Saturday, September 30, 2006

Nothing left to play for

It's official. The Yankees have done everything that they possibly could. They have clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

All that is left is to play the games.

Bernie Williams will be the final day manager tomorrow. Bernie may be experiencing his last season as a Yankee. He ends a fantastic career which one day may be looked back upon as hall of fame worthy. He may not be Mantle or DiMaggio, but he will be a major symbol of this age of Yankee glory.

Let's hope he goes out on top. With a ring.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pity the Mets

I feel for the Mets (they lost Pedro for those of you who didn't hear). I really do.

But there is a reason why no one wanted to give Pedro four years.

On a side note, I wouldn't get into an uproar over the Yankees being 1 hit tonight. There is a reason why Danny Cabrera is a top sleeper pick year after year. He has absolutely nasty stuff, but rarely can turn it on. He turned it on yesterday.

I wonder if Darrell Rasner is still in the looks for a postseason roster spot after his terrible start. I really hope that one of Rasner or Karstens makes it. We may need some innings, and Ron Villone isn't the answer.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I haven't really posted a lot of astute commentary lately. Unfortunately, I am hampered in two ways. First off, it gets annoying to have to type "Ron Villone, Scott Proctor overused, Ron Villone, Brian Bruney overused, Ron Villone..." after every game.

Second, my college's internet connection has been very flittery, which hurts my ability to watch games on I can't stream video because the connection is so bad. Hopefully that changes before the playoffs.

Not much is happening in Yankee world. Over the offseason, I intend to focus on individual prospect profiles (in addition to all the free agent signings and things). In a week, I'll have the playoffs to write about. For now? Enjoy watching the young kids play.

By the way, it's almost deadline time in most states to register to vote. I guess this is a little reminder to all those who are not registered. Policy is determined by those who participate.

Good day.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Will the Bats Be Enough?

Steve Lombardi over at has been openly very worried about the Yankee pitching situation. Today, he made a very astute observation:

Secondly, someone on the Yankees staff is going to have to pull a "Jim Beattie 1978" - meaning someone who has not been a huge factor this season, for the most part, is going to have to step up in the post-season and make big pitching contributions in at least two games.

I agree with him - slightly. Pitching is so incredibly important in the playoffs. But I ask the question - can our offense overcome our 3-4 starters?

Mussina and Wang are about as good as any team has in terms of a 1-2 punch this postseason. They are both tied in 5th place in ERA in the AL with 3.57. Only Santana has been better this season than those two (in terms of postseason starters), and the Twins have to throw out junk for game 2.

Our 3-4 in Randy Johnson and Jaret Wright is weak. Very weak. But we still have that offense.

Can Damon-Jeter-Abreu-Arod-Giambi-Sheffield-Matsui-Posada-Cano be beat? I mean... our #9 hitter right there is hitting .342! If we can make it past the 1st round crapshoot... the rest of the majors is going to have a hard time holding them back. Regardless if Randy Johnson is healthy or not. Having Mariano Rivera doesn't suck either.

Monday, September 25, 2006


ESPN decided to throw up some junk today.

Is this what sports journalism is coming to? I thank the world for sports blogs, and not just because I write a small one. I can click on my folder of 15 blogs and get the latest news from real analysts. This crap from ESPN is not even funny.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


It was pretty apparant today that the lower end of our bullpen is not a strength. Mariano Rivera. Scott Proctor. Mike Myers. And in some cases, Kyle Farnsworth. They are strengths.

Ron Villone? Not a strength. Ron Villone should not be on the postseason roster. He is useless. He has been completely unable to get runners out over the past month. It will be the utter failing of Joe Torre to put Villone on that roster.

So who should replace him?

We currently look to commit Mariano, Farns, Myers, Proctor and Bruney to 7 11 man playoff bullpen. That leaves two spots for Karstens, Rasner, Villone and Lidle. I think that Lidle's years will put him on the roster, leaving Darrell Rasner to take Villone's place.

Villone is a lefty. However, at this point in his career, his southpaw status has not found him success on the mound. He will be the Yankee's undoing if allowed on the postseason roster.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Comparing the Playoff Teams: Position Players

This is the first of a two part series where I will do a quick and dirty analysis of the four current playoff teams (Detroit, New York, Minnesota, Oakland) in the American League. At present, it seems like these four have their races locked up. I will rank each position and list their VORP.

First Base

1. Justin Morneau (Minnesota) 50.4 VORP
2. Jason Giambi (New York) 45.7 VORP
3. Nick Swisher (Oakland) 23 VORP
4. Sean Casey / Chris Shelton / Whomever (Detroit) 5 VORP

Pretty straight forward here. The Yankees and Twins have a big edge at the big position. Strangely, the National League is much stronger in this department, with Pujols, Howard, Berkman, Delgado, and others. The Yankees need Jason Giambi to be himself for the playoffs, and overcome his wrist injury.

Second Base

1. Robinson Cano (New York) 38.9 VORP
2. Luis Castillo (Minnesota) 18.4 VORP
3. Mark Ellis (Oakland) 5.6 VORP
4. Omar Infante / Placido Polanco (Detroit) ~8 VORP

I put Ellis over the Detroit duo purely out of defense. Ellis may be the best defensive 2nd baseman in the American League. The Yankees may have their biggest edge at this position. Especially considering that Cano not only missed a month and a half but also didn't start hitting like a Monster until June.


1. Derek Jeter (New York) 74 VORP (leads all playoff teams)
2. Carlos Guillen (Detroit) 59 VORP
3. Jason Barlett (Minnesota) 20 VORP
4. Marco Scutaro (Oakland) 6.1 VORP

Another great position for the Yankees. He's the MVP, and he is damn good. We have a 7 win advantage over Oakland at shortstop! Damn, how Bobby Crosby has fallen.

Third Base

1. Alex Rodriguez (New York) 44 VORP
2. Eric Chavez (Oakland) 12 VORP
3. Nick Punto (Minnesota) 14 VORP
4. Brandon Inge (Detroit) 7.8 VORP

I cannot list Eric Chavez below Nick Punto. After a really hot start, Chavez has really looked bad. Really bad. But his defense is still Eric Chavez-like and he has some real power potential when he is on. Still, the Yankees hold another commanding edge here... with even more potential. Interestingly, all four of these guys (all right... the three besides Arod) are absolutely stellar defenders.


1. Joe Mauer (Minnesota) 60 VORP
2. Jorge Posada (New York) 33.9 VORP
3. Pudge Rodriguez (Detroit) 16 VORP
4. Jason Kendall (Oakland) 11.7 VORP

In addition to being four of the more offensively valueable catchers in the American League, all four of these guys deserve a gold glove. Minnesota probably holds one of the two real advantages at a position over the Yankees, and that's not a knock on Jorge Posada. Joe Mauer having a season to rival some of Piazza's, Dickey's, and Yogi's.

Right Field

1. Bobby Abreu (New York) 41 VORP
2. Matt Cuddyer (Minnesota) 31 VORP
3. Milton Bradley (Oakland) 13 VORP - Limited time
4. Magglio Ordonez (Detroit) 20 VORP

Magglio Ordonez has been batting sub-.200 for quite some time now. The Tigers have to be regretting that stupid little contract. Bobby Abreu was one hell of a pickup. Bernie Williams has a VORP of 10 right now.


1. Johnny Damon (New York 44 VORP
2. Torri Hunter (Minnesota) 25 VORP
3. Curtis Granderson (Detroit) 20 VORP
4. Mark Kotsay (Oakland) 7.6 VORP

Boy, Kotsay was a budding star a few years ago. His offense and defense have been really hurt by (I believe) back problems. Glad the Yankees didn't trade for him now? I should be the first to admit that I wanted Kotsay over Damon. Damon has certainly earned his pay this season, being roughly equal to Alex Rodriguez in value. Hopefully he'll strut his stuff in the postseason.

Left Field

1. Marcus Thames / Craig Monroe (Detroit) 19 / 9 VORP
2. Jay Payton (Oakland) 10 VORP
3. Melky Cabrera (New York) 10 VORP
4. Who the hell knows (Minnesota) 0 VORP

I have to give the nod to Payton over Cabrera purely because of defense. Oakland has three bonafide centerfielders playing the three outfield positions, and Payton is no slouch. I'll take Melky next year though.

Designated Hitter

1. Frank Thomas (Oakland) 45 VORP
2. Hideki Matsui / Gary Sheffield / Bernie Willaims (New York) ??? VORP ~30
3. Marcus Thames / Craig Monroe (Detroit) 19 / 9 VORP
4. Phil Nevin? (Minnesota) 0 VORP

Minnesota and Detroit really feel the lack of a 9th hitter in the lineup. We really don't know what we will get out of our DH this postseason, but we can't expect better than Frank Thomas. Buy low worked out well this time. Thomas may be the best overall hitter entering the playoffs. Too bad he can't do more than truffle shuffle to 1st base or around the bases.


New York Yankees (5 1st place, 3 2nd place, 1 3rd place) 331.6 VORP
Minnesota (2 1st place, 3 2nd place, 2 3rd place, 2 4th place) 218.8 VORP
Detroit (1 1st place, 1 2nd place, 2 3rd place, 3 4th place) 163 VORP
Oakland (1 1st place, 2 2nd place, 3 3rd place, 3 4th place) (134 VORP)

Looking at these numbers, it's hard to imagine the Tigers or Athletics getting much support at all from their position players throughout the playoffs. Luckily, they both have great pitching staffs. Still, the overall Yankee superiority here is absolutely amazing. We have huge advantages at 2b, 3b, SS, RF and CF. The other positions aren't bad either.

Now to see how the pitching staffs shape up... tomorrow. Good night.

3 of 4

This weekend sucked. It sucked because we lost 3 of 4 games against the Red Sox. I'm going to do my thing and blame Joe Torre, yet I must acknowledge the terrible spot he was put in. Blame the two rainouts. Torre handled them about as poorly as you could, but this weekend makes him look worse.

At 1:05 Saterday, the Yankees kicked off a marathon 4 games in 36 hours. It was hell. We all know beforehand that barring a complete game from Randy and Wang, Sunday was going to be one hell of a pieced together day. With an 11.5 game lead, Torre had a great opportunity:

Don't give a shit.

Although we were facing the rival Red Sox, these games were 100% meaningless. Joe Torre had the opportunity to pitch his big guns only once or twice during these four games and let Sean Henn, Octavio Dotel, Jose Veras and T.J. Beam take the brunt of the damage. What did he do?

The Yankee bullpen pitched 13.1 innings during this series. Brian Bruney pitched two. Scott Proctor pitched three. Ron Villone pitched 2.1. Farnsworth pitched two. Myers pitched two.

Beam appeared once but did not get an out (he clearly needs more time in the minors). Dotel pitched just one inning. Veras pitched just one. Sean Henn didn't even get in to a game!

The result? Our bullpen is taxed beyond belief. We're going to rely on Rasner to go some innings today, because there is no one to take the ball for him.

There is one advantage however of playing so many games in so little time. Torre can now set the postseason rotation however he wishes. However, it also screws up the Yankee pitching rotation. We won't have any starter ready to go on Wednesday.

Possibilies include Villone, Henn, Lidle (who is currently injured), and one more. I know it's a major long shot, but Phil Hughes is currently on the 40 man roster. It won't happen because he stopped throwing two weeks ago... but you never know.

I'm betting on Lidle.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ron Villone

Paul Quantrill. Steve Karsay. Tom Gordon. Ron Villone.

What do they all have in common? They pitched really well, so Joe Torre used them too much and ruined their arms.

Earlier this season, I complained that Torre was only using Villone in blowout situations. He needed to use Villone in more important situations, over some of the poorer Yankee relievers like Tanyon Sturtze. Torre took awhile, but eventually decided that Villone's sub-2.50 ERA pointed to good things. Unfortunately, Torre does nothing in moderation.

Things started to unravel one month ago today. Villone was among the best relievers in baseball, pitching over 60 innings with a 2.23 ERA. Villone came in and gave up two runs in two innings, throwing 42 pitches against Baltimore. Including that appearance, Villone would then throw a total of 114 over the next three days. He would never be the same.

Since that 42 pitch outing, Villone has pitched just 12 innings, giving up 19 earned runs. His ERA has risen to 4.50. He had given up just 16 earned runs prior to that outing all year.

It's official. Ron Villone's arm is now completely useless. Good job Torre. We have lost an effective lefty weapon in the playoffs. If Jaret Wright goes 5 innings and the game is tied in Game 4 of the ALCS, we no longer have an effective 2 innings in Ron Villone. But he will be on the postseason roster... which a role just large enough to cause major problems for the Yankees.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Place Your Bets

All right. The next two days are going to be filled with absolutely insane days of baseball, and I couldn't be more happy. 4 games in 2 days against the Boston Red Sox? Let's do some handicapping.

Over/Unders Mine

2.5 Yankee wins? Over
1.5 Scott Proctor Appearances? Over
1.5 Ron Villone Appearances? Under
.5 Kyle Farnsworth Appearances? Over
.5 Mariano Rivera Appearance? Over
5 Innings for Jaret Wright? Under
2 Home runs for Alex Rodriguez? Under
6 Strikeouts for Randy Johnson? Over
20 total runs for the Yankees? Over
20 total runs for the Red Sox? Under
1 Game for Gary Sheffield? Over
.346 for Jeter by the end of the series? Over

Series MVP? Alex Rodriguez
Series Bust? Gary Sheffield (if he plays)
Series Suprise? Henn and Beam out of the bullpen
Bullpener Abused? Proctor
Best Starting Pitcher? Randy Johnson

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

And Now it Gets Scary

Hideki Matsui had a modest night - reaching base 5 times in 5 attempts - in his return. He appears to have not missed a step, and John Flaherty even suggests that he could come back stronger, due to the time spent working out his right arm and wrist.

This lineup looked nasty before Matsui came back. It looked like the best lineup since the 1999 Indians. Now? It's got to inspire some serious fear.

But where should Matsui bat? The question is really: "What Matsui will we be seeing?". Matsui has had some above average years and one excellent year. In 2004, Matsui was one of the best corner outfielders in the game, batting .298/.390/.522.

Matsui stayed focused that year. When Matsui is on, he hits big fly balls. Long doubles and home runs. He walks a lot. He does not hit the ball on the ground much. In 2004, Matsui's G/F ratio was .95. In 2003 and 2005, it was 1.86 and 1.20.

Matsui is up there with Arod, Abreu, Jeter, and Giambi if he is on. If he's hitting fly balls, may God help the American League. If he's not on, Matsui is probably not a better hitter than Posada or Cano. It will be up to Joe Torre to determine where to bat Matsui. If he is hitting a lot of groundballs, it could be very dangerous to put him directly behind Jason Giambi. Matsui grounded in to 25 double plays in 2003.

Gary Sheffield took batting practice today. Word is he could be game ready in less than a week. Now that will be fun to watch.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Derek Jeter and the MVP

As the inevitability of a Yankee AL East Title this year becomes clear, the dialogue among sports pundits has shifted toward the AL MVP race. Derek Jeter, the clear Yankee favorite, is currently favored, and a lot of people do not like that. To paraphrase some arguements (click on the link for the real article)

David Ortiz:

"I hit home runs and RBIs. I bat 4th. Derek Jeter is a great #2 hitter, but he doesn't help the team as much as me. It's a travesty. Waaa. I wish I hit in the Yankee lineup. I'm a bitch"

Several Red Sox fanboy writers:

"Derek Jeter is only being favored because he is a middle infielder. It is an idiotic bias against the designated hitters and 1st basemen of the world."

Essentially the gripe is "Ortiz should have won last year on a false premise, so a Yankee shouldn't win again!"

I'm not going to go into a giant statistical breakdown of the MVP candidates. SG over at RLYW did an amazing job of that. The writers have decided that for some reason MVP means playoffs. Among all playoff teams in the American league, Derek Jeter leads AL candidates in Runs Created (122), Batting Runs (54), VORP (73.4), WPA (5.62) and Win Shares [updated 9/4/2006] (27).

You have to hit extremely well from a DH or 1b position in order to outhit a well hitting shortstop. It is why Alex Rodriguez's career was amazing for the first ten years. He was putting up Hank Aaron numbers at a very demanding defensive position. Derek Jeter not only has been quite an amazing hitter, but he has also manned a very difficult defensive position. Sure, Ortiz has lots of RBIs and home runs. But Derek Jeter has position.

There is no doubt in my mind that Derek Jeter, on September 11th 2006, is a no brainer for the MVP. He has plenty of time to lose it, especially to Joe Mauer. Jermaine Dye has a shot, but as RLYW points out, his defense this year has been atrocious.

Oh... and fire Torre.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New York Post Article

Two interesting tidbits from the Post:

The biggest question facing Philip Hughes when this season began concerned his ability to endure pitching all year. His first two pro seasons ended with injury, most disturbing two shoulder ailments last year that limited him to 91 1/3 innings. The Yanks were going to consider 2006 a success if they simply could get their top pitching prospect to make all his starts.

Hughes has done so much more than that. He not only has gone wire-to-wire, but he is finishing stronger than he began. He struck out 13, walked one and permitted one run Wednesday in a Double-A playoff opener. Since July 1, Hughes is 6-0 with a 1.32 ERA with 12 walks and 84 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings. Before the playoffs, the Yanks were limiting Hughes to no more than five innings.

Still, it is impressive that in his last 12 starts, only once did he permit more than one earned run. So impressive, in fact, that one AL executive who saw him pitch in this period proclaimed, "Philip Hughes is the best pitching prospect in baseball. He has a chance to be at the level of [Minnesota's Francisco] Liriano and [Seattle's Felix] Hernandez. He's that good, one of the best I've seen in awhile. He strikes people out, doesn't walk anybody and has dominant stuff."

Nothing unusual here. As Yankee fans, we've been attuned to Hughes' praise to the point that it seems routine. The more interesting part of the article:

The Yanks are heading to the playoffs where they can expect to see the best pitchers. But that might not be all bad news. The Yanks have faced seven of the pitchers who ranked in the top 10 in AL ERA going into the weekend. In those 13 games, Johan Santana, Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay, Scott Kazmir, Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and Barry Zito had combined to go 3-6 with a 5.28 ERA and .311 batting average against. Now timing is everything. The Santana the Yanks faced in mid-April is nowhere near the pitcher he has been in the second half.

This affirm what I feel Yankee fans knew deep down all along. It's a relatively meaningless statistic, but we've beaten up on really good pitchers. It bodes well for us in the playoffs.

Trenton, Out

Despite winning Game 1 on the back of Phil Hughes, the Trenton Thunder have lost their third straight game facing elimination in the Eastern League playoffs.

Matt DeSalvo left after a scoreless 1st with an injury. Despite a valiant effort by Jason Jones and Charlie Manning, the team's season came to a close after a walk off home run in the 10th inning by Portland's Brandon Moss.

Staten Island won their first game against the Brooklyn Cyclones tonight. George Kontos pitched 6 innings of 2 run ball, followed by three scoreless innings by SI's bullpen. Mark Melancon saved the game, striking out all three batters he faced for a 5-2 victory. Kontos might be my favorite pitcher from the draft this year. Tim Norton starts tomorrow night.

Additions cannot be made to Staten Island's roster until next series, so Hideki Matsui is likely finished with his rehab stint. You'll see him in the Bronx pretty quickly. Probably at the end of this road trip.

Gary Sheffield was examined by a doctor yesterday, and was giving a clean bill of health. The doctor said (to paraphrase) "I couldn't be more pleased with the recovery that his wrist made". Sheffield hit about 40 balls off a tee, and is ready to begin batting practice. He could be back very soon.

It will be a challenge for Joe Torre to manage the upcoming situation that he will be presented with. How will he fill out his lineup card with so many qualified veteran position players on his roster? Which bench players will stay behind? Will the young pitchers have a chance to make the roster?

Joe, please make the right decision. I am reading Joel Sherman's amazing book: The Birth of a Dynasty. He describes Torre making all sorts of controversial and difficult decisions regarding veterans and rookies. Back in the day, when Torre was a great manager. Maybe working deep into the postseason will restore that luster?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Try Something Different

This Yankee club has had a serious problem against left handed pitching this season, in part due to the big hole created by Gary Sheffield, and replacing him with the left handed Bobby Abreu. We added a left handed centerfielder, and came to rely seriously upon a left handed second baseman. Only Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter remain as serious right handed threats.

The solution? Shake things up! We're 9 games up, why the hell not? At the very least we rest a few of our starters. It's not like Adam Loewan hasn't dominated our "A" lineup.

Damon CF - Cabrera LF - Jeter SS - Posada C - Rodriguez 3b - Cano 2b - Williams DH - Wilson 1b - Thompson RF

Only two left handers in the whole damn lineup. It can't hurt to have Giambi and Abreu available off the bench.

Class of '06

As Staten Island begins their playoff run today, I think that it would be a good time and reflect upon the 2006 draft class. How did it shape up? Were expectations met? What can we expect next year? Yankee fans should be very happy with the answers to these questions.

2005 was supposed to be a great draft year. Between J.B. Cox, C.J. Henry, Austin Jackson, Bret Gardner, and a talented set of college starters which included Lance Pendleton, Zach Kroenke, Alan Horne, and sudden ace reliever Josh Schmidt added to an international class that included studs Jose Tabata and Ramiro Pena.

Well, one year later this group of potential stars has turned out to be disappointing. Cox had a great year, but C.J. Henry and Austin Jackson did not perform well at Charleston, resulting in Henry's trade to Philadelphia. Kroenke flopped after an impressive debut in Staten Island, displaying how important strikeouts really are. Alan Horne disappointed at Tampa, while Pendleton missed the entire season with an injury. Outfielders Gardner and Tabata were solid despite injuries, while Ramiro Pena showed a complete lack of hitting ability.

All this proves one lesson: half-season numbers are not reliable. They can be very important, but in the long run they rarely hold up.

What happened this year?

1st round pick Ian Kennedy pitched just 2.2 innings for Staten Island after signing for just over 2 million dollars, allowing no runs. He will start Game 3 for Staten Island. His fellow first round pick Joba Chamberlain signed late for 1.1 million, and in doing so missed the entire minor league season. He is expected to consider winter ball, and is currently working out in Tampa.

The Yankee's next pick (after losing their 2nd round pick to Boston for Mike Myers) was 3rd rounder Zach McAllister. McAllister performed well in the Gulf Coast League, going 35 innings, striking out 28 while walking 12. His ERA was 3.09. If any lesson is learned by Zach Kroenke however, it is that McAllister's good but not great performance in the short season is a poor indicator of whatever may come.

McAllister was followed up by 5th rounder George Kontos. A failing college pitcher, Kontos was a big risk. But the Yankees listened to their scouts and Kontos thrived against wooden bats, going 78 innings while striking out 82, walking 19, and using his heavy 93 mph 2 seamer to allow just just 2.64 earned runs per 9. His partner in crime was Tim Norton, posting a nearly identical 2.60 ERA in 72.1 innings, striking out 83 and walking 14 (posting one of the better k/bb ratios in the minors). They start games 1 and 2 for Staten Island. They are certainly a fearsome duo.

These two college starters were followed by tough signs Dellin Betances and Mark Melancon in the 8th and 9th rounds. Betances absolutely dominated, posted an ERA under 1.20 in 23 innings, striking out 27. Melancon signed fairly late, resulting in him only pitching 6.2 innings, posting a 4.05 ERA and 6 strikeouts. Still, Melancon has inspired enough confidence to be crowned Staten Island's closer for the playoffs over Nick Peterson.

The Yankees drafted two more relievers in the 10th and 11th round, picking up Casey Erickson and Nick Peterson. Erickson flopped, post a 4.91 ERA in 29.1 innings after a hot start. Nick Peterson however excelled, posting a 2.06 ERA in 35 innings, striking out 51 while walking a very high 29. He is a big candidate for regression next year, with such poor control.

The Yankees drafted a black eye in the 12th, taking Daniel McCutchen. McCutchen, a college starter, was pretty impressive for Charleston (Staten Island's rotation was filled already), posting a 1.86 ERA in 29 innings, while striking out 29. Unfortunately, he tested positive for steroids. He is currently serving out his suspension. Who knows what to expect of him next year.

22 year olds Gabe Medina and Paul Patterson worked well out of Charleston's bullpen, posting ERAs of 2.97 and 3.72 in 30 and 36 innings. Medina managed to strike out 38 in his 30 innings. Both should be a part of a stellar Tampa bullpen next year with Mark Melancon and Nick Peterson.

Somehow, the Yankees got Sophmore Dave Robertson to sign out of the 17th round. Reports are it took only 600,000 dollars. Robertson has not pitched yet, but will bring his dynamic stuff to either Charleston or Tampa next year. He is a candidate for closer in Charleston, as he only pitched one season in college. His control problems will need to be fixed, but his stuff is first rate.

Position players Colin Curtis and Mitchel Hillgross enjoyed good first years. Hillgross lacked power, but managed to post a .352 OBP to go along with a slug% under .400. Curtis was better, batting .307 with a .358 OBP and .436 Slg%. Neither will hit a ton of home runs, but Curtis profiles to be a decent centerfielder. He'll be in Tampa next year. Hillgross may start in Charleston, depending upon where Ramiro Pena plays shortstop.

The international free agent market brought the Yankees Jesus Montero. This 16 year old catcher is called the best hitter to come out of Venezuela since Miguel Cabrera. He's a big guy though, at 6'3" 220 lbs at age 16. The Yankees intend on attempting to keep him at catcher, but a move to 1b or the outfield is not out of the question. He will either start at Charleston next year or with the short season Gulf Coast Yankees. Bet on Charleston.

My take? It was a great year, though not the absolutely mind blasting year that myself and other pundits were envisioning. When you take a step back and look at a lot of these draftees, you see a lot of candidates for regression. Nick Peterson isn't going anywhere with that many walks, and nor likely is Dave Robertson until he solves his college-age control problems. McAllister and Betances have looked stupendous, but both are very young and have a long way to go. If two of Kennedy, Chamberlain, Kontos, and Norton manage to excell in A ball enough to earn a promotion to Trenton, we should be very happy. Melancon looks great, but he isn't going to rise as fast as Cox did. Colin Curtis doesn't have the kind of upside that even Gardner did, although he may find a little more power.

In the end, this draft is not likely to outshine 2004 (Hughes, Garcia, Marquez, Brett Smith, Jason Jones, and Angel Reyes), although few ever will. It will however likely do better than the decent 2003 class (Clippard, Duncan, White, Beam, Karstens, Corona), and certainly better than the 2005 class. It is my personal belief that Kennedy, Kontos, Melancon, Curtis, and Montero will shape into good prospects next year, while the others fall off.

The Yankees due have one huge calculated advantage from the 2006 draft however. With the dominance of college talent, the cream should rise to the top fairly quickly. A solid college prospect will be ready for the majors in 2-3 years (instead of 4-5 years for a high schooler). By 2008-2009, the Yankee core will be needing replacements. Both the 2004 and 2006 draft class will be ready to fill in. Timing is everything. Good job Brian Cashman.

Jeff Karstens

Cory Lidle has been inconsistent. As Joe says "He could pitch you a complete game shutout, or he may not get out of the 2nd inning". Jaret Wright has not shown a consistent ability to go deep into games.

Maybe Jeff Karstens pitched his way toward the postseason roster last night? His stellar relief effort lowers his ERA to 3.42 in 23.2 innings.

Joe is probably going to make the wrong decision. I commented a lot earlier in the season about favoring veterans over better younger players. It's pretty clear, and will likely become more clear after the next few weeks, that Karstens is a better pitcher than Wright or Lidle. At the very least, hopefully he can make the roster as a long man.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Scott Proctor's abused arm has pitched more innings than any relief pitcher in baseball. To this day, he has thrown 89 of them. He has been very effective. Yet, Torre still decides to waste what few bullets he has remaining by pitching him meaningless innings.

The Yankees had the game won in the 8th inning tonight. With an 8 run lead, wouldn't Jose Veras, Brian Bruney, T.J. Beam, or Octavio Dotel be better options? I surely would love to see Bruney get some more innings under his belt, so a decision can be made about his playoff role. I would certainly love to see T.J. Beam get some confidence. But no. We saw Proctor. Again.

It's Playoff Time! (in the minor leagues)

The Trenton Thunder and the Staten Yankees are primed for the playoff hunt. Trenton begins today, while the Thunder will wait a few more games.

Phil Hughes, whose pitch limit has now been loosened to 100 pitches or 7 innings, takes the mound in game 1 against Portland. I feel sorry for Portland. Hughes led the Eastern League by a good margin with a 2.25 ERA and .91 WHIP (Thank you Travis from Pending Pinstripes for the stats). The Thunder have to feel pretty good going into the playoffs with him starting every fifth day. Hughes, barely 20 years old, is the youngest starting pitcher in the AA playoffs.

Hughes is followed tomorrow by 21 year-old Tyler Clippard. Clippard, despite the very rough first half, finished 7th in the league with a 3.35 ERA. He was first in the Eastern League with 175 strikeouts and 4th with 166 innings. Clippard, with no Hughian leash, showed some serious major league potential this season.

Non prospect Matt Childers starts 3rd, and the walk machine Matt DeSalvo or Chris Butto will likely start Game 4. The bullpen will be anchored by Scott Patterson, Jeff Kennard, and Charlie Manning. Justin Pope, the team's closer and bullpen anchor for most of the season, remains sidelined with an injury. No word yet on whether or not J.B. Cox will return from Havana in time for this series.

Staten Island gets to throw George Kontos (2.64 ERA, 78.1 innings, 82 K, 19 BB) and Tim Norton (2.60 ERA, 72 innings, 83 K, 14 BB) back to back, who will (likely) be followed by Angel Reyes (1.40 ERA, 64.1 innings, 61 K, 20 BB, and just a .89 WHIP). The team gets to throw their league best offense which includes Mitchell Hillgross, Colin Curtis, and Wilkens De La Rosa against whomever their challenger may be. Expect the reigning NY-Penn League champs to show up big time.

And now, back to the Bronx...

Update: Phil Hughes dominated Portland tonight, going 6 innings. He allowed one run, five hits, walked one and struck out 13. Trenton won the first game of the series 3-1.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What to do with Sheffield and Matsui

Rotoworld has been keeping everyone updated on the rehab statuses of Sheffield and Matsui. Sheffield should hopefully be cleared to bat within the week, and Matsui will spend awhile with the Trenton Thunder rehabbing. Matsui is eyeing September 12th as his debut, and Sheffield is likely to return the week after.

Both will have enough time to prove that they can hit following wrist injuries. Matsui should have an easier time, because his injured wrist has less pressure on it in a swing than Sheffield's (they both injured their left wrist). That doesn't even take into account Sheffield's crazy swing.

Matsui has a spot on this team right now. Torre has stated that he plans on DHing Matsui for awhile. That means that Giambi plays first (see prior post) and Melky stays in the field.

Sheffield has been taking fielding practice at 1st. He has played the infield before and could potentially spend time there. Think of him as a better hitting Craig Wilson. Melky Cabrera will sit.

Sheffield may not be likable or a great fielder, but the man can hit. He was a top-10 hitter in the AL last year and argueably the best or 2nd best the year before. Even if it means giving the DH spot to Sheffield permanently, he has to be in this lineup (if he can hit in the 2 weeks following injury, during which time we hopefully won't have any consequence to losing a game). Matsui is less essential, but for a lot of reasons (Japan's Media, prior RBI numbers, trust), he'll probably end up playing more than Sheffield. But hey, these are two great hitters.

What should the lineup be? I'd say Damon-Jeter-Abreu-Rodriguez-Giambi-Sheffield (DH)-Cano-Posada-Matsui against right handed pitchers and Damon-Jeter-Abreu-Rodriguez-Cano-Sheffield(1b)-Posada-Bernie(DH)-Cabrera against lefties.

Thing is, Matsui won't be platooned. He has a reputation of hitting better against lefties (in 2005 he led the league in hitting against lefties. In 03, 04, and 06 his OPS dropped 100 points against them), and the Tokyo media will go crazy. Giambi may be more likely to be platooned, to rest him.

It'll be a challenge, and hopefully Torre does not mess it up.

Jason Giambi

Giambi is a weird player. He came into this season with a solid reputation of becoming a much poorer hitter as a designated hitter. Did that hold up?

Giambi is hitting .251/.412/.569 on the season. His defense at 1b is absolutely terrible, but he's played 59 games at 1st and 64 games at DH.

While playing 1st, Giambi hits .292/.462/.624. While DHing, Giambi hits .218/.369/.524.

It seems pretty clear that Giambi is a much better hitter while playing 1st, despite the inferior defense. But my question is: Do these stats mean anything?

Giambi often DHs against left handed pitching. Craig Wilson and Andy Phillips have made a lot of starts at 1st against left handed pitching. Giambi hits .203/.353/.475 against lefties and .271/.435/.608 against righties.

When Matsui and Sheffield return, maybe the Yankees should consider tossing Gary Sheffield (2005's top hitter against left handed pitching) at 1st or DH during the playoffs instead of Giambi? Giambi would make one hell of a threat off the bench.

On that note, I post this and start working on the "What to do with Matsui and Sheffield" post.

All Cylinders

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I've just moved in to my dorm room for the coming school. year. My class load is pretty difficult, but I should still be able to fit in a lot of updates here.

The Yankees called up Sean Henn (now a full time relief pitcher) and infielder Andy Cannizaro. Cannizaro is a career minor leaguer who managed to hit .276/.367/.380 for Columbus.

He won't see any meaningful playing time (although his .361/.426/.484 line against left handed pitching may make him more useful than say, Nick Green, to a postseason roster), but Cannizaro is a hardworker who will thoroughly enjoy this callup. He was a fan favorite in Columbus.

I've been critisizing Joe Torre all year, and despite his shortcomings, I'm having a hard time doing so right now. He has been still making the same mistakes that he has all along - keeping Jaret Wright around (you know that he is going to make the postseason roster), abusing Proctor and Villone (thankfully at least Proctor is still functional), and the like. But, as evidenced by last night's victory, this team is absolutely steamrolling right now. Even though we were being dominated by an inferior Luke Hudson, the team fought off pitch after pitch to make him work. As the Royals stretched Hudson out to 117 pitches, they were forced to bring in their terrible middle relief. As the Yankees always seem to do, they took down their weak underbelly.

Its a great formula. In 2002's Moneyball, the Oakland A's management told Michael Lewis how much they valued taking a lot of pitches. The Yankees have built this team around the same philosophy. Even Cano is begining to do so. Top-down, this is one of the greater hitting lineups that baseball has seen since the Cleveland Indians carried Thome, Ramirez, Lofton, Vizquel, Justice, Alomar, and others to the World Series.

In general, the Yankees are simply playing great fundamental baseball. Now, I don't use the big "F" work like most pundits. The Yankees don't bunt, steal, hit and run, and do all the funky little things that make games exciting but, despite popular appeal, don't lead to more winning when employed on a broad scale. The Yankees get on base (.364 OBP, by far highest in the league), are getting their hits (tied for the league lead with a .285 batting average), not making extra outs (79.9% Stolen Base rate, 2nd in the AL, 116 GIDP, 7th in the AL) and wearing out pitchers (20732 pitches seen, 2nd in the AL, 3.80 per PA). Our pitchers are keeping baserunners off the bases (.325 OBA, 4th in the AL), and not allowing extra base hits (.407 SLGA, 2nd in the AL). Jorge and friends have kept runners from running all over us, catching 43 (1st in the league) of 143 potential stealers. Our fielders turn the 2nd highest percentage of balls in play into outs (71.29%, 2nd to Detroit) in the AL. Despite scoring 776 runs (1st in the league), we have not relied on the long ball (173, 5th in the AL)

Simply enough, the Yankees are efficient. We get outs in extra places, and prevent outs in others. We take the extra base, whether through larceny or long balls.

It's hard to say bad things about a manager whose team is doing all of this. Hopefully his bullpen management doesn't cost us in the playoffs.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Pitching and Defense

Pitching and defense are said to be keys to the playoffs. Looking at the teams who have gone far in the postseason - the 2005 White Sox, the 2004 Red Sox, the dynasty Yankees, and the 2002 Angels - it's hard to refute that. I have a bad habit of listening to sports talk radio, and all I hear is the constant "The Yankees have no pitching" bull. Let's take a look at the numbers.

First, defense. The Yankees did not expect this to be a strong point entering the season. At all. An outfield with Matsui and Sheffield, an infield with Jason Giambi, and the poor 2005s of Rodriguez, Jeter (despite the gold glove) and Cano gave the Yankees the 3rd worst defense in the league entering this season (The Reds and Devil Rays being behind them).

Well, with Melky Cabrera, Bobby Abreu, and huge improvements from Cano, Jeter, Posada, and a decent season (despite the errors) from Alex Rodriguez, the tides sure have turned. It also doesn't hurt that Giambi has been pushed away from the field recently. The Yankees are 6th in the majors (2nd in the AL behind Detroit) in the ultimate defensive statistic - Defensive Efficiency Rating. The Yankee defense has converted .7120% of balls in play into outs.

Now pitching. The Yankees boast a 4.38 ERA - good for 5th in the AL. But the question is begged - what have Yankee additions and subtractions done to the team's pitching prowless?

Many innings of Aaron Small, Shawn Chacon, Scott Erickson, Tanyon Sturtze, Sidney Ponson, and T.J. Beam have thrown off the overall Yankee pitching numbers. Right now, going into the playoffs, the Yankees will likely throw Wang, Mussina, Johnson, and Lidle at the opposing team. These three have combined for 693 innings and given up 321 runs, for a 4.18 ERA.

That mark would give us the 4th best in the AL, behind Detroit, Oakland, and Minnesota.

What about our bullpen? We'll be going into the postseason with Mariano, Farnsworth, Proctor, Villone, Myers, Dotel, Bruney, and Wright. Those guys have combined for 439 innings and 179 runs for a 3.66 ERA. Eliminate Wright and they combine for a 3.32 ERA, easily matching the storied bullpens of Minnesota and Detroit.

Add all this to the league-best Yankee offense, and we're looking at a serious postseason threat.

And to best honest... does the American League look that scary? I wouldn't want to face Johan Santana twice in a 5 game series... but besides that do Detroit and Oakland scare you? Chicago? It's good to have Boston and Anaheim out of the race.