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July 31, 2006

ESPN - Yanks send Chacon to Pirates, get Craig Wilson back
by SG

Link procured (thanks to James Varghese)
The Yankees traded pitcher Shawn Chacon to the Pirates for infielder Craig Wilson, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported.

Chacon is 5-3 with a 7.00 ERA in 17 games with the Yankees.

Wilson is batting .267 with 13 homers and 41 RBI in 85 games with the Pirates.

Another great deal by Cashman. I wish Chacon well in Pittsburgh, but this is a massive upgrade on offense and does not hurt the pitching staff at all.

UPDATE: From Peter Abraham's blog, the roster shakeout is starting.

Back shortly after we speak with Brian Cashman.

Aaron Guiel has been optioned to Columbus. Sidney Ponson has agreed to pitch out of the bullpen as the long reliever. Cashman says that Andy Phillips "definitely has a place on this team" and they will announce a move tomorrow.

A Cloud For Every Silver Lining
by Larry Mahnken

Bobby Abreu has been one of the most underrated players in baseball for years. Despite consistently being one of the best hitters in the National League, he's only made two All-Star Games, though his appearance in the 2005 Home Run Derby brought him to national prominence.

The problem, of course, is that almost as soon as the Derby was over, Abreu stopped being a great player. He posted a .787 OPS the rest of 2005, and has a .270/.405/.424 line since the 2005 break. Not bad. Not good.

That's a long time to be so much less than you once were, and one has to wonder whether he'll ever be what he once was again. Perhaps his bat speed has slowed down, and he can no longer drive the ball as he once did. Abreu has a mere 14 home runs in the past 168 games, and just one in the last two months -- and that one was in mid-June.

Since May 31st, when he started the game with a .280/.455/.522 line, Abreu has posted a line of .275/.399/.354. In contrast, Melky Cabrera has a .266/.336/.387 line and Bernie Williams a .284/.327/.484 line. That insufficient duo has posted a higher OPS in that time, and though his OBP makes him far more valuable than them, is that really a $16 million improvement?

Of course the Yankees are hoping for the .977 OPS Abreu, not the .753 OPS one, and they'll settle for the average of the two. But while this was no doubt a good trade for New York, since they gave up nothing that looks like it will help them in the forseeable future, it hardly finished off the AL East race, or puts them in the playoffs.

Oh, how unfair it is for the Yankees to get this player! Give me a break. I'm sick of this refrain year in and year out every time the Yankees get a player without having to give up their best prospects. Fact is, you rarely have to give up great prospects for a player with a contract like Abreu's anymore, you merely need to be willing to take the money.

The Tigers and White Sox could both have afforded Abreu, as could several other contending teams, if they were willing to take a financial risk. The Yankees' advantage wasn't the ability to take this contract, it was the willingness to take it. Abreu limited Gillick to the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Angels. Both the Mets and Red Sox could have offered better prospects, but both teams would prefer to pursue pitching, and while "driving up the cost" for the Yankees could have tempted the Red Sox to come in on the bidding, they would have reached the point where Philly called them on it and accepted a deal -- at which point Boston probably would have backed away and the deal would have reverted to New York. Of course the Red Sox could have taken Abreu. But they didn't want to -- they feel it hurts their chances to improve elsewhere. The Yankees didn't think so, and so they pulled the trigger.

I'm happy. You're hearing a lot of sour grapes out there ("it can't be fun rooting for a team that buys players!), but we all know it's bullshit. It's fun to have a team that'll go out and get those guys when they're available to them. It's fun being in the playoffs every year. It's fun being a Yankees fan.

And all those whining fans of other teams would love it if their teams did the same thing, too.

July 30, 2006

Yanks get Lidle!
by SG

The Yankees beat Tampa Bay today 4-2 behind two homers by Johnny Damon, seven good innings by Mike Mussina, and good relief by Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera.

While the game was going on, the news came down that the Yankees have tentatively reached an agreement with the Philies on Bobby Abreu. Obviously, this improves the major league team, but by how much? A lot of that depends on how the Yankees deploy the personnel on the roster.

The Yankees now have some choices to make regarding 1B, DH, LF and RF. Assuming the healthy return of Hideki Matsui some time in the next few weeks, here are the the players vying for playing time. The Yankees have 60 games remaining after today, and below are the projected run values of each player on offense and defense if they play at their current level over the rest of the season. There are two columns, On Pace includes offense and defense, DH is if the player is strictly DHing. To make things even murkier, I'm going to add Carlos Pena's name to the mix. Thanks to Sean Smith at his blog, we have an MLE for Carlos Pena. If you're not familiar with MLE, it stands for major league equivalency and is a way to translate a player's minor league performance to what it would be in the majors. Dan Szymborksi goes over the steps to calculate these if you're curious. Pena's MLE is .227/.328/.390 which is not great, but it is better than Andy Phillips. I don't have Pena's minor league defensive numbers, so I'll use his major league average over the last 5 seasons, which makes him about a -7 over 150 games. Scouts like his defense more than zone rating, so keep that in mind.

First of all, here's the combination the Yankees are running out there right now.

This combination of players would be worth a total of about 16 runs on offense and defense over the remaining 60 games of the season. That is as compared to average, as are all the numbers listed here.

So now, we add Abreu to the mix. There are few different options to juggle the lineup, and here they are. I'm going to assume Abreu in RF as a constant.

This combination would seem to be the best option in combining offense and defense. It's a twenty run upgrade over the current configuration, or roughly two wins. Again, this is based on current performance pro-rated over the remaining 60 games of the season.

This is a more realistic option given Joe Torre's love of veterans and this being Bernie's time of the year and all. Swapping Bernie for Phillips is actually an offensive upgrade, but it does lead to the issue of Giambi at first base. He'll cost the team runs on defense, and he'll be subbed out for in late innings due to his defense which could end up costing the team Giambi's bat in high leverage situations.

The option none of us want, Bernie taking playing time away from Melky.

To complicate matters in a good way, the Yankees are also looking at the potential return of Hideki Matsui. Assuming Matsui comes back, here are some more options.

This assumes that Matsui starts off at DH to ease back into playing.

If Bernie takes Melky's playing time, the Yankees would lose about 7 runs over the rest of the season.

Swapping Matsui and Bernie in the field and DH doesn't change the bottom line of this group. Matsui's defense was pretty bad in LF before he got hurt, but it was a very small sample size and likely overstates his defensive deficiencies somewhat.

So what about adding Pena?

If current performance holds, this is the best lineup the Yankees can run out there. This would be a 29 run upgrade over what the Yankees are using right now.

Getting Abreu upgrades the team by two to three wins. This is a huge upgrade for a midseason trade. Abreu's only 32 years old, and only signed through 2007. The numbers above account for his lower than typical power numbers. If he rediscovers his power stroke, he's an even bigger improvement than they show. Abreu is a career .303/.411/.512 hitter and gives the Yankees another good OBP guy in the middle of the order. He's got a good throwing arm, and looks to be about an average defensive OF by zone rating this season. He's also a good percentage base stealer (20 in 24 attempts this season).

One concern is going to be Torre's desire to get Bernie Williams more playing time than he deserves. Bernie can probably DH against lefties with Giambi getting the playing time at first base. That should be the extent of his role going forward. I'm not sure who will be dumped on the offensive side, although I certainly hope it's the runaway DFA poll winner, Bubba Crosby.

I also think it's time to cut bait on Andy Phillips. I thought Phillips deserved a chance and he's gotten one, but he's just not hitting right now and the Yankees seem to have a better option on hand in Carlos Pena. If they swap Phillips for Pena it would be about a one win upgrade over the rest of the season if they both continue to play as they have. I don't think the Yankees can risk not taking that win. Phillips could have use on the bench as a backup 1B, 2B, and 3B and righty pinch-hitter, but I don't think he's a starting caliber first baseman.

Getting Abreu was not free, and when you trade minor leaguers, it's a risk. However, when you trade low A prospects, the odds are much better that they won't come back to haunt you. It's way too soon to write off C.J. Henry as a bust, but it's fair to say that to this point he's been a big disappointment. We've seen Matt Smith, and he could be a useful reliever, but he's hardly a huge loss. I don't know enough about the other two prospects to really say much about them, but from what I've read they are both talented but too far away to really evaluate right now.

Frankly, I don't know or care what Lidle gives the Yankees. He's probably a decent bet to outpitch Sidney Ponson over the rest of the season, and he's averaging around six innings a start, but he will be moving to the DH league and is a ground ball pitcher who'll now be playing in front of a shaky infield defense, especially if Giambi is out there. He'll probably take Ponson's roster spot, although maybe not.

Given what the numbers say, if Robinson Cano and Matsui get back, I'd love to see this lineup.

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

There's no easy way to break up all the lefties that makes sense, but that lineup would kick some serious ass. Unless they played Minnesota in the playoffs.

You can vote on whether or not you like the Abreu/Lidle acquisition in the new poll on the left.

Also, under the poll I've linked the Lineup Toy that I was using in the offseason, but have updated to included 2006 YTD performance. You can use this to try out the various combinations of Yankee players on offense. The list of players in my lineup above would score an average of 6.9 runs a game. Swapping Melky for Sheffield means 7.1 runs a game.

ESPN - Yankees have tentative deal for Abreu, Lidle
by SG's Jayson Stark reported the Yankees will send 18-year-old minor-league shortstop C.J. Henry -- their No. 1 pick in 2005 -- and 27-year-old left-handed reliever Matt Smith. The Phillies will also pick one other minor-leauge player from an agreed-upon list, while the Yankees will take on responsibility for Abreu and Lidle's contracts.

More to come if this gets confirmed.

Update: Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal has more details about the tentative agreement.

The Yankees would get Abreu and right-hander Cory Lidle in the deal.

In return, the Phillies will get four minor leaguers — Class A shortstop C.J. Henry, the Yankees' first pick in the 2005 draft, Class AAA left-hander Matt Smith, 27, and catcher Jesus Sanchez, 18, and right-hander Carlos Monasterios, 20, both of whom are with the Yankees' rookie ball affiliate in the Class A Gulf Coast League.

It's official: - Phillies trade Abreu to Yankees

The shift of Shane Victorino to right field and insertion of Aaron Rowand in center was simply the fallout of the blockbuster that Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees for a quartet of prospects headed by former first-round draft pick C.J. Henry.

Henry, 20, the Yankees' No. 1 pick in 2005, comes to Philadelphia with 27-year-old left-handed reliever Matt Smith, catcher Jesus Sanchez and right-hander Carlos Monasterios.

The Yankees will assume Abreu and Lidle's contracts. Abreu alone is due close to $37 million over the next 2 1/2 seasons, while Lidle is in the final season of a two-year, $6.3 million contract he signed in November 2004.

July 27, 2006

Messin' with Texas Thrice
by SG

As you can probably tell, I need a headline writer. The Yankees edged the Rangers 8-7 last night in an emotional rollercoaster of a game.

The Yankees took a quick 2-0 lead in the first when the slumping Andy Phillips worked a full count before hitting a two out, two RBI single. Jaret Wright pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, which shocked the hell out of me, and all appeared to be well.

The Yankee offense then remembered it was House Money day and took the next few innings off, while Texas scored four runs over the next three innings to take a 4-2 lead. Wright pitched into the sixth, and was relieved by Ron Villone after allowing a single with one out. Villone was outstanding in relieving Wright, pitching 1.2 perfect innings in 19 pitches.

The Yankees exploded in the eighth against Francisco Cordero. Alex Rodriguez led off with a HR that cut the deficit to 4-3. Bernie Williams staying in the game against a righty drew a walk, and then Andy Phillips got another hit (one of 3 on the evening). At this point, Joe Torre made the questionable call to bunt with Melky Cabrera with up, even though the Yankees only had six outs left to tie the game and with the fearsome twosome of Sal Fasano and Miguel Cairo due behind him. There's no question that Jorge Posada would have pinch hit for Fasano, but Posada strikes out a lot and Cordero is a strikeout pitcher, so it's not a given that he would have driven in a run with an out. Regardless, Melky's bad bunting on two attempts changed the strategy, although Torre said they took the bunt sign off after the first bad attempt and Melky missed it, which was a good decision by Torre I think. Melky came back from the 0-2 hole to drive a double over Kevin Mench's head in left, plating the tying and go-ahead runners. Fasano then bunted Melky to third, and a wild pitch scored him.

Then came the excitement that was the bottom of the eighth. It started with the Yankees leading 6-4 and with T.J. Beam on the mound. Beam's a relief prospect who has had very good success in the minors, but not much success in the majors. I was livid when I saw this, and wanted to blame Joe Torre. However, as the story of the evening unfolded I realized that Torre was right, and myself and all the second-guessers were wrong. Kyle Farnsworth was supposed to come in at this point, but could not get loose due to a back problem. I guess the argument could be made that Villone should have been kept in, but one of the chief critiques that I give Torre is that he is not willing to trust unproven relievers, so it's hypocritical to criticize him for using Beam in that situation.

Unfortunately, Beam couldn't throw strikes at first, walking the leadoff hitter. He then gave up a ground rule double to Ian Kinsler, putting the tying run on second base with no outs. Torre went to Scott Proctor, which I was also upset about at the time, but again, in hindsight, he didn't seem to have any other choice. Proctor had nothing, which is not surprising considering his recent workload, and gave up four straight hits, giving Texas the tie and then the lead, and leaving the bases loaded, with the Yankees trailing 7-6, and no outs.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and nothing seemed more desperate than having to go to Shawn Chacon in that spot. The league is hitting .296/.386/.519 against Chacon this season. He's walked 34 in 60 innings. He's been awful. However, Chacon sacked up, fanning Mark DeRosa. Brad Wilkerson then lined one up the middle that probably would have been a two run single had it not found its way into Chacon's glove. Chacon looked around and found Jerry Hairston too far off first and got a huge double play, and the Yankees were still within one at 7-6, with Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, and Alex Rodriguez due up.

Jeter did what he has been doing better than any Yankee this season, and got on base by way of a single. Giambi then stepped up, and I just had a good feeling. Otsuka seems like the kind of pitcher that Giambi should feast on, since he relies on deception and Giambi's exceptional ability to read pitches out of pitcher's hand makes him less susceptible to that sort of pitcher. Giambi hit an absolute monster shot that may not have landed yet, and the Yankees had the lead back, with Mariano Rivera warming.

Mo did his thing, the Yankees won, and swept Texas. For those of you who are anxiously watching the scoreboards (it's still too early for me), the Yankees are now leading the wild card chase and are 1 game back of Boston in the loss column.

After a bad start in Toronto, the road trip turned out pretty well. Now the Yankees head home to face Tampa Bay, and will apparently miss Scott Kazmir, who's got a sore arm. With all sorts of trade rumors circulating, it'll be interesting to see if anything changes between now and the deadline.

Update: I picked up this link from Bronx Banter. It's a blog entry by Peter Abraham about Joe Torre on the Baseball Analysts site. Interesting stuff, and a little more of a window into why Torre may be a better manager than his tactical choices make him appear to be sometimes.

July 26, 2006

7/26/06 - House Money Day: Yanks at Rangers - 8:05 PM ET
by SG

Peter Abraham's got the lineup posted on his blog, and here it is.

Johnny Damon CF
Derek Jeter SS
Jason Giambi DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Bernie Williams RF
Andy Phillips 1B
Melky Cabrera LF
Sal Fasano C
Miguel Cairo 2B

Jaret Wright RHP

Sal Fasano makes his Yankee debut against a lefty, which is good. He's hit .231/.311/.458 vs lefties compared to .223/.296/.384 vs. righties in his career. Good to see Damon back in the lineup.

Messin' with Texas Again
by SG

The Yankees beat Texas again last night, 7-4 in large part thanks to Bernie Williams's "platoon" partner Aaron Guiel. Moose got his 12th win, Scott Proctor pitched well again, and Mariano Rivera lowered his ERA back under 2 where it belongs.

I want to believe Proctor is legit, but I still feel like a moron for believing that Tanyon Sturtze was legit and that first month Proctor was legit. It's great to see him doing well, but I will remain skeptical, although zero walks since the All Star Break is extremely encouraging. Skepticism will make his inevitable dead arm or injury less painful.

Any other team would be going for the sweep today, but the Yankees will instead trot out the House Money lineup. House Money lineup plus Jaret Wright pitching sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

Don't forget to vote in the new DFA survey. Bubba Crosby and Sidney Ponson are neck and neck.

Update: According to the New York Post the Yankees have picked up Sal Fasano (thanks to Mike K.)
Looking to upgrade their backup catching situation the Yankees acquired Sal Fasano from the Phillies last night for an undisclosed minor leaguer, The Post has learned.

Fasano had been designated for assignment by the Phillies last weekend and immediately caught the Yankees' attention because he was with them in spring training in 2004 and spent the season with Columbus (Triple-A).

Fasano, 34, is expected to replace Kelly Stinnett.

It's great that a career .225/.300/.404 hitter is an upgrade. Defensively, Fasano's been about -2 runs over average over his 366 innings, compared to Stinnett's -2 over 221 innings, so it's not going to be a very big defensive upgrade either, apparently. It can't hurt to get rid of Stinnett anyway.

Update part deux: Stinnett DFA'd, Hector Made sent to Philadelphia for Sal Fasano
ARLINGTON -- Looking to improve their backup catcher position, the Yankees acquired Sal Fasano from the Phillies on Wednesday morning.

New York sent Minor League infielder Hector Made to Philadelphia to complete the deal.

To make room for Fasano on their roster, the Yankees designated Kelly Stinnett for assignment.
Thanks to J for the link.

July 25, 2006

Messin' with Texas
by SG

After a disappointing series in Toronto, the Yankees rebounded nicely to top Texas 6-2 last night. Randy Johnson pitched pretty well, although his command wasn't great and he struggled to get through six innings. After the game Johnson admitted some residual effects from his 130 pitch outing last time, although it didn't seem to affect his fastball, which reached 96 mph. I don't think the occasional high pitch outing is a big deal for veteran pitchers, but I'd hope the Yankees try to be a bit more judicious regarding Johnson's workload over the next few starts just in case.

Johnson continued a good trend of late by getting strikeouts. When Johnson has been effective as a Yankee, he's had a lot of trouble putting hitters away when he gets to two strikes.

Over his first 14 games, Johnson had pitched 80 innings, allowed 82 hits, 15 HR, 31 BB, and gotten 63 K, with an ERA of 5.62. His K per 9 was 7.2, his BB per 9 was 3.5, and his HR per 9 was 1.69. His K/BB ratio was a pedestrian 2.03. Over his last 8 games, he's pitched 55 innings, allowed 46 hits, 5 hR, 8 BB, and gotten 58 K, with an ERA of 3.60. Over this most recent stretch, his K per 9 is 9.5, his BB per 9 is 1.3, his HR/9 is .82, and his K/BB ratio is a very good 7.25. There's no reason to think the Johnson of the first 14 starts is gone, but let's hope he doesn't show up very much over the remainder of the season.

For all the grief Miguel Cairo gets from some circles, you'd think he was the most horrendous player ever. Despite that, his 2 run double in yesterday's game was key, as was a tremendous pick at second base of a bad throw from Johnson on a grounder up the middle that led to catching Gary Matthews Jr. in a rundown.

Derek Jeter also had a good game with 2 extra base hits, although he looked like he may have gotten banged up and was subbed for Nick Green late in the game. I noticed Jeter's G/F ratio the other day was an extremely high 3.84 this season. This very likely explains his high average and lower than expected power. I have no idea if this is a conscious change in his approach or a lingering effect of the various bumps and bruises he's suffered this year, but I can't complain about the results. If only he'd stop bunting...

Despite it being a 6-2 game, Joe Torre went with his 7th/8th/9th inning guys. I should be annoyed about that I suppose, but after the Wayne Franklin horror show last time in Texas I'm not. Let's hope it doesn't come back to hurt them over the next two games.

Melky Cabrera's 3 hits boosted his SLG to .395. .400 is so close I can feel it. I'd be estatic if he can maintain an OPS in the .770-.800 range this season as a 21 year old, especially if his recent better defensive play is legit. He picked up another OF assist too.

The injury situation was supposed to be getting better by now, but instead it is getting worse. In addition to Jeter who appears to be fine to play tonight, Johnny Damon "tweaked" his back getting out of a car and may miss a few games. Hideki Matsui has begun his workouts in Tampa, according to the NY Post's George King.
Three weeks ago, Hideki Matsui said he wanted to return from a fractured wrist by Aug. 15. Yesterday, he wasn't sure if he could meet that goal.

Matsui took 75 swings with a 24-inch bat and hit off the tee with his right hand. He took 25 dry swings with both hands. Matsui ran and played catch.

Robinson Cano's still at least two weeks away. Octavio Dotel was again cleared to throw, this time off flat ground, so he may rejoin the team sometime. I'll wait with bated breath.

The DFA poll worked even better than the DFA watch, as runaway leader Kris Wilson was DFA'd before we had a chance to put him on watch. sorry Kris.

Tonight, Moose (11-3, 3.39) vs.Adam Eaton, who's making his first start of the season. He's pitched 12.1 innings in the minors in 4 rehab starts, allowing 10 hits, 2 R, 3 B, and 13 K.

Eaton's scouting report from Stats Inc
For all the tinkering that he and his coaches did with his mechanics-from lowering his arm angle to dropping a pitch altogether-what "fixed" Eaton was simply making smarter pitches. With a moving fastball ranging from 92-97 MPH, a very big-breaking slow curve, a good change and slider, it didn't make sense that he was getting hit as hard as he was. Making mistakes with his fastball, especially when ahead in the count, turned out to be his undoing. Most of the time it appeared that Eaton was thinking too much about the sequence rather than concentrating on making the next quality pitch.
Hopefully the Yankees give him a nice American League welcome.

July 24, 2006

How to Play Like Crap
by SG

It's not really a newsflash that the Yankees have stunk over their last five games. On July 18, after winning nine of ten games, the Yankees were .5 games out of first place and seemingly surging. Since then, they've lost four of five games, culminating in today's 15-3 13-5 thrashing at the hands of the Blue Jays, and have dropped two more games in the standing.

I realize that the popular opinion among many is to blame this all on Alex Rodriguez, who had a horrendous week (particularly defensively), but looking at the five game stats shows an entire team in a slump.

So the whole team is hitting like RLYW's favorite whipping boy Tony Womack right now. Derek Jeter is hitting decently, but when the team is struggling to get any offense, I really wish he'd eschew the stupid bunts that he is so fond of, especially when there is no one else on the team that is hitting. I've been touting Andy Phillips due to his minor league performance and his glove, but his offense has gotten to the point where he is hurting the team, regardless of his glove being an upgrade over Giambi. I don't think the team can afford to keep running him out there at this point. He's not a passable first baseman right now. I don't know that Carlos Pena is any great bet, but I'd have to think he'd outperform Phillips right now, and I was not very confident in that before.

I'm hoping we've seen the last of Ponson and Wilson. Proctor's been upping his K rate as the season has progressed, which is a good sign going forward. He's looked nasty since the break.

So, back to Rodriguez and his horrible defense, here is a look at just how bad he was by the numbers. As I've mentioned before, I've been trying to track defense weekly by saving ZR and fielding stats every week. Here's the story of Rodriguez's season on defense so far this year.

Focusing on his play since the All Star Break, Rodriguez has had 23 balls hit into his zone. The average 3B in the AL would have converted 17 of these chances into outs. Rodriguez has only converted 11. I find Rodriguez's defensive problems to be really mind-boggling, because he was very good in his first year at 3B (around +9 runs over average) and was previously a very good shortstop. Hitters all have slumps, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect more defensive consistency than Rodriguez has given the team over the last 1.5 seasons. Hopefully it gets better.

Anyway, the team's playing like crap but are still only 2.5 games out, and a few days closer to having some reinforcements back, although who will be back and when appear to still be open questions. If Hideki Matsui's progress continues, it'll be interesting to see how the Yankees handle Melky Cabrera. Cabrera's had a decent season to this point, although still below average on offense and defense for a corner OF. He's shown good potential in a variety of areas including the best throwing arm the Yankees have had in the OF in a few years, and has played better than Bernie Williams or Bubba Crosby. The one area where Melky can make the biggest difference is on defense, a sore spot for the Yankees. Melky's Zone Rating is still below average in LF, but the trend is very encouraging, as you can see by the numbers below.

If you break Melky's season into two halves, you can see the stark difference in his defensive numbers. A zone rating of .890 in LF would make a player about nine runs better than average over a full season. Again, we're dealing with defensive metrics which are imperfect and we're also dealing with extremely small sample sizes, so none of this should be considered to be anything more than some information that you may or may not find useful. If he can maintain an above average ZR with his plus arm, he'll be an asset in RF. My fear is that Melky's going to ride the pine for Bernie when he is a better option. Getting Matsui back will be a big plus, whether he replaces Melky or Bernie, but it'll be a bigger plus if he replaces Bernie.

Incidentally, remember when Joe Torre said he was going to "platoon Bernie and Aaron Guiel"? What kind of platoon has Bernie playing against every freaking righty and lefty in the league?

The Yanks are off to Texas, a place they've always seemed to play poorly in. Maybe they can bring back Wayne Franklin for old-time's sake. Yeah, I'm still annoyed about that. Randy Johnson (10-8, 4.88) takes on Kevin Millwood (10-5, 4.61) in the opener. We'll see if I was right not to be worried about Johnson throwing around 130 pitches last time out.

By the way, there's a new feature on the left under the Hardball Times and Yankees World Series DVD links. You can cast your vote for whom the Yankees should DFA next and that person will be the next person put on watch. I'll leave voting open all week.

July 21, 2006

by SG

When the Yankees scored three runs off Roy Halladay, and with Mike Mussina cruising, it looked like the Yanks were on their way to a big series opening win against the Blue Jays. Then came the bottom of the sixth. After a leadoff double by Aaron Hill followed by a groundout that advanced Hill to third, Mussina got Reed Johnson to ground to third. Alex Rodriguez made a bad decision, although Jorge Posada was signalling to Rodriguez to throw home. Instead of taking the sure out at first and preserving a 3-1 lead, Rodriguez tried to cut down the runner going home, threw wildly, and the Blue Jays took advantage, scoring four runs in the frame.

The Yankees rallied to tie the game off B.J. Ryan, but then couldn't score before the Blue Jays did in extra innings, and lost 5-4.

It was a tough loss. It was a frustrating loss. It was largely Alex Rodriguez's fault. I still think he's one of the best players in the league, and will eventually prove his worth this season. The A-Rod witchhunt has gotten to the point where I can't read any newspapers or watch ESPN. I'll be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of his before, but all the negative attention is making me pull for him more and more. I'd like to see the clowns that are psychoanalyzing him from their Bristol studios eating a heaping pile of crow.

As if the loss wasn't enough, Octavio Dotel suffered another setback and is going to be examined by Yankee team physician Stuart Hershon tomorrow. At this point I'd be surprised if Dotel makes it back this season.

There is good news about Hideki Matsui based on the broadcast tonight, as his bones have fused completely. Right now there is some expected muscle soreness in his wrist and forearm area, but once that clears he can begin taking batting practice. Matsui is targetting a return for the series with Boston in mid-August. Let's hope he can make it.

July 19, 2006

Starting Lineup: Mariners at Yankees, July 19 2006, 1:05 PM EDT
by SG

J. Damon cf
D. Jeter ss
J. Giambi dh
A. Rodriguez 3b
J. Posada c
A. Phillips 1b
M. Cabrera lf
A. Guiel rf
N. Green 2b
K. Stinnett C

R. Johnson P

Not a bad lineup. Let's hope Johnson has his Eduardo Perez issues under control.

Update: Posada is a late scratch due to the foul ball he took off his hand last night. Kelly "Strike out on 3 pitches" Stinnet is in. Suddenly that lineup is not so good.

I Dub Thee Sir Sidney
by SG

In a fun game reminiscent of the July 1, 2004 classic against Boston, the Yankees beat the Mariners 5-4 last night, when Melky Cabrera and his .385 SLG mark pulled a walkoff HR leading off the 11th.

Sidney Ponson's debut went pretty well, as he lasted 6.2 innings and allowed four runs, although three came in the first inning. I thought his stuff looked pretty good, as he sat at around 92 on his fastball, but his command was off. If he can give the team 6-7 innings and allow 3-4 runs in most of his starts he'll be doing his job.

It was Joe Torre's 66th birthday last night, and I thought he managed a gem of a game. He pulled Ponson at the right time and went to Ron Villone, which I liked. He pulled Ron Villone at the appropriate time when lefty killer Eduardo Perez pinch hit. He used his own bench just about perfectly with his pinch-hitting decisions. When all the lineup shuffling left the Yankees without a second baseman, he moved Johnny Damon to first base and Andy Phillips to second base. I always get a kick out of seeing guys playing out of position, and Damon at first base for the first time in his professional career was pretty funny.

The whole Yankee pen also did outstanding work, as Villone, Kris Wilson, Kyle Farnsworth, and Scott Proctor finished with 4.1 innings of 2 hit, 0 run, 4 K pitching. The All Star Break appears to have rejuvenated Proctor's arm, as he's pitched 4 hitless innings with 6 Ks.

I guess I should mention the gift call the Yankees got on a Jorge Posada grounder in the ninth where he was called safe even though he was clearly out. Consider it mentioned.

Don't forget, it's a day game today, Randy Johnson vs. Gil Meche at 1:05 PM ET.

July 18, 2006

Wang, Wang, Wang
by SG

The Yankees beat the Mariners 4-2 last night behind yet another good start by Chien-Ming Wang. Wang was not as sharp as he has been recently and didn't get much help from Alex Rodriguez defensively but pitched seven strong innings and allowed only two runs, resting the bullpen for the eight innings they will have to pitch today when Sir Sidney gets bombed.

I'm still worried about Wang's workload going forward as he's never pitched more than 160 innings in a season, but he's not that young so he may be able to handle it. I'm also pretty certain at this point that his low K rate is not going to be a big problem as long as he continues to do all the other things that he does well, namely getting ground ball DPs, controlling HRs, and not walking too many hitters.

Rodriguez was pulled from the game after seven innings in a story that the buffoons at Baseball Tonight couldn't wait to spin as proof that he has become Chuck Knoblauch. The real story is that Rodriguez had a bruised foot and is going to have X-rays. He had a bad game in the field and at the plate, but I wouldn't say it's anything more than that, and let's not forget that the Yankees did win the game.

With Robinson Cano still on the shelf, Miguel Cairo has been playing pretty much every day. While his offensive stats leave a lot to be desired, he's been playing outstanding defense and contributing enough that he's not a complete black hole. One thing Miggy has done better than Cano this season is hit with runners in scoring position as he's hit .333/.325/.410 compared to Cano's abysmal .227/.268/.320.

Here are your injury updates from

General manager Brian Cashman said Friday that Robinson Cano (hamstring) will not begin a minor league rehab assignment until next week. Cano, who has been out since June 25, was initially expected back a lot sooner. He's already missed 14 games. Jul. 15 - 10:23 am et

Octavio Dotel (elbow) pitched a perfect inning Saturday for Single-A Tampa. Dotel will likely make four or five more appearances before the Yankees consider activating him. He could join the pen before the end of the month

Also, during the game last night Michael Kay said that Hideki Matsui could very well be back in August. This could be great news on two fronts as it upgrades the Yankees and preserves the farm system. I'm hoping nothing comes of the newest Reggie Sanders rumors.

The Yankees are heavily involved in trade talks to acquire either the Phillies' Bobby Abreu or the Royals' Reggie Sanders.

The Yankees badly need an outfielder, but they have two things going for them in their pursuit: 1) They can afford high-priced outfielders (the $23 million remaining on Abreu's contract apparently doesn't faze them; neither does Sanders' $5 million salary in '07); and 2) there are plenty of outfielders available.

On Friday the Royals dropped their asking price on Sanders, and talks have progressed to the point where the Royals had a scout watching the Yankees over the weekend. Kansas City apparently is no longer insisting on prized pitching prospect Phil Hughes, Jose Tabata or Melky Cabrera and appears willing to choose from New York's second-tier prospects, which include Tyler Clippard, Jeff Karstens, Stephen White, Jeff Kennard and T.J. Beam. A deal may be expanded to also send relievers to the Yankees, possibly including veteran Elmer Dessens.

Abreu remains one of the Yankees' top choices, and the team hopes he'd waive his no-trade clause since he has a condo in Manhattan -- though it may take a financial inducement. His friends say Abreu would prefer the Mets because he'd like to stay in the National League.

I wouldn't give up anything for Sanders. He's no better than Kevin Thompson at this point, who is already on the team. Well, he was on the team until he was optioned to make room for Sir Sid. Abreu seems intriguing, but it would depend on the cost in terms of talent.

July 16, 2006

Gotta Go to Mo
by SG

The Yankees got the second half of the season off to a rousing start by sweeping the World Series champion White Sox over the weekend, taking the finale 6-4. The Yankees had not swept a series since beating Texas May 5-7.

Derek Jeter homered for the first time in months, and Alex Rodriguez also chipped in with a two run homer and some sparkling first inning defense that saved Jaret Wright's start from becoming ugly in a hurry.

The story of this game though, and really the story of the Yankees for the last ten years, was the continued excellence of Mariano Rivera. To his credit, Joe Torre threw caution to the wind and went to his best for six outs when the game became too close to risk any other option. When you have a two run lead and the tying run is on base with six outs to go, that is when you should use your best reliever. Rivera made it a little exciting in the ninth, but nailed down the save, his 21st of the season and 400th of his career.

There's no need to talk about stats when it comes to Mo. We all know them, and they're all eye-popping. When I watch the other team's broadcasts, the reverance and the respect every single opposing team's announcers have for the man says it all. So does the respect Ozzie Guillen paid him in the All Star Game, and so did the respect Joe Mauer showed when he told him it was an honor to catch him.

All I know is it's been a pleasure to watch his career from the start. Thanks for everything Sandman.

July 13, 2006

ESPN - Yankees add Ponson to help fill out rotation
by SG

Right-hander Sidney Ponson, who became a free agent when he was released by the St. Louis Cardinals, has reached an agreement on a deal with the New York Yankees, has learned.

Ponson, 4-4 with a 5.24 ERA in 14 appearances with St. Louis this season, lost his spot in the rotation when the Cardinals signed Jeff Weaver. Since Ponson cleared waivers Wednesday, the Yankees will be responsible for the pro-rated portion of the minimum salary for the rest of this season. St. Louis will pay the rest of Ponson's $1 million salary.

Color me unimpressed.

Top 10 ZR Defensive Seasons by a Yankee since 1987
by SG

Given my recent discovery of Zone Rating stats available back through 1987, I thought it'd be interesting to take a look back at some of the Yankee defenders of the past. Here are the top ten defensive seasons by a Yankee since 1987 in terms of pure runs saved over average, not adjusted for playing time, using the Zone Rating methodology I outlined a few days ago

I figured Brosius would top the list, but nothing else there looks too out of whack. Seeing Bernie with positive numbers brings back fond memories.

The Boston Red Sox New York Times says that Robinson Cano could be back by Sunday or Monday.. They also think Hideki Matsui is very likely to be back by September.

July 12, 2006

Pitcher Run Values (and some other stuff)
by SG

As promised, here are the run values of the Yankee pitchers so far in 2006. This is another math and statistics heavy post, so if you don't care for math, come back another day.

This table is sorted in terms of runs saved above average in descending order. As you can see, Mike Mussina has been the most valuable Yankee pitcher so far this season. His total of 21.9 RAA (runs above average) ranks him as the fifth most valuable pitcher in the American League so far. Mariano Rivera is 13th, and Chien-Ming Wang is 19th.

The process to calculate this is very similar to the process used to calculate a batter's value. I am again using linear weights and assigning values to each event that a pitcher allows, be it a hit, walk, or out. This is then compared to what the league average pitcher would have allowed over the same number of plate appearances (batters faced). I found an error in Jaret Wright's RAA that was posted the other day, he's actually been -1.7 RAA, which is close enough to average anyway. Let's hope he keeps it up. The peripherals are pretty favorable thanks to the 0 BB, 10 K game he just had.

Here's a little more background information on the other numbers that are in here that may not be familiar to all of you.

FIP is fielding independent pitching, which is basically a quick and easy way to regress the impact of a pitcher's performance to remove the impact of balls in play. It is focused on BB, HR, and K and the formula is listed above. FIP says Randy Johnson has pitched better than his ERA this season, which is a good indicator for the second half of the season. Kyle Farnsworth is another player who seems to have been underperfoming his underlying peripherals so far.

xFIP is the same as FIP, except you replace the HR component with 11% of flyballs, which is the standard correlation between HR rate and flyball rate. All flyballs are not created equal, and this stat is fairly new, so the jury is still out on how predictive or useful it really is.

ERA+ is a stat used to compare a pitcher's ERA to the league average ERA in that pitcher's home ballpark. To calculate it, you divide the pitcher's ERA by the league average ERA and then multiply it by 100. For example, Mike Mussina has an ERA of 3.24. The AL average ERA is 4.55. We adjust that to reflect the fact that Yankee Stadium has played as a slight pitchers' park, which lowers it to 4.50. Then we divide 4.50 by Mussina's 3.24 and multiply it by 100, and get Mussina's ERA+ of 139.

BABIP is an acronym that stands for batting average on balls in play. The league average BABIP is .295. It is believed that the ability of most major league pitchers to control this number is limited although some people like Mariano Rivera consistently demonstrate control over it. You can look at this number to see if a pitcher may have been lucky or unlucky so far. Farnsworth's BABIP is pretty high, so we may be able to expect better performance going forward.

HR+, BB+, and K+ are similar to ERA+, in that they are a comparison of a pitcher's HR allowed, walks allowed, and strikeouts per batters faced compared to the league average. Greater than 100 is good, less than 100 is bad.

For example, Chien-Ming Wang has faced 517 batters and allowed 7 HR. I park-adjust the HRs based on the Yankee Stadium HR factor which is 1.03 (Yankee Stadium boosts HRs slightly). This just means that I divide HR by 1.015 (half the games are on the road). I then divide the adjusted HR total 517 to get his HR/BF, in this case it's .013. I divide the league average HR/BF by this number, to get the value 2.18, which is then multiplied by 100. This means Wang is 2.18 times better at preventing HRs than the average pitcher. BB+ is calculated the same way, and K+ is calculated by dividing the pitcher's K rate by league average instead (this is to keep everything on the same scale). So Mike Mussina's BB+ of 175 means he is 1.75 times better than average in terms of walk rate, and his K+ of 135 is 1.35 times better than average in terms of striking out hitters, all in terms of rates per batters faced. The higher these three columns are, the better I think a pitcher can project going forward, as they are all indicators of his ability in the aspects of the batter/pitcher confrontation that he has direct control over.

AVG, OBP, and SLG are the performance of opposing hitters against said pitcher. If you want to see how bad Aaron Small was this year, check out the .333/.401/.650 line against him. Basically, opposing hitters were Albert Pujols against him. If you want to see how sweet Mariano Rivera is, check the Womacking .200/.250/.238 line against him.

That's it in a nutshell. If you have any questions, ask away.

July 11, 2006

More on Run Values
by SG

Mike K. requested a breakdown of the numbers I posted yesterday, and I think it's a good time to explain some of this stuff in a little more detail to those of you who may be a little less familiar with this sort of thing. If you're not a fan of math or stastics, I'd recommend skipping this entry and going to read the latest tripe from Mike Lupica or something.

I used to be a big-time reader of Baseball Prospectus and cited their numbers blindly without wondering about how they came up with them or questioning them in any manner. I still think they do some interesting work but not enough to entice me to pay for it. I've since moved on to trying to figure as much of this stuff out by myself as I can. That's why I no longer use things like VORP, WARP, and their other numbers which are often mysteriously calculated.

The opinions of many of the sabermetricians whose opinions I respect hold that the best way to assess a player's contribution is to use linear weights. What are linear weights? Funny you should ask. Linear weights (abbreviated as LWTS) is a way to figure out the run value of the various components that a player compiles, both good and bad. It was developed by Pete Palmer and introduced in the book The Hidden Game of Baseball back in 1984. The idea behind this is that every positive and negative outcome on the baseball field has a corresponding run value. You can combine these into a formula to estimate the value of a player's run contribution to his team. The formula I'm using was developed by TangoTiger and can be found on his page here.

I like linear weights because it includes a lot more information than most other metrics, and because I can calculate it using publically available stats. That is where the offensive component for each player is calculated. Then, there is a positional adjusment for each player based on the historic level of offense at that position. This can be re-calibrated from season to season depending on the depth at the position, but I'm currently using the following positional adjustments.

1B -9
2B 6
3B 2
C 16
CF 0
DH -4
LF -9
RF -7
SS 9

What this means is that the average first baseman over 150 games would be expected to be nine runs above the average offensive player. Therefore, you must deduct this from the player's offensive value when comparing him to other players. Catcher is historically the weakest offensive position in baseball, so you would add 16 runs to a catcher's performance over 150 games to compare their value to other players. This is what has helped Jorge Posada be the most valuable Yankee so far. Posada has an LWTS of 13.4. I then add the 16 run/150 game multiplier pro-rated over the 76 games he's played in (8.1) to arrive at his positional adjusted linear weights total on offense of 21.5.

So in the table below are the offensive linear weights(LWTS) and positional adjusted linear weights(psLWTS) for every player who has batted for the Yankees this season.

The fewer the plate appearances, the more you need to adjust for what the player can be expected to do going forward. As you can see from the list above, Derek Jeter has been the Yankees' most valuable offensive player overall, with Jason Giambi second, Alex Rodriguez third, and Jorge Posada fourth.

Position players don't just contribute offensively obviously, so the next part of the equation is trying to quantify a player's defensive value. Again, the system I'm used is based on zone rating.

Zone rating is a decimal from 0 to 1 which calculates the percentage of plays a player has made on balls in their zone. Think of it like this:

Zone Rating = Plays Made/Plays Available

Unfortunately, Plays Available is not publically recorded. However, thanks to the hard work of Chone Smith and Chris Dial at Baseball Think Factory we can estimate it by using a proxy of the plays made. How do we do that?

For 1B, you can either use a formula which breaks down as Assists/2 + Putouts/6, or you can you use the historic average for 1B which is that the average 1B would see 281 chances in their zone over 1440 innings.

Divide 281 by 1440 and multiply it by the innings played and you can approximate how many plays the first baseman you are looking at had available to them. This will not be exact but since Zone Rating is based on the actual plays made in zone, it will give us a good enough approximation.

For all other infielders, we treat assists as a play made, so you just divide the assists by the zone rating to get an estimate for plays available.

For outfielders, putouts are treated as a play made, so putouts divided by zone rating give us an estimate for plays available.

Chone's method for evaluating a catcher's defense is available in his article, as well as the details of how he adds in double play ratings for middle infielders and OF assists and errors.

So, we have an estimate of plays available and plays made for each player. We then compare this to what the average defender is doing at the same position, to come up with the number of plays that the player made or did not make compared to what an average player would have if faced with the same amount of opportunities. We do that by multiplying the plays available for the individual by the league average zone rating, and then comparing the individual's plays made to what the average plays made would be. This is then multiplied by the average run value for a play at that position to get a run value for the player's defense.

If you want to play around with this yourself, here are the average Zone Ratings at each position through the All Star Break.

1B 0.834
2B 0.825
3B 0.764
SS 0.837
LF 0.858
CF 0.876
RF 0.875

1B 0.842
2B 0.812
3B 0.787
SS 0.835
LF 0.854
CF 0.866
RF 0.879

And here are the average opportunities and the run values for plays made/not made at each position from Chris Dial's article.

POS AvgZROps Runs/play
1B 281 0.798
2B 507 0.754
3B 430 0.800
SS 532 0.753
LF 348 0.831
CF 462 0.842
RF 365 0.843

AvgZROps = Average plays at that position over 1440 defensive innings
Runs/play = Run Value of a play at that position

Let's run through this with an example.

Bernie Williams has a Zone Rating this season of .784 in RF and he's made 76 putouts. So we divide 76 by .784 to get an estimate that Bernie has had 97 plays hit into his zone. The average RF in the AL has a ZR of .875, which means that over the same 97 plays Bernie saw in RF, an average RF would have made 85 plays. This means Bernie made 9 fewer catches than an average RF. This seems to match my personal observations pretty closely. The average run value of each missed catch in RF is estimated as .843 runs, since it counts as an out not recorded as well as a hit that could be a single or extra base hit. So you multiply the -9 times .843 and you get a defensive hit of -7.6. Next, I compare Bernie's "arm" to that of the average RF. The average RF has 76 assists in 10898 innings, or .006974 assists/inning. Bernie has 1 assist in 326 innings, or .003067 assists/inning. That means we are estimating Bernie's arm to have a negative impact so far of 1.3 runs. Bernie's error rate is slightly better than average which brings his overall value in RF so far to a -8.7. Since there's too many numbers and words in this post, let's break this up with a graphical representation.

There are problems with zone rating, and it's only fair to mention them here. First of all, it does not consider the speed of a batted ball. A player on a team with a lot of bad pitching may appear worse then they are if they are being asked to make difficult plays more often than the typical player would. It also does not include certain plays such as popups and it does not factor in positioning. Also, we are reverse engineering and estimating some of the numbers we are working with here which is going to introduce error bars that need to be considered. I will also point you to an article that Mike K linked in an earlier entry, which lists some other concerns regarding ZR.

I still like this system because it's fairly easy for me to run and for the most part it matches my perceptions, but it's not perfect and we should not take it as an absolute by any stretch.

So, with all disclaimers issued, here are the defensive breakdowns for your 2006 Yankees.

Since the subject of Derek Jeter and defense comes up fairly often, you can see by the numbers above that Jeter has not made 8 plays that an average SS would have been expected to make. This may seem like a lot, but it's less than one play a week. When we say Jeter is a bad defensive player, it's not that he's horrendous and missing dozens of balls a week. He just misses a play or two every two weeks that an average SS would have made, and it's not necessarily that obvious to the naked eye.

So, adding it all up, you get the chart I posted yesterday, broken down like this. By request from an anonymous poster, I've added three columns to show how the current performance would break down over 150 games. Again, players with small amounts of playing time will need to have their expected performance
adjusted accordingly. For example, it's highly unlikely that Nick Green would be more valuable offensively than Alex Rodriguez over 150 games. Hideki Matsui's hitting was below par so far this season too, and if he is healthy and can return he'd probably be expected to be closer to his form from 2003-2005. Melky's offensive and defensive stats are not very impressive right now, but he's a 21 year old who's seemingly improving every day in some ways, so I'd like to think that he would do better going forward as well.

One note, I messed up Andy Phillips's position adjustment yesterday as I gave him too much of a penalty for games played. He has only started 39 games despite appearing in 67 so I adjusted that accordingly, which gives him a few runs back on offense and few more runs of defensive value if he were to play in 150 games.

And there you have it. Obviously this doesn't include factors like clutch hitting and other things which we cannot easily measure, and those things should not be discounted. On the whole though, this should give you some idea of why the Yankees are where they are right now and who the chief contributors are both positively and negatively.

A few things which should be noted from the chart above. Despite his bad offensive numbers, Miguel Cairo has been a good defender at almost every position he's played. In fact, he's been good enough defensively that his overall value is just about average. I realize it's hip to focus on something like OBP and decree Cairo as a problem, but if you look at these numbers and the totality of his contribution, he's a fine bench player. Pro-rating Terrence Long to 150 games really hammers home how horrible he was, doesn't it?

Tomorrow, the pitchers!

July 10, 2006

Run Values of the 2006 Yankees
by SG

I'm a little pressed for time today, so this will be a quick post. I've calculated the total contributions using offense, defense, and pitching to calculate the value of everyone who's played for the Yankees so far this season. Using these numbers, the most valuable Yankee so far has been......Jorge Posada.

For position players, I used linear weights with a positional adjustment, and for defense I used the zone rating defensive system that I've been using. For pitchers, I just used runs saved above average. Anyway, here's the chart. I'll try to go into a little more depth on the first half over the next few days if time allows it.

One final note, the team totals out to 116 runs above average so far, or roughly 12 wins above average.

July 9, 2006

7/9/06 - House Money Day
by SG

M. Cabrera lf
D. Jeter ss
J. Giambi dh
A. Rodriguez 3b
B. Williams cf
A. Phillips 1b
M. Cairo 2b
K. Thompson rf
K. Stinnett c

K. Wilson p

Why Stinnett with the All Star Break coming up?

July 7, 2006

July 7, 2006 - Assorted Crap
by SG

The Yankees whipped up on Cleveland last night 10-4 in an impressive showing by Randy Johnson. Looking at Johnson's final line of 4 runs allowed in 7.2 innings does not convey just how dominant he was until he began to tire in the 7th. Johnson held a very good offensive team to just one hit over the first six innings, reaching 96 mph on his fastball (on the Cleveland broadcast which I would trust more than the YES gun just on general principle). Unfortunately he appeared to hit the wall in the 8th inning as he got singled to death before being pulled with two outs.

Newest Yankee Aaron Guile went 1-3 with a BB in his first game, although given his career line of .200/.300/.347 vs. lefties I'm not sure how advisable it was to start him.

The Yankee offense was fairly quiet until the fourth, when Derek Jeter ripped a double(one of his three hits on the day) and Jason Giambi stepped up. Giambi ripped his 26th HR of the season and the Yankees had a lead they would not relinquish.

The resurgence of Giambi is one of my favorite stories of the past two season. I do not approve his past steroid use. I don't know that he's clean any more than the people who think he's back on hGH know that he's not. I'd like to think the health concerns that he went through would prevent him from cheating again, and so far he appears to have passed all MLB drug tests, but there are certainly ways to get around those.

His performance at the plate has been remarkable though, after many wrote him off completely.

Since June 20 of last season, Giambi has played in exactly 162 games. His numbers:

515 AB
108 R
141 H
21 2B
53 HR
135 RBI
126 K
.274/.443/.623 1.067

9.72 AB/HR

I knew Giambi had been good, but I had no idea he was homering so frequently per AB. It's been an amazing run, and one I hope can be attributed to a re-dedication to his craft and not through the use of any PEDs.

Speaking of HR/AB, Derek Jeter has not homered since May 16, but that does not take away from the fine season he is having. On the year he's hitting .348/.429/.470. We all know about the questions regarding his defense (which has been better lately), but I won't bring that up today. He's stolen 18 bases at a 90% clip too, which is great.

I'm not as upset about Matt Smith being demoted as some people BTW. I know he had a 0.00 ERA, but he had walked 8 in 12 innings, although I wouldn't doubt that was a function of his usage (or lack thereof). At this point he's probably better served pitching regularly in Columbus with an eye on replacing someone in the pen later in the season or in 2007.

So now the Yankees get the Devil Rays, who helped the Yankees pick up a game on Boston by taking three of four from the Red Sox while the Yankees split four with Cleveland. Your matchups...

Friday 7/7 - 7:15 PM ET
J. Wright (4-5, 4.61) vs. J. Seo (0-1, 3.86)

After a bad first start against them, Wright's been pretty good against Tampa over his other four starts. He's got a 3.46 ERA against them over 26 innings, with a wonderful BB/K ratio of 11:11. After his garbage performance last time out he owes the Yanks a good start.

Saturday 7/8 - 7:15 PM ET
C. Wang (8-4, 4.21) vs. S. Kazmir (10-5, 3.29)

Wang had been pounded by the Devil Rays almost every time he faced them although he had a very nice game against them back in April. Kazmir's the best young lefty in the AL right now. It could be a fun matchup.

Sunday 7/9 - 1:15 PM ET
K. Wilson (0-0, 0.00) vs. C. Fossum (3-3, 4.84)

I have no idea what to expect from Aaron Small v2006. I'm curious to see him though. I thought it was interesting to read that he had been pitching with bone chips in his elbow and had surgery last season. Maybe there's something to his improved performance this year.

Then comes the All Star break. The fact that the best hitter in the league right now is not on the AL All Star team is an embarrassment and proves what a farce the whole thing is. How the hell is Travis Hafner not on the All Star team?

It appears the Yankees will play it safe with Johnny Damon, as it looks like he may be out until after the All Star Break, although he wants to play tonight.

The Yankees are anticipating they will be without Johnny Damon until after the All-Star break because of his strained right abdominal muscle. "He may be out for the weekend, whether we're conservative or not," manager Joe Torre said.

Damon suffered the injury during batting practice Wednesday afternoon and said yesterday, "I definitely feel it more today." He did not take part in any baseball-related activities yesterday, though Torre said Damon could start swinging a bat today.

Given what happened with Gary Sheffield, the Yanks best err on the side of the caution on this one. I can't take a half season of Bernie in CF. Hell, I can't take a half game.

Alex Rodriguez has decided not to participate in the All Star Home Run derby. Seems to me like he's blowing an opportunity to pad his stats when it doesn't count. Isn't that all he does?

I can't find any news on Octavio Dotel. This is starting to remind me of Steve Karsay all over again.

July 6, 2006

Yanks at Indians - 7:05 PM ET
by SG

M. Cabrera lf
D. Jeter ss
J. Giambi dh
A. Rodriguez 3b
J. Posada c
B. Williams cf
A. Phillips 1b
A. Guiel rf
M. Cairo 2b

B. Useless P

I think I'm going to cry. At least Johnson doesn't give up too many fly balls which means Bernie in CF shouldn't affect him too much.

The ever-vigilant Peter Abraham has some roster news on his fine blog.
Kris Wilson will start on Sunday against Tampa Bay. Shawn Chacon has been demoted to the bullpen. The thinking, Joe Torre said, was that Wilson has been used by a starter this season. The Yankees also didn't want to take Villone out of the bullpen, where he has been valuable.

Johnny Damon will try and swing tomorrow. He said his strained abdominal muscle "is about the same, but I definitely feel it more." Damon dismissed the suggestion that he just shut it down through the All-Star break, saying he wanted to get back in the lineup as soon as possible.

Matt Smith was optioned back to Columbus to make room for Aaron Guiel.

Moose, Chacon, and Guiel
by SG

The Yankees beat the Indians 9-3 11-3 last night, in an encouraging game all around. Mike Mussina picked up his tenth win of the season in the season's 82nd game, which keeps him on pace to perhaps reach the overrated 20 win mark for the first time in his career and help his still middling Hall of Fame case. I think Moose is a Hall of Famer, but I don't get a vote.

Another encouraging sign in yesterday's game was Melky Cabrera's newly discovered power stroke. Cabrera's been respectable in regards to batting average and his on base percentage, but his power has been very poor, particularly for a corner OF. However, by going 3 for 4 with a HR and a double, Melky has pushed his Isolated Power (SLG - Batting Average) over .100 for the first time this season. Melky's power is still way too low for an OF, although he's slugged .446 since June 15. If he can maintain the AVG and OBP and get his SLG up to .450, he'd be about as productive as Hideki Matsui was in his rookie season.

The Kris Wilson era has begun and it is a resounding success. Well, it went better than the Tim Redding era anyway. I though Wilson looked ok. He faced six hitters and retired all of them, four with groundouts and one with a strikeout. He was working with an 88-89 mph two seamer and what looked like a pretty good overhand curve. His biggest problem in his prior major league career has been the HR ball, so if he can keep the ball on the ground he could be a possible contributor in the back-end of the pen or as the fifth starter. He may be taking Ron Villone's spot in the pen if Villone ends up replacing Shawn Chacon in the rotation.

Speaking of Chacon, it appears he's worn out his welcome this season.
It appears unlikely that Shawn Chacon will make his scheduled start Sunday, but that could be the least of his concerns. With Chacon failing to show any of the magic he had last season, his time with the Yankees could be coming to an end.

...But it is not just Chacon’s performances that have been discussed. Sources indicated that his attitude has also become an issue, particularly as it relates to how often he’s been used and how much patience Torre has shown him during his outings. There are also questions about his work ethic. One source said the Yankees have become so irked with Chacon that he’s “not in their plans” for the future.

I wonder what the Yankees could have gotten if they traded him in the offseason?

The Yanks claimed Aaron Guiel off waivers yesterday. Guiel's a 33 year old lefty hitter with experience in all three OF spots and a career batting line of .245/.320/.412. The scouting report on Guiel:
Powerfully-built, Guiel is a different hitter depending on the role he's given. As a leadoff man, he'll patiently wait for a pitch to slap into the outfield. With runners on base, however, he'll aggressively attack the first hittable pitch, trying to pull the ball for extra bases. Guiel crowds the plate and doesn't yield to inside pitches. He has trouble against lefties who pound the ball in on his hands. A hustling player who goes all-out in the field and on the bases, Guiel can steal bases but occasionally runs into outs. He has an adequate arm for a corner outfielder and improves his range by running intelligent routes on flyballs.

His ZR are very good at all 3 OF positions in limited playing time. Based on his career in the OF, here's how he'd rate over 162 games at each position:

LF: +8
CF: +16
RF: 0

Since he's spent the bulk of his career in RF it's probably safe to say he's closer to average than the LF or CF ratings would indicate, but he appears to be at least competent defensively. He's nothing special, but he's a cheap free pickup who gives the team depth and a lefty bat to platoon with Bernie Williams. If the Yankees would replace Bubba Crosby with Kevin Thompson now I think they'd be in business. With Johnny Damon joining the list of the injured, more OF depth is a good thing, not a bad thing.

The Yankees go for the series split today with Randy Johnson facing Cliff Lee. Johnson had a disastrous start against the Mets last time after appearing to have found some consistency. There are rumblings that he was tipping his pitches against the Mets. Cleveland traded Eduardo Perez so that may help.

July 5, 2006

In-house starting pitcher options
by SG

Given the obvious need to replace the struggling Shawn Chacon in the rotation and the discussion in the previous thread, here's a look at three options in AAA right now who should probably be considered.

The three most obvious choices are Kris Wilson, Jorge DePaula, and Steven White.

Wilson's a 29(soon to be 30 year old) who has scuffled in the majors and minors and would be the best candidate for the role of Aaron Small fluke year. His career lines are mediocre to poor, until you get to his performance in 2006. The only scouting report I could find for Wilson describes him as having a low 90s fastball and a below average changeup. His big issue has been the HR ball (49 in 235 big league innings) but he's controlled that very well this year in AAA. It's very likely a fluke, but perhaps he's added a new pitch or changed his mechanics to get more groundballs. His minor league G/F ratio is 1.4, which is decent, if not outstanding.

Kris Wilson's minor and major league stats

Jorge DePaula looked like he was going to be a contributor to the Yankees in 2004 after an impressive cup of coffee in late 2003 including a near no-hitter against the Orioles at the Stadium. Unfortunately, DePaula suffered an injury that required Tommy John surgery and spend most of last year rehabbing his way back. He's been ok this season, although his K rate is pretty poor. My memories of Depaula were of a guy with a fastball in the 90-92 range mainly with a good changeup and not much of a breaking pitch.

Jorge DePaula's minor and major league stats

Steven White has the best pure stuff of any of the three options. I'll just repost Fabian's pre-season assessment of him (he's #19).

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.

White's pitched decently this season, although his peripherals are not that impressive.

Steven White's minor league stats

There's also Ramiro Mendoza, who's been more hittable of late in the minors after starting strong and has not been a full-time starter. He may be an option in relief, but probably not in the rotation.

I don't think any of the AA guys (Phil Hughes, Tyler Clippard, or Jeff Karstens) are ready, despite all pitching very well of late in AA. I think any Yankee fans are familiar with Hughes by now. Fabian's written some nice writeups about Clippard which you can read in the archives here. I like him long-term as a 4 or a 5 but I think he needs more time in the minors to refine his stuff. Karstens was horrible in AAA but has done quite well in AA. He's a guy with unremarkable stuff who has done well in the lower levels of the minors.

Based on current performance, I agree with Joseph P. over at the Sporting Brews that Wilson seems like the best choice, although his previous track record would give me pause. For upside, White is probably the better bet although I am not impressed by his K rate or BB rate. DePaula's only striking out 4.8 per 9 innings which seems to be a big red flag to me with the Yankee defense. The main thing is that any of them have a chance to be reasonably close to someone like Livan Hernandez, and wouldn't cost anything but a roster spot to try. I kind of like the idea of giving Wilson a chance to reprise the Aaron Small 2005 thing.

Apparently the Yankees agree that Wilson should get a chance. Peter Abraham is reporting that he's been called up.

Word is that RHP Kris Wilson has been summoned from Columbus and will be on the roster for tonight's game. No news yet on who is being demoted, released, designated or tossed in the river.

Wilson is a former Royal who the Yankees signed to a minor-league deal before last season. He is 6-5 with a 2.84 ERA for the Clippers, In 92 innings he allowed only 74 hits and struck out 72. He is nearly 30 and hasn't been in the majors since 2003.

"Fun" stat of the day
by SG

Yankee starters over the last three games:

8.1 IP
24 H
16 R
6 BB
4 SO
4 H
17.28 ERA

Gah. The big bad peripheral monster has finally caught up to Shawn Chacon, and it hasn't been pretty, with last night's 19-1 bloodbath at the hands of Cleveland the latest manifestation of it.

The Yankees need an upgrade in the OF and on the mound. My first thought was than an OF bat was a bigger need, but the cascade effect of a rotation that's required its bullpen to pitch 16.2 innings over three games with no days off over a stretch of nine games without a day off has me reconsidering. I think Chacon has to be pulled from the rotation and that the Yankees are going to give Steven White or Jorge De Paula a chance, although former Royal Kris Wilson is having a very strong year in Columbus as well and may be considered in the Aaron Small fluke season pulled out of his ass category.

Thankfully, last night's loss only counts as one in the real loss column, although it was worth about five in the Pythagorean standings. At least they don't play the games on a spreadsheet.

July 4, 2006

Yanks and Indians: 6:05
by Larry Mahnken

Chacon vs. Westbrook

Where have you gone, Shawn Chacon? A ressurection of last year's second-half ace would be HUGE for the Yanks.

Some fireworks would be nice, too.

July 3, 2006

Game Chatter: Yanks at Indians: 7:05
by Larry Mahnken

Wang (8-3, 4.01) vs. Jeremy Sowers (0-1, 7.20)

Don't get too excited, the kid's given up 4 runs in five innings, it's not batting practice time. Well, maybe it is.

I'm still not sold on Wang, though I ain't complaining. I wouldn't trade him for someone as good as he's pitching so far, but if it takes Wang to get a good player, I'd do it. He'll never be a more valuable commodity than he is now. He's basically to pitching what Alfonso Soriano is to hitting.

Interestingly, if Wang wins tonight, the Yanks have a legit shot at having three 10 game winners at the All-Star Break. That'd be something.

July 2, 2006

Game Chatter - Mets vs. Yankees 8:05
by Larry Mahnken

Alay Soler (2-2, 4.68) vs. Jaret Wright (4-5, 4.18)

The Yanks get a 4.18 out of Jaret Wright and they're still only 7-6 in his starts. Nice.

July 1, 2006

Game Chatter - Mets vs. Yankees 1:20ish
by Larry Mahnken

Trachsel (6-4, 4.82) vs. Johnson (9-6, 4.84)

Yankees are only 1 game worse in the standings than the Mets, while playing in a much tougher league and division. This is still Yankeetown, Jake.

Real Yankees Fans
by Larry Mahnken

These douchebags boo A-Rod after he goes 0-4 -- two days and one game after he hits a come-from-behind walkoff to beat the Braves? IN A WIN? WHEN THEY'RE LEADING WITH RIVERA COMING INTO THE GAME?!?!?!

Fuck these people. I don't want to be associated with idiots who do that kind of crap. You can buy season tickets and wear all the kickin' Yankees gear you want, but that doesn't make you a real fan of this team.

Who's with me?