Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Prospect Profile: Colin Curtis (#23)

Age: 21
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 204 lbs
Drafted: 4th Round in 2006 out of Arizona State University
Position: Centerfield
Bats: Left

Tools: Curtis is an excellent athlete. His range in centerfield is superb; he is probably the fourth fastest prospect in the organization behind Brett Gardner, Justin Christian, and Austin Jackson. He has an excellent approach to the strike zone (walking more times than he struck out in college). His power is very weak, although he's not Joey Gathright. He arm is strong for a centerfielder. His smooth swing and mature approach will allow him to hit for high averages in the major leagues.

Performance: Curtis played at Arizona State for three years, with a great deal of success. In 173 games, he hit .328/.426/.460 with 118 BBs, 107 Ks, 13 HR and 40 2bs. He stole 50 bases. He transitioned well to the pitching-dominated Staten Island Yankees, hitting .311/.361/.437 (including a 3 game stint with the GCL Yankees). He only stole 5 bases in 47 games. He cut his K rate down, striking out only 19 times (walking 13 times). His defense matched his reputation. He helped lead an excellent Staten Island team to the Ny-Penn League Championship.

Outlook: Curtis is basically the outfield version of Mitch Hilligoss, with a little more athleticism. He is about as safe a 4th round pick as they come. He will probably never develop much of a home run swing, but is solid in all other aspects of the game. He should move quickly, in a similar way that we saw Brett Gardner move this year. He will start the year in Tampa, and if he does well he will end it in Trenton. We could see him in New York in September of 2008. He lacks the ability to be a star, but his plate discipline and athleticism will ensure him to be at least a major league bench player some day.

Grades: Ceiling C+, Health A-, Chance of Reaching Majors 50%. Comparison: Dave Roberts.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Prospect Profile: Mitch Hilligoss (#25)

Age: 21
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200 lbs
Drafted: 6th round in 2006 out of Purdue
Position: Shortstop/Third Base
Bats: Right

Tools: The only tool that Hilligoss lacks is power. He has an incredibly efficient swing, which will result in high batting averages throughout his career. It is quick, mechanically sound, and he compliments it with superior strike zone judgement. A college scout once called him "The best pure hitter I have ever seen". That said, for all the praise he profiles to hit less than 10 home runs in a season, slugging near .400. His defense is excellent at shortstop, even though he was moved to 3rd base temporarily for the short season. His arm is especially strong, and he is quite the athlete.

Performance: In three college seasons, hit he .378/.421/.521, with a 57/45 K/BB ratio and 12 in 163 games. He stole 49 bases over that time. He had mixed results in Staten Island, hitting .292/.357/.352 in a strong pitchers league. He hit 3rd for Staten Island for the whole season, racking up 36 RBIs. Pinstripes Plus labeled him the best hitter in the short season.

Outlook: Hilligoss's outlook is muddled. His three extensive seasons in college have him earmarked for Tampa next season, with the possibility of a quick promotion to Trenton. There have been strong rumors that he will be converted to catcher. I can certainly understand this, considering his compact frame and light bat. I can't see Hilligoss being useful as a 3rd baseman, where he played in many of the his Staten Island games, due to the lack of power. That said, he could certainly put some muscle on and acquire Boggs-like power. His plate discipline and athletic build are a strong combination, which will at least assure him a major league bench spot one day.

Grades: Ceiling C+, Health A-, Chance of Reaching Majors 50%, Comparison: Craig Counsell

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Birds Win

Baseball is an inherently unpredictable game. A level of parity exists in the sport that does not exist in the NBA or NFL. There is a strong level of parity in the NHL, but the best team still wins the vast majority of the time. Baseball is unique in that the difference between the best team and the worst team is about 20% in winning percentage.

I predicted every single playoff series wrong. I expected the Dodgers and Padres to beat the Mets and Cardinals, and then predicted a Mets victory in 6 games. I predicted a Yankee sweep of the Tigers and a Twins victory in 4 over the Athletics, and then I predicted the Athletics to win a dramatic game 7 against the Tigers. Even worse, I predicted a total domination series for the Tigers against the Cardinals, barely allowing a run in four games.

But things happened. Role players excelled. Pitchers were cracked. In the end, the Cardinals played significantly better than expected, and the Tigers gave them the opportunity to do so. I will wonder for a long time whether or not the long layoff killed the Tiger's momentum.

The offseason has officially begun. In 13 days, the free agents hit the market.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Maz out, Donny In

As you've all probably heard by now, Lee Mazzili will not be coming back as the Yankee's bench coach. Don Mattingly will.

I do not profess to know much about the inner workings of the Yankee coaching staff. No one outside of the small circle of Yankee coaches and players does. However, this seems like an obvious step to set up the Yankee legend and 3 year hitting coach for a managerial job, and send a message to Torre (Maz was one of Torre's boys).

By all accounts, Mattingly was an excellent hitting coach. By all accounts he is very popular in the clubhouse. More importantly, Mattingly never played under Joe Torre. He played under managers like Billy Martin, Buck Showwalter, and Bucky Dent. He may have his own distinct philosophy of how to run a baseball team. This organization needs a change from the current philosophy.

I wonder who will take over as hitting coach.

Prospect Profile: Cody Ehlers (#25)

Age: 24 (25 in April)
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 185 lbs
Drafted: 11th Round in 2003 out of the University of Missouri
Bats: Left

Tools: Cody is a rare small body 1st baseman. While not fast, he has quick reactions and glove work. His arm is strong (he was used as a pitcher on rare occassions in college) and accurate. He lacks slugging power, although has excellent bat control to both gaps. Mostly due to size he does not profile to hit a ton of home runs. His plate discipline is absolutely stellar, showing a mature and systematic approach to the plate. He never gets rattled, hitting very well with runners in scoring position.

Performance: Cody had a mixed college career. He stayed on for four years at Missouri. His freshman and junior years were not strong, but the other two absolutely were. He found his home run stroke as a senior, batting .364/.460/.693/ with 18 home runs (equal to 47 over 162 games). After being drafted, he faltered in short season ball, hitting below .200. Ehlers showed enough to the front office however to bring him back, initially placing him on the Trenton spring training roster. He spent the season in Charleston, posting solid numbers. He was promoted to Tampa late in the season, where he was slow to adjust. But adjust he did, hitting .298/.375/.487 in the extreme pitchers league (suppresses offense by 12%), with 18 home runs and 108 RBIs, while playing excellent defense. He was named Tampa's MVP.

Outlook: Ehlers now faces the challenge of AA. I believe he will do very well there. Hitters relying on raw tools and free swings are usually the ones who die out in AA. Ehlers succeeds more upon excellent mechanics and judgement than tools. He doesn't have a lot of room for error, as 2007 will be his age 25 season. With any luck, he'll be on the 40 man roster in 2008, just an injury away from the majors. Ehlers doesn't project to hit more than 20 home runs, so his starting ability at 1st is questionable, but his solid defense and ability to get on base could give him an opportunity to have a solid career.

Grades: Ceiling C, Health A-, Chance of Reaching Majors 45%. Comparison: Kevin Millar.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Prospect Profile: Tim Battle (#26)

Age: 21
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180 lbs
Drafted: 3rd round out of High School in 2003
Bats: Right

Tools: Battle is all about tools. He has the ability to hit for power, take walks, run like the wind, and throw a cannon. The downside? He strikes out... a lot. Battle illustrates the difference between great walk taking ability and great plate discipline. Battle knows how to take a pitch for a walk, but he does not know how to manipulate the count to drive a ball. Instead, he takes far too many pitches, gets into bad counts, and swings and misses for the strikeout. He has Mike Cameron-like tools. He just needs to learn how to use it.

Performance: The only reason that Battle is not higher up on this list is that he has consistently not performed at the A- level in three years. He came closest in 2005 when he put up a .259/.335/.455 line. His raw power and walking ability were offset by his 195 strikeouts in 134 games. He cut down on the Ks in 2006, but his raw patience and power suffered at the same time, and he still struck out 140 times in the same playing time.

Outlook: I am pessimistic about Battle. On the surface, his ability to make more contact is a big leap forward. Unfortantely, he lost his ability to drive the ball. Battle certainly has the ability to be a late bloomer, but I wouldn't count on it. He will probably start the season in Charleston, marking his 4th season below Tampa. He is no longer a young toolsy kid who has an excuse. At least his defense is excellent.

Grades: Ceiling A, Health B-, Chance of Reaching Majors 5%. Comparison: Mike Cameron

Prospect Profile: Francisco Castillo (#27)

Age: 20 (just turned it this month)
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: International Free Agent out of the D.R. in 2005
Position: Starting Pitcher
Throws: R

Stuff: Castillo has plenty of it. He throws a moving fastball at 95 mph. He throws it with smooth delivery with some deception to it. He throws a plus slider to compliment it, and is working on a changeup. Overall, everything he throws is very raw and will likely improve as he ages/.

Command: Castillo, being so raw, needs to do some serious work on the command of his fastball. He walked more than a batter every three innings over his past two seasons in the minors. He can blow the 95 mph heat by A ball batters, but will need to locate it to beat more advanced ones. He commands his slider better than his fastball, but both are very raw.

Outlook: Castillo is a very hard pitcher to predict, purely because he is so young and inexperienced. Castillo will likely start the season in Charleston, and will do his best to mature his command and changeup. He is still very young with very little minor league experience under his belt, so he has time to make mistakes. Scout.com has speculated that Castillo is destined for the bullpen, where his two excellent pitches could make him a good setup man. It is also suggested that with age and shorter outing his fastball could climb a few mph higher.

Grades: Ceiling A, Health B, Chance of reaching majors 10%, Comparison: To be honest, I don't know. He's too raw.

Prospect Profile: David Robertson (#28)

Age: 21
Height: 5'11
Weight: 175 lbs
Drafted: 17th Round out of U. Alabama in 2006
Position: Relief Pitcher
Throws: Right

Stuff: David Robertson is on this list purely out of stuff. He throws both a 2 seamer and a 4 seamer in the mid 90s very consistently. He also throws a plus power slider in the mid 80s, along with an average cut fastball. The movement on all of his pitches is excellent. In his 127.2 college innings Robertson struck out 170 batters.

Command: This is where Robertson falters. In those same college innings, Robertson managed to walk 65. Scouts believe that the walking is not resulting from wildness but from nibbling. A transition to wood bats could help him immensely (similar to what the transition did to George Kontos), as he will be able to use the inside third of the plate to his advantage. Still, his control is what keeps him from being on the level of the other two Yankee big time relief prospects Mark Melancon and J.B. Cox.

Outlook: Robertson signed too late in 2006 to play in the minor leagues. Prior to signing, he absolutely dominated the Cape Cod League, earning playoff MVP honors. Robertson pitched 15 innings against the elite college hitters, striking out 15 while not allowing a hit or walk. This is significant because Robertson absolutely dominated wooden bats, and shined when the pressure was most severe (He struck out his final 6 batters to win the title). I think that Robertson may start in Charleston purely because of the loaded Tampa pitching staff, but he could be pushed up too. 2007 will be a telling year for him. If he can control his walks, Robertson could be an elite closer prospect in the minor leagues.

Grades: Ceiling A-, Health B, Chance of reaching majors 15%. Comparison: Ferdnando Rodney.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Rotoworld recently had a little blurb up about the Yankees and Gary Sheffield. Looks like it is pretty likely that they will pick up his option and trade him. I think this is a great idea.

Gary Sheffield's value is high. He is a strong power hitting right handed corner outfielder who has only one year left on his contract. He has a strong reputation as an RBI guy. The Cubs, Giants, Astros, and Texas Rangers are all potential trade targets.

Who would he be traded for?

The Texas Rangers may be willing to give up Mark Teixeira in a package revolving around Sheffield, but it would probably require a top line pitching prospect like Tyler Clippard. I'd do Sheffield + Clippard for Teixeira in an instant, but I doubt it would be that simple. Teixeira would be under our control for the next three years. He is a right handed power bat to replace Sheffield and play an excellent 1st base, entering his prime years.

The Astros might throw in one of their better prospects for Sheff. Jason Hirsh or Hunter Pence come to mind. We might be able to trade him straight up for Brad Lidge too. I would do that swap any day of the week. Lidge had a bad year, but he has the potential to be absolutely astonishing.

The Cubs probably would give us Guzman or Veal for Sheffield. I can't see us getting Pie or Hill though.

The Giants don't have a lot of tradable assets. Matt Cain isn't going anywhere, although Brad Hennessy might.

I would also look toward the Mariners, Dodgers, or Phillies.

Prospect Profile: Bronson Sardinha (#29)

Age: 23
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: 1st Round in 2001 out of High School
Position: Corner Outfielder (Who has also played 3b and SS in the past)
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

Tools: Sardinha has the classic physical tools of a 1st round shortstop out of High School. He is agile, fleet of foot, and has a strong arm. He reportedly handled 3b pretty well, but was moved to the outfield due to Eric Duncan and Alex Rodriguez. Sardinha shows moderate power (20 HR), and extremely good walking ability (Iso Patience of .083). His weakness is in the ability to hit for average (.269 career average) due to striking out too much (127 per 162 games).

Performance: Sardinha has been very inconsistent in the minor leagues, in part due to frequent position change. The Yankees had him set in the outfield for awhile, then moved him back to 3rd prior to the Alex Rodriguez trade. They then moved him to left field. Sardinha's career minor league line of .269/.352/.398 is very representative of his average year to year performance. He took a major step forward in the later part of 2006, hitting .286/.365/.492 after earning a call up to Columbus.

Outlook: I am a big fan of Sardinha. The only reason that I do not rate him higher is that no one really agrees with me. I can see Sardinha putting together a few hitting seasons similar to what Johnny Damon did this this season, minus the stolen bases. It seems like he has been around forever, even though he is only 23 years old. The one knock against Sardinha is that he may be left exposed to the Rule V draft this offseason. Luckily for him, the new CBA rule changes give the Yankees a little more breathing room in this regard. I could see Sardinha coming into play in 2008 as a call up.

Grades: Ceiling C+, Health B+, Chance of Reaching Majors 40%. Comparison: Pre-Steroids Luis Gonzalez

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Call Me Cashman

I’ve talked a lot about the Yankee’s options, the strengths and weaknesses of those options, and the goals that they should try to attain. I haven’t given my own opinion yet. I would like to do that now, assuming that any reasonable trade that I propose may be enacted.

My general philosophy to baseball this three fold. Flexible rosters, pitching depth, and hitters who don’t make outs.

I want to trade Alex Rodriguez. I want to trade him because he is a very good player but hinders our flexibility. He is an excellent hitter, a consistent hitter, and has the potential to be great. But he’s no Albert Pujols. He is the Hank Aaron to Pujol’s Lou Gehrig. I want him traded because of the pieces we can get for him.

Problem is, Alex is a right handed bat. We have a ton of left handed bats in this lineup and not too many who can hit from the right side. I want him traded to the Dodgers for Wilson Betemit, Chad Billingely, and Jon Broxton. Save 16 million.

I want Mike Mussina resigned. Several bloggers have weighed in on this issue lately. Mike Mussina could be a real bargain over the next two years. He is 38 years old, but we’ve seen plenty of late career success out of craft elder pitchers in the league lately (Rogers, Maddux, Mussina, Moyer, Glavine), and he is coming off an excellent season. Mussina has also had the reputation of being an excellent teacher of younger pitchers, and that is someone whom I want talking to Phil Hughes about his changeup. Sign him to a 2 year 18 million dollar deal.

I want Jaret Wright traded for some kind of backup catcher. That shouldn’t be too hard.

I want Mike Myers traded too. His role is too select. He wasn’t even that good of a LOOGY this year. He takes up an essential bullpen slot that could go to someone else. I will sign Ray King to take his spot to a 1 year, 3 million dollar deal. Ray King is an effective left handed reliever who, although best used as a LOOGY, is certainly capable of pitching to the odd right handed hitter.

As for backup infielders, Wes Helms comes to mind. His right handed bat came off a monster season in Florida, primarily against left handed pitching. He could play 3rd and 1st, plus a little outfield. I would platoon him with Aaron Guiel. To play the middle infield position, Alex Cora of Boston could prove to be very useful. I would sign them both to 2 year deals worth about 1.5 million per year. Andy Phillips is placed on waivers.

Melky returns as the 4th outfielder, with Kevin Thompson being promoted to fill the 5th spot.

The bullpen and rotation currently look as follows: Wang, Mussina, Billingsely, Johnson, X, plus Mariano, Farnsworth, Proctor, Broxton, King, and one spot open for a long reliever. I want to give Rasner and Karstens the opportunity to battle for these two spots in spring training. The winner gets the starting job; the loser the long relief job. Steve White, Phil Hughes, and Tyler Clippard might also enter this picture.

25 Man Roster:

CF Damon L
SS Jeter R / Cora
RF Abreu L / Thompson
DH Giambi L
C Posada S / Backup
LF Matsui L / Cabrera
1b Helms R / Guiel
2b Cano L
3b Betemit R

RHSP Mussina
RHSP Billingely
LHSP Johnson
RHSP Rasner/Karstens

RHRP Rivera
RHRP Farnsworth
RHRP Broxton
RHRP Proctor
RHRP Rasner/Karstens

I really like this roster. The flexibility of the bench is almost unheard of. Helms can play all four corners. Melky and Guiel can play all three outfield positions, plus 1st for Guiel. Betemit, while being the primary 3b, can play 2b and SS. Cora can play 3b, 2b, and SS very well. All can hit fairly well for bench players, and field their positions.

The bullpen is much improved. Farnsworth hopefully will recover from his back problems. King is an upgrade, as are the long relievers. Broxton and Proctor form a very strong duo leading up to the big two. Broxton may just be the closer of our future.

The starting rotation is both deep and flexible. One of the strongest reasons why young players are valuable is that they have options. If one of Billingley, Karstens, or Rasner falters, we will have White, Hughes, and Clippard waiting at AAA.

The biggest gain here? The Yankees shed over 35 million in salary. The new CBA will apparently raise the luxury tax level to 148 million. This frees up a significant amount of money toward getting below that threshold. We get key pieces in Broxton, Billingely, and Betemit for years to come.

Prospect Profile: Alan Horne (#30)

Here I begin my offseason series on the top 30 Yankees prospects. Alan Horne is #30.

Age: 23
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: 11th Round in 2005 out of the University of Florida
Position: Starting Pitcher
Throws: Right

Stuff: Alan Horne features a lightly sinking fastball topping out at 94-96 mph. He throws a plus 12-6 curveball that has very strong bite to it. He also throws an above average slider. He is a very experienced pitcher who knows how to use all of his pitches.

Command: Alan Horne has been very inconsistent with his command since he had Tommy John surgery in 2004. When Horne is on, his stuff is dominating. When he is off, he has a lot of trouble throwing any of his three pitches for strikes. He has looked intimidated at times in Tampa. That said, his stuff is solid and if he learns not to nibble he could become a serious A.J. Burnett type pitcher.

Outlook: Horne could be really dangerous as he develops. With a little more muscle on his frame, Horne could be topping out at 97-98 mph. Horne was drafted in the 1st round by Cleveland a few years ago for a reason. The injury concerns and general surplus of Yankee starting pitching could land him in the bullpen if he fails as a starter. Horne should start 2007 in Tampa, but could move to Trenton fairly quickly.

Grades: Ceiling: A-, Health C-, Chance of Reaching Majors 30%. Comparison: A.J. Burnett

Thursday, October 19, 2006

More Arod Rumors

We can expect a lot of these, but the latest rumor comes courtesy of the Contra Costa Times.

Alex Rodriguez + cash to Oakland for Eric Chavez, one of Rich Harden or Dan Haren, and a prospect or two. The prospects? Daric Barton could enter into the equation, but I would ask for one of Travis Buck or Jason Windsor. Buck is a 23 year old 2005 draft pick out of ASU. He is an athletic power hitting outfielder. He could be very good, and is virtually major league ready. Jason Windsor is even closer to the major leagues. He is a 24 year old power pitcher who dominated AAA.

But the real jewels of the deal are Chavez and Harden/Haren. I would stay away from the injury prone Harden, but Dan Haren has all the trappings of an excellent pitcher. He's like a mini-Halladay, throwing strikes and getting ground ball outs. Eric Chavez is a pretty good bet to hit close to his career .268/.350/.484 line, but his left handed power swing may also benefit from Yankee stadium ala Johnny Damon. He also is consistently about 15 runs above average on defense. He isn't Alex Rodriguez, but he doesn't suck either.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ten Trades

Its time for the fun part. I am going to propose 10 potential trades for Alex Rodriguez, and then follow up by giving my opinion on them. They are in no particular order.

# 1To Anaheim: Alex Rodriguez, 8 million dollars
To Kansas City: Kenny Morales, Dallas McPherson,
To New York: Mark Teahen, Ervin Santana, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis/Mike Napoli

Anaheim manages to get Alex Rodriguez while keeping Jered Weaver, Brandon Wood, and all of the rest of their high ceiling prospects. Kansas City removes a road block to Alex Gordon's soon to be brilliant career, and New York gets four good young players. Ervin Santana will immediately become the #3 starter behind Mussina and Wang. Jeff Mathis or Mike Napoli (probably Napoli) becomes Posada's backup and future replacement. Casey Kotchman splits time at 1b with Jason Giambi.

#2 To Anaheim: Alex Rodriguez, 8 million Dollars
To New York: John Lackey, Jeff Mathis/Mike Napoli, Casey Kotchman

The Yankees do not gain a 3rd baseman through this deal, but they do acquire an ace pitcher. John Lackey is one of the better young pitchers in the game. He would be under our control for the next three seasons. The Yankees attain a catcher for the future and a 1st baseman. Anaheim's pitching weakens, but they retain most of their young trading chips.

#3 To Anaheim: Alex Rodriguez
To New York: Bartolo Colon, Brandon Wood, Ervin Santana, Eric Aybar

Colon has 1 year at 14 million left on his contract. The 2005 Cy Young winner spent most of 2006 injured. He may not be ready to start the season. The Yankees take on this big question mark piece of salary in return for top prospect Brandon Wood (who could be moved to 3b), in addition to future utility man Aybar. Ervin Santana enters the rotation. Bartolo Colon starts the season on the DL and possibly returns to Cy Young form.

#4 The Chicago Cubs: Alex Rodriguez
To New York: Carlos Zambrano, Angel Guzman, Felix Pie, Eric Patterson.

I really don't know why the Cubs would do a trade like this, but they have been rumored to want Arod badly. Carlos Zambrano is a free agent after this year, and is coming off a 115 walk season. There is no way that the Yankees take him alone for Arod. Pie and Patterson would start the season at AAA, but could be quick promotions. Angel Guzman could be given a look in Spring Training. I am not a big fan of the Cubs as a trading partner.

#5 To Chicago White Sox: Alex Rodriguez
To New York: Mark Buerhle, Brandon McCarthy, Josh Fields

This trade has been rumored in Chicago to be offered by New York. Buerhle is coming off a season roughly equal to Randy Johnson's, and is a free agent in one year. McCarthy is a young solid starter, and Josh Fields has .290/.375/.520 and good defense all over him. I'd take it, although if I were Cashman I would try to extract David Riske.

#6 To Chicago White Sox: Alex Rodriguez
To New York: Joe Crede, Mark Buerhle, Brandon McCarthy

I don't have a lot of faith in Joe Crede. He posted just a .323 OBP this season, and derived virtually all of his value from his 30 home runs. Crede never hit more than 22 home runs before and never posted an OBP higher than .311. I don't trust it, or his bad back. I pass on any deal that includes Crede as more than a throw in.

# 7 To Philadelphia Phillies: Alex Rodriguez
To New York: Brett Myers, Gionvany Gonazalez

I can't see much of a deal to Philly, unless they had some real passion to part with their three top young pitchers by adding Cole Hamels to the deal. An alternate 3b would have to come from somewhere else.

#8 To Houston Astros: Alex Rodriguez, 8 million
To New York: Morgan Ensberg, Hunter Pence, Jason Hirsh

I really like this trade. The Astros use their new financial flexibility with the loss of Pettitte, Clemens, and the confirmed loss of Bagwell. Arod and Berkman form a nasty 1-2 punch which may finally succeed in unseating the Cardinals in the NL Central. The Yankees get an effective 3b in return, an excellent outfield prospect, and a huge power pitcher who dominated AAA. Too bad the Astros haven't expressed any interest in Alex yet.

#9 To the LA Dodgers: Alex Rodriguez
To New York: Wilson Betemit, Chad Billingsley, James Loney

The Dodgers are in dire need of home run power. They would convert LaRoche to 1st base, and sport the game's best offensive infield with Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Furcal, Jeff Kent and LaRoche. The Yankees recieve in return a replacement 3b, a major league tested future ace in Billingsley, and a left handed athletic 1st baseman to split time with Giambi in Loney.

#10 To the LA Dodgers: Alex Rodriguez
To New York: Andy LaRoche, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jon Broxton

In return for keeping their top young pitcher, the Dodgers give up Andy LaRoche instead of Wilson Betemit. Kuo, although not as talented as Billingsley, profiles a good #2/3 pitcher in the major leagues (his value is dimished due to injury), and Broxton is one of the best young relievers in the game.

I like a lot of these trades, although not all of them. If the Astros want Alex, they would make an excellent partner. I don't see trade to either Chicago team working very well. If the Dodgers want Alex (he strikes me as the Hollywood type), we deal could easily be worked out that benefits both sides. Although the best deal for the Yankees would include the Anaheim Angels and their crazy depth, I would be scared of empowering our enemy. If the offer big - I would take it. But I would make them pay through their teeth for a great player.

Alex Rodriguez is a first ballot hall of famer who will probably hit 140+ home runs for the team that he is dealt to over the next four years. He will probably knock in close to 500 runs, score 480 runs, and play decent defense at either third or short. That said, I still think that a trade could benefit the Yankees. The Yankees have a lot of pitching depth, but have even more offensive depth. We saw how much one of baseball's best lineups ever did for us.

In 2004 and 2005, fans and pundits incorrectly assumed that Alex was a poor clutch player. In 2006, the profesy was fulfilled. The pressure probably got to Alex. I feel sorry for him. He is not the robot that a prick like Manny Ramirez is. He can not shrug off his critics and stay relaxed like Derek Jeter. Unfortunately, New York fans would never accept him. He could very well rebound and have another 2005-like season next year. But Alex is 31 years old and may just have no more 45+ HR seasons left in him.

It is my opinion that Alex will put up one MVP season and three seasons similar to 2004/2006 over the next four years. For this reason, Alex should be traded. His value on the trade market is closer to the 2005 Arod than the 2004/2006 version. His defensive reputation is much stronger than teality. Alex has more value than he is worth in reality. If a great GM is like a shrewd stock trader, Alex has "sell" written all over him.

The Yankees have a chance to immediately interject significant young talent into their organizaiton with one single trade. We can set up members of the 2013 Yankees right now. But you cannot gain value without giving up value.

Alex Rodriguez Trade Part 3

The next step to looking at an Alex Rodriguez trade is to determine where he could go, and what they could offer us. This will be the final post before I actually post ten different trades that I support.

There are three barriers to an Alex Rodriguez trade. First off, Alex has a no-trade clause. Although he wants to stay in New York, he has said that if the Yankees really want to trade him, he will agree to go elsewhere. However, it's hard to see Alex being traded to a non-contender. Alex doesn't strike me as a guy who would enjoy Kansas City too much. This probably eliminates Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Colorado. I could see him going to Washington, but only if they take steps toward building a winning franchise. I also can't see him going back to Texas, who already traded him away. Seattle would also be difficult.

The second barrier is Alex's salary. He is owed 64 million over the next 4 years. The Yankees are unlikely to throw in a ton of money in any deal to trade him away. This is a lot cheaper than the 25 million he is owed every year, but is still expensive. I cannot see the Brewers, Marlins, Athletics, Twins, or Braves affording him. Cleveland would have a tough time, but could in theory do it. Same with San Diego.

The third barrier is Alex's talent. The Yankees do not want to see him in the American League East, and would prefer to see him away from their other American League rivals. This eliminates Tampa, Baltimore, Toronto, and Boston. Trades to Anaheim, Detroit and the Chicago White Sox are certainly possible, but would be a harder sell. Oh yeah, and he isn't going to the Mets.

Who does this leave? This leaves the Dodgers, White Sox, Angels, Cubs, Giants, Phillies, Reds, Astros, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and Tigers.

I am going to strike a few names right away. I don't see the Tigers, Diamonbacks, or Reds trading for Alex. I could see the Cardinals doing so, but they have so many concerns this offseason that they probably don't have the chips to do so.

Let's look at each organization.


The Phillies could certainly use a right handed power bat to back up Ryan Howard. They got almost zero production out of third base this season thanks to the flailing David Bell. But what would they offer in return?

Cole Hamels is one of the best young pitchers in the game today. That said, he's a very risky prospect. The 22 year old has managed exactly one semi-healthy season since he was drafted: 2006. He still only managed to pitch 132 innings. That said, he excelled in those innings, posting a 4.08 ERA despite pitching half his games in a bandbox. The 6'4" lefthander has some serious power in his arm, pitching in the mid 90s. But the injuries are a concern.

The Phillies might send back Brett Myers, who has been very good in the National League over the past two seasons. He is only 26 years old, has a history of neither being overworked nor sustaining injury, throws in the mid 90s with a power curve, and has been a near K per inning guy. Myers would be an excellent trading chip to return in a trade.

The Phillies top prospect is Giovany Gonzalez. He is the #9 ranked pitcher by Scout.com and just 21 years old in AA. He's no Phil Hughes, posting an ERA in the mid 4's in his first season, but is certainly would be a great chip to come our way. Throwing power from the left side doesn't hurt either.

I don't see a lot in terms of 3rd base potential in the Phillies organization. Any trade would have to involve another 3b coming in from a 3rd party in a seperate trade or free agent.

The Houston Astros

The Astros don't have a lot of chips, but do have a lot of extra payroll room. Any trade for Alex would probably be seen as an upgrade over Morgan Ensberg, who put together a nice season despite batting just .238. He is only being paid about four million dollars. He would certainly come back in a trade.

Pitching prospect Jason Hirsh is listed by Scout.com as the #11 pitching prospect in baseball. The 24 year old out of college looks to use his giant 6'8", 250 lb frame to overpower hitters. It has worked so far in the minors. He dominated AAA this year with a 2.10 ERA. He could be a real gem.

Hunter Pence is listed by Scout.com as the #8 outfield prospect in baseball. He has some serious crudentials, being drafted in the 2nd round out of Texas and then posting a .302/.376/.552 line in three minor league seasons. He will go to AAA this season, and will be on the cusp of the major leagues. Pence has J.D. Drew offensive potential written all over him, without the injuries.

The San Fran Giants

The Giants have a lot of reason to want Arod this offseason. They are likely losing Barry Bonds, both in salary and ability. Alex is not only cheaper, but can be relied on to play 150+ games a year, something that the older Bonds could not. Problem is, they don't have a whole lot to offer in return.

Matt Cain is one of baseball's top young pitchers. The 22 year old has succeeded in a major league season and a half, after blowing through the Minor Leagues. At that young age, he was able to strike out 179 this year. The Giants have limited the innings on his young arm, gradually building it up. It's hard to see the Giants parting with him however, although they did send Boof, Joe, and Fran to the Twins for A.J. Talk about a bad trade.

The Giants don't have much more. 2006 1st rounder Tim Lincecum can't be traded for another six months, but could in theory be included as a "Player to the named later" in the deal. He is an excellent prospect out of college. He could be major league ready by spring training 2009.

The Giants have little else.

The LA Dodgers

The Dodgers have a one of baseball's best farm systems, and as a result could provide some incredibly attractive options for any team looking to trade with them. They also have the payroll room, and the need for Alex. Their top two home run hitters managed to hit only 20 out each.

Chad Billingley has future ace written all over him. His major league debut was as impressive as his minor league numbers. He could very well be the centerpiece of an Arod trade. He could be as good as Mussina or Wang right now, and is just 22 years old.

Wilson Betemit is a 24 year old formerly hot prospect out of the Braves system. He now looks to be a decent replacement level 3b, the type of guy who could be very good on a contender's bench. That said, he could provide a stopgap in the position until better options are provided. The Dodgers wouldn't have a huge problem parting with him, as they were ready to trade him for Scott Proctor in the begining of the season.

Andy LaRoche, in stark contrast to Betemit is a supreme prospect. LaRoche just hit AA, but has torn apart the minor leagues during his time there. LaRoche has the power, discipline, and baseball sense to hit like Chipper Jones in the major leagues. He could certainly come in return for Alex Rodriguez. There has been speculation that LaRoche will eventually end up at 1st base.

Jamie Loney was an athletic 1st baseman drafted by the Dodgers in 2002. He looked like a bust, but the careful nurturing of the excellent Dodgers farm system turned him in to a success in 2006. He posted a .547 slugging percentage in 2006 in the major leagues. He has Lyle Overbay potential.

Hong-Chih Kuo would be our second pitcher out of Taiwan if we were to trade for him. After successful seasons in 2005 at AA and 2006 at AAA, Kuo has made his impact in the MLB for the Dodgers. He is very talented, and could come to the Yankees if the Dodgers refuse to part with Billingsley. John Broxton is also an excellent young reliever who might be had in any deal.

The LA Angels OA

The Angels are an interesting option. On one hand, they are a constant thorn in the Yankee's side and Alex would immediately boost their team. On the other hand, the Angels are the one team that both has a number of excellent young pitchers and position players that they would be willing to trade to meet our needs. Any trade to the Angels would require more return than a trade to other teams, for this reason.

The Angels have the pitching trio of John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar who could potentially come our way in a trade. One of those guys would absolutely be expected to be Yankees after an Alex Rodriguez trade. This doesn't even mention Jered Weaver or Bartolo Colon.

In addition, they have a wealth of position prospects/rookies including Howie Kendrick, Dallas McPherson, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Mike Napoli and Kenny Morales. One or two of this group would certainly come back in a trade.

The Angels have a number of established major league regulars who could be traded, specifically Scot Shields and Chone Figgins. Shields is one of the better relief pitchers in the game, and Figgins is an excellent utility player.

Looking down further, the Angels have shortstop Brandon Wood, pitcher Nick Adenhart, starter Joe Saunders, and outfielder Terry Evans. Shortstop Eric Aybar could also be a throw in to the deal or the 19 year old star pitcher Tommy Mendoza.

The Angels have a huge mass of young players, putting them in a unique position. Their current offense leaves a lot to be desired. They could very well deal a few young players and a young pitcher for a star hitter while still maintaining the best farm system in baseball. That is how deep they are. If I were Brian Cashman, I'd give them a call.

The Chicago Cubs

Rumors have circulated recently about Lou Piniella wanting the Cubs to make a push for Alex Rodriguez. I can't see it happening, mainly because the organization has little to give in return. Ramirez is going to become a free agent, and they are very short on position prospects.

Carlos Zambrano is a free agent in one year. He had an impressive system, posting a 3.41 ERA, despite 115 walks. I would take Zambrano, but I would question his control issues agains the American League. Zambrano has been an excellent pitcher for three years, but could not be the only piece in an Arod trade.

The Cubs also have Rich Hill and Angel Guzman among their young pitchers. Both have had injury problems and would be risky bets. That said, they are both major league ready and could provide immediate help to the Yankees.

Cubs outfield prospect Felix Pie is one of the more overrated prospects in baseball. Pie is an all-tools no-sense guy who still needs to learn the strike zone. He is very young and in AAA, but shouldn't be counted on any time soon. He is ranked #10 overall in outfielders by Scout.com, but I think that number is soft.

Eric Patterson is a 23 year old 2b/SS prospect who is listed by Scout.com as the #2 2b prospect in baseball. Mark Pawelek is a 20 year old who has some potential to be a decent pitcher. That said, these guys aren't really desirable by the Yankees and shouldn't be more than throw ins.

The Cubs simply would be stupid to trade with us for Alex Rodriguez. They don't have the depth to absorb a hit to their farm system like that. Of course, Mark Prior could enter the discussion.

The Chicago White Sox

The White Sox have also been rumored to be interested in Alex Rodriguez. The recent report that I read was a Mark Buerhle + Josh Fields + Brandon McCarthy for Alex Rodriguez deal. It's interesting, but do the Sox have anything else to offer?

The White Sox had five starters go 196 or more innings. Unfortunately, they also had 5 starters with ERAs over 4.27. With a little more offense, the White Sox could see their win total go through the roof, with such an efficient yet average pitching staff.

Mark Buerhle was the ace of the championship team, but through overuse and diminishing strikeout totals, his ERA rose to 4.99 this season. I would be very worried and skeptical about him if traded to us, especially considering that he is a free agent after this upcoming season. He cannot be the centerpiece of a trade.

Josh Fields is an athletic 3rd baseman in the White Sox farm system. He has been compared to Drew Henson, except that this ex-quarterback has performed in the minor leagues. He recently posted a .900 OPS at AAA. Fields can be seen as a long term replacement for Alex Rodriguez at the hot corner. He is listed by Scout.com as the 3rd best 3b prospect in the minors.

Joe Crede is the current White Sox 3rd baseman. He has suffered from back problems in the past, and in 2006 posted his first real good season ever. That said, his OBP was just .323 and his Slg% barely topped .500 in a home run inducing ballpark. He has had back problems. Despite the great defense, I wouldn't touch him.

Brandon McCarthy is an excellent young pitcher who would be a major league starter already if not for so many White Sox pitchers blocking him. He has been effective out of the bullpen and has proven everything he can in the minor leagues. I would love to have him in the Yankee rotation.

The White Sox have little else, but Freddy Garcia and Jon Garland may also enter the equation. David Riske and Mike MacDougal could come over out of their bullpen.

Wow, that took longer than expected. The big finish is coming up, hopefully later tonight.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Alex Rodriguez Trade Part 2

There has been a lot of newspaper speculation lately on the Alex Rodriguez trade, even amounting to rumors of a trade centered around Alex and Mark Buerhle. I doubt that there is a lot of merit to this trade, primarily because I can't see Cashman offering around for Alex after Cory Lidle's tragic death so recently. Still, it's an interesting possibility.

I stated previously that the second key question in an Alex Rodriguez trade is pretty simple: Who the hell replaces him?

Chicago offers two options in Joe Crede and Josh Fields. Crede showed some power this season, but his lack of on base ability makes me want to pick Fields over him. Fields recently posted a .900 OPS at AAA, while playing decent defense. He turns 24 in December.

One of Kansas City's young third basemen (Mark Teahen, Alex Gordon) could very easily be included in some sort of 3 way deal.

Anaheim offers Dallas McPherson - but he had a very poor and injury filled 2006. Chone Figgins is another option, but is unlikely to provide more than a replacement level of offense. His defense is excellent though.

The Dodgers offer two young options in Andy LaRoche and Wilson Betemit. Betemit is another replacement level player who plays good defense, while LaRoche is a major prospect who has yet to hit the majors, with Chipper Jones hitting abilities.

Aramis Ramirez has a clause in his contract which could potentially put him on the free agent market this winter. Ramirez is probably the best all around player listed here. He would replace Alex Rodriguez fairly well, but has a reputation of being hotheaded and a bad teammate.

Hank Blalock from Texas is rumored to be on the trading block, although a lot of questions persist about whether or not he can hit outside of Arlington. I would shy away from him, especially considering that the price tag would be high.

Scott Rolen has been rumored to be fighting with the management over in St. Louis. He had a decent season, and has the defensive reputation of a God. He could be a very, very attractive option. The Cardinals are going to be so desperate for pitching this offseason that they might bite for a very small offer.

The Mariners would love to get rid of Adrian Beltre and his contract. Although he won't slug .660 ever again, Beltre could provide excellent defense and a .270/.340/.460 line from third base. Seattle would have to subsidize the contract significantly though, as Beltre is owed 12 million dollars for each of the next three seasons.

Chad Tracy may be the odd man out in Arizona, where the infield suddenly has seemed very crowded. Tracy could provide a decent .280/.360/.460 line of offense for a cheap price tag, although his defense wouldn't be a big upgrade to Arod's.

Morgan Ensberg had a poor season for the Astros, but still managed to post a .858 OPS. He is a definate buy-low candidate, after batting just .238 this season.

Aubrey Huff is a free agent, but also a terrible 3b. Still, at 29 years old he is still in his prime and has had some all star years in the past.

Those are some interesting names. The next post is the big one: What trades are possible?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Alex Rodriguez Trade: Part 1

Trading a player as talented as Alex Rodriguez is a monumental point in the history of any franchise. A lot of questions need to be answered in depth in order to make a logical decision. Those questions are:

1. What value does Alex Rodriguez bring to the team?
2. Who would replace Alex Rodriguez if he were dealt?
3. What teams would be interested in Alex? Is there a chance that he could be traded?
4. Is this the best thing for the team?

I will attack #1 right now. For the record, my answer to #4 is "Yes".

1. What Value does Alex Rodriguez bring to the team?

Time for the numbers.

Alex Rodriguez was 29th in the league this year with a VORP of 50.4. He hit an excellent .290/.392/.532 (or roughly equal to Hideki Matsui in 2004). Alex was 5th in VORP among 3rd baseman, trailing Miguel Cabrera, Garrett Atkins, David Wright, and Chipper Jones.

The average AL batter hit .275/.339/.437.

Various defensive measures try to rate Arod. The traditional Zone Rating has him at -8 runs. Overall, that sounds about right to me.

This boils down to Alex being worth about 4-5 wins over replacement level. If Alex was replaced with a roughly .275/.339/.437 hitter, we would have won about 91-92 games.

In the Clutch, Alex Rodriguez was beyond terrible this season, which may reduce his value, but for now I am going to put Alex at 5 wins.

It is important that with any trade, the Yankees get back at least five wins worth of value over replacement level. Ideally, we would improve the team by getting more back.

Good Pitching Wins Championships

I was contemplating not writing anything about baseball for a few days in the wake of Cory Lidle's tragic death. However, after thinking about it, I decided that the best way to show respect to a great lover of the game is to continue the vibrant and colorful debate which makes up a fan's love for the game. Cory Lidle was a great man who worked his ass off every second of the day to get to and stay in the major leagues. It was a long road for him, but he realised his dream. It is a shame that he died so young. As a fellow lover of flying, I feel for him.

I said in an earlier post that

"Great rotations are developed from within. The Braves did it. The dynasty Yankees did it. The 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2005 White Sox, and now the 2006 Athletics and Tigers are doing it. Pitchers are at their best before they reach the free agent market. "

Several have commented on the merits of that statement, and I find myself needing to change it. My real intent was to say "Good pitching wins championships, and pitchers are at their best before they reach free agency". There are exceptions of course, for example Curt Schilling, but the general rule is that pitchers decline much more rapidly than do hitters.

The dynasty Yankees developed only two key pitchers from within: Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. The rest of the rotation was made up of Roger Clemens, Hideki Irabu, Orlando Hernandez, David Cone, and David Wells. A lot of these guys violated the "good pitchers are young" rule, but all of them required young pitching to acquire.

A lot of great teams are built via the trade. Paul O'Neill, David Cone, Roger Clemens, and Chuck Knoblauch came to the dynasty team via trade. We got lucky with a lot of these players, as O'Neill came for virtually nothing while Roger Clemens cost us only David Wells, Homer Bush, and Graeme Lloyd. But Chuck Knoblauch cost us 1st round pick Eric Milton (then thought to be an excellent prospect) and Christian Guzman. Cone cost young pitching in the form of Marty Jarzen (who flopped, but was a top 22 year old prospect when traded).

The market is a lot tougher now. Teams got smarter, signing their arbitration eligible players to long term deals (Santana, Halladay), decreasing the number of players on the free agent market. The result? Very few top level pitchers will ever be available for just a check and a draft pick. To acquire a pitcher in the prime of one's career, the Yankees must do one of two things. They can build from within or trade value for value. Essentially, the two are linked.

Look at a guy like Steve White. Steve White is 24 year old and on the brink of the major leagues. He will probably never start significant games for the Yankees. He shows signs of being a decent major league pitcher, considering how thoroughly he dominated AA this season. However, he is 5th on the Yankee depth charts behind Hughes, Karstens, Rasner, and Clippard. White will probably be traded.

And that is a good thing. The second that White is traded, you'll hear a bunch of idiots from the New York Post or wherever whining about how the Yankees trade away all of their young pitching. But remember, trading away Cassey Fossum for Curt Schilling helped the Red Sox win a championship.

The trick is having enough depth to be able to trade Steve White away. If this was November 2004, there is no way that the Yankees can trade away a Steve White. He'd be needed to pitch for Jon Lieber or Kevin Brown. But the Yankees are in a position right now where they have the depth to both bring up promising young pitchers (Hughes, Clippard), and dangle some other prospects as bait to help build a championship team (Karstens, Rasner, White).

But also remember that it took Brad Halsey and Dionner Navarro to acquire Randy Johnson. Although Randy was the best pitcher in baseball in 2004, the lesson that is apparent is this: get a pitcher in the prime of his career, not the back end of it.

Good pitching is tough to come by. It takes good decisions by the front office, good scouting by those in the field, and good luck overall. The next aces of the new Yankee dynasty may come from free agency (Wells), trade (Clemens, Cone), or the farm system (Pettitte). But I do know that we will not win any championships until the overall pitching situation improves.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cory Lidle Killed In Plane Crash

Thirty four years young.

I have nothing to say.

Tap the Far East?

The hottest name in the free agent market right now is Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka is a 26 year old phenom out of Japan. He won 17 games in 26 starts for the Seibu Lions, posting an ERA under 2.20. He throws between 90 and 94, and various scouts have described him as having four major league pitches (4 seam, slider [his best pitch], splitter, and changeup) with a deceptive delivery. Although rumored to throw the mythical "gyroball", that has recently been proven wrong.

Matsuzaka is not a free agent in the traditional sense. His team is taking bids using the "posting" system. Each interested team sends the Lions a sealed big of a dollar value. After three days, the bids are opened and the highest team wins the right to talk contracts with Matsuzaka's agent, Scott Boras. They are then free to sign Matsuzaka to a contract. Estimates of a size of bid for Matsuzaka have been between 15 and 30 million dollars, with the number probably more toward the latter. Scott Boras would likely request a 3 year deal worth somewhere around 40 million after the posting fee itself.

Somewhere close to 70 million dollars to three years of a pitcher? I don't care if his name is Roger Cleveland Alexander Maddux Clemens, I don't spend that on a guy who has yet to pitch an MLB ball. Matzusaka plays in Japan, where baseball is played in a much different style. There are a lot more Ichiro-type hitters there, and the general level of competition is much lower than here. In addition to that, pitchers in Japan pitch on an extra day of rest.

But 70 million over 3 years? If I am going to spend that much money, why not use it on a safer product like Barry Zito? There is no way that Zito is worth 70 million, but he is probably going to give you 210 innings of 3.80-4.20 ERA ball. In this day and age, that is valueable.

Matsuzaka may very well end up as an ace in the United States. 26 years old is very young for a free agent pitcher. On the other hand, he could end up being another Chan Ho Park, Hideki Irabu, Kaz Ishii, or Hideo Nomo. Some of those guys had good years, but the move to a 5 man rotation hurt all of their arms. 70 million is a lot of money, and the Yankees cannot keep constantly absorbing bad contracts.

I'll be excited if he pitches in a Yankee uniform, but it would still be a bad decision. We'll know relatively soon, because clubs have little more than one more day to place sealed bids.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Glad I Didn't Get My Hopes Up

Well, it looks like the Fire Joe Torre blog is safe. Joe Torre is officially staying on for another year. He announced it in a press conference a few minutes ago.

I know, it's sad. In the words of Steve Lombardi of WasWatching.com, "If the Yankees do nothing, then nothing will happen."

Better hope that Phil Hughes decides to be a 21 year old ace.

Young Pitching

I'm going to have a little fun today. Baseball Prospectus releases it's year "PECOTA" predictions, attempting to pin down the performance level of every major leaguer. I'm a strong advocate for staying away from the free agent market and using our pitching depth to fill the voids, which creates the next logical question. How good can they be?

Our candidates for promotion out of spring training next year are Steve White, Phil Hughes, Tyler Clippard, Jeff Karstens, J.B. Cox, T.J. Beam, Darrell Rasner, and Sean Henn. I am going to give "my timeline and projection" for these young pitchers this year. Note, this is incredibly unscientific and completely meaningless. That said, it can be fun.

Offseason: The Yankees bring back Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Chien-Ming Wang, and Carl Pavano.

Spring Training: The Yankees audition their pitching staff in Tampa. It is determined that Phil Hughes, although he could certainly do well in the major leagues right now, would be served well long term if he took a little more time to tighten up his changeup. Tyler Clippard, J.B. Cox, T.J. Beam, and Steve White are determined not ready to pitch in the major leagues. Sean Henn sees no spot for himself and is traded away . Darrell Rasner is promoted to the major league bullpen as a long man, and Jeff Karstens is made the Yankee's 5th starter.

April: While Mike Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang succeed, Randy Johnson falters. Carl Pavano pitches marginally well, but is booed every time he takes the mound by Yankee fans. Jeff Karstens pitches about as well as Pavano.

May: Randy Johnson starts to recover, but his ERA is still north of 5. Carl Pavano sits on a tact and injures his shoulder, landing on the 60 day DL. Phil Hughes, who hasn't allowed a run in 15 innings, is promoted from AAA. Hughes immediately dominates.

June: Scott Proctor, after a stellar start to the season, sees his control falter. It is discovered that he is fatigued, and lands on the DL with some sort of shoulder or elbow injury. Brian Bruney, pitching fairly well, takes his responsibilities. Kyle Farnsworth is pitching excellent. The Yankees call up T.J. Beam, who pitches fairly well.

July: Brian Bruney goes down with some sort of elbow trouble, after throwing 30+ innings in June. The Fire Joe Torre blog is filled with accusations of Joe Torre ruining pitchers. J.B. Cox is called up from AAA. In the warm weather, Randy Johnson becomes marginally useful. Carl Pavano reinjures his arm while writing a letter to Angelina Jolie. Jeff Karstens sees his ERA fall below the league average.

August: Scott Proctor returns, sending Cox back to the minors until September. However, he is not effective. His velocity and control are both way down following shoulder trouble. By now, Hughes is being talked about as a no brainer for ROY, and possibly the Game 2 starter for the New York Yankees in the playoffs. Chien-Ming Wang, throwing his new cutter, finally learns to strike people out again. Wang is considered for the Cy Young award.

September: While trying to rehab the small hole in his buttox, Carl Pavano is hit by a bicycle. No one observes the event, but Pavano insists that it had two wheels. Steve White, who pitched fairly well in AAA, and Tyler Clippard are called up with the expanded rosters. Eric Duncan and Justin Christian are also called up to help the team. Kevin Thompson is called up, but not used once. The Yankees clinch early, as both the Blue Jays and Red Sox fail to assemble a team much different from their 2006 team.

October: Phil Hughes and Chien-Ming Wang lead the Yankees to a championship. Randy Johnson does not make the playoff roster, with the 4th starter slot taken by Jeff Karstens.

Season lines:

Phil Hughes - 24 starts, 174 innings, 3.63 ERA. 162 Ks, 46 BBs. Wins ROY.
Jeff Karstens - 31 starts, 184 innings, 4.31 ERA. 126 Ks, 52 BBs.
T.J. Beam - 42 games, 38 innings. 3.72 ERA. 37 Ks, 17 BBs.
J.B. Cox - 36 games, 37 innings. 3.42 ERA. 28 Ks, 12 BBs.

Press Conference

Joe Torre's future will be announced at a press conference today at 1 PM.

Dont get too optmistic.

On to young pitching...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Paper Thin

I really am an advocate against signing free agent pitchers in general. Sometimes there are good deals - see Mike Mussina. However, very often free agency is not a place to find good pitchers. Teams end up overpaying in both cash and years, and are often left with albatross contracts that hurt their pitching staff. In fact, it is tough to find a lot of good free agent signings over the past few years. The market simply is simply very hard to control for pitchers.

This year's crop is incredibly thin. I previously had thought that Mark Buerhle was a free agent (and would have been a good buy low candidate), but unfortunately Chicago has a team option on him.

Free agents worth naming:

Barry Zito
Jason Schmidt
Jamie Moyer
Gil Meche
Roger Clemens
Andy Pettitte
Mike Mussina*
B-K Kim
Cory Lidle
Greg Maddux
Woody Williams
Mark Mulder
Vicente Padilla
Randy Wolf

Yeah. That is one weak list. The only four truely effective pitchers on that list are Clemens, Mussina, Zito, and Schmitty. So if we want to upgrade via free agency, Zito and Schmitty are the only obvious that we possess. And you can get that 29 other teams are saying the same thing.

I would say that there is too much risk involved in choosing one of these pitchers. That leaves us two options: promote from within or bring a pitcher in via trade. The problem is, we don't have a lot of moveable trading chips. Trading young pitching for a pitcher doesn't make a lot of sense. On the field, we certainly aren't going to try to rid ourselves of a 23 year old hitting .340 at 2nd base. Pretty much everyone else is locked in to a no-trade or oversized contract.

Could Alex Rodriguez be our only trading chip? Maybe. Melky Cabrera certainly has value, although I am not sure how much. I suggested getting Ervin Santana and Mark Teahen or Arod the other day, and today I am going to amend that suggestion. Bartolo Colon was the (undeserving, but still good) Cy Young winner in 2005. He spent much of the 2006 season batting injury. Colon is owed 14 million in 2007. The 33 year old carries only a one year burden on his contract, and is has ace stuff. He is a buy-low candidate, which is one thing that I will be stressing throughout the offseason.

Could Colon potentially be thrown in to a deal for Alex Rodriguez to encourage the Angels to give up a guy like Brandon Wood or Howie Kendrick? Maybe. The salary relief will essentially cancel out Arod's contract for a year. The downside is that Colon's injury may delay his start to the season, and the Yankees have not had much luck with injury prone pitchers lately.

I could very well see a deal like this go down: Alex Rodriguez for Brandon Wood, Bartolo Colon, and Jeff Mathis. I think the Yankees would have to take it. I would prefer Ervin Santana (who I think could be a good middle of the rotation type starter) or even Weaver (who ain't going nowhere) .

A gamble? Yep.

Tomorrow I'll add on to this my projections for possible farmhands that could fill starting roles next season. Of course, my projections actually squat, considering that I am no PECOTA. It'll be fun though.

Hopefully by then we'll actually have some news on Torre.

Uneventful Day

I really don't like speculation on matters which I really have no knowledge of. I distain ESPN when they talk about all these Joe Torre related things that in reality are concealed behind closed doors. So I am not going to speculate. For the record, it is my personal opinion that Torre will not be fired this offseason.

Some interesting quotes from Yankee players however should recieve attention.

Gary Sheffield is auditioning for a job in the post-Torre era.

An anonymous former Yankee blames Jeter.

George Steinbrenner
released a non-statement.

Brian Cashman also has basically said "Who knows what will happen at this point", while Arod has said "I want to stay, but if they want me to go, I'll go".

Sounds like some changes are coming, or at least the discontent will not remain behind the scenes. Should be an interesting offseason.

I'll try to find the time to talk about the Yankee pitching staff soon. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ten Questions

I know that you all expect me to talk a little more about Joe Torre right now. Problem is, we only have one sketchy source about his likely firing, and that source is the New York Daily News. For all we know, it could be journalistic speculation.

For now I'd like to take a look at ten important questions that the Yankees will face this offseason. I wil do my best to answer them.

1. Who will manage the team?

We don't know if it will be Joe Torre or not right now. Possible replacements would include Mazzili, Bowa, Pinella, or Giradi. I am hoping for Giradi, but Pinella or Bowa would not be bad choices. Both would resemble what the New Jersey Devils did in 2003 when they brought Pat Burns in to kick the team's ass.

2. Will Mike Mussina come back?

I think it all depends on the asking price. Mussina was damn good this season. He was one of the top 10 best pitchers in baseball. I think that Moose could be a real bargain at 1-2 years for 8 million a year. Any more than two years or 8 million per however would be too much. Could we really find a better pitcher for cheaper?

3. Will Gary Sheffield come back?

I don't think that he will. He performed poorly in the past two postseasons. He never showed much skill at 1st base or at the plate following his injury. He might be worth it soley for the sake of only needing to commit for one year until Eric Duncan or someone is ready. Still, I think that the Yankees take their draft picks on this one.

4. Will Alex Rodriguez come back?

I am going to tentatively say he will. If Piniella returns, Alex will have an ally in the clubhouse who will probably fight for him. Still, I am not sure if the long term interests of the club really should include Arod. He's a great player, but has played lousy defense at third base and has been a .285/.380/.520 hitter for two of his three years here. That is an excellent player, but overrated. I think that the Yankees could get significant value for Arod.

5. All right... then who would take Alexander the Great?

The two obvious teams that come to mind are the Chicago Cubs and the Angels. Both have the money to spend and could use a SS/3b. Arod has the advantage of not being as expensive as his contract. Right now, the Yankees are paying him 18 million of his 25. If the Yankees throw in 3m/year, he could be a relative bargain to a team, opening up more possibilities. The Dodgers, the Diamonbacks, the Mariners, the Phillies, the Giants, and the Astros immediately come to mind.

But who would play third base? I would suggest some sort of 3 way trade involving Kansas City. The Royals have both Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon. Teahen played excellent defense while hitting .290/.357/.517 this season (.318/.392/.582 since the All Star Break) in his age 24 season. Alex Gordon however could be even better. He is the consensus #1 prospect in baseball right now (Hughes is #3). The Royals are likely to either move Gordon to the outfield or trade Teahen. I would suggest some sort of trade involving Ervin Santana, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teahen, and some of the Angel's other prospects. I will likely be writing one or more large posts on Alex Rodriguez later this weekend.

6. Will the Yankees target a big name free agent starting pitcher?

I think they will, and I think that is a mistake. On the market are Mark Buerhle, Barry Zito, and Jason Schmidt. All three would require some big contracts. I think that if the Yankees decide to forego Mussina (which would probably be a mistake), they will surely target Zito. Depending upon the next two postseason series, Zito could command a 60+ million dollar contract over five years. He would improve the Yankee staff, but I'd be surprised if his ERA ends up under 3.80 in any of those years. Zito is a middle of the rotation innings eater. Buerhle had a terrible year. Jason had his strikeout rates and velocity dip following injury.

An interesting option would be Daisuke Matsuzaka. He'll cost a ton, but his "gyroball" is supposed to make him an ace. I don't trust pitchers coming from a 6 man rotation with a trick pitch. He could be very good, but will he be worh the 15 million dollars required via the posting system?

Great rotations are developed from within. The Braves did it. The dynasty Yankees did it. The 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2005 White Sox, and now the 2006 Athletics and Tigers are doing it. Pitchers are at their best before they reach the free agent market.

7. Will the Yankees try to include Carl Pavano in the equation?

I think they have to. Pavano is owed 20 million for the next two years. The Yankees have sufficient pitching depth to absorb a Pavano injury. I think that Pavano is capable of 200 innings of 4.00 ERA ball if healthy. But thats a big if.

8. Will Phil Hughes be in the rotation next year, or even in the organization?

I can't see the Yankees trading Hughes now. They may be tempted, but I just can't see it. Tyler Clippard may go somewhere, but Hughes will probably stay. Much of what Brian Cashman has said pointed toward Hughes starting in AAA for a short period of time in 2007, although Hughes himself has said that he will try to make the team out of Spring Training. Word is that Phil's changeup could use some work.

Personally, I'd start him in AAA. When someone gets injured or is ineffective, Hughes can be called up quickly. Hughes has two plus-plus pitches in his fastball and curveball, but he has been having some trouble throwing his change for strikes. If it becomes a third plus pitch, look for Hughes to blossom quickly.

9. What will the bullpen look like?

I'd say that Scott Proctor, Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, and Brian Bruney are pretty definate. You could probably add one of Darrell Rasner or Jeff Karstens to the mix. That is a solid bullpen. I think the Yankees will resist going to 12 pitchers again this year.

They might want to explore getting rid of Mike Myers. He wasn't that great this year, and really hurts the Yankees by taking up a roster spot which could be filled by a more flexible pitcher. Ray King is a free agent, and should be explored.

10. Will the Yankees contend next year?

I don't think that there is any question to this. The Yankees were the best team in baseball in 2006, during the regular season. The core group of Jeter, Mariano, Posada, Damon, Matsui, and Cano are better than any in baseball. The Red Sox and Blue Jays don't have a lot of hope considering the weak free agent market and lack of talented depth in the high minor league systems.

The Yankees can and should win a World Series soon. It all comes down to Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner. The Red Sox made the mistake of trading away Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey Garcia for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and G. Mota. Guess what? Sanchez was better than Beckett and Ramirez was better than Lowell this season. Young talent wins a lot of games. Patience is a virtue.

Could it really be happening?

The New York Daily News:

NEW YORK New York Yankees manager Joe Torre likely will be fired and replaced by Lou Piniella following another early exit from the baseball playoffs, the New York Daily News reported Sunday.
According to sources the Daily News did not identify, Torre is expected to be fired unless he resigns first — or team officials can talk owner George Steinbrenner out of making the move.
On Saturday, the Yankees were eliminated from the first round of the American League playoffs, losing to Detroit 8-3 in Game 4. It was the second straight year New York lost in the opening round.
The Yankees have won the World Series four times under Torre, most recently in 2000. They had a record US$200 million payroll this year and matched the New York Mets for the best record in the regular season.
The Yankees have made the playoffs in all 11 years that Torre has been their manager. They have won nine straight AL East titles.
Torre, 66, has one year and US$7 million left on his contract.
Piniella, 63, is a former Yankees star and managed them in 1986-87 and for most of 1988. He guided Cincinnati to the 1990 World Series title and later managed Seattle and Tampa Bay.

I'm not going to celebrate just yet. I think that Joe Girardi would be a better choice, but Piniella is a good manager.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It's over

I really thought that this was our year. I thought that our combination of pitching, defense, and one of the best offenses in the game's history would be enough. But it was not. Who is to blame? A lot of people. Brian Cashman. Joe Torre. Randy Johnson. Jaret Wright. Alex Rodriguez. Gary Sheffield. Robby Cano.

There is a lot of blame to go around, that is for sure. I'm not going to play the blame game with the players. They performed poorly, as a whole. I am going to critisize Joe Torre and Brian Cashman, who don't have a 103 mph fastball as an excuse.

Jason Giambi should have been in this game. He's our best overall hitter. He's chews up right handed power pitchers. I really do not understand how Joe Torre can believe that Gary Sheffield would be better on either side of the ball than Giambi. Sheffield sucked at the position this year in his brief time there. In the games that I watched (1, 2, 4), Sheffield did not make at least five plays which an experienced first baseman would. In addition, Sheffield did exactly nothing with the bat.

Torre did not handle Arod correctly this series. Hit him 8th? 6th? We won 97 games with Alex Rodriguez batting 3, 4, or 5. Why all of the sudden change things? Torre was creating a self-fulfilling profesy.

Brian Cashman failed at creating a deep enough pitching staff for Torre to use. There are going to be a lot of changes this offseason. I think that we could be facing the real possibility of Alex Rodriguez not being in New York next year.

The offseason just got a little longer. I will be spending it talking about next year, reviewing any Yankee moves, and talking about the Yankee farm system. I sincerely hope that George Steinbrenner does not make any irrational decisions ala the 2004 offseason and set this team back signficantly. The future is bright, even if this year's outcome is not.

Friday, October 06, 2006

ALDS Game 3 @ Detroit

Unfortunately, I will most likely be unable to watch Kenny Rogers get bombed tonight. It should be an interesting game. I have this strangely optimistic feeling with Randy Johnson.

Hopefully I'm right. Or we just win a 10-9 slugfest. Either way, this is a pretty important game.


btw, in 19 AB, Alex Rodriguez hit .525/.625/1.421 (10 hits, 5 HR).

Come on Arod!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

ALDS Game 2 vs Detroit

If we lose this series, this will be looked back as the game which we should have won.

Justin Verlander was not pitching well to begin this game. His 10 days of rest were showing up as rust. We put 5 runners on between the two innings, forcing Verlander to throw 40+ pitches. Unfortunately, we were unable to score.

Gary Sheffield is definately the dog of this game. He missed two catches that an average first baseman would have gotten. He killed a rally with a GIDP, and struck out in big spots twice.

I can't fault the Yankee hitters in general today. Do we really expect anyone to hit up Zumaya, throwing 103 with perfect location? Todd Jones somehow decided that he was really Curt Schilling today, throwing crazy strike after strike. I wouldn't count on Jones being that effective in future outings.

In the end, we got barely edged out in the later innings of a close game. The Yankees are going to have to beat up on one of Kenny Rogers or Jeremy Bonderman in the next few days. Considering the strength of our lineup, I wouldn't worry too much.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Tonight's game will be played tomorrow. It's going to piss off a lot of ticket holders who have to work, but the Yankees can't control the rain.

Who does the rainout help? I would say that it's a mixed bag. The Yankees get a chance to give a day of rest to Proctor, Farnsworth, and (most importantly) Rivera. The Tigers did not pitch Zumaya, Rodney, or Jones yesterday, so they don't get as much utility to the rainout.

On the other hand, Mike Mussina is not one who likes his routine changed. The extra day of rest could throw him off mentally. I don't see Verlander having the same problem.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

ALDS Game 1 vs Detroit

Chien Ming Wang has a huge advantage over a lot of other heavy groundball pitchers out there. Wang's sinker sucked today. It barely moved half the time. He couldn't locate it. But when Wang realized this, he still had his 95-96 mph fastball to use.

He battled his way through to the 7th inning, when Joe Torre made his first mistake of the playoffs. He tried to "get cute" in the words of Tim McCarver, attempting to get the final out of the inning (while Wang was cruising) with Mike Myers. Well Myers gave up the home run, and Torre had to use Scott Proctor to clean up. Proctor made everyone nervous, but got out of the inning.

The consequence? Enter Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth was able to get through the inning allowing only a walk, but his control was far from good. A few breaks don't go our way and Joe Torre has no way to get out of a Farnsworth jam. Proctor and Myers are out of the game. Rivera is being limited to one inning a game. What are his options? Brian Bruney, maybe. But more likely, we would have seen Ron Villone in the game.

Despite throwing very well, Robertson just couldn't take the Yankee lineup. Giambi and Abreu hit some balls which they had no business hitting. Derek Jeter was unstoppable. Damon flashed some speed, getting on base.

You can try, but you won't stop them. Mike Mussina tomorrow.

Keys to the Series

Joe Torre has a relatively easy job. He's not going to have too make too many tough decisions this postseason. His handling of the middle relief is really the only concern for Yankee fans.

Kyle Farnsworth is dangerous. He is very inconsistent. Torre needs to be ready to pull Farnsworth in favor of Mariano Rivera or Mike Myers (or Proctor) at the first sign of trouble. Farnsworth can be dominating, but he can also be vunerable.

Scott Proctor should be fairly solid. He finished the year very strong, with a 1.76 ERA. He could definately benefit from some creative use of Mike Myers, though with the righty-heavy Detroit lineup, that shouldn't be much of an issue. Proctor may see some 2+ innings appearances if things go wrong. If I am Joe Torre, I use Proctor over Farnsworth in the 8th inning.

Brian Bruney is an interesting fellow. By adding another strong righty to the pen, he makes Scott Proctor and Kyle Farnsworth all the more effective (because there is another righty to take over if Mike Myers is brought in to the game, and because he can take an inning or two early in the game). If we need a strikeout to get out of a jam, he's probably the best option. I wouldn't put him in to a lot of 1 run games, mostly due to his wildness. Bruney needs his fastball to be 96-97 instead of 93-94 in order to prosper.

Ron Villone shouldn't see a meaningful inning. Period. He may still have some extreme LOOGY skills left in his arm, but that is about it. Against the righty-heavy Detroit lineup, we better hope that Villone sees little to no playing time.

Cory Lidle could actually be very good out of the bullpen. He can go innings, but just as importantly he is very tough on right handed batters. If Jaret Wright or Randy Johnson can't make it to the 6th inning, Lidle could save our ass.

What else for Torre? Remember Bill Buckner. With a late lead, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui should be out of the game. Don't pinch hit Bernie against a right handed pitcher, use Melky instead. Don't call for too many sacrifice bunts.

Thats about it. Torre, please prove me wrong. Please don't be a terrible manager. You always seem to manage best when you finally need to in order to survive.

Yankees in 3.

Bullpens, Bench, and Ballparks

Time to finish this set of analysis up.

The Closer: Mariano Rivera vs Todd Jones

This isn't even worth an explanation. Todd Jones is baby David going up against Goliath.

Massive Edge: Yankees

Setup: Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Proctor vs Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya

Rodney and Proctor are pretty much the same pitcher. Proctor pitched a little more this year, but basically performed the same as Rodney. Farnsworth and Zumaya are both very interesting pitchers. Both pitchers are among the hardest throwers in the game. They both throw power sliders. The difference however has been that Zumaya was probably the best setup man in the majors this year while Farnsworth was very average. When I talk about keys to Joe Torre's game, Farnsworth will be a major issue.

Edge: Detroit

Primary LOOGY: Mike Myers vs Jamie Walker

Two more very similar pitchers. Both pitchers are excellent at destroying lefties. Both pitchers get smacked around by right handed batters. That said, Detroit holds a decidedly edge here for one reason: The they don't have any lefties! Mike Myers really only may come in to face Curtis Granderson or Sean Casey in a big spot. Jamie Walker will definately see some at bats against Giambi, Matsui, or Cano this series.

Edge: Detroit (purely out of utility)

The Back end: Brian Bruney, Cory Lidle, and Ron Villone vs Zach Miner, Jason Grilli, and Wilfredo Ledezma

This is a hard one to call. The Yankees have the best pitcher of the bunch in Brian Bruney. Miner and Lidle cancel each other out in long relief, and Villone loses out against Grilli. Grilli is an average right handed reliever who shouldn't end up in any meaningful innings, and hopefully neither should villone. Bruney on the other hand may see significant time in 6th or even 7th inning duty.

Edge: Yankees (out of Bruney)

Outfield Bench: Melky Cabrera and Bernie Williams vs Marcus Thames/Craig Monroe and Alexis Gomez

Marcus Thames is the best player of this bunch. That said, he may not be available to play quickly enough and when he does will start most of the games in the outfield. Craig Monroe is an overrated masher who makes outs like crazy. Alexis Gomez is a glove man who only hit .272/.318/.388 (aka, he's Bubba Crosby). Bernie Williams has proven to be an excellent hitter against left handed batters this season (and could see some very rare at bats in later innings). Melky Cabrera can get on base very well, and will likely see a lot of time as a defensive replacement for Hideki Matsui.

Edge: Yankees (especially when Monroe is on the bench)

Infield Bench: Miguel Cairo, Andy Phillips, and Sal Fasano vs Neifi Perez, Omar Infante, and Vance Wilson

I don't know a single other pair of major league teams to have so little hitting ability on their infield bench. All six players here can play excellent defense, but the Yankees hold the big advantage in that the chance of Andy Phillips or Miguel Cairo seeing significant at bats are significantly low. Detroit may need to mix and match their players in later innings, resulting in Neifi Perez coming into a big spot. Andy Phillips will be very important in replacing Gary Sheffield at 1st base.

Edge: Yankees (The players themselves are a wash, but the Yankees won't need to use these guys)

Next up, keys to Joe Torre's game.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pitching Matchups

Position player vs position player isn't really telling of a team's chances in a postseason series. It's good to know, but the pitching is where matchups get important. The Tigers have intelligently arrayed their staff in this upcoming series, so let's take a look at what Joe Torre has in store.

Game 1: Nate Robertson vs Chien-Ming Wang

If there is any one Detroit pitcher to pick against the Yankees, it's Nate Robertson. He's a left handed pitcher, and a decent one at that. He pitched twice against New York during the season, going 8.2 and 7.0 innings while allowing 6 and 2 earned runs respectively. Despite the six earned runs (which came late), it is safe to say that Robertson effectively handled the Yankees. At least he won't be a pushover. He posted an ERA of 3.84 and 137 Ks in 208 innings. I'd say that he keeps the Tigers in the game.

The Yankees counter with Chien-Ming Wang. Detroit is an excellent team for Wang to face. They swing early and often. They are dominated with right handed hitters. They try to hit fly balls. They don't take walks. This is exactly the kind of team that Wang has shown to tear through this season. To be fair, Wang stunk in his first start against Detroit (4 innings, 5 ER), but absolutely dominated in his second (7.2 innings, zero earned runs, just 3 hits allowed). I'm willing to bet that Wang easily handles Detroit.

Edge: Yankees

Game 2: Mike Mussina vs Justin Verlander

If there are two more diametrically different pitchers matching up this postseason, I'm not aware of them. Verlander broke out in a big way this season, and is a prime reason as to why the Tigers turned their franchise around. That said, I wouldn't bet on him in this game. Verlander has a lot going against him. He does not handle left handed hitters well (.279/.343/.462 vs .253/.313/.369) compared to right handed hitters, has slowed down in August and September (6.83 and 4.82 ERAs), and got roughed up by the Yankees in his only outing against them (5 IP, 6 ER). 100 MPH heat really tires that arm out.

100 MPH heat? Yeah right, we'll take the knuckle curve. Moose is coming off his best season since 2003 (the last time that the Yankees made the World Series), and is facing exactly the right lineup for his abilities. The Tigers love the swing, and Moose will certainly take advantage of that. Mussina faced Detroit only once this year, and it was probably his best start of the year (Complete game, no earned runs, just six hits allowed on 101 pitches, including one fiery scream at Joe Torre). Expect big things out of a big game pitcher.

Edge: Yankees (big time)

Game 3: Randy Johnson vs Kenny Rogers

Too bad it's not 1996 all over again. Kenny Rogers has actually been a pretty good pitcher over the past two years. He's been kind of a Wang-lite, striking out few and getting groundballs. He didn't face the Yankees at all this season. That said, we all remember Kenny Roger's postseason blunders. I don't know what to expect of Rogers.

Speaking of uncertainty... Randy Johnson takes the mound for the Yankees in Game 3. He hasn't been bad against Detroit this season (6.0/8.0 IP and 0/4 ER allowed), but his back may just hold him back again. This absolutely reeks of Kevin Brown in 2004 to me. I'm worried.

Edge: Tigers (But expect a slugfest)

Game 4: Jaret Wright vs Jeremy Bonderman

We've expected a lot from Bonderman for a long time now. He has fantastic strikeout ability, but never really managed to put his other skills together. In his best season yet, the 24 year old posted a 4.08 ERA. He blew the last start of the season, eventually resulting in the Tigers losing the division to the Twins. Bonderman had mixed results in two starts against the Yankees (7.1/5.1 IP, 4 ER both times). Not terrible, but nothing that really inspires confidence. Still, he certainly has the ability to be dominating. Personally, I've never been to impressed with the guy.

Of course, we have the less impressive Jaret Wright pitching Game 4. Wright was by no means horrible this season, but I don't know if I would call him more than average. He posted a 4.49 ERA in 140.1 innings. Much like Rogers, Wright has relied upon the groundball more than the strikeout as he ages. Wright actually remarkably was able to limit the home run (just 10 all year) as well as any starter in the game. Besides that, he has few strengths. The swing-for-the-fences-every-pitch nature of Detroit's lineup may work in Wright's favor, but more than 6 innings is not going to happen.

Edge: Tigers

Bullpens come next.

Lots of Predictions

Before I continue on to my opinion of the pitching matchups between New York and Detroit, I'd like to address some ridiculous notions that I have been hearing from baseball pundits all around. I'm not going to quote anything word for word, as a lot of this comes from pay sites, but some things that I've read recently. I don't know whether to attribute this to poor journalism or just anti-Yankee bias.

1. Jorge Posada is a terrible catcher. The Tigers are going to run all over him (despite throwing out 38% of baserunners this season)

2. Hideki Matsui's stroke isn't back yet. The Tigers are going to blow fastballs by him. (Despite batting .412/.484/.608 since returning)

3. Scott Proctor is not only worn out, but a shakey bridge to Mariano Rivera (despite being one of the AL's most valued and durable relievers this season and finishing the season with an ERA of 1.76 in September.

4. The Yankees can't play defense... at all (Despite finishing the season with a DER of of .7108, second among AL playoff teams. Detroit is in first)

5. The Yankees play a station to station game, which won't work in the playoffs (Despite the baserunning talents of Jeter, Damon, Arod, and Abreu, not to mention speed from Cano, Matsui, Sheffield and pretty much the entire bench)

6. The Yankee starting pitching is vastly inferior to the rest of the AL teams (Despite having 2 of the top ten pitchers in the AL, and better 3/4 starters than the Twins or Athletics)

7. Billy Wagner is going to be better than Mariano Rivera (Do I need to even start on this one?)

*sigh*. Time to start on those pitching matchups.