• Ulcer

    Posted by on October 15th, 2010 · Comments (10)

    I’ve got one.  But I’ll gladly live with it if we get three more wins (and four more after that).  Rivera’s strikeout of Michael Young was vintage, vintage Mariano.

    Equally Unacceptable

    Posted by on October 15th, 2010 · Comments (10)

    Leadoff man in scoring position and the heart of the order up.  Why bunt?  Why do something you can’t execute and don’t normally do?  With Ramiro Pena or Francisco Cervelli at the plate?  Sure.  But Nick Swisher?  Give me a goddamn break.  Why waste the out?


    Posted by on October 15th, 2010 · Comments (4)

    No, the game isn’t over.  Hell, it’s barely begun.  But a three-run HR on a hanging slider over the plate?  What is this, the 2007 and 2008 playoffs?  Come on, CC.  You weren’t sharp in Game 1 of the ALDS and found a way to work through six innings.  This, however, is just ridiculous.  Get it together!

    Man up, fatso.

    Simulations Don’t Favor Yankees In ALCS

    Posted by on October 15th, 2010 · Comments (5)

    As the headline states, Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory ran 1,000 simulations* of the Yankees-Rangers ALCS and, in 53% of the cases, the Rangers ended up winning the American League Pennant.  Take from that what you will.

    In 1,000 simulations of the ALCS, the Rangers came out on top 53 percent of the time; that’s the closest of the playoff simulations to date. In nearly two-thirds of the sims, the ALCS will go six or seven games.

    Lee is a major factor here — and partially because the series likely goes deep (he’s not starting until Game 3, but could come back for a Game 7). First, consider this, as pointed out by one of ESPN’s main baseball researchers, Mark Simon, here: the Yankees lost their past nine regular-season games against a lefty starter. Of course, they beat Francisco Liriano in the ALDS, but there is no doubt that they are a bit more vulnerable to southpaws. And Texas features Lee and C.J. Wilson, two tough lefties.

    In these simulations, the Rangers get to the World Series 77 percent — 77 percent! — of the time when Lee’s ERA is under 3.00 for the series; if it’s over 5.00, that number drops all the way to 31 percent.

    A.J. Burnett is another major factor here. He will start in this series (Game 4). The sims don’t like that. CC Sabathia might be a better bet, even on short rest.

    A third factor is home-field advantage. It didn’t come into play much during the AL division series (the home team only won a single game) and while home-field advantage is smaller in baseball than in other sports — enough to turn a .500 team into a .540 team — every small advantage is crucial when two teams are evenly matched.

    Overall, both offenses did well in the simulations. Most of the Yankees, even Derek Jeter (.275/.346/.434) — coming off one of his worst seasons ever — did well.

    I personally have the Yankees going to the World Series by beating Texas in six tense, agonizing games.  That being said, the simulations do raise some valid points: Cliff Lee is a great pitcher, AJ Burnett is likely to get torched and Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano are, to varying degrees, neutralized by good left-handed pitching.

    I stand by my prediction of Yankees in 6 but this computer simulation definitely reinforces my view that this series will be grueling.  Hopefully, however, the final result will give more truth to the old saying “that’s why they play the games.”

    Enjoy Game 1 everyone!

    *Subscription required.

    Tom Hicks Regrets Mistake In Career Full Of Them

    Posted by on October 15th, 2010 · Comments (2)

    Straight from the “No S**t, Sherlock” department, Tom Hicks says that he regrets offering Alex Rodriguez his then-record 10 year, $252 million contract in 2001.

    If I had to put one team (the Rangers) into bankruptcy, still owed Alex Rodriguez $25M and had a restive creditor (The Royal Bank of Scotland) pushing my sale of another team (Liverpool FC), I’d be in a pretty sour mood too.  As such, it’s no surprise that Tom Hicks isn’t a big fan of A-Rod’s these days.  One could argue that Hicks’s own stupidity — manifested most “brilliantly” by the A-Rod deal — has led him to where he is today.

    In any case, Tom, it was nice knowing you.  You no longer matter.

    “Man-Ban” Earning His Spurs

    Posted by on October 14th, 2010 · Comments (0)

    That little play on the American West and cowboy attire is an allusion to the pleasant news filed by Keith Law* from the Arizona Fall League regarding Yankees LHP Manny Banuelos (Double-A, Trenton Thunder).

    From K-Law:

    In Wednesday’s night game, Yankees lefty Manny Banuelos showed a good combination of above-average stuff, command, and an easy delivery. He worked at 90-93 mph, locating the pitch to both sides of the plate, with a straight change at 79-81 with very good arm speed. His curveball has an 11/5 break and good depth, and he commanded the pitch about as well as he did the fastball, throwing it for quality strikes and putting it below the zone as needed. He throws from a 3/4-slot and the ball comes out of his hand very easily and deceptively quick. He’s 5-foot-11 but well built, certainly strong enough to be a starter; the only concern I’d have off this look was that hitters did square up his fastball when he came toward the middle of the zone, as the pitch has some downhill plane but not much lateral movement.

    K-Law’s word isn’t the gospel but he’s got a pretty solid scouting eye.  If he’s saying something positive, it makes me feel good.

    *Subscription required

    Frankie Piliere Scouts The ALCS

    Posted by on October 14th, 2010 · Comments (2)

    Ex-Texas Rangers scout Frankie Piliere identified four matchups worth noting in the upcoming American League Championship Series between the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.

    The two areas of most interest to me are how Hughes will approach the potent Rangers lineup in Game 2 and how C.J. Wilson will attack Yankee batters in Game 1.

    Regarding the two matchups (with emphasis added):

    Phil Hughes vs. Texas:

    Hughes put the Minnesota Twins to sleep in Game 3 of the Division Series primarily on the strength of his fastball. Odds are he won’t be able to use a similar approach against the Texas Rangers. The good news is, he is perfectly capable of changing his approach. Texas did most of its damage against Tampa Bay on the fastball and didn’t miss too many mistakes over the heart of the plate.

    Hughes gets a lot of outs on his fastball, which sneaks up on hitters at 92-94 mph with his short arm action and big life through the zone. That fastball still won’t be an easy task for the Rangers bats, but his curveball and changeup will have to play a much bigger role. There is one particular hitter in the Rangers lineup that right about now would love to see a pitcher primarily throwing fastballs, and that’s Josh Hamilton.

    I find this interesting because so much has been made of Hughes as a predominantly two-pitch pitcher (fastball/curveball).  Granted, Hughes mixes in two different types of fastballs — a straight four-seamer (58% of all pitchers in 2010) and a cutter (16.6%) that tails away from righties — but the fact remains that Hughes tends to work in the 89-93 mph range with his two fastballs and still threw them a combined 75.8% of the time, against 16.6% for his curveball.  Considering Hughes only threw 83 changeups all season (2.7%), I’m curious where Piliere gets the belief that Hughes “is perfectly capable of changing his approach.”  In 2010, it doesn’t appear that such a belief is particularly well-founded.

    C.J. Wilson vs. New York:

    You could make the case that C.J. Wilson is the top X-factor in this series, period. Texas has a good shot at taking two games simply on the strength of Cliff Lee’s performances. If Wilson can pitch up to his potential and neutralize the Yankee lefties then suddenly the Rangers have a very legitimate chance to steal the whole thing.

    Wilson did a superb job following Lee’s lead against the Rays, using many of the same patterns, particularly against their right-handed hitters. He’ll be facing New York this time around, and he’ll have to keep his command in check if he’s going to succeed. Most importantly, he has to prove very early on that he can throw his slider and changeup for strikes.

    Against most lineups, you can get away with throwing strikes with your fastball and making hitters chase secondary offerings down and out of the zone. It’s not quite that simple against the Yankees. Wilson of course doesn’t have the pinpoint command of Lee, but he’ll have to be very fine with those secondary pitches to keep New York off his fastball.

    As I noted yesterday, Wilson experienced mixed results against the Yankees in three starts this season.  Although he struck out a high degree of the Yankees he faced (11.9 K/9), he was nevertheless hittable (6.91 ERA/1.81 WHIP) in his 14.1 innings vs. New York.  Further, Wilson is prone to losing the strike zone, allowing 4.1 BB/9 with a less-than-stellar 1.83 K/BB ratio.  Given the patience the Yankees exhibit and their ability to hit all types of pitches (see FanGraphs’ Pitch Type Values), I have confidence that the Yankees will present a far greater challenge to C.J. Wilson than the Rays did in his previous start.

    THT’s Top 10 Yankees Prospects

    Posted by on October 14th, 2010 · Comments (2)

    The Hardball Times has released their take on who the 10 best prospects are in the Yankee farm system.  Take a look here at the 2011 list and check out the 2010 list just for comparison’s sake.

    I not only agree with the names they’ve chosen but with the order in which they’ve chosen them.  It’s a healthy mix of players in various stages of development, from the very nearly MLB-ready (Jesus Montero/Adam Warren) to the raw but talented (Cito Culver/Slade Heathcott/Gary Sanchez).

    * * * * *

    One of the joys of baseball is all of the different seasons one can enjoy: the excitement of the Hot Stove League, the hopefulness of spring training, the drama of postseason baseball set against autumn chill.  For me, prospect season is one of those seasonal joys.  As the regular season winds down and teams (and various baseball-interested media outlets) take stock of the year that was, we get more and more of these lists which rank prospects and give us names to look forward to and to watch for in the coming months and years ahead.

    I will try to remain focused on the playoffs for as long as the Yankees in the running for their 28th World Championship.  Once their run is over — no matter how it turns out — I will immediately turn my attention over to prospect season.  Hope you don’t mind.

    Why I Don’t Like The ALCS Playoff Rotation

    Posted by on October 14th, 2010 · Comments (0)

    Let me begin by saying that this is merely a quibble and not an all-out beef…

    I just don’t care for Girardi’s announcement that AJ Burnett will be the Game 4 starter for the Yankees in this round of the playoffs.  I’d rather the team maintain the flexibility to pencil in CC Sabathia on three days rest if the situation — a 1-2 or 0-3 series deficit — necessitates such a measure.  By announcing Burnett as the Game 4 starter, the team opens itself up to second-guessing if Burnett pitches horrendously (as one can fairly expect, given his 2010 performance) and, even worse, would appear to be in panic mode if Sabathia does end up taking the Game 4 start on short rest.

    What’s the upside to announcing the Game 4 starter at this juncture?  Unless there is an MLB rule requiring teams to announce their playoff pitching rotation I don’t see the benefit to locking in a course of action and then having to deal with the inevitable questions if changes are made thereafter.

    Certainly external distractions are nothing new and no big deal.  Oftentimes these so-called distractions actually appear to be a bigger deal to fans and media than to the team itself.  Nevertheless, if conflict or the potential for distractions can be avoided, wouldn’t that be the smarter route to take?

    The Rangers It Shall Be

    Posted by on October 13th, 2010 · Comments (22)

    Cliff Lee dominated the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 last night, just as he did last week in the series opener.  By pitching a total of 16 innings, allowing only 11 base-runners and striking out 21 batters, it’s safe to say that Cliff Lee was a one-man wrecking crew for the Rangers (although 2B Ian Kinsler’s .444/.500/.944 with 3 HR pitched in his fair share as well).

    So there you have it, folks.  The Yankees and Rangers commence their best-of-seven American League Championship Series on Friday evening at the oddly named Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  A few details to whet your appetites:

    2010 Regular Season:
    Yankees: 95-67, 2nd in AL East (52-29 home, 43-38 road)
    Rangers: 90-72, 1st in AL West (51-30 home, 39-42 road)

    Yankees and Rangers split season series 4-4

    Yankees 3-0 vs. Rangers at Yankee Stadium
    Rangers 4-1 vs. Yankees at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

    Yankees@home vs. Rangers: 17 RS, 6 RA
    Rangers@home vs. Yankees: 27 RS, 22 RA

    Game 1 Starters:
    CC Sabathia: 21-7, 3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.46 K/9
    CC Sabathia vs. Rangers (2010): 1 GS, 1-0, 6 IP, 1.50 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 9 K

    CJ Wilson: 15-8, 3.35 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.50 K/9
    CJ Wilson vs. Yankees (2010): 3 GS, 0-1, 14.1IP, 6.91 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 19 K

    Most Yankee fans (myself included) were rooting for the Rangers under the notion that Tampa was a better team.  Well, we’ve gotten what we wished for so let’s see if we were right to hope for Texas.

    Yankees Among Baseball America’s Top 20 Prospects In International League

    Posted by on October 12th, 2010 · Comments (8)

    Finally, Baseball America has released their final group of top-20 prospects for the affiliated minor leagues.  In this edition, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees placed three members of their club on the exclusive list.

    4. Jesus Montero, C, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
    Bats/Throws: R/R
    Height/Weight: 6’4″/225
    Age: 20
    Signed: Venezuela ’06
    2010 Stats: 453 AB, 131 H, 58 XBH, 46 BB, 91 SO, .289/.353/.517

    In a league full of catching prospects, Montero was the IL’s postseason all-star at the position. After an uncharacteristically slow start, he batted .351 with 14 homers in 44 games in the second half. He was the youngest regular in the league.

    In terms of hitting for average and power, Montero may have the highest ceiling in the minor leagues. He has tremendous strength and a knack for barreling balls when he gets in rhythm, as he did in the second half. He showed more patience at the plate in 2010 than he had in the past.

    Scouts and managers still aren’t sold that Montero can be a regular catcher, however. He allowed a league high 15 passed balls and 99 steals while throwing out 23 percent of basestealers. He has maintained his athleticism and agility as he has gotten older, but he’s still below-average in both departments.

    9. Ivan Nova, RHP, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
    Bats/Throws: R/R
    Height/Weight: 6’4″/210
    Age: 23
    Signed: Dominican Republic ’05
    2010 Stats: 145 IP, 2.86 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 115 SO, .250 BAA

    Two years ago, New York left Nova off its 40-man roster and temporarily lost him to San Diego in the Rule 5 draft. But he didn’t stick with the Padres, and their loss is the Yankees’ gain. He went 10-1, 2.19 after May, prompting an August promotion to the Bronx.

    “He throws nice and easy, (topping out at) 95-96,” Toledo manager Larry Parrish said, “with a power curveball and a nice little slider and even a decent changeup.”

    Even with Nova’s fastball velocity increasing to a steady 92-94 mph, his fastball command and secondary pitches aren’t consistent enough for him to be a true frontline starter. He can rush his delivery and lose his feel for the strike zone, but he’s more hittable when he falls behind in the count.

    13. Eduardo Nunez, 3B/SS, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
    Bats/Throws: R/R
    Height/Weight: 6’0″/155
    Age: 23
    Signed: Dominican Republic ’04
    2010 Stats: 464 AB, 134 H, 32 XBH, 32 BB, 60 SO, .289/.340/.381

    After an erratic track record in the lower minors, Nunez put together his second fine season in a row at higher levels. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop and infield arm in the IL, and he made just 10 errors in 101 games at short. He makes difficult plays in the hole and on the run look easy.

    “He’s a very athletic shortstop,” Sarbaugh said. “I saw him last year too and really liked the way he played the game.”

    Derek Jeter becomes a free agent at season’s end, but Nunez is more likely to fill a utility role for the Yankees. He’s a bottom-of-the-order who makes contact but doesn’t draw many walks or hit for much power. He’s an above-average runner and stole 23 bases in 28 attempts.

    Montero’s presence on this list is a no-brainer.  As for Nova and Nunez, there’s definitely some value there — specifically for Nunez in a utility role as Ramiro Pena’s replacement — but the upside is clearly more limited.

    Follow Up To Baseball America’s EL Top Prospects List

    Posted by on October 11th, 2010 · Comments (3)

    Given both the number of Yankees on Baseball America’s list of top prospects for the Eastern League and the number of Yankees that warranted consideration, it was to be expected that BA.com’s post-list chat would be extremely long and very Trenton “Thunder-centric.”*

    *Access to this chat requires a subscription to Baseball America

    Yankees Among Baseball America’s Top 20 Prospects In Eastern League

    Posted by on October 8th, 2010 · Comments (0)

    Even with a 2-0 series lead in the ALDS and all eyes turned to the playoffs, there is still other Yankee-related news to report.  As this headline suggests, the Yankees have placed four prospects among Baseball America’s list of the top-20 prospects in the Eastern League.


    October 6th @ The Twins

    Posted by on October 7th, 2010 · Comments (9)

    By the time Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series between the Yankees and Twins got underway last night, it already felt like an afterthought of a game.  Cliff Lee had spent the early part of the day dominating and befuddling the Tampa Bay Rays and Roy Halladay followed up the afternoon’s excitement by pitching only the second no-hitter in postseason history. As the final game on the day’s LDS agenda, there was very little the Yanks or Twins could do to top the day’s fireworks.

    Sure enough, the game — which the Yankees won 6-4 — was a tense, exciting, but ultimately unmemorable affair.  CC Sabathia (6 5 4 3 3 5) had moments of dominance and moments of shakiness and it was evident that the fine line between those two states was always just around the corner.  Nowhere was this more evident than in the bottom of the 6th inning.  After retiring the first two batters (10 consecutive outs at that point), Sabathia lost command of his pitches and threw 14 balls over a series of 16 pitches to four different batters.  The resulting walk-double-walk-walk sequence led to the Twins tying the game at 4-4 before Sabathia was able to recover the strike zone for an inning-ending strikeout.

    By contrast, Twins ace Francisco Liriano (5.2 6 4 4 3 7) was in complete control of the game, never teetering between dominance and catastrophe.  Liriano collected an impressive 14 swinging strikes, mostly on a slider that he was throwing in any count and spotting all over the map.  And then, suddenly, the Yankees pieced together a double by Teixeira, a walk by Rodriguez, singles by Cano and Posada and a triple by Granderson to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 and the end to Liriano’s night.

    All told, the Yankees didn’t play their best game last night.  As was the case with Sabathia, the rest of the Yankee pitching staff — Boone Logan, David Robertson, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera — struggled to consistently find the strike zone, allowing five baserunners and throwing 67 pitches to get nine outs.  Nevertheless, the Twins were not able to capitalize on their opportunities late in the game, Mark Teixeira’s mammoth pull-shot down the RF line gave the Yankees the 6-4 lead they would not relinquish and the team did just enough to win in order to grab a 1-0 lead in the series.

    Andy Pettitte (11-3, 3.28 2010 / 18-9, 3.90 career playoffs) matches up with ex-Yankee Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.75 2010 / 2-1, 1.71 career playoffs) this evening for Game 2.

    Don Larsen Has Company

    Posted by on October 6th, 2010 · Comments (20)

    Sigh.  Roy Halladay has now joined Don Larsen as the only other pitcher to throw a no-hitter in a postseason game.

    Doc’s great and all but I always wanted the Yankees to have this one bit of trivia to themselves.

    At least it wasn’t a perfect game…

    Add on by Steve Lombardi:

    Roy Halladay.

    The Yankees have tons of money. Reportedly, they have one of the best farm systems in baseball now – again, according to some sources. And, they have a (cough, cough) an astute peach of a General Manager…

    …and, yet, somehow…

    when Halladay was on the market, even though he had an interest in coming to the Yankees, Cashman let this guy go to the Phillies because he didn’t want to include Joba Chamberlain in a deal. Wow.

    Yankees Among Baseball America’s Top 20 Prospects In FSL

    Posted by on October 6th, 2010 · Comments (0)

    I know it’s all playoffs all the time around the Yankee blogosphere but, continuing with Baseball America’s top-20 prospects lists across the affiliated minor leagues, I wanted to share the news on the four Yankees mentioned in BA’s Florida State League honor roll.

    October 3rd @ The Red Sox

    Posted by on October 3rd, 2010 · Comments (1)

    This was a strange game for me because I was in the car driving home from Boston.  Although I was able to pick up AM 880 all the way up in the so-called Red Sox Nation, the reception was fuzzy enough that I opted for the Boston feed of the game.  Then, somewhere just south of Hartford, CT, I switched stations so I could get the more familiar sounds of Sterling and Suzyn.

    There’s really not much to talk about in terms of the game.  The Yanks lost 8-4 and thus conceded the division title to the Tampa Bay Rays.  Making the playoffs and having a chance to repeat as champions is great but a part of me definitely feels like it’s “only” the Wild Card.  While I understand the whole “losing the battle to win the war” line that Girardi was feeding to anyone that would listen, I’ll never stop wondering if things could’ve been handled differently.

    Anyway, that’s 162 games in the books, folks.  The Yanks are back in the playoffs and open in Minneapolis on Wednesday night.

    October 2nd @ The Red Sox (Game 2)

    Posted by on October 3rd, 2010 · Comments (8)

    This was a game the Yankees could’ve won, should’ve won but didn’t win because they played atrocious defense and gave Boston far too many chances to score.  In the end, the Yanks lost Game 2 of the doubleheader 7-6 in 10 innings, a reversal of fortune from Game 1 played just a short while earlier.

    Although this didn’t turn out to be the key play of the game, AJ Burnett’s momentary lapse of reason in the bottom of the fourth inning will be this game’s most memorable moment.  After Lance Berkman bobbled Josh Reddick’s grounder and then rushed his throw to the covering Burnett, first baseman Brian Runge called Reddick safe at first.  A stunned Burnett turned around to argue the call, turned his back on the advancing Daniel Nava and Nava scored on a bit of heads up baserunning.  It was reminiscent of Chuck Knoblauch’s own brain fart in the 1998 ALCS against Cleveland where he famously yelled at the first base umpire while Cleveland took advantage of a sleeping defense to steal a run.

    Burnett (6 6 4 2 2 5) has been bad enough this year that he’ll get no quarter from the fans or the press but, really, this loss cannot be pinned entirely on him.  It seems like there’s just a bit of bad luck following AJ around these days.

    So, here we are, down to game 162 for all the marbles.  In the unlikely event that Kansas City can beat Tampa and the Yankees can propel Dustin Moseley to victory, it will mean another division title.  Sure makes you wonder what could’ve been if Girardi hadn’t pseudo-forfeited all those games earlier this month when he was managing with one eye towards a playoff spot he hadn’t yet clinched.  Chad Gaudin, I hold you responsible.

    October 2nd @ The Red Sox (Game 1)

    Posted by on October 2nd, 2010 · Comments (2)

    Four hours and sixteen minutes and a whole lot of drama later, the Yanks beat Boston 6-5 in 10 innings.  As I write this from my cousin’s apartment in Somerville, MA there’s just a slightly heightened level of satisfaction knowing that I’m one of the only happy people in this miserable town right now.

    Despite the victory, there were still some things which leave me somewhat uneasy as we head into postseason play next week.  Andy Pettitte managed to strike out eight batters in four innings but also found a way to allow 11 baserunners.  All told, his line (4 9 3 3 2 8 ) paints a picture of results all over the map.  Along the same lines, Kerry Wood’s three-walk, two-strikeout 8th inning really gave this game the schizophrenic feel of Yankee pitchers in complete command…except when they weren’t.

    Game 2 (AJ Burnett vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka) commences sometime in the next hour.  Hopefully AJ Burnett finds it within himself to pull a rabbit out of his hat and save the bullpen for what could be the division-deciding game tomorrow.

    October 1st @ The Red Sox

    Posted by on October 2nd, 2010 · Comments (5)

    Well they waited and waited…and waited some more.  Finally, mercifully, the idiots powers that be called the game and announced a split admission doubleheader for tomorrow.  Game 1 will be played at 4:10 p.m. and Game 2 will be played shortly thereafter.

    Should be a long day in Boston for everyone.

    On a related note, the Rays somehow managed to get two-hit by Royals pitcher Bruce Chen and lost the game 7-0.  Suddenly, miraculously, the AL East division title is back in play.  Should the Royals and Rays split the final two games of their series and the Yankees win two games in Boston, the Yankees will have backed into their 11th division crown since 1996.

    Baseball America 2010 MiLB Classification All-Stars

    Posted by on October 1st, 2010 · Comments (2)

    As the title of this post suggests, Baseball America has released its all-star picks for each level of the affiliated minor leagues.  The Yankees had four players and one team honored.

    SP – Ivan Nova (Scranton-Wilkes/Barre)
    RP – Jonathan Albaladejo (Scranton-Wilkes/Barre)

    SP – Dellin Betances (Tampa Yankees)
    Team Of The Year: Tampa Yankees

    OF – Ramon Flores (Gulf Coast Yankees)

    Follow Up To Baseball America’s SAL Top Prospects List

    Posted by on October 1st, 2010 · Comments (2)

    Yesterday, I wondered why C/DH JR Murphy and RHP Jose Ramirez of the Low-A Charleston Riverdogs were excluded from Baseball America’s top-20 prospects list for the South Atlantic League.  Today, I have my answer*:

    [Q]:  Hi Bill, Did Yankees prospects J.R Murphy or Jose Ramirez get any serious consideration for the Top 20 list?  Also, would Graham Stoneburner have been on this list had he not been promoted? Thank you.

    [Bill Ballew, BA]: Yes, both received quite a bit of attention.  Murphy attracted praise of his bat speed and his ability to put the ball in play, but managers were had neither positive nor negative reactions to his defense.  Most believed he was behind Sebastian Valle, Christian Bethancourt and Kyle Skipworth in the league.  Ramirez has good size at 6-foot-5 but his stuff right now is fringy across the board.  Stoneburner would have been in the discussion but probably would not have made the top 20.

    Well, that answers that.  I haven’t seen Ramirez pitch so I can’t speak to the comment about his stuff being “fringy” but, again, it does fly in the face of what was previously reported on Ramirez.  I guess we’ll find out next year.

    Separately, in lieu of a stand-alone column, here is a story* about Charleston Riverdog alumnus, RHP Andrew Brackman (Double-A, Trenton Thunder).  Keep in mind, this is a fluff piece so it’s merely for informational and entertainment purposes only.  There is nothing of any scouting value written therein.

    *Both stories require a subscription to Baseball America.

    The Extra Mile?

    Posted by on September 30th, 2010 · Comments (9)

    ESPN Boston just published an abridged transcript of Boston GM Theo Epstein’s radio interview with WEEI-850AM and, among the usual generalities that come with GM-speak, I saw this little nugget:

    On getting outbid by the Yankees for Kerry Wood at the trade deadline:

    “There were four major league relievers who were traded during the year who ended up helping their club, five if you count August, when [Brian] Fuentes was moved. Two of those guys we had given opportunities before…One…we couldn’t have gotten unless we gave up [Daniel] Bard, and Fuentes was behind us in the waiver order, and the last one was Kerry Wood.

    “That was an important decision. We scouted [Wood] on rehab, we liked what we saw. He was available last minute at the deadline … and we put in what I thought was a pretty aggressive financial bid for him and we were outbid by the Yankees when they were willing to take on just a little bit more of his salary. It ended up being a great move for them and cost us.

    I’ve added the emphasis to point out that the Yankees took on $1.5M of the remaining $3.67M on Wood’s contract at the time of the trade.  I find it somewhat hard to believe that Boston couldn’t pony up that kind of money if they felt that Kerry Wood would give them a greater chance to be competitive.  Either Epstein is blowing smoke and trying to deflect criticism by once again evoking the fictional “little Red engine that could” or he never intended to trade for Wood at all.

    What was it that George Steinbrenner once said about Red Sox executive Larry Luccino when the Red Sox famously let Alex Rodriguez end up in New York instead of Boston?  “Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra mile for his fans in Boston.”

    I never thought Kerry Wood and $1.5M would be another case of the same, sad story in Boston.  They live for self-deception up there in the so-called Hub.

    John Sickels On David Phelps Redux

    Posted by on September 30th, 2010 · Comments (2)

    Earlier this year, John Sickels spoke of Yankee RHP David Phelps (Double-A, Trenton Thunder) and put him on the radar for Yankee prospect-watchers.  He also got notice here and here.  Now that the season is over, Sickels comes back for a retrospective look at one of his preseason sleeper picks.

    As Sickels says, there are a few guys ahead of Phelps — Banuelos, Betances, Brackman, too, perhaps — but with another season like the one he just turned in, Phelps should make someone’s rotation by early 2012.  In truth, he’s just the kind of guy the Yanks can afford to deal in a trade down the road.  Just like Ian Kennedy before him, young back-of-the-rotation starters are attractive to teams looking to keep costs down and tend to not have long futures in Pinstripes.

    Slade Heathcott Named To Baseball America’s SAL Top Prospects List

    Posted by on September 30th, 2010 · Comments (9)

    Last week, three Yankees were named to Baseball America’s top-20 list for prospects in the Gulf Coast League.  Earlier this week, the Yanks got shut out of the top-20 honorarium for New York-Penn League prospects due to the fact that their eligible players either joined the team’s affiliate too late to qualify or skipped NYPL play altogether.

    Today, we learn that OF Slade Heathcott (Low-A, Charleston Riverdogs) has been named to Baseball America’s top-20 list of prospects for the South Atlantic League.

    18. Slade Heathcott, OF, Riverdogs
    Bats/Throws: L/L
    Height/Weight: 6’1″/190
    Age: 19
    Drafted: Yankees ’09 (1st Round/29th 0verall)
    2010 Stats: 298 AB, 77 H, 21 XBH, 42 BB, 101 SO, .258/.359/.352

    Regardless of how managers and scouts felt about Heathcott’s talent, they all agreed on one thing: he plays the game hard. A throwback player who attracted comparisons to Lenny Dykstra and Brett Gardner, he combines strength, speed and fast-twitch athleticism.

    Heathcott’s most impressive tool is his speed, though he currently lacks the instincts to make the most of it on the bases and in center field. He shows some patience and unrealized power potential at the plate, but his swing needs a lot of work. His bat doesn’t stay in the hitting zone for long and he struck out 101 times in 298 at-bats. His arm strength is a plus.

    “I think he learned what kind of player he is this year,” Mikulik said. “He needs a lot of polish, but there’s a lot to work with there.”

    This scouting report is in line with what you’d expect from a raw, athletic youngster.  There are clearly things that Heathcott has to improve upon next year and, I assume, he will be repeating Low-A again in order to refine his approach at the plate.  Considering Heathcott signed late in 2009 and barely registered any time at the NYPL level, the Yankees clearly think highly enough of his talents that they let him play his first season of pro ball in the SAL instead of making him go back to Staten Island.

    Separately, I’m disappointed to see that RHP Jose Ramirez or C/DH JR Murphy did not make the SAL list.  In Murphy’s case, his first season of pro ball was somewhat underwhelming (.255/.327/.376) but scouts raved all season long about Ramirez’s (115 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 105 K) stuff.  His exclusion is somewhat surprising.

    The prospect lists for the Florida State (High-A) and Eastern (AA) Leagues will be released next Wednesday and Friday, respectively. I expect the Yankees will make some hay there.

    September 29th @ The Blue Jays

    Posted by on September 30th, 2010 · Comments (7)

    Funny, I could’ve sworn I set the unofficial over/under on last night’s score at eight runs for the Blue Jays.  Sure enough, the Yanks dropped the rubber match to the Jays by a score of 8-4, courtesy of Javier Vazquez’s last performance in pinstripes (one would imagine, anyways).  Coupled with Baltimore’s defeat of Tampa, the Yankees wasted their last and best chance to overtake the Rays in the race for the AL East division title.  Well…at least I know I can fall back into a life of professional gambling if this whole career thing doesn’t work out.

    Apart from Vazquez’s likely final humiliation as a member of the Yankees (4.2 10 7 7 2 0), the only other noteworthy point to make from this game involves A-Rod’s personal milestone.  With his 30th homer of the season, Alex extended his MLB-record streak of consecutive 30 HR/100 RBI seasons to 13 (1998-present) and extended his MLB-record streak of 30 HR/100 RBI seasons to a 14th season, two more than Babe Ruth’s previous record.

    Congrats to Alex!  It hasn’t been an easy year for him but, once again, he reminds us that we are truly lucky to have him as a part of our beloved ballclub.  Alex may not be for everyone but he’s still one hell of a great baseball player.

    September 28th @ The Blue Jays

    Posted by on September 28th, 2010 · Comments (30)

    It took WAY longer than it should’ve but, finally, the Yankees punched their ticket to the 2010 playoffs by beating the Blue Jays 6-1.  In holding down the Blue Jays through eight full innings, CC Sabathia (8.1 3 1 1 2 8 ) put on a clinic of dominance and efficiency until finally losing a bit of steam in the bottom of the ninth inning.

    Offensively, the Yankees were effective enough (although by no means perfect) in support of Sabathia’s gem.  So, with the win, the good starting pitching and the workmanlike effort by the lineup, all is well, right?  Well, almost.

    After watching Mariano Rivera look shaky over his past few outings, I would’ve preferred that the Yankees throw cannon fodder out for the last two outs of the game instead of spending the valuable bullets remaining in Rivera’s gun.  And therein lies my frustration with Joe Girardi.  In high leverage spots over the past two weeks, Girardi has routinely gone to some of his least-qualified options.  Tonight, in a game where the Yankees needed two outs before they gave up five runs, Girardi went to Rivera.  Perplexing, at least to me.

    In any case, the Yankees are now playing for another World Series.  It was a tough road to get here but hopefully this is the sign of better days ahead.

    Ken Burns’s “10th Inning” To Air Tonight, Tomorrow

    Posted by on September 28th, 2010 · Comments (2)

    This post is as much a reminder for myself and for Steve as it is for the rest of WW.com readership.  As the headline states, Ken Burns’s addendum to his 1994 documentary will air over the next two nights on your local public television station.

    If you liked the original from ’94, or if you’re just a baseball fan, make sure to set your DVR’s!

    Yankee Farmhands Shut Out Of NYPL Prospects List

    Posted by on September 28th, 2010 · Comments (4)

    Last week I mentioned that Baseball America was releasing its top-20 lists for each of the affiliated minor leagues.  In that post, I also revealed the upcoming schedule for the prospect honorarium.

    Sadly, no members of the Staten Island Yankees made the list of prospects in the New York-Penn League.  However sad this news may be, the reason is simply because most of the team’s 2009 draft class skipped the NYPL entirely, playing their first season of pro ball with the Charleston River Dogs in the South Atlantic League.

    Further, as most of the team’s top picks in the 2010 draft class were so young and raw, those players got their first taste of organized professional baseball at the aforementioned Gulf Coast League level.  By the time guys like Cito Culver and Gary Sanchez were ready to move up to Staten Island, their window to make this top-20 list had closed.

    September 27th @ The Blue Jays

    Posted by on September 28th, 2010 · Comments (6)

    Look out, Melido Perez, you might have company. Thanks to Burnett’s atrocious outing last night (2.1 7 7 7 1 1) the Yankees lost 7-5 and Burnett now sits one loss behind Perez’s mark for most losses by a Yankee pitcher (16) since 1992. Some other sorry facts and figures regarding Burnett’s abysmal performance (courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information):

    • Burnett has allowed at least 6 ER in 10 starts this season, the most such starts in a single season since Eric Milton had 10 in 2005 and the most in the AL since Sidney Ponson had 10 in 2004.
    • Only 3 AL pitchers since 1940 have had more starts with at least 6 ER in a season: David Cone (2000), Tim Belcher (1997) and Jim Bibby (1974) each had 11.
    • Since 1920 among Yankees, only David Cone with 11 in 2000, has more than Burnett’s 10.

    It’s safe to say that, if not for the $87.5M contract he signed last year, the Yanks should’ve thought about skipping Burnett at some point this year and relegated him to the bullpen.  That they didn’t shows a total lack of regard for Javier Vazquez’s feelings because he’s had the better MLB career but wasn’t spared that humiliation on two separate occasions this year.

    As for the rest of the game, Toronto starter Marc Rzepczynski (5 4 2 2 3 9) absolutely shut down Yankee hitters over the first four innings until the lineup made hay in the 5th and 7th innings.  There’s just not much to say here.  If Burnett pitches like a decent MLB pitcher, the Yanks probably win this game.

    Coupled with Baltimore’s win over Tampa, Burnett’s stinker hurts just a little bit more.  It’s painful to think that the Yanks could’ve re-taken first place but blew their opportunity.

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