Friday, February 27, 2009

Games Have Started!...and Manny

I'll keep this one short, since I have to go to class in five minutes:

So games have started. That is incredible. Despite not watching them, I can feel the excitement coursing through my veins. Real baseball is inching closer and closer an I could not be more excited.

Jorge, Brett, and A-Rod have all hit homers. Do they matter? Not at all. Do I care that they don't matter? No, I don't. It's always encouraging to see guys hitting well in baseball.

Then there's Manny. He rejected the Dodgers latest offer. Ugh. I don't know what he and Boras think they're going to get's not out there. But, that doesn't mean the Dodgers should just stop trying. I mean let's be honest here, they're probably pissed off at Manny. But at the same time, do they really want to go into '09 penciling in "Juan Pierre" in the lineup card instead of "Manny Ramirez"?

Anyway, I'll leave you with some of my favorite baseball themed quotes:

I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us. ~Walt Whitman

With those who don't give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize. I do not resent them. I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace. But while the game is on, I can't think of anything to say to them. ~Art Hill

Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things. ~Robert Frost

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. ~A. Bartlett Giamatti, "The Green Fields of the Mind," Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977

Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem. ~Saul Steinberg

and my favorites:

"Baseball? It's just a game. As simple as a ball and a bat, yet as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It's a sport, a business, and sometimes even a religion." --Ernie Harwell

"The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers, it's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the times. This field, the game is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that was once good...and could be again." --"Field of Dreams."

Play ball, boys. Play ball.

Play ball, boys. Play ball.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BA's Top 100 Prospects

Baseball America released its list of the top 100 prospects in baseball.

Only three Yankees made the list. Austin Jackson came in at #36,(the) Jesus Montero came in behind him at #38, and Andrew Brackman was rated #92. The list put AJax's ETA at 2009, which I agree with. I think he'll definitely get a cup of coffee towards the end of the year in '09, unless of course the Yankees are in a tight race. They estimate Montero to come up in 2011, which I also agree with. He's gotta get some time to develop, especially at something higher than the South Atlantic League. Brackman, the team's first round pick in 2002 will finally make his debut in pro baseball this season after having surgery that shelved him for all of last year, save for the Hawaiian League. His ETA is 2010. If AB can make it to the Bronx by 2010, color me incredibly excited.

All three of these guys represent a future need for the Yankees. Jackson projects to be an average to above average hitting CF with good defense, something the Yankees need.

Jesus Montero, granted he can stay at catcher, and I think he should, will be the next version of Jorge Posada; he may not be great with the glove, but his bat will be very advanced for his position. This argument has left many people to rate Montero lower than his talent and skill merits. Unless Montero is absolutely awful behind the plate, he should stay there. If his defensive skills have the ceiling of those of Mike Piazza or Jorge, he should stay there. His bat is not nearly as valuable to the Yankees in the future any where else.

Andrew Brackman is a starter. The Yankees--and the other 29 teams--always need starting pitching.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


So, who should be the centerfielder for the Yankees come April? As of right now, it's obviously up in the air and Spring Training will feature a battle between Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera. So what are the pros and cons of these guys?

Melky took a big hit last year, hitting .249/.301/.341/.641, with a pathetic .285 wOBA. His defense was average, though, as he posted a 0.9 UZR/150 in center, up from -12.5 in 2007. Regardless, there are still a ton of questions for Cabrera: can he hit like he did in 2006? Can he show some plate discipline? Can he start taking better routes to the ball? Can he improve his range? Coming into 2009, the Melk Man has a lot to prove to the Yankees. The last question is, can he do this? Maybe. While it's incredibly unlikely that Melky is anything better than his 2006 season (.752 OPS, .333 wOBA), he can easily match those numbers again. CHONE projects him to post that same .333 wOBA this year, while playing -3 defense in center. The way the Yankees stack up offensively, they could easily survive Melky's hitting at the bottom of the order and probably overcome his below average centerfield defense (granted Damon plays strong defense in left and Swisher gets placed over Nady in right).

Then there's my boy Brett Gardner. He was a weak hitter but a great runner and defender with the Yankees, tallying 13 steals and only 1 CS while posting a ridiculous 66.3 UZR/150 in center. We've got to take that with an incredible grain of salt, though, because of the small sample size (160.2 innings). Gardner's got great upside as a slap hitting, on base-getting, base stealing, good defending CF, which I would be fine with. There's always the chance that what we saw in late 2008 is what we're going to get. Gardner does, however, have a history of struggling with a level the first time he plays there so there could be some improvement from him in 2009. CHONE projects him to have a .341 OBP and a .318 wOBA, the latter of which is lower than Melky Cabrera. However, CHONE projects Gardner to be +5 in centerfield, an 8 run improvement over Cabrera. As for stolen bases--speed is one of Gardner's biggest pluses--Chone projects BG to be 33 out of 42 in steal attempts (78.5%), which I would love. A .341 OBP and 33 steals along with plus defense out of the number 9 hitter? Sign me up please.

If I had my pick, I'd take Gardner because of his defense and his speed. Cabrera may give you a little more at the plate (very little more) but his arm in center does not do enough to make up for Gardner's range. I'm not a huge fan of stealing but Gardner projects to be over the "break even" point of 75% and those steals at the bottom of the order could lead to more RBI chances for Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter at the top of the lineup.

I wish both Melky and Gardner luck in Spring Training. May the best man win!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Lineup

Both Pete Abraham and River Avenue Blues touched on the lineup for the upcoming season, so I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

According to Mr. Abraham, Girardi will "likely...hit Tex third and A-Rod fourth." This is something I disagree with. If I'm General Girardi, I hit Rodriguez third and Tex fourth. For starters, Rodriguez is the better hitter and should get more plate appearances and putting him third gives him about 20 more PAs over the course of the season. Second, while I'm not a huge believe in "protection" or whatever, I believe that batting Teixeira behind Rodriguez would be smarter and more effective than batting Matsui behind Rodriguez, as would probably be the case if A-Rod batted cleanup.

Not to pick on Joe, I've got a disagreement with RAB, as well. The author of the post, Joe, suggests batting Robinson Cano fifth so the top five would look the same regardless of who had an off day, be it Posada, Swisher, Nady, or Matsui. Personally, I'm not a fan of Cano batting third because of his lack of patience. I just don't think a guy who's basically making a hit or making an out when he gets to the plate should be batting fifth, regardless of his power potential.

Joe also touches on lineup splits and here's my thought on those. I don't really think Nady's going to continue his hot hitting ways against right handers, so I'd like him to play primarily against left handers. And though Matsui's platoon splits aren't as pronounced as Nady's, for his health's sake, I'd prefer him to play mostly against righties. I'm the president of Team Swisher so I obviously want him playing full time, and I believe he will be the full time starter in right. So, how would I put together the lineup if I'm Joe Girardi? Here:

v. RHP:
1. Johnny Damon LF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Alex Rodriguez 3B
4. Mark Teixeira 1B
5. Hideki Matsui DH
6. Jorge Posada C
7. Nick Swisher RF
8. Robinson Cano 2B
9. Melky Cabrera/Brett Gardner CF

v. LHP:
1. Damon DH
2. Jeter SS
3. Rodriguez 3B
4. Teixeira 1B
5. Nady LF
6. Posada C
7. Swisher RF
8. Cano 2B
9. Cabrera/Gardner CF

The v. LHP lineup is somewhat different, but I have my reasons. It gives Hideki Matsui a full day off and Johnny Damon a half day off, to rest his knees and shoulder. Nady's not the strongest fielder in all the world, but he has a 2.1 UZR/150 in left over his career. He's also a great hitter against lefties, so it gives him a chance to get some starts.

Obviously, this could all change very quickly depending on injuries and early season performances, but hopefully Joe Girardi is reading this and gets a bright idea or two from it. That's all for today. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. School and life are busy and there really isn't much baseball news going on.

There's the A-Rod press conference today, but I'll be in class when it starts (Women in 20th Century Literature) and probably when it ends (Spanish and Latin American Film). Honestly, I couldn't care less about the whole damn thing and I hope this is the end of the issue...but I know better. Maybe this will end it for Spring Training but as soon as the season starts, we'll hear the "A-Roid" chants on the road and the boos at home and the whole can of worms will be re-opened. My first reaction to everything was not anger, but rather disappointment. At this point, though, I'm way past caring about the PED issue in baseball. I am, however, pissed off that the NFL essentially gets a free pass on the same issue, but whatever.

In legit baseball news, there are some things I'll touch on.

1. This is ridiculous. If anything like this happens, the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, and Braves--and any team that had to give up a draft pick--should go absolutely nuts on MLB.

2. Ken Griffey appears to be headed to the Braves. This is good news for Yankee fans (especially me) because it means the Nady and/or Swisher to the Braves talks will die. Keeping both on the roster provides depth and insurance. We all know how big my man crush on Nick Swisher is; hell, I named one of my fantasy teams "Swisher's Biggest Fan."

3. After watching bits and pieces of that Baseball Tonight special on Sunday night, I have made it my goal to watch as little BBTN as possible this season. This is for a few reasons: a) I first tuned in when they were talking about the Rays. They listed Pat Burrell as a new acquisition (I think this is a great move) and they listed his BA (.250) and HR (33) totals next to his name. When will ESPN, the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" catch up with the times and stop using BA/HR/RBI as their "Holy Trinity?" Ugh. b) John Kruk and Buck Showalter both agreed that Joba Chamberlain should be in the bullpen, citing a few tired arguments. The first, by Kruk, was that Mariano Rivera won't pitch forever and the Yankees will need someone to close when he is gone. This just shows that the people at ESPN do absolutely no research. At all. There is someone being groomed for the future closer's job. His name is Mark Melancon. He will put an end to this stupid Joba to the bullpen debate. The second "argument," agreed upon by both Showalter and Kruk, is that Chamberlain can pitch in 60-70 games out of the bullpen rather than 25-30 as a starter, and thus "impact more games." This is dumb. If Chamberlain's a reliever, he'll pitch 1-2 innings a game. That way, he's only impacting 1/9 to 2/9 of a ball game. As a starter, he's impacting 5/9 to 7/9 of the game. Which is more valuable? If you say it's the former, that's like saying 2 quarters are worth more than 1 dollar because there's 2 of them, as opposed to 1 of the dollar. Anyway, it's just clear that the guys at ESPN have some work to do. Baseball Tonight is good for one thing--showing us highlights and getting interviews. In the words of Austin Powers, analysis is not their bag, baby.

3. In the Joba vein, there's this article by Joel Sherman in the New York Post. In honor of the fallen Fire Joe Morgan, I'm going to try and shred this post.

2. When it comes to Chamberlain's long-term role a question that is often asked is what is more valuable: 70 innings or 200 innings? I think that is a misleading talking point by those who want Chamberlain to be a starter.

No it isn't. 200 innings is usually more valuable than 70. Hell, an average 150 is about the same as a great 80. For a good summary of that article check here.

Now back to the 70/200 matter. You should really ask who is pitching the 70 and who is pitching the 200? For the champion Phillies, Cole Hamels' 227.3 innings were probably more valuable than Brad Lidge's 69.3, but were Jamie Moyers' 196.3. If you told the Red Sox, they could play this season with either Jonathan Papelbon or Josh Beckett, which do you think they would take? It is not a layup.

As someone in the comments pointed out, Moyer (39.7 Pitcher VORP) was more valuable than Lidge (26.5 VORP). Jamie Moyer had a slightly above average season in 2008 and was more valuable than the best reliever in the National League. Via FanGraphs, Moyer was worth 2.6 wins above a replacement player and Lidge was worth 2.2 WAR. So, 196.1 above average innings was worth more than 69.1 godly innings.

As for Boston having to make the choice between Beckett and Papelbon, they'd pick Beckett every time. I'm sure Mr. Sherman meant to say "slam dunk" instead of "lay up" so I'll correct him. It is a slam dunk, dude. Beckett is worth more to the Red Sox than Papelbon.

In those 200-or-so innings for a starter how many would you define as game-on-the-line high leverage? With someone such as Lidge or Papelbon or Rivera, just about every pitch they throw in a season is in a game-deciding moment. That is why the 70/200 thing doesn't work for me. I can just as easily say would you rather have a pitcher impact 60 games (like a reliever) or 30 games (like a starter).

I'd say most of them are game-on-the-line high leverage situations because by the time closers come in, the game is already determined. For this, I'm gonna head to the WPA Calculator. By typing in the situation that would happen at the beginning of the game--no outs, none on, top of the first, visiting team batting and the scored tied--we see that the home team wins 54% of the time, so basically a toss up. Now, I'm gonna put a classic save situation in: top of the ninth, the home team up by one, no one on, no one out. In that situation, the home team wins 86% of the time. As great as Mo is, when he comes in to the game, it's usually already determined.

As for the 60/30 thing, see above. 30 games of even average to slightly above average pitching is better than 60 games of light's out pitching. Hopefully this year, Joba absolutely dominates and shows all the people who think he should be in the bullpen where they can stick it. You don't waste a great talent like Chamberlain in the bullpen. Cashman and Co. have it right.

Saturday, February 7, 2009



My faith in baseball has sunk to incredible lows.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chase Wright Trade, the Bench, the Dodgers, More UConn Basketball

Alright first, I'll touch on the minor trade the Yankees made. They dealt the DFA'd Chase Wright to the Brew Crew for Minor Leaguer Eric Fryer. Fryer raked in the low A South Atlantic League, which is great...but he was old for the league so we'll see how he does moving up a level. I'd assume they're gonna start him for the "regular" A Tampa Yankees as a jump from the Sally League to the Eastern League may be too dramatic.

Fryer doesn't seem to be anything special but getting him for Wright--who is probably the better end of the deal--is better than getting nothing at all, which probably would've happened if Wright passed through waivers. I'll keep an eye on Fryer and Wright throughout the season, and I wish Chase the best of luck in Milwaukee.

The only thing left to look out for on the Yankee horizon is a bench infielder. River Avenue Blues raised the possibility of adding Mark Grudzielanek. I like this idea. Grudzielanek is a solid player who could probably start somewhere else. However, he said himself (via the RAB article) he wants to win, and the market has been D E A D silent on him. Adding him would mean taking someone off the 40 man roster--probably Dan Giese--which I would be fine with. The pitching depth is fine without Danny Boy and the bench is a more pressing issue now.

Next, there's the Dodgers and Manny. Manny rejected the team's one year, $25 million offer after rejecting a 2 year, $45 million dollar deal right after the season ended. At this point, no other market for Manny has surfaced. Brian Cashman, along with Jim Bowden and Omar Minaya, has said that his team will not be in the Manny sweepstakes. That leaves only the Dodgers and the Giants. Albert Pujols wants the Cards to make a play for him, but I doubt that happens.

Basically, there are two things the Dodgers can do: move on or make another offer. What would I do if I were Ned Coletti and company? I'd move on. There are other corner outfield options--Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu--and that money could also be used to bring in another player or two, such as Randy Wolff or maybe even Orlando Hudson, relegating Blake DeWitt to the bench.

By my calculations, Manny will be worth 2.61 Wins Above Replacement in 2009--his -15 defensive projection from CHONE really kills him. Adam Dunn projects to be worth 2 WAR and Orlando Hudson projects to be worth 3.09 WAR. Added together, Dunn and Hudson project to be worth 5.09 WAR, 2.48 more WAR than Manny alone. So, two heads seem to be better than one here, even if the one is one of the best hitters ever. There is also the price issue. Manny will cost anywhere from 20-25 million a year. Right now, the market is so low on Dunn and Hudson that the Dodgers could probably get them both for 10-20 million combined.

Onto UConn basketball. They're the number one team in the land. Woo! I know that doesn't mean much in early February, but UConn is really clicking. They have upcoming tests against Michigan and Syracuse, and the latter will be very tough. Regardless, the Huskies are looking absolutely fantastic and look poised to make a long run.

Sorry for the lack of posts. The semester's just started so I'm still getting into the academic swing of things and as we all know, baseball news is in an incredible lull. Hopefully more will come when Spring Training starts. Anyway, have a good one guys.