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January 30, 2006

It's early projection time
by SG

The last few years in late January, Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory releases his ZiPS projections in the form of a Diamond Mind baseball disk. This allows nerds like me to play some simulated seasons with Diamond Mind Baseball, probably the best baseball simulator out there.

Last year when I ran these in late January, the Yankees were averaging 91 wins, 905 runs for, and 794 against. The Yankees did in fact end up winning 95 games, scoring 886 runs and allowing 789.

While rosters are far from settled yet, I thought it would be interesting to see where the teams are according to ZiPS. This is current through the Piazza signing with San Diego yesterday. For Yankee fans, it's not so good. Below are the results for 100 trials, with the average wins, losses, runs for, and runs against. DIV = # of division titles won, WC = # of wild cards.

High Low
Team W L RF RA DIV WC DIV% WC% Made% Missed% Wins Wins
American League

Boston 92 70 879 740 76 6 76% 6% 82% 18% 105 77
New York(A) 85 77 821 786 14 16 14% 16% 30% 70% 99 70
Toronto 83 79 748 740 9 14 9% 14% 23% 77% 99 65
Baltimore 73 89 733 809 1 1 1% 1% 2% 98% 89 54
Tampa Bay 70 92 711 827 1 0 1% 0% 1% 99% 85 59

Minnesota 86 76 719 674 38 9 38% 9% 47% 53% 100 70
Cleveland 84 79 775 732 23 7 23% 7% 30% 70% 102 70
Chicago(A) 82 80 746 727 20 4 20% 4% 24% 76% 103 68
Detroit 82 80 764 760 19 5 19% 5% 24% 76% 95 68
Kansas City 65 97 680 829 0 0 0% 0% 0% 100% 86 44

Oakland 96 66 767 617 88 6 88% 6% 94% 6% 109 79
Los Angeles(A) 85 77 722 691 7 23 7% 23% 30% 70% 100 68
Texas 80 82 800 812 3 7 3% 7% 10% 90% 94 65
Seattle 79 83 710 750 2 5 2% 5% 7% 93% 94 60

National League
New York(N) 90 72 782 702 53 14 53% 14% 67% 33% 105 72
Philadelphia 89 73 751 676 38 22 38% 22% 60% 40% 105 75
Atlanta 81 81 736 734 8 8 8% 8% 16% 84% 94 68
Washington 75 87 683 735 2 0 2% 0% 2% 98% 89 59
Florida 70 92 645 737 0 1 0% 1% 1% 99% 86 57

St. Louis 96 66 768 628 79 10 79% 10% 89% 11% 109 82
Chicago(N) 85 77 735 696 8 15 8% 15% 23% 77% 100 72
Pittsburgh 82 80 711 707 8 9 8% 9% 17% 83% 96 65
Milwaukee 80 82 704 716 5 4 5% 4% 9% 91% 97 63
Houston 74 88 682 757 0 3 0% 3% 3% 97% 89 59
Cincinnati 69 93 760 870 0 1 0% 1% 1% 99% 85 53

Los Angeles(N) 87 75 748 701 59 5 59% 5% 64% 36% 106 71
San Francisco 83 79 732 716 28 6 28% 6% 34% 66% 98 68
Arizona 77 85 729 771 7 1 7% 1% 8% 92% 95 63
Colorado 76 86 787 842 2 3 2% 3% 5% 95% 90 65
San Diego 75 88 675 718 5 1 5% 1% 6% 94% 94 61

Prior to the Crisp trade, the Yankees and Red Sox were pretty close to even. However, according to ZiPS now the Red Sox are clearly better.

The good news is that this is all based on projections which are harsh to the Yankees players given their ages, and that projection systems will miss out on players and teams all the time. The bad news is that the Yankees are spending $190 million or so on a 30% chance of making the playoffs according to at least one system. With very little else in the way of roster moves likely at this point, the best hope is that players on hand exceed their projection. In the case of Jason Giambi, I think that's reasonable, as his 2004 brings his expected performance down quite a bit. This does underscore the need to add another bat (I split DH between Bernie and Andy Phillips in these runs).

Rosters are still in a state of flux, so I wouldn't worry too much about these. I'll re-run a bigger set in spring training along with Diamond Mind's own projections to see what happens.

January 26, 2006

NY Daily News: Yanks mulling Mike
by SG

Though some club officials believe the likelihood of the Yankees signing Mike Piazza is remote, the team's braintrust is still assessing whether the ex-Met star would suit pinstripes as a DH, according to GM Brian Cashman.

"I have not made a decision," Cashman said. "We're still going through it. I'm obviously evaluating Mike and seeing if he fits where we're at at this point in time.

"I don't have a need for anybody, but that doesn't mean you don't constantly evaluate what's available and the price they're available at."

Piazza may have some life left as a DH. However, if the Yankees are going to enter the season with a 4 man bench, carrying Stinnett and Piazza would seem to be very limiting. With Bernie Williams and Miguel Cairo also on board, the Yankees have one more spot for either Andy Phillips or Bubba Crosby, both of whom would be needed as at least defensive replacements. If they sign Piazza with the intent of dumping Stinnett, then it makes more sense.

Update: Newsday says Piazza not likely to don pinstripes.

When the Yankees learned several days ago that they could sign Piazza for cheap, they were intrigued about the possibility of adding a Hall of Fame bat at a bargain rate. But after days to survey the club's top-tier scouts, general manager Brian Cashman is leaning heavily toward passing on Piazza.

Reached Wednesday night, Cashman said only that he had yet to convey his decision to Dan Lozano, Piazza's agent. However, others indicated Cashman was said to be concerned about how Piazza's presence might clog the designated-hitter spot on a team filled with older players who may need to DH, and Cashman was apparently preparing to say no to Piazza.

January 24, 2006

One Year
by Larry Mahnken

It's interesting that the days you least want to remember are often the days you remember the most vividly. Today is the anniversary of the single worst day of my life, and I just can't get over it.

Oddly enough, I'm handly the anniversary worse than the actual event. At the time I was probably in shock, but in general I was fairly level-headed about the whole thing. Perhaps its the past knowledge about how everything turned out over the past year, how horribly things went because of that fire, how stupid I've been. In the past year I've lived with my sister, lived in my car and finally moved in with my parents 250 miles from my home and everyone I know. One of the few things that's kept me going has been the Yankees, which is probably a primary reason I consider the past season something of a success despite the fact that they barely made the playoffs and got knocked off in the first round.

Anyway, this shouldn't be a pity party. A lot of you people were here a year ago, and a lot of you helped me out by sending some money my way. I'd like to make something productive out of this anniversary, so here goes (I was hoping to be more directed and broad based, but life often doesn't go as you plan...):

Give money to someone who needs it today. A friend who's down on their luck, a homeless guy on the street, or to a charity to help victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, like this one (A friend endorsed it saying, "I hate Clear Channel, but it's a great program.").
Not necessarily much, certainly not so much that you'll miss it. But just help someone.

Thanks. I think I'm going to go back to bed now.

Don't smoke in bed.

January 23, 2006 - Cabrera gets taste of big time
by SG

There's a little story about Melky Cabrera and some other Yankees winter league exploits on

Melky Cabrera is getting a taste of the big time in the Dominican Republic, as his Las Aguilas Cibaenas are playing in the league championship series against Tigres del Licey.

Las Aguilas advanced to the finals by virtue of a 12-5 record in the four-team round-robin portion of the playoffs.

Cabrera, one of the Yankees' top offensive prospects, hasn't had much success in the playoffs, hitting just .192 (5-for-26) in 10 games. Cabrera has six RBIs, four runs scored, one double and a .276 on-base percentage, walking three times while striking out seven times.

Unlike his postseason, Cabrera had a successful regular season in the Dominican, batting .315 (35-for-111) with six doubles, two triples, 18 RBIs and seven stolen bases. He also posted a .376 on-base percentage in 40 games.

Cabrera also walked 12 times while striking out 13 times, a much better ratio than the 37-87 he posted in 132 games at Double-A and Triple-A during the 2005 season.

In 106 games with Trenton, Cabrera hit .275 with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs, stealing 11 bases and doubling 22 times. In 26 games with Columbus, Cabrera hit .248 with three homers, 17 RBIs and two steals.

Infielder Caonabo Cosme is one of Cabrera's teammates with Las Aguilas this winter, but he has appeared in just two of the team's playoff games, going 1-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout.

In 14 regular-season games, Cosme, who played shortstop at Columbus in 62 games in 2005, batted .318 in 22 at-bats, scoring a pair of runs while driving in one.

In 211 at-bats for the Clippers, Cosme hit .265 with six home runs and 24 RBIs. He also stole five bases, doubled 13 times and tripled once.

Rudy Guillen, who hit .260 in 100 games with Class A Tampa in 2005, went hitless in four at-bats during the postseason for Leones del Escogido, who finished 7-8 in the round robin. Guillen had just 21 at-bats for Escogido in the regular season, posting a .273 average.

Guillen hit six homers, drove in 39 runs and stole 10 bases with Tampa this year, scoring 51 runs. In 28 games with Trenton, Guillen hit .257 (28-for-109) with two homers and eight RBIs.

Two pitchers from the Yankees system are also honing their skills in the Dominican: Jorge De Paula and Elvys Quezada.

De Paula, who's continuing his comeback from Tommy John surgery, went 1-2 in three relief appearances during the postseason, and his ERA was 10.38 in 8 2/3 innings for Escogido.

De Paula struck out 21 batters and walked six in the 17 1/3 innings he pitched during the regular season.

De Paula was 4-2 with a 4.58 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) with Columbus in 2005, striking out 90 batters in 116 innings. In his three relief appearances with the Yankees, he posted an 8.10 ERA in 6 2/3 innings.

Quezada, who appeared in four regular-season games for Las Aguilas, has not pitched in the playoffs. He posted a 2.84 ERA in 6 1/3 innings during the season, allowing nine hits and two walks, striking out five.

In 19 games (four starts) with Class A Tampa, Quezada went 4-1 with one save and a 5.94 ERA. Quezada also pitched 16 games (one start) for Class A Charleston, going 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA. In 79 1/3 innings for the two teams, Quezada struck out 87 batters.

Winter league typically plays like AA, so Melky's regular season success is pretty good news. Fabian has mentioned that walk rates seem to skew high there though, so take Cabrera's improved plate discipline with a grain of salt.

I still have hopes for Cabrera despite the rush job promotion of last year. If I were the Yankees I'd probably start him in AA this season. If he is hitting well at the mid-point, then I'd push him to AAA with a September callup if he does ok there. He didn't look like a CF in his brief time in the majors, but I'd keep him out there for now. He can always be shifted later.

In other news, he Empire State Development Corp. board has approved general project plans for the redevelopment of Yankee and Shea stadiums. I'm glad to see that the stadium will not be heavily publically financed, as I am opposed to taxes for corporate welfare. I hope that's not too political.

As far as the Yankees leaving the original Stadium, it's inevitable. While there are a ton of memories associated with that field, both pre and post renovation, things change. This is capitalism, and any chance to increase revenue will eventually be taken. I'm not as concerned about leaving the real estate, just about the impact to the average fan and their ability to afford to attend the games.

January 19, 2006

2 Yankees seek arbitration
by SG

From the Asbury Park Press:

Shawn Chacon asked the New York Yankees for $4.15 million in salary arbitration on Tuesday and Aaron Small requested $1.45 million.

New York offered $3.1 million to Chacon and $1,025,000 to Small.

The pair were among the pitchers brought in to shore up the Yankees' pitching staff last summer after injuries left New York short. Chacon, acquired from Colorado, went 7-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 12 starts and two relief appearances, and Small was 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA in nine starts and six relief appearances.

Small, brought up from the minors, joined Tom Zachary (12-0) of the 1929 Yankees, Howie Krist (10-0) of the 1941 St. Louis Cardinals and Dennis Lamp (11-0) of the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays as the only pitchers to finish a major league regular season unbeaten with 10 or more wins. Small did lose Game 3 of the AL playoffs to the Los Angeles Angels.

Small is eligible for arbitration for the first time and will make more this year than he has previously in his entire professional career, which began in 1989.

If I were the Yankees I'd try to settle with Chacon. As one of the few Yankee starters under 30, it's not worth the potential acrimony of going to arbitration in the year before he can become a free agent. While I have concerns about him declining based on his peripherals, there's a lot of upside in him. As far as Small, I don't begrudge him asking for more than he's being offered, but I wouldn't care if they take him to arbitration, as I think he is very unlikely to replicate last year.

In other news, Alex Rodriguez has decided to play in the World Baseball Classic, representing the US. For now, anyway. Hopefully this story ends. In Rodriguez's quest to please or not offend anyone, he's just made himself look wishy-washy. I wish he would just do what his heart tells him to do and not work so hard on cultivating his public persona. I'm fine with his decision, he's one of the most durable players in baseball and I don't see much risk for him.

In other Yankee stuff, there's a little story about Matt Desalvo in the News and Sentinel. Some highlights:

While not physically imposing, at 6-foot, 170 pounds, the ex-Marietta College Pioneer is a strikeout hurler with a 90-plus mph fastball and other assorted pitches (slider, forkball, changeup, curveball) - and that can be pretty intimidating to a batter.
Since signing with the Yankees, all DeSalvo has done is perform and turn heads at Staten Island (New York-Penn League), Battle Creek (Midwest League), Tampa (Florida State League) and Trenton (Eastern League).

With Trenton last summer, DeSalvo was 9-5 with a 2.62 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 149 innings pitched.

I think DeSalvo will be first in line when the Yankees need to go into the farm for a starter, and hope he acquits himself well.

Also, in the Hartford Courant, there is an article about Carl Pavano and his high hopes for 2006.

Sure, Carl Pavano was unhappy with the Yankees in 2005. His first season in New York, ended in midstream by a shoulder injury, wasn't the stuff for smiles.

"If somebody wasn't unhappy with the way the year went, what would you think of that person?" Pavano said recently from his home in Florida.

But Pavano is upbeat about his second season.

"Last year, things didn't work out the way either of us hoped they would," he said, "but I think the future is going to hold a more positive story. ... I can't wait."
Although nothing was said about it at the time, Pavano's '05 season was doomed in spring training, when he strained his back. He altered his pitching motion to compensate and hurt his shoulder.

I guess I don't understand why Pavano would be unhappy with the Yankees because he got hurt, unless it was the hints from the organization that he was jaking his injury. This is the first time I've heard about him straining his back. I've advocated trading Pavano, but it may be in the Yankees' best interest to see if he can bounce back. While the Yankees have a glut of starters, all have question marks with age, health, and performance. They wouldn't get much back for him now anyway.

January 16, 2006

FIP, xFIP and the 2005 Yankees
by SG

A few weeks ago, I used JC Bradbury's PrOPS to look a little deeper into the performance of the Yankees hitters. I thought I should look at some more of the Hardball Times' stats, this time for the Yankee pitchers. Some of the stats below are self explanatory, but here's a synopsis of the ones you may not be familiar with, from the Hardball Times' stats glossary:

PR (Pitching Runs): Invented by John Thorn and Pete Palmer, this is a measure of the number of runs a pitcher saved compared to average. The formula is league-average RA/IP minus park-adjusted RA/IP, times total innings pitched.

FIP: Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded.

xFIP: Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. This is an experimental stat that adjusts FIP and "normalizes" the home run component. Research has shown that home runs allowed are pretty much a function of flyballs allowed and home park, so xFIP is based on the average number of home runs allowed per outfield fly, and adjusted for the home run tendencies of the ballpark. Theoretically, this should be a better predicter of a pitcher's future ERA.

LD%: Line Drive Percentage. Baseball Info Solutions tracks the trajectory of each batted ball and categorizes it as a groundball, fly ball or line drive. LD% is the percent of batted balls that are line drives. Line drives are not necessarily the hardest hit balls, but they do fall for a hit around 75% of the time.

DER: Defense Efficiency Ratio. The percent of times a batted ball is turned into an out by the teams’ fielders, not including home runs. The exact formula we use is (BFP-H-K-BB-HBP-0.6*E)/(BFP-HR-K-BB-HBP). This is similar to BABIP, but from the defensive team's perspective. In this case, this is the defensive efficiency behind a particular pitcher, the percentage of batted balls turned into outs. League average DER in the AL last year was .700, which means that 70% of the balls hit into play were converted into outs.

       *PR    IP      RA     ERA    FIP     FIP-ERA *xFIP   *ERA   LD%     DER    G/F    IF/F   K/G   BB/G  HR/G    *HR/F  
Rivera 23 78.3 2.07 1.38 2.19 0.82 3.02 346 14.20% 0.762 1.98 0.1 10 2.3 0.25 0.04
Gordon 18 80.7 2.79 2.57 3.72 1.15 3.96 186 11.60% 0.766 1.51 0.09 8.2 3.4 0.94 0.11
Johnson 17 225.7 4.07 3.79 3.82 0.03 3.67 126 16.70% 0.717 1.18 0.1 8.8 2 1.33 0.14
Chacon 16 79 2.96 2.85 4.57 1.72 5.33 167 16.90% 0.761 1.14 0.28 4.6 3.5 0.81 0.1
Small 13 76 3.2 3.2 3.92 0.72 5.06 149 19.30% 0.728 1.22 0.19 4.5 2.9 0.48 0.05
Wang 3 116.3 4.49 4.02 4.24 0.22 4.39 118 14.10% 0.735 2.9 0.09 3.7 2.5 0.71 0.11
Mussina 2 179.7 4.66 4.41 4.05 -0.36 4.18 108 17.60% 0.678 1.22 0.09 7.1 2.3 1.15 0.12
Groom 0 25.7 4.91 4.91 4.74 -0.17 5.41 97 16.10% 0.678 1.17 0.03 4.3 2.3 0.99 0.08
Bean 0 2 4.5 4.5 4.06 -0.44 4.84 106 40.00% 0.8 2 0 8.5 8.5 0 0
Graman -1 1.3 13.5 13.5 17.32 3.81 12.25 35 0.00% 0.667 0.75 0.25 0 8.5 4.25 0.32
Rodriguez -1 32.3 5.01 5.01 4.79 -0.22 6.02 95 18.70% 0.705 1.07 0.17 4.7 5.2 0.52 0.06
Mendoza -1 1 18 18 14.06 -3.94 4.18 26 0.00% 0.667 1 0 7.7 0 7.65 0.49
Sturtze -2 78 4.96 4.73 4.84 0.11 5.08 101 14.60% 0.73 1.23 0.13 5.2 3.1 1.15 0.12
DePaula -2 6.7 8.1 8.1 7.41 -0.69 6.55 59 8.30% 0.727 0.69 0.15 3.8 3.8 2.55 0.18
Anderson -2 5.7 7.94 7.94 6.06 -1.88 9.37 60 16.70% 0.778 0.25 0.08 2.8 9.9 0 0
Karsay -2 6 7.5 6 2.4 -3.6 3.7 79 13.60% 0.545 2.8 0 6.6 2.6 0 0
Stanton -4 14 7.07 7.07 3.56 -3.51 4.53 67 28.30% 0.644 0.88 0.06 7.2 3.6 0.6 0.06
Franklin -5 12.7 8.53 6.39 4.64 -1.75 5.96 75 10.80% 0.73 0.74 0.21 6.7 5.4 0.67 0.06
Redding -5 1 54 54 11.06 -42.94 14.18 9 40.00% 0.2 0.5 0.5 7 13.9 0 0
Embree -6 14.3 8.79 7.54 4.6 -2.94 5.18 63 16.70% 0.667 1.05 0.18 4.5 1.7 1.13 0.11
Quantrill -7 32 6.75 6.75 5.25 -1.5 5.61 71 22.50% 0.653 1.04 0.04 2.8 1.8 1.28 0.1
Proctor -8 44.7 6.45 6.04 5.64 -0.41 5.38 79 17.40% 0.731 0.57 0.17 6.9 3.3 1.92 0.15
Leiter -9 62.3 6.06 5.49 4.57 -0.92 5.59 87 18.10% 0.69 1.26 0.23 5.9 5 0.52 0.07
May -9 7 16.71 16.71 10.92 -5.79 5.94 29 25.00% 0.643 1.18 0.09 3 3 4.03 0.39
Henn -10 11.3 12.71 11.12 8.89 -2.23 7.92 43 17.00% 0.659 1.11 0.06 1.9 6.9 1.88 0.17
Pavano -13 100 5.94 4.77 4.93 0.16 4.45 100 18.50% 0.673 1.59 0.11 4.8 1.6 1.47 0.17
Wright -17 63.7 7.21 6.08 5.42 -0.66 5.55 78 23.00% 0.671 1.43 0.14 4.3 4.1 1.01 0.13
Brown -18 73.3 7 6.5 3.65 -2.86 4.42 73 19.90% 0.615 1.73 0.08 5.5 2.1 0.55 0.07

The first thing that stands out is how good Mariano Rivera was last year. Despite pitching only 78.1 innings, he prevented more runs by pitching runs than any pitcher on the Yankee staff. Mariano scores very high in DER and his HR/F ratio is very low, but in his case I think this is due to his cutter, and not due to luck or a fluke. Hitters just don't take good cuts off of him, and rarely make solid contact, which is also indicated by his low LD%. The FIP-ERA is a little concerning, but even if he pitches to his FIP of 2.19 that's a damn good pitcher.

Tom Gordon also had a good year, although his peripheral stats indicate a bit more luck than Mariano. His HR rate was about what you would expect, but given his other stats FIP says his ERA should have been closer to 4. This seems to indicate that the Yankees made the right move in letting Gordon walk. However, he was very solid last year and he will leave a big hole in the pen which hopefully Kyle Farnsworth and Octavio Dotel can fill.

Next up, Randy Johnson. Johnson had a disappointing year by his standards, but finished the year strong and was the best Yankee starter over the full season. Johnson's peripherals did not deviate much from his raw pitching line, but hopefully the Johnson of the last two months of the season shows up a bit more frequently in 2006. Given his age, it's not a certainty.

Shawn Chacon had a remarkably effective half-season in Pinstripes, but there are big flashing warning signs in his peripheral stats. Chacon's actual ERA of 2.85 was almost two runs lower than his FIP, and he had a very high DER behind him. As a slight fly ball pitcher (1.14 vs. league average of 1.23), his HR rate was about where you'd expect it, but given his walk rate and K rate, he should have gotten hit harder. I would expect some regression from Chacon unless he was acclimating himself to pitching at sea level and can improve his command. I'd also like to see the return of his 94 mph fastball from Colorado, and not the 88-90 he was throwing last year.

Everyone's favorite journeyman, Aaron Small was next on the Yankees, saving 13 runs over the average pitcher during his short stint as a Yankee. It's a bit concerning to see that Chacon and Small were second and third of all the Yankee starters in PR despite pitching only 255 innings between them. Small's peripherals seem to also predict a pretty big fall this year, and while I'd like to think the Yankees could get something of value for him based on his impressive numbers last year, they will probably not get enough to justify the weakening of the rotation and bullpen depth that he provides. I'll continue to root for him because it's a great story, but I'm not expecting much from Small this year.

Chien-Ming Wang was another pleasant surprise for a Yankee team that needed it badly. Despite his low K rate, his FIP and xFIP were both pretty good, as a function of his strong groundball tendencies and pretty good control. IF he can bump his K rate up he could be a #2 starter. If he can't, he's still a solid 3 or 4. Given the going rate for mediocre starting pitching, Wang is going to be a big part of the Yankees' fortunes over the next few seasons. He'll always have the lingering shoulder issue, but he looked pretty strong on his return in September, so hopefully he can put that in the background.

Mike Mussina appears to have become an injury prone league average starter at this point in his career. While 180 innings of average pitching is a fine thing, it's not worth $20 million a year. Moose's peripherals were actually better than his raw numbers, as he gave up slightly more homers than would have been expected and about 1/3 run a game more than his FIP says he should have. I'd expect more of the same from Mussina next year.

That's it. That's all the Yankee pitchers that were above average last year. Kind of sad, huh?

Buddy Groom, Wayne Franklin, Alan Embree, and Darrell May are all gone, thankfully. They'll be replaced by Mike Myers and Ron Villone, which will hopefully be an upgrade over the -20 runs they gave the Yankees. Al Leiter's -9 is hopefully heading for the YES network to discuss irony and deep fly balls with Michael Kay, and not to the pitcher's mound.

Colter Bean and Jason Anderson didn't accrue enough time for their numbers to have any meaning. Scott Proctor was about as bad as his numbers, but I think that's a function of his usage. Rather than being interesting in Jeff Nelson as a ROOGY, why not just let Proctor fill that role? He held righties to a .217/.270/.358 line last year, but lefties tatooed him. Perhaps bringing in Villone and Myers can restrict Proctor's appearances against lefties and make him more effective. Tanyon Sturtze actually pitched ok overall, allowing two runs more than an average pitcher in the middle of the pen. However, his shoulder is still bothering him, according to this Newsday article:

Tanyon Sturtze took his late 2005 right shoulder woes seriously enough to spend his offseason in Manhattan so he could make thrice-weekly visits to a Columbia-Presbyterian specialist. Tests showed the Yankees reliever's pitching shoulder to be "worn down and weak," Sturtze said Friday at Mohegan Sun.

He was scheduled to fly to Tampa today so he could attempt to throw off a mound this week at the club's minor-league complex.

The Yankees very much need a healthy Sturtze, given that Kyle Farnsworth is guaranteed to be a colossal flop and Octavio Dotel is no guarantee to get healthy.

Farnsworth is guaranteed to be a flop? Do we get our money back then? And how come Davidoff is willing to guarantee Farnsworth flopping but not willing to guarantee Dotel's health one way or the other? I feel ripped off.

Lastly, there's the three-headed monstrosity known as Kevin Brown, Jaret Wright, and Carl Pavano. The Yankees paid these three $29 million for
-48 PR. That is what you call a bad investment. Thankfully, Brown is gone. I still think the Yankees are exploring trading Pavano but by making public proclamations of their desire to keep him they are trying to pump up his value. It's probably also in their best interest to bring him to spring training to show that he is healthy before moving him. If he's not traded, he'll be in the rotation, with Wright looking like the odd man out.

$29 million for the equivalent of five losses over the average pitcher. Ugh. This is where the Yankees' can make improvements that are less apparent than the typical splashy free agent signings. They need to do a better job of filling out the back end of their pitching staff and their bench, and getting rid of people who will provide below replacement level value which costs them wins because they are "experienced" or "proven veterans that know how to play in New York." They need to take some chances on unproven players who may surprise instead of settling for consistent mediocrity. They could have gotten better performances than they got out of Wright, Brown, and Pavano at one tenth of the cost. Calling up Wang and trading for Chacon are just two examples of that.

I am hopeful that the pitching will be a little better next year overall. I base this on the jettisoning of people like Kevin Brown, Paul Quantrill, Mike Stanton, Wayne Franklin, Alan Embree, etc., and also because of the upgrade of Johnny Damon in CF over Bernie Williams/Tony Womack, as well as my hope that first half Alex Rodriguez does not show up on defense, which seemed to really kill Carl Pavano last year. They'd better hope so anyway, because I don't see much else changing on the pitching staff now, except perhaps some tweaking of the back-end of the bullpen.

January 13, 2006

Memorable Yankee Games I've Attended
by SG

joel had a good suggestion in the comments about revisiting our most memorable games attended. I picked out five of my personal favorites and listed some details below, and I invite everyone to do the same in the comments for any games that stick out in their minds.

June 26, 1994: Yankees 12, Indians 11

This was one of the craziest games I ever attended. Jim Abbott started, and was shaky, but the Yankees took an 8-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth, and then Cleveland began chipping away with single runs in the fifth and sixth. The Yankees scored four in the top of eight and had what looked to be an insurmountable 12-4 lead. That '94 Cleveland team was frightening though, and they pounded out seven runs off Sterling Hitchcock, Paul Gibson, and Bob Wickman, capped off by a three run shot by Albert Belle off Wickman. Suddenly it was 12-11 and I thought the Yankees were about to blow it. Thankfully Wickman and Steve Howe were able to get the last four outs. It was a wild game to attend.

June 3, 1998: Yankees 7, Devil Rays 1

I had actually attended the game the day before because of a radio report that David Wells might have to miss a start and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez would get the start. Wells was able to go, but when WFAN reported that David Cone got bit by a Jack Russell terrier the next day, I was on the 6. El Duque got his shot and delivered. The game itself was unremarkable, but El Duque was very impressive, throwing 7 great innings and getting a great ovation when he left.

September 16, 1996: Yankees 10, Blue Jays 0

It was a blowout, but a very memorable game for me. This was in the Skydome and the game started with the roof open. Jimmy Key was masterful, throwing six perfect innings before giving up a hit in the bottom of the 7th. It was Tim Raines's birthday, and he celebrated by hitting two HRs. When he hit the second HR, it started pouring and they had to close the roof of the Skydome while the game was going. It was just cool to see that.

May 19, 1998: Yankees 9, Orioles 5

This is better known as the Benitez plunks Tino game, that precipitated the only brawl I've gotten to see at a baseball game. Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the 8th, Bernie Williams jacked a 3 run HR to make the score 6-5. An angry Benitez plunked Tino Martinez, who took offense. Benitez made a move, and the Yankees charged, led by Darryl Strawberry. When play resumed Tim Raines took Bobby Munoz deep to make it 9-5, in one of the loudest scenes I've ever heard.

September 29 1995: Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3

In 1995, the Yankees were in a dogfight for the wild card. Boston had a comfortable lead in the AL East, and Seattle and California were in a dead heat in the AL West and with the Yankees. Every win was crucial, and trailing 3-0 heading into the top of the ninth in the Skydome, all looked bleak. The Yankees got two runs, but with a runner on and two down, up stepped Pat Kelly, the light hitting 2B who we all had high hopes for which never panned out. Kelly hit a fly ball to LF that kept carrying and we were stunned. I dropped the hot dog I was eating on the head of the guy in front of me when I jumped up to watch it leave. John Wetteland came in throwing gas, striking out two of three hitters to end a must-win game. I actually got attend the whole weekend of games, and saw the Yankees clinch the wild card on the last day of the season.

So what are some of your most memorable games attended?

January 12, 2006

Don Mattingly - The Keltner List
by SG

With some of the discussion about Don Mattingly not getting any respect in the Hall of Fame vote, I thought I'd use one of Bill James's tools, the Keltner list, to examine Mattingly's Hall of Fame credentials. The Keltner list was designed to examine the credentials of borderline candidates through a series of 15 subjective questions. What follows below are the questions and then my attempts at the answers.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Mattingly was considered one of the best players in baseball during his peak and often suggested as such.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

In Mattingly's MVP season of 1985, his OPS+ actually trailed teammate Rickey Henderson, although he edged Henderson in WARP3 11.5 to 11.4. I think we can say yes to this question.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

According to VORP, Mattingly was the best offensive first baseman in 1985 and 1986, but trailed Eddie Murray in 1984 and Mark McGwire in 1987. In 1988 he was 6th in the AL, in 1989 he was 3rd, and by 1990 he was pretty bad.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

The Yankees went to the World Series in 1981. Mattingly was called up in 1982. Mattingly retired in 1995. The Yankees went to the World Series in 1996. Unfortunately for Mattingly, the Yankees never reached the World Series in his time there, and he only made the playoffs once, by which point he was a shell of his former self. In 1985, when the Yankees fell just short of Toronto, he hit .339/.390/.645 over the last 2 months of the season, with 20 HRs and 60 RBI, but other than that he did not have a lot of impact on any pennant races, not necessarily through any fault of his own.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Mattingly put up the following OPS+ numbers after age 28:
29: 81
30: 103
31: 108
32: 118
33: 113
34: 97

That is actually not as bad as I thought, but it's a quite a drop from his peak. Unfortunately for him, the back injury had him out of the game by 35, so I think we have to answer no to this question.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Not in my opinion. I think Bert Blyleven heads the list of players who belong more than Mattingly.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

His list of 10 most similar players on Baseball Reference is:
1. Cecil Cooper (934)
2. Wally Joyner (907)
3. Hal McRae (900)
4. Kirby Puckett (895) *
5. Garret Anderson (880)
6. Will Clark (879)
7. Tony Oliva (872)
8. Keith Hernandez (862)
9. Jim Bottomley (860) *
10. John Olerud (858)

Only Puckett and Bottomley are HOFers, and let's remember that Puckett was a CF, not a 1B.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

If you go by Black Ink and Gray Ink, which are the number of times Mattingly was the league leader or among the league leaders in a statistical category, they do not. His black ink total is 23, whereas the average HOFer is 27, and his gray ink total is 111, whereas the average HOFer is 144. He does score well in the Hall of Fame Monitor, where a typical HOFer is > 100, and Mattingly is at 133.5.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

He did win 9 Gold Gloves, which doesn't mean all that much, but he was pretty well acknowledged to be a great defensive player. He did seem to take unique advantage of Yankee Stadium over his career, hitting .313/.364/.495 at home, and .302/.353/.450 on the road.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Possibly, although Dick Allen, Will Clark, and Keith Hernandez all have reasonable arguments over Mattingly.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
I think it's fair to say that Mattingly had 4 MVP-type seasons, from 1984-1987. He did win the MVP in '85, and finished second in '86.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

I would say Mattingly was an All Star type player from 1984-1987, and possibly 1989. He actually made it six times, from 1984-1989. Most HOFers play in more than that.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

In 1985 or 1986, definitely.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

None that I'm aware of, although he did popularize the mullet in the New York area in the late 80s.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

By all accounts, Mattingly was one of the most well-respected and liked players in the game, by fans, his teammates, and the media.

I have to admit, if you look at this list, Mattingly has a stronger case than I would have thought in just looking at his career numbers. Unfortunately for him, I don't quite think he is a Hall of Famer. He was a great player for several seasons, but his peak, as good as it was, wasn't enough.

In other news, I've heard a rumor that the Yankees have offered old friend Jeff Nelson a one year contract, although I haven't seen it in print anywhere, although this article mentions that they met with his agent. This is a bit of head-scratcher to me, unless it means that the news on Octavio Dotel is not good. Even then, it still seems like a less than inspired move to me. Nelson's walk rate has been steadily climbing of late, and I just don't think he has much left at age 39.

January 11, 2006

Wait Till Next Year Top 75
by Fabian

Phil Hughes comes in at 46 with the typical evaluation (good stuff, terrific results, injuries a concern), so that does it for the Yankees on this Top 75 list.

by SG

From Kevin Kernan in the Post:

"I just don't get it," a frustrated Gossage said in Colorado yesterday, moments after he was told fellow reliever Bruce Sutter would be the only man going into Cooperstown this summer. "I'm at a loss for words."

Not really.

"I just can't believe Sutter got in before me," Gossage added. "He deserved it. I was hoping Sutter and I could go in together. ... I don't know if I ever will make it."

I am surprised Gossage hasn't gotten in yet. Although I didn't get to see him in his prime, I saw enough of him to think he belongs. I think Sutter is an iffy selection, but I can't fathom a rationale that puts him in before Gossage. I thought this was Gossage's best chance with the weakness of the competition. I hope Goose gets in eventually.

January 9, 2006

Wait Till Next Year Top 75
by Fabian

Bryan Smith has begun his annual Top 75 Prospects list. In the linked post he's handing out honorable mentions. Our very own Christian Garcia gets a nod. Smith acknowledges that the nod was given Garcia over the likes of J.B. Cox, C.J. Henry, Tyler Clippard, and Jose Tabata. I'm not sure I like Garcia as much, but after 1-2 in the Yankee system it's hard to come up with a stringent ordering. Garcia making the list at this point also means that Duncan should factor somewhere around the back end of the 75 and Hughes could either be really high, if not much weight is given to his injury concerns, or around the middle.

1/10: 75-51 has been posted. Eric Duncan makes the list at 57. Bryan projects Eric's prime years as .270/.350/.500. The first thing that jumps out at me is that I think he's underselling Duncan's patience. To this point of his career, Duncan has posted OBP-Slug. numbers of .070, .040, .112, .091, and .091 from the GCL all the way to the EL.

Baseball America: Yankees Top 10 Prospects
by Fabian

What did Baseball America nail? What'd they miss? Discuss in the comments.

P.S.: Yeah...I'm still alive.

January 6, 2006

by SG

From the always inspired New York Post:

The broadcast booth and politics will have to wait. Al Leiter, it turns out, is not the retiring type.

The Yankees are close to signing Leiter to a minor league contract to compete for a bullpen job in spring training. Leiter, 40, had indicated that last season would be his final one in the majors. But he enjoyed his time with the Yankees and the organization felt he had sufficient spark in his arm to attempt one more reunion.

"He'd be an insurance policy," GM Brian Cashman said. "He would come in to compete for the bullpen to get lefties out like he was doing in the playoffs. That is what we are talking to him about."

After seven seasons with the Mets, Leiter last year had a disastrous half-season with the Marlins, going 3-7 with a 6.64 ERA before being released. The Yanks picked him up when their rotation was in disarray. Leiter's final numbers as a Yankee were not pretty (4-5, 5.49). But he made a couple of critical starts and Joe Torre trusted Leiter enough to use him four times out of the pen in the five-game Division Series loss to the Angels.

"You know he is not afraid," Cashman said. "He is a veteran guy, a stand-up guy, a quality guy. He likes to compete."

Does this make any sense? I'd rather see someone like Matt DeSalvo or Jorge DePaula be the insurance policy.

January 4, 2006

Chass: Yankees show an ugly face
by SG

Linked above is a hatchet job by Murray Chass, basically ripping the Yankees for not allowing their players to play for Bud Selig's "World Baseball Classic."

While the idea of a international tournament of the best baseball players in the world is mildly interesting, I don't think it's worth the risk to the players involved, particularly the pitchers.

From the link:

No surprise there. Any time the Yankees are involved in a joint venture, they take a position most advantageous to themselves, often at the expense of others. This is the case with the Classic, the 16-team tournament that will be played in March.

That's certainly unusual for a business entity in a capitalist country.

Steinbrenner was once active in the Olympic movement in the United States, but in his view, the March Classic will not benefit the Yankees. What's in it for them? An increase in international interest in baseball? An increase in international marketing revenue for baseball? The Yankees, Steinbrenner would say if he were willing to speak publicly, do well enough on their own, generating revenue for themselves.

Why should the Yankees risk a significant injury hampering their chances in 2006 for baseball to increase their revenue, since it will not mean lower ticket prices for fans or higher salaries for a sport with a salary tax?

Four Yankees are set to play - Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon for the United States, although Damon was put on the roster before joining the Yankees, Bernie Williams for Puerto Rico and Robinson Cano for the Dominican Republic. And RodrĂ­guez, who said he couldn't decide whether to play for the United States or the Dominican Republic and didn't want to insult the one he didn't choose, is expected to announce this week that he has changed his mind and will play for the U.S. team.

Apparently sending almost half of your starting lineup isn't good enough.

[Mariano] Rivera was another Yankees player who insulted his country. He said he would not play for Panama because Panama didn't have a chance to win the tournament.

Is he wrong? Would anyone want to waste any pitches from their 36 year old closer in a losing cause?

[Jorge] Posada will not catch for the Puerto Rican team, though that decision could also change. The Puerto Rican baseball federation requested Posada's presence, but the Yankees asked Major League Baseball to excuse him.

The nerve of the Yankees, asking that their 34 year old catcher who is due about $30 million over the next two years not catch a bunch of games that won't help them.

The Yankees also requested medical exemptions for Carl Pavano and Chien-Ming Wang. Insurance costs for Johnson prompted officials to excuse him.

The Pavano request was granted, considering he missed the second half of last season, but the Wang request is being held up. Wang, a Taiwanese pitcher, has agreed to play, pending review of his medical circumstances. Wang started five games in September after recovering from a shoulder ailment.

They can have Pavano for all I care. As far as Wang and his "shoulder ailment", I would think a rotator cuff tear, no matter how minor, is a fairly significant issue.

The bottom line here is that these players are all under contract to the Yankees, and are all compensated well for it. The fact that they are under the contract and getting paid a ton of money restricts their freedoms. The Yankees are just trying to protect their investment, and I can't blame them for that. If one Yankee player missed one inning because of a meaningless tournament, I would be furious.