• Torre Pen Management: Clueless Or Desperation?

    Posted by on January 26th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    One of the cool stats that they track in the Bill James Baseball Handbook 2008 is “Relievers Used on Consecutive Days” (RCD) by managers.

    First, some background for a baseline. In 2007, for A.L. managers who served the full year, the average RCD (meaning a 162-game average) was 97 (times). In the N.L., the average was 122 – which makes sense as you’re pinch-hitting for pitchers in that league and using replacement pitchers more often.

    Now, here’s Joe Torre’s RCD marks as Yankees manager, through the years:

    1996: 97
    1997: 84
    1998: 71
    1999: 80
    2000: 92
    2001: 77
    2002: 86
    2003: 75
    2004: 129
    2005: 92
    2006: 109
    2007: 113

    The numbers for 2004 and 2006 are in bold as those were the high-marks for the league those seasons. And, the high mark (for the league) in 2005 was 114; and, in 2007 it was 131 – both set by Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox. So, it’s safe to say that Joe Torre, from 2004 to 2007, used relievers on consecutive days as much as anyone – and, he came within a few ticks of leading the league in RCD four years in a row.

    But, note, before 2004, Torre’s RCD marks (with the Yankees) were always under 100. And, based on the average mark of 2007 (97), you can pretty much say that Torre, prior to 2004, was near-to-almost-below average in terms of using relievers on consecutive days.

    So, what was so different about 1996-2003 and 2004-2007 that turned Joe Torre into a reported relief pitcher abuser?

    At first, I wondered if it had anything to do with Don Zimmer. After all, Zim was there from 1996 to 2003 – and, once he left, Torre’s RCD numbers went crazy. Maybe Zimmer was the one making sure that “Clueless Joe” was not always calling on the same reliever?

    But, then, I reminded myself of the state of Yankees pitching, both post-2003 and pre-2004.

    In terms of the bullpen, when the Yankees had guys like Stanton, Nelson and Lloyd, their pen was effective – and, once those guys were gone, starting in 2004, the Yankees bullpen became a mess (in terms of effectiveness). So, it makes sense that, post-2003, Torre would keep calling on the same guys, even on consecutive days, because he had so few quality relief arms to call upon.

    Actually, as a whole, pre-2004, the Yankees had strong pitching. And, that probably helped Torre control his RCD totals too – as starters went longer in games, etc., and there was less of a need to call on the bullpen. It was post-2003, that the Yankees started bringing in starting pitchers who failed – and often – placing more stress on a pen that was under-manned in terms of quality pitchers.

    The numbers post-2003 and pre-2004 show us that it was not always Torre’s tendency (in New York) to run up high RCD numbers. In a way, it’s sort of a perfect storm effect that impacted Torre after 2003: Inferior starters, combined with a shortage of quality relievers, leading to high totals of relievers used on consecutive days. The numbers do show us, that, when Torre had good starting pitching, and a well manned bullpen, he would not call on the same guys, day-after-day, as much as he did once his pitching staff was inferior (both in quantity and quality).

    Therefore, perhaps, rather than blaming Joe Torre for burning out his bullpen, based on the post-2003 and pre-2004 RCD data that we have available, the focus should shift towards what Torre was forced into doing, why he was in that position, and what other options he had (other than to call on the same few pitchers, so often). Perhaps, just maybe, the fault lies with what Torre was given to work with, and who gave it to him, and not with Joe himself?

    I’m not saying this is something that we should carry, from here, as fact. One would have to really dig into the RCD data to see which pitchers were being used often, and which ones were ignored, and what the scores of the games were, and the dates of the games, and their impact on the standings, and the pitcher’s pitch counts, etc., before they could make a case for something being air-tight here. But, at the least, the RCD totals, during Torre’s full time in the Bronx, give good reason to wonder what or who was really to blame for Joe Torre calling on the same guys in the pen, and so often – rather than to just write it off as Joe being clueless.

    Sure, “Clueless Joe” rolls off the tongue easier than “Extremis Malis Extrema Remedia Joe.” But, it would be a shame to ignore the stats on this one just for the sake of hanging on to a snazzy handle.

    Cano & Yankees Agree To Terms On Deal

    Posted by on January 26th, 2008 · Comments (14)

    Via ESPN.com

    The New York Yankees and second baseman Robinson Cano have reached a preliminary agreement on a deal that could be worth as much as $56 million over six years, according to reports in the New York Times and the Newark Star-Ledger.

    The deal will be finalized when Cano, 25, passes his physical. The contract specifics vary slightly in the reports. According to The Times, Cano will earn $28 million for the 2008 through 2011 seasons, and he will get $2 million more should the Yankees decline the 2012 option.

    Cano would earn about $27 million in 2012 and 2013, if the Yankees pick up the options. Cano would be eligible for free agency after 2011 without the option years.

    The Star-Ledger reports that the contract is for a guaranteed $30 milllion for four seasons, and worth up to $56 million if the Yankees exercise the options for 2012 and 2013.

    I’m guessing that Odysseus told the Yankees to stuff wax in their ears and not listen to the siren’s cautionary tales of Edgardo Alfonzo and Carlos Baerga.

    You know, there’s a little baseball stat out there called “Bases per Plate Appearance” [BPA]. The formula is (TB+BB+HBP+SB-CS-GIDP)/(AB+BB+HBP+SF). Via the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, here’s the “Top 40” in BPA, over the last three years, in the A.L., with a minimum of 1500 Plate Appearances:

    BPA                             BPA      PA
    1    David Ortiz                .660     2066
    2    Alex Rodriguez             .651     2097
    3    Travis Hafner              .613     1800
    4    Manny Ramirez              .597     1777
    5    Vladimir Guerrero          .582     1919
    6    Mark Teixeira              .576     1792
    7    Grady Sizemore             .567     2205
    8    Jermaine Dye               .560     1751
    9    Curtis Granderson          .551     1529
    10   Paul Konerko               .550     1943
    11   Carl Crawford              .549     1963
    12   Brian Roberts              .538     1985
    13   Jorge Posada               .536     1680
    14   Magglio Ordonez            .532     1667
    15   Richie Sexson              .525     1810
    16   Carlos Guillen             .524     1613
    17   Hideki Matsui              .524     1537
    18   Nick Swisher               .522     1853
    19   Justin Morneau             .518     1872
    20   Derek Jeter                .517     2181
    21   Torii Hunter               .516     1677
    22   Johnny Damon               .514     1964
    23   Raul Ibanez                .506     2025
    24   Ichiro Suzuki              .504     2227
    25   Alex Rios                  .503     1728
    26   Joe Mauer                  .502     1633
    27   Vernon Wells               .501     1997
    28   Victor Martinez            .501     1919
    29   Chone Figgins              .499     1906
    30   Gary Matthews Jr.          .496     1795
    31   Miguel Tejada              .491     1981
    32   Eric Chavez                .489     1649
    33   Michael Cuddyer            .489     1728
    34   Julio Lugo                 .482     1642
    35   Casey Blake                .481     1701
    36   Robinson Cano              .480     1728
    37   Michael Young              .478     2172
    38   Adrian Beltre              .475     1970
    39   Kevin Millar               .473     1584
    40   Tadahito Iguchi            .472     1585  

    For the record, in 2007, Cano had a BPA of .491 (which was 39th best in the league for batters with 500+ PA).

    Based on this, I would offer that Robinson Cano is one of the “Top 40” most productive batters in the league – last season and over the last three years. But, he’s much closer to being #40 than he is to being in the “Top 10.”

    As Yankees fans, let’s hope that Cano stays sharp and is able to maintain, or better, his place among the offensive leaders in the league, now that he’s locked up for years to come.

    What Hipster Doofus Duo Had To Say

    Posted by on January 26th, 2008 · Comments (6)

    More from Gary & Wyatt’s fun night out on the town, via the Post:

    At times, the two were remarkably candid, from Cashman admitting Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu were not in shape last spring to Epstein saying he regretted the rash trade he made two years ago, when he sent promising reliever Cla Meredith to the Padres to reacquire backup catcher Doug Mirabelli, after Mirabelli’s replacement Josh Bard had a rough game handling Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball.

    On Bernie Williams’ final years in pinstripes, Cashman’s assessment was the former center fielder, “Got into music, and I thought it took a lot away from his play.”

    Cashman said one of the reasons Williams wasn’t back with the Yankees last year was the GM feared having to release the popular player during the season, and that wouldn’t have been a proper sendoff. Cashman indicated Williams got the proper farewell two years ago, after a having a “terrible” 2005 season.

    While Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu and Bernie Williams probably feel like they were thrown under a bus, via Cash’s comments, personally, I give Brian two huge thumbs-up for being spot-on here and for having the nerve to speak the truth. Better late than never.

    During a question-and-answer session, a fan asked each GM whom he would take from the other’s team if given the chance. Cashman picked Jason Varitek, noting he’d like to take the catcher and “put him [on] another planet,” to cripple the Red Sox.

    Who would Epstein pluck from the Yankees?

    “I’d take the gentleman on my left,” Epstein said, motioning to Cashman, “and make him [our] scouting director.”

    This is not the first time that I’ve heard about Cashman’s crush on Varitek. Cashman as the Red Sox scouting director? Man, that would be music to my ears. Putting a dollar sign on the muscle is Brian’s biggest weakness as a baseball executive.

    Hank: If Plan Doesn’t Work, The Planners Will Pay

    Posted by on January 25th, 2008 · Comments (3)

    Via the AP

    Hank Steinbrenner sat behind his desk and looked out at empty Legends Field, where all was quiet and calm.

    Over and over again, he emphasized his philosophy – the New York Yankees’ new doctrine – of tolerance, of deliberation, of long-term planning. That, however, only goes so far.

    He is, after all, a Steinbrenner.

    “I will be patient with the young pitchers and players. There’s no question about that because I know how these players develop,” he said. “But as far as missing the playoffs – if we miss the playoffs by the end of this year, I don’t know how patient I’ll be. But it won’t be against the players. It won’t be a matter of that. It will be a matter of maybe certain people in the organization could have done something else.”

    …if we miss the playoffs by the end of this year, I don’t know how patient I’ll be. But it won’t be against the players. It won’t be a matter of that. It will be a matter of maybe certain people in the organization could have done something else…

    I read this to say: If we miss the post-season, because our young players struggled, the parties who talked me out of trading some of those young players for Johan Santana, will be the ones to pay the price for not making the playoffs.

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. The Yankees will have a payroll over $200 million, most likely, this season. Sure, some of that is dead weight – like Giambi, Pavano, etc. But, for the most part, there are many players on this team being paid huge money to perform well.

    It’s one thing to be patient, take some bumps and lumps, while allowing kids to learn, and to look at the big picture and the whole journey. But, it’s easier to do that when your payroll is closer to $80 million or less. When you have a $200 million payroll, you still want to win it all. So, how can you be in that spot and be patient too?

    Hank can say that he’ll be patient – but, I don’t believe him. However, I do believe him when he says “certain people in the organization” are on the hook this season – especially those in the last year of their contract.

    Baseball’s Verison Of Gary Wallace & Wyatt Donnelly

    Posted by on January 25th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Every time I hear a story about Brian Cashman buddying up with Theo Epstein, I have to confess, that, it puts a little tweak in my spine.

    Yeah, I get it. They’re professionals. They’re in a select circle. There’s only 30 of them in the world. They need to be able to communicate. And, in a sense, they’re a band of brothers. So, they should be able to socialize and enjoy each other’s company. Fine.

    But, Cashman just seems to be “too-buddy-buddy” with Epstein, and vice-versa. I almost want to yell “Get a room!” at them or something.

    Move Over Dave Nilsson

    Posted by on January 25th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    From the Canberra Times (with a Hat Tip to BaseballThinkFactory.org):

    The latest Canberra teenager bound for the big US baseball leagues is expected to sign a seven-year deal with the New York Yankees today.

    Kyle Perkins, 16, joins the world’s most renowned baseball club after being spotted by a Yankees scout during last year’s under-18 national championship in Western Australia.

    The 16-year-old Daramalan College student was told a fortnight ago to expect an offer from the baseballing powerhouse. And today it arrives.

    Perkins, who is in Year 11, will join the club roster as a catcher in 2010 after he has finished school.

    Until then he is expected to follow a rigorous training regime and a strict diet and put in a lot of hard work.

    Perkins has been recruited by the Yankees along with Victorian teenager Nathan Aron.

    A seven-year deal? Me thinks something got lost in translation here. Either that, or, I think a dingo ate some Yankees scout’s brain.

    How Much Will Hughes Provide Yanks In ’08?

    Posted by on January 25th, 2008 · Comments (5)

    Last season, Phil Hughes, the favorite blogger of many Yankees fans, made 21 starts and threw 110 inings. (This includes his combined time in the minors.)

    In 2006, combined, Hughes made 26 starts and threw 146 innings.

    Based on the last two years, what’s a reasonable expectation to have for Phil in 2008, in terms of starts and innings? Would it be a reach to say he can make 30 starts for the Yankees in 2008 and throw 165 innings?

    As Archie Bunker once said to Barney Hefner, about a hypothetical situation involving Hefner’s dog, Rusty: “You could be happy with that, right, Barney?”

    Yankees, Post-2001, So, What Do You Think?

    Posted by on January 25th, 2008 · Comments (15)

    Recently, elsewhere, I made the following statement:

    Since 2002, the Yanks have won a lot of games each year – and, that’s great. But, the way Brian Cashman has built his teams is the following:

    Spend ~$200 million on great offensive players and pitchers that are either over-hyped or past their prime. And, during the regular season, when those mega-batters are matched-up against the bad pitching teams in the AL, it covers for the weak Yankees pitching and then New York starts to pile up win totals.

    But, come the post-season, when you face teams with good pitching, or you face a team in a format where they can use their best pitchers and hide their duds, your great hitters get shut down and then your weak pitchers get exposed, and you lose the series.

    If the Yankees are going to return to the ring teams like the ’70’s and the ’90’s, they’re going to need to have great pitching to go with their hitting – and great pitching that can shut down another team in the post-season. Until that happens, it’s going to be just like the ’80’s and the post-2001 Yankees…lots of seasons where your hitters carry you to 90+ wins, but, teams that get bounced in the post-season.

    To anyone who has been reading this blog over the last couple of years, or longer, to hear a statement like this from me should not come as a shock.

    But, I thought, today, on a slow-baseball-news sort of day, it may be fun to review this concept of mine, again, and ask Yankees fans (reading this) the following questions:

    1. Do you agree with this conclusion from me? And,
    2. If you think it’s not correct, why?

    Thanks in advance to anyone willing to share thoughts on this in the comments section below.

    Savant: Runs Scored Lead To Big Season For Yanks

    Posted by on January 25th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    In the spirit of being fair and presenting different views on a topic, it’s recommended here that you check out the Baseball Savant’s feature “YANKEES FINISHING 3RD? DON’T COUNT ON IT!” from last Tuesday. It’s an interesting read.

    Set Your Santana Countdown Clocks To 500 Hours

    Posted by on January 25th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    Eric Hz shares (from reports) that the Twins want to move Johan Santana in the next 7 to 21 days.

    Still, Sid Hartman does not see the Yankees meeting Johan’s demands:

    The Mets and Yankees have made it clear they will not meet the demands of Johan Santana’s agents and sign the Twins’ star lefthander to a seven-year contract calling for upwards of $140 million if they acquired Santana in a trade.

    George Steinbrenner’s son, Hank, who currently has the final say in Yankees matters, told me the other day they would not give any pitcher a contract for that many years.

    Expect to see more “Cat and Mouse” stuff going on between Yankeeland and Minny over the next week (or so) than you would see if the YES Network decided to replace all their scheduled airings of The White Shadow with episodes of Itchy & Scratchy.

    Four Horses Key To Reaching Fall Classic?

    Posted by on January 24th, 2008 · Comments (5)

    I thought this was an interesting list:

    Year        Number Yankees Pitchers With 25+ Games Started
    1999         5 Hernandez / Irabu / Cone / Pettitte / Clemens
    2006         4 Wang / Johnson / Mussina / Wright
    2003         4 Pettitte / Clemens / Wells / Mussina
    2000         4 Clemens / Pettitte / Cone / Hernandez
    1998         4 Pettitte / Cone / Wells / Irabu
    2007         3 Pettitte / Wang / Mussina
    2004         3 Vazquez / Lieber / Mussina
    2002         3 Mussina / Wells / Clemens
    2001         3 Mussina / Clemens / Pettitte
    2005         2 Johnson / Mussina                            

    You expect to see 1998-2000 and 2003 at the top of this list. And, you expect to see 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2007 on the bottom half. But, how did 2006 sneak up there with 1998, 2000, and 2003?

    The answer is Randy Johnson. The Big Unit was terrible in 2006 (5.00 ERA and -15 RSAA) – but, he kept going out there for a regular turn. (Jaret Wright was actually much better than Johnson in ’06 – with an ERA of 4.49 and -2 RSAA.) So, really, 2006 (in terms of their placement on this list) is a freak…thanks to Randy.

    Therefore, if you discount 2006, there’s a case to be made, based on this list order, that, when the Yankees manage to get 25+ starts out of 4 pitchers or more, since 1998, they’ve been a World Series club.

    Another feather in the cap of rotation stability?

    One would hope that Pettitte, Wang, Hughes and Mussina – and perhaps Kennedy too – could all make 25+ starts each, this season. It’s not a huge reach. But, if only three of them manage at least 25 starts this year, it could mean bad news in the Bronx (again) come October.

    Cano To Ink Four Year Pact?

    Posted by on January 24th, 2008 · Comments (7)

    Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the “Yanks [are] nearing [a] four-year deal with [Robinson] Cano.”

    Four-years @ $30 million.

    That’s going to buy a lot of Mickey-Dees and Red Bull.

    Private Brian

    Posted by on January 24th, 2008 · Comments (7)

    There are rumors coming out of the Bronx that Yankees G.M. Brian Cashman was quoted today as saying:

    “This is my Kei Igawa. There are many like it; but, this one is mine.”

    We’re still attempting to verify this report.

    $218.3 million

    Posted by on January 24th, 2008 · Comments (5)

    Just think, that money could have bought 2,528,571,428 marbles. Seriously, wouldn’t that have been more fun? You can do a lot of damage with 2.5 billion marbles.

    Ten Innings Pitched Pays Off For Chase

    Posted by on January 24th, 2008 · Comments (3)

    Via the Sun Journal

    Now would not be a good time to warn me of the impending recession, complain about the cost of fuel within a half-mile radius of my ears, or ask me how much I’m being paid to write this.

    That’s because I just watched a dozen grown men and women, most of whom presumably own cars and aren’t living rent-free in their parents’ basement, pay $300 for a steak dinner and the privilege of peeling apart a golden wrapper to reveal six baseball cards.

    The gathering was a nationwide gimmick to promote the Upper Deck trading card company’s Exquisite Rookie Signatures Baseball set.

    Thirty nostalgia and collectibles stores across the country were given the opportunity to peddle the autographed, limited-edition cards to their customers. For a price.

    “They’re gamblers,” store manager Dan Cunliffe II said of his dinner party. “When we found out we were chosen, we made a list of 14 of our most loyal customers. Twelve of them signed up.”

    Get lucky, and you could end up with Daisuke Matsuzaka or Phil Hughes’ name personally scrawled across the glossy cardboard, or even something as rare and non-sports related as a dual autograph card of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev or Queen Elizabeth I and King George I.

    So who spends $300 on a pack of baseball cards, anyway? Oh, merely your friends and neighbors.

    “Somebody that likes to gamble,” said Bouchard, who confessed that buying sports stock on speculation has been a lifelong habit. “I love collecting cards and selling cards. I started coming to this store back in 1987, so I was 12 years old. I used to get my allowance and spend all my money on packs of cards.”

    But the agony and ecstasy of being a sports memorabilia collector is that it’s a poker game that lasts potentially for 20 years. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have taught us that even a player on the cusp of retirement has ample time to inflate his body and potentially deflate his card value.

    Hughes and Chase Wright’s cards drew hurrahs from their new owners and good-natured Yankees-flavored harassment from the peanut gallery. Rocky Cherry’s picture and name merely evoked snickers.

    “Sounds like an ice cream or something,” said collector Duane Bonney.

    Chase Wright made Upper Deck’s Exquisite Rookie Signatures Baseball set? Man, that just doesn’t seem “wright.”

    Kyle Lohse

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2008 · Comments (22)

    Kyle Lohse will only be 29-years old this season. He’s usually good for 30 starts and around 190 inning pitched. Sure, with that, he’s going to allow batters to hit .280 against him. And, as a Free Agent, he’s probably going to want a four-year deal, and will not come cheap. But, I keep thinking back to those “pretty sure” starts and innings, and have to wonder if the Yankees should look into picking him up (off the market) this winter? Don’t get me wrong, I would only sign him if you also secured full rights to trade him – because you probably don’t want him around for the full four years. It’s just that I can’t shake the feeling that someone who can give the Yankees 30 starts and near 200 IP, albeit less than stellar innings, could come in handy this season.

    Replay Of Me On On Gotham Baseball

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2008 · Comments (0)

    To hear a replay of Mike Silva’s interview of me, that aired tonight on Gotham Baseball Live, click here.

    The interview (with me) starts 50 minutes and 20 seconds into the clip (found on BlogTalkRadio via the link).

    Speaking of Gotham Sports Media, they announced today that they have added “Live from Mickey Mantle’s,” a weekly show that will cover New York sports, to its lineup of radio shows.

    Starting with its debut broadcast, February 1st at 6:00 pm ET, the two-hour show, which will broadcast from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant (at 42 Central Park South in New York City), aims to feature guests from throughout New York sports. The broadcast will be hosted by Mark Healey and Mike Silva.

    Check it out, next week.

    Beware The Emerald City?

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2008 · Comments (7)

    Via Paul White’s ORGANIZATIONAL REPORT on the Yankees in Sports Weekly:

    Two years ago, when New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman signed a three-year contract, he said, “We have three years to try to deliver a championship and try to rebuild the system.”

    With a year left, Cashman can claim to have succeeded on one count, but it’s not the one that seemed more likely back then.

    They’re still the Yankees — as Cashman says, “still the Steinbrenner Yankees” — with the offense that scored 76 more runs than any other team in the major leagues in 2007. They have the game’s best player in third baseman Alex Rodriguez and arguably its best leader in team captain and shortstop Derek Jeter.

    They have been in the playoffs 13 consecutive seasons, but is the streak in jeopardy? Possibly, with the Boston Red Sox having ended the Yankees’ run of nine division titles in a row on the way to a second World Series win in four years and an improved Detroit Tigers team combining with the Cleveland Indians for a potent 1-2 punch in the AL Central.

    Those three teams will likely make winning the AL East or repeating as the wild-card team more difficult for the Yankees.

    It’s an interesting thought: That the teams who Yankees might have to worry about this season are the Indians and Mariners (in a fight for the Wildcard). This assumes that the Red Sox, Tigers and Angels will be as good as people say they will be in 2008.

    So, what do you say Yankees fans, are the M’s and Tribe no match for New York? Or, does Seattle have a leg up on this since they get to play the A’s and the Rangers 38 times this season?

    Howard: Enough With Boston

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2008 · Comments (2)

    Via Johnette Howard

    Well, there they go again in Boston. How do I say this nicely? What a bunch of freaking nut jobs. Try the decaf tea, will you? Even if they are three hours away from New York City, you could hear all their shrieking yesterday from here: What if Tom Brady can’t play against the Giants in the Super Bowl? What if the Patriots end up 18 and Oh No? First there was the Bloody Sock. And now this: The Boot.

    This is just another example of why Boston must be stopped.

    Now before you have an aneurysm or mail me some rant saying I belong to some secret sleeper cell of Giants fans, let me qualify this by saying I’m not even from New York – I’m from Pittsburgh, I’m a live-and-let-live kinda girl. Even an emotionally uninvested observer like me has had enough of all of ’em – those our-stuff-doesn’t-stink Patriots, those smack-talking, crown-our-butts Celtics, who haven’t even won anything yet. And don’t even get me started on all those infernal “Look at us! Look at us!” Red Sox groupies.

    They conveniently forget how Red Sox Nation had grown into the most simpering, neuroses-ridden group of fans anyone had seen until their boys in knickers passed around that pregame bottle of Jack Daniels, then cowboyed up to finish off the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS after falling behind three games to none.

    (Fast joke: How could you tell a long-suffering Cubs fan from a long-suffering Boston fan? A: The Cubs fans are the ones with a sense of humor.) So enough with Boston’s teams. The whole stinking lot of them.


    Mets In The Lead For Santana?

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2008 · Comments (4)

    From Jon Heyman

    Once written off as an extreme long shot in the long-running Johan Santana drama, the Mets may actually be the favorite now. At the very least, there are indications now that they are engaging in more regular dialogue with the Twins in recent days than either the Red Sox or Yankees. And Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who loves a big deal but hasn’t made one since the winter before last, has told some people in the business, “We have a shot.”

    Well, if true, at the least, he won’t be in Boston. So, it could be worse news for Yankees fans.

    On Gotham Baseball Live – Wed., 1/23/08

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2008 · Comments (0)

    As mentioned yesterday, I did a recorded interview with Mike Silva for Gotham Baseball Live. The show will be airing tomorrow at 7 pm ET. For more on how to listen to it, when it broadcasts, click here. The segment with me should be coming on around the 7:30 pm mark.

    If you’re curious as to what my voice sounds like, or what a motor-mouth I can be, when talking Yankees baseball, check it out.

    Mattingly Leaves Torre’s Field Staff

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2008 · Comments (0)

    From MLB.com

    Don Mattingly, named by the Dodgers as hitting coach two months ago and the presumed eventual replacement for new manager Joe Torre, stepped aside on Tuesday for family reasons and was replaced by Triple-A hitting coach Mike Easler.

    Mattingly will remain in the organization as a special assignment coach, but requested the change so he could spend more time at home in Evansville, Ind. He also requested that further details of his situation not be released.

    When Mattingly left the Yankees, after 1995, there was some talk about him, perhaps, going on to play for the Cardinals – but, Donnie elected to stay home. At that time, it was rumored that Mattingly wanted to be closer to home for family matters.

    A friend with some access to the Yankees scene, back then, told me that the story they heard was that Don’s wife, Kim, needed some support from him at that time. But, again, that’s all hearsay.

    Mattingly’s boys are now 16, 20, and 22. And, for sure, the 16-year old is still at home. (The 22-year old could be there too.) With boys that age, under your roof, it could almost be anything that brought cause for Donnie to step down.

    For the sake of his family, and their well-being, I hope it all works out quickly and well.

    This would have been some spot, if the Yankees had hired Mattingly to replace Torre (and not Girardi). Imagine trying to find a new manager just three weeks before pitchers and catchers report?

    Cano Vs. Upton

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2008 · Comments (6)

    Eric SanInocencio and EJ Fagan battle it out, over Robinson Cano versus BJ Upton. Check it out at Rays Anatomy.

    As a 22-year old, last year, Upton had 29 RCAA and an OWP of .667 (in 548 PA). As a 22-year old, in 2005, Cano had -5 RCAA and an OWP of .471 (in 551 PA).

    Clearly, Upton wins the battle of the 22-year olds here.

    In fact, during 2006 and 2007, Cano failed to beat the RCAA and OWP marks that Upton posted this season. While I still want to see a couple of more seasons under Upton’s belt, he’s already shown that he can post a better offensive season than Cano.

    Robinson needs to learn to walk more to catch up with what Upton has shown this past season.

    Yanks Vs. Red Sox – Last 12 Seasons

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2008 · Comments (9)

    Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) is the difference between a team’s runs created total and the total for an average team who used the same amount of outs. (A negative RCAA indicates a below average team in this category.) Runs Saved Against Average (RSAA) is the amount of runs that a team’s pitchers saved versus what an average team would have allowed. It is similar to the statistic Pitching Runs detailed in Total Baseball – except (1) both have different ways of park adjustments and (2) Total Baseball added a procedure to take into account the amount of decisions the pitcher had while RSAA does not. (A negative RSAA indicates a below average team in this category.)

    Using the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, we’re able to see the RCAA and RSAA totals for the Yankees and Red Sox over the last 12 seasons. Note the charts below:

    Red Sox	 -5	1996	 -4	Yankees
    Red Sox	 97	1997	134	Yankees
    Red Sox	 54	1998	168	Yankees
    Red Sox	  2	1999	170	Yankees
    Red Sox	-56	2000	  7	Yankees
    Red Sox	  2	2001	 20	Yankees
    Red Sox	106	2002	143	Yankees
    Red Sox	187	2003	142	Yankees
    Red Sox	119	2004	112	Yankees
    Red Sox	147	2005	138	Yankees
    Red Sox	 25	2006	185	Yankees
    Red Sox	 61	2007	161	Yankees
    Red Sox	 53	1996	 60	Yankees
    Red Sox	-45	1997	 78	Yankees
    Red Sox	 90	1998	102	Yankees
    Red Sox	166	1999	 40	Yankees
    Red Sox	115	2000	 54	Yankees
    Red Sox	 56	2001	 71	Yankees
    Red Sox	103	2002	 76	Yankees
    Red Sox	 42	2003	 50	Yankees
    Red Sox	118	2004	-41	Yankees
    Red Sox	-54	2005	-11	Yankees
    Red Sox	-28	2006	-14	Yankees
    Red Sox	163	2007	 30	Yankees
    Offense	Pitching
    1996	Even	Even
    1997	Yanks	Yanks
    1998	Yanks	Even
    1999	Yanks	Sox
    2000	Yanks	Sox
    2001	Even	Even
    2002	Yanks	Sox
    2003	Sox	Even
    2004	Even	Sox
    2005	Even	Yanks
    2006	Yanks	Even
    2007	Yanks	Sox            

    It’s interesting that the Yankees have had a better offense than the Red Sox in 7 of 10 seasons – whereas the Red Sox have had a better pitching staff than the Yankees in 5 of 10 seasons. I’m saying ten seasons, and not twelve, here because twice (in 1996 and 2001) the two teams were pretty much even in terms of hitting and pitching – according to RCAA and RSAA.

    Looking at the past four seasons is interesting as well. In the two seasons where the Red Sox just blew the Yankees away, in terms of having much better pitching (2004 and 2007), Boston went on to win World Series rings.

    Check out the 2000 season. If the Red Sox would have had any offense that year, they just may have beaten the Yankees that season too. And, it’s a good thing the Yankees offense was so high-powered in 1999 – or else maybe the Red Sox could have pulled out that season too, with their pitching. (Thank you Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams for your 1999 seasons in New York!)

    Lastly, what happened to Boston in 1996? They had the same offense and pitching, just about, as New York that season. Yet, the Red Sox finished 7 games back of the Yankees that year. That season, 1996, was Roger Clemens last year in Boston. Clemens was very good that year – with 46 RSAA. But, he went 10-13 on the season. It was just not a good year for the Red Sox in 1996.

    It will be interesting to look back, after the 2008 season, to compare these two teams again, in terms of their pitching and hitting, and see how that impacted the standings (or not).

    S.I.’s Verducci: Durable Rotation Has Edge

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Tom Verducci’s feature today, entitled “Starting point: Stability” is a recommended read today. A highlight:

    Here the difference in rotation stability is even more apparent. Over the past four seasons the Yankees have handed the ball to second-tier starting pitchers 60 more times than did Boston. The Red Sox have done a better job identifying reliable starting pitchers and, by a combination of luck and design, keeping them healthy.

    O.K., so what? How important is that? The Yankees were 23-18 in those 41 second-tier starts last season. And every team needs depth, right? After all, the average team uses 10 starting pitchers per year. But each of the past six world champions have been below that average, while the Yankees have been worse than average every year since their last World Series appearance, in 2003, when they needed only nine. (Since then New York has used 12, 14, 12 and 14 starters. It’s the equivalent of a golfer having to scramble often to save par; it can be done, but with a higher degree of difficulty.)

    Something to consider, for sure.

    Different Demands On Same Software

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2008 · Comments (7)

    From Business Wire:

    Ultimate Software (Nasdaq:ULTI), a leading provider of end-to-end strategic human resources, payroll, and talent management solutions, today announced it has received ISO/IEC 27001 certification.

    Ultimate Software customers represent diverse industries and include such organizations as The Container Store, Elizabeth Arden, The Florida Marlins Baseball Team, The New York Yankees Baseball Team, Nintendo of America, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and SkyWest Airlines.

    So, the company that provides end-to-end strategic human resources, payroll, and talent management solutions to the Yankees does the same for the Florida Marlins.

    Funny, it seems like one would be able to keep track of the Marlins payroll on the back of an Eskimo Pie wrapper.

    Pinto: Yanks ’08 Offense Looks Fine

    Posted by on January 21st, 2008 · Comments (3)

    David Pinto, at Baseball Musings, thinks the Yankees should score 900 runs again this season.

    If this happens, it will be the third year in a row where the Yankees scored 900+ runs.

    Since 1990, three seasons in a row of 900+ runs is a rare feat. Here are the teams to reach that mark:

    1934-1937 Tigers*
    1930-1933 Yankees*
    1936-1939 Yankees*
    1999-2001 Rockies
    2003-2005 Red Sox

    (* did it for 4 years in a row)

    Playing around with the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, shows us that those 1930-1933 Yankees may just have been the best offensive unit in baseball history:

    SEASON, MODERN (1900-), Leaders Runs/Team vs. League Average
    RCAA displayed only–not a sorting criteria

    RUNS                          YEAR     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE    RCAA
    1    Yankees                  1931      267     1010      743      298
    2    Red Sox                  1950      249      979      730       93
    3    Dodgers                  1953      232      921      689      220
    4    Yankees                  1930      230      995      765      344
    5    Yankees                  1927      228      930      702      338
    6    Reds                     1976      222      840      618      273
    7    Rockies                  1996      205      933      728      -75
    8    A's                      1913      204      758      554      192
    9    Yankees                  1932      201      947      746      279
    10   Yankees                  1933      198      892      694      253   

    Media Bloggers Share Opinion On Yanks Hurlers

    Posted by on January 21st, 2008 · Comments (12)

    Two days ago, in an entry entitled “Yanks Taking Big Gamble With Pitching This Year?,” I wrote:

    Basically, this report tells us that the Yankees are fine offensively this season. The big areas of concern for New York are Mussina and the kids in the rotation – and the bullpen in front of Mariano Rivera.

    Last time I checked, 60% of your starting rotation and 85% of your bullpen are not areas where you want to have a lot of uncertainty if you want to be a contending team.

    Being curious as to how some others felt about this, I reached out to seven members of the baseball media, who also have blogs, and asked them the following question:

    In your opinion, at this moment, how would you classify and/or describe the state of the Yankees pitching staff for the 2008 season?

    To date, here’s what those who got back to me had to say:

    Tyler Kepner, from the Times, and the blog “Bats” –

    I think the Yankees have serious pitching questions for 2008. The upside of Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy is huge, but they have such limited experience at the major league level that it’s asking a lot for them all to succeed immediately. The bullpen looks shaky to me, especially if Chamberlain starts, because Farnsworth is your eighth-inning guy and Mo will usually pitch only the ninth. Wang and Pettitte are dependable, and Mussina will find a way to at least give them a .500 record at worst. The best thing they have going for them is the depth of their young pitching — the number of high-ceiling, live arms is staggering. If they can find 2 or 3 gems among Ohlendorf, Veras, Sanchez, Horne, McCutchen, Melancon, etc., they’ll be fine. But it’s hard to count on that, just like it’s hard to count on Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy all hitting it big right away. Also, I do not think they should trade for Santana, because Hughes is too valuable and Melky’s defense cannot be replaced internally. Their best bet — for the long-term, which should be most important — is to go with what they have and nurture those young pitchers as best they can.

    Kat O’Brien, from Newsday, and the blog “On The Yankees Beat” –

    I would describe the Yankees’ starting rotation as solid at the front, but not spectacular; and talented at the back end, but a question mark due to inexperience. I would say the bullpen is a bigger question mark than the rotation, particularly if Joba Chamberlain does spend the season in the rotation. Aside from Mariano Rivera, I think the entire bullpen is very iffy, though I believe the LaTroy Hawkins addition is a good one. Most of the relievers are unproven. Should the Yankees acquire Johan Santana, I think they would have much more reason to be confident that their pitching staff is good enough to carry them deep into the playoffs.

    Lisa Kennelly, from the Star-Ledger, and the blog “Ledger on Yankees” –

    In my opinion, the Yankees pitching staff has both plenty of promise and plenty of question marks. About the only reliable guy is Chien-Ming Wang (19.06 ERA in last season’s playoffs notwithstanding). Ok, and probably Andy Pettitte (though he’s going to be 36 this year and who knows if the Mitchell Report fallout will have an effect on him?).

    But the biggest question is with the three young guys, Chamberlain, Kennedy, and Hughes. The ceiling is so high for all of them, but it’s easy to forget how young they are. The biggest question, for me, is how they’ll hold up over a long season. Inning limits will be an issue. Facing major league hitters regularly will be another.

    I do think Hughes will be successful, judging from how he looked at the end of the season once he got his strength back after his injuries. Kennedy and Chamberlain (if he is not in the bullpen) are harder to say.

    And Mussina, after what we all saw last season, doesn’t look like he’s going to add much to the pitching staff.

    Sweeny Murti, from WFAN, and the blog “Sweeny Blog” –

    The Yankees are hoping their young studs mature quickly, and while that’s entirely possible it is much more likely that there will be some growing pains along the way, talking specifically here about Hughes, Chamberlain, and Kennedy. Getting double-digit wins from all 3 would be a great step forward, but unfortunately too many fans believe they can all win 15-20 apiece this year…that’s asking too much right now. They haven’t even started 20 games in the big leagues between them, so you can’t ramp up the maturation process too much. It doesn’t mean these kids won’t be good, but it makes it hard to think they can lead a staff to the World Series. Especially when none of the 3 will be allowed to approach 200 innings.

    That said, Wang and Pettitte will be counted on heavily again, and each is entirely capable of winning 15-20 games each. Mussina pitched better than most people think last year…a few good starts with nothing to show for it in June to even out the 3 horrible starts in a row late in the year.

    The bullpen has some questions. Kyle Farnsworth is still being counted on to pitch the 8th inning and has been unreliable for the last two years. Joe Girardi is a strong believer and may be able to bring something out of him, but Farnsworth has been a physical question mark because of the sporadic back troubles. LaTroy Hawkins has a decent track record, we’ll see how he adjusts to New York and the AL East. There a number of good arms that will come to spring training to try and win some other spots. For that reason, spring training will be a lot more interesting than it has been in recent years when the available open jobs were few. Let’s see how it shakes out. At this stage, because of the youth in the rotation they are not as good as the Red Sox.

    Notice, in everyone’s feedback, the words “question” or “questions” or “question mark” come up – when referring to the state of the Yankees pitching staff for the 2008 season.

    Sure sounds like a consensus here, huh?

    This is why I suspect we could be seeing an end to that run of 1st or 2nd place finishes for the Yankees (since 1993).

    Thirty-one years ago, Earl Weaver, perhaps one of baseball’s best managers ever, was quoted as saying: “Nobody likes to hear it, because it’s dull. But, the reason you win or lose is darn near the same thing……pitching.”

    Earl was right. And, nothing has changed since that time. If the answers to all those “questions” on the 2008 Yankees pitching staff turn out to be unfavorable for New York, it’s going to be a long “last” season in the “current” Yankee Stadium.

    My thanks to Tyler, Kat, Lisa and Sweeny for their feedback on this survey. If I hear back from any other Yankees media bloggers (that I reached out to), I’ll add their comments to this once their feedback comes in.

    Update: This just in from Mark Feinsand of the Daily News and the blog “Blogging The Bombers” –

    I think the Yankees pitching staff is in better shape than most people believe. With Wang and Pettitte at the top of the rotation, they can compete with any other 1-2 in the league during the course of the 162-game season. The only question would be in October, and I think Wang’s terrible postseason was the exception, not the rule. If Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain are as good as advertised. If they are, I’d move Joba back to the bullpen and go with Wang-Pettitte-Hughes-Mussina-Kennedy in the rotation. Aside from Rivera, you’ve got a hodge-podge in the bullpen of Hawkins, Farnsworth, Ohlendorf, Veras, etc, which is the biggest question mark. As we’ve learned over the years, the staff we see in February won’t be the one we see down the stretch.

    Thanks Mark!

    Update: This just in from Pete Caldera of the The Record and the blog “Pinstripe Posts” –

    I’d say it is incomplete. It’s hard now to imagine Kennedy as a major figure in the rotation, though it’s difficult to know what to expect from Mussina. The mysterious “innings ceiling” on Chamberlain and Hughes could be a big X-Factor all season; who’s to say that Joba won’t return to that setup role by the All-Star break if this less-than-stellar looking relief crew fails to get it to Rivera? At this point, they’re requiring Pettitte and Wang to have huge seasons, and for Farnsworth to suddenly become reliable. And that might be asking a lot.

    Thanks Pete!

    Gotham Baseball Live

    Posted by on January 21st, 2008 · Comments (0)

    This evening, I did a recorded interview with Mike Silva for Gotham Sports Media.

    It should be airing later this week. (I’ll provide a link to it once it’s available.) We talked about my book, the state of the Yankees pitching this season, A-Rod, good ol’ Hank and the new Yankee Stadium. It was fun.

    In the meantime, I suggest checking out some of the other interviews that Mike has done in the past. Click here to access them via BlogTalkRadio. There’s some good stuff there.

    2008 Yankees Schedule

    Posted by on January 21st, 2008 · Comments (4)

    The Yankees schedule this season, in terms of home games, is a bit funky.

    In March/April, the Yankees only play 11 home games – compared to 18 on the road. And, in those 18 road games, they have to go to Boston, Chicago, and Cleveland (among other stops). New York better be more ready to play well, out of the gate, this season – compared to last year.

    In May, the Yankees have 16 home games – compared to 12 on the road. But, in those 16 home games, they get to play the Mariners, Indians, and Mets (among other teams). Those teams will be up for their trips to the Bronx.

    In June, the Yankees have 14 home games – compared to 14 on the road. This month is a mixed bag for the Yanks – as they get to play the A’s, Royals, Pirates and Houston in some games – but, they also have to play the Padres, Mets, Blue Jays and Twins in some others. June could be a key month for the Yankees this season.

    In July, the Yankees have 18 home games – compared to just six on the road. When you throw in the fact that the All-Star Game is at the Stadium this year, the Yankees will barely be out of the Bronx in July. Let’s hope they like home-cooking. Plus, after July, it seems like the Yankees will barely be in New York this year.

    In August, the Yankees have 12 home games – compared to 16 on the road. And, one of their road trips is a 10-game journey going from Texas to Oakland to Minnesota. In fact, in this month, the Yankees play the Angels six times, the Red Sox three times, and the Blue Jays six times. August is going to be the dog days for the Yanks this year, indeed.

    In September, the Yankees have just 10 home games – compared to 15 games on the road. And, all those 10 home games come in a row, from September 12th through September 21st. The Yankees start this month with a road trip that’s a 9-game journey from Tampa Bay to Seattle to Los Angeles. And, the Yankees close this month with three games in Toronto followed by three games in Boston. September, schedule-wise, looks even worse for New York than August.

    So, in summary, the Yankees have a somewhat tough road in the first two months of the season, followed by two months that should be kind to them, and, then, they close the season with two months that appear to be all uphill.

    The best bet for the Yankees this season: Be ready to play strong out of the chute during April and May, make hay in June and July, and try and survive August and September.

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