Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thoughts on a Few Things

With the Yankees seemingly done dealing for the Winter (yeah, right), I'll turn my attention to other things around the sports world for commentary.

The Trouble with Torre

First, there's this Joe Torre mess. If anything, it looks as if his book has tarnished him more than it has tarnished the Yankees. Everyone already knew that baseball clubhouses were a mess and that the Yankees were no exception. However, before this, it seemed that everyone thought Joe Torre was a trustworthy, respectable guy. Chances are, the opinion of most has swayed on this. As a Yankee fan who grew up in the "Dynasty Years," I will always have a softer spot for Joe Torre because he was the manager during the four Yankee world titles. I'm not gonna sit here and say, though, it was all because of him. The Yanks were a playoff team in '95 and were rolling at a .619 clip before the strike in 1994. Joe Torre stepped into the right place at the right time and took the team to the promised land. Now, I also can't say that just anyone could've managed those teams, but I do think Torre gets too much credit for the four WS wins and not enough blame for the two WS losses.

What troubles me most about this is the timing. If Torre wanted to release this book after his tenure with the Dodgers was over, fine. He'd be out of baseball and really wouldn't have anything to lose. By releasing it now, though, and raising all sorts of questions about his trustworthiness, you've gotta wonder what the players for the LA Dodgers are thinking. Torre went into LA with a reputation for being the strong, silent type the players could trust. Now, it doesn't seem that way. If I'm a young player on the Dodgers, I'm a little worried right now about how much I can trust Joe Torre. And if I'm a high paid veteran--Juan Pierre--I'm definitely going to be worried about whether or not I'm gonna be the next guy thrown under the bus.

The Super Bowl

This Super Bowl is a giant "meh" in my eyes. Last year, my Giants were in it and we all know how that turned out. I'd never been more excited for a football game in my life. Now, though, I don't even have a team to root against. At least if the Eagles had made it, I could've rooted hard for them to fall for the Steelers. Now, I don't really care who wins. If the Cardinals win, good for them. They came out of no where and did a great job. They also share a mascot with my high school so that factors in. If the Steelers win, that's cool, too. I like Mike Tomlin and I think the Rooneys are a pretty classy family. I'll be at my girlfriend's house for the game and to be honest, I'll probably be more interested in the fried zucchini and buffalo chicken dip she and I are making than in the game. But for shits and giggles, here's my prediction: Arizona 24 Pittsburgh 23. Arizona wins it on a late fade route from Warner to Fitzgerald--shades of Manning to Burres last year.

UConn Basketball

As a UConn student, I love how well the basketball team is playing right now. Before the season started, I thought they had a chance to make a serious run at the National Championship, and now I believe that even more. Jeff Adrien is playing his usual beastly basketball, AJ Price is shooting lights out from three point land, and Jerome Dyson is a fucking walking highlight reel. Hasheem Thabeet is once again dominating on the defensive end and on the glass, but I think his offense needs to see a little more aggression, especially if he's going to make it at the next level. Too many times I've seen him go up for a lay in instead of jamming it home like he should. His hands are still a little rough, too and he has a tendency to forget how tall he is. There are times when he plays like he's 6'3" instead of 7'3." However, I'd obviously like to have him instead of not. Lastly, I'll touch on freshman Kemba Walker. He is a damn exciting player and in two to three years, he will be a National Player of the Year candidate. Book it. GO HUSKIES.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Andy Pettitte Gets a One Year Deal

So, our long national nightmare is over. Andy Pettitte has signed a one year deal worth a guaranteed $5.5 million and worth up to $12 million in incentives.

This is another off-season victory for the Yankees as far as I'm concerned. Pettitte, who thought he could pull down a guaranteed $16 million is taking a HUGE pay cut. It's clear he was humbled. Andy said that he wanted to play for the Yankees or no one and he buckled. This off-season has been more than incredibly successful for the Yankees.

They filled their pitching rotation voids with the two best pitchers on the market, patched potential holes left in the offense, and now have solidified their number four spot with someone who is more than capable of doing that job. This also allows Phil Hughes to get some polish and confidence down at AAA. Besides, with fifth starter Joba Chamberlain on an innings limit--around 140-150--Hughes, along with Ian Patrick Kennedy and Alfredo Aceves, will get plenty of opportunities to start for the big ball club in the New Big Ballpark in the Bronx.

This leaves the rotation as:
1. CC Sabathia
2. Chien Ming Wang
3. AJ Burnett
4. Andy Pettitte
5. Joba Chamberlain

That rotation is as strong as any in all of baseball. With an offense that has a potential to score a ton of runs, the Yankees could be looking at a 95-100 win season.

Now, the only thing left the Yankees have to do is get a middle infielder for the bench and maybe get a third catcher. When those two things are the only ones left on your off-season docket, you know you've got a strong team going forward into the season. LET'S GO YANKEES!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Few Things to Touch On

First off, tomorrow, the 26th of January, yours truly will have a "Pinch Hitting" piece published on Peter Abraham's blog, so give it a look.

On to more baseball related matters:

It appears that Ben Sheets latest medical reports are much better than they were back in the Winter Meetings. This, apparently, has sparked new interest from a lot of teams. While it looks like Sheets will end up in Arlington, the Yankees may be showing interest in him again.

If they are in fact looking at him again, this gives them much more leverage in the negotiations with Andy Pettitte. If the offer has been upped to $10.5 mil to keep Andy in the Bronx, he'll probably still reject it because in his mind, he still thinks he's worth $16 million. That's just insane. So if Andy's going to be true to his word and come back to NY or retire, discussions with Sheets could light a fire under his ass to make a decision.

Of course, this also gives Ben Sheets a little leverage. Before these reports, Sheets was staring in the face of a one year contract with maybe an option for a second year. Now, he is probably in position to get at least a two year contract. I wouldn't mind giving him a two year contract but I'd prefer a one year deal or a one and an option type deal, but either way Ben Sheets in Pinstripes would be just fine for me.

A one year deal would allow Phil Hughes to move into the rotation in 2010 when I think he'll be fully ready. A two year deal allows Hughes more time to develop. I don't like the idea of starters in the bullpen, but early in a career, it could help. Just look at how it worked out for Johan and Pedro. They turned out just fine.

Now I'll turn my attention to other teams, for variety's sake.

The Mets, though their bullpen is improved, still need to add a corner OF. The price tag on Adam Dunn has apparently dropped. The Mets should make a serious play at him, even if it's a one year deal. If the Mets signed Adam Dunn, their 3/4/5 would look like: Beltran/Wright/Dunn. That would easily be the best three through five combination in the NL East now that Pat Burrell has departed for Tampa Bay. Signing Adam Dunn would be a smart move for the they probably won't do it (just kidding Mets fans). I still have a pipe dream involving a trade of Xavier Nady and the signing of Adam Dunn....maybe...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Xavier Nady Gets a One Year Deal

The Yankees have signed Xavier Nady to a one year deal worth $6.55 million.

This probably means that the X-Man will not be traded by the Yankees--at least not before the season starts. This is good for the Yankees because it will provide them with outfield depth. Nick Swisher should still start over Xavier Nady but that's something I've touched on before. The alignment on Opening Day should be Damon/Gardner/Swisher with Matsui as the DH if the pitcher is right handed and Nady if the pitcher is left handed. Nady on the bench means greater flexibility in giving the aging Damon a day off in left field if he needs it or allowing the Yankees to shift Swisher to CF if Gardner starts to stumble too much at the plate. This kind of roster flexibility is going to be something new for the Yankees, even though Joe Girardi juggled the lineup a bit much last year. This time, though, if he does, it will be for good reason and he'll have more than suitable replacements. The infield bench is still looking pretty weak but there's still time for that to be ironed out.

If Nady were a free Agent, he'd be valued at about $7.71 million. That projection comes from using his Marcels offensive projection combined with his CHONE defensive projection, using the same math as my "What's A Player Worth" post. So it appears that the Yankees will be getting a good deal for Mr. Nady, if he lives up to his performance.

And, I've got to talk about it because it needs to be touched on. Today seemed unreal to me. As cliche as it may sound, today was an event four years in the making. From the moment his keynote speech at the 2004 DNC ended, I knew Barack Obama would be President one day--I just didn't think it'd be this soon. The election of a black man to the office of the Presidency is nothing short of historic and monumental. I'm a very cynical person and wasn't sure if the American people could do what they did on November 4th but they did and my faith in a people was restored.

We still have a long way to go in this nation in terms of race relations, but today, the most hopeful I've known in quite some time, we reached a peak. At the risk of sounding silly, I will always remember what I was doing when Chief Justice Roberts swore in Barack Obama: standing in front of my TV in my college apartment, hands on my head, shedding tears of joy because for the first time in years, I've felt hopeful for the future of my country.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Slightly Angry Hall of Fame Rant

Okay here's my annual Hall of Fame rant.

Bert Blyleven was once again denied access to the Hall of Fame. There's nothing more I can say about this. He must've done something when he was a player to piss off the writers. I was born in 1987 and he retired in 1992 so I don't know much about his career aside from the (outstanding) numbers so if someone could fill me in, that'd be great. I could go on and on with this, but instead, I'll post a link to an article I wrote a while ago at SI's about Bert Blyleven's HOF qualifications. Enjoy.

You can check out the rest of the ballot here. Chances are that Jim Rice will finally break through and make it too Cooperstown in his final year on the ballot, and at that point the HOF floodgates should open. Once Rice is in, don’t you have to let Frank Howard, Fred McGriff, Albert Belle, Juan Gonzalez and Will Clark in? I mean, when the best thing you can say about a guy is “he was the most feared hitter of his era” (BBWAA code for “I have no evidence to support my claim”), does that make him Hall worthy? I’m pretty sure Mark McGwire scared the bejesus out of pitchers, so why hasn’t he been let in? He hasn’t been proven guilty of anything. Oh, and how does a guy go from receiving 29.8% of the vote in his first year on the ballot to 72.2% in his 14th year on ballot? How many games did he play in between ballots?
--River Ave. Blues

Jim Rice is not a Hall of Famer.

Whatever. I've really got nothing. I'm sick of the HOF. Rickey deserved it, though, but even that comes with a stain. WHY WAS THIS SELECTION NOT UNANIMOUS?! WHY IS THERE THIS BULLSHIT IDEA THAT NO ONE SHOULD GET 100% OF THE VOTE? Ugh.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Baseball Goings On

Alright there's a decent amount of stuff to talk about so let's get right to it.

First, there's Andy Pettitte. He seems to have rejected the Yankees one year, ten million dollar contract offer. If I'm Cash, I call his bluff and say "Alright, Andy. You said Yankees or retire. You have the offer. If you want to leave it, fine. Have a nice retired life." The Yankees can definitely live without Andy Pettitte, as I said in my last blog post.

CHONE has projected Andy Pettitte at 9-9, 167 IP, 185 H, 15 HR, 54 BB, 125 SO, 5 HBP, 87 R, 80 ER, 4.31 ERA. That's a decent season. Decent. This would be nice for the Yankees to have, but there is no doubt in my mind that some combination of Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Alfredo Aceves, and possibly Phil Coke (who is getting a shot as a starter in Spring Training) could replicate those numbers, or something close to it.

But of course, I'm not Brian Cashman and this decision isn't in my hands. Chances are the Yankees could give Andy a little Yankee-bonus and raise their offer. In fact, according to those very same CHONE projections, Andy is worth 2.3 Wins over Replacement, which according to CHONE, is worth $10.1 million. I'm assuming the organization has this information and that could be why they're not budging. However, I"m more than certain they'd be willing to up the offer to $11 million, to which I wouldn't be opposed. But, I'd rather have them yank the offer off the table.

Next, there's the Jason Giambi signing. I think this move could win the A's the division again. A 3-4 combo of Matt Holliday is probably the best 3-4 combo in the AL West, now that Milton Bradley has left the Rangers for the Chicago Cubs on a three year, $30 million deal--more on that later.

Giambi's deal is for a shockingly low $4.5 million with a $5 million option for 2010. Now, I know Giambi is aging and not what he was when he was first in Oakland or even in New York, but he's worth more than that, IMO.

By my calculations, the same as the ones found here, Giambi will be worth $7.38 million as a DH and $8.33 million as a first baseman. So, like usual, Billy Beane is getting a discount.

On another note with the Giambi signing, for the last few years, every time the Yankees played in Oakland, the (hundreds of) fans in attendance would chant "STEROIDS" while Giambi came to the plate. Every time I would hear this, I would think to myself "Don't these dumb fucks realize that Giambi was taking steroids when he won an MVP in 2000 and was robbed of one in '01?" Morons. They'll start cheering for him again, though; that I'm sure of.

The next thing I'd like to touch on is the signings of Milton Bradley in Chicago and Pat Burrell in Tampa Bay. I think both signings are great for each team. Bradley and Burrell are underrated hitters and the argument could be made that both players were signed uner market value. The only thing holding back Bradley's value is his health. He's only played 140+ games ONCE in his career.

For what it's worth, Bradley projects to be worth $19.14 million next year:

21.7 runs above average - 7.5 (corner OF pos. adjustment) + 5 (corner def. projection)/10.5 (runs per win) + 2 (replacement level adjustment) x 5 (millions of dollars, value of win)

So the Cubs are definitely getting a huge discount on Mr. Board Game (lame joke, I know.).

As for Burrell, he made $14 million last year alone. Now, he's signed a two year, $16 million contract with the Rays. That's $8M a year. Burrell just took a $6M pay cut. Damn. Burrell's value this year projects to be worth $10.57 million in 2009. The Rays just made another great move after trading Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce.

What does all of this have to do with the Yankees? Directly, not much; they're not in the market for a corner outfielder. However, indirectly it matters. Burrell and Bradley getting relatively below market-rate contracts for their services means that Brian Cashman anticipated the market tremendously when he didn't offer arbitration to Bobby Abreu. Abreu would've won way too much money through arbitration than he will probably get through free agency. Bobby Made $16 million in 2008 and his performance was valued at $5 million. This year, in the outfield, he projects to be worth 7.52 million (that -11 CHONE defensive projection really hurts) and 8 million flat as a DH. Funny, the deal Pat Burrell signed is exactly what Bobby Abreu should get.

Lastly, there's Mark Teixeira. I watched his press conference on Tuesday and was absolutely pumped. Tex seems genuinely elated to be here and I cannot wait for him to hit the field in pinstripes. Like he said, we should all go give his wife Leigh a big hug for convincing Mark to come to the Bronx!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What's Next?

After locking up the three biggest free agents on the market and trading for Nick Swisher, it would seem that the Yankees are essentially set for 2009. However, there are still holes.


The fact that the one year, ten million dollar contract offer to Andy Pettitte hasn't been rescinded shows that the Yankees aren't quite ready to go to the season with a rotation of Sabathia/Wang/Burnett/Chamberlain/Hughes? Kennedy? Aceves?

So what should be done with Andy Pettitte? The first thing that should be done is that a hard deadline should be made for Pettitte to accept the offer and move on. I'd say give Pettitte two more weeks to decide. If he doesn't accept the offer, then the Yankees should go into the season with the rotation listed above. While it's nice to have an "innings eater" (code for: the guy generally sucks but at least he can throw a lot) on a one year deal who would essentially be keeping Phil Hughes's spot warm, the Yankees can do with out him. His 07 ERA was decent at 4.05 but his 4.54 mark this year and 07/08 WHIPs of 1.426 and 1.412 respectively can be done with out.


Next there is the issue of the OF surplus. There is a simple solution to this. Make Brett Gardner the fourth outfielder, play Xavier Nady in left, Johnny Damon in center, and Nick Swisher in right. This would yeild a good amount of runs, defense could be a problem. Of that alignment, Nick Swisher is the only one projected to be a plus defender. While the offense could probably out-slug the defensive issues, that approach hasn't always worked for the Yankees.

Another problem with that alignment is that Brian Cashman has said that Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera will battle for the CF spot in spring training and that neither Swisher nor Damon will be in CF. So, that could eliminate my idea. However, Brian Cashman also said Nick Swisher would be the first baseman going forward, and we all know how that turned out.

But I'm gonna take Brian Cashman at his word and believe that only Brett the Jet and the Melk Man are CF candidates. That leaves us with three outfielders for two spots. Or, two outfielders for two spots. Johnny Damon is a lock in left--he's a great defender there and his bat can still more or less hold up there; after all, he was second on the Yankees in VORP last year.

So who gets the nod in right and what do we do with the odd man out? In my mind, Nick Swisher is the right fielder. He's got a better track record as a hitter and a fielder. Want the numbers to prove it? Okay!

Swisher: .805
Nady: .793

Swisher: .347
Nady: .342

Swisher: .208
Nady: .178

Swisher: 5.6
Nady: 5.3

Alright you get the idea. As for fielding, the two would be up for the right field job. Swisher has a career UZR/150 of 14.2 in right, compared to Nady's 0.5. Swisher has to be out there in right.

What, then, do you do with Xaiver Nady? My gut reaction is to trade him. But, for the life of me, I can't think of what I'd ask for in exchange and what could be given back. Nady's got the highest value coming off of a career year and would be the easiest to move, but he's in a contract year so would teams really be willing to take him on as a rental? Maybe, maybe not.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense for the Yankees to keep Nady on. Now, he's not great, but he's definitely better than a bench outfielder, especially with one of Gardner or Cabrera already there. So what I suggest is a platoon between him and Hideki Matsui at DH. Nady absolutely crushes lefties and is 'meh' against right handers for his career and this platoon could help Matsui stay healthy. Keeping Nady also allows for more off days for Damon when he needs to take one as he's no spring chicken.


Then there's the issue of the bench. Jose Molina's definitely the backup catcher, with new acquisition Kevin Cash waiting if he or Posada gets hurt. One of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner will be on the bench as an outfielder obviously, and probably one of Swisher or Nady. However, there doesn't seem to be anyone who can fill the middle infield positions or third if need be. Who can do that job? There were rumblings that Justin Christian was being converted to infield but I haven't heard anything of that lately. The free agent class for infielders this year isn't all that great either. I really have no idea what they're gonna do here. I'm gonna throw this out there just for shits and giggles: Nomar. I'm not sure if I'm serious about that(EDIT: You know what? Forget that I said that. Just being comical). When I hear more about what the Yankees are doing about the bench, I'll post more seriously about it. Anyway, thanks for reading the essay. As always, feedback is encouraged.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ramblings on Robbie

While the chatter has calmed down in the mainstream media, every so often it pops up that the Yankees should consider trading Robinson Cano. Well, this just isn't a very smart. Yes, he had a crappy year last year, but he picked it up in the second half:

First Half: .246/.285/.358/.643
Second Half: .307/.333/.482/.815

Cano is more than capable of putting up those numbers from the second half for an entire season; hell, it looks an awful lot like his 2007 season. So why did Cano have the jump? His BABIP jumped from .252 in the first half to .320 in the second. That big jump led to a lot of hits. Now, that doesn't tell the whole story, of course. Cano had a line drive percentage of 19.4 this season, which is a good mark. He also had the most line drives in his career with 104. However, he also had a career high mark in fly balls at 178 which translated to a career high fly ball percentage of 33.2%.

Based on those numbers, it appears that Cano had trouble getting on top of the ball. When a player hits a fly ball, the chances of it becoming a hit are pretty small. That career high fly ball percentage shows that Cano was probably dipping his shoulders or not driving with his lower half while at the plate. Hopefully, he and Kevin Long have worked this out with a new stance.

Since I'm big on projections and what not, let's see what CHONE has for Robbie in 2009.

.300/.340/.468/.808, 16 HR, 79 RsBI, 29 BB, 65 SO in 556 AB. That's very good for a 2B

Now let's work something out like I did in my last post and project his worth via Marcels batting projections and CHONE defense.

Cano projects to be 4.6 runs over average. Adding the positional adjustment (+2.5), that number goes to 7.1. Cano's CHONE defensive projection, 0, it stays the same. Divide by 10.5 and add 2 for the replacement adjustment and you get about 2.70 Wins Above Replacement. Multiply that by five and that's 13.5. Cano projects to be worth 13.5 million dollars. Cano is being paid $6 million for 2009. That's a big value.

So, yeah, don't trade Robbie. He's good, he's young, and he'll probably easily out play his salary.