Sports Outside the Beltway

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.


Yankee News – November 29 edition

- What is the right package for Santana? Does the Tampa deal kill any chance the Yanks have of trading for Johan? I believe so. The Twins will need another starter (now that Garza’s gone) capable of going 200+ innings. Hughes and Joba wont go over 150 each. Kennedy and Wang are the only pitchers capable of that, but neither are good enough in Minny’s opinion to trade for Santana. They want a higher ceiling pitcher. Also, they may not be in the market for a centerfielder anymore. Minny acquired a minor league centerfielder (Jason Pridie) and Delmon Young, a major league right-fielder who could probably play an average CF. He’d probably have below average range but his cannon arm could make up for it. Anyway, now that they have two solid CF candidates, their interest in our centerfielders – Melky and Austin Jackson – could dissipate.

- The Yanks are looking at David Riske and Troy Percival to better the bullpen. I don’t know how much better they would be than what we have in the minors, e.g. Ohlendorf, Edwar, Britton, Veras, Whelan, etc. But for the right deal (in terms of money and length), sure, go ahead.

- Call me crazy, but I don’t get why Clay Buchholz of Boston is getting more love than Phil Hughes right now (ok, maybe I do – because of the no-hitter). Did everyone forget that Hughes was pitching a no-no of his own back in May (only to have it cut 7 outs short by injury)? Hughes has more ML innings under his belt than Clay. Outside of k/9, he has better minor league stats across the board (era, hits/9, walks/9, HR/9 and k/bb) than Clay. Oh, one more thing – Hughes is two years younger!

- How does the mid-90s Mets Trio compare to the current Yanks Trio? Is there any chance they bust as much as Pulsipher, Wilson and Isringhausen?
The following are their MiLB stats through age 23:

(he missed the entire 1996 season with injuries at the age of 22, derailing his whole career. Let’s look at what he did up to that point.)
527 ip
7.65 h/9
3.9 bb/9
7.65 k/9
1.96 k/bb
2.87 era

248 ip
7.26 h/9
2.69 bb/9
9.22 k/9
3.53 k/bb
2.98 era

476 ip
7.0 h/9
2.7 bb/9
2.9 k/bb
7.85 k/9
2.72 era

Very good overall. Izzy’s career was set back by an injury that cost him his entire age-23 season.

Now for the Bronx guys
Kennedy first
149 ip
5.62 h/9
3.14 bb/9
9.97 k/9
3.17 k/bb
era 1.87

88.1 ip
6.33 h/9
2.76 bb/9
13.79 k/9
5 k/bb
2.45 era
followed by an even more impressive ML stint

275 ip
5.56 h/9
2.16 bb/9
10.18 k/9
4.7 k/bb
2.03 era

The Yankee Trio puts the Met Trio to shame. Far, far better minor league stats at younger ages. I don’t think the two should even be compared.

- is in the process of listing it’s top 50 prospects. Two Yankees have been named so far: A-Jax at 49 and Kennedy at 26. Tabata and Joba will inevitably be in the top 20.

- Mark Melancon’s on the mend. The guy has closer potential and could be setting up Mo sometime next year – ala Joba in 2007.


Why I’m pissed about Arod’s new deal

Am I the only one upset about the home run record incentive Arod is about to get? He could earn an additional $30 million if he passes Barry Bonds’ career home run record. 1. passing Mays, Ruth, Aaron and Bonds isn’t enough of an incentive by itself?, 2. what’s to stop him for swinging for the fences all the time?

Why the Yanks are giving him this and 10-year deal I’ll never know. By passing those historic names on the home run list, Arod will become enshrined in baseball history (even moreso than now) while increasing his fame and financial/marketing clout. There will be plenty more money there for him that the Yanks should not feel a need to ‘share’ with Arod the extra (if there is any) money they’ll make from the home run chase.

The second part is even more frustrating. Here’s a scenario: tie game in the late innings, runner on 2nd, two outs, Arod up. The count goes full. He strikes out swinging at a slider in the dirt because he’s swinging for the fences, inning over. He doesn’t get any closer to his incentives by merely taking a walk or even hitting a game-winning single. The only way he does inch closer is by parking a ball into the seats, hence the overanxiety. We won’t know that’s the reason, but it will be a thorn in our mind, torturing us. Was he swinging for the fences? Was he unwilling to walk? Same thing with all the pop-ups, double-play grounders, two-strike swings, full count swings, etc. It really, really irks me. It’s like Hank, Brian and Arod are putting the productivity of one player above that of the team. If they’re going to give him $6 million for each home run record broken, why not the same for every title won (or why not $10 million for that)? And because of the ridiculous length of the deal, it’s a problem that’s going to bother the fans, managers, front office, and especially his teammates for the next decade. Honestly, I’d rather them just give him $305 million straight up than add in these stupid HR incentives. If Arod got booed for grounding into a double-play before, there’ll be even more reason to boo him now since we’ll have the suspicion that he’s swinging for the fences. If they just give him all the $305 million, at least there wouldn’t be any suspicions. Despite the extra $30 million, it’s preferable in my mind. Why is Yankee management giving in? Ugh…

- Here’s another example of how wildly Arod will be overpaid for the next decade (still hard to fathom the length). Projections are, of course, no sure indication of a player’s productivity, but they are worth at least a look when splurging on a record-setting deal.

He’s not projected to have a single year OPS of more than 1.000, and will bat under .270 the last half (five years) of the deal. If this projection is remotely close, it will be a debacle the likes of which will make Carl Pavano look like a bargain (well, almost).

Brian and Hank, back out now while you still can!


More A-Rod

This sums up my thoughts quite well.

From Newsday -

For 10 years. The A-Rod Yankees.

Forget that Hank Steinbrenner is the new Boss or Joe Girardi is the manager or Derek Jeter is the captain (and how happy does Jeter have to be with the idea of looking to his right every day and seeing A-Rod’s mug?).

The Yankees will be A-Rod’s team, for better or worse. We say worse. If the Yankees were ever planning to get away from the star system – wasn’t that the plan for about five minutes? – that’s over now. It’ll be all A-Rod, all the time, and how has that worked out so far?

Can A-Rod live up to the contract? Will fickle Yankees fans boo every strikeout and cheer ever home run? Will he ever have a sleepover with Jeter again? Will he hit in the postseason? Will he shout “Ha!” at an opposing third baseman? Will he be able to remain faithful to his wife? Will C-Rod wear any more tops with obscene messages on them to the Stadium?

And these are just the questions we know about now. Only a striking soap opera writer would be able to plot out what new distractions A-Rod might bring to the Yankees over the next 10 years. But make no mistake – it will happen. Wins and losses will take a back seat to the A-Rod circus. Championships are out, TV ratings are in.

Like Pamela Anderson remarrying Tommy Lee, A-Rod re-upping with the Yankees is a bad idea, especially once it seemed the divorce was final. The Yankees were moving on, they told us. No chance, Hank Steinbrenner said. We’re looking for a third baseman, Brian Cashman said with no hint of deceit in his blue eyes.

Then A-Rod reached out, and that guy from Goldman Sachs reached out, and just like that the Yankees were falling over themselves to guarantee 10 years to someone who wouldn’t take their calls and quit on them through the evil Scott Boras in a failed effort to start the bidding at $350 million.

Why offer 10 years to a 32-year-old player, even one in such amazing physical shape it makes Boras drool with dollar-signed delight? It would make sense to offer him, say, five or six or even seven years because then you get the bounce from the Bonds pursuit. But 10? Who exactly are the Yankees bidding against? Offer him seven years, tell him to prove his love for New York by “settling” for it, and cut him off like the phony he is when he changes his tune and starts shopping that contract around.


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