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December 29, 2005

PrOPS and the 2005 Yankees
by SG

Over on the Hardball Times, JC Bradbury introduced a system called PrOPS. The basis behind PrOPS, is to look deeper into a player's stats and come up with a predicted OPS, based on several factors, including:

* Line drive percentage
* Groundball-to-flyball ratio
* Walk rate
* Hit-by-pitch rate
* Strikeout rate
* Home run rate
* Park factors

I don't know the specifics of how it's calculated and don't really feel like reverse engineering it right now, but thankfully the stats are available here.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the performance of the key members of the 2005 Yankees and see if any of them were particularly lucky or unlucky.

Actual Predicted Difference
Giambi .271 .440 .535 .975 .311 .478 .615 1.093 .040 .038 .080 .118
Rodriguez .321 .421 .610 1.031 .282 .391 .573 .964 -.039 -.030 -.037 -.067
Sheffield .291 .379 .512 .891 .289 .378 .518 .895 -.002 -.001 .006 .004
Martinez .241 .328 .439 .767 .275 .360 .500 .860 .034 .032 .061 .093
Jeter .309 .389 .450 .839 .299 .382 .436 .817 -.010 -.007 -.014 -.022
Posada .262 .352 .430 .782 .262 .351 .441 .791 .000 -.001 .011 .009
Matsui .305 .367 .496 .863 .271 .337 .431 .769 -.034 -.030 -.065 -.094
Williams .249 .321 .367 .688 .262 .334 .396 .730 .013 .013 .029 .042
Cano .297 .320 .458 .778 .280 .303 .416 .719 -.017 -.017 -.042 -.059
Sierra .229 .265 .371 .636 .242 .281 .374 .655 .013 .016 .003 .019
Flaherty .165 .206 .252 .458 .219 .262 .323 .584 .054 .056 .071 .126
Crosby .276 .304 .327 .631 .233 .263 .313 .576 -.043 -.041 -.014 -.055
Womack .249 .276 .280 .556 .234 .263 .281 .545 -.015 -.013 .001 -.011
Cabrera .211 .211 .211 .422 .234 .236 .291 .527 .023 .025 .080 .105
Phillips .150 .171 .325 .496 .172 .200 .294 .493 .022 .029 -.031 -.003
Escalona .286 .375 .357 .732 .172 .232 .221 .453 -.114 -.143 -.136 -.279

Some interesting stuff in here.

Jason Giambi was acually slightly unlucky last year, which is good news for next year. According to PrOPS, Giambi should have hit .311 and slugged .615.

Alex Rodriguez appeared to be quite lucky, hitting almost 40 pts higher than expected. That's not such good news. His PrOPS line of .282/.391/.573 would be reminiscent of his 2004, although with a lot more power.

Gary Sheffield performed almost exactly like PrOPS would have guessed he would.

Tino Martinez may be gone, but according to this he was actually unlucky last year.

Derek Jeter appeared to perform slightly better than would be expected, which is a little disconcerting.

Jorge Posada was slightly unlucky, but not enough to arrest the concerns about his decline.

Hideki Matsui has the most troubling line on here in my mind, as he actually apparently outperformed by .094 OPS points. If his true talent level is more in line with the .271/.337/.431 that PrOPS would have predicted, that contract is going to be a burden very soon.

Bernie Williams was a bit unlucky. His PrOPS line of .262/.334/.396 would be a significant decline at DH next year, where the Yankees hit .258/.366/.452.

Robinson Cano also exceeded his PrOPS predicted line. As a player who showed no ability to walk, this is a little troubling, as any drop in his hitting performance will make his contributions minimal. Hopefully he'll show some improvement in his secondary skills next season, or continue to hit for an average of .341 on contact with a SLG of .520.

Ruben Sierra and John Flaherty were both slightly unlucky, which only boosts them from horrendous to awful.

Tony Womack is gone, and I am stupified that he was actually lucky in 2005. He got scapegoated for hitting just .249/.276/.280 when he really should have hit .234/.263/281. Good luck in Cincinnati Tony!

Bubba Crosby and his fan club should probably note that his .276/.304/.327 line was actually better than it probably should have been.

Melky Cabrera, Andy Phillips, and Felix Escalona didn't really accrue enough playing time for these numbers to be particularly meaningful.

PrOPS is a fairly new system that is still being refined, so there's no way to know just how accurate it is. However, if it is accurate, then there's some concern ahead, as only Giambi is predicted to have a significant improvement, and it would be offset by declines from Matsui, Jeter, and Rodriguez. This should make getting another bat to DH and play the OF a priority.

As an aside, Newsday is reporting that the Yankees and Miguel Cairo have agreed to a deal, contingent on his passing a physical.

December 27, 2005

Setting up the roster
by SG

Well, there's not much activity in Yankee-land as we wait for the next 48 days to pass before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. It appears that the Yankees are basically done with adding players at this point, although I think they are still trying to find a corner OF that can play RF so they can DH Gary Sheffield more often.

Looking at the roster, We can probably get a decent sense of who will be on the team come April.

First, I'll look at the definites

Pitchers (11)
Shawn Chacon
Kyle Farnsworth
Randy Johnson
Mike Mussina
Mike Myers
Carl Pavano
Mariano Rivera
Tanyon Sturtze
Ron Villone
Chien-Ming Wang
Jaret Wright

Catchers (2)
Jorge Posada
Kelly Stinnett

Infielders (4)
Robinson Cano
Jason Giambi
Derek Jeter
Alex Rodriguez

Outfielders (4)
Johnny Damon
Hideki Matsui
Gary Sheffield
Bernie Williams

In addition to these 21 definites, there are the following players listed on the 40 man roster.

Pitchers (10)
Aaron Small
Matt Smith
Scott Proctor
Jeffrey Karstens
Sean Henn
Jason Anderson
T.J. Beam
Colter Bean
Jorge De Paula
Matt DeSalvo

Catchers (1)
Wil Nieves

Infielders (2)
Felix Escalona
Andy Phillips

Outfielders (4)
Melky Cabrera
Bubba Crosby
Kevin Reese
Kevin Thompson

I would like to see the Yankees carry an 11 man pitching staff, which would leave Aaron Small out. It would suck for Small, who at least deserves a chance to be on the big league roster, although expecting him to replicate this season's success would be a massive risk. Unfortunately for Small, Jaret Wright is due at least $11 million over the next two year. Regardless, I can't see the Yankees doing that, unless there's an injury that makes the decision for them, so they will probably at least start the year with a 12 man staff. I'm still holding out hope that they ship Carl Pavano out for the aforementioned corner OF, but that does not appear to be in the Yankees' plans.

Catching should be set with Posada and Stinnett, with Wil Nieves in Columbus in case of injury. I'd like to see the Yankees offer Miguel Olivo a contract if he'd be willing to play in Columbus for a year, but I'm sure he'll get a big league offer from someone to at least back up.

In the infield, the Yankees need at least a utility infielder and then a backup infielder. They are rumored to be signing Miguel Cairo, but nothing has transpired yet. It'll either be Cairo or possibly Felix Escalona. Unless they sign someone like Eduardo Perez then I'd guess that Andy Phillips will be the backup 1B. I'd like to see Phillips get a fair chance, although I'm not convinced how good he'll be.

Adding two more infielders gets the roster up to 23, which leaves the Yankees with two more spots to fill. Since Bubba Crosby is out of options, I'm sure he will get one of them, which is fine. Bernie Williams is the nominal 4th OF, but he'll probably be the primary DH unless they add a bat, and he really can't play the field well enough to be used to rest anyone regularly. From there the decision is to pursue one more OF, or else add Small. Pursuing another OF would seem to be the smart move, unless they feel that someone like Kevin Reese or Kevin Thompson could do the job, however I'm sure that they will instead add Aaron Small.

Worrying about this kind of roster stuff right now is kind of pointless since it all tends to work itself out, but I can't really think of anything else to write about right now.

And I have no political opinions that I care to share.

December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas
by Larry Mahnken

As most of you know... or I guess maybe not most of you, but a good number of you know... I'm an atheist, so Christmas doesn't have any spiritual meaning for me, but I still want to wish everyone out there the happiest of holidays and the best possibly New Year, and to hell with John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly.

P.S.: Don't smoke in bed.

December 24, 2005

Will Johnny Damon's Fenway Flyouts = Yankee Stadium HRs?
by SG

"I look forward to playing here for these 4 years. 81 games a year. Short right field porch. I'm thrilled" - Johnny Damon at his Yankee press conference

Given Damon's poor historic record at Yankee Stadium to this point, I wondered how much hitting in Yankee Stadium would affect him.

I decided to look at his hit charts over the last 3 years at Fenway, and see what would happen if he hit the same balls in Yankee Stadium. I'm only looking at flyouts and HRs. I wanted to see if playing in Yankee Stadium would help or hurt Damon. Flyouts are marked as red f's, HR as blue h's. I've marked the flyouts that would have most probably been HRs in Yankee Stadium in yellow.

I first looked at 2003, where Damon hit .291/.366/.425 at home, with 5 HRs.

Damon would have gained 6 HRs at Yankee Stadium in 2003, and lost none.

In 2004, Damon hit .330/.408/.479 at home, with 9 HRs.

Surprisingly, moving Damon's 2004 to Yankee Stadium would not have affected his HR output at all, either positively or negatively.

In 2005, Damon hit .334/.391/.440 at home, with 3 HRs.

According to this, Damon would have hit one more HR in 2005 if he had played his home games in the Stadium.

In 3 years, Damon would have gained a total of 7 HRs, however 6 of them would have come in 2003.

This doesn't tell us much, since it doesn't include all his other hits. It's also possible that Damon could change his swing to try and take more advantage of Yankee Stadium. I do feel a little better that Damon didn't take a ton of advantage of the Green Monster. However, looking at this, anyone expecting Damon to hit for more power than he has in his career to this point should probably temper their expectations a bit.

Also, happy holidays to all our readers. Thanks for coming by and reading our ramblings, and having good discussions in the comments.

December 22, 2005 Sports Bloggers Live
by Larry Mahnken

I'll be appearing on the internet radioshow Sports Bloggers Live tonight at 5pm talking about Johnny Damon. You all pretty much know what I'm going to say, but tune in to hear my sexy voice!

Update: 12/22 at 8:05 PM

You can download Larry's segment here. -SG

Baseball Think Factory: Count the Rings™
by SG

One of my favorite websites on the net is Baseball Think Factory. It's actually where I "met" Larry and Sean McNally and it got Larry and then the rest of us into the whole blogging thing(which may or may not have been a good thing). They've just opened a new Yankee-centric blog called Count the Rings™ where Yankee articles and stories of note will be posted for discussion. Anyone who's interested should check it out. You have to register to post, but not to read it. If you can brave the ocassional Red Sox troll, it's a pretty good place for some interesting discussion, with a sabermetric slant.

Here's the direct link, or you can just go to Baseball Think Factory and look for the link on the upper left hand corner.

MLB: Yanks get Bernie on board as backup
by SG

NEW YORK -- While Johnny Damon dominated the headlines Wednesday, the Yankees made a move to secure his backup as well.

While the Yankees wait for the Damon signing to become official, they took another step toward filling out their roster, coming to terms with Bernie Williams on a one-year, $1.5 million contract.

I'm ok with bringing Bernie back, as long as the plan is not for him to be full-time DH. I don't think he has much left in the tank, but he may surprise us. In a very small sample size as a DH last year, Bernie hit a very respectable .294/.362/.459. Also, as a pinch-hitter last year he hit .273/.438/.545, again in an extremely small sample size. It is still imperative to me that the Yankees add another bat, one that can play at least LF and RF passably well, enough to rest Matsui and Sheffield at DH, because I do not think Bernie can be a full-time player anymore. The only time I'd even consider putting him in the OF is when Chien-Ming Wang is pitching, and even then only for maybe 10-15 games, where he'd only cost a few runs.

Bernie's a better player than Ruben Sierra. This should end up being an improvement.

I'm still trying to come to terms with the Damon signing. Despite Larry's love for it, I am still very conflicted about it.

December 21, 2005

Johnny B. Good Enough
by Larry Mahnken

Stop it, stop it, stop it. Shutup, shutup, shutup. You shouldn't be complaining about this one. The Yankees just won the AL East, and vastly improved their chances of winning the World Series.

No, Johnny Damon isn't worth $13 million a year, or even close to it. More like $7 million or $8 million, but it's not your money, and their payroll isn't (and won't be) close enough that this will hamper their ability to sign anyone this season or next.

This isn't Tony Womack or Jaret Wright who they brought in, a player coming off a flukish year who looks to the team to be far better than he is, this is a player who is actually good.

As sabermetrics has entered the mainstream, I've heard more and more arguments that are based, seemingly, on a half-understanding of sabermetric principles. Damon seems to be a whole lot of them put together.

Damon is 32 and will be 36 at the end of the deal, similar to Bernie Williams. His defense is based largely on speed and he has a very, very, very weak arm. Sound familiar?

Well, it's not the same thing. Yeah, Bernie had lost all defensive value by age 33, but his defense was based entirely on his speed. Damon has a distinct advantage over Bernie: he actually knows how to play center. When Bernie couldn't outrun his mistakes, those mistakes killed the team. Damon soon won't be able to outrun his mistakes, but he won't make nearly as many as Bernie does. Think about how much better the Yankees would have been had Bernie taken the right route to the ball most of the time.

And it needs to be pointed out that Bernie was hitting great at the start of 2003 when he hurt his knee. Had he not hurt his knee, there's good reason to believe he'd still be a good hitter -- and good reason to believe that Damon will still be a good hitter for a centerfielder at the end of this deal. It is only four years -- it'll be over before you know it.

Rating by straight OPS among qualifield MLB centerfielders, Damon ranked 5th last year, 5th in 2004, 13th in a lousy 2003, 9th in 2002, 11th in a lousy 2001, 6th in 2000. None of the players rated above him the last two seasons were available to the Yankees. Turn OPS into EqA, which includes Damon's excellent baserunning and those ratings are 5th, 3rd, 16th, 7th, 23rd, 7th.

I know how my friends look at it, they're inclined to do the same as I initially did. 16th! 23rd! We're ruined!

Well, look at the last two years. Look at four of those six seasons -- we got one of the best hitting centerfielders in the game, and the best available. Will he be that good over the course of his contract? Probably not, but I'd bet good money that he'll be closer to those best years than those worst years.

Is he a better leadoff hitter than Derek Jeter? No, of course not, because there is probably no better leadoff hitter right now than Derek Jeter. But is the fact that he never has had an OBP near .400 really a killer? Newsflash: that's not the standard, and it shouldn't be the standard.

Again, this isn't Womack batting first when he should be batting ninth. This isn't a guy stealing 100 PAs from hitters much better than him, this is a guy stealing, maybe, a dozen PAs from better hitters. Frankly, Damon's best spot on this team is leadoff -- that's where he should be batting.

Look at this likely lineup:

CF Damon
SS Jeter
3B Rodriguez
RF Sheffield
1B Giambi
LF Matsui
C Posada
2B Cano
DH Williams

Compare it to a likely lineup with Damon not batting leadoff:

SS Jeter
3B Rodriguez
RF Sheffield
1B Giambi
LF Matsui
C Posada
CF Damon
2B Cano
DH Williams

The first one looks more impressive, at least to me. 1-5, the Yankees are stronger in the second lineup than the first, but in the second lineup Damon is pushed to, basically, an RBI spot. Not a spot where he'll get a lot of RBIs, but a place where that'll be where most of his value will come in. Getting on base, Cano and Williams won't be driving him in a lot, and while Damon hits about 35 doubles a year and 10-15 homers, he won't really be driving Matsui or Posada home. In the 7th spot, his value is less.

And what of Jeter through Matsui? What's the gain there? Well, there certainly is some, they all gain 10 PAs or so. But come on, that's not really much.

Really, the best spot for Damon is either first or second, and the better hitter (Jeter) really should be batting second. This isn't Womack, where he shouldn't be anywhere near the top of the lineup, and preferably not in the lineup at all, and this isn't Soriano, where his value was minimized by batting him leadoff, this is a situation where the player's value to the team is maximized by batting him leadoff, and he's worthy of hitting there.

He gets on base enough. His OBP is usually above .350, he steals a good number of bases at, over the past 4 seasons, an 82% success rate. He hits doubles, but not many homers. He puts himself in position for the team's betst hitters to drive him home -- he's scored over 100 runs 8 years in a row, averaging 114 runs scored a season. No, he's not as good as Jeter, but he's good.

Seriously, what did you guys prefer? Jason Michaels? Yes, he could be very good for them -- better than Damon, and he wouldn't cost $13 million -- but he's not freely available. The Yankees will have to trade to get him (which the still can -- they really could use another backup outfielder), but they have competition for him -- and unlike with Damon, they don't have the ability to outbid their competitors. They just don't have the chips.

Next, replacement level. Last year, Damon's WARP3 was 6.9, 8.2 in 2004, 6.3 in '03 and 7.1 in '02. As it stands, the Red Sox are faced with a replacement level centefielder to replace Damon -- in signing Damon the Yankees have likely taken 6 wins away from the Red Sox. They'll likely make a trade, but probably have to deal Manny Ramirez to get someone good. In the end, they're worse.

Damon replaces Bernie Williams, whose WARP3 last year was 3.1. In other words, Damon improves the Yankees by three or four wins immediately, and perhaps by as many as ten wins over the Red Sox.

TEN WINS. Think about all the moves that have happened this offseason with Boston and the Yankees, think about the moves that happened last season. Did any single move shift the the balance of power by ten wins? Or even close to that? No. Purely measuring the AL East, this is the biggest move for the Yankees in the last decade.

OK, so the world doesn't end in the AL East, but this move does make them heavy favorites to win the division again, in my opinion. More than that, it seals up the gaping hole they had in centerfield, which has cost them so dearly in the postseason the past four seasons. Defense isn't vital over the course of the regular season -- you can make up for it with offense as the Yankees have the past four years -- but in a short series, one bad defensive play can cost you a game, and with it a series. Damon will make fewer of those bad defensive plays, and he helps the offense, too.

Damon's signing also means that it's "safe" to sign Bernie. Yeah, he's not really a very good option at DH, but that's all he'll be. Torre will never bench Damon to put Bernie back in center like he would have with Crosby -- like he did with Lofton -- so we'll never have to suffer that sight again.

The Yankees entered the offseason with two pressing needs: relief pitching and centefield, center being the bigger of the two problems. Let this be clear: there was NO better option available to the Yankees this offseason than Johnny Damon. None.

They've signed Kyle Farnsworth, who should be okay. They've signed Mike Myers and traded for Ron Villone, who should be good enough as lefty relievers. They've signed Octavio Dotel, who could potentially be dominant when he comes back in mid-season. They may not be done yet, but while I really wish they'd brought back Tom Gordon, they've done okay in addressing the bullpen.

Most importantly, they didn't sign bullshit. Miguel Cairo is probably coming back to be a super-utility, the role he should have filled in 2004 and will be outstanding at. They didn't sign Tino, they didn't sign Womack, they didn't sign a bunch of starters they don't need. They've gone after what they needed, ignored what they didn't.

Brian Cashman is doing a fantastic job this offseason. Until now, he hadn't made any big splashes, but he's greatly improved the team while doing nothing to hurt it down the road.

And Damon won't hurt them down the road. He won't be an offensive and defensive sinkhole in four years, though he won't be ideal, and will certainly decline further. But he won't stop them from bringing in, say, Andruw Jones next year. When Sheffield leaves, they can move Matsui to right and Damon to left, and they're fine with Jones -- not that I expect Cashman to pursue him.

I'm convinced the Yankees won the AL East last night. At the very least, nobody should be complaining -- this is a good day.

by SG

My first reaction to the Johnny Damon signing was purely emotional, and not very meaningful in a baseball sense. After spending the last four seasons watching him patrol CF for the Yankees' biggest rival, it was difficult for me to separate a man I associate with the Red Sox now donning Yankee pinstripes. I will now attempt to remove my emotion from this signing to look at it as a pure baseball move.

The Yankees had a huge, gaping hole in CF. Contrary to what some people believe, Bubba Crosby was not going to be the answer. It's very possible he could have filled the hole defensively, but he's never really hit that well in the minors aside from a half season in Las Vegas, and at age 29 is not likely to get much better. Other options like Kevin Thompson and Kevin Reese, while cheap and on-hand, would have required an amount of risk that the Yankees typically do not employ.

The Yankees continue to have very little to offer in trades at the major league level, and not much to offer at the minor league level either. While the idea of trading the disappointing Carl Pavano and part of his salary was interesting, it was either just idle speculation or something that did not interest the Yankees. Targets like Jason Michaels, while intriguing, were not going to be cheap to acquire, and were uncertain propositions as well.

The free agent market at CF was very thin, with Damon the best of a middling bunch. The trade market was pricey, with even middling players like Juan Pierre commanding three prospects in salary dump trades.

The Yankees had a decision to make. Carry the biggest payroll in the league with perhaps the worst CF in the league, or spend money, which they have plenty of, on a player who fills their biggest hole. Damon got more money than he will be worth, I don't think even the most optimistic projection of his time in New York will disagree with that. However, he's still just 32, he still rates as a plus defensive player by most defensive metrics, and is still a fine hitter for a CF.

Damon cost the team money. He did not cost them prospects, which is important. The Yankees are a stronger team in 2006 and 2007 because of this signing, and the Red Sox are probably weaker. They have a hole in center that they will have to fill now, and will have to give up talent to do it. I just hate the fact that the Yankees could have had a superior player in Carlos Beltran last season for similar money, and chose not to spend it, but are willing to spend it now.

Damon has some troubling splits. At Yankee Stadium over his career in about 300 PA, he's hit .252/.301/.346. This could just be a function of facing the Yankees pitching staff, but it doesn't inspire confidence. In his career at Fenway he's hit .311/.383/.438 for an OPS of .821, and everywhere else it's .284/.342/.430 for an OPS of .771.

Contrary to the mediot popular opinion, Damon is not a better leadoff hitter than Derek Jeter. He gets on base less frequently, he didn't walk as frequently, and he does not even see the same number of pitchers per plate appearance. Last year, Jeter saw an average of 3.82 P/PA, Damon saw 3.72. However, Damon adds a better player to the overall Yankee lineup, which strengthens the bottom of the order significantly. As it stands now, the potential Yankee lineup looks like this:

CF Damon
SS Jeter
1B Giambi
3B Rodriguez
LF Matsui
RF Sheffield
2B Cano
C Posada
DH ???

I would like to see the Yankees get a good corner OF who can play LF and RF, and perhaps the occasional 1B, which would allow them to spell Giambi, Matsui, and Sheffield at DH. While it'd be nice to add someone like Bobby Abreu, I'm not sure he's a possibility given the asking price. There's not much available on the free agent market, but perhaps a trade for someone like Jason Michaels would still make sense.

At the end of the day, we root for laundry. I can't fathom cheering for Damon right now, but I learned to cheer for Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens. It's possible. I'm sure Larry will provide his opinion soon, and I know he likes this move more than many of us.

Update: Dan Szymborksi has posted a ZiPS projection for Damon at Yankee Stadium next year:

606 108 177 27 6 13 82 62 67 18 .292 .357 .421

Color me unimpressed.

December 20, 2005

CBS4 Boston - Johnny Damon Agrees To 4-Year Deal With Yankees
by SG

(CBS4) BOSTON CBS4's Dan Roche is reporting that Johnny Damon has agreed to a four-year deal with the New York Yankees.

I pray this is not true. My happiness about the Dotel signing will be turned to furious anger if this turns out to be more than just idle speculation.

Update:Newsday's Jon Heyman is confirming this, and the terms are ugly. 4 years, $52 million.

This is a troubling move. Not just because of the baseball implications on the field, where Damon is going to be a declining sinkhole on offense and defense while taking up tons of payroll, but also because it means that either:

a)Brian Cashman is not the sabermetric genius who was stifled by the Tampa mafia that we thought he may be


b)Cashman's autonomy on roster decisions is not as strong as it has to be to prevent the types of moves that have this team struggling to win 95 games with a payroll 3 times that of almost every other team.

December 19, 2005

Newsday: Yanks, Dotel seem close to agreement
by SG

From the linked article:
The Yankees appeared close to an agreement with reliever Octavio Dotel before talks cooled last night. But they still seem to hold a slight edge over the Mets, Indians, Rangers and Red Sox, with a deal expected as early as this afternoon, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

General manager Brian Cashman, to no one's surprise, has identified the bullpen as the 2005 Yankees' most glaring weakness. He hopes to add Dotel as the latest in a series of offseason moves designed to bolster the relief corps.

I'm not wild about the phrase about talks cooling, but let's hope it comes to fruition. Please, don't let Joe Torre call him.

Update: Foxsports:Rosenthal: Dotel signs with Yankees

The Yankees continued adding to their bullpen depth Tuesday, signing free-agent right-hander Octavio Dotel to a one-year, incentive-laden contract, has learned.

Dotel, 32, is said to be ahead of schedule in his recovery from elbow-ligament transplant surgery, but might not be available until June.

He becomes the third free-agent reliever to join the Yankees, following right-hander Kyle Farnsworth and left-hander Mike Myers.

The Yankees earlier signed Farnsworth to a three-year, $17 million contract, envisioning him as the likely setup man for closer Mariano Rivera.

Dotel also could fill a setup role when healthy; he worked in that capacity with the Astros when Billy Wagner was the team's closer, and later closed for the Astros and A's.

Dotel chose the Yankees over the Mets, Indians and Cardinals, among other clubs.

December 18, 2005

No shirt, no shoes, Nomar
by SG

Well, reports are that Nomar Garciaparra is about to sign with the Dodgers, which eliminates yet another Yankee offseason target.

The Yankees are supposedly one of the four teams that Octavio Dotel has narrowed his list to, which is good news. Dotel will probably not be ready until midseason, but he could be a very valuable pickup if he can make a full recovery from ligament transplant surgery.

December 20 will be an important date for the Yankees, as teams will have to decide whether or not to tender contracts to some of the players under their control. According to this article on there are some interesting names who may not get tendered, making them free agents. From the article:

RHP Joe Borowski. Even though Borowski was arguably the MVP of the Devil Rays' second half in 2005, he may be the odd man out if the Rays sign Japanese setup man Shinji Mori.

RHP Gil Meche. He'll probably make around $4 million and hasn't improved the way the Mariners hoped.

RHP Ryan Franklin. Two rough years in a row for Seattle.

RHP Dan Kolb. The Brewers traded for Kolb at the Winter Meetings and would like to give him a chance to return to 2004 form, but only if he agrees to be non-tendered and re-signed at a significantly reduced price than the $3.4 million he made last year from Atlanta.

3B Russell Branyan. The Brewers plan to start Bill Hall at third base and decided to re-sign veteran Jeff Cirillo as a backup. Prospect Corey Hart played third base in the Arizona Fall League and could serve as a utility man, potentially leaving Branyan without a job. Branyan missed a month last season with a broken middle finger, but more troublingly he struggled all season with a mysterious shoulder injury. He could offer the team a power left-handed bat off the bench, and the Brewers talked at times last season about using him as a backup in the outfield.

1B Hee Seop Choi. Deemed expendable by the Dodgers.

CF Corey Patterson. Cubs are trying to deal him now that they have Juan Pierre.

RHP Jim Brower. The Braves could likely sign him for around $1 million. But management made it known at the end of the 2005 season that they likely wouldn't bring him back. The veteran right-hander never showed consistency after being claimed off waivers in June.

Others possibly joining the non-tender ranks include catchers Jason Phillips (Dodgers) and Geronimo Gil (Orioles); infielders Junior Spivey (Nationals), Willie Harris (White Sox), Willie Bloomquist (Mariners) and Henry Mateo (Nationals); and pitchers Ramon Ortiz (Reds) and Kyle Lohse (Twins).

I don't think any of the relievers are particularly interesting, although I could see the Yankees picking up someone like Gil Meche. Signing Meche would give them a little more flexibility in shopping Carl Pavano for a CF. Hee Seop Choi would fit the Yankees' need as a backup 1B. Choi has been highly touted by statheads for a while, but has not gotten much of a chance at a full-time job. He has a good defensive reputation, and some left-handed pop, so the Yankees would do well to consider him. Corey Patterson has a career OBP of .293, but is a good defender and has shown flashes of decent offensive potential. I wouldn't trade anything for Patterson, but if he's available as a free agent I think the Yankees should take a flier on him and hope he can play solid defense and hit well enough that his low walk rate won't be an issue.

FWIW, Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projects the following lines for Patterson and Bubba Crosby:

Patterson* cf .252 .298 .418 146 564 73 142 23 4 21 68 36 147 23 8
Crosby* lf .253 .307 .367 108 297 37 75 12 2 6 35 20 47 6 3

Neither is very impressive, although Patterson shows better power potential and is 3 years younger, which means he has a better chance of outperforming his track record. I think it is unlikely that the Cubs will non-tender Patterson, but we'll see.

Choi + Patterson + Dotel would make me a happy person. From there, the Yankees can see what it may take to get Jason Michaels from Philadelphia or Gary Matthews Jr. from Texas. If the asking price for either is too high, they may be better off picking up someone like Jeff Davanon, who can at least get on base passably and play good defense in all 3 OF positions.

December 17, 2005

AP: Yankees acquire Villone from Marlins
by SG

The Yankees acquired [Ron Villone] from the Florida Marlins on Friday for minor league pitcher Ben Julianel.
“[The revised bullpen] starts to form something we’re very comfortable with,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who had tried to sign Villone last winter and acquire him from Seattle last summer. “He’s versatile. He can spot start, he can long relieve, he can situational lefty. He has the ability to do all of those without complaint, and that’s attractive...” [Villone] is owed $2 million next season in the second year of a $4.2 million, two-year contract.

Villone's Stats Inc. Scouting Report:

Villone's stuff is considered average, though his cut fastball gave lefthanded batters a lot of trouble in 2004. Villone also uses a changeup and a hard slider. The Mariners liked Villone's fearless approach to pitching. He goes after people and isn't afraid to go inside, even to righthanders, which also can get him in trouble. He's an average fielder who does a good job of controlling the running game. He has three pickoffs in each of the past two years.

Last year, lefties hit .222/.326/.256 against Villone.

From 2002-2004 they hit .227/.324/.330.

His G/F of 1.23 was about average last year, although in his career he is a slight flyball pitcher.

Villone has been much better in his career as a reliever, with a 4.14 ERA in 441 innings, and with a good K/9 ratio of 7.92, and a respectable career FIP(fielding independent pitching ERA) of 4.47. As a starter, his career ERA is 5.29, his K/9 rate drops to 6.35, and his FIP is 5.00. His biggest problem is his control, with a career BB/9 rate of 4.77, or one man every 2 innings or so.

He's nothing special, but he should be serviceable as a middle reliever and long man, and also makes it less likely that Mike Myers will have to face any righties. Also, as a 36 year old, Joe Torre will gladly use him. The cost of Ben Julianel is not a big deal. Julianel had an ok season at AA Trenton but he will be 26 and while he had impressive K numbers as a lefty reliever, his BB rate was unacceptably high for a 25 year old in AA.

In other news, Nomar Garciaparra appears to be leaning towards the Dodgers, which is disappointing but not particularly surprising. This will likely mean the signing of Miguel Cairo, but the Yankees still need to add a bat somewhere, preferrably in the OF.

December 15, 2005 Yanks, 3 others in Nomar hunt
by SG

Nomar Garciaparra is considering the Yankees and three other teams, his agent said Wednesday.

The free agent has said he is willing to consider playing any position other than pitcher or catcher. Manager Joe Torre said Tuesday he had spoken with Garciaparra.

Nomar as a setup man or backing up Posada would have been sweet. If he could somehow play CF he'd still be invaluable to the Yankees.

The three other teams showing interest are believed to be the Astros, Dodgers, and Indians. I'm starting to think this has a real possibility of happening.

Regarding Damon, let's hope has it right in the adventures of Ca$h Money

December 14, 2005

Stephen Colbert: Formidable Opponent
by Larry Mahnken

A transcript of last night's Colbert Report debate on steroids:

Stephen 1: Last week Major League Baseball players unanimously approved new penalties for steroid use, and the WWE announced that it would randomly test wrestlers for steroids, recreational and prescription drugs. Will this crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs save the world or sports, or just rob it of its superstars? A question this slippery can’t be debated with just anyone, and that’s why joining me tonight is America’s toughest pundit:

Stephen 2: Me, Stephen Colbert. This is Formidable Opponent.

S1: Well, welcome back Stephen.

S2: Good to be here.

S1: Hey, you been working out?

S2: Little bit, little bit. Mon, Wed, Fri: Trats, Delts, Lats and Pecks; Tues, Thurs: Quads and Glutes.

S1: Well, you’ve really made some progress.

S2: Well, I’ve had a little help. THG.

S1: But… that stuff’s illegal.

S2: That just means the FDA hasn’t approved it yet. Tylenol and insulin were once “illegal”, but you wouldn’t deny them to a diabetic with a headache, would you?

S1: No, but these people are just trying to live a normal life. People who take performance-enhancing drugs are cheating to get ahead!

S2: Maybe so.

S1: Steroids undermine the spirit of fair play!

S2: I see your point.

S1: And growth hormones… hey, why aren’t you debating me?

S2: Why should I? You don’t seem to think it’s important for people to bring their “A” game.

S1: That’s not true! I’m the guy who says, “You’ve gotta give 110%!”

S2: Well, where do you think that extra 10% comes from? Let me give you hint: you inject it into your ass.

S1: But, steroids set a dangerous example. When kids hear about their heroes taking drugs, they think it’s okay to do it, too!

S2: Any kid with the attention span to make that connection is already on Ritalin.

S1: Okay, point taken. But, what about the liver damage, the severe mood swings, the testicular shrinkage?


S1: Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

S2: Hey, sorry. Sorry. That was just, that was just Roid Rage. Go ahead.

S1: But sports aren’t about chemicals. They’re about celebrating the human body at its best.

S2: Okay, but now we have the technology to re-define “best.” And, for that matter, “human.”

S1: I’m still not convinced.

S2: All right, let’s say you’re an athlete.

S1: Okay, I’ve said it before. What do I play?

S2: Baseball. You’re a major star, and your biggest fan, nine-year-old Freddie McGuillicutty, is laid up in the hospital, he’s very sick, and he’s got a request.

S1: Lemme guess: he wants me to hit one out of the park?

S2: No, he wants you to hit eight out of the park.

S1: Wait… has anyone even done that?

S2: He’s dying, Stephen!

S1: Okay! I’ll do it!

S2: Are you sure you don’t want any… help?

S1: No drugs! I’m just gonna give it my all!

S2: All right, you go for it! You hit seven home runs in the first eight innings, no one’s seen anything like it! Then you come up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, two outs on the board, you get set in your stance, the pitcher nods to the catcher and here comes a big fat fastball right down the middle! You crush it! The ball goes screaming down the right field line, it is high! It is deep!

S1: Get out! Get outta here!

S2: It’s going over the wall!


S2: Wait! The right fielder’s got a bead on it, and he’s on human growth hormone! He leaps like a kangaroo on crack, and he just snatches that ball, just as it’s about to land in a fan’s outstretched glove! Game over!

S1: NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I’m so sorry Freddie!!!

S2: Stephen, he’s gone.


S2: Too bad you didn’t take HGH. Maybe he would have held on long enough for that neck transplant. One just became available.

S1: No! Why was I so selfish? Next time I’ll take the steroids, the acne and the balding and the man-breasts would have been worth it!

S2: Sorry. The government thinks you don’t deserve performance-enhancing drugs.

S1: Well, then they’re wrong! Wow. You make a strong argument.

S2: Well, I’m a strong man. And you, my friend, are a formidable opponent.

by Larry Mahnken

Joe Torre's making the rounds again, calling Johnny Damon and Nomar Garciaparra while the Yankees try to woo them to the Bronx. Will it work? I doubt Damon will come, the Yankees won't sign him unless he's willing to take a 4-year deal, and the Red Sox have a 4-year deal on the table for him.

But Garciaparra is an intriguing notion. Since he's seeking just a one-year deal to try and get up his market value with a strong season, there's a tremendous amount of interest in Garciaparra around the majors. Still, nobody's going to go overboard with a contract, and the Yankees will still be able to outbid anybody, so this isn't going to come down to money.

It could come down to position. Garciaparra's exploding groin cost him enough range that he can't play shortstop anymore, so he's not getting any offers for that, and he won't be able to play third base for the Yankees, either. Some teams are interested in him at third, some at second, and some in left. The Yankees are interested in him at first, while backing up at third and short when Jeter or A-Rod need a day off.

If Garciaparra is willing to spend most of his time at first, it's a move I'm very in favor of. Even though he's got an injury history, Nomar has a legitimate first baseman's bat, and will, no doubt, be able to handle the position switch acceptably. They won't need to put Felix Escalona in the lineup when A-Rod takes a day off, and of course it gives the team greater overall depth.

I'm not sure if Nomar would be willing to do it, though. If Nomar hits .300 with 20 homers at third, that's an outstanding 3B, and he'll get big money next offseason. If he does the same at first base, well that seems fairly pedestrian, and he'll get smaller offers because people will be uncertain as to whether he can still play third.

On the other hand, there's less risk for him, too, which has to be an issue for him when he lost most of last season with a groin after taking a bargain deal from the Cubs to try and establish himself as a super free agent.

So really, I don't know what's going to come of this. But for the first time this offseason, I'm excited. The team is being creative, filling a need with a player who you wouldn't first think of to fill it, but who turns out to be a nearly perfect solution. For the first time, I'm starting to think they will win the AL East again, and that next year won't be a six-month long letdown.

Re-building the 2004 Red Sox
by SG

Having inked Mike Myers in a deal that is expected to be formally announced today, the Yankees are now continuing in their quest to re-build the 2004 Boston Red Sox in the Bronx apparently. In addition to Myers, they have already had stints by Mark Bellhorn, Alan Embree, and Ramiro Mendoza. However, those players were not key players for the Yankees, but there are two new names this offseason who could be.

In a rumor that I think makes a lot of sense, there is Nomar Garciaparra. Interest in Garciaparra by the Yankees has progressed to the point that Joe Torre has called him. Of course, he called B.J. Ryan too.

I've grown to really like the Nomar idea, because of his potential defensive versatility and his bat. Even last year, when he was down, he was still about league-average offensively. A league-average bat that can DH, play anywhere in the IF, and possibly the OF corners would have plenty of value, and he could very well exceed league average again. Obviously, his health is a major concern, but I think it's a chance worth taking.

The Yankees have talked about using Garciaparra as a first baseman, but I think he would be ideal in the role of roving everyday player.

"Give Sheffield 20 games at DH and stick Nomar in RF. Give Matsui 15 games at DH and stick him in LF. Give Giambi 50 games at DH and stick Nomar at first. Give Rodriguez 10 games off at DH and stick Nomar at third, Give Jeter 10 games off at SS and stick Nomar at short. Give Cano 10 games off and stick Nomar at second. That's 115 games in the field. " from

The other 2004 Red Sox player that the Yankees are supposedly growing more interested in is Johnny Damon,who Torre has also called. I've been very against a Damon signing, and that has not changed. However, with options like Brad Wilkerson and Milton Bradley traded elsewhere, the Yankees' options appear to be drying up. I just think Damon is a bad investment and the type of contract that has hamstrung the Yankees for the last few years. Damon's arm is embarrassingly bad in center field, his range is declining severely, and he's hit about 50 OPS points higher at home over the last 4 years.

So I vote thumbs up for Nomar, and thumbs down for Damon.

December 12, 2005

You Don't Have To Go Home, But You Can't Stay Here
by Larry Mahnken

Phil Allard wrote an article the other day about Bernie Williams at
Don’t come back.


Let us all remember you the way you should be remembered…

As a champion.
Unfortunately, the opportunity for that passed in 2000, when Bernie was last a champion, and the opportunity to leave at the top of his game passed in 2002, when his defense had already declined to putrid levels, but his offense still made him one of the top CFs in the game. The Bernie Williams we know and love died in May of 2003, when he suffered a knee injury -- IIRC, from running into a wall making a nice catch, but don't quote me on that -- which he then had to have surgery on. He never bounced back from that surgery.

Bernie was in an 0-21 slide when he left the team to have surgery, before that point, his batting line for 2003 was .325/.439/.519 -- a great line, period, a fantastic line for a player with a reputation of starting slow.

At that point, his career batting line was .308/.393/.499, since it has been .251/.339/.393 (in 1337 ABs, which you either find awesome or don't get at all -- but it basically goes to show he's no longer an elite player...). Clearly, he's lost a lot since that injury, declining to the point where he'd only be useful if he had an defensive value in center. Which he doesn't.

I love Bernie Williams, at least as much as a heterosexual man can love another heterosexual man he's only seen on television and a couple of times from a few hundred feet away with several thousand other people in a baseball stadium. I don't want to see him playing poorly, I don't want to see him playing for another team.

But I also don't want to see him playing for the Yankees, he no longer has any value to them, and while loyalty is a very nice thing, it's something that's best cast aside in baseball. The point is to win games, not be nice to your friends, and Bernie Williams can't help the Yankees win games. He needs to go.

But who am I, or anyone else, particularly Phil Allard, to tell him to hang it up? No, Bernie is not a very good baseball player any more, but there are dozens, maybe hundreds of professional ballplayers who aren't good enough to keep playing in the majors, and they keep it up. It's not for money, or pride, or because someone talks them into it, it's because it's baseball, and who in their right mind would willingly walk away from that?

These guys don't owe us anything. They don't owe it to us to leave a special memory of them at their peak, they don't owe it to us to stop playing when they're no longer helping the team. They owe nothing to anyone but themselves, and if they want to keep playing, and someone wants to keep playing them, then that's their right.

I was surprised that the Yankees offered Bernie arbitration, particularly because he likely agreed beforehand to turn it down, and it also likely means that no team will sign him now. It probably means he wants to either come back to New York or retire, and as much as I love him, I'd prefer if he retired. But if he comes back, and Joe sticks him in center more often than he should (which would be any more than zero times), that's not his fault, it's Joe's. It's not his fault for re-signing, it's the Yankees' fault for re-signing him. It's not his fault for sucking, it's Kevin Gilligan's fault for calling it, and Jason Giambi's fault for not hooking him up with those steroids he wasn't using anymore. Okay, those last two were a joke, but it's not his fault if he sucks.

Bernie, I love you, but I'm gonna be conflicted if you come back next year. It'd be a whole lot easier on me if you retired, but that's just how I feel. I'll always remember the homers off of Myers and Beck, the '95 and '96 Division Series' and the decade of greatness you gave us. I'll always remember the quiet kid with big glasses who seemed too skinny to ever hit a ball over the outfield wall, and the superstar he became. Nothing you ever do will tarnish those memories in any way. But there are no more great moments to be had, and that makes me sad.

December 11, 2005

No Activity > Bad Activity
by SG

The New York media is growing restless, with story after story after story after story about how "quiet" the Yankees are being this offseason. I appreciate the media's desire for a story, because it's pretty freaking hard to write about the Yankees when they're not doing anything to address some pretty critical areas of need. Luckily we don't get paid for blogging and don't have deadlines, so we can skip a day or two here and there.

None of us will be comfortable until we know how the Yankees plan to address center field, but speculating is all good and fun. However, I want to applaud Brian Cashman and the Yankee organization for their restraint so far in what is a pretty lackluster free agent and trade market.

To keep the Yankees' lack of activity in perspective, let's go back to about one year ago, when the Yankees made a flurry of moves in a four day span.

December 8, 2004: Womack gets $4M; Wright $21M

December 12, 2004: Pavano accepts Yankees' $39 million

Suddenly, not being active in the offseason doesn't seem like such a horrible thing, does it? If you start to get impatient about the lack of activity this offseason, just think back to a year ago.

There's some minor news as the Yankees are trying to fill out their bench, which has been a horrible weakness over the last few years, and one of the most egregious examples of the Yankees' fiscal inefficiency. The Yankee bench of Ruben Sierra, John Flaherty, Bubba Crosby, Matt Lawton, Rey Sanchez, Andy Phillips, Russ Johnson, Mark Bellhorn, Melky Cabrera, Felix Escalona, Wil Nieves, Kevin Reese, and Mike Vento combined for a VORP of -23.7, which means their bench cost them roughly two wins over what a bench full of replacement players would have. Again, this is inexcusable for a team with the financial resources of the Yankees.

Anyway, according to this article in the New York Post, the Yankees are close to bringing back Miguel Cairo in a utility role. Cairo reverted back to mediocrity after a suprisingly good 2004 for the Yankees, but with the Yankees infield he won't be playing all that much unless there are injuries. Cairo is one of my guilty pleasures, a player who I know is not good in a statistical sense, but is just fun to watch. He does a good job of making pitchers throw pitches and he's a pretty good defender at 3B, 2B, and SS.

Also interesting was an item buried at the end of the article about the Yankees being interested in Eduardo Perez. I guess they don't trust Andy Phillips after all. Perez does hit lefties very well, plus getting him onto the Yankees will probably lower Randy Johnson's ERA by half a run or so.

December 9, 2005

Don't Forget A Courtesy Flush
by Larry Mahnken

And, thank God, the Tony Womack era is over.

It's been a terribly disappointing offseason. The Yankees need a centefielder, DH and relief pitching. Well, the acceptable centerfielders are too expensive and not really that great, they haven't really looked at any DHs, and the best relievers all want to be closers. So the dream of having BJ Ryan setting up Rivera was stillborn, Tom Gordon is a Phillie, and who have they gotten? Kyle Farnsworth. Color me unimpressed.

But Tony Womack is gone, and that's a plus no matter what else happens. Signed a year ago to give the team the "Dave Roberts-type" player who was overcredited with Boston's ALCS win, he did almost nothing to help them win games, save for a couple of hits in crucial spots (and I mean COUPLE). His overall offense was putrid, costing far more than those clutch hits gained. The best thing he did for the team was get Bernie out of center for a while and get Robinson Cano into the majors.

The bizzare thing about the initial acquisiton of Womack was the reaction of the media -- there were actually people complaining about the Yankees getting Womack from the perspective of other teams! They complained how unfair it was that the Yankees could just snag a player like him, as though they'd gotten someone who was actually, you know, good.

Part of it was that he batted .300, which people overrate. Another is that he stole a lot of bases, which is also overrated. That he didn't get on base or hit for power was generally ignored.

Well, in 2005, he didn't get on base, he didn't get for power, he didn't hit .300, and he didn't steal bases. The reaction to that was even more surprising.

The Yankees have brought in many overrated players in the past - Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, to name two recent ones. When they flopped, the media reaction wasn't, "Oh, I guess he wasn't that good after all," but rather a critque of their ability to play in New York, in the pressure cooker. With Womack, the reaction, stunningly, was "Oh, I guess he sucks." His suckiness actually trancended cliches.

The deportation of Tony Womack is an absolute positive. No hole is needed to be filled by his departure, money is freed up for useful players, and they actually got players who could some day make it to the majors. But the latter two reasons are irrelevant -- even had the Yankees dumped him and eaten his entire salary, they'd be better off. He's just that bad.

Now the focus is on filling the holes left. It won't be easy, there's not much out there. If Johnny Damon comes for 3 or 4 years, it's acceptable. He will make the team better next year and they won't be stuck with him for too much of his decline.

Despite all the rumblings and signings, the Blue Jays aren't contenders for the AL East title, or even the Wild Card, unless a lot of things go exactly right. They've got a great 1-2 pitching punch and a solid closer, but not a lot else. They'll be better, but if the Yankees finish behind them and miss the playoffs, it'll be because of themselves, not Toronto.

Anyway, I'm back, for today at least. Hopefully tomorrow and the next day, too. It's been a horrid year. Time to try and restore some normalcy.

How useful will Mike Myers be?
by SG

It's basically a done deal that the Yankees have inked Mike Myers to a 2 year deal, for $2.4 million. Also, since the Red Sox declined to offer him arbitration(which makes NO sense to me), he cost nothing in draft pick compensation. Frankly, in this market, that's a very good deal.

Myers is probably the prototypical LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY), who should only be used to face left-handed batters. This is due to a sidearm delivery which hides the ball well from lefty-hitters, but basically serves it on a tee to right-handers.

His splits

Vs. Left: .158/.198/.211
Vs. Right: .385/.510/.641

Vs. Left: .208/.278/.318
Vs. Right: .331/.450/.509

Total from 2002-2005
Vs. Left: .195/.261/.290
Vs. Right: .341/.464/.534

There's no doubt that the numbers show that Myers excels in the role of lefty stopper, and should almost never face a right-handed hitter. The concern is that teams plan their lineups fully aware of this, and will usually alternate their lefty and righty bats.

The average OPS in the AL last year was .772. There were 15 lefty hitters in the AL who hit for at least the average OPS, listed below:

Rank Player Tm OPS
1 Travis Hafner Cle 1.003
2 David Ortiz Bos 1.001
3 Jason Giambi NYY .975
4 David Dellucci Tex .879
5 Hideki Matsui NYY .863
6 Jay Gibbons Bal .833
7 Grady Sizemore Cle .832
8 Johnny Damon Bos .805
9 David DeJesus KC .804
10 Carl Crawford TB .800
11 Eric Chavez Oak .794
12 Raul Ibanez Sea .792
13 Ichiro Suzuki Sea .786
14 Joe Mauer Min .783
15 Robinson Cano NYY .778

Obviously, Giambi, Matsui, and Cano are non-factors so we can remove them from the list, which gives us 12 players. Grouping them by team:

Rank Player Tm OPS
6 Jay Gibbons Bal .833

2 David Ortiz Bos 1.001
8 Johnny Damon Bos .805

1 Travis Hafner Cle 1.003
7 Grady Sizemore Cle .832

9 David DeJesus KC .804

14 Joe Mauer Min .783

11 Eric Chavez Oak .794

12 Raul Ibanez Sea .792
13 Ichiro Suzuki Sea .786

10 Carl Crawford TB .800

4 David Dellucci Tex .879

If you look at this list, suddenly utilizing Myers seems to be less of a concern. The list is not perfect, there are probably players that I should be including here who may have had down years, but the point is that there really aren't that many dominant left-handed hitters in the AL right now. As long as Joe Torre can resist the urge to have Myers face righties to pitch to every single lefty, then he should be fine.

There are 3 teams which have more than one above-average lefty hitter in the same lineup which could lead to Myers facing a righty if the situation calls for him to pitch to both. There are other players who aren't on this list who may be a concern, people like Hank Blalock, Trot Nixon and Aubrey Huff, but the fact is that if there's a righty that has to be retired to get to them, Myers is not good enough to take that chance. He should be saved to basically pitch to one hitter in a game. If the lineup calls for him to face multiple lefties in a row, then he can be used like that. He should never pitch to a guy who is likely to get pinch-hit for.

It's not a bad signing if he's used correctly, but my concern is that he won't be used correctly. See Wayne F'ing Franklin if you feel my concerns are not valid. If the Yankees can trade one of their extra righty arms (Small, Wright, Proctor), they can probably squeeze in Matt Smith or another lefty like Joey Eischen, which may make Myers's usage more optimal. Honestly, if he gets David Ortiz out a few times he may earn his contract right there.

Oh, and how about getting a CENTERFIELDER? Anyone?

December 8, 2005

Yankees Ship Tony Womack to Cincinnati
by SG

Who will we pick on now?

Yankees get Ben Himes and Kevin Howard, not that it matters.

Update: Lefty Myers, Yankees agree to deal (Thanks to joel)

The Yankees bolstered their bullpen before leaving the Winter Meetings, agreeing to a two-year deal with left-hander Mike Myers.

Myers told in a phone interview that he had agreed to terms on a two-year contract with New York, filling the much-needed role of left-handed specialist.

Limit his exposure to righties and I'm ok with this, I guess.

Johnny Two-Face
by SG

My good friends at are running with this story today.

"There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they are going to come after me hard. It's definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It's not what I need." - Johnny Damon, back in May.

"I would cut the hair and I would stay clean-shaven. George Steinbrenner has the policy for a reason, and you have to respect that. I've never been one to challenge authority."

Damon heaped praise upon Rodriguez, whom several of Damon's teammates took turns ripping last winter (It was "us being jealous not getting him ... Alex has always been a class act"), Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi ("the absolute best" teammate), Yankees fans ("I think the fans respect me") and everything else pinstriped or associated with pinstripes.

Damon pointed out how he could help. "The Yankees haven't won since [Chuck] Knoblauch," he said. "Jeter's an incredible leadoff hitter. But he was the game's best No. 2 hitter." - Johnny Damon, free agent.

I've been stating repeatedly in this space how I don't want Damon on the Yankees. However, as the market starts to dry up with targets like Juan Pierre being traded to the Cubs and Brad Wilkerson being traded to the Nationals, it's starting to look like a more and more likely possiblity. While I'm not particularly happy about it, if it's a 3 year deal it's not the worst situation in the world.

The Yankees surprisingly offered Bernie Williams arbitration yesterday. From the link:

The Yankees were expecting to consummate a contract with Williams for close to $2 million, plus incentives, two American League executives said yesterday.

Bernie is one of my all-time favorite Yankees, but I just don't know that he's capable of helping a major-league team at this point. His power is gone, and while he can still draw a walk, he was swinging at bad pitches all year. He also can't defend even passably anymore in CF, and has not even been tried in LF. Forget about RF, with his arm it wouldn't work.

I guess the plan is to have him in the Ruben Sierra pinch-hitter/DH role. In that sense, it's not a terrible option, but it limits the roster flexibility to have a player who cannot play defense. Also, let's not forget the Joe Torre factor and Torre's willingness to keep running Bernie out there in center.

Yesterday was the deadline for teams to offer arbitration. The following players who may interest the Yankees were offered arbitration so will cost draft picks to sign:

Pitchers: Ricardo Rincon

The following players were not:

Pitchers: Octavio Dotel, Mike Myers, Roger Clemens, Jason Christensen, Al Reyes, Julian Tavarez, Chad Fox, Darren Dreifort, Wilson Alvarez, Braden Looper, Ugueth Urbina

Infielders: Erubiel Durazo, Frank Thomas, Nomar Garciaparra, J.T. Snow

Outfielders: Richard Hidalgo, Preston Wilson, Reggie Sanders

There are probably more that I missed. Looper wouldn't be a bad pickup to stick in middle relief, and would probably be cheaper than Scott Boras-represented Julian Tavarez. If Darren Dreifort is healthy(odds are astronomical) he could be dominant arm in relief as well. Wilson Alvarez would seem to be a good pick up as a lefty who can spot-start too.

In Yankee land:

The Yankees offer arbitration to Bernie Williams, Al Leiter and Ramiro Mendoza. Leiter and Mendoza have already rejected the arbitration offers as per an agreement with the Yankees.

The Yankees declined to offer contracts to Kevin Brown, Alan Embree, Matt Lawton, John Flaherty, Tino Martinez, Rey Sanchez, Felix Rodriguez and Ruben Sierra.

I'll miss Alan Embree, Kevin Brown, and John Flaherty. I would have offered Felix Rodriguez arbitration because I can see no way he would have stayed, particularly in this market, but it's a second round pick, not a huge deal.

I don't know that anything will happen until Dec 20 when players may be non-tendered. The Cubs are supposedly offering Todd Walker to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley, so he may not be an option either.

December 6, 2005

by SG

So far, the winter meetings have been rife with rumors and low on activity, with the major news being that the Blue Jays have signed A.J. Burnett for 5 years and $55 million and Latroy Hawkins being traded to the Orioles for Steve Kline.

One interesting rumor that I heard about was that the Detroit Tigers offered Curtis Granderson and Joel Zumaya to the Arizona Diamondbacks for our old friend, Javier Vazquez. Granderson's a young CF with good power/speed potential, and Zumaya is a minor league pitcher who has already reached AAA at age 20 and accredited himself fairly well there in 8 starts, putting up 56 Ks in 44 innings with a 2.66 ERA. Vazquez used his no-trade clause to turn this trade down, which opens up an interesting possiblity for the Yankees. Carl Pavano for the same package?

Pavano's probably not as highly regarded as Vazquez, stuff-wise, but their overall results are reasonably close (career ERA+ of 105 for Vazquez, 100 for Pavano),they are close in age (Vazquez will be 29, Pavano 30), and they are both signed for about $10 million/year.

The Yankees might have to sweeten the pot to make this trade, but they should at least investigate it.

I'm also hearing the Yankees do have genuine interest in Nomar Garciaparra as a utility player. He's never played the OF so I don't know how feasible he would be in that role, but the Yankees need a bat, he should be reasonably cheap, and he can probably back up all 4 infield positions at the very least and DH. If he's willing to sign for $5 million or so for a year, I'd give him a shot.

Wake me up when something actually happens.

December 5, 2005

The Winter Meetings
by SG

The Baseball Winter Meetings are finally here. There's a lot of talk about potential deals, but if memory serves me correctly nothing much typically happens at these meetings.

What I find interesting is the money that non-spectacular players like Esteban Loaiza and Paul Byrd were signed for. If that($7 million a year) is the current market for roughly league average inning eaters, it would seem to be a good thing for the Yankees, as they can possibly use Carl Pavano + $9 million over the remaining three years of his contract to get a useful CF(ie, not Juan Pierre). The Yankees have supposedly turned down an offer of Pavano for Jeremy Reed already, which I guess means they are hopeful they can do better.

I'd also expect the Yankees to add at least two more bullpen arms, probably Julian Tavarez and Mike Myers. I'm not particularly fond of either one. Tavarez has been good as a reliever, but he hasn't even averaged an inning an outing in his last few years, which is probably keeping his ERA low. Myers is solid against lefties, and awful against righties and is very limited in his utility because of this since smart teams stagger their lefty and righty bats.

Should be an interesting few days of rumor-mongering anyway.

Update: Over at Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski has posted his ZiPS projections for the Yankees for 2006. As always, projection systems only work with the data available and take nothing else into account (new abilities, injuries, etc.,) so don't read too much into them.

Rodriguez 3b .301 .400 .559 162 621 115 187 27 2 43 130 92 131 19 6
Giambi* 1b .250 .401 .488 133 424 67 106 17 0 28 82 94 106 0 1
Matsui* lf .294 .372 .477 161 608 98 179 41 2 22 103 75 87 2 2
Sheffield rf .271 .371 .468 148 547 91 148 27 0 27 101 81 67 7 4
Jeter ss .299 .368 .442 153 633 110 189 31 3 18 84 60 108 15 5
Posada# c .254 .358 .424 140 465 64 118 25 0 18 73 73 100 1 2
Phillips 1b .260 .326 .471 115 412 70 107 20 2 21 69 38 75 2 2
Bellhorn# 2b .234 .351 .386 127 435 61 102 25 1 13 53 76 145 4 2
Cano* 2b .286 .317 .438 150 587 89 168 29 6 16 80 25 77 3 2
Lawton* lf .254 .350 .390 135 497 81 126 23 0 15 72 65 69 14 10
Johnson 3b .254 .339 .390 105 331 47 84 24 0 7 42 41 56 4 4
Reese* cf .263 .330 .406 132 525 80 138 34 4 11 62 47 87 12 9
Vento rf .265 .326 .401 129 479 58 127 30 1 11 63 36 91 2 3
Jones lf .231 .306 .433 134 490 73 113 25 1 24 75 48 164 2 4
Williams# cf .241 .332 .362 138 494 62 119 22 1 12 63 68 75 2 3
Stinnett c .240 .313 .380 51 129 12 31 6 0 4 18 12 33 0 0
Cabrera# cf .269 .310 .367 137 521 74 140 18 3 9 60 28 91 8 2
Escalona 2b .247 .311 .357 112 361 51 89 20 1 6 40 24 56 3 1
Crosby* lf .253 .307 .367 108 297 37 75 12 2 6 35 20 47 6 3
Nieves c .270 .297 .368 107 389 44 105 19 2 5 40 13 52 2 1
Thurston* 2b .271 .309 .374 132 454 65 123 17 3 8 53 22 58 5 8
Sardinha* rf .237 .305 .355 120 439 53 104 20 1 10 49 39 112 7 3
Duncan* 3b .221 .299 .365 130 447 63 99 15 2 15 55 47 140 7 2
Martinez* 1b .219 .296 .359 131 379 46 83 14 0 13 54 38 65 2 1
Porter* rf .236 .297 .356 113 365 38 86 22 2 6 32 30 102 7 6
Womack* 2b .245 .288 .300 127 436 55 107 14 2 2 34 24 55 19 6
Parrish c .217 .281 .309 77 272 28 59 10 0 5 26 22 66 1 1
Guillen rf .230 .269 .300 117 434 53 100 11 2 5 37 18 84 5 3
Sierra# rf .205 .245 .305 88 249 21 51 10 0 5 31 14 50 1 0
Sanchez ss .213 .243 .266 85 263 21 56 9 1 1 21 9 29 1 1
Flaherty c .192 .222 .288 50 146 11 28 8 0 2 14 5 30 0 1

Rivera 8 1 2.49 71 0 76.0 60 21 3 17 70
Johnson* 18 7 3.52 33 33 215.0 193 84 26 44 211
Farnsworth 3 2 3.73 73 0 70.0 56 29 7 29 82
Brown 11 6 3.92 23 23 147.0 149 64 11 40 107 (.38 $H in '05!)
Mussina 14 8 3.97 29 29 186.0 188 82 23 35 149
Pavano 12 8 4.18 27 27 181.0 193 84 19 37 103
Bean 6 5 4.38 59 0 74.0 66 36 8 35 76
Chacon 9 7 4.40 32 20 131.0 125 64 13 54 78
Wang 8 7 4.40 23 23 141.0 148 69 15 39 79
Bergman* 5 4 4.44 35 20 142.0 152 70 18 33 91
Anderson 3 3 4.64 52 1 64.0 63 33 8 24 46
Embree* 3 3 4.67 68 0 52.0 54 27 8 13 40
Rodriguez 4 4 4.83 60 0 54.0 53 29 6 25 41
Sturtze 4 4 4.86 51 2 76.0 78 41 10 30 47
Mendoza 2 3 4.91 32 0 55.0 63 30 9 12 29
Small 8 9 4.97 29 22 145.0 165 80 23 33 74
DeSalvo 6 6 5.01 22 21 124.0 123 69 15 61 94
Proctor 4 5 5.05 61 1 82.0 83 46 15 29 73
Redding 8 9 5.08 28 24 133.0 147 75 16 48 81
Karstens 9 11 5.09 27 26 168.0 196 95 27 38 97
Manning* 4 6 5.13 43 6 86.0 88 49 10 43 60
Wright 9 12 5.13 29 29 156.0 163 89 18 72 109
Smith* 4 5 5.30 37 6 73.0 74 43 8 38 59
Leiter* 8 12 5.33 31 28 162.0 165 96 17 91 103
Henn* 6 8 5.34 24 24 128.0 138 76 15 60 77
Munro 7 10 5.37 39 18 124.0 146 74 19 36 69
May* 8 11 5.45 33 25 170.0 195 103 34 45 101
Nomo 7 11 5.63 24 24 144.0 154 90 22 71 95
Marsonek 3 5 5.67 48 2 73.0 83 46 12 30 44
Beam 4 6 5.72 35 10 96.0 109 61 20 32 72
Franklin* 4 7 5.88 46 17 127.0 140 83 24 57 79
Borrell* 2 4 6.57 15 12 63.0 78 46 14 24 31
De Paula 2 6 6.97 26 22 115.0 141 89 36 43 75

December 2, 2005

by SG

Since it is now somewhat official, I'm moving this back up top.

While it's not quite official yet, there are enough stories on the internets that Kyle Farnsworth will be signing with the Yankees for $17 million over 3 years (some stories say $24 million for 4 years). I think this is an overpay based purely on what Farnsworth may provide over three years, but in this market it's not surprising.

Here are Farnsworth's career numbers, courtesy of Baseball Reference


1999 23 CHC NL 5 9 27 21 1 1 1 0 130.0 140 80 73 28 52 70 3 7 579 5.05 4.84 96
2000 24 CHC NL 2 9 46 5 0 0 8 1 77.0 90 58 55 14 50 74 4 3 371 6.43 4.27 66
2001 25 CHC NL 4 6 76 0 0 0 24 2 82.0 65 26 25 8 29 107 1 2 339 2.74 4.23 154
2002 26 CHC NL 4 6 45 0 0 0 17 1 46.7 53 47 38 9 24 46 1 1 213 7.33 4.03 55
2003 27 CHC NL 3 2 77 0 0 0 13 0 76.3 53 31 28 6 36 92 0 6 312 3.30 4.24 129
2004 28 CHC NL 4 5 72 0 0 0 25 0 66.7 67 39 35 10 33 78 2 1 298 4.72 4.53 96
2005 29 DET AL 1 1 46 0 0 0 16 6 42.7 29 12 11 1 20 55 1 2 174 2.32 4.27 184
ATL NL 0 0 26 0 0 0 18 10 27.3 15 6 6 4 7 32 2 1 103 1.98 4.40 223
TOT 1 1 72 0 0 0 34 16 70.0 44 18 17 5 27 87 3 3 277 2.19 4.32 198
7 Yr WL% .377 23 38 415 26 1 1 122 20 548.7 512 299 271 80 251 554 14 23 2389 4.45 4.41 99

Here's a picture of Farnsworth in action:

Take out his first year as a starter, and you have a pitcher who's struck out 484 hitters in 418.7 innings, a very solid rate of 10.4 per 9.

However, to this point, Farnsworth's career has been marked by inconsistency.

In 1999, 2000,2002, and 2004, he's put up the following cumulative line:

320 innings
350 hits
61 HRs
159 BB
268 K
1.7 HR/9
4.5 BB/9
7.5 K/9
,95 G/F
5.65 ERA
5.49 FIP

In 2001,2003, and 2005, he's put up the following line:
228 innings
162 hits
19 HRs
92 BB
286 K
0.7 HR/9
3.6 BB/9
11.3 K
1.08 G/F
2.76 ERA
2.98 FIP

Farnsworth is a fly ball pitcher, with a career G/F ratio of 0.99. In his good seasons, he gets more ground balls and has a lower HR rate. His control is not good, even when he's had his best seasons. His higher BB rate, higher HR rate, and lower K rate means a FIP(fielding independent pitching ERA) of 5.49 when he's bad. When he's good, it drops down to a very respectable 2.98.

The Yankees are taking a chance here, although Farnsworth is as talented as any reliever that was available, with a high 90s fastball and a newly added slider. This from his Stats Inc scouting report last year:

Farnsworth's overpowering fastball sometimes reaches the 100-MPH mark. However, he had no other effective weapon until late last season, when he developed a late-breaking slider that came in at around 92 MPH. It's a pitch that can help Farnsworth turn the corner in his career.

If the new slider is the reason for his success last year, then this is a good signing. However, even last year, his control was not great, and he allowed fewer HRs than he should have based on his flyball rate. This is reflected in his xFIP of 3.10 (xFIP is the expected fielding independent pitching ERA, based on the #s of fly balls a pitcher allows. Typically 10% of a pitcher's flyballs are HRs. xFIP accounts for flukes in FB/HR ratio). This is available on the Hardball Times pitcher's stats page.

Given the market and the options available, this deal does make some sense. With Flash Gordon's age and declining K rate, he was not a good choice for the 3 year contract he was seeking. However, I'm hearing that he may still end up returning. If he signs elsewhere, the Yankees will recoup the draft pick they lose by signing Farnsworth. Farnsworth's not B.J. Ryan, but he got 2 years and $30 million less, and it's very possible he could match Ryan's performance. I would just caution that those expecting a repeat of last year for the next three years look at the career line and temper some of that enthusiasm a bit. We'll see if Ron Guidry and Joe Kerrigan can help him refine his slider even more or perhaps teach him a changeup or splitter. Rumor has it that Mike Myers is also going to be signed shortly, which should keep Torre happy. Myers is very effective against lefties, but absolutely cannot face right-handed hitters at all. Righties hit him like 2000 vintage Nomar. If the Yankees sign no one besides Farnsworth and Myers, they'd go into the season with a pen of:


It's not great on paper, but there's some potential there, with minor league arms like T.J. Beam, Jason Anderson, Matt Smith, Colter Bean, and perhaps J.Brent Cox waiting around for the inevitable injuries. I think the Yankees should still see what it would take to sign Octavio Dotel. However, reports are now that he will not be ready until midseason.

Beam is a very interesting prospect to me. He was a starter until this season, then was pushed into the pen. He had very good numbers in class A, combining at two stops for a 1.98 ERA and 105 K in 77 innings. His scouting report points to solid stuff, a 90-94 MPH fastball, a good slider, and a developing changeup. He was pretty old for his league at 24, so the Yankees should probably be aggressive with him this year, starting him in AA and promoting him to Columbus if he looks ready.

I wouldn't be shocked to see Small traded for CF help, but I doubt he could bring back too much. Although he was a great story last year, it's not a good bet to continue given his peripherals and past history, and it would be in the Yankees best interest to sell high. I also think he'd bring back more than Jaret Wright or Carl Pavano based on his health, low salary, and performance last year. Hopefully some team thinks he's turned the corner.

Back to "The Farns".

In summation, the pros with Farnsworth are:
1) His age
2) His stuff
3) His success last year

The cons are:
1) His inconsistency
2) His walk rate
3) Fly ball pitcher + Yankee OF defense

Dan Szymborkski's ZiPS projects the following from Farnsworth:

2006 ZiPS Projection - Kyle Farnsworth
3 2 73 0 70 56 29 7 29 82 3.69

I'd take that in a heartbeat. One thing to keep in mind with relievers. The difference between 80 innings with a 3.00 ERA and a 4.00 ERA is 9 runs, or about 1 win. This does not account for leverage, which could impact the value of those runs. If we give those expected innings a leverage of 1.6 which is about normal for the 7th and 8th innings, then it ends up being a difference of about 14 runs in a season. In other words, although it may seem like the difference between Farnsworth and Gordon is huge, it's really not (assuming we get something close to his projection). Also, you should not compare Farnsworth to Gordon's 2004-2005 numbers, but what you may expect out of Gordon in 2006,2007, and (God forbid) 2008.

The pros seem better than the cons, but I'll remain skeptical. It's what I do. I don't expect Farnsworth to have an ERA under 4 during his Yankee tenure, but I wouldn't be shocked if he turned out better than I am expecting.

And if Texas swoops in and "steals" Farnsworth away, pretend you never read this.

Update:Phillies sign Gordon to replace Wagner.

Thanks for a solid two years Flash, and thanks for the draft picks your loss will provide.

Flashes in the can.
by sj

As you all have read, Tom "Flash" Gordon has signed with the Phillies. While I am sad that Tom has gone, I am glad the Yankees did not sign him for that money. 18 million for his age 38, 39 & 40 seasons, no thank you, that is Jaret Wright money! Meanwhile, in other flash news, John, "The Other Flash"Flaherty may haver retired. Cashman obviously made replacing his 165/202/252 line his #2 priority of the offseason. The Cash man wasted no time, snatching up the coveted one time MVP and certain hall of famer Kelly Stinnett to a 1 year, 500k deal.

Thank God we have replaced Fhash the Lesser's production, but how are we to replace Flash the Greater? Who will inherit Mike Mussina's baserunners and let them score? Farnsworth hasn't signed yet, reports are Texas is making a strong run at him. Will it be Sturtze? Bean? Baez? Mike Myers?

Meanwhile, centerfield sits vacant.

December 1, 2005

Yanks Sign Stinnett
by SG

Kelly Stinnett replaced John Flaherty as the New York Yankees' backup catcher, agreeing Wednesday to a $650,000, one-year contract.

The Yankees are finally getting younger, trading out 37 year old John Flaherty for 35 year old Kelly Stinnett. Stinnett's career line of .239/.320/.390 is not so great, unless you compare it with Bad Flash's .252/.290/.377. Stinnett's caught Randy Johnson before, so that may be part of the reason for this move.

This is actually a fairly big upgrade if you look at last year's VORP (Value over Replacement Player from Baseball Prospectus. Stinnett's VORP was 5.3 and Flaherty's was -9.6 in very similar playing time, so the Yankees are upgrading by about 16 runs.

I'm still waiting for official confirmation on Farnsworth before I analyze his signing. I am hearing rumors that the Yankees are still aggressively trying to bring back Flash Gordon as well. While Gordon and Farnsworth setting up Mo in 2006 has the potential to be great, I'd have concerns about 2007 and 2008, as well as the loss of draft picks from signing Farnsworth that would not be replaced if Gordon stays.

Update: Farnsworth tells Braves he's leaving

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
While the Braves held out hope Wednesday of re-signing shortstop Rafael Furcal, the next-most attractive of their free agents told them he's going to the Yankees.

Kyle Farnsworth has opted for the Yankees' offer to be a well-paid setup man over what Braves general manager John Schuerholz said was a three-year offer to be Atlanta's closer.


"We wanted him as our closer," Schuerholz said. "We offered a three-year deal and were prepared to stay engaged in the negotiations, but we were told that he had decided to go to New York as a setup guy."

Yankees officials said no deal was done with Farnsworth, the Milton High graduate, who spent most of his career with the Cubs.

If the Braves offer Farnsworth arbitration by Dec. 7 — or the Yankees sign him before then — the Yankees would owe the Braves a first-round pick as compensation. If neither happens, the Yankees would owe the Braves — who have not publicly indicated their intention — nothing.