Sports Outside the Beltway

Yankee thoughts – March 27 edition

- I know it’s a year from now, but the 2009 bullpen has a chance to be dominant (and cheap). Humberto Sanchez, Mark Melancon, Chris Garcia and JB Cox are all returning from serious injuries this year. All have outside chances of a Joba-like rise this year, but more likely they’ll have a realistic shot a making the Bigs in 2009. With Farnsworth and Hawkins coming off the books next year, the pen competition will be wide open; the only lock is Mo Rivera. Joba will hopefully be starting full time next year, leaving six open spots. It’s quite possible we could see a 100% non-free agent bullpen, featuring the likes of Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez, JB Cox, Mark Melancon, Dan McCutchen, Chris Garcia, Humberto Sanchez and Kevin Whelan, as well as current bullpen candidates such as Ross Ohlendorf, Scott Patterson, Edwar Ramirez and Brian Bruney. Unfortunately, there’s not a single lefty in the group (Billy Traber is not a long term option).

- Three questions

1. Were the Yankee hitters even trying today?

2. How can Patterson and Ohlendorf not make this team?

3. Why does Girardi insist on a long-man?

I’m giving one of the three undecided bullpen spots to Traber. And we know Girardi wants a long-man – now with Karstens tweaked groin, it’s down to Rasner vs. Igawa. The last spot is down to three candidates: Bruney, Patterson and Ohlendorf.

Ohlendorf was a starter throughout college and the minors: he started 74 minor league games and 28 at Princeton. It’s only since mid-way through last season that he was converted into a reliever (because of the glut of solid Yankee minor league starting pitching and a bullpen need at the major league level). He can be both a long-man and one-inning reliever.

So with the two open spots, who makes the most sense out of Igawa, Rasner, Bruney, Patterson and Ohlendorf? It’s pretty clear: the last two, who’ve done nothing this spring but throw strikes and get outs, which is a lot more than the others can say.

-What about Brett Gardner?

His biggest criticism is his lack of power – his career minor league slugging percentage is a measly .374, lower than his on-base percentage (.381). He’s hit six homers in over 1100 at-bats.

But his best attribute is his plus-plus speed, and proponents point to this as a reason he can be a ML regular, perhaps the Yanks everyday centerfielder. But again, his lack of power might hold him back.

How can we take speed into account when calculating a hitter’s value? Perhaps adding in one total base for every steal, and subtracting one for every caught stealing. This increases Gardner’s (and other weak speedster’s) slugging percentage into very respectable territory.

Instead of a .374 SLG, Gardner’s slugging percentage would look like such:

161 xbh (4 x HR + 3 x 3b + 2 x 2b) + 256 1b = 417 TB
116 SB – 22 CS = 94 SB
511 TB/1115 AB = .458 SLG

That’s roughly the same as Derek Jeter last year, who, using the same SLG equation, had a .463 SLG. It’s also the same as Adam Laroche, and better than Kevin Youkilis, Nick Swisher and Travis Hafner (in 2007). (Bear in mind, of course, that I’m using Gardner minor league numbers.)

Admittedly, a steal of 2nd is not as valuable as a double, because a double (like all extra-base hits) has a chance to score a baserunner. But speed doesn’t show up in a player’s ability to tag up, it causes throwing errors, and beats out GIDPs. So perhaps they are somewhat akin, and there is something to be said for adding steals into SLG.

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