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April 30, 2006

2 out of 3 ain't bad, again
by SG

The Yankees concluded their nine game homestand at 6-3 this afternoon with an exciting 4-1 win over Toronto, taking their third straight home series in this homestand and fourth overall, despite losing the first game on Friday night. Mike Mussina continued to pitch extremely well, moving to 4-1 and lowering his ERA to 2.31. He hit 92 mph in the sixth inning, and really did a wonderful job of moving the ball around against a very good-hitting Blue Jays team. I hope Randy Johnson took notes.

Andy Phillips hit his first HR of the season to tie the game at 1. Alex Rodriguez, who's in a bad slump these days, took two very close pitches that looked like strikes to me but were called balls to walk in the go-ahead run with two outs, and then Jason Giambi hit a massive HR to give the Yankees a little breathing room. Kyle Farnsworth came in throwing absolute gas, and Mariano Rivera retired four straight to close the game out.

With Boston falling to Tampa 5-4 despite Joe Maddon's best attempt at handing Boston another cheap win, the Yankees have moved into a tie for first place with the Red Sox. Apparently there's a series with Boston coming up or something? Larry will put something up about that later on tonight, I frankly don't have much to say about it right now. I'm just bracing myself for the onslaught of Damon crap we will have to be subjected to.

April 28, 2006

2 out of 3 ain't bad
by SG

After what was probably the most frustrating loss of the year, Shawn Chacon pitched 6.1 effective innings and the Yankees finally remembered that they were facing Mark Hendrickson and scored 3 unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to beat Tampa Bay 4-1. Derek Jeter continues to hit better than he ever has, going 3-3 with a BB, and is now hitting .408/.516/.684. His BB and an error by Russell Branyan set up the Yankee rally. I won't say anything more about Jeter because I don't want to be accused of bashing.

Chacon lowered his ERA to 4.56, although if you take out his awful relief outings it's a more than respectable 3.96. While I'm still worried about him, my worry grows a little weaker with each solid start he makes.

Kyle Farnsworth finally looked like the guy the Yankees paid for, hitting 100 on the YES gun and just looking nasty, and Mariano Rivera shook off a loss yesterday to pick up his third save. The Yankees as a team are allowing 3.9 runs a game, second lowest in the AL (to Detroit). Combine that with an offense that's scoring 6.05 runs a game, and you have a team that should be 14-6 trailing a team that should be 10-12 by a game in the standings. It's unfortunate the Yankees have not taken advantage of their very good play so far this year, because I see no way their run prevention remains this strong going forward, and the offense really can't get much better than it is right now (last two games excepted).

Joe Torre is going to kill me this season. Between starting defensive specialist Bubba Crosby yesterday with an extreme ground ball pitcher on the mound, to starting Bernie Williams in CF with a fly ball pitcher on the mound tonight, to allowing Mike Myers to face a righty (even a bad one) as the tying run, to bringing in Tanyon Sturtze for no other reason than to make Mariano Rivera's life a little harder, I don't know what move he made that annoyed me the most.

It should have been a sweep, but the Yankees have won back-to-back series at home now, and send out former 15 game winner Jaret Wright to start off their next series against Toronto in fine fashion. With Aaron Small just about ready to rejoin the team it could be Wright's last start for awhile. Toronto's on pace to score as many runs as the Yankees this season, and are slugging .504 on the season, so this one could get ugly.

Here's your matchups for the weekend:

R. Halladay (2-1, 3.60) vs. J. Wright (0-1, 7.20)


J. Towers (0-4, 8.35) vs. R. Johnson (3-2, 3.73)

G. Chacín (4-0, 5.11) vs. M. Mussina (3-1, 2.45)

Another two out of three would be nice. I hate that first matchup though.

April 27, 2006

by Fabian

-Brett Gardner is off to a fast start in the FSL, hitting .406/.542/.531 with 8 steals in 11 attempts. This start has had some clamoring for his promotion to the Eastern League though I can’t help but think such talk is premature. Gardner has struck out 21 times in 64 at bats and that worries me. Hitters with strikeout rates in excess of 25% worry me, especially those who aren’t or don’t project to be power hitters. Gardner, at 33%, looks like he might have trouble with upper level pitching. That said, it’s difficult to come by more advanced information on the FSL and for all I know, he might just be striking out on a lot of deep counts, which is more acceptable and somewhat believable given his 18 walks drawn already.

-Hector Made, now a 2B thanks to the presence of a certain shiny new SS prospect, is off to an interesting start. His .254 OBP, the product of a 0:14 BB:K ratio, is less than terrific, his .254 AVG is decent for the FSL, but his .478 SLG and .224 Isolated Power is where the intrigue lies. Made has long been lauded for his tools, so it’s nice to see that the power is coming along through his first 67 at bats. How long this will last is anyone’s guess as Deivi Mendez, another toolsy SS, once got off to a promising FSL start power-wise only to fade into nothingness.

-Though his line only reads .198/.217/.395, I’ve been satisfied with Eduardo Nunez’s progress thus far. He’s obviously hit for power as demonstrated by half his hits going for extra bases as well as the .197 Isolated Power and while he hasn’t walked much, only 2 in 81 at bats, he’s only struck out in 19% of his at bats. He’s been a bit unlucky on balls in play thus far, so his BA should soon be on the rise. Lastly, Nunez has demonstrated the most important characteristic for a Yankee SS, he’s been incredibly clutch ranking 2nd in the league with 21 RBI on just 16 hits.

-Marcos Vechionacci is off to a slow start, which is incredibly depressing for me, as he’s one of my favorite prospects. The problem with Vechionacci as opposed to Nunez when it comes to being extremely young for the FSL is that Nunez is a guy whose scouting profile just seems to suit being rushed better. Vechionacci is a patient hitter who excels at working the count, especially given his age, but has yet to fully develop physically as a hitter as far as driving the ball. Nunez on the other hand is a guy who succeeds due to quick wrists and reacting to pitches. After a disappointing ’05 SAL season, I wasn’t expecting much from Vechionacci, but I didn’t expect him to be this bad either. He’s also been uncharacteristically error prone in the field in the early going. Hopefully he can turn it around, and even if he doesn’t, he still has time on his side due to being so young.

-Remember what I said about strikeout rates? Tim Battle, come on down.

-Phil Hughes is awesome.

April 26, 2006

by SG

In 1999 at the age of 25, Derek Jeter put forth an incredible season, hitting .349/.438/.552 and ending up at an OPS+ of 161. Defensive metrics disagree on how good or bad he was defensively, but his offensive value made him an MVP candidate. If Jeter was that good at 25, how good would he be as he peaked?

Unfortunately, Jeter did not get any better. He regressed to an OPS+ of 123 the following season, and has not topped 127 since. 6 years later, Jeter is off to an exceptional start. When he attempted a bunt in the first inning, I was livid. Thankfully, it went foul, and he proceeded to crank an opposite field HR off Scott Kazmir that gave the Yankees all the runs they would need in an impressive 9-1 win. Mike Mussina continued his outstanding pitching. He was only throwing 89-91 with his fastball most of the game, but did a brilliant job setting hitters up with his breaking pitches and his changeup, messing up their timing, and fanned 7, many on 89 mph fastballs right down the middle. Mussina's K+ is 143, which is a fancy way of saying he is striking out batters at a rate 43% above average. He's combining this with a walk rate 82% better than the league average. At this point, I am more comfortable with Moose than any other starter on the Yankees. Let's hope it continues. A poster from Bronx Banter posted a very interesting link to an article by Tom Verducci regarding Moose.

I walked up to Mike Mussina recently and told him he looked like Greg Maddux last week while shutting down a hot-hitting Toronto team.

"Maddux?'' Mussina said. "He's got about a hundred more wins than I do."

"Yes," I told him, "but you looked like Maddux because when hitters thought you'd throw something hard, you went softer. Over and over again."

"That's right," Mussina said. "I've figured something out."

Mussina then began to tell me a story that helped explain not only why he dominated the Blue Jays in that game but also why the oldest pitchers in baseball are still among the best pitchers in baseball.
"I threw in an intrasquad game in spring training,'' Mussina said. "People were like, 'Why are you pitching in an intrasquad game?' Really, the only reason why I did was that you back everything up from the start of the season, counting five days between starts, and five days before my first spring training start happened to be a day when we had an intrasquad game.

"So I'm pitching in this intrasquad game and [Jorge] Posada is up. The count is 3 and 2 and I throw a changeup. Now for some reason, Posada is right on the pitch and he smokes it. Hits it on a line. We got him out, but I was surprised that he would be right on a 3-and-2 change.

"So after the game I asked him, 'How could you be right on that changeup I threw you?' He said, 'I saw your fingers on top of the ball as it was coming out of your hand. I could tell it was a changeup.'"

What Posada saw were Mussina's index, middle and ring fingers splayed across the top of the baseball, a grip that makes it impossible for a pitcher to throw anything but an off-speed pitch. (Only two fingers, the index and middle, top the ball for a fastball.) Posada saw the dead giveaway, kept his hands and weight back and timed the changeup perfectly.

Mussina is 37 years old and has been pitching in the major leagues since 1991. No one had ever told him what Posada told him. So Mussina decided to change his grip. He slid his index finger more to the side of the ball than the top of the ball -- not quite the grip for a circle changeup, in which the thumb and index finger form a circle on the side of the ball, but a modified version of it.

The pitch worked perfectly. Not only was Mussina able to disguise the pitch, but he also was able to throw it slower and generate better downward movement on it. "It doesn't so much run,'' Mussina said, referring to the sideways motion some pitchers get from their changeup, "but it just kind of dies at the end. It tumbles under the hitter's bat. And to think if I didn't bother pitching in an intrasquad game, none of this would have happened."

Back to Jeter, who I felt was the real story of the game. His 3 for 5 game has him hitting .391/.494/.681, which translates to an OPS+ of 207, which ranks 7th in the AL. However, if you compare his OPS+ to that of other shortstops, it's 230, far and away the highest in the league. Jeter's offensive value so far this season is 12 runs above the average shortstop. Unfortunately, he's given back 4 of those runs back on defense so far. Still, his offense has been key in what has been a great start by the Yankee offense.

Tonight, we'll see if Chien-Ming Wang can keep the recent string of good starts by the Yanks alive, facing off against Seth McClung. Wang had all kinds of issues with Tampa last season, going 1-3 with a 6.94 ERA against them. Let's hope the trend does not continue. Buck Martinez raised an interesting point about Wang's struggles against Baltimore last time, and how he was a different pitcher in the stretch vs. the windup. A quick look at his career situational splits seems to bear this out.

With no runners on, Wang walks 6% of the batters he faces and strikes out 11.5%. With runners on, he walks 9% and strikes out 10.6%. I'm not sure how much different this is than other pitchers, but Ron Guidry supposedly worked with Wang on this issue over the past week, so we'll see if it changes.

April 25, 2006

Melky Reconsidered
by Fabian

It's still very early in the minor league season, and he has cooled off considerably as of late, 6 for his last 31 during Columbus' 8-game losing streak, but Melky Cabrera appears to be the most egregious placement on mine and many other Yankee prospect lists, with Pinstripes Plus being a notable exception.

Though I claim to be a fan of large sample size, it would appear that I let Melky’s brief trial in the majors as well as his unwarranted promotion to AAA cool me far too greatly on a player I’ve been a fan of since he was the starting CF for the Staten Island Yankees. I also fell victim to listening too much to the concerns others hold about Cabrera. The concerns about Melky are, primarily, that he doesn’t have the defense to stick in CF as he ages and doesn’t have the power to play a corner. Instead of just taking this in, I should have paid greater attention to certain pieces of information.

For one, despite all the apparent concerns scout-types have about Melky’s defense, Eastern League managers voted him the league’s top defensive OF during the 2005 season. Additionally, according to Baseball Prospectus’ minor league defensive numbers (Yes, I know many of you have a problem with their major league numbers, but their minor league ones are the most freely available advanced defensive metrics for that level) Melky was an above average defender in CF last year. None of this is to say that Melky will necessarily be a standout defender or even above average one when he gets older, but just to say that there is a chance he has some time to decline to average, which might not be the impression you would have received otherwise.

As for Melky’s lack of power…when his defense gets to the point where he will need to be a COF, whenever that may be, his power should have naturally developed more from where it is now. However, let’s say it doesn’t. Based on a glance through the statistics, for a COF to be average in the AL over the last few years they should post an OBP around .340 and SLG around .440. In 1403 minor league at bats, Melky has hit .287, so let’s make him a .280 hitter in the majors. The last two years, Melky’s OBP has been .048 above his BA, so let’s give him a .330 OBP. Lastly, his last two year of isolated slugging have been .142 and .133 so let’s give him .140 (I like round numbers), which gives him a SLG of .420. If you have a COF hitting .280/.330/.420, you’re getting below average offensive production, however, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to add in some above average defense considering he is moving from CF. With all that, it’s not ridiculous to think that perhaps he can be a league average COF, which is nothing to call home about, but at the same time, a far enough cry from 4th OF at best, or “suck[ing]”.

Yes, I’ve made a lot of assumptions in this little experiment, but I don’t think any of them are so far off base to be unreasonable. The point I’m making is not that Melky Cabrera’s hot start is a sign of his talent level or that he is a star in the making, just that perhaps one too many people, myself included, got caught up in his poor ML debut. We looked at what Melky couldn’t do, or at least couldn’t excel at, rather than what he could.

Beating Tampa
by SG

Last year, the Yankees lost the season series to the Tampa Devil Rays, 8-11. This was very frustrating, considering that the Yankees had an 80-31 record against Tampa historically. For comparison's sake, Boston went 13-6 against them last season.

Tampa's lost 3 in a row now and have allowed the most runs in the league at 121. They have a team ERA+ of 75. Their offense is solid at an OPS+ of 110, but their defense is on pace to allow 67 runs more than average by zone rating.

If Tampa plays to their pythagorean record over the rest of the season, they would finish 65-97.

8-11 isn't going to cut it this year. Using the two teams' current pythagorean records with Bill James's log5 method for predicting expected winning percentage based on your opponent yields the following results.

Yankees' pythag Wpct: .690
Tampa's pythag Wpct: .396

log5 Wpct for Yankees: .772

This means that if pythag is an indicator of the two teams' respective talent levels, the Yankees should be expected to win 14-15 games against Tampa.

Pythag is not very meaningful after fewer than 20 games and only a few opponents, but the point is basically that if the Yankees want to win the division, they need to beat Tampa this season, and do so convincingly.

Let's see if Moose can do his job against Scott Kazmir. I don't expect the Yankees to hit Kazmir hard, but hopefully they can make him work and get him out of the game early.

April 23, 2006

Randy Johnson Doesn't Stink
by SG

After crapping the bed against Toronto last Tuesday, Randy Johnson rebounded nicely today, allowing just 3 hits (all to Miguel Tejada) over eight strong innings, walking just one, fanning five, and needing just 94 pitches. Shockingly, he was able to do this despite pitching to Jorge Posada instead of Kelly Stinnett. I think we're seeing the 42 year old Randy Johnson, who is not overpowering, but will usually pitch well, with an occassional disaster start. As long as he can pitch a quality start 3 out 4 times, I think he'll be doing his job. With Johnson, it's usually pretty obvious when he doesn't have it, so I think a quick hook in those instances will save pitches on his arm, and also give the Yankees a better chance to win those games.

Johnson pitched well, but the offense was also key today. As a team, the Yankees are hitting .303/.391/.497 for a team OPS+ of 133, and are on pace to score 1010 runs. Using the base runs formula I mentioned before shows that they haven't been lucky, as Base Runs projects them to score 1013 runs. Fueling the offense right now has been Jason Giambi, who hit two homers despite being the DH, and who is hitting .326/.530/.848 on the season. He's now second in the AL in OPS, behind Jim Thome.

What's encouraging is that the offense is doing this despite a glaring hole in the lineup in every game, at either DH, backup OF, or first base, although Andy Phillips did chip in an RBI single to give the Yankees the lead. It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do to rectify this, as they have a few options in house.

Option 1) Call up Carlos Peña

This would likely mean the end of Andy Phillips's brief tenure in pinstripes, although I'd prefer to see the Yankees get back down to 11 pitchers and carry both Peña and Phillips in a platoon DH/1B role. In a very small sample size, Phillips has shown a very good glove. If Giambi's game today helps him get over his mental block at DH, the Yankees can upgrade by about 10 runs defensively by playing him at DH 70% of the time, and with Peña and Phillips they get an offensive upgrade over Bernie Williams. More likely, they'll bring up Peña and send down Phillips, which will be a defensive hit but an offensive upgrade.

Option 2) Call up Melky Cabrera or Kevin Thompson.

Cabrera's tearing up AAA so far, hitting .348/.405/.500, with 7 walks in about 73 PA, which is a very good ratio. He's only struck out 3 times, and has 5 2B, 1 3B, and 1 HR. Cabrera could be used to mainly spot Gary Sheffield in RF, and with spot duty in CF and LF as needed. They could still call up Peña in this instance, but they would probably have to send down Phillips and jettison Bubba Crosby. Thompson's not hitting as well as Cabrera, but he gives the team speed off the bench. Then again, Torre may be tempted to pinch run for Giambi in the fifth inning if they have Thompson, so maybe not. To add fuel to this fire, according to our very own Fabian, the Bergen Record reported that Felix Escalona and Melky's bats were shipped to the Yankees.

Option 3) Do nothing and give Bernie Williams a chance to keep making outs

I'm not concerned about Bernie's poor stats so far this season, but I am concerned with how he looks at the plate. The power's gone, the bat speed seems gone, and his trademark patience also appears to be a distant memory. He's actually played good defense in RF and LF as far as tracking the ball, although his arm is still a massive liability. The only use I can see Bernie having on the team at this point iss going to have to be primarily pinch-hitting for Kelly Stinnett and Miguel Cairo on the rare times they start, but even then if Stinnett starts they'd be better off with Jorge Posada pinch-hitting. They can't and won't release Bernie, but they should limit his role as much as possible if it looks like he can't contribute any more.

Peña getting called up seems like a no-brainer. He's in Columbus now, although he hasn't done much over his first four games (.214/.313/.286). It's possible that if he doesn't show anything, they may cut bait. It's believed the Yankees will have to release Peña if he is not called up within a month, although I don't know the specific date.

The Yanks are back over .500. It'd be nice if they stay there for the rest of the season.

April 21, 2006

Small Sample Size Theater, Part 1
by SG

I've been playing around with some automated number crunching, which allows me to present some Yankee Sabermetric stats through 14 games. And yes, I know it's too early to do this.

On offense, here are the leaders in Runs Created, and OPS+.

How has the defense been so far? Funny you should ask.

I don't think anything can hammer home the point of how early in the season it is than seeing the Yankee defense as average so far.

And what of the pitching?

Most of these pitching stats should be familiar, but in case they are not:


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. This is the same formula as Lee Sinins' RSAA (see below).


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. FIP was invented by Tangotiger.


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.


ERA measured against the league average, and adjusted for ballpark factors. An ERA+ over 100 is better than average, less than 100 is below average.

Component ERA (CERA)

Definition: A statistic that estimates what a pitcher's ERA should have been, based on his pitching performance.

The last three numbers are my own creations. Similar to ERA+, I calculate the pitcher's BB rate, HR rate, and K rate and compare it to the league average and adjust for park factors. This is not per inning, but per batter. For BB+ and HR+, the higher number, the worse. For K+, the higher the number, the better. Man, Tanyon Sturtze is awful. He's allowing HRs at a rate of 3.4 times the average pitcher so far.

April 20, 2006

Good Moose
by SG

Anyone who's followed the Yankees closely over the last few seasons is aware of the Good Moose/Bad Moose phenomenon. A nagging elbow injury and the ravages of time have morphed one of the most consistent pitchers in the American League since 1992 into an inconsistent pitcher who will show flashes of brilliance mixed with meltdowns of Heredian proportion. So far this season, it's been all Good Moose.

He's pitched four games so far, and all four have been quality starts. Is there any cause for concern in his stats so far?

ERA: 2.67 ERA
ERA+: 185
FIP: 3.17
CERA: 3.23
xFIP: 3.88

ERA+ is a comparison to league, where league average is 100. The higher the number, the better the pitcher. FIP is his fielding independent pitching ERA, which uses hits HRs, BBs, and Ks to figure out how Mussina's done based on the things he has the most control over. CERA = component ERA , which tends to reflect more accurately how well a pitcher has pitched. xFIP is the least optimistic primarily because Mussina's allowed 44 fly balls compared to 41 ground balls, but only allowed 2 HRs, about half what a pitcher would typically give up (11% of fly balls are typically HRs).

Skipping the numbers, I've just been happy to see him attacking the strike zone more, and pitching at least 7 innings in 2 of his 4 starts, something he could only manage 23% of the time last season.

It's too early to declare that Moose is "back." In four starts, anyone can look really good or really bad. However, early returns are positive, and with Shawn Chacon struggling and Jaret Wright actually getting starts, it's been a big boost. Let's hope it continues. Last year whenever I wrote about a pitcher doing well, they started sucking. Therefore, I am going to declare that I expect Bad Moose to return soon.

On the team side, at some point, the "It's still early" excuse isn't going to cut it. Yeah, 14 games isn't that much, but it's almost 10% of the season. The Yankees are still hovering at .500. The upcoming homestand will be their chance to separate from that a bit, so how do the matchups look?

4/21 Vs. Baltimore: K. Benson (R) vs. C. Wang (R)
4/22 Vs. Baltimore: D. Cabrera (R) vs.S. Chacon (R)
4/23 Vs. Baltimore: B. Chen (L) vs.R. Johnson (L)

Baltimore's 9-7, but have played at about a .500 level. I think the Yankees should take 2 out of 3 here, as Wang and Johnson both pitched pretty well against Baltimore last year. Daniel Cabrera could walk 50 or pitch a no-hitter, and it's tough to say what Shawn Chacon will do, so a sweep is possible but probably not likely.

4/24 Off Day

4/25 Vs. Tampa: D. Waechter (R) vs. vs. M. Mussina (R)
4/26 Vs. Tampa: S. Kazmir (L) vs. C. Wang (R)
4/27 Vs. Tampa: S. McClung (R) vs. S. Chacon (R)

I'm scared to death of this series. Chacon may not get the start if he struggles in his game against Baltimore, in which case it'll be Jaret Wright, which is probably worse. I'll hope for 2 of 3, with Kazmir beating Wang in the middle.

4/28 Vs. Toronto: R. Halladay (R) vs. R. Johnson (L)
4/29 Vs. Toronto: J. Towers (R) vs. J. Wright(R)?
4/30 Vs. Toronto: G. Chacin (L) vs. M. Mussina (R)

It appears that Roy Halladay will be back for this one. We'll see if Johnson can recover from his dreadful outing against Toronto. I think 2 of 3 is another possiblity here.

If they win each series 3-2 2-1, they'll get to 13-10, which still doesn't seem that impressive. Perhaps they'll do a bit better than that.

Injury News
Tanyon Sturtze has a back injury, which is keeping him out of action. He may get DL'd when Aaron Small is ready, which is expected to be soon (two more rehab games). Octavio Dotel also made his first game appearance, throwing an inning in an extended spring training game. Swap Small for Sturtze, Dotel for Matt Smith, and possibly Carl Pavano for Jaret Wright by the end of May, and I'm going to like this pitching staff. Unfortunately, I don't see the Yankees dumping either Sturtze or Wright.

April 18, 2006

Randy Johnson Stinks
by SG


OMG! Teh 6-6!
by Larry Mahnken

Here's some meaningless data:

The Yankees have started 6-6 fifteen times in their history:


In those 15 seasons they've finished with an average record of about 91-65 (shorter schedule and a strike) or 94-68 in 162 games.

When they won the next game, they finished with a .604 winning percentage, when they lost they finished with a .570 winning percentage. When they won they made the postseason 60% of the time, lost they made it 33% of the time.

In general, it doesn't mean anything. The first 12 games of the season don't make or break it, unless you go something like 1-11 or 11-1 -- and not necessarily even then.

What happens right now won't have a huge impact on how they end the season, and how they're playing right now will have no relevance in October.

April 17, 2006

Pythagorean Records and Forecasted Standings
by SG

Despite the Yankees' .500 record through 12 games, the team has played quite well. To put their start in perspective, I decided to undergo a little exercise similar to Baseball Prospectus's Adjusted Standings Report, which looks at the components a team has put up to give them a record based on how they have actually performed on the basis of their runs scored and runs allowed.

The heart of this type of analysis is Bill James's pythagorean winning percentage. The definition of this can be found at Baseball

Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team's winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. Developed by Bill James, it can tell you when teams were a bit lucky or unlucky. It is calculated by

(Runs Scored)^1.83
(Runs Scored)^1.83 + (Runs Allowed)^1.83

The traditional formula uses an exponent of two, but this has proven to be a little more accurate.

The theory is that a team's runs scored and runs allowed will balance out over the course of the season, so that you can use them to see if a team is lucky or unlucky, and how they should perform going forward.

It is probably too early to run this type of exercise given the limited opposition that most teams have played, but what the hell, it's an off day. Below are the standings through the end of the year if we assume the pythagorean theory holds true from this point forward.

In this set of standings, I've taken the teams' actual record and added the projected record over their remaining games if they play to their pythagorean record with the same rates as their actual runs scored and allowed As you can see, the Yankees have been quite unlucky so far, and the Mets could very well be the greatest team in the history of baseball. In other words, it's way too early for this to be very meaningful. And I know the Mariners are projected as playing 163 games, but it's a rounding error and I'm not in the mood to fix it.

There's no question that this early in the season, a team's runs scored and allowed could be skewed by a variety of things which would make them look better or worse than they really should be. Instead of just looking at the raw runs scored and runs allowed, it may be beneficial to look at a statistic which will correct for random variance by looking at team's component stats on offense and defense and project how much they would be expected to score going forward, to smooth out any flukes. There are a lot of different methods to do this, but the one that I like the best is Base Runs, by David Smyth. Based on Smyth's research, it has shown to be more accurate than the better-known Runs Created, particularly on a team-wide level.

The idea here is that you are factoring out over and under-performance in situations to get a more reasonable run estimation on both the offensive and defensive side going forward. The formula is in the link above, but in a nutshell you basically just combine the majority of good and bad outcomes and assign run values for each one to arrive at an estimated run value. You can use this to see if teams are doing
flukishly well or poorly, and get a feel for how likely current trends are to continue.

As you would expect with a system that corrects for anomolous performances, the numbers tend to approach a more realistic level, as you can see below.

Again here, I am calculating the teams' expected records over their remaining games based on their Base Runs scored and allowed and adding that to their actual record to arrive at projected final standings.

All I would take out of this is that the Yankees should be ok, despite their .500 record so far, as long as they can keep performing at a similar level and stay healthy. If you're a Royals fan, get ready for Chiefs training camp. I'll also go out on a limb and say the AL West winner will win more than 65 games.

I'll keep an eye on this as the year moves on and post about it on occasion, because I know many of you can't get enough stastics.

The Yanks are getting set for a two game set in Toronto tomorrow. In the first game, it'll be Randy Johnson vs. Gustavo Chacin, who went 0-4 with a 5.32 ERA in four starts against the Yanks last year. The Yankees will face two lefties, in Chacin and Ted Lilly, so I'm sure Joe Torre will aggravate us all by starting Miguel Cairo at first at least once. Obviously, a win would be nice, but I think it'll be more important to see that Johnson is healthy after leaving his last start after just five innings and 87 pitches for precautionary reasons.

April 16, 2006

by SG

After two disappointing games, the Yankees did what they apparently need to do to win this season, by scoring nine runs, powered by two HRs by Jason Giambi, and an outstanding pitching performance by Chien-Ming Wang.

I know I often sound like a broken record on this blog, and one of my constant issues has been with Wang continuing his success despite his low K rate. Wang shattered his career-high of five Ks, fanning eight over 7 strong innings. He allowed two runs, one earned, and walked no one. With a little better defensive support (a recurring theme this year), he could have pitched a shutout, but he was great regardless. He seemed to get stronger as the game went on, and in the post-game show Joe Torre said that Wang had worked out some mechanical issues with Ron Guidry. His splitter looked very sharp today, with good sharp downward bite. It's too early to make any grand conclusions about Guidry versus the dearly departed Mel Stottlemyre, but so far, the results seem to be trending positively.

After a rough first week, Jason Giambi is on fire. Giambi is now hitting .344/.543/.781 on the season. With Gary Sheffield apparently forgetting how to get on base, I think it's time to flip Sheffield and Giambi. You'd have a guy who is getting on base over half the time in front of the reigning AL MVP, and break up the Matsui/Giambi lefty cluster that is going to be problematic the longer it continues.

If any mouth-breathing idiots make a comment about Alex Rodriguez homering in another blowout, I'm going to hunt you down and slap some sense into you. He singled in what should have been the go-ahead run yesterday, which will of course get ignored by these dolts.

Last night's loss was tough, but I thought Scott Proctor was outstanding in a losing cause, and I hope that he has turned a corner to be a useful middle reliever and long man. I have a lot more confidence in him than Tanyon Sturtze right now. Unfortunately, I'm not the manager. It does seem that Sturtze has lost some standing as he was not brought in to pitch today. Why, with a 13 man pitching staff, did the Yankees need to use Shawn Chacon? What's next, a 14 man pitching staff?
(edit: According to the post-game, Chacon's getting skipped with the two off days this week. Given his struggles, it makes sense).

The players I've expected to play well so far have basically done so. The players I have not expected much from have also not surprised. I hope that Brian Cashman will be Machiavellian this year. When Aaron Small and Octavio Dotel come back, Sturtze and probably Jaret Wright do not belong on this team. How that situation is handled will be interesting.

April 15, 2006

Feast or Famine
by SG

Unfortunately for the Yankees, their series with the Royals had to end eventually. Scott Baker, Juan Rincon, and Jesse Crain held the Yankees to four hits and one run and the Yankees wasted a good start by Mike Mussina in falling to the Twins, 5-1. Thanks to loyal reader cutter for the title suggestion, which is something that will bear watching all season. Will the Yankees pound bad pitching and struggle more than expected against decent pitching?

The good news was that Moose again looked solid, going 6.2 innings and allowing 3 runs. The bad news was the Yankees again failed to win a game in which they scored fewer than 9 runs.

An eighth-inning rally fell short when Bernie Williams grounded into a double play after Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano had reached. Bernie was in RF yesterday, and actually looked to have decent range out there, but he appears to have lost all his power at this point in his career, now hitting .294/.333/.324, with just one XBH so far. It may also just be my perception, but Bernie is no longer as patient as he used to be and seems to hack earlier in the count than he used to. His P/PA so far this season is 3.49, not much lower than last year, but below his 3.74 career average.

I find it positively idiotic that the DH spot does not have a better option than what is on hand. Apparently, the Yankees agree, and are considering taking a flier on Carlos Peña. Peña was at one time one of the top prospects in baseball, but has disapponted in his time in Detroit. He's a career .243/.330/.459 hitter, although he has played in a pitchers' park for most of his career, which translates to an OPS+ of 109.

The Yankees want Peña since they are apparently concerned about Giambi's defense at first, so I think a defensive comparison is in order. The first column are innings played, second are actual runs using the Zone Rating method I have been using, and the last column is the pro-rated value over 150 games. The averages are using a weighted average.

Doesn't seem like much of an upgrade. I always remembered Peña being highly regarded defensively, so I checked out last year's scouting report.


Peña does not have a quick bat. There were times last season when he could not handle even an average major league fastball thrown over the heart of the plate. But throw him an offspeed pitch without much on it, and Peña will murder it. He has good power and will drive the ball out of the park to right field. Peña also has a pretty good concept of the strike zone. He does not swing at many bad pitches and will draw walks. However, he swings through a lot of fastballs most power hitters drive with authority.

Baserunning & Defense

When the Tigers acquired Peña from Oakland early in the 2002 season, one of the major reasons was his fielding. Supposedly he was a great fielder. It has not turned out that way. In 2003, he was awful defensively. He made 13 errors, often on routine plays. Last season, Peña was better in the field, cutting his errors to six and making far fewer mental mistakes. Although he still has a ways to go to match his advance billing defensively, Peña was more than adequate last season. He has below-average speed, but seems to be making better decisions on the bases.

Not a scouting report that encourages much hope, on either the offensive or defensive side.

If Joe Torre is insistent on playing Miguel Cairo over Andy Phillips when Giambi is not at first, then Peña does make a lot of sense, as he is a significantly better offensive player than Miggy. Actually, if it's true that Phillips can't hit breaking balls, a pseudo platoon of Peña and Phillips could be useful, with Peña playing against junkballers and Phillips against harder throwers. That would require freeing up a roster spot, which the Yankees could do by getting rid of one of their fifty pitchers. The other concern is Jason Giambi's offense when he DHs, but it's going to have to be something Giambi adjusts to. As he gets older, he can't be expected to play 150 games at first.

Joe Torre was obviously right that Tanyon Sturtze and Kyle Farnsworth are interchangeable.

Farnsworth 0- 0 7.36 .267 5 0 0 1 0 0 3.2 4 3 3 0 3 2
Sturtze 0- 0 7.36 .313 6 0 0 0 0 0 3.2 5 3 3 2 2 3

Unfortunately, this probably means the continued use of Sturtze in high-leverage spots, and the potential burial of Farnsworth, who has far more talent and a better track record. At this point, I've liked what I've seen out of Scott Proctor and think he is probably better than Sturtze too. Unfortunately, he will likely be yo-yoed between Columbus and the Bronx all year, as he is cursed with a remaining option.

Brian Cashman will have to be pro-active in regards to Sturtze. If at the end of the month he has not shown any ability to contribute, he needs to take Torre's toy away before it really ends up costing the team.

I'm looking forward to tonight's Jaret Wright vs. Johan Santana matchup about as much as I'm looking forward to my eventual first prostate exam. Let's hope for the unexpected and unlikely.

Update: Yankee sign Peña, Colome

The Yankees signed free-agent 1B Carlos Pena and free-agent RHP Jesus Colome to minor-league deals today and sent them to extended spring training in Tampa. They will eventually be assigned to Class AAA Columbus.

Pena was .235/.325/.477 with 18 homers and 44 RBI for Detroit last season but was released near the end of spring training. If he gets called up, he has a $1.25 million deal.

Colome was 2-3 with a 4.57 ERA for Tampa. Because he had a major-league deal when he was released, the Yankees would owe him only the pro-rated minimum if he gets called up.

"We'll see what these guys can do. It's always good to have inventory," GM Brian Cashman said a few minutes ago. "There's not much risk involved."

Cashman said the Yankees liked Pena's defensive ability and power potential. Colome, he said, has a "big arm."

"Sometimes things click with players and they can help you," said Cashman, who struck gold with Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon last season. "It's worth trying."

Thanks to Johan.

I already discussed Peña. As for Colome, he's a talented arm who hasn't done much yet. The scouting report:

Colome throws his fastball regularly in the 97-100 MPH range. What has made him more effective is the ability to throw his slider and changeup and, just as importantly, convincing him to trust the offspeed pitches in key situations. He also has experimented with some different arm slots.

Colome's got decent K rates, but he's rather tater-iffic and wild. He's probably better than Sturtze anyway.

April 14, 2006

Replacement Level Game Chatter
by Larry Mahnken

The Yanks were unbeatable vs. the Twins a couple of years back, but they had some struggles with them early last year. This will be far from an easy series.

April 13, 2006

Replacement Level Game Chatter
by Larry Mahnken

Yanks are 16-10 on my birthday, and Ron Guidry won his first major league game on the day I was born.

Let's see if they can improve that record.

The Unit vs. Denny Bautista at 1:05. Let's hope the march to 1000 runs keeps up.

Back to .500
by Larry Mahnken

If you're inclined to overreact to a week and a half, you'll do so for the first week and a half of the Yankees' season. They're .500, but they could be 8-0. They had to come back late against the Royals on Tuesday, but they still won. They blew leads out on the West coast, but those were against tough teams on the road.

They're doing fine. Wang and Chacon were poor the last two days, but no matter what assumptions we might make going into the season, we can't decide that the worst has happened after just two starts. The bullpen doesn't appear to be much better than last season's, but Randy Johnson looks like Randy Freaking Johnson so far.

Really, they should have been expected to go 3-3 or 2-4 on the road this past week, it's really the 4-game losing streak that made it seem awful. They're supposed to win 2 of 3 against KC, and they've already done that. Win today, and they're at least on schedule, if not ahead of it. And they're sure to have a few unbeatable runs in them this year.

No sir, I still have yet to see a single thing this season that worries me.

Which kind of worries me. I'm supposed to be the pessimist. Uh-oh.

A correction -- but not a retraction
by Larry Mahnken

When researching Derek Jeter's clutch homers, it was pointed out by a reader that I'd missed one.

I'd missed another one since 2000, too, but further research shows I'm even more on the money than I'd thought.

Since 2000, Jeter's hit eight homers that have brought the Yankees back from a deficit or broken a tie, and two of them (yeah, I was wrong on this one) eliminated a deficit and gave them the lead. Well, I went through those games one-by-one, which is how I missed some.

Last night I went through the game logs (which are available from 2000-2005) and found the seven that Jeter hit clutch homers in those years -- and every other clutch homer, too. There are more than you'd think -- 2776.

Two players have tied in that category with 24 homers, Gary Sheffield is tied for 5th with 21 of them. Other Yankees include A-Rod with 18, Bernie with 15, Giambi with 15, Posada with 11, and 7 by Hideki Matsui (just since 2003). Tino hit 9, Scott Brosius hit 7 in just two seasons.

Jeter's not even hitting them more often than you'd expect him to from his power numbers. Counting the homers this year, Jeter's clutch homers have been 7.4% of his total homers, while A-Rod's have been 6.4%. Well, that's something, but Sheff's have been 9.8%, Giambi's 7.3%, Bernie's 12.1%, Posada's 7.9%, Matsui's 10%, Tino's 7.1% and Brosius' an amazing 24.1%. Scottie Brosius, Clutch GOD.

Jeter's rate is pretty much the same as most of those guys -- but most of those guys are well below the average rate for guys who've hit clutch homers -- which is 9.21%.

A total of 106 players have hit more clutch homers than Jeter since the start of the 2000 season. Sorry guys, he's not exceptional at this.

The homer itself was GREAT. Amazing. I loved it. He just doesn't do it as much as he's hyped to.

Yes, I'm keeping the top two a secret -- I'm going to write a THT article on it. But feel free to guess.

April 12, 2006

Replacement Level Game Chatter
by Larry Mahnken

When I started this blog pretty much everyone who read it was at BTF, but I guess some of you hang out here for commenting now. Here's a special thread for that.

3-0 Royals, bottom of the 1st, 1st and 2nd no outs, Sheffield up.

Derek Jeter and Clutch Homers
by Larry Mahnken

We expect Jeter to hit homers like Tuesday's game-winner because so many other times he has.
- Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports

Has he now?

Derek Jeter has now hit 171 home runs in his career, which has spanned 11 seasons. Add in the postseason and it's about 12 seasons, and his 16 postseason HRs bring his total up to 197.

So out of those nearly 200 career homers, how many would you think have tied or won the game in the seventh inning or later? Go ahead, take a guess.

Eleven. That's it. that's one a year, and just about one every twenty homers. That's not really very many, and not very often. I can think of several times Tino Martinez did it, several times Scott Brosius did it, and several times Alex Rodriguez has done it.

But if A-Rod had hit that homer yesterday, the story wouldn't have been how he's done what he's done so many times before, but how he finally came through in the clutch.

Passan writes about how polarizing Jeter is. Well, Mr. Passan, this is why: every time he does something exceptional, sportswriters act like he's the only person who could have done it, and that he's quite nearly the only person who ever has done it.

We want Jeter to be analyzed for what he is, warts and all. He's a bad defender, not a Gold Glover. He's an outstanding hitter, but he doesn't "step it up" in the clutch, or the postseason, or ever. He just keeps doing what he does in all situations, and sometimes it pays off big-time.

For the record, here are the eleven games:

July 11, 1996: 8th inning 2-run homer off Mike Mussina breaks 2-2 tie, Yankees win 4-2
October 9, 1996: 8th inning solo "homer" off Armando Benitez ties game at 4, Yankees win 5-4 in 11. (Jeffery Maier play)
July 21, 1999: 7th inning 2-run homer off Bobby Witt breaks 2-2 tie, Yankees win 4-3
August 2, 1999: 8th inning 2-run homer off David Wells breaks 1-1 tie, Yankees win 3-1
May 12, 2001: 8th inning 3-run homer off Josh Towers breaks 5-5 tie, Yankees win 8-5
October 31 (really Novemeber 1), 2001: 10th inning solo homer off Byung-Hyun Kim breaks 3-3 tie, first career walkoff homer
July 17, 2003: 7th inning 2-run homer off David Riske ties game at 4, Yankees win 5-4.
May 9, 2004: 7th inning 2-run homer off Julio Mateo ties game at 6, Yankees win 7-6
April 5, 2005: 9th inning solo homer off Keith Foulke breaks 3-3 tie, second career walkoff homer
August 11, 2005: 7th inning solo homer off James Baldwin breaks 8-8 tie, Yankees win 9-8
April 11, 2006: 8th inning 3-run homer off Ambiorix Burgos down 7-6, Yankees win 9-7, first career late homer when trailing that won the game

Yeah, you read that last part right, kids. What he did yesterday -- snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a homer is something he had NEVER DONE BEFORE.

It was a great, great, great, great accomplishment, but let's not make it sound like he does it all the time.

edited for missed game

April 11, 2006

Opening Day in the Bronx
by SG

When Chien-Ming Wang blew the lead gained by Jason Giambi's first homerun of the season and Tanyon Sturtze poured gas on the fire, the Yankee home opener appeared to be headed for disaster. However, Derek Jeter sent the crowd of 54,698 home happy, hooking a grooved fastball inside the left-field foul pole with two outs in the bottom of the eight, finishing off a five run comeback as the Yankees beat the Royals 9-7. I was stuck in a conference room sneaking peeks at MLB Gameday, and had a really tough time containing my excitement, followed by my disgust, followed by my frustration, followed by my euphoria.

Over the course of 162 games, there will often be well-played games that are lost, and poorly played games that are won. Today's game probably falls closer to the second category than the first, but it still felt damn good. It shouldn't feel this way, but 3-4 sure seems a lot better than 2-5.

It's still probably too early to worry about the shaky performance of Wang, Gary Sheffield's slow start, Joe Torre's lineup and personnel machinations, and the Red Sox starting out so well. I'll worry about stuff the next time when it actually costs the Yankees a win.

It's the first winning streak of the season. I wouldn't mind if it lasts for a while.

April 10, 2006

Win Contributions
by Larry Mahnken

The last thing the world needs is a new offensive statistic, but I wanted to share something I've been playing around with the last couple of days. It's not meant to be predictive, it's just meant to measure value in a different way than other statistics.

The statistic is based on these ideas, which may be wrong, because I'm not a pro at this:

1) The run-value of an event is variable depending on the Base-Out State when it occurs. This, I believe, is a fairly non-controversial statement. A Grand Slam is the same as a solo homer, but obviously worth more runs. A single with a runner on is worth more than one with the bases empty, and a single with the bases empty is worth the same as a walk.

2) All runs in a game have the same value, regardless of when they were scored. The first run of a game and the 15th are worth the same, though each is worth less than a run scored in a 6-run game.

3) The ultimate value of an event to a team is dependent on the ultimate outcome of the game. A run scored in a loss is worthless, while a run scored in a win is valuable. (edited to make more sense. I hope the rest of this still makes sense with the edits)

The final two statements, I believe, are the controversial ones. Subscribers to the Game-State theory of value (first pioneered by the Mills brothers) believe that a run that happens late in a close game is worth more than one that happens earlier in the same game, and that tack-on runs are worth progressively less. I don't buy this. If you score 10 runs in the first it's the same as scoring ten in the ninth -- the direct impact on the likely outcome of the game at the time is different, but in the end, all other things being equal, they had the same impact on the actual outcome.

In the third statement I am making the point that the goal of a team is to win ballgames, not to score runs, and that a game can be won or lost on offense. If you score 0 runs, you'll never win, and you can always score enough runs to win. This statement holds true with pitching and defense in the opposite direction, and ultimately it can be said that you win because you score enough runs on offense and prevent enough runs on defense -- while you lose because you didn't score enough or prevent enough.

So how's this stat work? It's pretty simple.

First, I find the base-out state for every event on offense in the game (I'll explain at the end of this hole thing why I didn't do pitching and defense -- to simplify, it requires a whole lot more data that I don't have). Using Tangotiger's Run Expectancy Matrix, I find the expected runs scored for each state.

OK, here's where I made another decision I'm thinking a lot of people will disagree with. I figured what the worst possible outcome of each event was, and what the RE was for it. With nobody on and nobody out, the worst possible outcome was one out with nobody on, while with two on and no out, the worst that could happen is a triple play. Obviously there's a greater chance of an out in the first situation than a triple play in the second situation, but I made no adjustment for that. I'm not sure if I should, or how to do so if I should.

The reason I did this is so there would be no negative values. I calculated the value of each event as being the difference between the RE of the outcome and the RE of the "worst possible" outcome. I also calculated the difference between the outcome and the "best possible" outcome -- which is, of course, a home run.

OK, so the next step is to add up the "value" of every event for the team, as well as the total of the difference between the value and best possible value. You then add up these totals for each player.

If the team wins, then each player's "Win Contribution" is the percentage of the total team value (this is why I set the baseline as the worst possible outcome -- so the lowest possible contribution is 0). If they lose, their "Loss Contribution" is the percentage of the team total of runs below the best possible outcome.

It's pretty simple, though I'm not yet sure how well it works. I've only run it for the Yankees for the first six games, and here are the totals:

Player          Wins Losses
Jorge Posada .356 .455
Hideki Matsui .312 .468
Alex Rodriguez .257 .550
Robinson Cano .219 .380
Derek Jeter .218 .367
Johnny Damon .199 .344
Jason Giambi .158 .476
Bernie Williams .116 .352
Gary Sheffield .086 .537
Miguel Cairo .048 .000
Bubba Crosby .021 .000
Andy Phillips .010 .000
Kelly Stinnett .000 .072
Hopefully, at the end of the season, this will reflect which players contributed most to victories and were most responsible for the defeats. As you can see, currently the most responsible player for the Yankees' defeats is Alex Rodriguez, just ahead of Gary Sheffield, because he's made outs in so many high-RE situations. If you want to convert these numbers to a winning percentage (which is fair), you'll find that no regular has a Pct. over .500 -- which of course isn't surprising. While A-Rod has the most loss contributions, he's also contributed heavily to their wins and his .319 Pct. is not much different than the team's .333, the regular with the worst Pct. is Gary Sheffield, who has been responsible for only about 4.3% of their wins, but 13.4% of their losses.

Now here's why I didn't do pitching and defense: lack of data.

A pitcher's value shouldn't be based on the outcome except for walks, strikeouts and homers. For any ball in play the value should be the expected run value of where he hit the ball -- the difference between that and the outcome goes to the fielder. I suppose I could buy the data from BIS or STATS or something, but that would cost a LOT. I'd then have to parse the data by Base-Out state to find values for each point on the field. I'd love to have the data and time to do that, but for now let's see how nicely this stat works out, then maybe we'll go more in-depth.

April 9, 2006

What? Me Worry?
by SG

After a four game losing streak, today's 10-1 win over the Angels was just what I needed.

Ignore the wins and losses so far, it's only been six games. What is more encouraging is that the areas of perceived weakness on the team so far have been strengths.

The Yankees' team ERA of 3.04 is second in the league. Their FIP of 3.58 is also second best (both behind the red-hot Detroit Tigers). They have scored 35 runs and allowed 23, which translates into an expected winning percentage of .698. In other words, they should be 4-2, and they would be expected to win 113 games if they continue the way they've played.

Obviously, it's too early to draw any meaning from any of the numbers I've just posted since the Yankees have played just two opponents, which is why their record is meaningless right now.

Mike Mussina now has pitched two strong games and has a 2.77 ERA. If he can back up Randy Johnson, the Yankees will be in good shape. The rest of the starters and even the bullpen have all been ok, if not great. Octavio Dotel is expected to start throwing in simulated games this week, and could be back sooner than planned, which would be great. He and Aaron Small threw batting practice this weekend.

Even their defense has been solidly middle of the pack, as they have converted 73% of balls in play into outs, which ranks 8th in the AL. I don't expect the pitching or defense to continue to be so good, but I don't expect the offense to be so inconsistent either.

There was a negative for me though, and it was the start of Miguel Cairo at first over Andy Phillips. I like Cairo, but he's not a good player, and he's particularly bad if he's playing first base. He should be an ocassional middle infielder, anything more than that makes no sense. Considering his career line of .125/.211/.188 against Colon, even the batter-pitcher rationale that Torre uses sometimes (Enrique Wilson vs. Pedro), as flawed as it is, could not have been a factor. Apparently, the reason was even more flawed than I could have possible imagined. Torre sat Phillips so that Cairo could start due to his "enthusiasm" and "cheerleader" ability. I guess you can't do that on the bench. (Thanks to The Dog for the information)

Phillips will sit on the bench for a week, get an AB and look bad, then be buried for another week. Again, no one is predicting stardom for Phillips, but he deserves a chance to show if his Columbus numbers the last two years translate to the majors, and it doesn't appear to be happening yet.

Anyway, enough griping. A 2-4 road trip sucks, but the Yankees knocked one of the hardest parts of the schedule off the books, played relatively well all around, and are coming home on a good note.

If you look on the left border under the Magic Numbers table, you'll see a new addition to the blog, The March to 1000 Runs. So far, the Yankees are on pace to score 945.

April 7, 2006

Top 25 Yankee Prosects: '06
by Fabian

  1. Phil Hughes, 19, RHP

The only possible flaw you could find in him is his spotty injury history though he hasn’t suffered anything serious to this point. He will start the year in Tampa and end at least in AA.

  1. Eric Duncan, 21, 1B/3B

Concedes the number 1 spot after tough offensive year at AA along with move across the diamond and emergence of Hughes. I was more down on him at the outset of the off season, but recent news that the stance he used during his ’05 AA season was different than the stance that he has used prior to and following that stint has cheered me up. I still think it’s a mistake to start him in AAA though and hopefully his off the chart makeup allows him to put together a respectable season at the level.

  1. Tyler Clippard, 21, RHP

His stuff took a step forward in ‘05, as did his performance. RHB previously tattooed him due to his off speed stuff being so far ahead of his fastball, but now that he’s consistently getting it up to the low 90s, batters of all types are in danger. His fly ball tendencies are also overblown as he was around average in that regard. AA is often said to be the test for guys with less than overwhelming stuff and I’m cautiously optimistic Clippard will pass.

  1. Jose Tabata, 17, RF

Following in the footsteps of Marcos Vechionacci, Jose Tabata is the new teenaged phenom from Venezuela. Tabata is actually about a year younger than Vechionacci was when entering full-season ball, but I’m confident he will do a better job carrying Rookie League excellence over to full season baseball. Part of this is Tabata’s broader skill set, he is a 5-tool player for the moment while Vechionacci lacks speed, and part of it is that the terms used to describe each of Tabata’s tools were more impressive than those used to describe Vechionacci’s. Unfortunately, Tabata also gained a bit too much weight this off-season and that situation bears watching.

  1. Christian Garcia, 20, RHP

Garcia is a popular pick for breakout prospect in the Yankee farm system heading into 2006 and while I’m not as much on the bandwagon as others, I do like him a lot. Garcia gets a lot of groundballs and when he is on he is the most dominating pitcher in the system, unfortunately his being on doesn’t occur on a consistent enough basis. Additionally, Garcia also seemed to have a tendency to get flustered when things weren’t going his way during the ’05 season. Lastly, the most common measure I have seen used to place a numeric value on his strikeout ability is K/9, which overestimates someone like him who walks and hits so many batters.

  1. Jeff Marquez, 21, RHP

In the haste to crown Garcia as THE breakout pitcher for the farm system, Jeff Marquez is being overlooked. Marquez doesn’t strike out as many guys as Garcia, but he doesn’t really need to as he makes up for it with more ground balls and better control. Marquez doesn’t have Garcia’s ceiling, but he appears a safer pick and projects as a very good pitcher in his own right

  1. Eduardo Nunez, 18, SS

Given his age, position, league, and home park, Nunez had arguably the best performance of any prospect on this list last season. Despite that as well as his solid tools across the board, especially defensively, Nunez only comes in 7th on this list because he will be starting the year in Tampa and I’m weary of how he’ll perform and what that will do to his future development. The organization was in a tough position as he had conquered the highest level of short-season ball they have and C.J. Henry would be holding the SS job for Charleston, so this is no fault of their own. It’s unfortunate that a numbers crunch may negatively affect his prospect status, but I guess it’s always best to have too many quality prospects at a position than not enough.

  1. Marcos Vechionacci, 19, 3B

Vechionacci was last year’s teenaged phenom and I was perhaps his biggest backer, going as far as to insinuate his age-18 season in full season ball would be perhaps comparable to B.J. Upton’s. It didn’t come close. Vechionacci started the year off all right, but struggled after hurting himself in a home plate collision early in the season. I feel that this incident may have been a contributing factor in his poor performance as what he lacked was proper drive on balls he connected with and since the injury was a lower body one, it might have affected his ability to generate power in his swing. One positive that came out of the season was that after switching to 3B permanently Vechionacci was widely regarded as a future Gold Glover. He’ll start the season in Tampa, which I’m lukewarm about, though similar to last year I’ll place my faith in his strike zone judgment to overcome, hopefully this time it’ll work out better.

  1. Austin Jackson, 19, CF

While there were some worries about how Jackson, a borderline first-round talent picked up in the eighth, would adjust to pro ball based on his having focused more on basketball as an amateur, he hit well in his pro debut. In the ’05 GCL, Jackson hit for a high average and drew walks though he only showed gap power. Defensively, Jackson projects to stick in CF and if he can maintain the K:BB ratio he held in ’05, or come close, he should fulfill his offensive potential and become a good number 2 hitter, perhaps in the mold of a Derek Jeter. The likelihood of him doing so isn’t assured though as even after the good debut his approach at the plate is still questioned by the scouts.

  1. C.J. Henry, 19, SS

Henry was the Yankees’ first round pick in 2005, but only got off to a so-so start to his career in last year’s GCL. The primary problem for Henry was strikeouts and whenever those are an issue it always bears watching. Henry did everything else well though and scouts don’t seem to doubt his ability to hit for average down the line, so hopefully strikeouts won’t hinder him in ’05.

  1. Tim Battle, 20, CF

In terms of pure physical talent, Tim Battle could arguably place number 1 on this list. However, tools alone do not make a prospect, as performance is necessary as well. ’06 was Battle’s third year in the Yankee farm system and the first where he showed any type of offensive consistency. The consistency saw Battle end the season with a .259 average, 60 XBH, and 40 steals; all career highs. Unfortunately, Battle also struck out 195 times in 525 ABs. Because of the high strikeout rate I have no faith Battle will hit at the highest level, however he sits this high on the list because if he does get his strikeouts down, there’s nothing on the baseball field he can’t do. Battle’s chances of making the necessary adjustments are decent, I feel, because his approach at the plate isn’t a reckless one, it’s just that he tends to chase 2-strike pitches so perhaps a mental adjustment needs to be made.

  1. Brett Gardner, 22, CF

While Battle is the CF who’s all about potential, Gardner is all about polish. Gardner was a guy who I was not a fan of when he was drafted, but I’ve come around on him as he does have terrific speed and projects as both a good CF and leadoff hitter at the highest level. Additionally, Gardner is not completely without punch, which I thought might be the case. He will start the season as the CF for Tampa, pushing Battle over to a corner, and I expect him to end the year at least in AA as he controls the strike zone well and plays within himself.

  1. Matt DeSalvo, 25, RHP

If the Yankee rotation goes through problems of injury or ineffectiveness it is likely that DeSalvo will get the first call after impressing in ST. Overlooked because he is a smallish RHP and can only touch 94 once in a while, DeSalvo is a groundball pitcher that racks up strikeouts. The biggest flaw in his game at this point is that from time to time he can get wild and run up the walk totals. This was especially the case at times early in ’05, but Matt adjusted to the level and ended up being one of the best pitchers in his league as has been the case every step of the way of his career. He might not have front of the rotation potential, but DeSalvo should be able to be at least a solid 4 or good 5 and that could be as soon as this year.

  1. Melky Cabrera, 21, CF

Most Yankee fans likely have a very negative impression of Cabrera who struggled in the field and at the plate during his ridiculously brief ML call-up. Melky was not ready at the time and the Yankees had no business calling him up, so to some extent, failure should have been expected. Why the Yankees are continuing to rush Cabrera after that experience, now by starting him in AAA rather than allowing him to experience consistent AA success, I’m not quite sure. The decision is even more questionable considering that there is no need for a CF at the big league level and no top-flight CF manning the position at AA. Similar to Duncan, if he succeeds, it will be a case of talent overcoming questionable management.

  1. J.B. Cox, 21, RHP

While he doesn’t have the stuff of say…Craig Hansen, who looks like the next Mariano Rivera, J.B. Cox should at least make a great set-up man someday. He strikes out more than his fair share of batters, gets tons of groundballs, and is battle proven, having closed the door in many a pressure packed game as the former closer for the Texas college baseball program. Some have made comparisons to the man who held that job before him, Huston Street, but it’s hard to expect someone to be that good that quick. If the ML bullpen ends up performing as questionably as the track record of the players involved in it would have one believe they will Cox should get a look come mid-season.

  1. Alan Horne, 23, RHP

Horne signed too late to pitch in ’05, but he is making this list strictly off the buzz from his instructional league performance as well as reports from his amateur career where he always noted as a high ceiling guy who was rough around the edges. The roughness around the edges is due to his injury history as well as less than ideal control. Horne will open this season at Tampa and if he stays healthy, hopefully will make his way to AA at some point.

  1. Jeff Karstens, 23, RHP

I have a soft spot for Jeff Karstens and his all-around average repertoire of pitches. He’s a guy who will never amount to a star, but does enough, eating up innings, striking out a decent amount of batters, keeping his walk rate low, getting a decent amount of groundballs, that I just feel he will be a big leaguer. His likely role in the big leagues is as a swingman/spot starter and don’t expect anything too nice, but it’s always nice to have those guys on your staff who you can call on to get outs and eat innings from the bullpen.

  1. Sean Henn, 24, LHP

Similar to Melky Cabrera, most Yankee fans may not have fond memories of Sean Henn. Unlike Melky, the problem with Henn wasn’t that he had show no signs of readiness, but that when he made the jump he suffered from big league jitters. These jitters had a huge effect on Henn’s control and command as he threw a lot of balls outside the strike zone and when he did get in the strike zone he served up meatballs due to missing spots within the zone. His fastball-slider combo from the left-side has had many, including myself, begging for him to be converted to a middle reliever, which I feel is a spot he would excel in, but the Yankees seem focused on making him a SP where his potential is strictly back of the rotation. Hopefully, he’ll be more mentally prepared for the big leagues this season.

  1. Steven White, 24, RHP

White is a big guy with a big fastball who some scouts project as a middle of the rotation workhorse. With no minor league evidence to backup the workhorse claim and without any incredibly impressive performance on his career ledger, at this point White is resting on the fact that he can throw a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s. He will begin the year at AA as the opening day starter, where hopefully he can improve on last year where he struggled with his control and got hit hard early only to succumb to injury and ineffectiveness until the last couple starts of the AA season. Despite the offensive-mindedness of the AFL, I’m not especially encouraged by White’s performance there either as he continued to have mediocre walk and strikeout rates considering his billing and I feel that is what he needs to correct to fulfill the potential scouts see in him.

  1. Darrell Rasner, 25, RHP

Rasner was an off-season gift from Jim Bowden. He will join DeSalvo, Henn, and Karstens as part of the most exciting Columbus rotation in years, full of young-ish pitchers who could serviceably fill out the back of a ML rotation. Rasner is the only one with positive big league experience, but has the lowest ceiling. Nevertheless, his good control and groundball tendencies should hopefully allow him to do the job when his time comes and considering the Yankee rotation has guys such as Chien-Ming Wang, who refuse to pick up Derek Jeter, we’ll probably see him at some point.

  1. Justin Christian, 25, OF

Christian is another personal favorite of mine. While not blessed with amazing physical talent, outside of his speed, Christian has made an impression with his solid plate approach, surprising pop, and all out play. He will begin ’06 at AA, making the transition from 2B where his lack of arm strength as well as error-prone play were serving as primary hindrances in him fulfilling his destiny as a valuable player off the bench.

  1. Jason Stephens, 21, RHP

In his 4th professional season, Jason Stephens will finally be making the transition to full season baseball. His stuff hasn’t developed as expected as he was only touching the low 90s during last year’s NYPL, but he has done a good enough job getting outs, especially those valuable groundball ones, and his control is good enough to the point where he is still interesting. Plus, at 21 he’s young enough where he may still add something to that fastball and if everything goes right we might even have a Mark Prior on our hands.

  1. Garret Patterson, 23, LHP

Patterson makes this list because he’s a LHP that throws really hard, touching 96, and strikes lots of guys out. Unfortunately, he also walks a lot of guys, and at 23 is older than you’d like considering the extent to how poor his control is and how far away he is on the developmental ladder.

  1. Matt Smith, 26, LHP

If spots at the major league level were decided solely on merit, the argument could be made that Matt Smith should have broken camp as part of the Yankee bullpen. However, there are a lot of politics involved in such decisions and Smith will have to be content to continue to dominate hitters out of the bullpen as part of Columbus’ bullpen corps. Unlike fellow AAA relief pitcher, Colter Bean, there is a pretty high chance Smith does get a look this season as the Yankee relief pitching looks shaky and his ability to, at the least, dominate LHB, is a precious commodity. Smith just needs to get his control in check at this point.

  1. Jose Gil, 19, C

In an organization with just about nothing at C at the minor league level, other than Irwil Rojas whose skill set is somewhat narrow, Jose Gil sticks out. Last year Gil showed pop to the gaps as well as good strike zone management indicators. He will make the transition to full season baseball this year and if he can continue to show even the slightest bit of pop he likely moves to 2nd best C in the organization behind Jorge Posada.

The Unassailable Derek Jeter
by SG

As I stayed up rwatching the Yankees blow their second consecutive game to Oakland that they could have or should have won, the one thing that sticks in my mind more than the result of the game was the infuriating Michael Kay and his idiotic comment when Derek Jeter fielded a tailor-made double play ball off his forehead and ended up costing Chien-Ming Wang 3 runs and his rhythm.

"You can't pin it all on Jeter. Wang did not pick up his teammate."

I'm tired of Jeter being above criticism. Like Joe Torre, who blew the game yesterday by saving Mariano Rivera's arm to pitch with a lead that never came, certain people in the Yankee organization are immune to second-guessing, while others have every little thing they do criticized. At this point, I've tuned out the media and their bleating about the Yankee payroll and about how the current Yankee team doesn't have the heart or chemistry or whatever they supposedly need to get back to winning World Series. Unfortunately, it's bleeding into the coverage of the games, and it makes it impossible to watch and listen at times.

I'm not so upset about the loss. While Chien-Ming Wang wasn't great, he looked decent until the Jeter error, throwing 91-94 and inducing weak contact. If he does not miss bats, he will be a victim to his teammates' poor range and bad hands/arms at times. Jaret Wright provided two solid innings of relief before losing it in his third inning, which gives some hope that he could be useful in spots in relief.

I'm still having trouble acceping Johnny Damon in a Yankee uniform. And it also looks like Andy Phillips is going to basically play Jason Giambi's late inning caddy, which is stupid for two reasons.

1) Phillips is probably a better hitter than Bernie right now
2) Removing Giambi's bat from close games is probably far more risky than allowing him to play defense.

I did not expect anything more than a 3-3 start to the season, and I'm still hopeful they can get there by taking two of three in Anaheim.

I do hate staying up for West Coast games when they lose though.

April 4, 2006

15 Down, 985 To Go
by Larry Mahnken

Lots of people have speculated on a 1000-run season for the Yankees this year, but I don't think we should count on that. 900 runs looks like a possibiltiy, but a grand? Well, that'll take some doing.

Good start. One out into the second inning, the Yankees were on a pace to score 7655 runs, and ended the game with an easy win, 15-2. A-Rod hit a grand slam, Godzilla a 3-run shot, and Bernie drove in the first run of the year. Nothing bad happened last night. Randy Johnson looked excellent and the lineup deadly, and all the positive predictions look possible.

But what does last night mean? Nothing, it's just one game, no more meaningful than a game next week. They won the opener last season and had to turn on the jets to catch Boston at season's end, they lost in 2004 and came within two outs of the pennant. I doubt you can make any connection between season opening performances and overall season performances. It's just one game.

Still, it's really nice to get that first win on the board, to keep alive the possibility of being one of the few teams to go wire-to-wire for the pennant, to get that magic number under 163. But until they can prove they can beat the D-Rays, I ain't getting excited.

April 3, 2006

by Larry Mahnken

OK, so it might rain, but if it doesn't, today is the first day of the 2006 season.

One of the nice things about getting older is that the offseason doesn't seem as long as it once did. OK, so the World Series ends later and the season starts sooner than it used to, so it is a few days shorter in actuality, but it feels even shorter than that.

There is a decidedly different feeling for me about this season than there has in seasons past. The biggest difference, I feel, is the general lack of difference between the team that ended last season on a 20-8 run and the team that will start this season. In recent seasons, offseason turnover has been almost the order of the day:

O'Neill->Shane Vander Wal

Also a quiet offseason -- White->Matsui was the only regular change, and Stanton->Hammond



This year, the team is more or less the same. Damon replaces Tino, Farsworth replaces Gordon, and Myers and Villone replace Leiter and Embree, but it's mostly the same squad. Same rotation, same lineup, somewhat different bullpen.

It's good to see, because there really wasn't much wrong with the team down the stretch, and the big change they made addressed their true need -- defense.

How will it play out? I think it'll turn out very well. I think the rotation will end up being stronger this season than it was last, and that the lineup will be a monster. The defense will still suck, but not as badly as it did, and overall, that's a better team than they had a year earlier. 100 wins? Maybe. Postseason? Probably. A World Championship?

Well, the Angels look like they may miss the playoffs, so maybe.

I'll fret over that stuff when they're 11-19, but today is a celebration! It's Opening Day! Yaaaaaaaaaay!

Opening Day?
by SG

In about 14 hrs, the Yankees are scheduled to open the 2006 season in Oakland. Unfortunately, there is a 90% chance of rain in the forecast, so they may not be able to play. If they do, Joe Torre has announced his lineup, which has already aggravated me.

1. CF Johnny Damon
2. SS Derek Jeter
3. RF Gary Sheffield
4. 3B Alex Rodriguez
5. 1B Jason Giambi
6. LF Hideki Matsui
7. C Jorge Posada
8. DH Bernie Williams
9. 2B Robinson Cano

It's amazing to me that Torre is so obsessed with getting his own platoon advantage but ignoring it in this instance. Not breaking up Giambi and Matsui, or Cano and Damon, makes little sense. I guess I have my first managerial decision to gripe about.

If the game does get in, it'll be Randy Johnson vs. Barry Zito.

Some people are asking if the Yankees' lineup is among the best ever.

Four years ago, it very well may have been. I don't think so now.

At last the offseason is over, and all the projections and things can be thrown out the window. Opening Day rocks!

cutter asked me to look at the defenses of the last few World Series winners, so I did. Here are the results.

2001 Diamond Backs

A solidly average defensive unit, with only our old friend Tony Womack as a really glaring weak spot.

2002 Angels

I was shocked when I ran these numbers. This could possibly be the greatest defensive season a team ever had. Every single position was at least 3 runs above average. Amazing. No wonder they kicked the Yankees' asses.

2003 Marlins

Another very good defensive team. Juan Encarnacion and Luis Castillo especially were key.

2004 Red Sox

Finally, the outlier. If you're going to be 61 runs below average on defense, it helps if you can hit the hell out of the ball and have Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling I guess. It should be noted that the Red Sox that went to the postseason were much improved, as they swapped out well below average Nomar Garciapparra for the average fielding(for the Red Sox) Orlando Cabrera, and also added Doug Mientkiewicz, whose numbers are not above due to his shared time with Minnesota, but was definitely an upgrade.

2005 White Sox

Another excellent defensive team. I think Derek Jeter owes Juan Uribe a Gold Glove award. It will be interesting to see how much the White Sox miss Aaron Rowand this season.