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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."