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September 30, 2006 Torre sets postseason roster
by SG

NEW YORK -- Joe Torre settled on his 25-man roster for the American League Division Series, choosing Andy Phillips and Miguel Cairo to round out his bench.

In addition, Torre announced that Brian Bruney would be the final man in the bullpen, as the Yankees will take 11 pitchers into the opening round of the postseason.

New York will take seven infielders (Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Cairo and Phillips), two catchers (Jorge Posada and Sal Fasano) and five outfielders (Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Bernie Williams and Melky Cabrera).

The 11 pitchers will be Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Cory Lidle, Ron Villone, Bruney, Mike Myers, Scott Proctor, Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera. If Johnson's back injury causes him to miss his Game 3 start, the Yankees would leave him off the roster and add either Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner or Sean Henn.

The decision to take Phillips as the backup first baseman over Craig Wilson or Aaron Guiel had as much to do with Phillips' ability to play second and third base as his defense at first.

"We felt Phillips gave us the defense at first base," Torre said. "Plus, in the event we want to use Cairo as a pinch-runner, we have a backup infielder who can play third, second or first."

I can't say have much issue with any of the choices. While I'd rather see them take 10 pitchers and add Aaron Guiel or Craig Wilson, given Johnson's uncertain status taking 11 pitchers is the safer move.

Update: I saw this posted on Baseball Think Factory and thought it was interesting.

Another update: Since the batting race is the hot topic of the day, I'll keep the table below updated in real-time.

2-4.342 Win secures home-field edge for Yanks
by SG

New York's 7-2 victory, combined with losses by both Detroit and Minnesota, wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs for the Yankees.

Great news. In even better news, Mike Mussina was brilliant in his final post-season tuneup. I don't know what's going to happen with Randy Johnson. The fact that there was a medical reason for his crappiness is probably good news, as it means that if he's able to take his post we can probably expect better than his typical five runs allowed. Wang and Moose and pray for rain (or lots of offense).

As an aside, I noticed that MGL posted Robinson Cano's 2006 UZR in this thread at Baseball Think Factory. Zone Rating has Cano as a +2 on the season, but UZR has him a +10. Either way, it appears that he's not just a hitter, and an asset on both sides of the ball. Somewhere, David Cameron weeps.

BTW, here are the Yankees' defensive totals at each position so far this year.

September 29, 2006

Was Watching; Yankees Bloggers Pre-Playoffs Predictions
by SG

Steve Lombardi over at Was Watching asked a few bloggers including myself for our pre-playoff predictions. I reserve the right to change my answer at any time.

September 28, 2006

Worst Lineup Ever?
by SG

One hit? Seriously? One freaking hit?

Greatest Lineup Ever?
by SG

After last night's 16-5 offensive explosion, it seems like a good time to tackle a question that Chofo posed in the comments section a few days ago. Where does the lineup the Yankees sent out yesterday rank among the best single game lineups of all time.

Tom Verducci did a lot the leg work on this in this article, although his method of picking the teams based on their seasonal output doesn't really answer the question correctly in my mind. I took his list of teams (1932 Yankees, 1936 Yankees,1953 Dodgers,1976 Reds, and 2006 Yankees), added the 1995 Cleveland Indians to the mix, and then compared their starting eight (or nine) by OPS+. OPS+ is a way to adjust a player's OPS for their league and park factors, and express it in terms of a number where 100 is exactly average, less than 100 is worse than average, greater than 100 is better. The formula is:

(OBP/lgOBP + SLG/lgSLG - 1)* 100

It's not a complete picture of offensive ability by any means, but for a quick and dirty comparision between eras like this it works well enough I think.

Anyway, here are the lineups for each of the teams listed above for the season in question with their OPS+, followed by the team average.

Update: Fixed chart to show 1953 Dodgers, not Yankees. (Thanks to Nicholas K.)

By OPS+, the 2006 Yankees are fifth. You could probably argue that Sheffield and maybe Rodriguez's season OPS+ depresses their ability, but I'd say Jeter and Abreu (I'm only using his Yankee OPS+) offset that.

It'll be fun to watch them hit, but if they don't play passable defense and pitch decently, it won't matter that much.

As far as last night's game, it was nice to see Giambi back and hitting. I thought Gary Sheffield had his best game since he's been back, finally hitting a foul homer and pulling the ball better. Robinson Cano is just awesome. He's so awesome that words cannot do him justice. Bobby Abreu too. Jorge Posada has a career September line of .261/.348/.430, but this September he's hitting .320/.386/.613. Jorge tends to disappear in the postseason as the wear and tear of playing in all those games seems to catch up to him, so hopefully this bodes well for October.

Mariano Rivera pitched the seventh, which I thought was actually pretty smart, as he had to face better hitters in Miguel Tejada, Jay Gibbons and Ramon Hernandez. Mo was working from 94-96 and looked pretty nasty.

September 27, 2006

9/27/06 Starting Lineup: Orioles at Yankees - 7:05 PM ET
by SG

Apologies for no post today. Take it up with my employer. Peter Abraham's got tonight's lineup posted, and it's a doozy.

Johnny Damon CF
Derek Jeter SS
Bobby Abreu RF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Jason Giambi DH
Gary Sheffield 1B
Hideki Matsui LF
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B

Chien-Ming Wang RHP

If things go well, that could be the lineup we see in Game 1 of the ALDS.

September 26, 2006

Yankees 16, Tampa Bay 1
by SG

There's that missing offense. I'm really pressed for time today, so this has to be quick.

- Robinson Cano is now qualified for the batting title. He needs 19 PA over the rest of the season to remain qualified. He can probably get that by playing in 5 of the 6 remaining games.

- Gary Sheffield seems to be getting more comfortable at first base

- Randy Johnson has been pitching with a bad back for a month. I don't suppose it occurred to Randy that it may have been better for the team to tell them about this a month before the playoffs, rather than a week before?

- Mariano pitched again, and that is better news than the offensive outburst

- Right now, I trust Scott Proctor and Brian Bruney more than Kyle Farnsworth

- Congratulations to Andy Cannizaro for hitting his first major league homer. He may or may not have much of a major league future, but he'll always have that at the very least.

September 25, 2006

Picking the Postseason roster
by SG

I didn't get to see much of this weekend's debacle against Tampa. The lack of offense in the last two games is a little worrisome, but I'd imagine the Yankees are just going through the motions, with the notable exception of Robinson Cano, who continues to just rake. On the season Cano is now hitting .341/.365/.519. Recent defensive improvement has pushed him to a +3 on the season. He's still not walking, and it's doubtful he's a true talent .341 hitter, but even if he were to hit .320 while maintaining everything else, he'd be at .320/.344/.499. For a second baseman, that's pretty damn good, especially one who's average or slightly above defensively.

Cano needs a total of 19 PA over the team's remaining 7 games to qualify for the batting title, although Joe Mauer seems to be making it a moot point. Cano's averaging a bit over 4 PA a game, so he can probably afford to sit one or two games out towards the end if necessary.

We know the Yankees can hit, so the offense is not as troubling as the starting pitching. Randy Johnson continued a bad string of starts on Saturday, and Mike Mussina wasn't much better yesterday, although he was a victim of some bad defense. I saw bits and pieces of the games thanks to TiVO and thought Gary Sheffield looked decent at first aside from one play yesterday, although he still seems to be unsure about when to let Cano take plays that are between them. Visually he looks rangy enough and he's a better thrower than Jason Giambi (then again, who isn't?), but he still has some learning to do. I don't know that he can get there in seven games, but I guess if the Yankees carry Craig Wilson and Aaron Guiel on the postseason roster they'll have the people to take him out for defense in the later innings if needed. FWIW, Sheffield's zone rating is 1.000 so far, so he hasn't missed any plays that he'd be expected to make as far as zone rating, although that doesn't include any throws from other infielders.

Mussina took a ball off his hand and now has a bruised thumb to deal with. He'll get one more start to show us that he's not something to be worried about. I see no way the Yankees can't start Chien-Ming Wang in the first game of the playoffs now, especially if they have home field advantage in the first round.

The best news was the healthy return of Mariano Rivera, who threw a good inning on Friday. The plan now is to get him to pitch in at least one set of back-to-back games, but he should be good to go. Ron Villone is not regressing towards his mean, he blew past that point and probably does not belong on the postseason roster. While having two lefties would be nice, if one can't get anyone out, what's the point?

Speaking of the postseason roster, here's how I see it now. First, the near-locks.

Pitchers (8)

Catchers (2)

Infielders (4)

Outfielders (5)

If Villone doesn't go, I don't think the Yankees should take more than 10 pitchers. I'd add Brian Bruney and Darrell Rasner. Rasner can give the team innings as a long reliever if needed. Odds are that if Lidle is healthy he'd either take the Rasner spot, or be the 11th pitcher, but time's running out for him.

For backup infielders, I'd add Miguel Cairo and Andy Phillips. I know Cairo can't hit, but he's solid defensively at all four positions. Some people may prefer Nick Green in this spot, but he's hitting .186/.264/.283 on the season (yes, games played for teams other than the Yankees do count). Phillips is probably the best defensive 1B on the team, and could fill in at third and second in a pinch. He also has a little pop of the bench, even though he's not a good hitter.

Adding two pitchers and two infielders brings the roster up to 23, which leaves two spots left. One will probably go to Gary Sheffield unless he fails to start hitting or his defense at first becomes an issue. That leaves the last spot to either Craig Wilson or Aaron Guiel. Guiel's been better than Wilson as a Yankee, and gives them a little more defensive flexibility (he can play all 3 OF positions and first base). Wilson would have the capacity to serve as a third catcher in an emergency, but if it gets to that point the Yankees have pretty big problems. I suppose you could argue Wilson over Phillips, and assume you don't need two backup infielders. Wilson would be nice as a lefty masher, but Bernie Williams is going to be on the postseason roster and can fill that role as well.

So, my 25 man postseason roster would be:

Pitchers (10)

Catchers (2)

Infielders (6)

Outfielders (7)

September 22, 2006

The 2006 RLYW Minor League Awards
by Fabian

SG reflected on the ’06 major league regular season, so please be sure to check that out below. Now, onto the ’06 RLYW minor league award winners (the numbers for hitters are BA/OBP/SLG and for pitchers they are ERA/K9/BB9/H9/HR9):

2006 Yankee Prospect All Star Team:

C: Jose Gil, 19, A-/SS .229/.310/.291

1B: Cody Ehlers, 24, A+ .298/.375/.487

2B: Wilmer Pino, 20, SS .326/.363/.410

3B: Marcos Vechionacci, 19, A+/A- .235/.327/.346

SS: Reegie Corona, 19, A-/A+ .293/.347/.369

OF: Brett Gardner, 22, A+/AA .298/.395/.370

OF: Jose Tabata, 17, A- .298/.377/.420

OF: Colin Curtis, 21, GCL/SS .311/.374/.437

LHP: Angel Reyes, 19, GCL/SS 1.40/8.5/2.8/5.2/0.1

RHP: Phil Hughes, 20, A+/AA 2.16/10.4/2.1/5.7/0.3

Breakout Prospect: Cody Ehlers

Comeback Prospect: Chase Wright

Hitting Prospect: Jose Tabata

Pitching Prospect: Phil Hughes

As previously stated, the minimum qualifications include 60 IP for a pitcher or 180 PA for a hitter; otherwise Francisco Cervelli would have probably taken the catcher slot, though I like Jose Gil more from what I’ve seen. Overall, I would say the hitting aspect of this looks better than last year’s list, but the Yankee farm system is still lopsided as there are innumerable RHP worth prospect consideration with 1 legit LHP, who somehow got left off the GCL Top 20, and 1 stud hitter. Given that the Yankees picked up a lot of position players during the international FA period, it seems they are trying to rectify this issue. So, who did I miss the boat on? For comparison’s sake, check out Mike’s year end minor league awards.

September 21, 2006

2006: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
by SG

With the Yankees clinching the division and with the postseason starting in two weeks, it's a good time to reflect on the season and what they accomplished. A lot of the commenters already got the ball rolling on this in the previous entry. I did this last year and it was enjoyable for me, so I figured I'd run through it again for 2006.

Too often we as Yankee fans discount the regular season and the difficulty of reaching this point. Granted, the Yankees have the financial advantage to put
themselves in a favorable position to reach the postseason every season, but that should not take away from getting there. When the Yankees lost two All Star outfielders early in the season, players like Bernie Williams and Melky Cabrera stepped in, and filled in well. Bernie's nothing like he used to be, and his defense is pretty awful, but he did provide some offense and prevented the team from needing to gut their farm system in a trade, although they eventually picked up Bobby Abreu in a salary dump. Abreu's arrival has been huge.

Scott Proctor's development from a talented but erratic hard-thrower to a resilient and valuable setup man was another one of the treats to watch this season, as was Robinson Cano's development into an offensive stalwart at second base. After what looked like the start of his decline phase, Jorge Posada bounced back with a solid season, and has arguably been the second most valuable catcher in the AL this season. Derek Jeter has a statistical case as the AL MVP, and other players like Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez all had their moments (besides SI articles).

As much as Joe Torre's tactical decisions and bullpen management can be questioned at times, there's no doubt his team respects him and he manages his clubhouse and the media well. That is valuable, even if we can't quantify it. Let's just hope he lays off Proctor for a few days now after his recent stretch of 7 appearances in 10 days. He won't get much credit for it, but Larry Bowa coached the hell out of third base this season. I can't think of any bad sends from him off the top of my head. It also appears he's helped Robinson Cano find more defensive consistency, as Cano has been a +2 defensively this season by ZR and been more sure-handed. Tony Peña apparently made a big difference in Jorge Posada's throwing this season too, as Posada has his best defensive season in a long time. It's tough to know how much of the Yankee staff's ERA this season can be attributed to new pitching coach Ron Guidry and bullpen coach Joe Kerrigan, but the staff ranks fifth in the league in ERA at 4.40, compared to their ninth place ranking last season at 4.52.

To the games. I'm sure I'll miss some in here so by all means pipe in.

April 4: The Yankees open the season in style, mauling Oakland 15-2. Randy Johnson pitched well, and Alex Rodriguez's second inning grand slam made the game a laugher from the start.

April 11: Trailing 7-4 in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees rallied for five runs, topped off by a Derek Jeter 3 run HR, beating Kansas City 9-7 at the Stadium.

May 8: The Yankees get mauled at home by the Red Sox, 14-3. Red Sox Nation throws a premature victory parade.

May 16: This was probably the game of the season. Shawn Chacon got shelled, giving up 8 runs in 1.1 innings, and the Yankees trailed 9-0 heading into the bottom of the second. The Yanks scored in the second, but Texas answered right back in the third off Aaron Small. Trailing 10-1, the Yankees scored two in the bottom of the third, two in the bottom of the fifth, and then six in the bottom of the sixth to take an 11-10 lead. Scott Proctor gave the lead right back by allowing two runs in the top of the seventh, but a Jorge Posada sacrifice fly tied the game. Rod Barajas drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth against Mariano Rivera, making it 13-12 Texas. Johnny Damon led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez both made outs, and then Jorge Posada hit a game-winning two run HR.

May 20: Trailing the "best team in New York" by four entering the ninth, the Yankees rallied for four runs to tie off the Mets' closer, Billy Wagner. Andy Phillips drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th, while Mariano Rivera pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and fanning four toget the win.

May 20: Kyle Farnsworth couldn't hold a 6-5 eighth inning lead against Detroit, but Mariano Rivera pitched three brilliant innings, needing just 25 pitches. Contrast that to Farnsworth's eighth inning which also required 25 pitches. Jason Giambi's 11th inning HR led the way to a five run rally, and an 11-6 win in Detroit.

June 7: Chien-Ming Wang outdueled Dave Pauley over seven innings, scattering eight hits and allowing just one run. Manny Ramirez's bid for a game-tying homer was robbed on a leaping catch by Melky Cabrera in the top of the eighth, and Melky-mania was in full swing. Mo closed out the 2-1 win over the Red Sox with five pitches in a perfect ninth.

June 13: More Wang, as he held the potent offense of the Cleveland Indians to five hits and no runs over 7.1 innings, in a 1-0 pitcher's duel with Paul Byrd. Yeah, that Paul Byrd.

June 17: Possibly the worst loss of the year. Shawn Chacon again failed to give the team innings, and the Yankees gave up five runs over the seventh and eighth innings, turning a 9-6 lead into an 11-9 loss.

June 18: Actually, this loss was probably worse. With Rivera unavailable, and Torre still not fond of Ron Villone (he made up for this, didn't he?), the Yankees took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth. With Villone the annointed closer not even warming up, Chien-Ming Wang got an out and then gave up the game-winning two run HR to Ryan Zimmerman on his 107th pitch of the game.

June 25: I love a good pitcher's duel, and this one between Dontrelle Willis and Mike Mussina was a treat. Moose allowed one run over seven innings, and the Yankees edged Florida 2-1.

June 28: The unclutch Alex Rodriguez hits a two-run HR in the bottom of the twelfth inning, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 win over Atlanta.

July 4: I'm not sure what was worse, Shawn Chacon's one inning of seven run ball, or T.J. Beam's 2/3 of an inning of six run ball. Either way, it all contributed to a 19-1 blowout by Cleveland at Jacobs Field.

July 14: The Yankees opened the second-half of the season in style, edging the White Sox 6-5. The White Sox made it scary in the ninth scoring two runs and putting the tying run on third. Mariano Rivera got the better of A.J. Pierzynski after a long at bat, and the Yankees would go on to sweep the defending World Series champs at home.

July 18: Sidney Ponson's lone useful Yankee appearance, as he pitched 6.2 innings, allowing four runs. Trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees scratched out two runs. The bullpens traded zeros until the bottom of the 11th, when Melky Cabrera hit a walkoff HR in the 5-4 win over Seattle.

July 20: The Yankees blew a 3-0 lead when Mike Mussina imploded in the sixth. They managed to tie the game in the eighth, but Vernon Wells hit a high cutter in a bad spot for the game winner of Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the 11th, as the Yankees lost to Toronto 5-4.

July 26: Scott Proctor has been a big part of the Yankees' success this season, but he just didn't have it in this game, combining with T.J. Beam to blow a 6-4 eighth inning lead in Texas. Shawn Chacon entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs and the Yankees trailing 7-6. Chacon got a big strikeout then a lineout into a double play. Jason Giambi hit a two-run HR in the top of the ninth to give the Yankees the 8-7 win.

Aug 8: A Joe Crede HR in the bottom of the eighth at US Cellular turned a 7-2 laugher into a 7-6 nail-biter. Mariano Rivera closed out the 7-6 win, although it was a bit more stressful than his typically style.

Aug 18 (Game 1): The first game of the 2006 Boston Massacre. Johnny Damon went 3 for 6 with 4 RBI, and Chien-Ming Wang gave the team six solid innings as they edged Boston 12-4.

Aug 18 (Game 2): In the nightcap, Sir Sidney's final Yankee game went about as well as could be expected, as he did not make it out of fourth inning. Boston took a 10-7 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Then came the seventh inning.

Top 7th: NY Yankees
- C. Hansen relieved J. Tavarez
- R. Cano grounded out to shortstop
- J. Giambi hit for C. Wilson
- J. Giambi walked
- B. Williams singled to right, J. Giambi to second
- J. Posada hit for S. Fasano
- J. Posada singled to left, J. Giambi to third, B. Williams to second
- M. Timlin relieved C. Hansen
- M. Cabrera singled to right, J. Giambi scored, B. Williams to third, J. Posada to second
- J. Damon flied out to left
- D. Jeter doubled to deep right, J. Posada, B. Williams and M. Cabrera scored
- B. Abreu intentionally walked
- A. Rodriguez doubled to left, D. Jeter scored, B. Abreu to third
- R. Cano singled to right center, A. Rodriguez and B. Abreu scored
- J. Giambi popped out to shallow left center

7 runs, 6 hits, 0 errors
NY Yankees 14, Boston 10

Mariano gave up a solo HR to David Ortiz in the bottom of the ninth, but the Yanks held on for the 14-11 win.

Aug 19: Randy Johnson wasn't particularly good, but Josh Beckett was far worse, and the Yankees rolled to a pretty easy 13-5 win.

Aug 20: This is probably the game that broke Boston's back. Yankee nemesis Curt Schilling pitch seven strong innings, holding them to three runs, while Mike Mussina, Ron Villone, and Mike Myers gave up five. The Yankees managed to load the bases with no outs in the top of the eighth, and the Red Sox went to their closer, Jon Papelbon. Jason Giambi hit a sacrifice fly that was just a shade away from being a HR, and then Alex Rodriguez drew a walk, but Papelbon recovered to strike out Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada, preserving a 5-4 lead. Melky Cabrera led off the top of the ninth with a double. Papelbon threw a wild pitch that advanced Melky to third, then struck out Bernie Williams and Johnny Damon, bringing up Derek Jeter. Jeter took a strike, then singled to right to score the tying run. The game went to the 10th, and then Jason Giambi homered (his second of the game) to give the Yankees the lead. Jorge Posada added a two run HR for insurance, and the Yankees had an 8-5 win.

Aug 21: Having won the first four games in the series, the Yankees busted out the brooms, with Cory Lidle out-dueling David Wells in a 2-1 victory, effectively eliminating Boston from the AL East race.

Sep 4: Trailing Kansas City 5-1 in the eighth, the Yankees explode for 10 runs and win 12-5.

Sep 9: Chien-Ming Wang picks up his 17th win, out-dueling the feared Adam "Cy" Loewen in the process, as the Yankees win 3-2.

Sep 20: The Yankees lose to Toronto 3-2, but clinch the AL East when Minnesota beats Boston.

I'm sure I missed some along the way, so feel free to add to the list.

Now the Yankees have 10 games to experiment with Gary Sheffield at first base, to rest their pitchers and position players, and to set up their rotation for the first round of the playoffs. While home field advantage would be nice, being healthy heading into the postseason would probably be nicer. Mariano Rivera has made progress and is expected to make his return to the mound over the weekend. That seems like the last hurdle for the team to be at just about full strength heading into the postseason.

September 20, 2006

Yankees clinch the AL East!
by SG

Despite losing 3-2 to Toronto, the Yankees got to celebrate their ninth straight AL East title when Minnesota eliminated Boston. Their work is just starting, but try and enjoy this for a few days.

T - 1, and Counting
by SG

Last night's 6-3 win over Toronto coupled with Minnesota beating Boston means the Yankees' magic number for clinching the AL East is down to one. Unfortunately, the Yankees came out of yesterday's game banged up, with Jeter, Damon, and Giambi all getting nicked up.

Somehow, Jeff Karstens continues to pitch decently. Last night, he worked around control issues and lots of hits, but managed to take the game into the seventh inning (Jaret Wright would be proud) and allowed only three runs.

Today seems like the ultimate House Money day, with Roy Halladay going vs. Sean Henn, and with Damon, Jeter, Giambi, and Posada all resting. I'm curious to see what Gary Sheffield can do at first base, but I don't know if his first game back should be against one of the top pitchers in baseball.

In other news, has this shocking piece of news.

Pavano likely out for season

I can't believe this.

September 19, 2006

Thank you Jose Veras
by SG

In a game that was filled with highs and lows, the Yankees held onto a 7-6 victory over Toronto. Darrell Rasner started horribly, hitting the leadoff man, allowing a double, and then walking Vernon Wells to load the bases with no outs. Rasner rebounded to work out of trouble, but the 27 pitches he threw ended up playing a big factor later in the game. Rasner went on to last six innings, and allowed three runs in decent start.

On the other side, A.J. Burnett looked like every bit of the $11 million a year pitcher the Blue Jays signed, mixing in 98 mph fastballs with nasty curves and overmatching the Yankees over the first five innings. Through 5.1 innings, Burnett had thrown only 66 pitches and looked well on his way to a dominating shutout victory. Bobby Abreu worked the count full then hit a bleeder up the middle to bring up Alex Rodriguez, Mr. Unclutch himself. Rodriguez launched a 2 run HR, cutting the deficit to 3-2. Burnett looked rattled at this point, as he lost the strike zone and walked Giambi, balked, then walked Jorge Posada. So Burnett went from a nice economical pitch count to disaster in the span of four hitters. He got Robinson Cano out to end the frame, but it was pretty clear this inning took a lot out of him.

Leading off the seventh, Hideki Matsui ripped a single to CF on the first pitch, but Melky Cabrera seemed to screw up the inning by hitting into a double play on the second pitch. That brought up Aaron Guiel, who was inserted into the lineup when Johnny Damon got ejected by the homeplate umpire for apparently having the audacity to question a checked-swing strike called on Matsui in his prior plate appearance. Guiel singled, and that brought up the MVP candidate Derek Jeter. Jeter gets criticized for not being a power hitter, but you wouldn't have known it by the shot he hit (on a 3-0 pitch no less), that put the Yankees in front 4-3.

Brian Bruney threw 18 pitches in a shutout seventh, although he did walk one and allowed a hit. Scott Proctor who was supposedly not available tonight pitched the eighth. I thought Bruney had another inning in him, and would have preferred to see him start the 8th, knowing the rest of the pen was thin.

In the ninth, the Yankees added three runs, although they were lucky to do so. Robinson Cano led off with a double, and Hideki Matsui advanced him to third on a ground out. Melky Cabrera's jersey got grazed on a pitch, putting runners on the corner with one out. That brought up Guiel, who'd singled and scored the tying run earlier, as well as making a very nice sliding catch on a ball in CF. For reasons unbeknownst to almost anyone, Joe Torre felt that this would be a good time to put a worse hitter vs. righties up (Guiel: .242/.363/.442 vs R, Bernie: .261/.307/.388), while increasing the likelihood of a double play and significantly downgrading the defense in a one run game and with no Mariano Rivera looming.

Shockingly, Bernie hit a tailor-made double play ball on the very first pitch he saw, but fortunately for the Yankees the Blue Jays messed up the pivot at second, which opened the door for a three run rally and turning a 4-3 nailbiter into a 7-3 laugher.

Or so I thought, anyway.

Ron Villone, whose ineffectiveness has been pretty obvious over the last six weeks was brought in to start the inning, which I thought was a questionable decision. Villone's command was horrible, but Alexis Rio's plate discipline was worse, as he swung at bad pitches until he fanned. Vernon Wells then hit a flare to CF which was very similar to the ball that Guiel had made a nice play on earlier in the game. Instead it was played on a hop. Lyle Overbay then singled, which put two runners on and made the game a save situation. Since Octavio Dotel was apparently the designated closer for the evening, he was brought in. Dotel's fastball was not fast, and his command was not good either, and after falling behind 3-1, he gave up a three run HR to Troy Glaus, which cut the Yankee lead to 7-6.

It was pretty clear Dotel had nothing, and it's pretty clear he won't help the team this year, so I was happy to see Joe Torre come out to the mound. The broadcast went to commerical and I was anxious to see which righty was going to be coming in to get the last two outs, Jose Veras or T.J. Beam.

Imagine my surprise when they came back from commercial and I saw Mike Myers warming, especially after what happened yesterday, with a switch-hitter due up and a righty pinch-hitter available in Jason Phillips. Shockingly, Myers got an actual out, and then gave up single to Phillips. Thankfully, Myers was only left in two batters too long this time, not five, as Veras came in, threw a ball, then got Aaron Hill to fly out to Melky in LF.

This game was way more stressful than it needed to be. I'm a little worried that with only 12 games left, the team's not going to be as well-rested as I had hoped come the postseason.

And if anyone's seen Jason Giambi's bat, please notify him.

September 18, 2006

by SG

It's a good thing this weekend's four game series with Boston was meaningless, because the Yankees played like garbage.

Game 1: Boston 5, Yankees 2

Game 2: Yankees 7, Boston 5

Game 3: Boston 6, Yankees 3

Game 4: Boston 5, Yankees 4

The game that really irritated me was the last one. Mike Myers is a lefty specialist. His job is to get lefties out. He's actually had better success against righties this year (200/.321/.267 vs. .250/.292/.412 against lefties), but that's over 28.2 innings. From 2003-2005, he held lefies to a line of .208/.278/.318 compared to .331/.450/.509. Joe Torre had Myers face five straight right-handed hitters, in the process turning a 4-2 lead into a 4-4 tie.

My thought is that Torre was trying to see if he can get away with not carrying Ron Villone on the postseason roster. If Myers can get an occasional righty out, they may not need Villone, whose effectiveness has decreased sharply whether due to regression towards his true talent level or overwork in the month of August or some combination of the two. Unfortunately, it cost the Yankees the game in the process.

The Yankees only have to win four of their 13 remaining games to clinch the division, so they're not really in trouble, but it was annoying that they wasted the opportunity to bury Boston when they threw their three best starters against a Boston team that didn't have Manny Ramirez and had to start the likes of Kevin Jarvis, Kyle Snyder, and Julian Tavarez.

For all the talk about the Yankees not needing Gary Sheffield, the lack of offense over the weekend seems to indicate that they might. Sheffield's supposed to play in a simulated game tomorrow, so he may be ready to see game action by the end of the week.

The Yanks take on Toronto now, who have an elimination number of three, so if they can take two of three they'll eliminate the Jays. Darrell Rasner takes on AJ Burnett. Another solid start by Rasner could get him into the postseason mix as a long reliever.

September 15, 2006

The Meaningless Series with the Red Sox
by SG

With last night's 7-4 win over Tampa Bay, the Yankees have won six straight games for the first time all season. In doing so, they also lowered their magic number for the AL East to six, which means that if they can take three of four against the Red Sox over the weekend, they can clinch the division against Boston at home, which would be pretty sweet.

Jeff Karstens was decent, aside from when he was facing Rocco Baldelli. I still don't think Karstens has the makings of much more than a swingman or possible fifth starter, his stuff just seems short, but I love the fact that he is a strike-throwing machine and works quickly. Darrell Rasner relieved him to start the sixth, and was outstanding, throwing four innings and allowing only one hit, with five strikeouts. With Cory Lidle struggling, a case could be made for Rasner over Lidle on the postseason roster if Jaret Wright pitches decently over the rest of the season and claims the fourth starter spot in the playoffs.

The Yankees are in great shape heading into this series with the Red Sox. Even if they were to somehow get swept, they'd still have an 8 game lead in the loss column with 13 games to play. By moving Chien-Ming Wang's start to tonight, they get to throw their three top starters at Boston.

Your matchups for the weekend:

Saturday: Game 1 - 1:20 PM ET
J. Beckett (14-10, 5.09) vs. C. Wang (17-5, 3.60)

Saturday: Game 2 - 8:05 PM ET
J. Tavárez (3-4, 4.74) vs. J. Wright (10-7, 4.60)

Sunday: Game 1 - 1:05 PM ET
K. Snyder (4-4, 6.54) vs. R. Johnson (17-10, 4.84)

Sunday: Game 2 - 8:05 PM ET
K. Gabbard (1-3, 3.13) vs. M. Mussina (14-6, 3.59)

Jorge Posada's bruised up, the result of a HBP off his elbow. He's listed as day-to-day. In better news, Mariano Rivera appears to be progressing and will probably throw a bullpen session this weekend. If that goes well he could see game action next week. I haven't seen or read anything on Gary Sheffield, so I'd imagine he won't be back over the weekend either.

Alex Belth brought this up on Bronx Banter yesterday, but tonight will be Jim Kaat's last game as an announcer, as he's announced his retirement. I think Kaat is a great broadcaster. He's fair, impartial, not afraid to criticize, and knows as much about the physical aspects of pitching as anyone. Yeah, he's a bit old-school at times, and some of his rants about pitch counts and Moneyball may be annoying at times, but I've always thought that paled in comparison to the good stuff he brought to the announcer's booth every night. The man played for 25 years and had an amazing power of recall, able to remember intricate details of games from 40 years ago. I wish him the best in his retirement, and will miss him.

September 14, 2006

Here's to you, Mr. Robinson
by SG

After missing six weeks with a hamstring injury, Robinson Cano has come back with a venegance. In the 36 games since he's returned, he's hitting .361/.382/.611. Cano drove in five runs in last night's 8-4 victory over Tampa.

Let's look at some more numbers for Cano. Below is a list of all AL 2B who have 300 or more PA this season, and their offensive and defensive numbers.

So, despite missing six weeks, Cano's been the most valuable offensive 2B in the American League, and second most valuable overall. How about if we pro-rate these stats to a full season? Since you asked...

There are probably bigger error bars when pro-rating defense compared to offense, so take Aaron Hill's big defensive numbers with a grain of salt, although his career ZR at 2B is a pretty impressive .896. Anyway, the point is that Cano at age 23 is one of the better 2B in the AL. Chase Utley, Ray Durham, and Dan Uggla are probably having better seasons, but given the apparent disparity in talent between the AL and NL, I'm not sure how much of a direct comparison we can do.

Not bad for a guy who inspired the following scouting report in February 2005.

I guess I should have nominated Cano in the most overrated prospect thread the other day. That he still gets talked up as some kind of top prospect (not pointing at John here, by the way) amazes me.

I've seen Cano play a lot, and I'm not even sure he'd be a productive Triple-A player. Let's start with his defense; it's brutal. He has terrible footwork and simply lacks any kind of instincts around the bag. There's no way you want him playing up the middle. He might have the raw speed to not be awful in left field, but that's about as kind as I can be regarding his glovework.

Offensively, he's a fastball hitter. He sits dead red on every pitch and waits for a mistake. Any good breaking ball or offspeed pitch will have him out in front. He's mostly a gap hitter, lacking the power to drive the ball consistently over the wall. To add insult to injury, he's also a terrible baserunner.

In his prime, I think he could hit .280/.320/.400 while playing awful defense. Yipee.

.280/.320/.400, eh?

By request from English Jim, here are the same numbers for the National League.

A win tonight knocks the magic number for the AL East down to six, and the Yankees will be in position to clinch against Boston over the weekend by winning three of the four scheduled games. We'll see if James Shields (6-7, 4.71) can hang with Wang (17-5, 3.60).

Kind of, Sort of, Flashback
by Fabian

So…I was thinking about which Yankee minor leaguers I would give year end awards to when I realized that while I had done this for the Minor Yankee Blog at the end of ’04, I forgot to do it in ’05. The awards ranged from placement on the Yankee Prospect All Star Team to Breakout Prospect, Comeback Prospect, Hitting Prospect, and Pitching Prospect of the Year awards. So, I’m going to do give the ’05 awards out now and I won’t take ’06 into account. The winners are based purely on a combination of prospect status as of ’05 weighted against performance (you’ll have to trust that I’m being honest). There are minimums of 60 IP and/or 180 PA. Players are listed with their baseball age for the 2005 season, level, and then AVG/OBP/SLG for hitters and ERA/K9/BB9/H9/HR9 for pitchers. Without further ado:

2005 Yankee Prospect All Star Team:

C: Irwil Rojas, 20, A- .281/.345/.336

1B: Eric Duncan, 20, AA .235/.326/.408

2B: Justin Christian, 25, A-/A+/AAA .303/.376/.466

3B: Marcos Vechionacci, 18, A- .252/.314/.348

SS: Eduardo Nunez, 18, SS .313/.365/.427

OF: Tim Battle, 19, A- .259/.335/.455

OF: Brett Gardner, 21, SS .284/.377/.376

OF: Melky Cabrera, 20, AA/AAA .269/.319/.402

LH: Matt Smith, 26, AA/AAA 2.73/10.1/3.9/7.7/0.5

RH: Tyler Clippard, 20, A-/A+/AAA 3.32/10.6/2.0/7.4/0.8

Breakout Prospect: Tyler Clippard

Comeback Prospect: Tim Battle

Hitting Prospect: Tim Battle

Pitching Prospect: Tyler Clippard

Now…this list…is ugly, no bones about it. To some extent, when you think about the playing time constraints as well as the nature of the Yankee system, both then and now it is RHP dominated, this is to be expected. But still…this list is really ugly and much more of a tallest midget contest than anything else. To some, that makes it entirely irrelevant, but I like it as a way of getting an idea of where the system is weak. The ’06 list doesn’t look to be as depressing, but will have some dry spots as well. I’ll give a prize, but not really, to anyone who can correctly the name the winner of each of these positions for the ’06 team. Keep in mind; this list will be less ceiling (Baseball America) and more performance (Baseball Prospectus) than my eventual Top 25.

On the subject of the year-end All Star team, it’s cool to look back and see that 40% of that original team has already had major league impact with Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, and Melky Cabrera looking like solid contributors while Robinson Cano has displayed star potential and, in some ways, may already BE a star.

September 13, 2006

The Return of Godzilla
by SG

I had tears of joy when I saw the Yankee lineup yesterday prior to the game. When Hideki Matsui is batting 8th in a lineup, you know you've got a good one. Matsui made his return after missing over 100 games, and the new look Yankee lineup batted around in the first inning, scoring nine runs on their way to a 12-4 thrashing of Tampa. Matsui's return went about as well as anyone could have hoped for, as he went four for four with a walk. We all know about his defensive issues, but as a DH Matsui's going to be a big asset to the lineup. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Matsui, for the way he worked his way back from a severe injury. You also have to respect a guy who was able to break his wrist on sliding catch attempt and still be more concerned about making the throw in than his hand dangling from his arm. It's good to have him back.

Bobby Abreu drove in six runs before Tampa was able to record three outs, drove in another with a sacrifice fly a bit later on, and missed a grand slam by a few feet later in the game. If you take Abreu's 41 games as a Yankee and pro-rate it to 162 games, you'd get the following line:

596 AB
205 H
59 2B
11 HR
122 RBI
102 BB
161 K
OPS+ 146
Batting Runs above average RF: 49

Derek Jeter had four plate appearances and went hitless, but his hitting streak continues, as three walks and a HBP mean he did not have an offical AB.

As I linked below, Gary Sheffield was taking BP prior to the game

Manager Joe Torre said Sheffield could return by the end of the homestand Sunday.

''Don't look at me as a handicap no more,'' Sheffield said.

``I'm ecstatic. Imagine not being able to do it for 12 weeks, not knowing if you're ever going to come back from it, if this is career ending or things like that.''

Sheffield thinks he will be game ready in a few days.

''Obviously, I'm not just airing it out the first day in BP,'' he said. ``When they decide, OK, it's time for you to play, then I'll get game ready. I'll swing like I'm in the game.''

Because the Yankees acquired right fielder Bobby Abreu in late July, Sheffield has been working out at first base.

I'm not sure how they'll squeeze him in, but I trust Joe Torre to handle this well.

While all the offense was fun, the Yankees aren't going to go far in the postseason without good starting pitching. So it was nice to see an effective Moose working his way back from the DL and a shaky start last time out, throwing 6.1 strong and efficient innings.

The magic number is now nine for the AL East, and the Yankees are two losses up in the loss column for home field advantage. Today, Cory Lidle (3-3, 4.81) tries to rebound from a disastrous start last time out against Jason Hammel (0-2, 5.61).

September 12, 2006

Starting Lineup - Tampa Bay at Yankees : 7:05 PM ET
by SG

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

Mussina P

Welcome back Hideki.

In other injury news...

Gary Sheffield took batting practice with the Yankees before the game, and manager Joe Torre said Sheffield could return to the lineup late this week. Sheffield had surgery June 13 to repair a torn ligament and dislocated tendon in his left wrist, which he injured April 29 during a collision with Shea Hillenbrand during a game against Toronto

Yankees 9, Orioles 6
by SG

Good times in Camden Yards, as the Yankees used a six run seventh to turn a 5-2 deficit into a 8-5 lead. Randy Johnson picked up his 17th win of the season, despite allowing five runs in six innings. Johnson seemed to be cruising over the first four innings, but he lost it in fifth. Jeff Karstens began throwing in the fourth which makes me think maybe something was bothering RJ, but he managed to get through two more innings anyway.

The magic number is down to 10. If the Yankees go 5-15 over their last 20 games, Boston would have to go 15-4 just to tie them. Thankfully, Boston has the guy who thinks he should be the MVP to lead them in their quest. Mariano Rivera is still not close to being ready, with his next throw day scheduled for Wednesday. I'm officially starting to get a tiny bit worried.

The Yankees come home for three games with Tampa. Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui may both be back in the lineup tonight. I'd love to see the Yankees clinch against Boston, but they probably have to sweep Tampa to be in position to do that.

September 11, 2006

Is Derek Jeter the AL MVP?
by SG

As the Yankees seemingly coast into the postseason, there have been many players who've played big roles. When you have a $200 million payroll and All Star players at almost every position, that's to be expected. One player has been more important for the Yankees this season than any other, though, and it's Derek Jeter. Jeter went 2 for 4 in yesterday's 9-4 victory over Baltimore, and added four RBI.

The question that many are starting to ask is if Jeter has been the most valuable player in the American League this season. He's certainly got a case for it, but how strong is it? Let's see if we can figure it out.

Here are the American League offensive leaders in batting runs by linear weights. If you are not familiar with this, it's a linear regression model to figure out the value of a player's offensive contributions based on the statistics he accumulates. This link has some good background information on it. I like linear weights because it is quite comprehensive. It includes stolen bases and caught stealings, and double plays, and I've even tweaked the formula I'm using to include reaching on errors, since that is also valuable.

Once I get a batting runs value for a player, I then make two adjustments. The first adjustment is a park adjustment. If a player plays in a park that boosts scoring, his performance gets deducted accordingly. If he plays in a park that stifles scoring, he gets the appropriate credit. This adjustment is pretty simple, you just multiply their raw BR total by one plus their home park run factor, divided by two. The position adjustment is a little more involved. I just calculate the BR for every player listed at the same position, average them, and then give the appropriate credit or debit to each individual.

So now that I've explained it, here's what it says.

Since most players also play defense, I then do my defensive calculations using Zone Rating, and add them to each of the contenders. Based on some discussions I've read and had with others, I'm not sure that purely adding/subtracting a player's defensive value from their offensive value is the best way to do this. In other words, a bad defensive shortstop might be more valuable defensively than an average defensive first baseman or a DH, but they end up getting penalized. However, I'm still working out how to sort through this in my head, so for now it's just a straight addition or deduction.

I also don't think pitchers should be excluded in this, so I add them in here. I calculate pitcher's RSAA (runs saved above average) using the same linear weights based formula but for what opposing hitters do against them. Starters are only compared to other starters, and relievers are compared to other relievers.

So including defense and pitchers to the table above, here are the new rankings. DR are defensive runs saved above/below average at their position.

Grady Sizemore, eh? He's having a tremendous season on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately for him, his team has disappointed which means he's probably not on most voters' radar. His teammate, Travis Hafner is going to miss the rest of the season, so he's done accruing value and is also likely not going to get as many votes as he may have had he finished out the season. By the way, a 1 or 2 run difference here is within the margin of error we're dealing with, to claim precision to one run (particularly on defense) is not accurate. Jeter's been about as valuable as both Sizemore and Hafner, which is how you should interpret the results above. Joe Mauer and Johan Santana are right up there with them, too.

Jeter's been playing very good defense (according to zone rating) since the week after the All Star Break. Since July 24, ZR has him having made 113 plays out of 130 ZR opportunities in 371 innings, equivalent to an .869 ZR. He's made 7 plays above average over that time, which is equivalent to saving 5 runs above average. This has helped bring him back from being as bad as a -9 to a pretty close to average -3.

One thing that I've noticed with further research into zone rating and in some correspondence I've had with Sean Smith and Chris Dial is that Fenway really kills Boston's LF, and has for as long as ZR has been around(1987). Based on some number crunching we've done, it looks like there are about 18 uncatchable balls a year in Fenway that the LF gets penalized for. Therefore, Ramirez's defensive numbers above have been park-adjusted to not penalize him as much. He was a -32 in raw ZR runs before the adjustment, if you're curious.

Lastly, if you are wondering how the Yankees survived the losses of Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, having five of the twenty most valuable position players in the league surely helped.

This is my system for figuring out a player's value to his team, but it's far from the only one. Baseball Prospectus's VORP pegs Jeter as the second-most valuable offensive player in the AL, behind Hafner. Win Shares, which was developed by Bill James as a means of valuing offense and defense, and is tracked at the Hardball Times has Jeter tied with Ramirez for the most in the AL, at 27.

I'm not much into the Win Probability Added stuff. While context does matter, WPA doesn't do a good job of capturing it in my mind, so I pretty much ignore it. It's way too team-dependent and timing-dependent for me. I just can't get behind a statistic that would consider an 8th inning sacrifice fly more valuable than a first inning HR in two games that both end up 1-0. I'm also not a big fan of bringing intangibles into the argument, or of only allowing players from playoff contenders to contend for the MVP. If you're valuable to your team, you're valuable to your team. It's not your fault if the front office didn't do their job, is it?

So, is Jeter the AL MVP? He certainly has a case for it, although so do others. I think it would fairly be a four man race between Sizemore, Jeter, Mauer, and Santana, but if voters want to consider the team as well, that basically leaves it to Jeter, Mauer, or Santana, any of whom deserve it. There's still 20 games to go, and plenty of time for someone to separate themselves from the pack. Jeter's current hitting streak will help get his name more press, and Minnesota's players may be splitting votes among each other, which helps Jeter as well. I think if Jeter can get to 100 RBI and win the batting title, that may end up putting him over the top. I'll be pulling for him to do it, even though some of you people out there think I hate him for some reason.

For those wondering about Robinson Cano's chances at the batting title, you can keep tabs with our new feature on the left under the magic number counter, The Robinson Cano Batting Title Watch. Nothing fancy, just his current average, current plate appearances, and how many plate appearances he'd need to qualify as of the last game played (that increases by 3.1 each game).

Yanks go for the series victory against Baltimore later today, with Randy Johnson(16-10, 4.76) taking on Kris Benson (10-10, 4.66). The magic numbers are shrinking, and the Yanks now have the best winning percentage in the majors. They may back into home field advantage with Detroit's offense going missing. No, the National League is not the majors, so I don't want to hear from any Mets fans.

September 8, 2006

Hughes and Matsui
by Fabian

Video links from Trenton's playoff opener for Hughes.

Video links from Trenton's playoff opener for Matsui.

-Courtesy of Pending Pinstripes

The End
by Fabian

Though the minor league regular season ended this past week, there is still lots of prospect action to be currently followed and more to arrive in the coming months. As has been previously detailed on this blog, Trenton is in the midst of an Eastern League title run. Their best of 5 series with the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston’s AA affiliate, is currently tied at 1 a piece following a Phil Hughes gem in game 1 and Tyler Clippard choosing a bad time to have his first mediocre game in a long time. Despite this, I’m fairly confident that they should be able to advance to the finals as they are the better team, though anything can happen in a 5-game series. As far as prospect action, the compelling reason to pay attention to the playoff exploits are the duo of Hughes and Clippard at the front of the rotation, as well as Brett Gardner hitting out of the leadoff spot and playing CF. Eric Duncan, also a member of the team, appears to be done until the Arizona Fall League, if that, with a late season recurrence of his back problems, contributing to deflating his seasonal line. Oh yeah, they also have some guy named Hideki Matsui DHing, though at 32-years-old his age-relative to league is pretty awful.

The other Yankee affiliate to make the playoffs is the Staten Island Yankees of the New York Penn League. Their first round opponent will be the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets short-season affiliate, and their series is a best of 3. Compelling player personnel reasons to keep an eye on this team’s playoff run are Ian Kennedy, Tim Norton, George Kontos, Wilmer Pino, Colin Curtis, Mark Melancon, Mitch Hilligoss, Jose Gil, Francisco Castillo, and Francisco Cervelli. The length of that list of names is somewhat surprising to me as I did not think this would be a very talented team at the beginning of the year, but having seen them play and having talked to others about their play, they were in fact an intriguing group this year. Repeating as NYPL champions would be a nice finishing touch.

In other affiliation news, Columbus sucked this year and finished well out of a playoff position in the International League while the Tampa and GCL Yankees made nice late season runs only to miss the postseason by a hair. Charleston had a good year, but unfortunately there were a few too many gaudy W-L records in this year’s SAL and they were left out in the cold.

Further down the line, when the MLB playoffs begin, the AFL will also just about be kicking off. This year’s AFL team won’t be THAT exciting as it will star Darrell Rasner, J.B. Cox, Brett Gardner, and Eric Duncan with Jeff Kennard and Sean Henn playing supporting roles. Henn is there to work on his bullpen transition. Kennard is there to make sure the improvements he’s made this year are real. Rasner is there to make up for time lost to injury, as is Duncan. Brett Gardner is there to see if the AFL will provide him with ample enough offensive push to perform less like Jason Tyner II. Cox is there because it is Yankee organizational philosophy to rape bullpen arms. I guess, technically, compared to some of the recent AFL editions, this is semi-talented Yankee group, though I would have loved to see the Yankees use the A-ball exception to get either Christian Garcia of Jeff Marquez some extra time.

While I don’t know the full details of which Yankee prospects will be heading to winter ball, I’m already fairly certain that will be more exciting to follow as Jose Tabata is scheduled to play in the Venezuelan Winter League.

So, the minor league regular season is over, but there’s still lots of prospect action to go before I decide who makes my organizational all star team as well as Top 25, though I have the preliminary lists done.

As far as the majors:

  1. I really, really, really hope that Wang wins 20.

  1. I can’t decide whether I would rather Cano or Jeter win the batting title, what say you, loyal RLYW readers?

The Roster Crunch
by SG

With the increasing likelihood of the return of Hideki Matsui, and the potential return of Gary Sheffield down the line, the question that many are asking is, what would give the Yankees their best lineup in the post season? Does bumping Melky Cabrera to the bench and putting Jason Giambi or Gary Sheffield at first base hurt the team more than it helps. There's no way to know for sure, but we can try to estimate using the numbers we have at our disposal. It's still not very likely that Sheffield will be back this year, as he's not even taking batting practice this season, but there's a chance of it.

Since both Sheffield and Matsui have not really played enough this year, I'll assume that they would play to their PECOTA projections coming into the season, although we don't know how the injuries they've suffered may affect that. It's a risk that two guys with pretty significant wrist injuries whose values are almost solely in their bats will play as well as they had projected to entering 2006, especially with all the missed time and the likely lack of meaningful AB they will get(especially Sheffield) before the games really start counting.

Basically, if the Yankees don't collapse, they enter the postseason with the following definites.

CF - Johnny Damon
SS - Derek Jeter
RF - Bobby Abreu
3B - Alex Rodriguez
2B - Robinson Cano
C - Jorge Posada

So, they have LF, 1B, and DH to fill, and they will potentially have the following candidates.

Jason Giambi
Craig Wilson
Melky Cabrera
Hideki Matsui
Gary Sheffield
Bernie Williams

Obviously, offensively, you'd want to get Giambi, Sheffield and Matsui into the lineup if their health allows it. However, we should also consider defense, where Melky is a pretty big upgrade over Matsui. But, it's more complicated if you DH Matsui to keep Melky in there, as you end up putting Giambi at first, where's he's not been particularly good over the last two season.

We don't know how well Sheffield would take to first base. He's an indifferent OF, but he did play 3B in his younger days, although he last saw regular duty there 13 years ago. Sheff's pretty athletic, so I'd imagine he would be okay at first, but it's probably a stretch to assume he'd be even average.

Here are the offensive and defensive run values for each player, using linear weights and zone rating converted to runs on defense. I'm not position-adjusting the offensive values here, as we're trying to compare these players directly to each other. This entry from July has the details on the defensive numbers I'm using, for those who want more details. For everyone but Matsui and Sheffield, it's based on YTD performance, for them I'm using their PECOTA projections coming into the season. Per request, I've added the '06 performances for Sheffield and Matsui now as well.

Since we have small sample sizes for Sheffield and Matsui's defense as well, I'm using their 2003-2005 defensive numbers for defense. For Craig Wilson I'm using his combined offense for Pittsburgh and New York, and his defensive totals for his career as a 1B. I left Aaron Guiel's offensive number alone, since if he plays, he'd probably be platooned, and his career line vs. righties is close enough to what he's hit this season overall. For his defense, I'm just going to assume he's average. So, if we break down those numbers on a per game basis, we get the numbers below.

So now comes the fun part, figuring out which combination is best. Here's the first and most likely combination given Sheffield's uncertain status.

So this combination of players would be worth .624 runs above average on offense, and -.154 runs on defense, on a per game basis, so net value is .469 runs above average per game.

If Sheffield comes back as a DH, here's what we get.

More offense, less defense, and an overall better option than combination one.

But what if Sheffield can play first base? There's no way to know how good he'd be, so I ran a few different options here.

If Sheffield's an average defensive 1B?

If Sheffield's a slightly below average defensive 1B (equivalent to say -6 over 162 games)?

If he's bad, but not quite Giambi bad (-18 over 162 games)?

Obviously, if he's no better than Giambi you're back to Combination 2 above.

As much as it sucks for Melky, if Sheffield comes back, Melky belongs on the bench, even though it hurts the defense. Of course, this assumes that Sheff comes back and hits as he was projected to entering the season. As I said earlier, with a pretty major wrist injury, that's far from a given. Also, it's possible that Melky's steadily increasing SLG is indicative of a change in approach and that his overall value is depressed by his lack of power early on, but there's no way to know that for sure, so I have to go with the numbers we have.

This doesn't consider platoon advantage, which is where Wilson/Guiel come into play. If Sheffield can't come back, then you have Matsui, Melky, Giambi, and a Wilson/Guiel platoon for first base. The question then is if the Yankees are better off with combination 2 above (Melky LF, Giambi 1B, Matsui DH) or some grouping like below. I'm going to give a 10% boost to Wilson based on historical platoon advantages and what I've read about the predictability of platoon splits. Again, I'm assuming Guiel is an average 1B, as we only have 45 innings of data for him there, where he's been perfect (ZR of 1.000).

More bad news for Melky, as this combination would appear to be better as well, although the difference is smaller.

I'm putting up a fifth combination by request from Jody, even though I don't think it has a chance in hell of ever happening.

Lastly, by request, here are all those same combinations if we use Matsui and Sheffield's 2006 performances instead of projections.

There are a bunch of other factors that should probably be considered. It may be better to risk a bad OF defense and get Giambi off the field when Wang is pitching, for example. Conversely, there may be games/matchups where you want to have your strongest defensive outfield. Also, Don raised a good point in yesterday's comments that Giambi needs at least some playing time at first to be able to handle first base passably if the Yankees do somehow reach the World Series. So these numbers do need to be tempered with lots of other considerations.

The most encouraging thing about all these numbers is that whether Sheffield comes back or not, the Yankees have enough quality depth on their bench that they probably can't run a bad lineup out there (unless Bernie sees the OF, which he really should never do). The best thing is obviously if Sheffield can come back healthy and play an average 1B, but even if he can't, they'll be in pretty good shape. They also have the bench to upgrade the defense in the late innings if they have a lead, where the value of a run prevented is probably more important than a run added. A lot of that depends on how many pitchers they feel the need to carry in the postseason. I'll probably play pick the postseason roster in a few weeks, if they don't blow it.

It's on to Baltimore for a three four game set. Here are your matchups.

C. Lidle (3-2, 3.38) vs.E. Bedard (12-9, 3.94)

C. Wang (16-5, 3.69) vs. Cy Loewen (5-4, 5.55)

M. Mussina (13-6, 3.72) vs. H. Penn (0-1, 108.00)

R. Johnson (16-10, 4.76) vs. either R. López (9-15, 5.97) or TBD

Ugh, I was hoping they'd miss Cy Loewen. Maybe they'll finally figure out how to hit that SOB this time. I think 3 of 4 is reasonable, although Baltimore's been pitching pretty well lately. Maybe a split is enough.

September 7, 2006

Matsui, Thunder take opener
by SG

This Matsui kid looks like a keeper. More impressive than Hideki's first game action back, check out Phil Hughes's line for those who haven't yet seen it.

6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 13 K.

The big club whipped up on the Royals 8-3 last night. Randy Johnson was great, almost Anibal Sanchez-like, taking a no-hitter into the seventh before allowing a double. Johnson was pulled after seven innings and 81 pitches, and I was fine with this. The Yankees were winning 8-0 when he would have started the eighth, and with the game well in hand, many of the regulars in the lineup had been pulled. Gone were Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada.

If the game was so obviously over, why was Scott Proctor brought in? The Yankees currently have the following bullpen:

T.J. Beam
Brian Bruney
Octavio Dotel
Kyle Farnsworth
Sean Henn
Jeff Karstens
Mike Myers
Scott Proctor
Darrell Rasner
Mariano Rivera
Jose Veras
Ron Villone
Jaret Wright

Scratch Mo, who's working his way back from a muscle strain. Scratch Villlone too, who has been acknowledged as perhaps slightly fatigued. Hell, scratch Bruney, Henn, and Dotel since they had pitched Tuesday night. You still had SEVEN other options with an 8-0 lead to get 6 outs before allowing eight runs. Instead, Torre went to Proctor, who leads all of baseball in appearances and innings and pitches by a reliever, in a low leverage situation. The same Scott Proctor who had pitched in two of the previous three games, once with a six run lead. With Mo ailing and Kyle Farnsworth being Kyle Farnsworth, there's a chance that Proctor may be the Yankees' most useful reliever if they get to the postseason. Why Joe? Why?

Eh, enough whining. It was a nice win to take the series against a Kansas City team that's been playing pretty well since the All Star Break. Yanks have a day off today, then open up a 3 game series in Baltimore.

September 6, 2006

An Open Letter to Joe Torre
by SG

Dear Joe Torre,
I've always been loyal to you. I've done whatever you needed from me all season long. Why must you kill my arm so?


Scott Proctor

Royals 5, Yankees 0
by SG

Fortunately for me, real life intervened and I didn't get to see this game. Seems like Moose wasn't very good from the box score, but maybe he looked better than that. Losing to the Royals is frustrating, but they've been playing better of late.

In other news, the New York Times has the following blurbs:

[Mariano] Rivera played catch Monday with the pitching coach, Ron Guidry, and while he told reporters that he felt fine, Torre had a different report Tuesday.

“He felt tight yesterday when he threw,” Torre said. “But before he went out there, he did a lot of work. We’ll just see how it feels. He told me it felt better today.”

Rivera received treatment on the elbow before batting practice Tuesday and did not play catch. Torre will not use him until this weekend at the earliest.

“I’m not concerned, because the tests they took showed nothing that needs to be tended to other than to get this thing out of there,” Torre said. “And he is going to be honest, because he understands how important he is.”

After striking out in his first at-bat as the designated hitter Monday, Jason Giambi retreated to the clubhouse and made a drastic move: He snipped off his mustache. Anything to end a slump that reached 0 for 19 last night.

“Hey, it couldn’t hurt,” Giambi said. “Change something up.”

A more logical reason for Giambi’s slide is the tendinitis in his left wrist, which required a cortisone shot last Thursday. Because of the weakened wrist, Giambi said, he does not have the usual snap in his swing, causing him to swing under pitches and foul off balls he should drive.

“I’m not really torching it,” Giambi said. “I’m hitting it good, but I’m not hitting it great. I just need to work on a few things.”

Giambi said doctors told him he could not damage the wrist by playing, and Joe Torre said he rested him Tuesday because the Royals started a left-hander.

Because of a day off Thursday, Jaret Wright will be skipped his next time through the rotation. Wright will start next Tuesday at home against Tampa Bay.

“They make the decisions,” Wright said. “If that’s what they go with, I’ll do whatever I can to stay ready.”

Joe Torre said Wright would be available in relief if Cory Lidle had a short start Friday in Baltimore.

Ron Villone had another rough outing Monday, allowing two runs and getting two outs. He has an 8.72 earned run average since Aug. 2, and a heavy workload may be catching up to him.

“I don’t think it’s anything more than a little fatigue,” Joe Torre said. “We’ll try to be a little more careful with him.”

Villone made 17 appearances in August, tied with his teammate Scott Proctor for most in the American League. Villone insisted there was nothing wrong with him physically.

Octavio Dotel has pitched only five and a third innings since coming off the disabled list, and Joe Torre said he still planned to get more work for Dotel to decide whether he belonged on a possible playoff roster.

But Dotel admitted his arm was still building strength after elbow surgery in June 2005, and he did not say he needed more work.

“The way they’ve been using me is pretty good,” Dotel said. “They realize I’m coming back from Tommy John surgery, and they don’t want to push me too hard. I really appreciate the way they’re hanging in with me.”

Brian Bruney's apparent emergence could mean that Dotel may not make the postseason roster. If Dotel's not right yet, then it's probably for the best.

Randy Johnson takes on Runelvys Hernandez tonight in the rubber game. With the off day tomorrow, I'm expecting a lot of resting of regulars, so hopefully RJ is in good form.

September 5, 2006

36 Minutes of Pleasure
by SG

After seven innings, the Yankees were headed to a frustrating loss in Kansas City. Despite managing nine hits in those seven innings against Luke Hudson, they could only score once, as Hudson struck out 10 while walking just one, and pitching his way out of several jams.

Even when the Yankee offense falters, they work pitchers. It took Hudson 113 pitches to complete those seven innings, at which point he was pulled for the Royals bullpen. Then came the top of the eighth, and a 35 minute and 50 second rally that reminded me just how good this offense can be.

With Jimmy Gobble pitching, Alex Rodriguez singled. Jorge Posada followed with a home to right, cutting the deficit to 5-3. Robinson Cano singled, and Melky Cabrera walked. Bernie Williams pinch-hit for Aaron Guiel and worked a full count walk. Johnny Damon singled to score the tying runs. Derek Jeter fanned, but Bobby Abreu then crushed a double to straight center field that scored the fifth and sixth runs of the inning. Jason Giambi grounded out, Rodriguez walked, Posada singled, and then Cano put the exclamation point on the inning with his second hit of the frame, a three run homer. Melky flied out to end the carnage. The Yanks tacked on a run in the ninth and ended up winning 12-5.

Cano's two hits in the inning were half of his total on the day, and he is now hitting .338/.363/.494 on the season. Yeah, he doesn't walk, but if that's the only flaw in his game as a 23 your old second baseman,, it doesn't matter much. He still doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. You need 3.1 plate appearances per team game to qualify. Cano sits at 406 right now, so he's 15 PA behind being able to qualify. He needs 96 PA over the remaining 26 games to qualify. (thanks to qwik3457bb for doing the math).

You can slowly see Brian Bruney earning Joe Torre's trust. I'd have left him in the game to start the seventh instead of going to Ron Villone, who is both regressing to his career norms and likely fatigued as well, as he has made 19 appearances since August 1. Bruney has a great fastball. If he harnesses his command he could be a very useful reliever going forward. Not bad for a cheap pickup.

Boston actually won yesterday, so the magic number only went down by one. If the Yankees go 13-13 over their remaining 26 games, Boston would have to go 21-3 to catch them. The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to show.

Update: I just noticed that Dan M. was wondering about Proctor's splits based on rest, so here they are.

0 days rest
IP: 14.1
HR: 4
BB: 7
SO: 9
ERA: 6.28

1 day rest
IP: 43.1
HR: 3
BB: 11
SO: 46
ERA: 2.70

2 days rest
IP: 20.0
HR: 3
BB: 10
SO: 14
ERA: 4.50

3-5 days rest
IP: 9.1
HR: 1
BB: 1
SO: 6
ERA: 2.89

Seems like Proctor should never pitch on back to back days if possible.

September 1, 2006

More Fun with Log5
by SG

The Yankees closed out August with a 6-4 win over Detroit yesterday at the Stadium. Yesterday's game also closed out a pretty rough section of the schedule, which Larry and I both took shots at projecting. I used Bill James's log5 method but slightly incorrectly, ending up with a projected record of 12-12. Larry made a few tweaks and re-ran it and got a projected record of 13-11, which ended up being exactly what the Yankees did.

So, I figured I'd run throught it once more for the rest of the season to see where the Yankees may end up, and who they might face in the playoffs, so I ran log5 for the Yanks, Tigers, Twins, and White Sox. Even though Boston's odds of taking the AL East are down to 0.5%, I'm keeping them in the mix too.

So here's where they are right now.

If we use log5 for each team's remaining games with their actual winning percentage, we get the following standings at the end of the season.

And if we run through it once more, this time using Pythagorean winning percentage, we get these standings.

It still looks like the Yankees have a decent shot at home field, especially if Detroit's struggles continue. I'd love to see Chicago and Minnesota tie for the wild card and have to play a playoff game against each other. It seems the AL East winner is going to get the wild card team, and the AL Central winner the AL West winner.

I think the Yankees are going to use their lead to rest people for the postseason, and I think it makes sense. I'd rather have a mostly healthy team going into the playoffs without home field advantage than a team with home field advantage and a lot of tired players.

September first means expanded rosters, and the Yankees are planning on calling up catcher Wil Nieves and pitchers T.J. Beam and Jose Veras today.

Andy Phillips is expected back from the DL over the weekend, and Darrell Rasner will start Sunday against Minnesota.