he would still be worth every penny. His career line is a robust: .314/.346/.489 through the age of only 24. He's sixth all-time among second baseman through the age of 24, and the best second baseman in the AL over the last three years (and the youngest in the top 10).

Other non-newsworthy stuff:
- The Yanks had the highest payroll (again). $218.3 million; tell me something I don't know.

- Chuck Knoblauch was subpoenaed by Congress. I really don't care anymore.

- Tom Brady wore a cast, then he didn't, then he was a no-show for the media portion of their practice. What's it all mean? My best guess is that it's a ploy by Belichick and Co. to unnerve and confuse the Giants.

Jan 22, 2008

Brady wore a cast

I'm not getting my hopes up too much. He still has two weeks to heal.

Jan 21, 2008

Accounting for recent events

A new poll has been added in place of an old poll.

As for who you felt was the 'most untouchable' Yankee 25 or under, Joba won by an overwhelming majority (53%). The next closest player was Robbie Cano with 28%, then Phil Hughes with 10%. Jesus Montero was next at 3%, followed by Melky, Betances, Horne, Ajax and Tabata with 1% each. The only player who didn't receive a single vote (surprisingly) was Ian Kennedy.

I voted for Cano. We all know Joba is a phenomenal talent, but he has one year of pro experience. Cano has already played three ML seasons - Joba has 24 ML innings under his belt. While Joba definitely has a good chance to be better than Cano, at this point Cano is only 25 (just two years older than Joba) and already the best AL second baseman. Also surprising that Hughes received just 10%. After all, he's younger than Joba or Kennedy, and was the consensus #1 pitching prospect in MLB heading into 2007. Anyway, thanks for voting!

Jan 20, 2008

Jan 19, 2008

Santana and Arbitration

How much is Johan Santana worth? A guy who knows a lot more about economics tackles that question and the answer is not as much as the Yanks would have to give up.

- Wilson Betemit agreed to a $1.165 million one-year deal, thus avoiding arbitration. Robbie Cano and CM Wang have their arbitration deals pending the decision of an arbitor; but hopefully the two sides come to an agreement before that.

- Just saw a show on HD Theater: 'The Altiplano region of Bolivia.' Altiplano is an 11,000 foot plateau area between a desert and a rainforest in South America. The host of the show was eating fruit and talking to a native woman who'd given him the fruit. What cap was she wearing? A New York Yankee cap. It's truly a Yankee Universe.

Jan 17, 2008

The Big Three in 2008 - the unabridged version

It seems us hardcore Yankee fans (notice it's not YankeeS fans) are looking forward to 2008 more so than any other season in a long time. In 2007, we saw that our top prospects were not over-hyped as Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy lived up to or exceeded expectations. The only dampers were Hughes' three-month injury that spoiled an important developmental year and Joba’s loss of control for one inning in the playoffs that essentially ended the series. Assuming none are traded, all will be important pieces of the ball club in 2008 and well beyond. With their potential production for the next decade at stake, Yankee management is taking every precaution to ensure the Trio can and will contribute for as long as possible. While this may hamper the 2008 team due to innings limitations, it is a necessary evil to maintain the viability of the Big Three (could the group have a more boring nickname?) and the team as a whole for years to come.

In what way should the Trio be used, in what way will they be used, and what can we reasonably expect from them?

First we have to look at their innings totals in 2007 between the minors and majors, how much those increased from 2006, and how much we can expect from them this year:

Hughes pitched 72.2 with the Yankees, 5.2 in the playoffs and 37.2 in the minors = 116 total innings pitched. That’s exactly 30 fewer innings than 2006 (due to the pulled hamstring and the ensuing ankle sprain). With the knowledge that he pitched 146 innings in 2006, it’s possible he could be stretched to 170 innings.

Joba pitched 24 with the Yanks, 3.2 in the playoffs and 88.1 in the minors = 116 total. That’s 11 fewer than 2006, when he threw 89.1 at Nebraska and 37.2 in the Hawaiian Winter League. He probably won’t be stretched beyond 150, but some put it up to 170.

Kennedy pitched 19 with the Yanks and 146.1 in the minors = 165.1 total innings. He threw almost exactly 30 more innings than he did in 2006 (101.2 at USC, 2.2 in the minors and 30.1 in Hawaii). He’s ahead of the others, so we can reasonably expect 195 innings this year.

We saw how safe management played it last year with the ‘Joba Rules’, even in the midst of a pennant race. Going by the ‘Rule of 30’ (supported by Rick Peterson, Will Carroll and Tom Verducci) none of the Trio will be allowed to reach 200 innings in 2008. If we assume we'll get 200 each from Wang and Pettitte, who each topped 200 in ’07 (counting the playoffs), it would still require about 550 innings from the remaining starters. The 2007 Yankees compiled just 921 innings by starters, 27 fewer than the AL average of 948 – a reasonable goal for the upcoming season. This is especially true considering starter-friendly Joe Girardi is now manager and the bullpen is currently weak. 948 innings pitched equates to 182.2 innings over three pitchers (not doable with the Trio) or 137 innings over four (definitely doable). (I always think of George’s secretary when I hear ‘doable’.)

With this in mind, and assuming that any or all of them will outperform Mike Mussina (of the 5.15 2007 ERA), the Big Three should be used to their maximum innings limits. That means no more than 150 innings for Hughes and Joba, and 200 for Kennedy. (Of course, if they should have low pitch counts, their limits could be extended. Wang went from 150 innings in 2005 to 218 in 2006.)If we say the Trio will average six innings per start, that would allow the former duo to start 25 games each and Kennedy to start 33 games. Great, pretty much a full season from Kennedy and over two-thirds from Hughes and Joba. However, it still leaves about 50 starter innings unaccounted for, hence a number of spot starts will be needed from Mussina or the hot hand of the moment – perhaps someone from Scranton like Alan Horne, Steven White, Kei Igawa or Jeff Marquez. That would require a kind of 5 ½-man rotation, going something along the lines of:

1. Wang
2. Pettitte
3. Kennedy (due to higher innings limit)
4. Hughes
5. Joba (an April rotation that is 100% homegrown!)
6. Mussina

Moose will need to fill in for Hughes and Joba (alternately) roughly twice for every four times through the rotation. However, with off days, it would drop to a minimum of eight starts throughout the season (with a max of about 15). This maximizes our best starters, minimizes our worst (sorry Moose), and keeps the Trio within their individual innings limitations.

The problem with tandem starting (i.e., having Joba pitch four innings followed by Hughes going four too every fifth game) is that neither pitcher builds up significant arm strength. We want these guys to head into 2009 able to pitch at least six innings per start. They won't start as often in my rotation, but when they do it will be treated pretty much as a normal 'go as long as you can' start. If Joe, Cash and Co. ever get concerned with the kids over-extending themselves, that's what Moose and Scranton are for.

I haven’t yet touched on the argument that Joba should be a reliever because it just doesn’t make sense (unless it’s only done to limit innings), but to summarize (as RAB did excellently on Tuesday): 150 vs. 75 innings (and the difficulty that brings when trying to increase Joba’s innings again in 2009 (of course, that’s not a problem if he becomes a full time reliever)), four average to plus-plus pitches, the ability to maintain velocity late into games, the difficulty of finding/acquiring a ‘True #1 Ace’ (™) starter, and the ever-present fail safe option: if Joba does fail at starting, he can always fall back to relieving – pitchers don’t just fall back to starting. Make no mistake, the long-term plan is to make Joba a starter. That said, using Joba as a reliever through the first month or two wouldn’t be terrible, but converting him back to starting (a transition that could take a month by itself) is much harder than going from starting to relieving – that conversion wouldn’t happen until late in the season, and then what would happen in the playoffs? Would the Yanks try to convert him back to starting on the cusp of the playoffs? Or would they force (maybe) their best starter to stay in the pen?

As far as the playoffs go, there probably won’t be any restrictions (just as the ‘Joba Rules’ were lifted last year in October), so no worries there.

The benefit of the 5.5-man rotation is that these questions don’t have to be answered. Moose is part of the team whether we like it or not, but he can be effective as a long reliever and spot starter (and occasional set-up man if Farnsy, LaTroy, etc. need a rest) so as to not waste a roster spot. It also allows Hughes, Joba and Kennedy (all better than Moose) to start throughout the year, gaining valuable experience that can’t be gleaned from relieving, never having to transition between roles, limiting innings to ensure their health, and allowing the team to have one of the best long relievers/spot starters in baseball. This assumes they remain healthy, which is always a crap shoot, but there’s no guarantee that Wang, Pettitte or even Johan Santana will either.

Example of the 5.5-man rotation (assuming no off days):

Hughes 1
Joba 1


Moose 1


Then back to Week 1.

These proposals are all well and good, but the Yankees seem to be leaning toward giving a spot straight out to Mussina and letting the Trio fight for the two remaining spots. That is unfortunately what I believe will be the case this year (at least going into the season), with the probability of the odd-man out pitching in Scranton (or out of the pen) to limit his innings then coming up to the Bronx around mid-season to spell Mussina. Management and fans need to have patience – I truly believe the pen will be above average by mid-season: Albaladejo will be solid, Farnsworth out of the windup will cause less heart attacks, Ohlendorf brings his nasty stuff, Edwar will improve his command (call me an optimist), and later in the year the possibilities of Alan Horne, Humberto Sanchez and Mark Melancon stepping into important roles. The problem with Joba in the pen is the fear that he’ll be so good that management (read Hank Steinbrenner) and the average fan will only see the short-term success (as a great set-up man) instead of the long-term possibilities (perennial Cy Young candidate).

Before we cast off Moose completely, we should evaluate whether he will have a worse 2008 than any of the Trio (in other words: what should we expect from the Big Three this year)?

Scores of scouting reports have been written on the Trio, most of them glowing, but it’s their track records that will ensure their short and long-term success. Let’s start with Hughes. The ‘popped’ hammy was an absolute killer – Hughes was going through his usual ‘adjustment game’ that he has at every level (the first game in which he dominates), only to have the fairytale night cut short by a serious injury that sidelined him until August, and he didn’t hit his stride again until September. Based on the following evidence, we can expect 10-15 wins and an ERA around 4.00 in 150 innings.

Exhibit A: consensus top pitching prospect in all MLB heading into 2007 as a 20-year old;
Exhibit B: nearly threw a no-hitter in his second ML game;
Exhibit C: dominant minor league stats through 2.5 seasons – better than Clay Buchholz at a younger age with a better size/frame and mechanics;
Exhibit D: an average AL pitcher (4.46 ERA, 100 ERA+) as the youngest pitcher in all baseball (and counting the playoffs, his ERA drops to 4.14);
Exhibit E: the Yanks best starter in September and October (coinciding with Dave Eiland joining the team?);
Exhibit F: for what it’s worth, ZIPS projects him to a 3.70 ERA in 141 innings.

As for Joba, he’s been a starter his entire college and professional career until July of last year. It was great to see him excel in a relief role (the best ERA+ in history among pitchers with at least 24 innings) but how will he fare in the rotation? The Yanks top prospect as ranked by Baseball America, John Sickels, along with every other prospect publication, we can expect a season similar to Hughes’: ERA around 4.00, 150 innings. He’ll get hit more as he loses velocity and batters see him three and four times a game (compared to 1-2 inning relief stints), but his high strikeout rate will limit the damage.

Kennedy is a very interesting case – he doesn’t have the stuff of Hughes or Joba but at this point is a more ‘polished’ (as Dave Eiland put it) pitcher, possessing command of four pitches with the most college and pro experience. Oh, and he was named 2007 ‘Minor League Pitcher of the Year.’ That said, there’s no way he pulls off another 1.89 ERA season, and while he has the ability to have a better 2008 than either Hughes or Joba (because of the higher innings limit and ‘polish’), I see a year along the lines of 4.40 ERA over 190 innings.

As for Moose, he wasn’t as bad as his ERA would indicate. Outside of three horrendous starts in August, his ERA was under 4.50. But he will be 39, so an ERA between 4.50 and 5.00 over 50+ innings sounds about right.

Sorry for the length of this opus. It was intended to top out at 500 words (the LoHud version) but ballooned to 2000 due to the sheer enthusiasm I experienced writing it. Perhaps by the time you’re done reading, pitchers and catchers will have already reported to Tampa



Baseball Cube



NY Times


Jan 16, 2008

'Yankee Stadium' it will be

Because that's what was etched into stone and bolted onto the new stadium's exterior this week. A beautiful sight to behold, and a great reminder that we won't have to suffer from a corporate name. It makes up (somewhat) for Hank's verbal diarrhea.

How many non-corporate ballparks will exist in 2009 anyway? Not many. Shea will turn into Citi-Field. Wrigley is a corporate name but seems nostalgic because of age. Rangers Ballpark, Fenway, Camden, Kauffman, The Metrodome, Angel Stadium, Dolphin, Nationals Park and, of course, The Stadium. That's only nine out of 30. We are fortunate.

(Thanks to RAB for the Post story.)

Jan 15, 2008

Joba vs. Clay

Debate can be found here.

Jan 14, 2008

Yanks say 'No' to Santana... Again

Unless (or rather until) Hank Steinbrenner changes his mind. Which is only a matter of time. I don't get the move though - by staying in the hunt, it prevents Minnesota from panicking and taking a lowball offer from Boston or the Mets.

- Robinson Cano said the Yanks 'need a number one guy like him. If [the Red Sox] got Santana, they're going to be a way better team. I hope we get him.'

Great optimism and support for the rookies from our All-Star second baseman.

- Update 10:07
Hank changed his mind rather quickly.

Jan 13, 2008

Third time's the charm

The Giants became the first team since 1990 to knock off the #1 NFC seed in the Divisional round. After losing the first two meetings of the season, the G-Men pulled out a 21-17 victory in Dallas.

- I was sure Corey Webster's dropped pick was going to be a killer. You can't giftwrap an interception any more than the one he dropped. Dallas scored a TD a few plays later, so in essense his drop cost the Jints at least seven points. Despite that, Webster played another good game. He allowed a TD to TO, but it was a perfect throw and a perfect catch. He held TO to four catches for 49 yards.

- Aaron Ross made a few great tackles, especially on Marion Barber in his running lanes that prevented long gains. He's a damn good tackler for a CB.

- Tony Romo is a goddamn escape artist. The Giants sacked him just twice today but it could've easily been six or more times.

- is Ahmad Bradshaw not better than Reggie Bush? He had a couple runs today (the cutback run to the left and the sweep that he took to the 1-yard line) that's been as good or better than anything I've seen in Bush's NFL career to date. Does anyone doubt that Bradshaw should be the starter, not Jacobs? Maybe I'm overlooking the possibility that Jacobs has already softened up the D when Bradshaw gets his big runs, but so often I see a Bradshaw carry and think: 'He got twice as many yards as BJ would've gotten there.'

- Big mistake by Eli taking a sack on 1st and 10 when given great field position. The pressure was coming down on him and unlike the textbook, he stepped backwards. The nine yard loss killed the drive. A little QB advice: 'Eli, you're supposed to step forward when you feel pressure, not back!' And the screen on the next play went to Jacobs instead of Bradshaw - what?

- Crayton's dropped pass in the third quarter was huge. It would've gone for at least 50 yards.

- Has Eli really turned into a great QB, or is this a mere 3-4 game aberration? Still can't call it either way, seeing as the two playoffs games have been in ideal weather. If he has another great game in Lambeau (at the predicted temperature of about 4 degrees), then we may truly have something.

But most importantly, a win's a win.

Sunday in Lambeau, 6:30 p.m.

Jan 11, 2008

Hughes set for 2008 campaign

From the AP -

Highlights include:
Hughes says he's feels good physically, and wants to throw 4-5 bullpen sessions before he reports to ST in mid-February.

Humberto Sanchez expects to throw off a mound by late February and could return to minor league action in May.

Andrew Brackman has already begun throwing sessions, and will begin long-tossing (from 90 ft) next week.

- Mike Cameron signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee. Wheew... disaster avoided.

Comparing no-hitters

I don't know how anyone can definitively say Clay Buchholz is a better prospect than Phil Hughes. Having finally watched Buchholz' no-hitter from September 1, I came away with mixed feelings. He didn't start out well; there were several hard hit balls in the first few innings (can't speak for the 2nd as MLB.tv wouldn't show it for some reason) with hardly any swings-and-misses. He got better however as the game progressed, finally showing good command of his curve and fastball.

Phil Hughes' 6.1 inning no-hitter was next on my playlist. We all know the tragic ending, but while it lasted Hughes looked the better pitcher. He commanded his fastball much better, had a more consistent curve and flashed a few good changeups. He allowed hardly any hard hit balls and seemed to have a few more swings-and-misses.

Buchholz' fastball ranged from 87-94 mph with average command. Hughes' from 86-96 with good command. Their curves were pretty comparable. Buchholz definitely had the better changeup. He also threw a few sliders which were comparable to Hughes'. Why Hughes gets downgraded is the post-injury effect; the Texas game was his true, healthy self - the fastball was faster, the curve had sharper break and he kept the ball down in the zone (8 grounders to 3 flyballs). Buchholz' pitches often tended to fly high in the zone (5 grounders to 11 flyballs). And Hughes did his thing in May, just 20 years old, while Buchholz was 23 for his no-hitter.

Also, Texas featured a slightly better lineup (team OPS+ of 98) than Baltimore (team OPS+ of 96).

Don't get me wrong. Buchholz looks like a very good pitcher, but he's been overrated because of one great game. I just see a better career for Hughes.

Jan 10, 2008

When Cameron was in Egypt's land...

Reportedly the Yanks are close to signing centerfielder Mike Cameron to a two-year deal. This comes on the heels of Brian Cashman saying on YES' Yankees Hot Stove program that (right now) they're going with the roster they've got (in regards to trading for Johan Santana). If that's the case, and Melky is staying with the team, why would Cameron be signed? He's a career 106 OPS+ hitter with above average defense and speed, but he just turned 35 and will miss the first 25 games of the year (serving a PED suspension). Really, what could he bring that Brett Gardner couldn't for significantly less money and considerably more flexibility?

If he is acquired, my guess is Cashman will make some kind of Melky for Damaso Marte move (which I actually would like).

Cash had a few other nuggets during the show.

- He gave the reasons for signing Hawkins: innings eater, great groundball rate with his new delivery (in Colorado no less), one year deal, and letting Viz leave guaranteed the 41st pick in the draft.

- Jason Lane has been signed as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.

- He named Farnsworth the default 8th inning guy, but was quick to explain it's all 'fluid', and that Veras, Ohlendorf, Edwar, Britton, Albaladejo (who he called 'Jose'), Marquez, Horne and White would all be options too.

- Joba will enter ST as a starter and train that way. He knows they need to limit his innings this year, but the method has yet to be decided; he gave three options: 1) they skip him as needed throughout the year, 2) they use a modified six-man rotation (an idea I love), or 3) he begins the year in the bullpen and transitions to starter sometime during the year (an idea I dislike because it becomes too easy to fall in love with him as a reliever). Rest assured though, Cash said the team's longterm view of Joba is as a starter.

Pete Abe says Phil Hughes has already begun working out at the Yanks Tampa training facilities. Gotta love it!

Jan 9, 2008

More (or less) from Hank

A few interesting tidbits from Newsday:

- Hank said if the Yanks trade for Santana, they would not extend him more than five years. If that's the case, I don't see a trade happening - Santana wants at least six years. But you never know when Hank will go back on his word. I'm really hoping this shit drags out up to and past the July 31 trading deadline so that Santana reaches free agency. If he's smart, Santana knows he can make more on the open market than he can in a contract-extension window via a trade. And if he does reach free agency, I think Hank would be willing to go six years (because it's only money and no prospects).

- Hank also said they 'remain committed' to Joba the starter.

Both good news in my mind.

How great is it

that losing Luis Vizcaino to free agency nets the Yankees a higher pick than Boston gets for Eric Gagne? I remember Theo Epstein saying that the acqusition of Gagne would at least bring back two top draft picks - he never expected the kind of tailspin Gagne had that would net him only a 'B' rating.

Hey, it's the little things in life.

Jan 8, 2008

Quick hits

- Roger Clemens secretly taped a phone conversation with former trainer and accuser Brian McNamee two weeks ago. If anything, it seems to slightly favor the Clemens side of the story that he did not juice.

- Baseball America (the prospect bible) released it's online version of the Yanks Top 10 Prospects. Brett Gardner was awarded 'Best Strike-Zone Discipline' and 'Fastest Baserunner' - that's a deadly combination. Joba came out even better - he was awarded 'Best Fastball,' 'Best Slider' and 'Best Curveball' in the whole minor league organization!

Jan 3, 2008

Quick and (very) dirty math re: Andrew Brackman

There I was, reading Lane Meyer's excellent analysis of Andrew Brackman, and one part stuck in my head - since AB is so tall (about 6'10"), he will be releasing the ball considerably closer to home plate compared to an average sized pitcher, hence making the ball appear faster. How much faster does that mean?

For the purpose of making the math easier, let's say a 5'10" pitcher throws a 100 mph fb (e.g. Billy Wagner, Tim Lincecum) and Brackman, a foot taller, also throws a 100 mph fb. And let's also assume both pitchers have the same delivery/mechanics.

5'10" is 70 inches - Brackman is 12 inches taller (82 in).

Brackman's arm - from shoulder to fingertips - should be about 40% of his height (33" in his case). Lincecum's arm should therefore be 28".

Their outstretched fingers (over their heads) should be their height multiplied by 1.27 (27% higher). That makes Lincecum's release 89 inches compared to Brackman at 104 inches. Not done yet.

The distance from the back toe on the pitching rubber (horizontally across) to where the fingers release the ball is 101% of the pitcher's height. For Lincecum, that would mean he releases the ball 70.7 inches from the rubber - for Brackman it means a release distance of 83.2 inches from the rubber. That's a difference of almost exactly a foot. Wow, that could've been done much faster if I had merely assumed their difference in height was their difference in release distance.

Still not done. A mile is 5280 feet - a 100 mph fastball travels about 147 ft per second. A ball traveling 100 mph goes 60.5 ft (60'6" or 726 inches) in approximately .412 seconds.

But in reality, release points are closer to home plate. Lincecum's is (70.7 inches closer) 655.3 inches (~54.61 ft) to hp. Hence, his 100 mph fb reaches hp in .3712 seconds (54.61/147).

Brackman's fb (at 642.8 in = ~53.57 ft to hp) reaches hp in .3644 seconds.

Therefore, Andrew Brackman's fastball reaches the hitter .0068 seconds earlier (because he releases the ball 12.5 inches closer to hp) than a pitcher a foot shorter. From my limited experience hitting baseballs and my extensive experience watching baseball, that's a negligible difference.

Further study reveals the difference to be far from negligible though.
Brackman's 100 mph fastball travels 166.03 ft/second = 112.95 mph equivalency (from true release point - 53'7" from hp).
Lincecum's 100 mph fastball travels 162.98 ft/sec = 110.9 mph equivalency (from TRP).

So, the equivalent difference in velocity is somewhat significant: to the batter, it means that the ball gets to him 36.6 inches (3.05 ft) earlier (or 2.05 mph faster (1.01849% faster)) than a 5'10" pitcher's 100-mph fb would (which is a lot more significant than what .0068 seconds would belie).

Hence, an Andrew Brackman 97-mph heater is the equivalent of a 5'10" pitcher throwing 98.8 mph (97 x 1.01849). Not quite as large a difference as the 3 mph Meyer predicts, but certainly nothing to scoff at either. (Again) however, perhaps Meyer accounted for air resistance - since a shorter distance throw (Brackman's fb) would pass through less air, there's less resistance, hence it would maintain its velocity better.

I expected the difference to be less than what I found. The fact that Brackman's fastball is faster/quicker than a shorter pitcher will only accentuate his velocity. Hitters will also have to deal with his fastball entering on an extreme downward plane along with the intimidation factor super tall pitchers often have.

PS: I hope all my math was accurate and that it made sense in context. :)

Jan 1, 2008

Two links

Is the next (and better) Daisuke headed to MLB? According to a report of a report of a report, it could happen after this season. Yu Darvish is just 21 and won the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) Cy Young with a dominating season: 207.2 ip, 1.82 era, 210 k, 49 bb, 123 h, 0.83 whip.

The problem is that he doesn't become a free agent for another six years, he is the current face of NPB and has said he has no intention of playing in the U.S. However, his team (Nippon Ham Fighters) could be convinced to post him if they knew the posting fee would surpass $100 million, and Darvish might feel differently about MLB if he knew he could earn upwards of $15 million as opposed to $2 million in Japan.

Anyway, it doesn't make much sense to me when they can do exactly what Daisuke's old team did: hold on to him until he has one year left to free agency, then post him. They get five more years of his services and would still get a comparable posting fee as he would just be entering his prime. But, if he demands to be posted (to start making the big bucks) they would do it.

(h/t to MLBTradeRumors.)

- Great article on measuring intangibles.