Sports Outside the Beltway

Yankee News – January 29 edition

- Robbie Cano and the Yanks have reached an agreement on a four-year, $30 million deal, avoiding arbitration.

- David Cone will join the YES broadcasting booth.

- Could Santana finally be traded? To the Mets that is. Carlos Gomez was pulled off his Winter League team. Could be nothing or could be something.

- Brian Banister gave a great interview (also at MLBTR). I especially liked his description of the three types of quality ML pitchers.

- The ’27 Yankees were good. So good, in fact, that their team OPS+ was 137 and their team ERA+ was 120! They led the league in both categories.

- Are steroids responsible for the power surge that began in the early ’90s? I still say yes (at least partially).

- If the Giants want to win, they should cheat, just like the Pats.


Yankee News – Jan 24 edition

Great Q & A session with Phil Hughes over at his place. The best part:

Your mechanics/delivery seemed to get a lot closer to where it was before the hamstring injury (first 2 starts) upon the arrival of Dave Eiland back in September of last years, do you credit your late season success to this?

After coming back from my injury last season my mechanics were a little out of whack. This led to a little loss of velocity and command. When Dave arrived in September we were able to work out some things and I think that had a lot to do with the success I had at the end of the season. It was nice to finish off the year on a good note so I have something to work toward to get back to my normal self in 2008.

Good to know that it was in fact Dave Eiland that allowed Hughes to have a great September and October. I’m very looking forward to a full season of his tutelage.

- The Yanks and Robbie Cano are close to signing a four-year extension worth $30 million (with two team option years). It would buy out all his arbitration years and one or two years of free agency (through his age 30 season). Even if Cano never got any better, he would still be worth every penny. His career line is a robust: .314/.346/.489 through the age of only 24. He’s sixth all-time among second baseman through the age of 24, and the best second baseman in the AL over the last three years (and the youngest in the top 10).

Other non-newsworthy stuff:
- The Yanks had the highest payroll (again). $218.3 million; tell me something I don’t know.

- Chuck Knoblauch was subpoenaed by Congress. I really don’t care anymore.

- Tom Brady wore a cast, then he didn’t, then he was a no-show for the media portion of his practice. What’s it all mean? My best guess is that it’s a ploy by Belichick and Co. to unnerve and confuse the Giants. Yeah, that’s it.


Yankees Big Three in 2008

It seems us hardcore Yankee fans (notice it’s not YankeeS fans) are looking forward to 2008 more so than any other season in a long time. In 2007, we saw that our top prospects were not over-hyped as Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy lived up to or exceeded expectations. The only dampers were Hughes’ three-month injury that spoiled an important developmental year and Joba’s loss of control for one inning in the playoffs that essentially ended the series. Assuming none are traded, all will be important pieces of the ball club in 2008 and well beyond. With their potential production for the next decade at stake, Yankee management is taking every precaution to ensure the Trio can and will contribute for as long as possible. While this may hamper the 2008 team due to innings limitations, it is a necessary evil to maintain the viability of the Big Three (could the group have a more boring nickname?) and the team as a whole for years to come.

In what way should the Trio be used, in what way will they be used, and what can we reasonably expect from them?

First we have to look at their innings totals in 2007 between the minors and majors, how much those increased from 2006, and how much we can expect from them this year:

Hughes pitched 72.2 with the Yankees, 5.2 in the playoffs and 37.2 in the minors = 116 total innings pitched. That’s exactly 30 fewer innings than 2006 (due to the pulled hamstring and the ensuing ankle sprain). With the knowledge that he pitched 146 innings in 2006, it’s possible he could be stretched to 170 innings.

Joba pitched 24 with the Yanks, 3.2 in the playoffs and 88.1 in the minors = 116 total. That’s 11 fewer than 2006, when he threw 89.1 at Nebraska and 37.2 in the Hawaiian Winter League. He probably won’t be stretched beyond 150, but some put it up to 170.

Kennedy pitched 19 with the Yanks and 146.1 in the minors = 165.1 total innings. He threw almost exactly 30 more innings than he did in 2006 (101.2 at USC, 2.2 in the minors and 30.1 in Hawaii). He’s ahead of the others, so we can reasonably expect 195 innings this year.

We saw how safe management played it last year with the ‘Joba Rules’, even in the midst of a pennant race. Going by the ‘Rule of 30’ (supported by Rick Peterson, Will Carroll and Tom Verducci) none of the Trio will be allowed to reach 200 innings in 2008. If we assume we’ll get 200 each from Wang and Pettitte, who each topped 200 in ’07 (counting the playoffs), it would still require about 550 innings from the remaining starters. The 2007 Yankees compiled just 921 innings by starters, 27 fewer than the AL average of 948 – a reasonable goal for the upcoming season. This is especially true considering starter-friendly Joe Girardi is now manager and the bullpen is currently weak. 948 innings pitched equates to 182.2 innings over three pitchers (not doable with the Trio) or 137 innings over four (very doable). (I always think of George’s secretary when I hear ‘doable’.)

With this in mind, and assuming that any or all of them will outperform Mike Mussina (of the 5.15 2007 ERA), the Big Three should be used to their maximum innings limits. That means no more than 150 innings for Hughes and Joba, and 200 for Kennedy. (Of course, if they should have low pitch counts, their limits could be extended. Wang went from 150 innings in 2005 to 218 in 2006.)If we say the Trio will average six innings per start, that would allow the former duo to start 25 games each and Kennedy to start 33 games. Great, pretty much a full season from Kennedy and over two-thirds from Hughes and Joba. However, it still leaves about 50 starter innings unaccounted for, hence a number of spot starts will be needed from Mussina or the hot hand of the moment – perhaps someone from Scranton like Alan Horne, Steven White, Kei Igawa or Jeff Marquez. That would require a kind of 5 ½-man rotation, going something along the lines of:

1. Wang
2. Pettitte
3. Kennedy (due to higher innings limit)
4. Hughes (assuming his limit is only 150 innings)
5. Joba (an April rotation that is 100% homegrown!)
6. Mussina

Moose will need to fill in for Hughes and Joba (alternately) roughly twice for every four times through the rotation. However, with off days, it would drop to about eight starts throughout the season. This maximizes our best starters, minimizes our worst (sorry Moose), and keeps the Trio within their individual innings limitations.

The problem with tandem starting (i.e., having Joba pitch four innings followed by Hughes going four too every fifth game) is that neither pitcher builds up significant arm strength. We want these guys to head into 2009 able to pitch at least six innings per start. They won’t start as often in my rotation, but when they do it will be treated pretty much as a normal ‘go as long as you can’ start. If Joe, Cash and Co. ever get concerned with the kids over-extending themselves, that’s what Moose and Scranton are for.

I haven’t yet touched on the argument that Joba should be a reliever because it just doesn’t make sense (unless it’s only done to limit innings), but to summarize (as RAB did excellently on Tuesday): 150 vs. 75 innings (and the difficulty that brings when trying to increase Joba’s innings again in 2009 (of course, that’s not a problem if he becomes a full time reliever)), four average to plus-plus pitches, the ability to maintain velocity late into games, the difficulty of finding/acquiring a ‘True #1 Ace’ (™) starter, and the ever-present fail safe option: if Joba does fail at starting, he can always fall back to relieving – pitchers don’t just fall back to starting. Make no mistake, the long-term plan is to make Joba a starter. That said, using Joba as a reliever through the first month or two wouldn’t be terrible, but converting him back to starting (a transition that could take a month by itself) is much harder than going from starting to relieving – that conversion wouldn’t happen until late in the season, and then what would happen in the playoffs? Would the Yanks try to convert him back to starting on the cusp of the playoffs? Or would they force (maybe) their best starter to stay in the pen?

As far as the playoffs go, there probably won’t be any restrictions (just as the ‘Joba Rules’ were lifted last year in October), so no worries there.

The benefit of the 5.5-man rotation is that these questions don’t have to be answered. Moose is part of the team whether we like it or not, but he can be effective as a long reliever and spot starter (and occasional set-up man if Farnsy, LaTroy, etc. need a rest) so as to not waste a roster spot. It also allows Hughes, Joba and Kennedy (all better than Moose) to start throughout the year, gaining valuable experience that can’t be gleaned from relieving, never having to transition between roles, limiting innings to ensure their health, and allowing the team to have one of the best long relievers/spot starters in baseball. This assumes they remain healthy, which is always a crap shoot, but there’s no guarantee that Wang, Pettitte or even Johan Santana will either.

Example of the 5.5-man rotation (assuming no off days):

Hughes 1
Joba 1


Moose 1


Then back to Week 1.

These proposals are all well and good, but the Yankees seem to be leaning toward giving a spot straight out to Mussina and letting the Trio fight for the two remaining spots. That is unfortunately what I believe will be the case this year (at least going into the season), with the probability of the odd-man out pitching in Scranton (or out of the pen) to limit his innings then coming up to the Bronx around mid-season to spell Mussina. Management and fans need to have patience – I truly believe the pen will be above average by mid-season: Albaladejo will be solid, Farnsworth out of the windup will cause less heart attacks, Ohlendorf brings his nasty stuff, Edwar will improve his command (call me an optimist), and later in the year the possibilities of Alan Horne, Humberto Sanchez and Mark Melancon stepping into important roles. The problem with Joba in the pen is the fear that he’ll be so good that management (read Hank Steinbrenner) and the average fan will only see the short-term success (as a great set-up man) instead of the long-term possibilities (perennial Cy Young candidate).

Before we cast off Moose completely, we should evaluate whether he will have a worse 2008 than any of the Trio (in other words: what should we expect from the Big Three this year)?

Scores of scouting reports have been written on the Trio, most of them glowing, but it’s their track records that will ensure their short and long-term success. Let’s start with Hughes. The ‘popped’ hammy was an absolute killer – Hughes was going through his usual ‘adjustment game’ that he has at every level (the first game in which he dominates), only to have the fairytale night cut short by a serious injury that sidelined him until August, and he didn’t hit his stride again until September. Based on the following evidence, we can expect 10-15 wins and an ERA around 4.00 in 150 innings.

Exhibit A: consensus top pitching prospect in all MLB heading into 2007 as a 20-year old;
Exhibit B: nearly threw a no-hitter in his second ML game;
Exhibit C: dominant minor league stats through 2.5 seasons – better than Clay Buchholz at a younger age with a better size/frame and mechanics;
Exhibit D: an average AL pitcher (4.46 ERA, 100 ERA+) as the youngest pitcher in all baseball (and counting the playoffs, his ERA drops to 4.14);
Exhibit E: the Yanks best starter in September and October (coinciding with Dave Eiland joining the team?);
Exhibit F: for what it’s worth, ZIPS projects him to a 3.70 ERA in 141 innings.

As for Joba, he’s been a starter his entire college and professional career until July of last year. It was great to see him excel in a relief role (the best ERA+ in history among pitchers with at least 24 innings) but how will he fare in the rotation? The Yanks top prospect as ranked by Baseball America, John Sickels, along with every other prospect publication, we can expect a season similar to Hughes’: ERA around 4.00, 150 innings. He’ll get hit more as he loses velocity and batters see him three and four times a game (compared to 1-2 inning relief stints), but his high strikeout rate will limit the damage.

Kennedy is a very interesting case – he doesn’t have the stuff of Hughes or Joba but at this point is a more ‘polished’ (as Dave Eiland put it) pitcher, possessing command of four pitches with the most college and pro experience. Oh, and he was named 2007 ‘Minor League Pitcher of the Year.’ That said, there’s no way he pulls off another 1.89 ERA season, and while he has the ability to have a better 2008 than either Hughes or Joba (because of the higher innings limit and ‘polish’), I see a year along the lines of 4.40 ERA over 190 innings.

As for Moose, he wasn’t as bad as his ERA would indicate. Outside of three horrendous starts in August, his ERA was under 4.50. But he will be 39, so an ERA between 4.50 and 5.00 over 50+ innings sounds about right.

Sorry for the length of this opus. It was intended to top out at 500 words (the LoHud version) but ballooned to 2000 due to the sheer enthusiasm I experienced writing it. Perhaps by the time you’re done reading, pitchers and catchers will have already reported to Tampa…



Baseball Cube



NY Times



Giant Killers (G-Men top Cowboys)

The Giants became the first team since 1990 to knock off the #1 NFC seed in the Divisional round. After losing the first two meetings of the season, the G-Men pulled out a 21-17 victory in Dallas.

- I was sure Corey Webster’s dropped pick was going to be a killer. You can’t giftwrap an interception any more than the one he dropped. Dallas scored a TD a few plays later, so in essense his drop cost the Jints at least seven points. Despite that, Webster played another good game. He allowed a TD to TO, but it was a perfect throw and a perfect catch. He held TO to four catches for 49 yards.

- Aaron Ross made a few great tackles, especially on Marion Barber in his running lanes that prevented long gains. He’s a damn good tackler for a CB.

- Tony Romo is a goddamn escape artist. The Giants sacked him just twice today but it could’ve easily been six or more times.

- is Ahmad Bradshaw not better than Reggie Bush? He had a couple runs today (the cutback run to the left and the sweep that he took to the 1-yard line) that’s been as good or better than anything I’ve seen in Bush’s NFL career to date. Does anyone doubt that Bradshaw should be the starter, not Jacobs? Maybe I’m overlooking the possibility that Jacobs has already softened up the D when Bradshaw gets his big runs, but so often I see a Bradshaw carry and think: ‘He got twice as many yards as BJ would’ve gotten there.’

- Big mistake by Eli taking a sack on 1st and 10 when given great field position. The pressure was coming down on him and unlike the textbook, he stepped backwards. The nine yard loss killed the drive. A little QB advice: ‘Eli, you’re supposed to step forward when you feel pressure, not back!’ And the screen on the next play went to Jacobs instead of Bradshaw – what?

- Crayton’s dropped pass in the third quarter was huge. It would’ve gone for at least 50 yards.

- Has Eli really turned into a great QB, or is this a mere 3-4 game aberration? Still can’t call it either way, seeing as the two playoffs games have been in ideal weather. If he has another great game in Lambeau (at the predicted temperature of about 4 degrees), then we may truly have something.

But most importantly, a win’s a win.

Sunday in Lambeau, 6:30 p.m.


Phil Hughes set for 2008

From the AP -

Highlights include:
Hughes says he’s feels good physically, and wants to throw 4-5 bullpen sessions before he reports to ST in mid-February.

Humberto Sanchez expects to throw off a mound by late February and could return to minor league action in May.

Andrew Brackman has already begun throwing sessions, and will begin long-tossing (from 90 ft) next week.

- Mike Cameron signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee. Wheew… disaster avoided.


Next Matsuzaka to join MLB?

Is the next (and better) Daisuke headed to MLB? According to a report of a report of a report, it could happen after this season. Yu Darvish is just 21 and won the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) Cy Young with a dominating season: 207.2 ip, 1.82 era, 210 k, 49 bb, 123 h, 0.83 whip.

The problem is that he doesn’t become a free agent for another six years, he is the current face of NPB and has said he has no intention of playing in the U.S. However, his team (Nippon Ham Fighters) could be convinced to post him if they knew the posting fee would surpass $100 million, and Darvish might feel differently about MLB if he knew he could earn upwards of $15 million as opposed to $2 million in Japan.

Anyway, it doesn’t make much sense to me when they can do exactly what Daisuke’s old team did: hold on to him until he has one year left to free agency, then post him. They get five more years of his services and would still get a comparable posting fee as he would just be entering his prime. But, if he demands to be posted (to start making the big bucks) they would do it.

(h/t to MLBTradeRumors.)

- Great article on measuring intangibles.


Giants nearly take down giants

I was against playing the starters 60 minutes in tonight’s Giants-Pats matchup and what happens? We lose three starters: Kawika Mitchell, Sam Madison and Shaun O’Hara. That really improves our chances next week in Tampa.

As for the match, oh boy, there’s a lot to say. I’m proud of the Giants – despite a number of injuries, poor calls and stupid playcalling, they came within three points (38-35) of beating the Pats.
two huge borderline penalties went against the Giants: Corey Webster’s ‘illegal contact’ on 3rd and long in the first (in which a sack of Tom Brady was negated), and the pass interference call on Gerris Wilkinson in the end zone. Webster did nothing you don’t see on every play in the NFL; the same with Wilkinson who was penalized only because his head was turned the wrong way. As is with the Pats MO, both drives were kept alive by penalties which eventually ended in touchdowns. I don’t like to make excuses but I have no doubt that if not for those calls, the Giants win the match. The refs also missed a Patriot trying to poke Brandon Jacobs in the eye! – on what is normally a 15-yard ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’ penalty (and possible ejection), no call was made.
I was against playing the starters more than one half but Tom Coughlin played them all 60 minutes (although he would’ve been killed if he had played the backups in the second half, especially entering with a lead). Three starters went down and it’s TBA if they’ll be available in the playoffs. Are the Giants not the most injured team every single year?
Eli, Eli, Eli – a killer interception in the fourth when the Giants were still down just three. The Jints can win a Superbowl with Eli, he just won’t carry them there.
Ahmad Bradshaw was sorely missed. His explosiveness could have been the difference – not just by his addition would the team be better, but the subtraction of Reuben Droughns would help too: that guy has no business in the NFL anymore.
The Pats have a tremendous offense but a rather lacking defense. They’re vulnerable in the playoffs and compared to how the Colts have played the last five or so weeks, I wouldn’t want to play them if I was Bill Belichick.
Overall, I was proud of the G-Men and actually feel confident going into the playoffs. It was evident watching tonight’s match that the Giants have the ability to beat any team in football – it’s really just a question of injuries and Eli.


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.”



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