Sports Outside the Beltway

Posada done for the year

He’ll have shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and will need about six months to rehab. He should be ready for Spring Training in 2009.

- Damaso Marte is pretty good. In fact, he’s the second best left-handed reliever in baseball history!

- Tonight’s game was bad. What else can you say? Moose just wasn’t fooling anybody. This was a game where Moose needed to scare someone. The hacks the O’s were taking, even with two strikes, were indicative of the fact they knew they weren’t in any danger. It also didn’t help that not one close call (or so it seemed) went Mussina’s way.


Yanks trade for Marte and Nady, then beat Boston

The full deal is Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, George Kontos and Phil Coke. Damaso Marte is an excellent lefty specialist, while Nady is a decent rightfielder. At first glance, I’m not happy.

Nady is having an extraordinarily good season, well out of line with his career averages. His 2008 looks like this: .330/.383/.535 (142 OPS+). Certainly a great season, but Pittsburgh is trading high; his career line is a slightly above average: .281/.337/.456 (108 OPS+). Range Factor shows him to be an above-average rightfielder. He’s 29, so is at the peak of his career; it will probably all be downhill after this season. Nady is fairly versatile, having played 3b, 1b, and all three outfield positions in his career. However, with Abreu entrenched in RF, where does Nady play? Left-field, where he hasn’t played since 2007 (when he played just 10 games there)?

Marte is an excellent lefty reliever, owning a career 141 ERA+, with 484 strikeouts in 454.1 innings. He absolutely owns lefties: .578 career OPS against them. What about 2008? Not quite as dominant: a .669 OPS against left-handed batters. Is that an aberration? It might be, because in 2007 he destroyed lefties – they had a .352 OPS against him. Ironically, Marte was with the Yanks for half a season before being traded for Enrique Wilson in 2001.

According to Cot’s, Marte has a team option for $6 million next year, which will likely be exercised. Nady (as far as I can tell) is arbitration eligible.

Frankly, I don’t understand the move because the bullpen is the strongest area of the team right now. Marte might be great, but he also might block guys like Cox, Melancon and Horne who deserve chances once they show they’re ready (which should be soon). Both players are at or past their prime, and Nady is having a career year. The Yanks are buying high on Nady and selling low on Tabata and Ohlendorf (who are both having poor years).

Nady won’t play his natural position of right-field because of Abreu, so where is he going to play? He hasn’t played LF in over a year, so will he be expected to jump right into Yankee Stadium’s spacious leftfield? Now that I think about it, he might be the 1b replacement for Richie Sexson, and occasional leftfielder.

- That was the Yanks best start of the year… after Wang’s complete game shutout in Fenway of course. Just an incredible game by Joba. THAT’S why he became a starter: 7 ip, 3 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 9 k.

- Back from the dead, Carl Pavano is making a minor league start on Tuesday for the GCL Yankees. Monday will see Phil Hughes also make his first rehab start.

Sources: (again)
Baseball Reference
Cot’s Contracts


Yankees sign Sexson

To address their .732 OPS against southpaws, the Yanks signed former Mariner slugger (and I use that word loosely) Richie Sexson to a league minimum contract. At this point, he can’t be worse than Wilson Betemit and will only play against lefties, so it’s a low risk move. And he does hit lefties well: 1.045 OPS this year (albeit in 71 plate appearances) – his career totals aren’t quite so hot: just an .879 OPS vs. southpaws. This presents a frightening scenario, what if Sexson regresses to his career norm? Then the situation is no better off and probably even worse than a righty Wilson Betemit. If that happens, Sexson can always be released, but the damage done will be irreversible.

- The 15 inning All-Star Game received great TV ratings, which will only further empower FOX and MLB that the 8 p.m. start time is perfectly suited. What kid watching on a Tuesday night stays up to 2 a.m.? I understand that 15 innings is an aberration, but even the normal All-Star game lasts until near midnight because of the frequent pitching changes and longer commercial breaks. Not a good formula for future fandom (how’s that for alliteration?).


Yankees: Giambi wins it, Wang struggles and Mo is good

Thursday afternoon’s win was the best of the season (in terms of emotions). It looked totally lost at 7-2, only for the Yanks to crawl back to within one, then have Farnsworth re-blow the game, only to be followed by Arod, Matsui and Giambi coming up huge. In fact, Giambi increased the Yanks chances of winning 89.5% (almost unheard of).

And speaking of hitting, how about Wilson Betemit? His second HR in two days, this one coming from the right side. He gets killed a lot around the Yankee blogosphere, but it’s rather unfair to him. He’s a backup, and hence doesn’t get consistent playing time. If he did, I’m sure he would put about a .250/.350/.480 line. One of the positives about Giambi missing some time is that it might give Betemit more playing time, allowing him to get into a groove. Right now, you have to keep playing him – it comes down to four of Betemit, Giambi (if healthy), Damon, Matsui and Melky. Currently, Melky’s got to sit; the other hitters are just too hot to put on the bench. Damon is an inferior centerfielder, but the way he’s hitting he’ll easily make up for it.

- Now, on to Chien-Ming Wang: what’s wrong with him? Is there anything wrong with him? 82.2 innings is not even half a season so we shouldn’t jump to any definitive conclusions, but I’ll try to head in that direction. His ERA is the highest it’s ever been: 4.57. Through his first nine games, Wang was having a stellar year: 59 ip, 2.90 ERA, 38 K, 19 BB, 1 HR, .584 OPS against.

But he’s (frankly) sucked in his last four starts: 23.2 ip, 8.75 ERA, 11 K, 14 BB, 3 HR, .794 OPS against. The stat that most jumps out to me is the walk rate. It went from 2.89 BB/9 through his first nine starts to 5.3 BB/9. That’s almost double. It definitely jives with what my eyes tell me: Wang has been consistently missing his spots in his last several games.

To back me up, his BAA, BABIP and FIP are in line with his career averages. What I have to wonder is whether he’s trying strikeout more hitters – and if that’s causing him to avoid contact, hence throwing more pitches out of the zone. Along with a rising K/9 rate, his walk rate has also increased each of the last three years (along with his pitches/PA). And perhaps most disturbingly, his groundball rate has also decreased each of the last three years. My theory is thus: his critics who assailed him for not striking out enough hitters has caused him and his pitching coaches to try to improve his K rates, hence he’s throwing more pitches out of the zone (to induce swinging strikes) – this causes him to fall behind in counts more often which leads to more hits and walks. My hope is that it’s just a slump (it is just four games after all), but my fear is that the league has caught up to him or he’s hiding an injury.

- If you hadn’t noticed, Mariano Rivera is having a good year. How good is it?! It’s so good that among relievers with at least 25 ip (going all the way to 1901):
a. he has the best ERA+ (1185)
b. 4th best K/BB rate (13/1)
c. best WHIP (.500)
d. best OPS+ against (negative 24 = ludicrous!)
e. 2nd best hit rate (3.81/9 ip)

- The MLB amateur draft can be found here. The Yanks selected high-school pitcher Gerrit Cole with the 28th pick of the first round. I don’t know much about Cole, but here are several sources who do.
Baseball America
Perfect Game
River Ave. Blues
Keith Law (via Pinstripe Alley)


Random Yankee (and other things) thoughts

- Hank seems to be losing his temper. He wants Joba to start now while criticizing Mike Mussina. Honestly, he’s not far off base. Don’t worry, Hank, Joba will be a starter in time but there’s something called ‘inning caps’ for his protection. On Moose, I find myself agreeing with Hank, he should learn something from Jamie Moyer. Look at today’s game for proof. Steve Trachsel is basically a poor-man’s Mike Mussina, yet had a very effective start against a great offense. And he did it by doing the opposite of how Moose has been going about pitching this season: he used his fastball sparingly. Mussina still thinks his 85-88 mph fastball is an out-pitch, as evidenced by his five consecutive fastball at-bat against Manny (who homered). Watching Trachsel work his magic, using a lot of changeups and curves, it’s evident Moose needs to follow suit to be an effective pitcher: he has to become a junkballer, and he still has good enough offspeed stuff and command to do it.

- Any ‘Lost‘ fans out there? I just finished season 3, and [spoiler alert] couldn’t believe how idiotic Charlie was. Ok, before we even get to that, how the fuck did Mikhail pull off his stunt? He had a spear in his chest but managed to put on goggles, swim outside the underwater station right to the window where Charlie was and detonate it. Anyway, the grenade went off and Charlie drowned. But Jesus, did he not see the gaping hole that he could have easily swam out of to safety?

- Watched highlights from the Rangers-Devils game 5 and something jumped out at me. The Devils score and are celebrating in front of the glass boards; that’s all good and normal but right behind them a Ranger fan is furious and gives them the double middle-finger. It’s clear as day on TV and funny as hell.

- Andy the Stopper.


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.


New York Yankee News – March 14 edition

If the games meant something, would a comedian play in them?

A swath of Yankees fans kept saying they couldn’t wait to see the new, aggressive Yankees under Joe Girardi. I don’t think they had Billy Crystal in mind.

Signing a comedian for a one-day-only gig does not fit into the W.W.B.D. (What Would Billy Do) wing of Yankees fandom, who felt Joe Torre was much too passive in his final years as the manager. (I thought Torre was mature.) Having Crystal gamboling in a spring training game, as a 60th birthday gift, as he did Thursday, does not jibe with the new leaner-meaner image of the Yankees.

Once a good high school player and still in excellent shape, Crystal carried himself with dignity while striking out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to lead off for the Yankees.


Yankees: What I’m reading

- The Yanks are doing more running this year because apparently it builds the hamstring (which was a major problem last year) – who woulda thunk it?

- Was Joe Girardi responsible for the Marlins plague of pitcher injuries?

- AL East preview, with a short piece on Phil Hughes.

- An interview with Hal (the other) Steinbrenner.


Inside scoop on the Santana deal

from Jon Heyman:

If you can really fault the Twins, perhaps it was for failing to pounce on the Yankees’ offer of top young pitcher Phil Hughes, center fielder Melky Cabrera, pitching prospect Jeffrey Marquez and a fourth undetermined prospect when it was briefly on the table for the first couple days of the winter meetings back in early December. Instead, the Twins pressed for the Yankees to also include another top young pitcher, Ian Kennedy, going for the grand slam. If you want to hit the Twins, hit them for that.

The Yankees’ proposal, however fleeting, may have been the best one. Even the AL scout who defended the Twins thought so, saying, “I think the Yankees’ deal would have been better because those two guys (Hughes and Cabrera) already showed what they can do in the big leagues.”

Even if that’s true — and Cabrera is no world-beater yet (even those who don’t love Gomez say he’s “a tick above” Cabrera in terms of value) — it’s still hard to knock Smith for ignoring Hank Steinbrenner’s quick deadline and pressing for more.

Who could have thought Hank the Yank would actually stick to the deadline this time? In Steinbrenner the Junior’s tenure at the top, he has showed he is willing to change his mind (hence the re-signing of A-Rod), to seal certain deals by giving away the store (thus a fourth year for 36-year-old catcher Jorge Posada) and even to over-rule general manager Brian Cashman (both A-Rod and Posada). So it’s understandable why Smith still hoped for more.

But as we know by now, Cashman made a strong stand, building a convincing case regarding Hughes’ toughness and potential. Then Hank’s younger brother Hal, who controls the purse strings, tightened hard before Hank could loosen them again.

When the Twins made a last pass at the Yankees on Tuesday, it was too late. So when Cashman told the Twins yet again that Hughes was off the table, the Twins went for the gusto, requesting that instead Cashman send them both Kennedy and Chien-Ming Wang to go with Cabrera and Marquez. Why not? By then, it was clear that there was only one place left to go, and that was the Mets.

That’s insane to ask the Yankees for that much. I guess it just shows how badly Minnesota wanted Santana out of the AL.


Santana dealt to the Mets

So Carlos Gomez was pulled from Winter ball as part of a trade. Frankly, Minnesota got screwed here. Both the original Boston and Yankee offers were better. Instead, rookie GM Bill Smith overplayed his hand (a phrase that’s quickly become cliched over the past week) and got a disappointing haul for Santana: Gomez, Humber, Mulvey and Guerra (the Mets 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th best prospects). In early December, Minny had their choice of Phil Hughes, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury – all better than any of the Mets trade chips. A Yankee offer of Ian Kennedy, Alan Horne, Melky and AJax destroys that Met offer, so perhaps it really was about the money (for the Yanks). I can’t believe the Twinkies caved and accepted an FMart-less offer. The deal still isn’t 100% done, as the Mets have 72 hours to reach an extension with Santana, but that should merely be a formality. It seems Smith was going to either (1) try to fleece an AL team, or (2) get him out of the league for the best offer he could muster.

Thank goodness the Sawx didn’t acquire him, because they would’ve been nearly unbeatable for the next three years with Santana leading the rotation. They probably could have acquired him for only Lester and Ellsbury – yes, two good prospects, but certainly not studs, and Santana would have locked up the division for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the money seems to have been too much for them too. This is a win for both Boston and the Yanks. A true rarity.

Credit should be given to Brian Cashman for not overreacting to Boston’s (and Hank’s) interest. I’m relieved he didn’t go to Boston and that we didn’t lose Hughes, but also pissed the Mets got him for a considerably inferior offer.

The only real loser is Minnesota. If you want to feel real pity (by reading the disgusted opinions of Twins fans), visit here.


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