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October 31, 2006

Melky's Defense by the Week
by SG

One of the things I wanted to do this season in order to better understand how to assess the value players bring defensively was to track defense weekly. My hope was that doing this would allow me to see any patterns or changes in time periods, rather than a single year-end number.

Regular readers are already pretty familiar with the method of evaluating that I've been using recently, the heart of which is Stats Inc's zone rating. If you are, you can skip the next two paragraphs. For those who aren't familiar with it, Chris Dial wrote one of the most thorough explanations about the system. For those who don't feel like reading the link, zone rating is a number between 0 and 1, that represents the percentage of fieldable plays a player makes. In other words, if a player has 100 opportunies to make a play, and converts 85 of them into outs, his zone rating would be .850.

I like ZR because it is freely available on several sites (including ESPN and CNNSI), and also because it generally matches what my eyes see fairly well. With the work done by Dial and Sean Smith, it's now pretty straightforward to convert ZR to a run value, which lets us at least attempt to quantify a player's defensive contributions.

Now, ZR has some limitations, like any fielding metric. It does not factor in the speed of batted balls, so a team that gives up more hard-hit balls may look worse than they deserve to, when it's actually the pitchers' fault. It's also scored by people, although it is done by a team of three people who sit separately to cut down on human bias. Also, it does not account for positioning or shifts, so a player being played out of position will be penalized for not being able to make a play he may have made if he was in his normal position. There appear to be park factors in several stadiums (notably those with high walls), although we are making some inroads in figuring out how to handle these. Lastly, it does not handle plays made out of zone well, as they end up getting lumped into plays in zone. So keep all these factors in mind when looking at numbers based on zone rating, and account for the error bars inherent in these numbers.

When you think of Zone Rating, all it is is plays made/plays available. If a play is not made due to an error, it is no more or less meaningful than a play that is not made due to a fielder's lack of range. This is a fundamental part of understanding defensive value, that is usually overlooked by the mainstream media. Fielding percentage doesn't mean a damn thing, really.

So now that the explanation is out of the way, here are the numbers that you need to calculate a player's defensive contribution.

Chances/Plays available - This is available on CNNSI, but if you don't have this number handy you can calculate an approximation of this. To do that, you would do the following.

For 1B, it's best to use a historic approximation of the chances most 1B see per inning, which is 0.198112. So a 1B who plays 1000 innings would have 198 chances, typically. It's best to use the actual chances from CNNSI, but if that's not available this should be close enough.

For all other IF, we can figure out the plays availabe by using their plays made (assists), and dividing by their zone rating. So a player who has 250 assists and a ZR of .825 would have had 303 plays available to them.

For OF, we can do the same thing, substituting putouts as plays made instead of assists.

We then need to calculate the average ZR at each position and from there we can see how many plays above/below average a player makes. Each position has an associated run value for the plays they make or fail to make, and those are listed here. We would multiply these run values times the plays made above/below average to get a run value.

POS Run Value
1B .798
2B .754
3B .800
CF .842
LF .831
RF .843
SS .753

For OF, I then add in a value for runs saved by their arm by comparing their assists to the league average at the same position.

So now that this has all been explained, let's run through it with an example, which in this case is going to be Melky Cabrera. A lot of people want to see Melky as the full time LF in 2007 because he seems to be a pretty big upgrade over Hideki Matsui, who has been about a -10 LF in his Yankee tenure. However, the numbers don't really mesh with this perception.

This season, Melky had 256 playable chances, and converted 208 of them into outs. 208/256 = .816, his ZR. The average AL LF had a ZR of .844, so the average LF would have made 216 plays. So Melky made 8 fewer plays than average, which we then multiply by .831, to get a run value of around -7 for zone outs. Melky had 12 assists in 998.2 innings, the average LF would have had 8. Assists are worth about one full run, so we give Melky a plus 4 for his arm, which makes his overall defensive value around -3.

So here's Melky's chart for the season, by week. There's a lot of rounding in the charts below so if things don't look like they add up to what's displayed here in some columns, that's why.

The encouraging thing in this set of numbers is that you can see that Melky struggled quite a bit over his first 30 games, although his arm helped make his defensive value decent.

In this chart, ZR is the ZR by week.

A ZR of .769 over a full season would be really bad. It would mean he would make somewhere on the order of 25 fewer plays than average. Thankfully, things were better in his last 85 games, as far as zone outs, although baserunners seemed to gradually learn that running on Melky is foolish.

An .837 ZR is still below average, although not terribly so. Matsui's career ZR in LF is .834, but he's also getting older and his arm is not nearly as good as Melky's. With what appears to be a dearth of options at first base in the free agent market, I wonder if the Yankees should consider Matsui's offer to play 1B.

I think Melky has the potential to end up being pretty solid in the OF eventually, and 990 innings is a pretty small sample size, so I wouldn't read too much into these numbers. It's just a little bit of information to try and quantify what we watched.

If anyone wants to see similar splits for other players, let me know.

October 30, 2006

Most Awesome Thing of the Week
by Fabian

Phil Hughes has his own website, providing us with further opportunity to worship at his altar.

by SG

October 29, 2006 -- The Yankees are getting calls about Gary Sheffield.

With the Yanks expected to pick up the slugger's option by Nov. 6, teams anticipate the Bombers will trade Sheffield, who has made it clear he doesn't want to return to The Bronx to play first base for the last year of his contract.


"Teams are talking to the Yankees,'' an industry source said. "They know he is available and they know, when healthy, he produces runs.''

And while Sheffield's option is for $13 million, it's only $8 million next season since the remaining $5 million is deferred.

Possible landing places for Sheffield in a trade are the Angels and Orioles. The Tigers need a DH, and Sheffield enjoyed playing for Jim Leyland with the Marlins.

I'm very interested to see how this shakes out. The Yankees need pitching more than anything, although if a team is willing to offer some interesting prospects that might be enticing as well.

October 27, 2006

NY Post: Pettitte might be an option
by SG

From Joel Sherman:

Boras represents Barry Zito, and the strong early indications are that neither New York club is planning to pursue the southpaw star, largely because of financial demands that almost certainly will climb well beyond even five years at $70 million. But that does not mean a playoff-proven and - just as vital - New York-proven pitcher might not be available at significantly less money by the name of Andy Pettitte.

Agent Alan Hendricks told The Post's George King yesterday that no firm plans had been made by either Pettitte or Roger Clemens whether to play in 2007 or whether they want to stay home in Houston if they do return. ...

This segues nicely into what I wanted to write about next, which are the starting pitcher options that are available on the market this offseason. Similar to what I did when trying to project Daisuke Matsuzaka, I did a weighted average for 2003-2005 for the candidates that I think the Yankees may have interest in. I then adjusted their statistics based on whether they'd be pitching in the NL or AL based on the weighted differences between the leagues over that same time frame, which are this:

The site has a comprehensive list of all the potential free agents. I picked out the ones who I thought might make at least a little sense for the Yankees to consider, and here they are. Again, the numbers below are a 3 year weighted average of 2003-2005, then adjusted for AL vs. NL.

Not a very inspiring list. I'd imagine Roger Clemens's projection is way too optimistic, but even if you add another run to his ERA he's probably the best option. The problem is, he's also the least likely option. He's also going to be 44, and while he works out like a madman, there's no way to know how long he can keep going.

Getting back to Sherman's point though, it's interesting to see that there's not much difference projected between Pettitte and Zito, although there's a pretty significant age difference, and a bigger risk of injury with Pettitte. This may be balanced somewhat by the fact that you can sign Pettitte for a shorter deal and less per year.

I liked Jason Schmidt more than Zito for similar reasons (shorter committment) as well as better stuff, although he has lost a few MPH of his fastball the last two years. I'd probably put him behind the Zito/Pettitte duo right now though.

Ted Lilly was interesting to me at one point because I thought he could be had relatively cheaply (say 2 years, $10 million) but that doesn't look like the case now. He's probably about a league average starter, but he has a delivery that seems to prevent him from staying healthy.

Kerry Wood wouldn't be anything more than a flier at this point. I don't even know when he can pitch again, or how good he will be if he does. Tony Armas and Gil Meche both project to be below average rotation filler, although they have the talent to be somewhat better than that.

That list stinks. As you can see, Matsuzaka probably projects better than anyone on the list except Clemens. If I were the Yankees, I would try to avoid committing to any pitchers on the market long-term, especially with the contracts they already have locked up.

Oh yeah, one more option.

Update: Mark Mulder by request from George.

October 26, 2006

NY Daily News: Sheffield warns: I won't deal with sign-and-trade
by SG

One day after the Daily News reported that the Yankees are planning to pick up Gary Sheffield's 2007 option as a precursor to trading him, Sheffield made it clear that he is not at all happy with the idea.

Sheffield was angered when he was informed the Bombers planned to exercise his $13 million option, preferring instead to test the free-agent market in hopes of landing a final three-year deal before retiring. Although Sheffield has little recourse if the Yanks do deal him, by making his displeasure known, it is possible that the potential trade partners will become leery because they can't be sure how Sheffield will react to a deal.

"I don't know what (the Yankees are) going to do," Sheffield told USA Today in a story posted on the paper's Web site late last night. "Maybe they picked it up just to trade me. If they do that, if I just (go) to a team for one year, there's going to be a problem. A big problem. I will not do this."

Gee, who saw this coming? I don't think Mr. Sheffield understands how little leverage he has right now. Maybe he should get a no-trade clause next time. Thanks to J for the link.

October 25, 2006

Daisuke Matsuzaka
by SG

There's no question that the starting pitching on the Yankees needs some improvement. With an uninspiring crop of US free agents this year led by Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt, one name that has been garnering a lot of interest is that of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka is a 26 year-old right-hander from the Seibu Lions, who was the MVP of the World Baseball Classic this year.

He's not physically imposing at about 6 feet tall and 185 pounds, but he's got a fastball that sits in the low 90s and has racked up some impressive statistics in his career for Seibu, especially of late.

Here's a look at Matsuzaka's career line for Seibu.

While they look impressive enough, it's important to try and put those in context. To do this, I took a look at all pitchers who began their careers in Japan and then came over the American major leagues. Here's the list of pitchers that I came up with.

Akinori Otsuka
Hideki Irabu
Hideo Nomo
Kaz Ishii
Kaz Sasaki
Kaz Tadano
Keichi Yabu
Masao Kida
Masato Yoshii
Satoru Komiyama
Shigetoshi Hasegawa
Takahito Nomura
Takashi Kashiwada
Takashi Saitoh
Tomo Ohka

Here is a comparison of these players and what they did in their careers in both Japan and MLB.

This chart includes both relievers and starters, simply due to the small samples we are dealing with. As you can see, the hits, walks and HRs go up, and the Ks go down.

So I calculated a weighted average for Matsuzaka based on his last four seasons, and then translated it to an MLB equivalency by adjusting all the components based on the differences above. Here's what that looks like.

That's not a bad line, although the HR total is frightening.

This approach has limitations, because how a player accrues the numbers is also important. Also, I've lumped in starters and relievers together here which isn't an apples to apples comparison, although I did it due to the small sample size involved. Therefore, it's also helpful to see what scouts have to say about Matsuzaka. Thankfully, the Matsuzaka Watch blog has a lot of this kind of information easily available. There is a recent link to a Japanese Times article there where a scout breaks down Matsuzaka. Here are some snippets.

"Physically, he could help any team. He is an American-type pitcher. He has the kind of stuff that American major-league pitchers have.
"He is not coming with great movement, or deception on his changeup, or anything of that nature. He is just a good, solid pitcher."
"He usually pitches based upon necessity. He might throw a fastball to a leadoff hitter, or to a hitter with two out and nobody on, that is about 141 kph. But if he is going for a strikeout, he will get that up to 147-150 kph.

"He has an above-average fastball. He has an above-average forkball. His control, most of the time, is above average. When he gets in trouble, it is just touching average."
"When we scout, we rank them from two to eight. Five means average, six is above average, seven is good, eight is excellent.

"Matsuzaka is a 'six' on everything. He is above average. He doesn't have the fastball of Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens -- which were 'eights.'
"He has an above-average fastball with some movement on it. I think he is good enough that he doesn't have to put the wear and tear on his arm that he does by throwing so many different pitches."
"He might throw you a 'seven' fastball every once in a while, but he can't do it 20 out of 20 times. He might do it three out of 20. He'll show you a flash."
"The pitches that he has command of are the slider, forkball, changeup, the four-seam fastball -- which is a riding-type fastball with increasing velocity, the two-seam fastball -- which has some sink. All of those pitches are above average.

"Unless his control falters, he will have success. Only injuries will prevent him from being a No. 1 to No. 3 starter."

When he saw Matsuzaka strike out 13 and hit four batters on Oct. 7 at Seibu Dome, in what was likely his last game for the Lions, the apparent contradiction did not raise a red flag for Poitevint.

"He struck out 13 and hit four batters, but those four hit batsmen served a purpose. He had those guys thinking up there. It's not a child's game.
While noting that Matsuzaka has the stuff to succeed in the majors, Poitevint also thinks the hurler possesses the fortitude required to achieve on the biggest stage.

Matsuzaka is an interesting risk. He won't be cheap, and he won't have a shortage of suitors. He's also thrown a lot of pitches in his career to this point, which could make him either an injury risk or show he's a workhorse. I'd expect a team like Seattle to be his likeliest destination honestly, but I think the Yankees have as a good of a chance as anyone besides the Mariners of winning the posting war and then signing him. To me, he's the most attractive free agent pitcher available right now.

October 24, 2006

Why the Yankees should keep Mike Mussina
by SG

Over at Was Watching, Steve Lombardi made the argument about why the Yankees should let Mussina walk. I like Steve and think he runs a great blog, but I disagree with him in this instance.

The heart of Steve's argument is that Moose was disappointing in 2004 and 2005 and then rebounded in a contract season. The contract year surge has basically been debunked in research that I've seen, so I don't think that's a valid concern. I do think the fact that he had arm issues in two of the last three years and is going to be 38 are valid reasons to be concerned.

Mussina did also cool off after a strong start. Through May 31, he'd done the following:

IP: 81 2/3
H: 65
R: 25
ER: 22
HR: 9
BB: 13
K: 70
ERA: 2.42
FIP: 3.47

From June 1 through the end of the season...

IP: 115 2/3
H: 119
R: 63
ER: 55
HR: 13
BB: 22
K: 102
ERA: 4.28
FIP: 3.55

As you can see by his FIP, he was pitching pretty much the same in both stretches in the components that he had the most direct control over (BB, HR, and K). Moose's full-season FIP of 3.51 was the fifth best in the league amongst full-time starters (trailing Santana, Bonderman, Sabathia, and Lackey). A lot of Moose's resurgence was credited to a new grip on his changeup this season, but I think improved health was just as big of a factor.

Of course, you can't just ignore 2004 and 2005. A weighted average of the last three seasons predicts the following line for Moose in 2007.

IP: 183
H: 188
R: 90
ER: 82
HR: 22
BB: 40
K: 152
ERA: 4.08

Now, that's not worth $17 million (Moose's 2007 option), but it is worth something. I actually think the Yankees might be better off picking up the option to avoid a long-term committment to a guy who is an uncertain proposition going forward. That depends on how much he's willing to take in a pay cut. With a dearth of quality starting pitching options on the market this offseason, I'm not sure I'd chance it.

The other problem if you let Moose walk, who replaces him? While Darrell Rasner and Jeff Karstens showed glimpses of usefulness, any belief that either is ready or capable to assume a full-time rotation spot requires a level of risk-taking and uncertainty that makes no sense for a team like the Yankees. The Yankees are going to likely be in the market for a starter anyway, being in the market for two is going to make things that much harder.

So I say, keep Moose. Try to renegotiate a two year deal, or just pick up his option and negotiate an extension later.

October 23, 2006 Gardner providing a spark in AFL
by SG

From, a winter league updated on Brett Gardner and others.

There is one attribute that makes a leadoff hitter great, and Brett Gardner has it.

Not only did the Yankees' outfield prospect bat .500 out of the No. 1 spot for the Peoria Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League last week, he also drew nine walks in five games.

Gardner's knack for getting on base raised his overall batting average to .458 and his on-base percentage to .641 -- dangerous numbers for a consistent stolen-base threat.

Gardner had a decent season between Tampa and Trenton this year, hitting .298/.395/.370, although he struck out a ton, which is not a good sign. He also has very little power, but does have 80 speed on the 20-80 scale.

Other Yankee farmhands playing winter ball in the Arizona Fall League and Hawaiian winter league include T.J. Beam, Sean Henn, Jeff Kennard, Darrell Rasner, P.J. Pilittere, Eric Duncan, Christian Garcia, Ian Kennedy, Jeff Marquez, Joba Chamberlain, and Mark Melancon.

October 20, 2006

Wrists, Elbows, Backs, and Fasano
by SG

Here's a quick look around the state of the Yankees, from

Giambi has wrist surgery
Jason Giambi underwent surgery on Thursday to repair a torn tendon in his left wrist, and the Yankees are optimistic that the first baseman will be fully recovered by the start of Spring Training.

This pretty much cements Giambi as a DH next season in my mind, which raises the question of who will be the primary 1B. How about Hideki Matsui, who has already volunteered?

No elbow damage for Proctor
Scott Proctor visited a doctor in Tampa this week, concerned about a possible bone chip in his right elbow.

His fears were quelled Wednesday, as an MRI exam, X-rays and a CT scan revealed no damage to his arm.

Joe Torre has his first project for 2007 I guess, finishing the job on the Proctologist's elbow.

Big Unit to undergo back surgery
A week ago, Brian Cashman indicated that Randy Johnson would likely undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. Tuesday, Johnson's agent confirmed it.

Johnson visited Dr. Robert Watkins, a Southern California back specialist, and the decision was made to proceed with surgery.

This gives me slight hope for a more effective Johnson in 2007.
Fasano, Green become free agents
Sal Fasano and Nick Green were two of the role players who helped the Yankees capture their ninth consecutive American League East title this season.

On Monday, the two players became free agents.

How will the Yankees suvive the loss of Fasano's .143/.222/.286?

October 19, 2006

The Worst Teams Money Can Buy - Revisited
by SG

Yesterday I ran through an exercise to look at the worst teams money can buy. My methodolgy raised some questions which are fair, so I thought I would look for a different way to do this. Thankfully, the late Doug Pappas already did a lot of this. Pappas uses a formula which deducts the replacement level threshold, so that wins over a .300 WPct are more valuable, which makes more sense than the linear calculations I did yesterday.

Pappas's formula is:

(club payroll - (28 x major league minimum) / ((winning percentage - .300) x 162)

To equalize this, I converted club payroll to a 2006 equivalent by multiplying by the average 2006 payroll divided by the payroll of the season in question.

So, looking at just regular season marginal payroll/marginal wins, here's the new list.

In the chart above, Rk is the team's rank in marginal dollars spent per marginal win, psG is postseason games, Payroll is their actual payroll that season, AdjPayroll is the payroll in terms of 2006 dollars, and M$/Wrs is marginal dollars spent per marginal wins using Pappas's formula.

If you're a Yankee fan, this list looks a lot better, as the first Yankee entry is not until #25, and it's the 1990 version that went 67-95. The 2005 version clocks in at #31, and no other Yankee team is in the top 50.

Next up is the question of postseason games. I'm going to consider all postseason games, win or lose, as valuable since they are revenue sources and good exposure for the team. So, adding postseason games into Pappas's formula, we get this revised list.

Maybe the Yankees aren't so inefficient, relatively speaking.

Thanks to Telnar,Steve W, EFB, and everyone else for the initial feedback, and of course Doug Pappas for his groundbreaking work in this area. You can read more of Doug's work at his author archive on Baseball Prospectus.

October 18, 2006

The Worst Teams Money Can Buy
by SG

Reader (and fellow blogger) Brent raised an interesting question in the comments yesterday about who the worst team money could buy may be. The invaluable Lahman database has salary information dating back to 1985, so I figured that's a reasonable cutoff.

Comparing salaries across eras is a little tricky, but I figured I could use a system similar to the one used for stats like OPS+ and ERA+, namely comparing the teams' payrolls to the league averages, and assigning them a payroll+ value. To do that, I divided the team payroll by the league average payroll and multiplied by 100, so a Payroll+ of 100 is league average, a Payroll+ of 150 is 50% greater than league average, etc.,

The goal of a baseball team is theoretically to win games, so the first set of numbers below is pretty straightforward, it's just the team's win total divided by their Payroll+ that season, aka W/Payroll+.

In this chart, Payroll is the team's actual payroll from the Lahman database (except for 2006, which I got here). AdjPayroll is just an adjustment to express the payroll in terms of 2006 baseball dollars, Payroll+ is what I mentioned above, W are team wins in that given season, W/Payroll+ is detailed above (strike/shortened seasons are adjusted accordingly), and Playoffs is just whether or not a team made the playoffs.

If you wanted further evidence of how inefficiently the Yankees have been run recently, the top 3 spots in the list are a pretty good indicator. No team has gotten less per dollar spent than they have.

Of course, wins are part of a team's goal, but so is making the postseason. How about if we just look at teams that didn't achieve that goal?

Congratulations to the 2003 Mets, the team that spent the most per win while failing to make the postseason.

Since the 2006 Red Sox came up in the original question, I ran the list all the way down to include them. As you can see, despite having the highest payroll ever for a team that did not make the postseason, relative to the league they were far from the biggest disappointment.

Update: rbj asked about including postseason wins, so here's the list with those added in.

October 17, 2006

ESPN; Piniella expects Cubs to go hard after A-Rod
by SG

CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella, who will be formally introduced as the new Chicago Cubs manager Tuesday afternoon, wants to acquire embattled -- and possibly available -- New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Sources familiar with the situation told that Piniella, who is extremely close to Rodriguez, expects the Cubs to aggressively pursue the 10-time All-Star. The 63-year-old manager and the 31-year-old Rodriguez have what amounts to a quasi-father/son relationship; Rodriguez was managed in Seattle by Piniella from 1994-2000. It is that relationship -- and the tantalizing talent of Rodriguez -- that has prompted Piniella to want to explore a trade with the Yankees.

Unless the Cubs are willing to part with Carlos Zambrano (which they'd be nuts to do), I don't see a fit here.

October 16, 2006

by SG

I noticed a couple of questions in some of the comments sections so I thought I'd answer them here.

From Anonymous:

Mo quietly (to me, at least) had the lowest K-rate season of his entire career and still managed to get his 4th best season ERA+. SG, from the hip, do you know how this season compares to other seasons in regards to Mo's league adj. K-rate?

From the hip? Nope, but here you go after some calculations.

In this chart, BB+ and HR+ are the league average pitcher's HRs allowed/batters faced divided by an individual pitcher's numbers and multiplied by 100. A rate of 100 is exactly average, less than 100 is worse than average, greater than 100 is better than average. For K+, it's the individual pitcher's strikeouts/BF divided by the league's and multiplied by 100.

Mo's K rate was very low this season, but his BB rate was the best of his career. Mo's not young, so any decline in any statistics can certainly be a cause for some concern, but I wouldn't worry much. As you can see, his K rate seems to fluctuate pretty greatly from season to season.

From Twentyseven:

Hey, SG. I just want to see where Jorge graded out compared to other catcher soverall. Defensively, it seemed like he had a really good year, and offensively, he had the best season since what, 2003. Could you show me some stats on this?

No problem Twentyseven, here you go.

In this chart, it's the same thing as the numbers I posted last week. BR are position-adjusted batting runs above average using linear weights, DR are the defensive runs above/below average for catchers. The catcher formula doesn't use zone rating, it uses SB, CS, PB, and errors, all compared to league averages. Total/162 just pro-rates the numbers over 1440 defensive innings and 650 plate appearances.

So Posada was the 2nd most valuable catcher in baseball last year. He had a great bounceback season from what looked to be the beginning of a decline.

If anyone has any other questions ask away.

October 12, 2006

NY Times: Rodriguez Glad Torre Is Staying
by SG

A few people have requested a new thread, so here you go.

Alex Rodriguez is pleased that Joe Torre is staying on as the Yankees’ manager, Rodriguez’s agent said yesterday.

Torre dropped Rodriguez to eighth in the batting order last weekend in Detroit, where the Tigers eliminated the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.

“I don’t think he cares where the manager puts him,” said the agent, Scott Boras. “Alex has a good relationship with Joe Torre. I don’t think there was any question in Alex’s mind that Joe was coming back.”

If I worked for a manager who revealed the details of a private meeting to a reporter and then moved me to 8th in the lineup in a show of zero confidence, I'd likely not feel the same way.

According to George King, Randy Johnson has been hurt since May. Thanks for letting the team know Randy.

October 11, 2006

ESPN: Yankees' Lidle Dies In Plane Crash
by SG

New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle was the pilot of a small airplane that crashed into a 50-story condominium in Manhattan, and Lidle is one of two confirmed dead.

This is terrible, terrible news. My thoughts and prayers go out to Lidle's family, and any of the families involved in this tragedy. RIP Cory.

Run Values of the 2006 Yankees
by SG

With the Yankees' 2006 season at its end, I wanted to take one last look back at the contributions of everyone who wore pinstripes this season. I posted the details of a lot of these calculations in this entry a while back, so if you want more background you can check that out.

First up, the offense.

Next up, the defense.

Lastly, the pitching.

Add it all up, and here's the sum total of everyone's contributions to the Yankees in 2006.

Do these numbers make sense? The Yankees were 167 runs better than an average team, or 16.7 wins better. Add 16.7 wins to an 81 win team, you get a 97.8 win team. I guess they do.

In other Yankee news, Joe Torre is staying.

October 10, 2006

What Happened?
by SG

I have to admit that the Yankees getting dominated by Detroit kind of stunned me. It's not that I didn't think Detroit was a good team, it just seemed like the Yankees were stacked on offense. To see the way a lineup that some were considering the greatest lineup ever got shut down by Kenny Rogers and then Jeremy Bonderman was surreal. Here's the team's offensive performance.

The "greatest lineup ever" hit a collective .246/.303/.388. As much as I find the piling on on Alex Rodriguez to be a little unfair in general, he flat out sucked in this series. So did Gary Sheffield. Honestly, aside from Posada and Jeter and to a lesser extent Bobby Abreu, everyone sucked.

The pitching wasn't much better. Only Chien-Ming Wang pitched a quality start. I like Mike Mussina a lot, but I like him less after he blew a 3-1 lead when the team had the opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 series lead in Game 2. Randy Johnson may think he pitched decently, but he was awful, and when you've built a team that ends up in a situation that leads to Jaret Wright pitching in a game where you could be eliminated, that speaks for itself.

Ah yes, the defense. They were even worse than the offense and pitching.

As much as I wouldn't mind seeing Joe Torre being fired, if it is to bring in Lou Piniella I'd rather not do anything. I think he's too hot-headed and too careless about pitchers, and if there's a worse bullpen manager than Torre it may be him.

As the off-season moves forward we'll have plenty of time to think about what changes the Yankees should make. Wholesale changes aren't needed to have the Yankees in the playoffs again, but I think that Brian Cashman should consider making some significant moves, if he can make the team younger and better defensively.

And all credit to the Tigers, who outplayed the Yankees in every manner possible.

October 8, 2006

Newsday - Report: Torre will be fired
by SG

According to a report in this morning's editions of the Daily News, Yankees manager Joe Torre will be fired and replaced by former Yankees player and manager Lou Piniella.

This is still in the rumor stage, but it wouldn't surprise me. Nothing would surprise me at this point.

More links: - Report: Torre to be dismissed
ESPN - Report: Torre won't survive Yanks' collapse, to be fired
Daily News - Joe's toast in motown melt

October 7, 2006

And So It Ends
by SG

It starts in February with pitchers and catchers reporting, and ends in October, sometimes in a good way, but more often than not like this.

I felt as good about this team going into the postseason as I had about any team since the 1999 team. The lineup looked stacked, the starting pitching was solid if not great, and the top of the bullpen seemed decent enough. But Detroit outplayed them on both sides of the ball, and earned this series victory. I find this Tigers team to be fairly likeable, so I'll be pulling for them to win it all now.

There's plenty of blame to go around for the Yankees losing this series(in addition to just being outplayed by the Tigers), so I'm not going to play that game here. I'd expect a lot of changes this offseason, and I won't miss some of the people who are likely departing.

I don't have much else to say. I'm disappointed, but I'll get over it.

The Yankees have become The Braves
by Fabian

Is this good or bad? Discuss.

5 Game Series Suck
by Fabian

Well, the Yankees now have to win out. Bitch and moan here.

P.S.: As just about the only person that would rather have faced the Twins I want to point out that my reasoning at the time was that the Tigers have a solid rotation whereas the Twins were Santana and crap. My belief at the time was that it's easier for the Tigers to step up from solid to shutting down The Best Offense Ever™ than it would be for Santana to shut the Yankees down twice in addition to one of the crappy guys doing the same.

October 6, 2006

2006 ALDS Game 3: Yankees at Tigers, 8:05 PM ET
by SG

Here are the lineups for tonight.

NY Yankees
J. Damon cf
D. Jeter ss
B. Abreu rf
A. Rodriguez 3b
J. Giambi 1b
J. Posada c
H. Matsui lf
B. Williams dh
M. Cairo 2b
R. Cano 2B

R. Johnson P

P. Polanco 2b
C. Monroe lf
M. Thames dh
M. Ordonez rf
C. Guillen ss
I. Rodriguez c
S. Casey 1b
B. Inge 3b
C. Granderson cf

K. Rogers P

I don't like starting Cairo over Cano at all. That makes no sense. Bernie over Sheffield is at least somewhat understandable/defensible.

Be Careful What You Wish For
by SG

Like many, I was glad to see the Yankees draw Detroit instead of Minnesota. It's not that I didn't think Detroit was a good team, it's just that Minnesota seemed scarier. As Oakland opened up a commanding 2-0 lead against those Twins we were all scared of, the Tigers managed to tie their ALDS series with the Yankees with a 4-3 victory at the Stadium yesterday.

In a quirk of bad timing, I was travelling yesterday and did not get to see the game, so I had to listen on my XM radio, and can't really give you any visual observations. After the game I had the "pleasure" of listening to Mike and the Mad Dog and the Yankee "fans" who called in, and they're already starting blaming Alex Rodriguez. Francessa kept harping on the fact that Rodriguez has gone 10 for 19 against tonight's starter Kenny Rogers, with 5 HRs. Obviously, Francessa can't comprehend the relative meaningless of a 19 PA sample size, but in some ways he may have a point.

I'm still not overly worried, but the fact that the Yankees need to win at least one game started by Randy Johnson or Jaret Wright is a little frightening. it would seem tonight's game is their better chance, but who knows how effective Johnson will be?

I'm going to have a tough time getting online the next few days so I may not be able to post much, but I'll try.

October 4, 2006

2006 ALDS Game 2: Tigers at Yankees, "8:05 PM" ET
by SG

C. Granderson cf
P. Polanco 2b
S. Casey 1b
M. Ordonez rf
C. Guillen ss
I. Rodriguez c
C. Monroe lf
M. Thames dh
B. Inge 3b

J. Verlander P

NY Yankees
J. Damon cf
D. Jeter ss
B. Abreu rf
G. Sheffield 1b
J. Giambi dh
A. Rodriguez 3b
H. Matsui lf
J. Posada c
R. Cano 2b

M. Mussina P

Yanks try to go up 2-0.

October 3, 2006

O Captain! My Captain!
by SG

Thanks to Derek Jeter's 5-5 night, the Yankees took the first game of their ALDS with Detroit, 8-4. After neither team could score over the first two innings, Jeter's double after an infield single by Johnny Damon got the Yankee offense going. Bobby Abreu's post-season debut as a Yankee went well, as he proceeded to drive them both in with a double to deep RF. Gary Sheffield followed with a single to CF, and then Jason Giambi lined a HR to RF.

Chien-Ming Wang was pretty solid, but shaky at times. He managed to work around a few leadoff doubles, and was getting the ball up more than he typically does, which led to him giving up a HR to Craig Monroe. With two outs in the seventh, at 93 pitches Joe Torre decided to go to Mike Myers with Curtis Granderson due up. Most of the opinions I've seen about this move was that it was wrong, but I thought it was the right decision. It didn't play out well, but here's the way I saw it.

1) Wang had been scuffling most of the game, and had pitched several high-stress innings.

2) He was up to 93 pitches, and was pitching in his 225th inning of the season, after never topping 160 prior to this season.

3) Any chance the Yankees have of advancing in the postseason are going to require Wang to be available and effective. If they somehow end up down 2-1, you may want to have the chance to bring Wang back on short rest.

4) Mike Myers was brought in to do one thing, and that's get lefties out.

So Wang was pulled to a nice ovation after a quality start, and Myers didn't do what he gets paid to do. The result was sub-optimal, but the decision that went into it was defensible. I'm sure many will disagree with me, and that's your right, but I didn't think it was a bad move at all.

So Wang exited in the seventh with two outs and a 7-3 lead, and Myers gave up the HR to Granderson. Torre went to Scott Proctor, who seemed to be nervous and gave up two hits before getting the final out. The horror show that is Kyle Farnsworth pitched a shaky eighth. Jeter punctuated his night with a deep HR to left center in the bottom of the eighth, and Mariano Rivera did what he has done better than anyone in postseason history in the ninth, and the Yankees take a 1-0 lead in the best of five series.

This game showed me a few things. One, Detroit's not intimidated by the Yankees and this series will not be easy. Two, the Yankee bullpen is a scary thing. Three, the Yankee offense can explode at any time. Four, Gary Sheffield made a really nice stretch on a low throw in the early innings. He doesn't look smooth at first, but he's looking more and more capable.

Let's hope Moose can back Wang up tomorrow against Justin Verlander, and the Yankees can head to Comerica with a 2-0 series lead.

2006 ALDS Game 1: Tigers at Yankees, "8:05 PM" ET
by SG

C. Granderson cf
P. Polanco 2b
S. Casey 1b
M. Ordonez rf
C. Guillen ss
I. Rodriguez c
C. Monroe lf
M. Thames dh
B. Inge 3b

N. Robertson P

NY Yankees
J. Damon cf
D. Jeter ss
B. Abreu rf
G. Sheffield 1b
J. Giambi dh
A. Rodriguez 3b
H. Matsui lf
J. Posada c
R. Cano 2b

C. Wang P

And so it begins.

October 2, 2006

ALDS Preview - Tigers vs. Yankees
by SG

It's ALDS preview time, as the Yankees will be taking on Detroit Tuesday night on FOX at 8 PM.

First up, here is a look at the position players on the 25 man playoff rosters. As I am wont to do, I'm using linear weights for offense and zone rating converted to runs for defense. BR is the player's total output above/below average on the season compared to others listed at the same position. DR are the defensive runs above/below average. For the bench players who played multiple positions, I've combined all their defensive numbers.

I've combined the lines for players who played for multiple teams. I've removed the defensive stats of Marcus Thames and Jason Giambi as their primary roles will be as DH. Matt Stairs was acquired post Sept 1 so I don't think he can be on the Tigers' post-season roster.

As you can see from this list, Detroit's is a much better defensive team than the Yankees, but overall they're not on the same level. The Yankees have the edge on a per game basis at C, 1B, 2B, LF, CF, RF, and DH, and the difference between Derek Jeter and Carlos Guillen is basically negligible. They Yankees have 8 of the top 9 players as far as total run value per game (based on this season's performance).

The Tigers' starting nine hit .280/.337/.458 compared to a league average of .275/.338/.437. It should be noted that they play in a pitcher's park, so this is not a bad overall line for them. As a team overall, their season OPS+ was 100, or exactly league average. The starting nine put up an OPS+ of around 105. That's around what Mike Lowell hit this season.

On the Tigers bench, they don't pack much offensive punch, although Chris Shelton may get a start against Randy Johnson in Game 3.

The Yankees' starting nine hit .299/.392/.499, which is the equivalent of an OPS+ of 129. That's around what Miguel Tejada had, with a bit less batting average and bit more OBP.

The Yankee bench isn't too bad this season for once, although I'm not sure how much time they'll get. Bernie would seem to be a good pinch-hitter against a lefty, but which lefty do you pinch hit for? Melky Cabrera will be there to back up all three OF and perhaps to spot Matsui for defense late in games. That is the right role for him. Matsui is right now the clearly superior player. Miguel Cairo will mainly just be around in case of an emergency, and I'd guess we'll see Andy Phillips replacing Sheffield in the 8th and 9th innings for defense. Hopefully, Sal Fasano doesn't get an AB.

On paper, it's a pretty clear position player edge for the Yanks.

Of course, there's the matter of pitching. First, a look at the starters. I'm using linear weights for the pitchers as well.

One thing about the chart above, I'm only using the pitchers' numbers as starters.

In Game 1, the Yankees seem to have a fairly good-sized edge. Chien-Ming Wang has been better than Nate Robertson in most measures this season except for strikeout rate. His ERC (component ERA) also indicates that his success to this point hasn't been fluky. I remain concerned about Wang's workload on the season, as he's thrown 218 innings this season after never topping 160 prior to this year, but I think/hope he'll be fine.

Robertson's a pretty good pitcher, and a fellow blogger, so I have a soft spot for him. Being left-handed is a slight advantage for him facing Abreu, Giambi, Cano, and Damon. I think he'll pitch reasonably well, but I doubt he'll shut the Yankees down completely or anything.

Game 2 seems like a very big edge for the Yankees by the numbers, but you never know with rookie pitchers that throw 100 mph. Justin Verlander's been solid for Detroit, and was rated as the AL starter with the highest average fastball velocity this season by Basebll Info Solutions. Fatigue seems to have caught up with him a bit recently, and Jim Leyland had him skip a start to rest him a bit. He has the stuff to dominate, although his BB rate is a touch below average which would seem to be a benefit for the Yankees.

Mike Mussina started the season out great, but has faltered a bit lately. He typically pitches well in the postseason, and his last start was very impressive (particularly his velocity, which was up to 91-92). I think Moose will be fine.

Game 3 is about as big of a tossup as you can get. Kenny Rogers didn't face the Yankees this season, but had a solid season, and amazingly did not push any cameramen. He's a lefty nibbler who has had pretty good control and a good HR rate but doesn't have much stuff. I think the Yankees could light him up.

Unfortunately, with Randy Johnson opposing him, they may have to. Johnson's got a herniated disk and had an epidural to relieve the pain he was feeling. In some ways, the fact that there is a physical explanation for Johnson's recent struggles is encouraging. The problem is if the epidural was done too late to rectify it. Johnson supposedly had a good BP session and is on target to pitch this game. He could be great, or he could be shelled. Hopefully the Yanks are up 2-0 when he pitches.

Johnson's had an odd season. If you look at his component ERA (3.80), he's been solid. The problem he's had is the hits and walks and HRs he's allowed have not come scattered, but tend to come in bunches, something ignored when looking a pitcher's peripherals. This is very likely a manifestation of his health issues, and probably likely to continue.

If Game 4 is needed, it'll be Jeremy Bonderman vs. Jaret Wright. If Game 4 is needed, the Yankees may be in trouble. Bonderman's another guy with a lot of talent who has tired in the season's homestretch, but he's a lot better than Wright.

That's a little harsh-sounding on Wright, who did a serviceable job this season and ended up a touch about average. His peripherals indicate that it's not likely to continue, but he was an important part of the rotation this season and was useful, even if he's a bit painful to watch at times.

And if Game 5 is needed, it'll be a rematch of Game 1.

So the Yankees seem to have a slight edge in the starting pitching with 3 out of 5 matchups being favorable, which is a bit surprising honestly. How about the bullpen?

Joel Zumaya has been dominant out of Detroit's pen, but that below average walk rate seems to scream out as an advantage for the Yankees. Baseball Info Solutions rated him as the hardest throwing pitcher in baseball, with an average fastball velocity of 98+ MPH.

Fernando Rodney's been pretty solid as well. His season has been remarkably similar to Scott Proctor's, minus 20 appearances.

It's a rare bullpen where the closer is probably the third or fourth worst option, but that's where Todd Jones sits.

The Tigers also have two solid lefties in Jamie Walker and Wil Ledezma, who will be used in key spots to try and neutralize the Giambi/Abreu/Matsui/Cano/Damon contingent, which makes it imperative for Joe Torre to keep the lefties as separated as possible in the lineup. Zach Miner and Jason Grilli will round out the pen. Despite appearing in the chart above, Andrew Miller will not be a part of Detroit's bullpen.

The Detroit pen as listed above (minus Miller) has held opposing hitters to a line of .230/.308/.350, and saved 44 runs above average. This is the biggest strength on the team, and their only statistical advantage over the Yankees.

The Yankee bullpen starts and ends at the top, with Mariano Rivera. He appears to be healthy heading into the postseason, and he has had a lot of rest and has proclaimed that he is ready to do whatever is needed (pitch on back-to-back days, pitch two innings). He may have to, because the bridge to him is shaky.

Scott Proctor had a great season as the most used reliever in the American League(holy crap, Salomon Torres pitched in 94 games???). At this point, he's probably the Yankees second best reliever as long as he's got some juice left in his arm. Proctor pitched in 16 games in September, and pitched well, posting a 1.65 ERA over 16.1 innings, walking 3, and fanning 14, so if he's tired, it's not showing.

Someone on the Nomaas discussion board has coined Kyle Farnsworth "It is high, it is Far-nsworth". I can't disagree with that. At times he's unhittable, at other times he scares the crap out of me. While I don't think his past post-season results indicate some inability to pitch in the playoffs, I think his general inconsistency might. I guess we'll find out, but I'm not looking forward to it.

Brian Bruney brings a great fastball and bad command as the fourth RHP in the pen. Thankfully, patience is not a strength of the Tigers.

The Yankee pen is rounded out with Ron Villone, who had a great first half that led to many(including yours truly) whining about his lack of use, and an awful August and September that led to the same many (including yours truly) whining about him being used all the time. I think he's on the roster as more of a reward for a solid half season, and less in a role where he'll be expected to get many key outs. Detroit's heavily right-handed, so the Yankees don't need to worry about platoon advantages when they have Mike Myers on hand. Myers had a reverse platoon split this year, but I'm not ready to think that those 132 batters faced are more meaningful than the 2008 he had faced prior to this season. He'll likely be asked to come in to get Sean Casey or Curtis Granderson out, and that's about it. Cory Lidle will sit in the pen as well, in case any of the starters gets bombed.

All these numbers seem to indicate a classic mismatch. I'm not ready to go that far. Detroit's a good team in a great baseball town. They led arguably the toughest division in baseball almost all season. They're not just the team that went 26-30 over their last 56 games, they're also the team that went 71-35 over their first 106.

This is an organization that lost 119 games just three seasons ago. Their turnaround has been remarkable and a credit to all involved. I think they can beat the Yankees, and I wouldn't take them lightly. A great defensive team loaded with hard throwers can beat anyone if things break right.

But I don't think they will. Yankees in four.

Peter Abraham posted the Game 1 lineup on his fine blog.

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

Rodriguez 6th? Interesting.

Getting Ready
by SG

Bernie Williams's tenure as Yankee manager ended up being unsuccessful, as his team fell to the Blue Jays 7-5 yesterday afternoon. Jaret Wright wasn't particularly good, but overall on the season he was about average as far as the value he provided the team. His peripherals indicate that he's been lucky, but hopefully that luck continues through the rest of October.

For the last few weeks it's been almost destined that the Yankees would meet Minnesota in the ALDS. However, a slumping Tigers team managed to blow their big division lead and now will come to the Bronx instead. It seems like a far more favorable matchup for the Yankees, but as RB in DC from BTF reminded me, so did the Angels in 2002.

I'll have a detailed statistical preview up later today or tomorrow hopefully. Here are the tentative matchups and starting times.

Game 1: Wang vs. Robertson, 8 p.m. on Fox
Game 2: Mussina vs. Verlander, 8 p.m. on ESPN
Game 3: Johnson vs. Rogers, 8 p.m. on ESPN

Whether it's on ESPN or Fox, the real losers are the fans.

And congratulations to Joe Mauer for winning the batting title. He didn't sit out as he could have, and earned it by going 2 for 4. To do it as a catcher makes it even more impressive.

BTW, there's a new poll on the left where you can make your ALDS prediction.

Update: Reader Ryan S. put together a playoff bracket card for anyone who wants to do a baseball postseason pool. Here's the link.