Mar 31, 2008

All Yankees all the time

Even though that team from the north won the World Series, it's been the Yankees making all the headlines this off-season:

- The end of the Torre Era

- The start of the Girardi Era

- Hank's shenanigans

- The Arod Opt-out Saga

- Is Santana on the way?

- Roger Clemens vs. Andy Pettitte vs. Brain McNamee (aka the Mitchell Report)

- Eliot Johnson/Frankie Cervelli/Shelley Duncan/Jonny Gomes

- A certain comedian fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing for the Yankees

- A heart-warming visit and exhibition game in Blacksburg, Virginia

- Joba the starter vs. Joba the reliever

- Jose Canseco vs. Arod

So finally we get to actual baseball. That was a long off-season, but fortunately it was made much, much shorter by the New York football Giants.

Mar 30, 2008

Q&A with Cash

The most interesting part of the interview:

"I thought, ‘All right, David Wells was running around that winter [98-99] partying and enjoying himself and he was going to come in out of shape.’ I was like, ‘We’re going to move Roger, bring him in. Bring new life, bring new energy and we won in ’99 and went forward."

Also enjoy knowing how he keeps track of 'bullshitting' agents:
"I write everything down and I crosscheck that information after and I keep a list of who tells the truth and who doesn’t tell the truth and here are the examples. I’ll call out the agents on it. I’ll say, ‘I found out you lied to me. I talked to Joe Blow and they said that’s not true and you said it was and I’m just letting you know I take notes to this stuff. Now I know that you’re a bullshitter.’ Or it builds your credibility. If somebody says they got this and for five years every time I crosscheck the guy’s never been wrong, he’s always told the truth, then he goes up the credibility scale. He’ll be more believable down the line to me when we’re negotiating."

Mar 29, 2008

Quick hits

- Phil Hughes pitched a solid last game before the season starts Monday: 5 ip, 3 h, 1 er, 1 bb, 4 k. Only wish it was on TV.

- Scott Patterson is (rightfully) upset he didn't earn a spot on the 25-man roster. Rest assured though, he'll be the first reliever called up when the inevitable injury/ineptitude strikes. In some ways, the move is better for Patterson in the long run. It's better he gets regular work in Scranton than occasional work in the crowded Bronx bullpen. Instead of an Edwar-esque two week layoff, he'll be working continually in Triple-A (albeit against lesser hitters), which will give him a better shot of succeeding and staying with the big league team long term.

This is OUR team

Pettitte starts the season on the 15-day DL (he'll rejoin the team a week from Saturday, just in time to make a start), no long reliever - eight relievers in fact (only four starters), and an abundance of corner-infielders.

Patterson deserved a spot over Albaladejo (and Bruney), but seeing as he's pitched just three innings above Double-A, it's understandable. When Pettitte comes back, Alby most likely gets sent down.

The other surprise is the absence of Brett Gardner, but again, he needs to prove himself a bit more in Triple-A before being given a roster spot. I do expect him to be an important reserve in the second half as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner.

I applaud Girardi for going against his previously stated desire to carry a long-reliever. All three candidates (Igawa, Rasner and Karstens) were outperformed by most, if not all the short-relievers.

- Excellent season preview over at THT.

The season starts in roughly 60 hours...

Mar 27, 2008

Looking ahead

I know it's a year from now, but the 2009 bullpen has a chance to be dominant (and cheap). Humberto Sanchez, Mark Melancon, Chris Garcia and JB Cox are all returning from serious injuries this year. All have outside chances of a Joba-like rise this year, but more likely they'll have a realistic shot a making the Bigs in 2009. With Farnsworth and Hawkins coming off the books next year, the pen competition will be wide open; the only lock is Mo Rivera. Joba will hopefully be starting full time next year, leaving six open spots. It's quite possible we could see a 100% non-free agent bullpen, featuring the likes of Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez, JB Cox, Mark Melancon, Dan McCutchen, Chris Garcia, Humberto Sanchez and Kevin Whelan, as well as current bullpen candidates such as Ross Ohlendorf, Scott Patterson, Edwar Ramirez and Brian Bruney. Unfortunately, there's not a single lefty in the group (Billy Traber is not a long term option).

- The World Champion Giants will open the 2008 season at 7 p.m. on the night of Thursday, Sept. 4, against Washington.

Three questions

1. Were the Yankee hitters even trying today?

2. How can Patterson and Ohlendorf not make this team?

3. Why does Girardi insist on a long-man?

I'm giving one of the three undecided bullpen spots to Traber. And we know Girardi wants a long-man - now with Karstens tweaked groin, it's down to Rasner vs. Igawa. The last spot is down to three candidates: Bruney, Patterson and Ohlendorf.

Ohlendorf was a starter throughout college and the minors: he started 74 minor league games and 28 at Princeton. It's only since mid-way through last season that he was converted into a reliever (because of the glut of solid Yankee minor league starting pitching and a bullpen need at the major league level). He can be both a long-man and one-inning reliever.

So with the two open spots, who makes the most sense out of Igawa, Rasner, Bruney, Patterson and Ohlendorf? It's pretty clear: the last two, who've done nothing this spring but throw strikes and get outs, which is a lot more than the others can say.

Mar 26, 2008

What about Brett Gardner?

His biggest criticism is his lack of power - his career minor league slugging percentage is a measly .374, lower than his on-base percentage (.381). He's hit six homers in over 1100 at-bats.

But his best attribute is his plus-plus speed, and proponents point to this as a reason he can be a ML regular, perhaps the Yanks everyday centerfielder. But again, his lack of power might hold him back.

How can we take speed into account when calculating a hitter's value? Perhaps adding in one total base for every steal, and subtracting one for every caught stealing. This increases Gardner's (and other weak speedster's) slugging percentage into very respectable territory.

Instead of a .374 SLG, Gardner's slugging percentage would look like such:

161 xbh (4 x HR + 3 x 3b + 2 x 2b) + 256 1b = 417 TB
116 SB - 22 CS = 94 SB
511 TB/1115 AB = .458 SLG

That's roughly the same as Derek Jeter last year, who, using the same SLG equation, had a .463 SLG. It's also the same as Adam Laroche, and better than Kevin Youkilis, Nick Swisher and Travis Hafner (in 2007). (Bear in mind, of course, that I'm using Gardner minor league numbers.)

Admittedly, a steal of 2nd is not as valuable as a double, because a double (like all extra-base hits) has a chance to score a baserunner. But speed doesn't show up in a player's ability to tag up, it causes throwing errors, and beats out GIDPs. So perhaps they are somewhat akin, and there is something to be said for adding steals into SLG.

Mar 25, 2008

Two errors, and that's the ballgame

The good news: Yankee pitchers did not allow a single earned run today.

The bad news: they made two costly errors that lost them the game. Melky misplayed a pop-fly in the first (admittedly against a tough wind), allowing Grady Sizemore to reach third. A slow grounder scored him. The big blow was a three-run shot by Ryan Garko (unearned because of Melky's error). Then in the 8th, SS Chris Woodward booted a routine grounder - Andy Marte followed up with a two-out, three-run HR off Darrell Rasner.

On one hand, the errors were very playable, and should have been made. On the other, pitchers sometimes need to pick up their fielders.

Unfortunately, Joe G. wants a long-man, of which the three candidates are Rasner, Jeff Karstens and Kei Igawa. All are AAAA pitchers, too good for Triple-A, not good enough for the Bigs. None deserve a roster spot. I'd much rather have a quality reliever who can only go one inning than a mediocre pitcher capable of going five. Ohlendorf is a prime candidate for this spot: he was a starter his entire career until late last season and has enough 'stuff' to be an effective 1-2 inning reliever.

PS: Patterson has to make the team.

Mar 23, 2008

Will Horne replace Joba?

If the Yanks really are set on moving Joba back to the rotation mid-season, they would want someone to fill his relief role. There are the usual suspects: Farnsworth, Hawkins, Bruney, Ohlendorf, Edwar, Patterson, etc., but the guy I see actually having a chance to be a dominant 8th inning guy is Alan Horne. He'll likely be the ace of the Scranton rotation, and was ranked behind only Kennedy and Joba (by BA) as a Yankee pitching prospect.

Like Joba before him, Horne could be converted to reliever mid-season, just as Joba is converting back to starting.

This has a far greater likelihood of occurring than hoping/waiting for a true reliever to step into that role, e.g. Sanchez, Melancon, Cox, who may not even hit the majors until 2009.

(Thanks to RAB for the Post link.)

Mar 22, 2008

While at my in-laws house in Delaware

I watched some of the Superbowl post-game shows (which my dad-in-law recorded for me while I was out of town). The best part: watching a CSNE (Comcast SportsNet New England) post-gamer, with the hosts lamenting the loss, and then... a commercial advertising Patriots 19-0, 'Perfect Season' memorabilia flashed for about 10 seconds, the screen went black and it cut to another (completely unrelated) commercial. I had a good laugh over that one. Someone back in the control room got a little cocky before the game and put it in there but forgot to remove it. That must've been embarrassing. :D

My favorite highlights aren't the 'Flee to Tyree' or the TD to Plax, but the pressures and hits on Tom Brady. Those I can watch over and over...

Mar 21, 2008

Yankee News - March 22 edition

- Morgan Ensberg was added to the 40-man roster, meaning he's almost a lock to make the 25-man roster (if he doesn't, he can become a free agent). The position player battles seem to be locked up - outside of the usual 10, it'll be Shelley, Betemit and Ensberg. That covers all the infield positions and corner outfield. Molina is the backup catcher and Damon is the backup centerfielder. There will be a solid hitting and fielding backup at every position. Cashman was criticized in the past for building a poor bench, but that has changed quickly since last year's acquisition of Betemit and Molina, and the promotion of Shelley Duncan.

- In case you were wondering, ticket prices in the new Stadium will be a lot. So much so that my father's company, which has good box seats behind homeplate, may have to forego buying them next year. They're talking about upwards of $500 a seat! That's a cool grand for two people to attend one game, not counting transportation/parking, food and drink, souvenirs, etc. But honestly, I don't mind all that much. I rather enjoy watching from home: you see the game better, you can fast forward and rewind with the DVR, eat whatever and whenever you want, you don't have to deal with the hassle of getting there and back, not to mention saving all the money it would cost.

Mar 20, 2008

Well pitched game

Outside of Farnsworth (of course). Kennedy pitched 4.1 solid innings, allowing just one run, six Ks and no walks. Joba pitched a dominant 7th, striking out the side on 11 pitches (using just his fastball and slider). His FB ranged from 94 to 96 with good command, while his slider looked the best it has all spring (low 80s) - it had more of a diving action and less lateral movement than last year. I don't know if it was the camera angle or something that Dave Eiland is teaching him, but it had nasty downward break, like it was dropping off a table. We shouldn't get too excited though, as all three batters are minor leaguers.

Elsewhere, BPro summed up the top prospects in the AL East. (Thanks to Steve for the link.)

Hughes roughed up

One of the few good things about DirecTV is that you can get regional sports networks. I watched the game on FSN Pittsburgh tonight. Phil Hughes wasn't as bad as his line would indicate. The broadcasters commented several times about a strong wing blowing out of the stadium that helped a few of the HRs (including Posada's).

Hughes' fastball command wasn't great, not up to his norm, and that was the biggest problem. A few FBs drifted over the heart of the plate, leading to the extra-base hits. However, his curve was the best I've seen it all spring, reminiscent of last May 1 (very sharp break and good command of it). I remember seeing one hard hit ball off his curve, but his changeup was hit and miss: occasionally excellent, occasionally hanging or way off the plate. His control and command (or lack thereof) were evident when he hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and fell behind too often; he also walked two.

As for him not pitching well in Spring Training, he didn't fare well last year either, yet had a good rookie campaign.

Mar 19, 2008

It's official: Joba to the pen

He'll start the season in the bullpen, and they'll go from there. But the long term goal is still to have Joba start.

And it seems Andy Pettitte was, at the very least, brushing back David Ortiz yesterday. Good for him.

Mar 17, 2008

Nice Andy!

Someone finally brushed back David Ortiz, unfortunately it took Derek Jeter getting hit first to make it happen.

Billy Traber is the clear frontrunner for the LOOGY spot, after escaping a jam and going another 1.2 scoreless innings.

- A good article summing up the Giants season. Check it out.

Mar 16, 2008


I missed the game(s) yesterday because I drove down to Atlantic City to get a deal on a mattress.

As for today's game, Patterson is really making a run at a roster spot. He's pitched six scoreless innings so far, better than any other Yankee pitcher. The Independent League refugee has pithced just three innings above Double-A (not counting Spring Training of course).

Mar 14, 2008

MLB strikes back

Shelley Duncan and Melky Cabrera (what did he do?) were suspended three games each, while Jonny Gomes will sit for two games. They will begin at the start of the season.

Ok, so apparently Melky punched Evan Longoria in the head, but still, it's ridiculous that the guy who actually started the damn fight gets less time than either of the Yankees. MLB is trying to teach us a life lesson: strike first, but don't retaliate. Great advice Bob Watson.

Mar 13, 2008

New poll

Thanks to Shelley!

The last poll has been pulled. 46% of you thought Clemens was partly responsible for Pettitte using HGH; 32% disagreed with that notion, and 21% were undecided.

Elsewhere, the Giants signed former number one overall pick David Carr to a one year, $1 million contract. I like the move - low risk, possibly high reward. Carr never got a fair shake in Houston, playing behind an awful offensive line. He's always had a great arm with the ability to stretch the field.

Oh, by the way

Billy Crystal is playing for the Yanks tomorrow.

Mar 12, 2008


Heath Phillips brushed back Evan Longoria (and was then ejected), then Shelley Duncan slid spikes first into second, causing Johnny Gomes to run from right-field to start the fight. Apparently no punches were thrown though.

I don't want to advocate trying to injure a player (that slide looks very painful), but if Tampa wants to 'play to win' in meaningless Spring Training games, then their opponents also have the right to do so. More than that, I finally like the idea of a Yankee standing up for the team. Too many times during the Torre era were batters nailed by pitchers without any retaliation. The message that sends is that the Yankees won't protect their teammates. What Shelley did may have been wrong, but in the grand scheme of things, it was right.

But to play Devil's Advocate, if we assume Elliott Johnson is being truthful when he says he was just "playing hardball" and "going on instinct" to Blogger: New York Yankees etc. - Edit Post "Brawl!"try to jar the ball loose, why shouldn't we assume Duncan is being honest when he said he tried to jar the ball loose? Unfortunately, the game was not televised anywhere, so we have only still photos and reporters' accounts of the occurrence - very hard top judge for ourselves without seeing it.

If Joe Maddon wants to play like it's the regular season, then be ready for this. It's quite possible Shelley would do the same thing in a meaningful game. (He's come close to injuring his own teammates on high fives.)

And there's no way Duncan can get suspended without Gomes too. The guy ran from the outfield to 2b just to start a fight.

PS: while that photo above makes it look like Shelley is kicking Iwamura in the balls, we really can't tell without the video. He was probably just pulling his leg back at that point. The photo below is probably a more accurate depiction of the slide.

PSS: and finally the video. Really not as bad as some are making it out to be. I believe Duncan slid like that a few times last year.

PSSS: another video surfaces. Definitely a hard, Shelley Duncan-type slide. Just playing 'hardball', as Joe Maddon would say.

Mar 11, 2008

Hitting lefties

The Yanks didn't fare well against southpaws last year (.055 OPS points lower vs. lefties than righties). With that in mind, I believe Morgan Ensberg will make the team as a solid right-handed hitter (especially against lefties), utility-infielder, and last but not least because of his scorching spring (hitting an even .400).

Against Scott Kazmir or Erik Bedard, we might see a lineup like this (with each hitter's corresponding OPS against lefties):

CF Damon (.749)
SS Jeter (.908)
3b Arod (.976)
DH Posada (.886)
RF Duncan (.984)
1b Ensberg (.936)
LF Matsui (.810) - gets the nod over Melky who struggles (.680) against lefties
2b Cano (.756)
C Molina (.750)

So it basically comes down to Ensberg and Molina vs. Abreu and Giambi:
Abreu (.766) and Molina (.750) are roughly even against southpaws, while Ensberg (.936) is considerably better than Giambi (.855).

Notes from a shutout

Good outings from all the pitchers tonight as the Yanks shutout the Reds, 4-0. I was able to watch the game on FSN Ohio. The strange thing is that Joba has had far better command of his curve so far than his slider; he threw some nasty curves tonight, rivaling his best sliders. When he finally does get his slider command back, holy shit! The two hits he allowed were an infield single and a line-drive single on a decent looking changeup (in other words, a weak, lucky hit and a hit on his fourth best pitch). By the way, is YES the only network that uses a radar gun? I've watched several Fox Sports Net games and none have had a gun reading so unfortunately I can't comment on his velocity.

Ian Kennedy didn't have great control at first, but settled down after a few batters. I'm pretty sure both of his Ks were on changeups.

Cincy's Edinson Volquez was etxremely impressive. Using a Pedro-esque changeup, he K'ed 8 Yankees in just 4 innings. What would it have taken to get him from Texas? Tabata or Ajax would have been worth it.

Mar 10, 2008

Cervelli's injury

Finally saw what happened the other day. A very poor decision by Elliot Johnson to run over Cervelli. I understand that it was mostly instinct, but he clearly could have slid in there safely without hurting anyone. Now Cervelli is out 8-10 weeks... someone has to get a fastball in the back, either on Wednesday or during the regular season. If it happened during the regular season, fine, but it wasn't the regular season, it was a meaningless exhibition game.

Mar 8, 2008

Cervelli fractures wrist

I haven't yet seen today's game, but I know Cervelli was run over by a runner, breaking his wrist. Girardi was pissed and Tampa's manager Joe Maddon hid from the media in his office. Cervelli is the organization's best defensive catcher (who can also hit) - he could miss 6-8 weeks now. There better be some kind of retribution...

Elsewhere, Tom Coughlin's contract extension was officially announced. He'll receive $21 million for five years. Hard to argue with it, because although it was another mediocre regular season, Coughlin did something right because the team was clearly the best in the world for five weeks in the playoffs. Hopefully that continues in 2008.

Mar 7, 2008

Few highlights

What happened to the great pitching at the beginning of Spring Training? I don't know, as the Yanks have allowed 7, 16 and 9 runs. The only pitching highlight was Rivera, who blew through three hitters, fanning two. Every other pitcher allowed at least one baserunner.

Would it kill Posada to take a few pitches (or just one)? If memory serves me, he made outs on three consecutive pitches (including one GIDP). His eye is too damn good to be impatient at the plate.

Mar 5, 2008

Roster prediction v.1

After the bullpen's disappointing game, I'll make some early Spring Training roster predictions.

What we know:

Open spot


Open spot 1
Open spot 2
Open spot 3
Open spot 4

The five open spots are up for grabs. Girardi will probably take one more position player, probably a utility infielder (because they already have five outfielders: Damon, Melky, Abreu, Matsui, Shelley) such as Wilson Betemit, Morgan Ensberg, Nick Green, Bernie Castro or Chris Woodward. I'm giving it to Betemit because although he hasn't hit well so far, he broke out today with a long double, always has good patience, is a young switch-hitter and has enough experience (and ability) to play any infield position (450 innings at SS and 2b, and over 1500 innings at the corners). Don't count out Morgan Ensberg though, who has a 116 OPS+ and kills lefties.

The far more intriguing aspect is the bullpen. Four spots remain (assuming Joba begins there). Bruney, Edwar and Alby are quickly pitching themselves out of the equation - Igawa and Henn are southpaws but can't find the strike zone: those five are out. Karstens has done fine so I believe he'll be the long reliever which will help spell the rotation in April (when they have only one day off). Billy Traber will be the lefty, having done well so far (2 ip, 0 h, 3 Ks, 0 bb) and throws harder than the other lefty, Heath Phillips. Chris Britton will get the third spot: great minor league numbers (with solid ML numbers in limited time), good control and two quality pitches. One spot left... both have good stuff, but I'm giving it to Ross Ohlendorf over Jose Veras because of better control and better groundball rates.

However, as the season progresses, I expect a lot of changes to take place. Mark Melancon, Dan McCutchen, Scott Patterson, Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez and Humberto Sanchez could all move up to the Bronx pen. I really like what I've seen from the first two in ST, but they're farther away than Horne and Marquez. It's a good problem to have. What looks like a first half weakness could turn into a second half strength (like last year).

The members of RSN

I think 'Red Sox Nation' has enough assholes without Hank Steinbrenner. Example 1 and example 2.

(Thanks to Was Watching and Bronx Liaison.)

Mar 2, 2008

War of Words

Hank Steinbrenner called 'Red Sox Nation' bullshit, so naturally John Henry inducted him into it. Hank should respond as such:
"The Yankee organization appreciates the memorabilia given by Mr. Henry. It should fetch a fair price on ebay. Depending on how much money it's worth, we will give the first X number of fans to the April 7th game against Tampa Bay free 'Yankees Universe' shirts subsidized by Mr. Henry's generous gift."