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March 31, 2006

The Defense of the 1996-2001 Yankees
by SG

In my earlier post about the 2005 Yankees and their horrific defense, rsmith51 asked about how the 1996-2001 Yankees would fare. With a little digging at ESPN's site, I was able to find Zone Rating back through 1996, so I gave it a shot.

A few notes before I start.

1) ESPN's ZR prior to 2001 was not sorted by teams or leagues, so in the interest of time I had to combine the leagues to calculate the averages. I'm not sure if this will skew the numbers much one way or the other, but it's worth noting.

2) The Yankees' had a lot of roster changes throughout this period, and many players split time between the Yankees and other teams. Again, in the interest of time, I did not try to separate those players time between New York and elsewhere, so I simply removed them. You'll see this in the lists below where the innings don't add up to the team's actual defensive innings. I may have missed a few which would cause the innings to be high, so mentally adjust for that as well.

3) Standard caveats about the problems with defensive metrics apply, so don't take these as gospel. They're just a piece of information.

Anyway, let's start with 1996. Remember, these are the players' compared to the average defender at the same position.

I was a bit surprised that Mariano Duncan wasn't worse. He scared the hell out of me back then. I also didn't remember Andy Fox being so bad. The team total of about -18 made them about two wins worse than the average team defensively.

Next up, 1997.

I was surprised to see Tino so low. Other than that, the numbers seem to match my memories. Not much different than the '96 version defensively.

The winningest single-season baseball team ever, the 1998 Yankees are next.

I'm getting a little nostalgic. How great was this team? Leading the league in runs scored and allowing the fewest runs in the league is the mark of an all-time great team, and the defense was the best in the league that season, at 32 runs above average.

The 1999 vintage.

A fairly steep defensive decline followed 1998, as the defense gave up 40 more runs than average, but were still pretty solid overall at -8. The decline of Chuck Knoblauch was becoming apparent in 1999.

The 2000 version.

The weakest of the dynasty teams, but thankfully they had the patsy Mets to beat up on. Their defense was not too bad though, a little worse than a win below average.

The 2001 version.

And this is when the defensive decline really seemed to start, as the 2001 version was 15 runs worse than the 2000 version.

The overall numbers seem to coincide with my memories of the teams, although some of the individual seasons for some players seem out of whack.

Spring Training
Carl Pavano bruised his ass on a play at first in his first game of the year, according to Peter Abraham's blog. He still pitched in a minor league game yesterday, but may miss a day or two.

Mike Mussina pitched yesterday, and despite a less than impressive outing, feels ready.

"We're throwing at full speed, I've thrown all my pitches and I haven't had any trouble," Mussina said. "I don't see any reason why I'd have anything to worry about. Something could always happen; it's a long year. But I don't see any reason to expect my elbow to give me any problems."

We all hope so Moose.

Chien-Ming Wang is good to go, and will pitch tonight's game in Arizona. Good news as well.

I guess I'm done. Posting may be sporadic by me next week as my employer has decided that I should travel on business during the opening week of baseball season for some reason. Jerks.

I noticed that Cliff Corcoran has posted the Yankees' 25 man opening day roster, so here it is:





March 30, 2006

Getting Closer
by SG

With Randy Johnson pitching in a minor league game yesterday for his final pre-season tuneup, the regular season is drawing near.

Johnson feels he's had a strong spring training, which bodes well for the season.

In five Grapefruit League starts this spring, Johnson went 1-2 with a 2.96 ERA. He allowed 24 hits and just three walks in 24 1/3 frames, striking out 24 batters.

Including Wednesday's game, Johnson finished the spring with 29 1/3 total innings, reaching his precamp goal of 27-30. That total exceeds his 2005 number by eight innings, and he feels that his arm strength has been the primary beneficiary of the extra work.

"I feel strong and good, but nevertheless, I feel like I've got some work to do," Johnson said. "It's been a very productive Spring Training for me, and I hope to carry it into the beginning of the season."

The rest of the Yankees beat Detroit 4-2, with Andy Phillips continuing his solid spring by going 2 for 3 with a walk and scoring two runs.

Jorge Posada has been DHing, and according to Peter Abraham is expected to catch Mike Mussina today. Let's hope Moose is over that dead arm thing he had last time out, and that Posada is healthy to start the season.

The roster is starting to take shape, and I'm not particularly happy with the bench. The fact that Wil Nieves is potentially going to be on the bench because he's out of options makes no sense to me. This is a 28 year old who hit .289/.313/.395 in AAA last year. I don't see the upside, unless they think he's better than Kelly Stinnett, in which case Stinnett should be dumped. It could be worse. Jim Bowden could be the decision maker.

With good health for Posada, is hopefully shouldn't matter.

Depth is a major problem for the Yankees this year, so let's hope that Gene Monohan and Steve Donahue can keep them healthy. It will be interesting to see the effect of the amphetamine ban in baseball this year. Some think it's going to affect older players more, although I would assume older players are not as likely to be partying all night, so maybe not.

March 28, 2006

The Best Defense is a Good Offense
by SG

If the Yankees hope to make any noise in the postseason this year, they'd better hope that this title holds true and they can hit their way through, because their defense has been bad recently, and doesn't look to be much better in 2006.

Scott Barzilla ran through some defensive analysis on the Yankees over the last few years, which shows just how bad the Yankee defense has been recently.

While evaluating defense is still not nearly as far along as evaluating offense or pitching, it is important. However, it's not important enough for me to spend $15,000 on play by play data, so I'll continue to use the method developed by Chone Smith at Baseball Think Factory, which uses the publically available statistic zone rating to evaluate defense.

For those unfamiliar with Zone Rating, it is the percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone," as measured by STATS, Inc. Since we have Zone Rating back through 2001, it is a good way to try and gather a good amount of defensive data.

First off, here is how the Yankee defense scored in 2005 using this method. The numbers below are expressed as innings played, and runs above or below the average defender at the same position. There are no adjustments for playing time. The innings for shortstop, second base, and third base are missing Mark Bellhorn's time as a Yankee, since his statistics were combined with his time in Boston.

First base

As you can see, the Yankee defense at first was 6 runs belwo average last year, although that was mostly Jason Giambi's fault. With Giambi looking like the primary first baseman this year, that is not particularly encouraging news. Andy Phillips was +1 in 67 innings at first last year, but that's not enough playing time to make much of a judgement about his defensive ability.

Second base

Another position, another below average performance. One thing that needs to be noted for both Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter is that they score much better in ZR and UZR than they do via another system, published in The Fielding Bible, so take these ratings with a grain of salt.


Despite his Gold Glove last year, Jeter was a slightly below average fielder by ZR. UZR has him as a -8, and The Fielding Bible has him as -26. There's no question the metrics see him as bad, the question is how bad he is.

Third Base

Alex Rodriguez was not good last year. It does appear to be an outlier though, and although I don't have his splits for the first half and second half, he looked much better after a rough start.

Left Field

Seven left fielders, and not one of them was above average? Ugh.

Center Field

The sample size is small, but ZR seems to agree with my observations that Hideki Matsui is better in CF than LF. Unfortunately, that's a moot point. Bubba Crosby had very impressive numbers in CF, pro-rated to 150 games he'd be around 35 runs above average, but you can't read too much from 145 innings. Bernie was slightly improved over his recent vintage, which also seems to coincide with what I saw last year. He seemed to have slightly more range by not playing every day. Since it appears he'll be getting a fair amount of playing time in the OF this year, let's hope the trend continues.

Right Field

Man. I knew Matt Lawton was shaky in the field, but -5 in 93 innings is horrendous. Gary Sheffield was not much better.


Posada rated higher by UZR, and while all defensive numbers need to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, I'd say catchers' number should be even more so. I still need some explanation for what purpose John Flaherty served. He certainly didn't seem to save the runs he gave up on offense behind the dish.

Add this big mess up, and you get a defense that allowed 72 runs more than average. If that seems high, compare the Yankees' team FIP to their team RA (runs allowed).

FIP: 4.28
RA: 4.96

That translates to a difference of 110 runs. I think we can credit 38 runs or so to the pitching staff.

Sadly, with many of the same pieces in place this season, it doesn't look to get much better. I'll look at the defensive history for the 2006 starters in my next entry, to see if we can expect any improvement.

Spring Training Notes
The Yankees fell to the Phillies tonight 3-0. Scott Proctor looked pretty good for five innings, allowing just three hits, one run, and fanning five. In addition to a fastball that was in the 92-94 range and touched 95, he was making good use of a slider that was breaking down very sharply. Ron Guidry's influence? Proctor's past performance does not give much confidence to how useful he'll be, but we'll see what happens with his conversion to starting. Given the age and fragility of the Yankee pitching staff, he'll get a chance this year.

Carl Pavano made his spring debut, and gave up a moon-shot HR to Chase Utley (who's a damn good player), but otherwise looked fine. He got up to about 92 mph and got three ground ball outs. I still wouldn't expect Pavano back before May.

Tanyon Sturtze has been horrendous in spring. Despite this, Torre has described him and Kyle Farnsworth as "interchangeable" for setting up Mariano Rivera. While I do think it is wise to not overwork Farnsworth, Sturtze isn't the answer.

The real games start in less than a week.

March 27, 2006

Ouch. My Wang
by SG

Chien-Ming Wang took a ball off his shin/knee yesterday, and it may cause him to miss his next start. Amazingly, the Yankees could start the season with Jaret Wright in the starting rotation.

Wang was diagnosed with a contusion on his right knee and taken to St. Joseph's hospital in Tampa for precautionary X-rays, which came back negative.

"You could see the discoloration on the kneecap," said manager Joe Torre, "but everything is normal."

It doesn't sound that bad, and Wang hopes to make his next start.

The Yankees beat Detroit 9-8 in happier news. Johnny Damon was back in CF, and went 2 for 4. The Yankees confirmed that they are still stupid by re-assigning Kevin Thompson and Kevin Reese in order to keep a worse player on the team in Bubba Crosby. I'm still holding out hope that they can ship Bubba to the Marlins for a minor league arm or something to free up a roster spot.

Let's hope Bernie Williams finds the fountain of youth, because it looks like Torre is making him the starting DH. Like Larry, I think Bernie can bounce back a bit, perhaps to his 2003 and 2004 levels.

Detroit released Carlos Peña, who was once Baseball Prospectus's top prospect. My first thought was the Yankees should consider him, but I checked his defensive numbers and he was about -13 last season. He's still an above-average hitter and is young enough that he could improve, but given the paucity of roster wiggle room the Yankees have now, he's a bad fit. If he'd be willing to go to Columbus I'd sign him, but I would imagine someone can offer him a spot in the bigs. If Giambi goes down, I'm not sure the team can afford to run Andy Phillips out there every day.

March 24, 2006

I Believe
by Larry Mahnken

As of about, oh, 5:30 PM (Eastern Time) on March 24th, 2006, these things I believe, in no particular order:

I believe Bernie Williams will be offensively useful in 2006. Not old-school Bernie, but maybe an OPS around .800.

I believe Robinson Cano will be better in 2006 than he was in 2005.

I believe that Chien-Ming Wang will either greatly increase his strikeout rate or be pretty lousy, and that both are equally likely to happen.

I believe Jaret Wright will be pretty lousy. Check that, I know that Jaret Wright will be pretty lousy.

I believe that Carl Pavano will be pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. Like Wang last year.

I believe that Derek Jeter will win the Gold Glove Award.

I believe that Derek Jeter will not deserve to win the Gold Glove Award.

I believe that Alex Rodriguez will be the clear choice for MVP again but either barely win or get robbed. Again.

I believe that Randy Johnson will finish in the top 3 for the Cy Young Award.

I believe that the Yankees will win the American League East. Again.

I believe that the Red Sox will win the Wild Card. Again.

I believe that the Blue Jays will be nowhere near as good as people are hyping them to be.

I believe that Barry Bonds took steroids.

I believe that Barry Bonds is currently taking Human Growth Hormone.

I believe that Bonds should not be suspended barring a positive drug test, and that the record books should remain unaltered.

I believe that Jason Giambi is clean right now.

I believe that Alfonso Soriano is an idiot.

I believe that Jim Bowden is a bigger idiot.

I believe that the Nationals would be better off if they asked Soriano to move back to shortstop and tried to find another left fielder.

I believe that the World Baseball Classic was fucking awesome.

I believe that the Yankees' bullpen is going to be worse this year than last year.

I believe that Shawn Chacon is going to be good this year.

And I believe that if I want to reclaim my blog from SG, I should probably do something more creative than make a list of my opinions.

Anyway, those are some of the things I believe right now. I may change my mind at any point.

by SG

The Yankees beat the Astros 8-1 last night.

Alex Rodriguez got his first hit of the spring, a fourth inning homerun. Hideki Matsui also went yard for the third time this spring, and Luis Garcia also hit one. All I know of Garcia are his minor league and Mexican league stats, and that he's 28 and a non-prospect.

Yankee pitching was solid, allowing just four hits and one run over nine innings. Scott Proctor started and went four scoreless. Colter Bean, Mariano Rivera,Mike Myers, Tanyon Sturtze, and Kyle Farnsworth all pitched, with only Sturtze allowing a hit(and the lone run for the 'Stros).

With about 10 days to go, the good news is the relative health of most of the team, with the exceptions of Carl Pavano, Aaron Small, Octavio Dotel, and Jaret Wright. Pavano's throwing BP now, but not expected to be ready until the end of April.

The bad news is the steroid story that just won't go away for Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi, which has picked up new momentum with the book Game of Shadows coming out.

San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds isn't the only prominent major leaguer mentioned in a book that chronicles baseball's steroid scandal.

"Game of Shadows" says Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield had developed a relationship with Bonds' trainer and continued to use him as a source for other performance-enhancers.

The book also details how New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi turned to performance-enhancing drugs because he felt pressured to please his perfectionist father. Giambi also made contact with Bonds' trainer to inquire what he was doing to keep Bonds playing at a high level. That's according to the book published by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who covered the BALCO scandal.

Sheffield said Wednesday that he's not going to defend himself his whole life. Giambi said he hasn't seen the book and has nothing to say.

This won't go away, and it shouldn't. I just think that it's a lot deeper than people linked to Balco and that MLB and Bud Selig are ignoring that just like they ignored the whole steroid issue when it was making them money. All Sheffield and Giambi can do is test clean going forward and deal with the reporters' questions, and they have no one to blame but themselves for being involved in it.

March 23, 2006

Can the 2006 Yankees score 1000 runs?
by SG

The addition of Johnny Damon has "experts" everywhere predicting that the Yankees may score 1000 runs this year. While the talent may be on hand to actually do it, based on the 3000 seasons I ran in Diamond Mind, the odds of it actually happening are about .4% (it happened in 13 out of 3000 runs). So what would it take for the Yankees to score 1000? Here are the sample stats for a season where the Yankees scored 1007.

Alex Rodriguez .300 .386 .576 627 188 21 1 50 132 160 13 77 140 22 10
Johnny Damon* .323 .382 .472 625 202 31 4 18 121 70 3 60 56 15 5
Derek Jeter .293 .356 .413 618 181 29 3 13 121 73 14 48 96 20 6
Hideki Matsui* .305 .382 .523 596 182 41 1 29 116 99 1 78 83 2 3
Robinson Cano* .324 .354 .481 586 190 46 8 10 76 93 2 27 77 0 1
Jason Giambi* .235 .379 .473 548 129 22 0 36 100 102 15 114 142 1 0
Gary Sheffield .273 .351 .486 512 140 25 0 28 98 98 7 57 71 12 3
Jorge Posada# .233 .347 .414 473 110 23 0 21 81 88 3 85 87 3 3
Bernie Williams#.214 .287 .381 420 90 16 0 18 63 64 0 45 64 0 0
Andy Phillips .313 .382 .667 201 63 8 0 21 43 58 0 24 29 0 2
Kelly Stinnett .230 .282 .331 139 32 5 0 3 10 16 1 9 34 0 0
Bubba Crosby* .220 .254 .273 132 29 4 0 1 13 16 2 4 23 6 0
Miguel Cairo .245 .306 .353 102 25 6 1 1 13 10 2 7 10 3 3
Felix Escalona .200 .256 .250 80 16 1 0 1 6 11 3 3 16 0 0
Kevin Thompson .169 .286 .308 65 11 1 1 2 11 8 2 9 17 7 2
Melky Cabrera# .143 .143 .143 14 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 3 1 0
Mitch Jones .000 .154 .000 11 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 5 0 0
Team Totals .277 .357 .463 5749 1590 279 19 252 1007 966 68 649 953 92 38

Outside of Damon, none of these lines look particularly unreasonable. Cano's batting average looks high, but his home run output seems short. In fact, in the cases of Giambi, Sheffield, Posada, and Jeter, they look kind of low. The biggest obstacle is probably not performance of the starting nine, but how often they can take the field. There's not much depth on this team, and it could potentially be a big problem.

Spring Training Update
The Yanks beat the Red Sox, 5-4 last night. Unfortunately, prior to the game Jorge Posada suffered a broken nose when he was hit on a throw by Kelly Stinnett. It doesn't seem too bad, as they expect Posada to be back in around five games, which is good, because the Yankees need Posada's bat badly. Stinnett as a starter with Wil Nieves backing him up is a frightening proposition.

It was nice to see Bernie Williams homering and doubling off Roger Clemens Jon Papelbon. I was very annoyed to see the Red Sox start hitting Yankees again in a spring training game. I am convinced that Riske's pitch to Derek Jeter was intentional, and was glad Tanyon Sturtze retaliated.

While I'm happy to see Bernie doing well, part of me worries that he's just locking up the starting DH job in order to resume sucking once the games count. My first preference is obviously a rebound by Bernie. Even if he can just match 2004, he'd be a decent, if unspectacular DH. If 2005 is what Bernie is now, I pray he doesn't keep getting run out there due to his tenure as a Yankee. It's not fair to Bernie's legacy, and it's not fair to the 2006 Yankees.

Papelbon's 92 mph straight fastball seems to be tailor-made for Gary Sheffield to crush, so I was disappointed when all he could do was fly out on two of them when it looked like he hit both solidly. Sheffield is having an awful spring, although it's probably not worth worrying about.

Shawn Chacon was reasonably effective, but the longer spring training goes and the more I see him topping out at 88 mph, the less convinced I am that he's for real. Granted, velocity is not the end all/be all of a pitcher's ability, but it'd make me feel a little better about his shaky peripherals if his stuff was a little stronger.

How awesome is Mariano Rivera? The way he sawed off Wily Mo Pena was just amazing. Pena scares the hell out of me by the way. Very astute pickup by the Red Sox, I fear.

Mike Myers, Tanyon Sturtze, and Kyle Farnsworth finished the game up, and all looked decent, although Farnsworth served up a homerun to Adam Stern in the ninth.

Honestly, I don't think I can take this Damon to the Yankees foolishness. If every Boston game is going to be covered like this it's going to be freaking painful to watch. And I agree with Jeteupthemiddle, Michael Kay is already in mid-season form as far as annoying me, although I do like Jim Kaat most of the time. As long as Kaat sticks to the mechanical aspects of pitching and telling his stories from his time as a player, I think he's great.

March 22, 2006

Random Stuff
by SG

After all the numbers I've been throwing out for the last few weeks, I think it's time to step back and just read some puff pieces. Here's what in the news out of Yankee camp right now.

Matt Desalvo opened some eyes during spring training.

It could be as early as April 15. It might be later. But Matt DeSalvo will be seen in a Yankees uniform this season. Unless, of course, he is included in the annual deal made to fill a June/July hole.

I'd love to see Desalvo pull a Wang if he gets the chance. No, not that kind of Wang. It'd just be cool to see him step in if he's needed and contribute. I don't think he has much more than #4/#5 starter potential, but considering the going rate of starting pitching, that's not the worst thing in the world.

Speaking of Wang, Chien-Ming Wang did not fare very well in a minor league outing yesterday

Working 32/3 innings for Columbus because the Yankees were off, Wang gave up five runs, seven hits (two homers), walked two and fanned three.

Wang was flying open with his left shoulder, so he left everything up in the strike zone and was hit hard in the first two innings. In his final two frames, Wang was able to get the ball down, and retired six of the last seven batters.

If Wang is going to survive with his low strikeout totals, giving up HRs won't work. Keep the ball down Wang.

It also looks like the injury that is going to keep Carl Pavano on the DL to start the season has opened the door for Wil Nieves to make the team as a third catcher. My first reaction was that this is stupid. The more I thought about it, perhaps it means that Torre wants to use Posada at DH a few times to start the season. Given Jorge's age and apparent decline, this isn't a bad idea, and Kelly Stinnett, while not a good player, has the potential to outhit Bernie Williams or Andy Phillips for a few weeks.

I'm not sure if we should be worried about Mike Mussina's horrendous game against Detroit on Monday. It's obviously not a good thing, but Moose has looked decent over most of the spring.

Lastly, the Yankees play Boston tonight at Legends Field at 7:15 PM EST. The game will be on YES, and also on NESN, for those of you unfortunate enough to live in New England. If you are tired of hearing about Johnny Damon leaving Boston for New York, make sure your mute button works.

I'm not sure what to make of the whole Alfonso Soriano situation. Obviously, he's being selfish and short-sighted, but Bowden should have discussed this with him before trading for him, especially since he traded a couple of outfielders for him. As for him returning to the Yankees, I wouldn't give up anything for him, and I don't see where he would fit. Regardless, despite Alex Rodriguez's supposed 'un-clutchness', that trade looks like a steal.

March 20, 2006

The 2006 Diamond Mind Projection Blowout
by SG

Last year, I ran 2000 Diamond Mind Simulations with Diamond Mind Baseball and projection disks by Diamond Mind and ZiPS. This year, I've done it again, and also added another 1000 runs using Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projections.

As always, I advise anyone looking at these to take them with a ton of salt, as it is impossible to project how everything will shake out, and injuries, roster changes, and over/under performance will end up changing things in ways that cannot be prognosticated.

First up are the results with Diamond Mind over 1000 seasons.

Diamond Mind sees the Yankees winning 93 games on average, and scoring 883 runs while allowing 766. They won the division 689 times out of 1000, and made the playoffs in 80% of the seasons.

Next up, PECOTA.

PECOTA has the Yankees winning 92 games on average, scoring 889 runs, and allowing 774, winning the division 62% of the time, and making the playoffs 77% of the time.

Lastly, is ZiPS.

I guess ZiPS really does hate the Yankees, as they project them to score about 40 fewer runs per season while allowing 40-50 more runs in the average season, and winning just 85 games on average and making the playoff just 28% of the time.

I averaged the results of the 3 sets, which you can see below.

*Updated to show individual median and modes.

Oakland and St. Louis project to be the class of baseball. ZiPS drags the Yankees down to being the fourth most likely team to make the playoffs.

My guess is that Diamond Mind and PECOTA are closer to the truth, although that could just be the Yankee fan in me. My other thoughts from glancing at these:

- Minnesota seems kind of high to me. I'd put them behind Cleveland and the White Sox.
- How the hell did the Royals win any division titles?
- Oakland looks dominant, particularly in run prevention, and across all three sets of projections. Good thing the Yankees get to start the season 0-3.
- Philly's probably too high, and the Braves are too low.
- I guess St. Louis won't miss Reggie Sanders or Larry Walker very much
- The Dodgers? WTF?
- I played 100 season without Bonds separately and the Giants lost about 8 games more on average, so that's worth noting.
- These do not include the Brandon Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena trade, which looks to be about a one win upgrade for Boston based on Pena's expected role, and a 2-3 win upgrade for Cincinnati on a smaller set of 100 that I ran upon hearing about the trade. Boston scored about 15 more runs with Pena but gave up 5 more. Cincinnati gave up about 25 fewer runs per season, so I guess Brandon was a good pickup for them after all.

Over the next few days I'll look a little deeper at some of the results for the Yankees. Make of these what you will.

Update: I've uploaded the standings data for all 3 runs if anyone wants to take a look at it in more detail. The zip file is here, the link will be good for one week.

March 19, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2006 - Dotel, Sturtze, and the rest
by SG

So far in the pitching projections, I've accounted for 965 innings from the starters, and another 265 innings from the relievers, which is a total of 1230 innings. The remaining innings, about 200, will hopefully be primarily split between Tanyon Sturtze and Octavio Dotel.

I'll admit it. I bought the Sturtze v2.0 hype. I even helped propagate it on this very site. I wanted to believe that a guy who had played 9 seasons in the majors and pitched 706 innings with a 5.23 career ERA had discovered a new pitch and role that would make him effective, and for a couple of months it looked like it.

Through June 24
42 IP
39 H
3 HR
5 BB
22 K
3.43 ERA

Then came a spot start against Baltimore on July 4, where Sturtze gave up 4 runs in 4.2 innings. I don't think this start was the problem, but I think Sturtze's overuse to this point may have been, and from that point on his numbers were ugly.

July 4 through season's end
36 IP
37 H
7 HR
22 BB
23 K
6.25 ERA

Sturtze ended the season with a 4.73 ERA, which lines up very nicely with his career totals. Sturtze's peripherals were in line with his performance as well.

As you can see, Sturtze was about as good in the first 2 months and bad in the last 4 months as his ERA indicated. Sturtze ended the season complaining of arm pain and had tests, but they were all negative. He's also behind schedule now in spring training, and had looked pretty awful when I've seen him pitch, until today.

Sturtze is a dangerous player for this team. He's highly unlikely to be any good, but the manager thinks he is good, due to either "electric stuff" or a "bellyful of guts" or some other horsecrap. This means he will have a lot of chances to negatively impact the team, and in potentially high-leverage situations. I did not understand why the Yankees picked up his option, although at the time they had not signed Farnsworth, Dotel, Myers, or traded for Villone, so it may have been precautionary, but I'd much rather see him traded or released at this point, and someone like Colter Bean or T.J. Beam tried in his spot. Of course, the Yankees would rather settle for over 30 mediocrity than potential upside with a bit more risk.

Sturtze projects about the same as last year.

The good news is that if all goes well, Sturtze will be relegated to the back of the pen once Octavio Dotel returns.

Dotel was a dominant setup man in Houston, with very good stuff. His scouting report:

Say what you will about Dotel: he throws very hard. Dotel's fastball can clock around 97 MPH, and he sets it up with a pretty good slider.

When Dotel is on, his heater has some movement, but when it falls flat, it can be pounded. Experienced hitters who sit on his heater do take advantage. Dotel fields his position well, and he has improved at holding baserunners.

When he was traded to Oakland and became the closer, his performance seemed to fall off. While many blamed Dotel's lack of a 'closer's mentality', I'm more inclined to believe he was beginning to show the wear and tear in his elbow that eventually led to his Tommy John Surgery last June.

"Dr. Andrews said, 'Hey, you're going to be fine. If you were throwing 94- 95 mph before this, you're going to be really good now,' '' Dotel told The Chronicle a day after having a new ulnar collateral ligament put into his right elbow. "He said, 'If you do all your rehab, you'll be pretty much ready for spring training.' ''

Dotel said that a tendon was taken from his leg and it was so long that Andrews was able to wrap it three times around the elbow, which is unusual. In addition, Andrews took out two large calcifications.

The Yankees are being conservative with Dotel and are not expecting him back before June. Ligament replacement surgery has a 93% success rate, which is good news.

Projecting Dotel is a crapshoot, because there's no way to really know when he'll come back, and how good he'll be. But that didn't stop our good friends ZiPS, Marcel, and PECOTA from trying.

A healthy Dotel is a good fit for the Yankees, due to his high K rate. The 56 inning prediction seems about right if he comes back in June. He does have a problem with the HR ball at times, but more worrisome to me are his L/R splits.

Vs. L: .208/.317/.397
Vs. R: .181/.239/.323

He's still pretty good against lefties, but he's much better against righties. The more innings pitched by Dotel and the fewer pitched by Sturtze the better, so let's hope that the June timetable is pessimistic.

The 965 innings from the starters project to a 1.5 win upgrade from last year. In the pen, the prior 265 innings between Mo, Farnsworth, Myers, and Villone, projected to a downgrade of about 2.5 wins. For, the remaining 200 innings, if we assume Sturtze and Dotel match their projections for playing time and performance we end up with another 74 innings for others, some combination of Jaret Wright, Scott Proctor, and other farm products.

If the Yankees can get the equivalent of 75 innings at the rate of production that they got from Felix Rodriguez last year(which shouldn't be very hard to achieve) along with Sturtze and Dotel meeting their projections, they end up with around a 2 win upgrade in the back of the bullpen relative to last season, which ends up making the pitching staff about 1 win better overall than last year. Combine that with the roughly six win upgrade on the position player side, and the 2006 Yankees look to be about 7 wins better than last year, on paper. This ignores all the other teams and their changes, so it doesn't mean they project to win 7 more games necessarily.

I'm pretty comfortable that they're better than last year though after running through this, and that's a good thing. This concludes the 'Looking Ahead to 2006' series.

Here are the direct links to all the pieces if anyone wants to go back and review any of them.

Yankee Catchers
First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Left Field
Center Field
Right Field
Randy Johnson
Mike Mussina
Chien-Ming Wang
Shawn Chacon
Carl Pavano
Santana, Halladay, Wright, Small
Mariano Rivera
Kyle Farnsworth
Lefty Relievers

We'll see how the Yanks stack up later this week when I post the results of 3000 Diamond Mind simulations with Diamond Mind's projections, PECOTA's projections, and ZiPS.

Spring Training Update
The Yankees beat Cleveland 2-0 earlier today. Al Leiter announced his retirement and then made his final appearance, going to 3-0 on Eduardo Perez before working the count back to 3-2 and getting him to ground out. I've mocked Leiter here many times, but he had a fine career and I wish him well post-baseball, and thank him for his gem in Fenway back in July. Even if he is from Jersey. (this is just a joke, don't get offended people)

Randy Johnson may be two years older than Leiter, but he sure didn't look it. Johnson had a very sharp slider and good velocity, getting up to 94 a few times, and pitching six strong innings, allowing 4 hits, no walks, no runs, and striking out 9 over about 90 pitches.

Kyle Farnsworth also looks to be cutting loose now, throwing 93-95 mph and with a very sharp slider in the mid 70s to low 80s. He pitched around an error and a triple, and then after falling behind 2-0 to Casey Blake, froze him looking on two sharp sliders and then fanned him on a checked swing at a fastball up.

Tanyon Sturtze finished up and alleviated some of my concerns about him by pitching a perfect ninth on nine pitches, six of them strikes.

Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams, and Alex Rodriguez arrived at camp, and I was happy to see the top of the lineup that Joe Torre put out there, with Damon followed by Jeter, Jason Giambi, and then Rodriguez. I hope that Torre will use a similar lineup when the season starts. The one thing I hope Torre doesn't do is what he did today, with a couple of botched hit and runs ending up with Giambi and Robinson Cano getting thrown out, and also bunting with Kelly Stinnett. This is a team that will score, there's no need to "manufacture"runs. Cano continued his solid spring with two hits in 3 AB. Damon was at DH due to his shoulder tendinitis, and it was not very reassuring to see Bernie out there in his stead.

According to the Daily News, Gary Sheffield has hit his boiling point.

The Yankees right fielder was in a defiant mood yesterday morning, saying he's never been at ease in New York and that he always feels like he's under pressure to show he's an elite player. Once again, his contract situation appears to be the impetus for his feelings.

"I've really never got comfortable," Sheffield said before the Yanks beat the Marlins, 8-3, at Roger Dean Stadium. "I'm not comfortable. I'm not allowed to be comfortable. That's the reality of my situation. I always have to play with my back against the wall."

Sheffield also said there will be "just one more year of that and then I don't have to do it no more," an obvious reference to his contract situation with the Bombers. The Yankees hold a $13 million club option on Sheffield for 2007 and the issue of whether it will be exercised has popped up several times already this spring. At points, Sheffield seemed to imply he wouldn't mind if the Yanks let him go.

I hope the media keeps hounding Sheffield about this. Something tells me that Sheffield with something to prove could have a very good year. I think Torre's comments on this are dead on, from the linked article.

"When the games start, do I think anything is going to affect how he does his thing? No," Torre said. "And to me, that's really the bottom line."

March 16, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2006 - The Lefty Relievers
by SG

Wayne Franklin. Wayne Freakin' Franklin. The mere thought of his name conjures up the memories of perhaps Joe Torre's worst decision of last season, where he brough in Franklin to blow a 1-0 lead in a 2-1 loss in Texas.

It's been nine months, and I'm still aggravated.

Over the last few years the Yankees have cycled through a comical procession of horrendous pitchers whose only asset was that they wore their baseball glove on their right hand. Gabe White, Felix "The Run Fairy" Heredia, Mike Stanton after he was infected with Mets stench, Buddy Groom, Alex Graman, Darrell May, Donovan Osborne, C.J. Nitkowski, Jesse Orosco, and Sterling Hitchcock, among others.

With this in mind, the Yankees chose to bring in two lefties to shore up a bullpen that's been very top heavy over the last two years.

Their first move was to sign lefty reliever Mike Myers away from the Boston Red Sox, for two years and $2.4 million. Myers is the prototypical LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY. He throw assorted slop from a funky delivery somewhere between sidearm and underhanded. This makes his delivery very deceptive for lefties, but gives righties a very nice clear look at his pitches, and the result is not pretty.

I ran through these numbers back in December, but here they are again.

Vs. L: .158/.198/.211
Vs. R: .385/.510/.641

Vs. L: .208/.278/.318
Vs. R: .331/.450/.509

Total from 2002-2005
Vs. L: .195/.261/.290
Vs. R: .341/.464/.534

A quick graphical comparison of Myers's OPS against by lefties and righties confirms this, and shows that the gap is growing.

There is some good news on this front, according to this article from the Star Ledger.

Mike Myers worked in the bullpen yesterday on changes to his delivery to see if he can be more effective against right-handed hitters. In 2004-2005, Myers -- a lefty sidearmer -- held lefties to a .197 average but had right-handers hit .360 against him.

To try to combat that, Myers will experiment with moving from the first-base side of the rubber to the third-base side when facing righties, and also to make his stride shorter and less closed. The goal is more movement on his pitches.

It's worth a shot Mike. Whatever you're doing now isn't working.

Projecting someone like Myers based on their innings and contribution to run differential is not very useful in my opinion. He is a strategic option, used to neutralize another team's lefties. Basically, if he can get someone like Travis Hafner or Eric Chavez out a few times, he probably earns his keep. Regardless, here are his projections.

For a reliever like Myers, his ERA is basically useless. He has averaged 2.7 batters faced per appearance over his career. He will often be coming in with other pitchers' runners on, and often leaving with his own runners on, meaning his actual value to the team could be misconstrued if you just look at his ERA.

All I care about with Myers is that he continues to hold lefties to an OPS in the .551 range. And get David Ortiz out every time he faces him.

The other lefty that was imported was New Jersey native and long-time Yankee fan Ron Villone. I won't hold his being from Jersey against him, yet. Villone talked about his time growing up as a Yankee fan in this interview.

Villone's scouting report from 2005:

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

Villone is a versatile pitcher who has started, relieved, and closed. He's fairly durable, having pitched an average of 111 innings from 1999 through 2005. He's not great, but he doesn't have to be. He's replacing Wayne Franklin and Darrell May. Villone's biggest problem throughout his career has been his control. In 2004 and 2005 he's walked 4.9 per nine innings.

As you would expect from a lefty, Villone has had better success against lefties than righties over the last three years.

Vs. L: .227/.324/.330
Vs. R: .238/.340/.399

Villone's projections aren't overwhelming, but they are in line with his career.

Villone and Myers project to give the Yankees around 114 innings and 33 pitching runs created. The combination of Alex Graman, Mike Stanton, Wayne Franklin, Buddy Groom, Felix Rodriguez, Darrell May, Alan Embree, and Steve Karsay provided 113 innings and 24 pitching runs created, so this looks like a one win upgrade relative to last year.

The next lefty on the depth chart is probably Matt Smith. Smith's gotten a fair amount of work this spring and has looked pretty good for the most part. He'll most likely start the year in Columbus and could get the call if Myers or Villone is either hurt or ineffective. Smith was a mediocre starting prospect moved to relief last year, and has a fastball around 90 mph and a good slider, but his control still needs work.

Spring Training Update
Mike Mussina was very impressive against St. Louis yesterday, throwing 5 easy innings, 78 pitches, 60 of them for strikes. He walked one and fanned eight, as the Yankees killed Houston 11-1

News is that Aaron Small will begin the season on the DL, which is not a big deal in and of itself, until you realize that it means that Scott Erickson may make this team, and Jaret Wright is closer to having to start a game. Hopefully Small's hamstring strain is minor and he can come back before Erickson or Wright can do any damage.

Kevin Thompson went 4-5, with 2 2B and is hitting .469 on the spring. Bubba Crosby has to be hearing footsteps, although if the Yankees start the season with 11 pitchers they can probably carry both Thompson and Crosby. The NY Post thinks that the Yankees would be best off carrying either a backup infielder or third catcher.

Yeah, you need two backup infielders for all those times you bench or pinch-hit for Rodriguez, Jeter, and Cano, right?

Robinson Cano had another great game, going 3 for 4 with a hard 2B. Every time Cano succeeds, it's a victory for fat people everywhere. Cano has a fan in fellow fat person John Kruk, who predicted three batting titles for Cano. I'm really excited about his potential after watching him this spring.

The diagnosis is in, and Johnny Damon has shoulder tendinitis.
"This is something that should calm down and should be able to get out of the way in time for our season to start based on what I have been told by Dr. Yocum," Cashman said.

March 15, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2006 - Kyle Farnsworth
by SG

After two superlative years as Mariano Rivera's setup man, Tom Gordon has moved on to Philadelphia to close. Despite his problems in the postseason, Gordon was a huge asset for the Yankees in 2004 and 2005. It's interesting to compare Gordon and another setup man the Yankees had signed a few years back.

Gordon: 2 years, $7.25 million, 170.1 IP, 189 ERA+.
Steve Karsay: 4 years, $21 million, 101 IP, 133 ERA+

The Gordon signing has to be one of the best free agent bargains of the last few seasons.

Gordon was not as good in 2005 as he was in 2004, as he pitched 9 fewer innings, allowed 2 more runs, walked 6 more, and struck out 27 fewer hitters. The drop in K rate and a flukishly low batting average on balls in play were not good indicators for the future, so I think the Yankees made the right move in letting Gordon walk. Also, by letting Gordon sign with Philadelphia, the Yankees got a first round draft pick to make up for their signings of Johnny Damon and Gordon's primary replacement, Kyle Farnsworth.

First off, here's Farnsworth's scouting report.

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. Farnsworth is an adequate fielder at best. A shorter leg kick he developed late in the year should help him hold runners better.

Farnsworth has always had a great fastball, but he suffered from inconsistency as a Cub. The recent addition of a slider seems to have made him into a better pitcher, as you can see from his career rate stats below.

Trends in baseball statistics are not always as meaningful as they are portrayed. However, I certainly would prefer to see a positive trend to a negative one. in Farnsworth's case with the new slider, it's certainly possible that he has been improving, and his increasing K rate, combined with a decrease in his HR rate and BB rate, are all good things.

Farnsworth's 2005 season was a microcosm of his career as far as consistency goes, although he was strong after a rough opening to the season, as you can see below.

So, let's see how Farnsworth projects in 2006.

Last year, Tom Gordon was worth 42 Pitching Runs Created in 80.2 innings, which was about 14 runs above average. Farnsworth projects 14 runs worse on average, but part of that is the 12 fewer innings he's projected to pitch. I'll assume that he'll pitch around the same amount as Gordon did, which would make him worth roughly 33 PRC, so about a 9 run or one win downgrade.

Farnsworth could very well do better than that, but there are some legitimate concerns with him. First of all, his control is not very good, as he's walked around 3.5-4.5 men per 9 innings in most of his seasons. His pre-2005 career was also marked by inconsistency, as he alternated ERAs of 6.43, 2.74, 7.33, 3.30 and 4.72 from 2000 to 2004. He's also a fly ball pitcher (career G/F of 0.99) and will be playing in front of a shaky OF defense.

The good news is his high K rate, which will be a big help with the Yankee defense behind him.

One thing that should be noted is demonstrated in the pie chart below, which breaks down Farnsworth and Gordon's appearances by games they gave up runs in and did not give up runs in.

Although Gordon had the better overall season numbers, Farnsworth allowed runs in a fewer percentage of his appearances. This may narrow the gap between them even further, or it may just be me sneaking a gratuitous pie chart in and not particularly meaningful.

One interesting thing about Farnsworth is he doesn't show much of a platoon differential.

From 2003-2005
Vs. Lefties: .218/.308/.340
Vs. Righties: .208/.292/.328

This will be important for Joe Torre to remember when he thinks about keeping Mike Myers in to face a righty when there is a lefty on deck.

So Farnsworth looks like about a one win downgrade from Tom Gordon in 2005, which isn't really that bad, with Octavio Dotel looming to give the Yanks more setup depth. Hopefully Farnsworth can avoid last year's rough start and earn Joe Torre's infamous reliever trust, which will then makes Torre's choice of whom should set up Rivera between he and Dotel a tough one. Ideally, they can share the workload.

So far the top of the bullpen is about 3 wins worse than last year's on a relative basis, but I'm fairly certain that that will be made up by greater depth as we move through the rest of the list. Remember, no more Alan Embree or Wayne Franklin.

Spring Training Update
In yesterday's spring tilt, he Yankees fell to St. Louis 4-3. Randy Johnson pitched five innings, cruising through the first four before allowing a homer in the fifth. Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect sixth inning, Farnsworth a shutout seventh despite allowing a hit, walking a batter, and hitting another, and then Tanyon Sturtze gave up the go-ahead run in the eighth. Mike Myers closed the game out by giving up another run.

On the offensive side, Robinson Cano homered and singled, which was the only real offensive highlight. Jason Giambi actually played, starting at DH and batting twice.

March 14, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2006 - Mariano Rivera
by SG

More than any other player on the Yankees since 1995, Mariano Rivera has been the face of the Yankees' recent success. Despite his advancing age, Rivera turned in perhaps his best season since 1996, setting a career best with an ERA+ of 323 and holding opposing hitters to a line of .177/.235/.230.

How dominant was Rivera?

He faced 306 batters, and allowed 9 extra base hits. After blowing his first two save opportunities of the year, he converted 31 straight opportunities, and put up the following line from April 9 through August 8.

42.2 IP
18 H
3 R
5 BB
47 K
31 saves
0.63 ERA

After the shaky start, Rivera cruised through the rest of the season, as you can from the season FIP/ERA chart below.

Despite being 35, Rivera had his highest K/9 since 2001, and allowed his fewest baserunners per inning ever at.868. Is it possible that Rivera is getting better as he ages?

This chart tracks Rivera's career ERA and FIP from 1995 through last season. This does a good job of illustrating again just how good Rivera was last year. I can't help that think that his increased usage of his 4-seamer and 2-seamer helped his effectiveness, but his cutter is still his bread and butter. Every time it seems that Mo is losing a bit, he seems to rebound with another strong season.

Rivera's performance last year was worth 57 pitching runs created, 30 runs over an average pitcher, which was better than anyone on the Yankee staff, despite only pitching 76 innings. So how does he project in 2006?

Rivera was so good last season, that even a modest falloff will be a downgrade. While I would never bet against Mo, the projections look more realistic than a repeat of last season, particularly given the historical aging patterns of relievers. That's still very good, it's just not as good as he was in 2005. Rivera's 2006 projects to be about a two win downgrade over 2005, but with better depth in the bullpen hopefully that can be picked up by some other arms.

Rivera is a pleasure to watch and root for. When he is on his game, no one seems to have a chance. Unfortunately, time waits for no man and at some point he will no longer be pitching for the Yankees. If you're a Yankee fan, enjoy every outing, and realize you're watching one of the most effective pitchers ever in terms of run prevention. Granted, relieving is much easier than starting, but few have ever done their job as well as consistently and for as long as Rivera has.

Spring Training Update
This just in! Jaret Wright still stinks. 3 innings, 11 hits, 8 runs, 1 BB, and 0 K is not the line you want to have if you are fighting for a spot in the rotation. The only other pitcher that pitched that is likely to make the roster out of camp was Ron Villone, who pitched 1 shutout inning.

Wright put the Yankees in a hole that they couldn't fight out of, despite the best efforts of Mitch Jones, who hit 2 HRs and drove in 3 runs as the Yankees fell to Pittsburgh, 9-8. Jones is too old and Ks too much to be considered much more than a AAAA player, and he's not on the 40 man roster, so he's a longshot to see any action in the Bronx this year. Eric Duncan went 2 for 2 with a HR too, and has acquitted himself well so far this spring, now hitting .409. I still think the smart move with Duncan is to start him at Trenton this season, with a mid-season promotion to Columbus if he is hitting well.

Bubba Crosby also homered, likely saving his spot on the roster to start the season.

Is anyone else a little bit worried about Jason Giambi missing so many spring games yet?

If that doesn't worry you, maybe the news that Johnny Damon has an aching shoulder will.

Johnny Damon has decided to shut down his throwing for a few days because of an aching left shoulder. After conferring with Brian Cashman on Sunday, the new Yankee center fielder decided it would be best not to play in the outfield for Team USA for the time being, although he is available to DH.

I'd love to blame this one on Bud Selig, but this seems like something that would have popped up no matter where Damon was playing, and it does not bode well for the next four seasons.

March 11, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2006 - Santana, Halladay, Wright, Small
by SG

Two of these guys will be contending for the AL Cy Young this year. Two will not. I'll leave it to you as the readers to discern which are which.

Let's start with the guy who by almost any reasonable measure should have won the AL Cy Young last year, Johan Santana. I'll start with his scouting report.

Santana has three dominating pitches-a 94-MPH fastball, an 87-MPH slider and a 76-MPH changeup. The changeup is the most devastating, because it comes out of his hand looking just like his fastball. When it arrives 18 MPH slower than the heater, hitters swing and miss by embarrassing margins. The difference between 2003 and 2004 was his ability to locate his pitches, while in the past he relied more on changing speeds. Santana also learned to throw his slider with different breaks at different speeds, giving him a slurve-like alternative to his other pitches.

Santana has a history of starting off slow and then picking up steam as the season progresses. Here are his career splits:

Pre All Star Break: 24-16, 4.00 ERA, 450 IP, 401 H, 476 K, 144 BB, 53 HR, K/9: 9.51, BB/9: 2.88, Opp Avg: .238
Post All Star Break: 35-9, 2.56 ERA, 405 IP, 298 H, 408 K, 113 BB, 34 HR, K/9: 9.43, BB/9: 2.68, Opp Avg: .202

The explanation for this last year was some minor surgery that he had in the offseason that made him rusty, however his FIP shows that he was probably not pitching that much differently.

As you can see from this chart, Santana's peripherals were pretty consistent even in the first half, and as the season progressed his ERA and FIP lined up quite nicely.

Santana led the AL in pitching runs created with 145, and was worth a whopping 52 PRC over the average AL starter. That is 5 wins better than average (not replacement level) and he really should have gotten more consideration as an MVP candidate.

The projection systems all expect continued excellence from Santana next year, as you can see below.

The consensus is that he'll pitch a little less, primarily due to Marcel regressing his innings from his time as a reliever, but when you have a guy who strikes out so many guys, walks so few, and gives up a low amount of HRs, you can expect consistency from them. Since Santana is so good at the things that pitchers have the most control over, he is far less susceptible to the vagaries of of his defense and/or luck. The only concern that Twins fans should have with Santana, and it's pretty minor, are his occassional nagging injuries.

Roy Halladay was actually better than Santana on a rate basis last year, but a line drive off his shin on July 9 against the Rangers ended his season after only 19 starts. Halladay's scouting report:

When healthy, Halladay throws a four-seam fastball that has late life and reaches the high 90s. In spring training, he experimented with a changeup that he can put in the back of the hitter's mind and possibly get a one-pitch out. He may add it to his arsenal, but for now, the Blue Jays simply want him to show that he's healthy.

Halladay was the 7th most valuable pitcher by pitching runs created, despite making only 19 starts. He is probably unfairly labeled as injury-prone. He did have legitimate injury issues in 2004, but he pitched over 450 innings in 2002-2003 and last year's injury was a freak accident.

Halladay's FIP does not line up to his ERA as neatly as Santana's, primarily because he's not the same type of strikeout pitcher, but there's nothing in there that indicates a massive falloff.

The projections don't care about the reasons for Halladay's low innings pitched totals the last two years, so they expect Halladay to have a tough time making all his starts in 2006.

Last year, Halladay's PRC of 99 was worth 42 runs above an average pitcher in similar playing time. Considering he only pitched 141.2 innings, this is a remarkable total as well.

I'm not as pessimistic on Halladay's playing time as the projection systems. I don't think he's any more probable to get hurt than any other pitcher. He doesn't strike out as many guys as Santana, but he is an extreme ground ball pitcher (2.38 G/F ratio compared to Santana's 0.94 in 2005), which keeps his HR rate down. The biggest concern I'd see with Halladay is not his health, but the loss of the best defensive 2B in the AL last year, Orlando Hudson.

Regardless, he should be a legitimate Cy Young contender in 2006.

Of course, these guys are good, but neither one was undefeated in 2005. Aaron Small came from out of nowhere(a recurring theme for the 2005 Yankees) with his career ERA of 5.49 and went 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA at age 33. This despite a 4.96 ERA at Columbus and thoughts of retiring at mid-season.

Small's season reminded me of Dennis Lamp in 1985, when he went 11-0 with a 3.32 ERA at age 32 and helped that Blue Jays team break a young Yankee fan's heart. In 1986, Lamp went 2-6, with a 5.05 ERA.

Won/Loss record is not a good measure to use when trying to assess how good someone is. ERA certainly can show value in a given year, but it does not always give us a good idea of ability. This is an important distinction to remember. Small was great in 2005, and no numbers can take away from the value he provided, whether it was due to hits not falling in, random chance or luck on balls in play or whatever.

However, 2005 is past, and in order to realistically assess Small and what he may provide in 2006, it is important to look at all available data.

A lot of Small's success was credited to a two-seam fastball that he learned in spring traing, and he certainly did a great job of keeping the ball in the park (4 HRs in 76 innings). However, Small's G/F ratio of 1.22 was right around league average, and if you normalize his HR rate based on the actual amount of fly balls, you get a much different story.

This chart for Small includes his 2005 ERA, his FIP, and also his xFIP, which normalizes his HR rate to 10% of his fly balls.

Small's decent BB rate and outstanding HR rate made his FIP line up with his ERA last year. However, his career numbers tell a different story.

Batters Faced: 1001
HR/9: 1.0
BB/9: 4.2
K/9: 5.0

Batters Faced: 316
HR/9: .5
BB/9: 2.8
K/9: 4.4

Can one pitch make that much of a difference? Sure it can. Did it in the case of Aaron Small? We won't know until we have more data.

Until we do, we have to pay attention to the bulk of his career, which says that last year was an anomoly.

The projections for Small are not very kind, unsurprisingly.

Last year, Small's 76 innings were worth 30 pitching runs created, about 11 runs above what an average pitcher would have provided in the same playing time. The projections indicate that Small would be a little worse than average in 2006, about 1 run below average per 100 innings, although there's a pretty big discrepancy between them, so it's tough to really value him. Considering his role and his expectations, this is really not that bad. I have no idea how much he will pitch in 2006, but I'd guess he'll get a fair amount of work, probably around 100 innings at a minimum, which would be worth 25 PRC.

I'll root like hell for Small, because he seems like a humble guy and he worked very hard to get back to the majors, but I don't think we can realistically expect very much out of him. He had looked pretty good in spring training until Matt Smith gave up a 3 run homer that plated two of his runners, so perhaps his new pitch is a difference-maker. I guess we'll know more as we see more.

The remaining 100 innings of Yankee starters from last year had a pitching runs created value of 30, so if Small pitches at this projected level, that would be about a half win downgrade relative to last year. So basically, the Yankees' project about 1.5 wins better over 965 innings than their starters did last year. Ideally, they'll get more innings out of their starters this year, which would mean they're pitching well and the bullpen is not being overworked.

Jaret Wright and his disappointing 2005 shocked about 3 people. Unfortunately, they all work for the Yankees' front office and thought Wright was a good investment for 3 years and $21 million, even after HE FAILED HIS FIRST PHYSICAL.

Wright is my personal poster boy in one of the biggest flaws in the Yankees' player acquisition model. They buy high and sell low. It ends up costing them money and wins.

Running any peripheral stats for Wright seems like a waste of time, as by all measures he was lousy last year. Considering he'll be buried in the bullpen this year, it hopefully won't matter. There's some hope that he may be useful as a reliever, but considering he always seemed to struggle with his control and results in his first few innings, I don't think so. Anyway, here are Wright's projections.

What's the opposite of excellence?

The good news is Wright was awful last year so if he makes any contribution this year it's likely to be an upgrade. Also by spending more than 75 days on the DL the Yankees can opt out of the third year of his contract for the bargain price of $4 million. If they understand the concept of sunk costs, I'd imagine they will just do that. Wright does have plus stuff, as indicated by his scouting report from last year.

Shoulder problems had hindered Wright since he enjoyed a promising start with the Indians in 1997. Improved health last year enabled him to get the necessary extension on his delivery, resulting in as much as 6-8 inches of additional movement on his pitches. He also started throwing his sinker again after ditching the pitch because of his ailing shoulder, and he made impressive progress with his command by focusing on location instead of chucking every pitch with maximum effort. Wright hits the outside corner with his mid-90s fastball against righties, while his running heater comes back over the inside part of the plate against lefties. He has improved his strikeout-walk ratio by doing a better job of commanding his changeup and breaking ball.

Maybe something will click and he can be useful, but I wouldn't bet a damn thing on it.

I do want to give Wright credit for battling his way back to the mound last year. The team was desparate for arms and he did his best to get back on the mound. It's not his fault he was not effective.

Spring Training Update
The Yankees beat a bunch of Braves reserves 7-3 yesterday. Chien-Ming Wang was dominant after a shaky first outing, going three easy innings, allowing just one hit, and striking out four. The results aren't as important considering the caliber of competition, but how he looked was. His velocity was improved from his first game, as he was around 91-93 on his sinker, and his location was much better as he was consistently down in the zone. He was also using his split-finger effectively. The interesting thing about Wang's splitter is it doesn't move much differently than his sinker, but it is about 10 MPH slower, so it can be an effective change of pace for him.

Robinson Cano seems to be showing a better approach in spring so far, as he's working much deeper counts and being far more selective. Again, the quality of competition is an issue, but hopefully he can carry it into the season. His defense looks to be fine as well.

Andy Phillips made a nice turn on a 3-6-1 double play. He was defensively challenged at 2B and 3B, but looks like he could be very good at first.

Mariano Rivera is slowly picking up velocity and looked very good in his inning of work, getting up to 92.

Kyle Farnsworth seemed to be working on refining his slider yesterday, as that was about all he threw. It varied in speed from 79-84 mph, and has a pretty good break to it, although his control of it was not particularly good.

Marco Vecchionacci looks like he can really pick it at third base. Maybe they can move Alex Rodriguez to CF.

This entry is awfully long, so I guess I'm done.

March 10, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2006 - Carl Pavano
by SG

For the bargain price of $9,000,000, the Yankees got 100 innings of below average pitching from Carl Pavano in 2005. The man that has taken to calling Glass Carl due to his litany of injuries is already behind schedule this year, and not likely to break camp with the team. The cautionary tale of J.R. Richard should give pause to anyone who wants to question a player and their injuries, so that is not something that I feel comfortable doing.

Pavano leveraged a career year in 2004 into a four year contract with the Yankees. Pavano's 2005 is a point in favor of the usefulness of looking at the underlying statistics of a pitcher who has a pretty W-L record and a good ERA, as most projections that focused on his component stats predicted a massive regression.

Pavano actually pitched decently to start the season, starting the season 4-2 with a 3.69 ERA. However, I am convinced that his start on May 17, where he threw 133 pitches in a 6-0 CG shutout eventually led to his injury problems last season. He made one more good start after that, going 7 innings and allowing 1 ER, and from there it got ugly.

Pavano made 7 more starts after May 22. The results?

W-L: 0-4
ERA: 6.46
IP: 39
H: 56
BB: 7
K: 19
HR: 6

Pavano was finally DLed and never returned, although he made a few rehab starts in the minors before shutting it down for the year.

Pavano is a puzzling pitcher to me. From a talent standpoint, he certainly has the stuff to be successful, as the scouting report details.

Velocity no longer is the thing with Pavano, who is far wiser after several surgeries on his throwing arm. He features a 91-94 MPH fastball that he can locate to all four quadrants of the strike zone. He complements the fastball with a tight slider and has a split and a change to keep lefties honest. Pavano's biggest strength is his ability to throw any of those four pitches for strikes in any count. Surprisingly, considering the false starts of his early career, Pavano has become one of the more durable and reliable pitchers in the game.

Further ammunition for those who feel that Pavano's problems are more mental than physical can be found in his home/road splits.

Home 6.89 1 3 9 9 47 73 42 36 33 11 6.32 2.11 3 10 0.354 5.13
Away 2.89 3 3 8 8 53 56 24 17 23 7 3.91 1.19 3.29 7 0.276 4.67

The ERA disparity is stark, but if you look at his FIP, he really didn't pitch that much differently at home or on the road.

Since I did one for everyone else, here's Pavano's ERA vs. FIP over the course of 2005.

Nothing too surprising in this, although it looks an awful lot like my heart rate when Wayne Franklin was about to enter a game. It basically shows that Pavano's early season ERA belied his underlying stastics[sic], but eventually they caught up to each other.

It's pretty safe to say that 2004 was an outlier for Pavano, and that the Yankees overpaid for a guy who is at best a league average starter. His career numbers of 1037.2 innings and an ERA+ (park adjusted ERA vs. league average) of 100 confirm that Pavano is basically a league average starter.

League average is not a bad thing. It's not necessarily worth paying $10 million a year for, but it's valuable. The bigger concern is how often Pavano can pitch.

Pavano pitched 201 and 222.1 innings in 2003 and 2004, and appeared to put his injury problems behind him. The fact that he did not need surgery indicates that his problems last year were not necessarily major, and his injury this spring is not an arm injury, but a back issue. Back issues can linger, but we have no way of knowing how it will affect Pavano in 2006.

Pavano's not a very popular man among the Yankee fans right now, but his upside is higher than Jaret Wright's and Aaron Small's, and the best thing for the Yankees would be his return to health and somewhat reasonable effectiveness. As far as trading him, he won't bring back much, not until he shows he is fully healthy and effective again.

The good news is that Pavano's bad performance last year means he should be able to provide a significant upgrade to himself if he pitches how he is capable of. The projections agree.

Last year, Pavano was responsible for 31 pitching runs created, which made him about 9 runs worse than an average pitcher over his 100 innings. All three projection systems expect a rebound, in both his playing time, and his effectiveness. I'd take the average gladly, 158 innings with a 4.22 ERA.

158 innings of Pavano with his average projections would be worth 64 PRC. 163 innings last year were pitched by Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, and they were worth 43 PRC. That means that if Pavano can pitch 158 innings at this projected rate of production, he'd provide a 2 win upgrade over last year.

The latest out of spring training is very positive.

The Yankees are starting to get excited about Carl Pavano.

"Outstanding," manager Joe Torre said Wednesday after watching Pavano throw a third time off the mound. "Even though he's a little behind [the other pitchers], I think we're way ahead of where we were last year."

Pavano threw all his pitches - fastballs, changeups and one slider. The Yankees are tentatively planning two bullpen sessions, then two or three rounds of batting practice. That could get Pavano into a game in about two weeks with enough time to join the rotation in mid-April, when the Yankees will need a full complement of five starters.

"I felt strong," Pavano said. "They're going to have to be the ones who pull the reins in on me."

Through the projected starting five, I have now accounted for 858 innings and a total PRC of 378, replacing 861 innings from last year's rotation at a total of 359 PRC, or two more wins. There are still about somewhere in the vicinity of 100 innings from starters that will need to be accounted for, as last year's starters pitched 965 innings. Health from Wang, Chacon, or Pavano could take that up, but if not, it'll be up to Jaret Wright and Aaron Small as the first line of defense, with Darrell Rasner, Matt DeSalvo, and Sean Henn waiting in the wings.

Johnny Damon was the key upgrade on the position player side for the Yankees. I think that Carl Pavano is the key piece for the starting rotation, and these numbers seem to confirm it.

Spring Training Notes
Randy Johnson got lit up by the Tigers as half of the Yankees fell, 6-1. Johnson's not worried, so I guess we shouldn't be either.

Even with the poor result, Johnson said he got certain things from the outing, the biggest of which was his velocity, which Yankees manager Joe Torre said got up to 94-95 mph a few times.

"I got my work in today and I'll move on and just continue to try to get better every time I'm out there," Johnson said.

Mariano Rivera made his second appearance of the spring, fanning 3 in one inning, but also allowing former Yankee Marcus Thames to take him over the fence. The better news was the return to the lineup of Gary Sheffield, who played RF and went 0 for 2.

The other half of the Yankees beat the Phillies, 8-3. Eric Duncan had a first inning grand slam, and Matt DeSalvo got the win with a nice little effort.

I just want to echo everyone who's been saying how cool it is to see the Yankee farmhands playing so much. I hope that the success of Cano and Wang last year leads to a revival in the Yankees' interest in promoting from within.

Speaking of kids, Mike from In George We Trust has his top 20 Yankee prospect list up. I invite everyone to check it out and tell him that Christian Garcia is too low.

March 9, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2006 - Shawn Chacon
by SG

Much like Chien-Ming Wang, Shawn Chacon came out of nowhere(in a figurative sense) to play a key role in the Yankees making the playoffs. Chacon was acquired from the Colorado Rockies on July 28, for minor league relievers Ramon Ramirez and Eduardo Sierra. He came over with a 2-16 record in his last 18 decisions over 2004 and 2005, although he carried a respectable 4.09 ERA for a Colorado pitcher when the Yankees got him.

Colorado is a crazy place for a pitcher. It has always been my belief that there is no way to assess the quality of someone who pitches half their games there. I firmly believe that even their road stats will get skewed, because of the type of negative conditioning that can happen when your breaking ball does not break as much and balls carry farther than they would at a more reasonable altitude. Chacon's 2004 scouting report certainly indicated the talent to be a good starter.

Chacon is a competitor, which was a reason the Rockies tried him in relief. However, he has to channel that competitiveness and not try to overthrow, particularly his curveball. The hard curve, his big pitch, isn't bothered by the Colorado altitude, but he needs to be ahead in the count so that hitters can't lay off it. As a starting pitcher, Chacon has shown a fastball that is consistent from 92-94 MPH, but as a reliever he'd have games he wouldn't hit 90 MPH. He has a solid changeup, but the pitch was missing in action when he was in relief and he was reluctant to use his full assortment. He also has a cutter which he now uses instead of a slider against lefthanded hitters.

Chacon was superb for the Yankees, going 7-3 with a 2.85 ERA, with a quality start (6 or more innings, 3 or fewer runs) in 9 of his 12 starts.

So obviously, this is a tale of vindication for Chacon's talent, and how he pitched for the Yankees is indicative of how he can be expected to do going forward, right?

Unfortunately, that is very unlikely to be the case, at least if you look at his underlying peripheral stats.

Chacon's difference between his FIP (fielding independent pitching) and actual ERA was massive, as you can see in the chart below.

Chacon's HR, BB, and K rate indicate that he pitched at a level between a 3-4.50 ERA as a Yankee, although his ERA was under 3 for almost his entire time in pinstripes. It gets even worse if you look at his xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching). When you normalize Chacon's HR rate, he ends up with an xFIP of 5.33. This is explained by the fact that he's a fairly extreme fly ball pitcher and should probably have allowed an additional 3 HRs as a Yankee.

A look at some of his situational splits can explain a lot of his peripheral-defying success. These splits do include his time in Colorado this season, but it's still pretty interesting to see


None on .286 27 311 89 26 2 10 10 0 0 37 35 0
Runners on .186 27 247 46 9 0 4 43 7 3 29 44 11
Scoring Posn .167 26 144 24 3 0 3 39 2 0 23 28 2
Bases Loaded .188 9 16 3 0 0 0 11 0 0 1 4 0
None on/out .283 27 138 39 12 0 6 6 0 0 18 12 0
None on: 1/2 Out .289 26 173 50 14 2 4 4 0 0 19 23 0
ScPos/2 Out .169 26 65 11 2 0 2 18 2 0 12 13 0
Runner on 2nd .109 21 55 6 0 0 1 4 1 0 5 12 0
Runner on 3rd .294 14 17 5 1 0 0 7 0 0 6 2 0
Runners 1st, 2nd .161 19 31 5 2 0 0 4 0 0 4 3 2
Runners 1st, 3rd .133 13 15 2 0 0 2 8 1 0 3 5 0
Runners 2nd, 3rd .300 9 10 3 0 0 0 5 0 0 4 2 0

With no runners on base, Chacon was far more hittable. However, in most situations when he needed to get out of a jam, he was able to do it. I've seen it posited that part of this is that since he worked as a reliever in 2004, he was better when pitching out of stretch. This made no sense to me considering how bad he was as a reliever, so I looked at his career situational splits.


None on .266 164 1333 355 86 11 55 55 0 0 160 228 0
Runners on .241 155 1056 254 56 8 34 270 36 10 163 197 45
Scoring Posn .235 145 634 149 35 6 19 227 9 2 113 132 11
Bases Loaded .232 46 56 13 2 1 3 51 0 0 5 13 2
None on/out .262 163 596 156 38 4 28 28 0 0 75 101 0
None on: 1/2 Out .270 157 737 199 48 7 27 27 0 0 85 127 0
ScPos/2 Out .234 136 304 71 16 3 9 96 6 0 56 66 0
Runner on 2nd .260 111 219 57 13 2 5 46 1 1 45 45 0
Runner on 3rd .241 63 58 14 2 0 1 22 0 0 24 16 0
Runners 1st, 2nd .195 105 185 36 10 1 4 40 1 1 16 37 8
Runners 1st, 3rd .240 65 75 18 3 2 5 38 7 0 10 15 1
Runners 2nd, 3rd .268 40 41 11 5 0 1 30 0 0 13 6 0

Pitching better in jams was not something that Chacon has previously demonstrated an ability to do.

I don't want to sound too negative on Chacon, because I honestly feel that his whole career to this point does not provide us with accurate data to assess how good he can be going forward. I would even take his Yankee tenure with a grain of salt as I am sure the memories of pitching in Coors were still in head last year. However, it is important to realize that his impressive run last year was fueled by an unsustainably low batting average on balls in play, and that he will very probably need to show improvement in either his BB rate, his K rate, his HR rate, or a combination of the three to mitigate the expected regression in that area.

If Chacon returns to the 92-94 mph fastball that he had in Coors per the scouting report above, I think he could be a dominant pitcher. Unfortunately, I have not seen that as a Yankee yet, either last year, or so far this spring. Regardless, despite what these numbers say, I am cautiously optimistic that Chacon can be a league average starter. Plus, he's just fun to watch. He's got a bit of bad-ass to him which I find enjoyable.

Chacon's performance is not the only thing that we have to be concerned about, unfortunately. There is also the question about his durability. After pitching 160 innings in his rookie season, Chacon has never pitched more than 152.2, which came last year. He was in fact moved to the bullpen by Colorado in 2004 because of questions about his durability.

If I haven't painted a bleak enough picture yet, maybe the projections can finish the job.

In 2005, Chacon was responsible for 46 PRC in just 79 Yankee innings, which was about 15 runs above what an average pitcher would have done in the same playing time.

The projection systems call for around 130 innings for Chacon. This is partly depressed by his time as a reliever, but it's also an acknowledgement of his durability issues. He's certainly appeared to be as healthy as a Yankee, but it's tough to argue with five years of data that show a trend.

I'm tempted to throw all these numbers out and just make a WAG, because of the Coors issue. However, I don't feel that is consistent with what I've been doing so far. I'll go with his average projection of 130 innings, and 50 PRC, and keep my fingers crossed for more. I do feel that Chacon is more likely than anyone on the Yankees to obliterate his projections, in a good way. Chacon is still relatively young, and pitchers are far more likely to break out at any time than position players, since it is easier for them to raise their talent level.

To continue the relative comparison to last year, Chacon's projected 130 innings will cover his 79 innings, the 9 innings left over from the carcass of Kevin Brown, and I'll throw in 42 of Al Leiter's innings. Those 130 innings were worth about 62 PRC in 2005, which makes Chacon 2006 a one win downgrade, relative to last season.
So now we have 700 innings taken up by the starters at a total value of 314 PRC. Compared to 700 innings from RJ, Moose, Wang, Chacon, Brown, and Leiter last year, which were worth 316 PRC. It's pretty close to a stand-still so far.

Spring Training Update
Robinson Cano has drawn 3 walks in 26 spring PA. Even more impressive, he has only struck out once.

Jaret Wright still stinks. I can't wait to write his looking ahead piece.

Darrell Rasner has looked pretty good when I've seen him. I love his chances of contributing this year.

Joe Torre says the Yankees are likely to break camp without Carl Pavano. Since they won't need a fifth starter for a while, this isn't a big deal, but I wonder if it means Kevin Thompson breaking camp as an extra for a few weeks?