Sports Outside the Beltway

Yankee News – December 29 edition

Been busy with holiday stuff for a while and since nothing really’s been happening anywhere in baseball, there hasn’t been much to write about – but here’s what I’ve missed:

- Baseball America, the prospect bible, published its Top 10 Yankee prospect list. Joba, Ajax and Tabata topped the list while Kennedy somehow fell to fourth. Six through 10 is a strange melange of players that seem to fit two completely different methods of evaluating prospects.

- Jimmy Leyritz, one of my favorite Yankees growing up, was arrested for DUI after he hit a car running a red light – a woman driving the other car was killed. A tragic story for sure, and while lessening Jim’s stature in my mind, ultimately not that surprising – the dude always seemed like a hard-drinking, reckless kind of guy (just as if the same happened to David Wells – would anyone be that surprised? Unfortunately, no.).

- The Yanks and Sawx only seem to remain ‘in talks’ for Santana merely to drive up the price for the other. If the Yanks ever said they were completely pulling out, the Sawx would gain a ton of leverage and could conceivably lower their offer and still acquire Santana.

- Robbie Cano was pulled from Dominican Winter Baseball at the request of the Yanks front office, apparently due to a calf strain. But some conspiracy theorists believe it could be in preparation for a trade… very doubtful.

- I’ll be posting a piece on Lohud sometime in January so look for it.


The Mitchell Report from a Yankee fan’s perspective

- The two main sources for Senator Mitchell’s report were a Mets clubhouse attendant and a Yankees trainer. They were both threatened with jail time. No wonder the list has a lot of former and current New York players. If the sources worked in LA or Chicago or Boston, I’m sure many of those city’s players would be named.

- George Mitchell is a director for the Boston Red Sawx (and has been since 2002). Not one current Sawx player is named. Coincidence? Imagine naming your co-workers/employees ‘cheaters’, then walking in Monday morning: “Hey fellas, how was your weekend?” I know I couldn’t do that. Why couldn’t Bud Selig find an investigator for such a major case that didn’t have a clear conflict of interest?

- I’m disappointed that Andy Pettitte was named. Clemens and Giambi were expected, but not Andy. The report states he took HGH (human growth hormone) in 2002 to speed up his elbow rehab. Not as bad as Clemens’ use of it, but still disappointing.

- Since one of the main sources was a Yankee trainer, it probably means that those not named are clean – I think that’s a fair assumption. Good news for Derek, Jorge, Arod, Cone, O’Neill, Mo, etc.

- George Mitchell did not have any real power in this investigation. The player’s union did not want any players talking to him and he didn’t have any subpoena power. That’s why he had to go through other ‘sources’ like the former Mets and Yankees employees.

- All together, it should be taken with a large grain of salt. Some players were linked merely by hearsay, and some by former employees threatened with jail time – a lot of circumstantial evidence like checks and phone records. I doubt this would stand up in court. Elsewise, just because a player wasn’t named doesn’t mean they didn’t juice. Outside of the Yanks and Mets (whose employees provided the two main sources), most every player is still a suspect. For all the money and time spent on this investigation, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire weren’t named. What does that tell you about it’s definitiveness? It’s a shame if those not named are somehow seen as ‘beacons of integrity’ or some shit because it’s simply untrue.

- ESPN showed a montage of Roger Clemens during their Mitchell Report special. It included only shots with the Yanks – what happened to his time with Boston, Toronto and Houston?

- Since most Yankee steroid use didn’t begin until 2001, Mark Feinsand says it doesn’t tarnish the Dynasty years.

- Oh, and the Yanks and Arod finalized his 10-year deal. He’ll make a base of $275 million and as much as $305 million with home run based incentives.

Update 7:19 pm
For what it’s worth, David Justice (named as a user in the report) on the YES Network strongly denied using any illegal substances.


Quick Yankee hits

- the Yanks made an offer to Baltimore for southpaw Erik Bedard, who’s coming off a career year: 182 ip, 3.16 era, 1.09 whip, 221 Ks. No mention is made of what the offer is, but after all the hullabaloo (first time I’ve ever used that word) of nearly trading Phil Hughes, he’s unlikely part of this deal (for a lesser pitcher than Santana). Since Bedard has never surpassed 200 innings, they should be very careful pursuing him, especially since Baltimore is a division rival and any players they get in return can hurt us 19 times a year. If I had to guess, the offer is something akin to Kennedy, Melky and a mid-level prospect like Jeff Marquez.

- two Latin players were signed recently and the initial scouting reports on them are very promising. From’s Minor League forum:

“1B, Raymond Nunez – (Just turned) 17-year old first baseman, bats and throws right-handed. 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. Apparently he’s a big kid, reportedly has more power than Kelvin De Leon and a smidge less than Montero – somewhere around 75 power on the 20-80 scout’s scale from what I’m told.

Reportedly he’s a great defensive first baseman and has a really good eye at the plate. He apparently played in a handful of Dominican Instructs games (after I left obviously) and hit a home run, four doubles, and never struck out. The Yankees signed him for “six figures”. I couldn’t get an exact figure.

RHP, Harold Garce – 22 years old, from the Dominican Republic, 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. I know, 22, right? Get this though, apparently he was hitting 98-99 MPH during his tryout!!!

He was a low dollar sign but he’s quite projectable. He’s never been coached, he’s very crude mechanically, but he shows a pretty good curveball already, and he was sitting 95 MPH in the couple of Dominican Instructs games he pitched towards the end.

Imagine how good he could be once Nardi gets a hold of him.”



Yankees 2008 Bullpen

The biggest problem now facing the 2008 Yankees is the state of the bullpen. They’ll likely have 6 starter-types:
(probably in that order)

That’s basically set. However, when one looks at the pen, it’s much less clear. We know it’ll start with Mo and Farnsworth. Assuming 13 total pitchers, that leaves 5 spots open. Here are the immediate candidates:

A lot of guys with good stuff but little production. IF Edwar commands his fastball, he could be a dominant reliever. IF Ohlendorf commands all his stuff, he could be a very good reliever. Same thing with Veras, Bruney, Henn and Beam. Britton is what he is, a solid at best reliever. Outside of Edwar, they’re all fastball/slider pitchers (not that that’s atypical of relievers). The guys I see having the most potential impact are Edwar, Ohlendorf and Albaladejo (herein referred to as Alby). I really liked what I saw of Ohlendorf in limited action this year, and even Edwar looked dominant at times. Ohlie can hit 98 mph on the gun and has a live, sharp slider. The reason I believe in Edwar is his sick K rate (11.1 k/9 in the minors) – he just has to get ahead of hitters to use his changeup, and that means improving his fastball command. Having watched several of Alby’s outings (on, I’m actually the most confident in him (out of this group) having a solid, consistent year. The rest of these guys have shaky control but Alby is by far the best in this area (1.73 bb/9 in 500+ minor league innings) and even a decent K rate (7.4 k/9) – he pitched great in limited time with Washington this year (14.1 ip, 7 h, 2 bb, 12 k). His size, stuff and control should make him a very effective reliever. His ceiling as I see it is a good 8th inning guy.

Here are the potential 2008 relief candidates:

The most promise lies with this quintet. Sanchez, Whelan and Melancon have closer-type stuff. However, Sanchez, Melancon and Cox are coming off serious injuries and may not make an impact at all in the Bronx in 2008. It depends on how much their stuff and control come back. If not for their injuries, they might’ve seen time with the big club this year. Melancon, 22, has a slightly higher ceiling than Sanchez but is further away – he last pitched for short-season Staten Island in 2006 while Sanchez, 24, pitched for Triple-A Toledo in ’06. After rehab stints, these pitchers (excluding Melancon) will be pitching in Scranton by mid-season and therefore have the possibility to make the short drive to the Bronx anytime after the break. Melancon has the furthest to go (having pitched just 7 minor league innings) but has already completed some rehab work in the D.R. He’ll likely start in High-A Tampa with the Yanks looking to promote him quickly. If we’re lucky, he’ll have a Joba-esque rise and be in the pen by August. You shouldn’t expect it though.

Whelan also has a tremendous ceiling but has been plagued by control problems. He has sick power numbers: 4.75 hits/9, .34 HR/9, 11.6 k/9, but his bb/9 is very high at 5.14. If that comes down to a respectable level (below 3), he also could be a dominant reliever. Cox and Patterson have the lowest ceilings but could still be solid ML relievers. Cox was the closer for U-Texas and has put up good minor league stats in two seasons. Patterson is old, 28, but has also put up good stats despite being a 1 1/2 pitch pitcher (fastball and little else). But because he’s 6’7″ and has an extreme overhand delivery, the fastball looks like it’s coming out of the sky (despite low 90s speed). He’s the fringiest of this group – will he be able to get by with a great fastball without much else? Doubtful, but maybe he improves one of his secondary pitches. If he even had an average breaking ball, he could be another solid reliever.

And here are the 2008 conversion candidates – as in these guys will enter 2008 as minor league starters but based on need could see time in the Bronx pen:

This is basically Scranton’s 2008 opening day rotation. As there are 8 names listed, several will be either converted to full time relievers, traded or used as tandem pitchers (meaning they’ll enter in the 5th or 6th innings of games and close them out – basically a long reliever with a set schedule). Horne has easily the highest ceiling of this group – he won the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year in ’07 and has been described by at least one expert as ‘Joba-lite’. In terms of stuff, Marquez and White are about even with Igawa behind them (hey, he does have good stuff but can’t locate it for his life), followed by the rest as a mish-mosh of AAAA talent. Wright and Igawa actually have the best chance to be the first among this group to crack the majors – they’re southpaws who already have ML experience (despite sucking).

Trade/Free Agent options include:
Ron Mahay
Damaso Marte
Luis Vizcaino

Marte is far and away the best of the bunch, but being under contract with Pittsburgh, he will have to be traded for. He dominates lefties (.571 ops) and has more strikeouts than innings – he also has the lowest whip and best ERA+ of this trio. Mahay and Vizcaino are free agents, but since the Viz will net an extra draft pick for us, let him sign elsewhere and go after Mahay. He’s old (36), but would be slightly more helpful than the Viz. How much in terms of players would it cost for Marte? How about a boatload of AAAA pitchers, e.g. DeSalvo, Rasner, Karstens, Wright? Pittsburgh could always use cheap starters, and that’s what they are – they might even succeed (a little) in the NL.

So there you have it. All the options. The five available pen spots will mostly be decided by Spring Training performances, but seeing as injuries and general suckiness will ensue, the pen will be much different in the second half. The following are my predictions (excluding non-current Yankees) for first and second half bullpens (not my personal choices):
Early in the year -

That is ugly. It would look a lot better with Marte in the mix. Edwar and Ohlie will spend some time in Scranton fine-tuning. When the front office feels they’re more ready, they’ll be the first to get call-ups with Rasner and Henn likely going down (Bruney too if he can’t throw strikes). The second half pen looks far better:

Much better. Of course, if Marte or Mahay are acquired, they would replace one of those bottom five guys.

Baseball Cube


Santana and Cabrera

via BPro, the Sox are close to acquiring Santana for Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, Ryan Kalish and ‘a centerfielder’. Unless the CFer is Ellsbury, this is a steal for Boston. Sucks.

Hopefully Anaheim swoops in and steals him.

Not related to the Yanks but this is major baseball news – apparently the Tigers and Marlins are nearing a blockbuster eight player deal including Miguel Cabrera and D-Train going to Detroit and Cam Maybin and Andrew Miller (and others) to Florida. (I wouldn’t mind that move at all. Cabrera’s a great hitter but Dontrelle in the AL could suck – Miller and Maybin are stars in the making.)

Done. Wow! Happened so fast. This is how most trades go down – not the insanity of the Yanks and Sawx going for the same guy.

- Santana could fall into Boston’s lap.

- The Yanks may now go after Dan Haren. Shoot me please.

- Had time to watch some of Albaladejo (heard it pronounced both Alba-la-dayo and Alba-la-day-ho). –> Has a nice, easily repeatable delivery similar to San Diego’s Chris Young. A fastball with very good movement and command, 89-93. Two breaking balls: a hard slider that he commands well, 78-83, a sharp curve with slightly inferior command, 72-76, and an average (at best) changeup (84 mph). Overall, I like him a lot – great control, good command, very good size and decent stuff equals a solid middle/late reliever. Actually, he’s similar to Chris Britton in size and repertoire but better.


Santana, Yankees, Sox rumors

- Boston may include Clay Buchholz in their offer for Johan Santana. If their offer was Buchholz, Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp, I would do it if I was Minnesota. It’s better than Hughes, Melky and a ‘B’ prospect. Hughes is the best of those six, but Buchholz ain’t far behind, Lowrie is a solid infield prospect, and Crisp hits the same as Melky (currently) does (but costs a lot more).

- Little Stein is giving the Twins until Tuesday to take their offer for Santana or it’ll be withdrawn. Of course, Yankee ultimatums this off-season haven’t exactly gone as planned…

- BPro does not think Minnesota will accept the deal. Even if it does fall through, I expect it to be re-ignited later in the off-season.

- A recap of the Yanks off-season (so far).

Thanks to RAB for some of the links.


Dear Brian Cashman

I’ll try to be brief.
Please don’t succumb to the media pressure to trade Phil Hughes to land Johan Santana. Contrary to the opinions you might be reading in the newspapers, the Yanks do NOT NEED Santana. It would be nice, but not worth giving up a potential #1 ace-type guy for.

I’m sure you know all the reasons: Santana’s decline over the last few years (and during 2007′s latter half), Hughes’ resurgence in September and October when he became the Yanks best pitcher, not to mention all the cost controlled years of Hughes that would be thrown away vs. having to sign Santana to a long, lucrative extension. Also, Dave Eiland was just promoted to pitching coach – if not to help out the youngsters, why even do it?

Myself and a large majority of Yankee fans I’m in touch with feel the same way. Kennedy, Melky, Ajax, sure. Replace Kennedy with Hughes? No way. Kennedy should be a solid #3/4 pitcher in the Bigs but doesn’t project much higher. Hughes projects to be that frontline, ace starter that every team covets. Again, he’s on his way up (he was a league average pitcher as a 21-year-old – the youngest in all MLB in ’07) while Santana is on his way down.

If Boston gets Santana, so be it. They’ll probably have to give up a boatload of talent to do it, and while their 2008 rotation would be very strong, I prefer to hold onto the guy who will be strong for the next 10-15 years instead of the next 5 (while costing $100 million less). Why is Clay Buchholz deemed ‘untouchable’ yet Hughes, who projects better (better fb, better size, younger, better minor league stats) is not?

One last thing, on a personal note, it’s far more fun for us fans to root for homegrown Yankees than for the latest ‘veteran star’ that was acquired via trade or free agency. Anyway, I hope you feel the same way and won’t pull the trigger on the proposed deal with Hughes in it.

Thank you for your time,
Travis G.


Hughes part of the Santana offer

Hughes is part of the Santana package. Say it ain’t so Brian. Hopefully this is just a ploy to get Boston to add more into the pot.

From the article:

“He was just starting to get that late life back at the end of the season,” one AL scout said Friday. “I think the leg injuries had a lingering effect. He was at 91, 92 (mph) after he came back, instead of 94-95. It cost him some explosiveness, and I’ve gotta believe it will come back next season. The impressive thing was that he was able to win anyway.”

And why was Dave Eiland named pitching coach if not to help the young’ins (he was Trenton’s pitching coach during Hughes’ phenomenal ’06 season and with Scranton this year)? Acquiring the lefty Santana, they may as well have just kept Guidry.

Or maybe if Andy Pettitte could make up his damn mind already, we’d be in a better to position to trade (or hold) the youngsters.


Hughes isn’t just a trade chip

We throw around all these names like ‘I’d trade Kennedy and Melky for Santana, but not Hughes,’ or something akin to that. Then you read these stories about the actual players involved and it makes you want to keep all of them, even Melky. Phil Hughes was drafted out of High School by the Yankees – it’s the only organization he’s ever known. He doesn’t want to leave. Our instructors, managers, coordinators, scouts have all put work in to make him as good a pitcher as possible. Millions of dollars and thousands of hours were spent nurturing Hughes to the big leagues. I know Santana is the ‘best pitcher in baseball,’ but over the next 5-10 years, the combo of Hughes, Melky, Kennedy, Ajax, Tabata (and whoever else gets mentioned in trades) will help the team a lot more than one (currently) great starting pitcher.


A study of ‘Peak’

First, how to define ‘Peak’? It’s a players most productive seasons, but how many? Their best three, four, five? To have a nice simple number, I’ll choose five. Using BRef’s Play Index, I’ll look at various age ranges, e.g. 24-28, 25-29, 26-30, etc. Then I’ll take the average runs created for the top five players, followed by the 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th and 50th player. I’m going to try looking at the modern era, so I’ll go from 1973 (start of the DH) to the present. First, hitters overall, to be followed by LHB and RHB. Then the same for pitchers.

Overall, hitters are easier to analyze. Their peaks have a nice, simple bell curve. In 5-year spans, they peak from 27 to 31 (you could also expand it a bit from 26-32). Going by 3-year spans, hitters peak from 27 to 29 (while still hitting great at 30 and 31). What about the difference between lefties and righties? Righties peak relatively early – 25 to 29. Lefties peak a bit later – 27 to 31.

Pitchers are pretty similar, peaking at the same ages as hitters – 27 to 31. However, if the peak was to be extended two years, it would definitely include the age 25 and 26 seasons. In other words, pitchers peak slightly earlier than hitters. A problem comes when differentiating between lefties and righties. Southpaws peak from 24 to 28. Righties peak from 27 to 31 – that’s a fairly significant difference.

Interesting the difference in handedness. Lefty pitchers peak earlier than righties, but lefty hitters peak later than righties.

What does all this tell us?
- Well, in terms of current events, the Yanks should be very careful trading for Johan Santana. He’s a small lefty that may have peaked early (not uncommon for southpaws) and is on the way down. Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine are outliers.
- It may still be a few years before Robbie Cano hits his prime and becomes the #3 hitter many think is inevitable. Be patient.
- Arod is on the way down.
- Melky should only get better.
- Same with Hughes, Joba and Kennedy.


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