Larry Mahnken and SG's

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

"Hey, it's free!"

Larry Mahnken
Sean McNally
Fabian McNally
John Brattain


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Saturday, April 30, 2005

by SG

At 9-14, the Yankees were desperate for a win. On a rainy day today, they sent out one of the few legitimate prospects in a pretty barren farm system out to try and break a 3 game losing streak. In addition to having lost 3 straight games, the Yankees had scored a total of 2 runs in three games, a feat they last achieved in 1999.

9-14 is not a good record, but it is worth noting that the 2001 Oakland Athletics started the season 8-15 and finished at 102-60, and the 2002 Angels started the season 9-14 and finished at 99-63.

So, with Jaret Wright out for the next 4-6 weeks, the Yankees had to dip into their barren farm system and ask Chien-Ming Wang, aka Tiger, to fill the fifth starter's role and pitch well enough to get a win with what would possibly be little run support. I was very anxious to watch Wang's debut. Fabian wrote a writeup about him a few weeks back, but I wanted to see him first hand.

Wang pitched a great game. He pounded the strike zone against an aggressive Blue Jays team, throwing a first pitch strike to 19 of the 29 hitters he faced. He primarily threw his fastball, which was around 92 mph for most of the game, with some occasional splitters. Wang gave the Yankees exactly what they needed over 7 innings, allowing 6 hits, 2 BB, and only 2 runs. He seems to have a free, easy motion that has some good deception, and got groundball outs for 15 of his 21 outs. One thing that was a bit troubling was the fact that he did not strike out anyone, and didn't seem to be missing any bats at all. However, his minor league stats and scouting reports don't seem to indicate this as a problem for him, so I wouldn't overreact to the results of one start. Lack of strikeouts aside, everything else that I saw was very positive. He kept the ball low, he was hitting the corners, and he pitched out of some jams for the most part. With a little better defensive play behind him his final line may have looked even better. I was also impressed by his calm demeanor on the mound and his poise throughout the game.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of the Yankees are still not playing that well, and Wang was denied his first major league victory when Tom Gordon grooved a 2-1 pitch to Corey Koskie that tied the game. With the Yankee offense again looking flat, and the Yankee bullpen a bit shaky, I figured the game was lost at this point.

The Yankees failed to score with Bernie, Sheffield, or Slump-Zilla™ in the bottom of the eighth. Joe Torre then went to his pen again, this time for Mariano Rivera. Mariano has been MIA for most of the season. He hadn't pitched since the 21st, due to game situations and a flu that he has been suffering from. Although still not fully over his flu, he took the ball and delivered his best outing of the season, throwing only 8 pitches, 6 of them strikes to retire the Jays 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth.

Vinny Chulk came in for the Jays and was wild, walking Alex Rodriguez on four pitches. That brought up Andy Phillips who had replaced Jason Giambi in the lineup when Giambi had to leave with cramps in his right forearm. Joe Torre decided that even though Chulk was having trouble throwing strikes, the Yankees should give up an out to set up the winning run on second with Tino Martinez, John Flaherty, and Tony Womack due up. Granted, Posada would likely pinch-hit for Flaherty, but this was a stupid decision based on not just who was due up, but also on the fact that bunting is clearly not one of Phillips's strengths, which he demonstrated when he bunted in front of the catcher who was able to throw out Alex Rodriguez at second. So the Yankees had exchanged an out for the right to have a slower runner on first. Thankfully, Tino Martinez singled through the right side and Phillips got to third. Posada then pinch-hit for Flaherty. What the Blue Jays did here puzzled me. Posada has been striking out and hitting into double plays all year, either one of those would have been what they needed, but they intentionally walked him to load the bases for the poster boy of the front office's blunders, Tony Womack.

Womack gets a lot of grief from most Yankee fans, because he's not a good player. However, I still rooted for him in this spot because I want my team to win. Womack singled into RF, the winning run scored, and Womack had his 'Yankee Moment.'(Thanks to Weekly Journalist at Baseball Think Factory for that one)

The Yankees will try and win the series tomorrow by sending Carl Pavano out against Ted Lilly. Pavano's been pitching pretty well, and Lilly has struggled this season, but until the Yankee offense starts scoring consistently I won't feel comfortable about them against anyone. It would be nice if they could start a winning streak at some point. Maybe this game will be the one to get them going.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/28/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:

A 1 for 5 with a strikeout (12) night continued Robinson Cano’s slide. After opening the season as an unstoppable force, Cano is now experiencing his first rough patch; 9 for his last 31. One thing to keep in mind about yesterday’s performance though was that he faced LHP in 3 of his 5 at bats and was 0 for 3 with a strikeout against southpaws, while going 1 for 2 against RHP.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:

Melky Cabrera broke out of his recent slide in a huge way and Eric Duncan continued his hot hitting in yesterday’s Trenton slugfest. The two would combine for 8 of the team’s 12 hits as Duncan was 3 for 6 with a home run (2) and Melky was 5 for 6 with a double (2), a home run (2), a strikeout (11), and a stolen base (2). After starting the season off ice cold as far as hits, but walking a good amount, Duncan has ceased with the walking and proceeding with the hitting and is now 10 for his last 25, enough to get his season average up to .241. Prior to yesterday’s game, Melky’s average had actually been some .030 points behind Duncan, but he jumped over to him and is up to .253, which hopefully is just a short stop as he heads towards his customary .300.

While Melky and Eric were putting the ball in play with terrific results, Bronson Sardinha was left with a no contact night. The RF finished the game 0 for 4 with 2 walks (7) and 4 strikeouts (22) and what was once a decent start, especially in comparison to the rest of Prospects Row, is now a poor one.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:

Hector Made and Erold Andrus both pulled their averages’ to the .250 mark with 2 hit performances last night. Made was 2 for 4 with a strikeout (12) and Andrus was 2 for 4 with a home run (2). While both hitters have BA of .250, Andrus’ has displayed more power and patience thus far and as a result his OPS is .104 points higher. Rudy Guillen also picked up a hit, but overall was only 1 for 4. More so than any other Yankee affiliate, I’m scared when hitters go to Tampa and pretty much hold my breath as far as their prospect status.

Abel Gomez picked up the win for Tampa by going 5.1-4-3-3-2-4-0. Once again, he tired in his last inning as he seems to be working through some of the rust as he would give up 2 walks, a double, and 2 runs (1 was an inherited runner scoring) in his final 1.1 innings. He should be back to racking up big K totals soon enough though, now all that is needed is for Eric Abreu to show up…

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:

Tim Battle was 1 for 5 with a triple (2) and a strikeout from the leadoff spot in last night’s Charleston loss. Battle now has 9 XBH in 86 at bats and is really showing off his power, something that some had questioned based on his minor league work up to this point. It’d still be nice if he could get the BA up some though.

Irwil Rojas continues to cool off offensively; he was 0 for 5 with a strikeout (7) and continues to play questionable, at best, defense. Yesterday’s game saw Rojas give up 2 more passed ball to bring his total to 8, which incidentally is 2 more than the amount of walks that he has thus far. There’s pretty much no way that could ever be anything other than bad, so if he could rectify this issue, that’d be grrrrrreat.

Estee Harris continued to frustrate with a 1 for 5 night, but at the least he did not strike out and Jon Poterson…was not good. The much heralded, by some, RF was 0 for 4 with a walk (4) and 2 strikeouts (20), so at the least he’s managed to really improve his BB:K numbers lately. Unfortunately, his AVG, OBP, and SLUG are all still on the interstate.

Brett Smith had his second straight hittable start, but this time around the hits were hard and he was not able to post the K numbers to counteract this. As a result, his final line was an ugly 5-10-6-5-1-3-0 and after looking so good early on that some were seriously contemplating whether or not he should be promoted, Smith has come back to Earth. His seasonal line of 23-24-10-9-5-23-0 is more in line with what I would have expected this year, and still pretty decent in its own right.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

by SG

It's still not time to panic. After two straight losses, the Yankees are 9-13, and it was frustrating to watch them tonight, but it is still too early to worry.

I was pleasantly surprised by Kevin Brown's performance. He had his best velocity of the season, and was very solid, especially over his last 3 innings of work. It was just one of those days where the offense couldn't get anything going. I thought the plate umpire had a lousy strike zone tonight which didn't help things, but John Lackey pitched pretty well, and the Angels bullpen is pretty damn close to unhittable. Sometimes you just get beat by a team that's playing better. Flash Gordon had his best inning of the season in the top of the ninth, with good velocity, good control, and a good breaking pitch.

I have mixed feelings about Buddy Groom's success so far. On the one hand, it's nice to see him being effective, on the other hand, it's led to some ridiculous stupid thinking by Joe Torre when discussing the pending return of Tanyon Sturtze.

Torre even floated the idea of keeping 13 pitchers on the roster, though that scenario is unlikely.

"We have to figure it out," Torre said. "If the concern is that we don't want to lose anybody, we may go with 13."

As stupid as the idea of carrying 12 pitchers is, this is even dumber. Yeah, Torre is part of the problem, but a bigger problem is Cashman not making a move to thin out the bullpen and build a better 25 man roster. As it is now, Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill, and Felix Rodriguez are never pitching. I miss Mariano Rivera, at times I forget he is even on this team. And on top of this, you want to add another pitcher?

The Yankees get Toronto now. They really need to beat up on the weaker teams in the league if they want to quiet the talk about their decline. A good series this weekend against the Blue Jays would be a fine start. I look forward to Tiger Wang's debut on Saturday, and hope he can give us some optimism for the future, not just this year but for years down the road.

I guess I'm not sure when it will be time to panic. This will be the first year since 1991 that the Yankees have had a losing record in April. I would say that in another month, if the Yankees aren't playing better, it will legitimately be time to worry.

Minor League Notes: 4/27/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:
Record: 13-8

Robinson Cano’s recent slump continued in Columbus’ 13-2 victory this afternoon. The 22-year-old 2B went 2 for 6 with a double (8) in order to drop his average to .347. During his recent slide he has gone 8 for 26 with 3 doubles. It has been an extremely tough time indeed.

As a note on the issue of Cano and his lack of walks this year, because he has been hitting the ball so hard and so consistently, I don’t care much that he hasn’t walked. You want guys to walk because they’re letting pitches they can’t put a good swing on go by, not just to walk for the sake of walking. Additionally, Cano hasn’t been swinging at everything as much as he’s been hitting a good portion of pitches within the foul lines, which gives him less of a chance to work the deep counts that generate walks.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:

While I’m not quite ready to proclaim Sean Henn fully back yet, I can’t say his performance thus far has been anything less than extremely impressive. After tonight’s 7-2-0-0-2-6-0 performance, Henn’s seasonal line stands at 25.1-16-2-2-9-21-1. I’m still going to be extremely cautious about him because of the inconsistency he displayed in ’04, but yes, right now Henn is showing why the Yankees felt he was worth a then record draft and follow bonus record (granted, the fastball isn’t the same).

Though I’m being extra cautious as far as my feelings towards Henn, I’m going to throw caution to the wind for Eric Duncan and say that following an extremely slow start to his AA career, the 20-year-old 3B has arrived offensively. Duncan was 2 for 4 with a strikeout (13) to pull the average up to .219 and he is now 7 for his last 19 with 3 multi-hit games out of his last 5.

Melky Cabrera, who it could once be said was off to a similarly cold start, has on the other hand only gotten colder. Cabrera took the collar once more; this time it came in the form of an 0 for 3 night, though he did manage to work a walk (3). Bronson Sardinha also worked a walk (5), in addition to going 1 for 3.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:

Similar to Eric Duncan’s situation, I feel about ready to proclaim Rudy Guillen’s season opening slump as over and done with. The enigmatic CF/RF went 2 for 5 with a triple (2) and a strikeout (21) in today’s contest to boost his average up to .243. His OBP has finally joined his SLG in .300+ territory. LF Erold Andrus also had a good game, as he would go 3 for 5 to bring his average .236. Andrus and Guillen have kept close to each other in terms of recent performance while hitting 4-5 in the lineup. Hector Made was 1 for 4 with a walk (6), which is way ahead of where he was early on last season and also just about the only positive I can find to say about him thus far.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:

Tim Battle had himself a nice little game tonight where he could show off his tools, 2 for 6 with a double (4) and 2 stolen bases (13), while also showing off his weakness, 3 strikeouts (32). Of the 3 strikeouts, 2 were swinging, which clashes with the point I’m about to make; while Tim Battle strikes out a ton, it is not so much because he has no clue of the strike zone, which would make me more worried about the Ks than I am, rather it is because his ability to make contact isn’t the greatest. To be honest, Battle does have his fair share of at bats where he goes up hacking at high fastballs and off speed stuff out of the zone, but for the most part, and especially as of late, he seems to have a plan that he attempts to execute at the plate. The problem is just that his ability to make contact comes and goes whether he’s swinging at good pitches or not.

Irwil Rojas was 2 for 5 with a strikeout (6) and his strikeouts have now caught up with his walks, which brings to mind the fact that after being a walking machine early on Rojas has not been doing that much as of late. His strikeouts have actually caught up with his passed balls for that matter, though he did not have any today, thankfully. Continuing his recent stretch of not sucking, Estee Harris went 1 for 4 with a walk (6) and a strikeout (15). Jon Poterson was 0 for 2 with a walk (3) and a strikeout (18) before being replaced late in the game. It’s nice to see that he is now beginning to take his share of base on balls as his early season plate appearances that all resulted in weak pop-ups or ground outs to the 2B or a strikeout were really infuriating, especially since Gio Gonzalez looks like a stud right now (I couldn’t hold out any longer).

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/26/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:

Robinson Cano was 1 for 5 with 2 strikeouts (11) as he continues to drift back to Earth following his customary hot start. Though Cano has definitely slowed, he is still 6 for his last 20, which is a stretch many hitters, I can think of quite a few Yankee prospects right away, would take.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:

The Trenton Thunder were shut out, which generally means poor nights all around for Prospects Row. Of the trio, Eric Duncan had the best offensive game by going 1 for 4, which is good enough to raise his average a bit and at this point, any thing that can be done to push his numbers towards respectability will be accepted without complaint. Unfortunately, Duncan had a bad game on defense as he committed 2 throwing errors to bring his season total to 6 overall miscues. Once again, for those ready to permanently move him from the hot corner, he made 12 errors in his first 21 games last year.

Bronson Sardinha was next up in terms of productivity as he was 1 for 4 with a strikeout (18), and Melky Cabrera, in what is becoming an alarming trend, had the least productive night by going 0 for 4 with a strikeout (10). Throwing in the whole never walking any more thing with the hitting slump so far, Cabrera has been one of the weaker links in a weak Trenton lineup.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:


A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:

Phil Hughes came back from missing time with a fingernail injury and had the type of start I expect out of a highly touted HS pitcher. Hughes’ final line was 5-2-0-0-2-8-0 as he lowered his ERA to 1.40. The only “complaint” I have in relation to this is that despite having issued just 6 walks in 19.1 innings and consistently being around the strike zone with his pitches, I expected Hughes’ control to be better. While I never came close to believing he could achieve his personal goal and stay within the single digits for walks on the season, I thought he would have a better walk rate than Tyler Clippard did last year and that does not look like it will happen at this point.

Tim Battle was 0 for 4 with a strikeout on this night, but did manage to reach base on an error by the 3B during his 2nd at bat. Once he got on base, he did as he has been wont to do and stole 2nd (11). As I have said previously, Battle is very raw on the base paths, but still manages to make up for it with truly outstanding speed. Irwil Rojas was 1 for 4 with another strikeout (5), as he seems to be regressing to the realm of good contact hitters. His defense behind the plate continues to be an issue as well as he allowed 2 SBs and another passed ball (6). Estee Harris had a good day at the plate as he would go 2 for 4 with a home run (2) to pull his average up to .176 and is now 5 for his last 14 with 2 doubles and a home run; his hottest stretch of the season. Lastly, Jon Poterson was 1 for 4 with a single as he has recently put together his own hot…more like mild, streak.

Is he a 'True' Yankee now?
by SG

When the Yankees got Alex Rodriguez, they got one of the best players in the game. However, for whatever reason, he's been criticized for not being a 'true' Yankee. Rodriguez had a somewhat down year by his lofty standards, struggled with RISP and was involved in a couple of incidents which tarnished his image. Last night, he may have arrived as a Yankee by blasting 3 HRs and driving in 10 runs in a 12-4 thrashing of the Angels. He even got a curtain call, which I don't remember him getting last year.

As the youngest regular in the Yankee lineup, Rodriguez is being counted on to have a monster year. With people like Bernie and Posada showing little power in the early going, it's going to be up to Alex to carry the team when the older bats are slow or slumping. Hopefully yesterday will be the spark that he needs to finally stop pressing and just play.

The whole 'true' Yankee stuff is stupid to me. A true Yankee wears a Yankee uniform and draws a paycheck from them.

Another good game from Carl Pavano. He won't blow people away, but he is quietly efficient and effective. I won't get too excited yet after watching Javier Vazquez impress in the first half last year, but I've been very happy with the Pavano signing.

Andy Phillips got another start, and singled doubled once in five AB. He also just missed a HR on a line drive down the left field line that just missed the foul pole. I don't know how much he will play going forward, but every hit he gets can't hurt.

We also finally got to see the debut of Colter Bean. He's been touted for a few years due to eye-popping statistics in the minors. However, scouts see a guy who throws with an ugly motion and barely breaks 85 mph, and think he'll get killed in the majors.

Bean looked ok to me. His pitches seemed to have good movement, if not enough velocity. For some reason, I got a Jeff Nelson vibe off him. He had a good first inning and a shaky second inning. He looks like he will struggle against lefty hitters, but I don't think it's impossible that he can be an asset in a Steve Reed/Chad Bradford way. He'll only be up for a few more days, but if there are injuries or trades he may find his way back up this year. If not, hopefully the Yankees will consider using him on next year's team when some of the bullpen contracts are up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/25/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:

Robinson Cano finished Columbus’ game strong in order to avoid me making serious mention of a slump, in reference to him, for the first time this year. Cano began the game 0 for 3 with a strikeout (9), but then doubled (7) in each of his last two at bats, one to CF and one to LF, to make this a game where he improved his AVG, OBP, and SLG. Unfortunately, Cano also made his 3rd error of the season when he muffed a catch.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:


A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:

For the first time in what seems like forever, all 3 of the primary Tampa offensive prospects had positive nights. Hector Made had the least impressive night of the three, as he was 1 for 4 with a walk (5). Rudy Guillen flashed the power and legs that help make him a 5-tool prospect in going 2 for 5 with a triple (1) and 2 strikeouts (20), as his K rate continues it’s climb towards extremely alarming. Finally, Erold Andrus was 2 for 4 with a walk (7) and a strikeout (13). While Guillen’s BB:K numbers are depressing, I have been impressed with the improvement that Andrus has shown in this department; Made has been somewhat decent as well, at least in comparison to ’03.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:

Jeff Marquez authored the best start of his ’05 season in leading Charleston victory, but the night was not without its hiccups. Marquez was dominant for much of the early portion of the game, including one stretch from the 2nd to 3rd innings where he struck out 3 men in a row on a total of 9 pitches. His power change-up was the primary weapon on this night and the opposition’s hitters had a ton of trouble with it. However, later on in the game he either tired or lost it somewhat as he began missing consistently, but was able to work out of jams due to his defense picking him up somewhat and turning some nice plays behind him. Finally, the defense failed him in the 7th as Estee Harris dropped a fly ball after Ben Jones made an error at 1B. In all, the start was impressive in that it showed that Marquez can get the job done at the full season level when he’s on, but one must still be concerned about his control at this point as he has now walked 13 men in 17.2 innings. His final line for the night was 7-4-2-0-3-5-0.

Marcos Vechionacci was once again MIA due to the injury he suffered in the home plate collision, though he is expected back sometime on the upcoming road trip, but on this night the rest of the hitters weren’t as good. Irwil Rojas had a forgettable game that included some half-hearted swings and a strikeout (4) as he took the collar in 4 at bats. Jon Poterson had one at bat conclude in a nice run scoring single, but was otherwise quiet in his 4 at bats. Estee Harris was 1 for 4 with a double (3) and a strikeout (14), but the double was more luck than anything else as the ball took an unexpected hop on the 1B allowing Harris to utilize his legs for the two base hit.

Finally, Tim Battle was 0 for 2 with a walk (7), 2 strikeouts (28) and a HBP (1). One strikeout was the product of a lopsided AB that saw Battle go down swinging on a high fastball, the 3rd pitch in the encounter, while the other strikeout was just Battle being caught looking on a 1-2 curveball. Battle also managed to steal his 10th base of the season in this game, which is impressive, but excitement about his base running capabilities must also be taken in the context that of the 4 times Battle has been caught stealing, all 4 have been on pickoffs. This is to say, Tim Battle is really, really, really fast, but also really, really, really raw on the base paths and tends to become overanxious leading to him getting caught leaning the wrong way. The final aspect of Battle’s night to consider is the catch he made going back in CF on a ball that seemed surely ticketed for extra bases.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/23&24/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):

Park Factor:

On Saturday afternoon Robinson Cano had his 2nd poor game in the last 4 outings prior as he faced off against LHP and former Yankee prospect Randy Kiesler. Though he had a couple hard hit balls, Cano finished the game with no positive results, as he was 0 for 5. He followed this disappointing game with his 2nd three hit game of the last 4 games. Once again, all 3 hits were singles and Cano’s average now sits at .354 with an OPS still above 1.000. This is a very critical portion of the first month for Cano as he has clearly cooled off from the offensive heights that he began the season at and will need to show that he can still be an effective player when not white-hot.

Ramon Ramirez started the Sunday game and did not have his control, as the results will show. Ramirez’s final line of 4.1-5-4-4-3-4-0 was not one to write home about and he has yet to get on one of his customary rolls where his walk to strikeout ratio is spectacular.

In Columbus promotion news, Colter Bean has been freed, at least temporarily and Chien-Ming Wang will be starting on Saturday. I’m excited about Bean’s promotion and hope he will get a legitimate shot as I have been waiting for this day to come since I first started the Minor Yankee Blog. In addition, while I’m excited that Wang will get a shot, my expectations for him are not too high and while he may be a better prospect than Brad Halsey was last year, I was more sure/excited of/about Halsey’s promotion then than I am Wang’s now; he should still outdo whatever Jaret Wright would have given the Yanks though. Lastly, Andy Phillips was given the start at 1B today and performed, as his numbers from the past year+ would indicate. Hopefully, Phillips sees more time in place of Tino and/or Giambi, as he should be given the shot to at least take Ruben Sierra’s role.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:

The Trenton Thunder, after starting the year off in horrid fashion, are on a roll and the starting pitching has played a large role in the goodness. Jeff Karstens has been dominant all season long and the case was no different in his 4th start of the year on Saturday; Karstens’ final line was 8-4-1-1-1-6-0 and now sports a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings of work There is no fault to be found with any of Karstens’ ratios and he has made the transition to AA in spectacular fashion thus far. I’d give it another month or so of similar work before any noise about promotions should be made.

Matt DeSalvo worked a dominant outing on Sunday as well, though for not nearly as long and with a messier line. DeSalvo went 5.2-2-0-0-5-6-0 to lower his ERA to 3.79. According to Frankie Pilliere of Pinstripes Plus who attended the game, DeSalvo worked his fastball mainly at 89-93 with most of them hitting 90 or 91. In addition, he says that of the 5 walks DeSalvo gave up, only 1 was “legitimate”. Still, DeSalvo’s control has been the most alarming aspect of his game thus far. In 19 innings, the RHP has walked 15. His control has never been something to be overly positive about, but never this bad when considering that some of last year’s AA control issues can be blamed on his injury.

On Saturday Eric Duncan followed a terrific Friday night with a forgettable game. With yet another LHP on the mound, Duncan could only muster an 0 for 3 with 2 strikeout (12) night. Then on Sunday Duncan had another terrific game; 2 for 4 with his 1st home run of the year. The overall numbers are still pretty bad, but with 2 good games in his last 3 and overall better hitting of late, Duncan is definitely picking up the pace as he attempts to recover from a horrendous start.

Melky Cabrera was also disappointing on Saturday as he was 0 for 3 with 1 strikeout (9). He then recovered in the Sunday game as Duncan did by going 1 for 3 with his first double of the year and his first unintentional walk of the season (2). Cabrera taking until April 24th to get his first double of the year may be the most surprising aspect of the Yankee minor league performance thus far considering his history of racking up 2 baggers.

Bronson Sardinha did not start on Saturday and was not especially effective on Sunday as he finished that contest 0 for 3 with a walk (4) and 2 strikeouts (17).

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:

Tampa’s game was rained out on Saturday, but they played on Sunday and Tyler Clippard authored his best start of the year; 6-1-0-0-3-8-0. Clippard’s control, at least based on box scores, still seems to be off thus far. His hit rate has been better than last year though so perhaps it’s a case of a guy learning that a little bit of wildness may increase effectiveness or it could just be small sample size effect.

Hector Made definitely appears to be back on the correct track following a long cold spell. The SS was 2 for 5 with a double (3) and is now 7 for his last 19. Erold Andrus also picked up a double (4) in his 4 at bats to get back to .200 and Rudy Guillen was 1 for 4 with a strikeout (18) to get his average up to .197.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor: .966

Christian Garcia started the Sunday game, Charleston’s 3rd in the last two days, and had his longest, most effective outing of the season. Garcia went 5-5-1-1-1-4-0, but was not able to pick up the win, as the offense did not arrive until a little after he left the game. While Garcia’s control has been reason for concern at times he has been one of the most exciting pitchers to follow thus far due to his spectacular curveball.

Marcos Vechionacci played in the first half of the Charleston Saturday double header and was 0 for 2 with a walk (7) and a strikeout (11), but hurt his back on a play at the plate and did not appear for the rest of the weekend’s games.

Irwil Rojas played both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader, a surprising move, but did not play on Sunday. On Saturday, Rojas was 1 for 5 with a double (4) and a walk (6). Rojas currently has more walks, 6, and extra base hits, 4, than strikeouts, 3, an impressive mark. His approach at the plate is indeed a thing to behold and while it does make one want to feel like Dioner Navarro is forgettable, you also have to consider that Navarro is 3 levels higher and only about a year older. In addition, while Navarro has been described as a lazy receiver, his actual defensive skills did garner praise, while Rojas seems to have a major problem as far as setting a target or blocking pitches.

Jon Poterson had arguably his best 9 at bat stretch of the season and it involved only picking up 2 hits. The RF was a combined 2 for 9 with a walk (2) and 2 strikeouts (16) with one of the hits being his 1st home run of the season and just 2nd extra base hit overall. Since Poterson and Eric Duncan are the first names that come to mind as far as best power potential in the organization it is interesting that both are sitting on just 1 double and 1 HR at this point in the season, granted Poterson’s overall struggles have been more serious.

Estee Harris did not play on Sunday, but had a very good Saturday where he went 2 for 6 with a double (2) and a walk (5). Harris has actually done a better job of making contact this year despite already accumulating 13 strikeouts in 43 at bats while not being a productive hitter. The team’s other multi-talented strikeout prone young OF also had a good weekend. Tim Battle played in all 3 games and was 5 for 12 with 2 strikeouts (26). After striking out 18 times in his first 36 at bats, Battle has “only” struck out 8 times in his last 28 at bats. His average is also up to .246 and his OBP has eclipsed the .300 mark. I was extremely concerned about him early on given the ridiculous K rate, but am now more confident in him validating me placing him as high on my preseason list as I did.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Andy and RJ show
by SG

After a rough two games against Texas, the Yankees came out today and took care of business, playing a game that the front office probably dreamed of when they built this team in the offseason. Randy Johnson was dominating, despite not having tremendous velociy. Although he did get as high as 96 on one scoreboard reading, he was still working in the low 90s for the most part, but attacked Texas with sliders and impeccable control. He threw 103 pitches, 60 of them for strikes in 8 innings, allowing only 3 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, and with 7 strikeouts. I think most of us are not worried about RJ, but it was good to see him pitching so well. Tom Gordon pitched a perfect ninth, although his control wasn't great, but he looked pretty good as well.

The story of this game to me was the offense. Quietly, due to the Yankees' struggles so far, Derek Jeter is having a tremendous season. His 3 for 4 day, topped with a HR has him sitting at .361/.478/.514. The most pleasant sign for me is the spike in Jeter's walk rate. Most likely due to his slow start last season, Jeter's BB/PA ratio was a lowly .065. This was his lowest ratio since his rookie season. However, after today's game, he is sitting at .175, which would blow away his career high set in 1999, when he probably should have won the MVP. I'd expect that to come down as the season progresses, but it does bode well for the rest of this season.

But the real good news of the day was Andy Phillips. Prior to the game, 'Not Marv Cook', a poster at Baseball Think Factory posted:

"This would be a great day for Andy Phillips to pull a Bubba Crosby."

This was a reference to this game, when Crosby hit a 3 run HR to spark a 5-4 win over the White Sox for a Yankee team that had been struggling.

A surprising insertion into the starting lineup against a righty, Phillips had a big RBI double in the Yankees' 4 run second inning, and then hit a homerun in the 8th to turn a laugher into a blowout. He also seemed pretty good defensively, although he didn't really get tested. Joe Torre seemed very impressed on the postgame show, so look for Phillips to get some semi-regular playing time, or at least be called on to pinch-hit in key spots. Sierra will be out for 4-6 weeks, so he should have plenty of time to make the Yankees think about keeping him on the roster. Ideally, they will clean up the clutter in the bullpen at some point, and allow themselves an extra bat on the bench.

Paul O'Neill brought up an interesting point during the game about how having some youth on a veteran team can perk them up. Phillips is not young in years, but he is young in major league experience. Perhaps he can bring some energy to a team that's been lacking it. One thing I've seen with the Yankees so far this season is they seem kind of flat. I'm sure the pitching getting shelled has a lot to do with that, but they certainly looked like they had a spark today.

And now the Yankees are 8-11, the same record they had after 19 games last season. It doesn't really mean much, this is a different team, but it's a little more evidence that it's not time to panic yet.

The flaws that are on this team are not going away, but there is still a ton of talent on this team. As Yankee fans, we just have to hope that the good outweighs the bad enough that they can make the playoffs. Once there, I'll take my chances with RJ, Moose, Pavano, Mo, Flash, Sturtze? and this offense against anyone.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Sunk Costs, Part Deux
by SG

Among the many moves that a lot of Yankee fans were not particularly enamored of was the Yankees' signing of Jaret Wright off of a career year with Atlanta. There was certainly good reason for concern.


1997 21 CLE AL 8 3 16 16 0 0 0 0 90.3 81 45 44 9 35 63 5 1 388 4.38 4.71 107
1998 22 CLE AL 12 10 32 32 1 1 0 0 192.7 207 109 101 22 87 140 11 6 855 4.72 4.80 102
1999 23 CLE AL 8 10 26 26 0 0 0 0 133.7 144 99 90 18 77 91 7 4 609 6.06 5.02 83
2000 24 CLE AL 3 4 9 9 1 1 0 0 51.7 44 27 27 6 28 36 1 2 217 4.70 5.02 107
2001 25 CLE AL 2 2 7 7 0 0 0 0 29.0 36 23 21 2 22 18 0 1 140 6.52 4.53 69
2002 26 CLE AL 2 3 8 6 0 0 1 0 18.3 40 34 32 3 19 12 2 1 116 15.71 4.51 29
2003 27 TOT NL 2 5 50 0 0 0 17 2 56.3 76 46 46 9 31 50 3 12 269 7.35 3.98 54
2004 28 ATL NL 15 8 32 32 0 0 0 0 186.3 168 79 68 11 70 159 3 3 781 3.28 4.31 131

One of these things is not like the others.

The Yankees and their scouts felt strongly enough about Wright to sign him for 3 years and $21 million. The highest offer out of Atlanta was $4 million over 2 years. Rather than considering that the team he just pitched for didn't feel strongly enough about Wright repeating his performance to go higher than $2 million a year for two years, the Yankees had Wright take a physical, WHICH HE FAILED.

Rather than realize that maybe this could be a problem, they gave him another physical and this time he passed. They did "protect" themselves with an out clause, which can be triggered in year 3 of the contract if Wright spends a combined 75 days on the DL in years 1 and 2. They would still have to buy out year 3 at a cost of $4 million, so they would save $3 million out of the deal.

Here was Brian Cashman's take on the signing:

"I think when we approach our winter every year, the only sensible thing is to attack the areas of weakness," Cashman said. "Our biggest concern was our rotation, and the belief here is that we're going into the spring with a much stronger rotation than we ended with last season.

"We got younger at the same time, and that's always good," added the GM. "We're excited about the potential of the staff, but now we have to play it out."

Despite posting a 2-1 record, Wright had pitched very poorly going into today's game. He followed this up with his worst game of the year so far, giving up six runs in the first two innings before finally leaving the game in the sixth with what is being described as 'shoulder pain.' He will be re-evaluated tomorrow. I did not really care for the fans that cheered Wright's injury though, I thought that was pretty classless. Yeah, he's not pitching well, but he's trying. If you're going to be annoyed at anyone, be annoyed at the guys who brought him here. There's not anyone of us that wouldn't have taken the Yankees' offer if we were Wright.

Wright was signed in lieu of Jon Lieber, Matt Clement, Odalis Perez, Orlando Hernandez, and Eric Milton amongst others, at around the same dollar value or less.
With Clement and Perez, there were questions about their personalities, with Lieber and Hernandez there were age issues, and with Milton they felt he was asking for more than he was worth(at least they got this one right). I think it's safe to say that any one of them at this point in time would have been a far better signing, even Milton as scary as that is.

Regardless, what's done is done. At this point, I'd guess that Wright will go on the DL and they will call up Tiger Wang. The best thing for this organization would be for Wang to pitch well enough to be considered for a rotation spot if Brown/Wright can't pitch this season, or as the fifth starter when Brown's contract is finally up at the end of the season. The Yankees are notoriously impatient with young starters (see Halsey, Brad or Lilly, Ted) so Wang will have to do a creditable job from the start. With a very poor free agent crop of pitchers coming up, the Yankees have to stop doing what they've been doing, which is overpaying for mediocrity. It is far better to sign one Carlos Beltran for $14 million than to sign a Jaret Wright for $7 million, a Tony Womack for $2 million, a Tino Martinez for $2 million, and Ruben Sierra, John Flahery, and Rey Sanchez for $1 million each. The sooner they learn that, the better.

Another loss today dropped the Yankees to 7-11. If they manage to win tomorrow, they will have the same record as last year, so it is still not time to panic. However, it's so painfully obvious that this past offseason was not a good one, and it is becoming more apparent.

Tony Womack .233/.292/.283
Tino Martinez .200/.310/.360
Jaret Wright 2-2, 9.15 ERA
Randy Johnson 1-1, 5.13 ERA
Felix Rodriguez 4.70 ERA

Other names of note:
Jon Lieber 4-0, 2.73 ERA
Matt Clement 2-0, 2.13 ERA
Orlando Hernandez 2-1, 2.50 ERA
Odalis Perez 3-0, 2.04 ERA
Jose Contreras 0-0, 3.63 ERA

Update: Supposedly, the Yankees are going to call up Colter Bean to take Wright's spot. I guess this is because they won't need a fifth starter until next Saturday. It's not like Torre will use Bean unless there's a blowout though.

Minor League Notes: 4/21&22/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:

My hope that Robinson Cano’s poor offensive night on the 20th was just a bump in the road seems to have come true. Cano followed one of his more forgettable nights thus far this season by going 3 for 5 on Thursday and then 1 for 4 with a walk (5) and a strikeout (8) on Friday. So, as Womack continues to flounder at the ML level with an OPS in the low .600 range, Cano continues to stay above 1. for Columbus. Cano is obviously beginning to cool off somewhat and it’ll be interesting to see exactly where the cooling off period leaves him. Regardless, he is still most likely better for the ML team than Womack is right now, despite whatever the front office may think.

Chien-Ming Wang started for Columbus last night and had a meh game. The first line of Yankee defense if/when everyone gives up on Kevin Brown went 6-12-4-4-0-3-0. Wang’s ERA now sits at 4.15 and he has not been nearly as good in this AAA stint as he was during last year’s but that should have been expected, to an extent. Still, Wang as been solid thus far and if nothing else, is proving he can eat innings even on his less than stellar days.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:

On Thursday, Eric Duncan was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts (10), making his situation look more hapless than usual. Then, on Friday, he finally arrived. Duncan had what is easily his best game of the year as the 20-year-old went 2 for 3 with a double (1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and a walk. Hopefully, finally having his first XBH of the season will get Duncan back on the track he needs to be where those types of hits come more often than not. While Duncan’s stretch to start the season was pretty horrid, it was only 50 odd at bats (hopefully) and he had a month last year, June, where he was much worse and still ended the year with fine overall totals so don’t write off his ’05 just yet. Just like the frustrations with the ML Yankees, things are only being amplified by taking place early.

In other Trenton offensive prospect news, Melky Cabrera has returned to the lineup and Bronson Sardinha promptly went cold. Sardinha is 0 for 7 with a strikeout (15) over the last two games while Cabrera has returned cold; the CF is 1 for 8 with 2 strikeouts (8). Due to uncharacteristically only having 1XBH thus far and his impatient hitting style only producing 1 BB, Cabrera has been just about as unproductive as Duncan thus far despite a BA about .40 points higher.

On Thursday night Sean Henn authored a reasonably dominant start despite less than perfect control. Henn was good for 7.1-2-0-0-4-5-0 and now has a 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings, as he has gotten off to a fast start, similar to last year. The key will be if the fatigue issues that plagued him last year, causing an eventual pattern of good start-bad start, will once again crop up. I’m also curious to see how much Henn’s bullpen conversion will be pushed off based on the performance he has had as a starter thus far in ’05.

Steven White was initially scheduled to start Friday night’s game, but was not able to take the mound due to an injury he incurred during a side session. Perhaps the time off will allow him to clear his head and get his game together.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:

Hector Made had what I guess could/should be qualified as a hot stretch, considering his seasonal numbers, over the Thursday-Friday games. Made was a combined 3 for 10 with a double (2), a walk (4), and a strikeout (10). His BA is now up to .219 with a .261 OBP and .281 SLG…terrific.

Rudy Guillen and Erold Andrus were not as fortunate during the two games. Andrus was just plain horrid, while Guillen did have 1 hit to talk about. The hit for Guillen was a HR, his first of this year and 2nd over the past two seasons, but overall he was still only 1 for 9 with a walk (5) and 5 strikeouts (17). Andrus was 0 for 8 with 2 walks (6) and 4 strikeouts (12). If I were looking for positives from the seasons of Andrus and Guillen so far I’d have to look at the fact that their walk rates are decent.

The most exciting news to come out of Tampa was definitely that the starter for Friday night’s game was Abel Gomez. Making his ’05 debut, Gomez was very good for 4 innings before losing control, literally, before walking 3 in his 5th and final inning. The final line for the LHP was 5-4-5-2-4-3-0. Gomez on the Tampa team definitely makes them a lot more exciting and now all that needs to happen is the return of Eric Abreu. I’m also excited to see how the adjustments that were made to improve Abel’s control will play out.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:


Sunk Costs
by SG

Fortunately for me, I did not get to watch last night's game. I did listen to most of it on the radio, and as Kevin Brown gave another crappy performance to start the game, one thing that John Sterling said really got on my nerves:

"Brown's in the rotation, you have to pitch him."

I understand that Kevin Brown is making $15 million this season. However, if every time he starts he is putting his team in a 5 or 6 run hole to start the game, then the Yankees need to view him as a sunk cost.

From Wikipedia, here's what a sunk cost is:

In economics and in business decision-making, sunk costs are costs that have already been incurred and which cannot be recovered to any significant degree. Sunk costs are sometimes contrasted with incremental costs, which are the costs that will change due to the proposed course of action. In microeconomic theory, only incremental costs are relevant to a decision. If we let sunk costs influence our decisions, we will not be assessing a proposal exclusively on its own merits.

I'd swear that could've been written about Kevin Brown.

It's too soon to give up on Brown, it's only two starts, but if someone from the minors shows some consistency (Tiger Wang or Ramon Ramirez perhaps?), then I'd hope the Yankees wouldn't keep throwing Brown in the rotation strictly because they are paying him. That salary is gone, it's not coming back. You can't keep trying to justify it while costing your team wins. I guess I don't trust the Yankees to make that kind of decision, but perhaps an injury to Brown will make it for them.

Brown wasn't helped by a less than stellar offensive performance. The bullpen was strong again, especially Mike Stanton in a shocking peformance where he struck out all four batters he faced. I've basically accepted that the team will not leave April above .500 at this point, but as long as they win more than they lose going forward, I'll hope for a 15 game tear where they go 12-3 or something to get their record back up to respectability.

In other news, the latest on Ruben Sierra is that he will miss 4 to 6 weeks, and Andy Phillips has been called up. Shockingly, he got an AB yesterday. I'd like to see Torre give him some playing time, and hope that he can get some big hits so that Torre will play him ocassionally. Also, Tanyon Sturtze played catch yesterday and felt fine, so expect him to be back when his DL time is up.

Friday, April 22, 2005

by SG

If I had my way, every Yankee game would be like the game yesterday where they shellacked the Blue Jays 11-2. Games like that don't teach you as much about the team as games like tonight's though.

After young lefty Gustavo Chacin baffled the Yankees the first time through the order, they started getting more comfortable against him the second time through. Bernie Williams led off the top of the fourth with a single. I've been happy to see Bernie's bat come to life of late. His .264 average and .375 OBP are certainly respectable, but his .340 SLG is still not very good. Gary Sheffield continues to hit the ball as hard as anyone I've ever seen, even at age 36, and lined a double to bring home Bernie. Sheffield went to third on the throw home, and scored on a sac fly by Hideki Matsui. They added two more runs in the fifth for a total of four runs.

The offense is not a concern on this team. We know they're old, declining, etc., but they can be expected to produce. The bigger concern for me in tonight's game was Mike Mussina. Again, Moose was effective, but less than impressive. He did get up to 91 mph on one fastball, but most of the time he was working in the 85-88 range, and he seems to be throwing more breaking balls this year. I am hoping he is still building arm strength, because as it is he's not really much more than a mid-level starter. He is constantly getting into jams, but to his credit he's pitching out of them, including a very nice double play in the third inning with the bases loaded and one out, where Moose stabbed a sharp grounder and threw home for the 1-2-3 double play.

Joe Torre again failed to impress me with his bullpen management, although it all managed to work out. To relieve Moose with runners on second and third and only one out in the bottom fo the sixth, Torre brought in Buddy Groom to make his Yankee debut. Groom intentionally walked Reed Johnson to face Greg Zaun, and got him to popup on the infield. With Shea Hillenbrand up, Torre brough in Felix Rodriguez who induced a sharp grounder to Jeter for the third out.

Then, in the top of the seventh, after getting one out, F-Rod gave up a double to Vernon Wells. With lefty Eric Hinske due up, despite the fact that Rodriguez has historically been very good against lefties, Torre went to Mike Stanton, who has been a bit shaky this year, including walking the last two lefties he's been brought in to retire. Stanton vindicated Torre by getting Hinske to fly out to center, and then Torre went to Flash Gordon. Gordon looked very good, with a lone walk his only blemish.

Then came Mo. He still doesn't look like he's 100%, but he got through it despite a scare. I think each successful outing will help him put the first week of the season out of his mind.

So the Yankees are still 2 games under .500 despite winning 3 of their last 4 games, but things are looking up. They'll head back home for a three game series with Texas now. I really would like to see a sweep, the longer this team is under .500 the more we're going to have to hear about what a disappointment they are. After last week though, things are looking better. I was happy with the offense's clutch hitting, and I thought the bullpen did a fine job of picking up a struggling Mike Mussina.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/20/05 (Updated)
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:

The Robinson Cano show came to, hopefully, just a slight pause today. In going 0 for 4 without a walk or HBP, Cano was left with his first game where he did not get on base for the young season. Cano’s average is also now down to a .350 BA overall.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor: .986

Not only did Trenton win again today, but also Eric Duncan had arguably his best offensive game of the season. The 3B who has been experiencing all sorts of troubles at the plate was 2 for 5 with a strikeout (8). The first hit was a grounder up the middle and the second was a liner into CF, so hopefully this is the start of something bigger. Unfortunately, Duncan also made his 5th error of the season and 4th in his last 3 games today. Similar to last year, it seems as though the miscues will be in bunches. For some positive spin on this issue, last year he had 12 in his first 21 games, and only made 14 in his next 92 games.

Meanwhile, Bronson Sardinha continued his recent hot hitting by going 2 for 5 with a double (4) and a strikeout (14). Sardinha has been the best prospect performer on the Trenton team thus far. Melky Cabrera once again did not play.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor: .979

Hector Made had a very good game for the Tampa Yankees; the SS would collect 2 singles over the course of 4 at bats. Unfortunately, neither Rudy Guillen nor Erold Andrus was as good. Guillen’s night was the next step down as he had 1 hit in 3 at bats and Andrus was the worst of the three with no hits in his 3 at bats.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:

I had extremely high hopes for Jeff Marquez entering the ’05 season. Despite a low strikeout rate in the NYPL, I bought into the hype that his groundball tendencies would make that inconsequential and was fine with him potentially starting the year in the FSL; Marquez’s early season performance has cast the praises into doubt. For the 3rd start in a row (4th if you count the preseason game broadcast prior to opening day), Marquez was brutal. Today his final line was 3-6-6-4-3-1-0 to give him a seasonal line of 10.2-18-14-11-10-12-0. I guess the sinker is working in the sense that he’s yet to give up a homer and the strikeout rate is good, but that line is still horrendous. Thankfully, it’s only 10.2 innings and Marquez has time to turn around his season.

Marcos Vechionacci was given his first day off of the season, so Irwil Rojas took up the role of best hitter on the team. Rojas was 2 for 4 with a double (3) and is looking terrific at the plate right now, if only the same could be said of his defense. Tim Battle did not get any hits, extra base variety or otherwise, but got on base via walk (6) and was 0 for 3 with a strikeout (24). Battle’s season has been very good outside the first week or so and it’s encouraging that he’s making tangible adjustments. Estee Harris was also a recipient of a no contact night; the LF finished the day 0 for 3 with a walk (4) and 2 strikeouts (13).

Minor League Notes: 4/19/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):

Park Factor:
Record: 9-4

Robinson Cano
continued to demolish IL pitching tonight. To put his start in perspective, after going 2 for 5 with a double (5) tonight, his SLG is actually going to go down. Regardless, Cano is doing a spectacular job of erasing doubts surrounding his power. The only thing I can complain about is the lack of walks as only 1 of his 4 walks thus far was not intentional.

Ramon Ramirez had a solid start curtailed by control problems. The diminutive RHP went 5-4-1-1-3-5-1. Ramirez’s final line would have been much better had it not been for the issues he ran into in the 6th inning where he walked a batter, gave up a double, and walked another batter leading to an early exit.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor: .986

The Trenton Thunder had an offensive outburst tonight on their way to amassing 11 runs and 10 hits. Unfortunately, Prospects Row was not really a part of that. Melky Cabrera’s recent troubles gave him the night off, prohibiting him from the festivities, while Eric Duncan continued to scuffle. Duncan, at the least, had a couple hard hit balls tonight, but still no results, as he would go 0 for 5 with a strikeout (7). Duncan’s offensive ineptitude even seems to have begun affecting him in the field as his flawless fielding early on is no longer existent, the 3B made an error to give him 4 overall and 3 in his last two games. Bronson Sardinha was the lone offensive prospect bright spot. Sardinha was 1 for 2 and gathered two walks, clearly responding to my earlier post. Bronson also made a fielding error (2), but we’ll overlook that for now.

Matt DeSalvo is a pitcher often noted as lacking in big time raw “stuff”; in other words, his fastball isn’t THAT fast. As a result, he is the type of pitcher that relies on having a deep repertoire and being able to place those pitches. Tonight, Matt DeSalvo could not place his pitches and the result was ugly. DeSalvo went 3.1-9-5-4-4-1-0 for his worst start of the year.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:

Tampa won a pitching duel 3-2 tonight and as would be expected, the offensive prospects played almost no real role in the game. Hector Made was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts (9), Rudy Guillen was 0 for 4 with 1 strikeout (12), and Erold Andrus had the best day by going 1 for 4 with 1 strikeout (7). On the one hand, it IS the FSL and I am understanding of the difficulty of hitting there, but then again, with a bunch of Yankee prospects struggling there is more emphasis on these guys doing well in order to compensate for the rest of the farm so their “hitting” thus far has been frustrating.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:

Charleston won a slugfest by the final score of 10-7 and two of the offensive prospects shone brightly in today’s action. While Marcos Vechionacci had a forgettable play in the field and made a base running gaffe due to being overly aggressive, he was very good at the plate. Nacci went 3 for 5 to bring his average back up to .308 following a brief dry spell.

Tim Battle continues to impress following a horrendous opening to the season. While Battle struck out twice today (23) he also walked (5) and hit a mammoth HR (3). The homer was over the 415 ft. sign in CF and estimated at about 420 feet. In addition, Battle has continued to put together excellent at bats lately, making me not worry as much about the strikeouts, which are down somewhat from where he started the season.

Irwil Rojas was 1 for 4, but continues to worry me with his defense at C and Estee Harris was 1 for 4 with a double (1) and a strikeout (11). The only offensive prospect to not get a hit was, of course, Jon Poterson. The RF was 0 for 3 with a walk (1!!!!!!!!) and 2 strikeouts (14). Poterson’s stats also pretty much tell the story with him. Unlike Eric Duncan who has had many a solid at bat end unluckily, Poterson has just been really, really bad.

Christian Garcia’s final line, 4.1-3-3-3-1-6-0, is nothing to write home about, but not nearly indicative of how good he was on this day. In what was easily the best of his 3 performances on the year, Garcia used his curveball to overwhelm Columbus batters all night long and would have had a better final line were it not for Vechionacci’s previously mentioned fielding error. While Garcia does not have an ERA nearly as flashy, he’s provided more “take notice” moments than Phil Hughes thus far.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/17&18/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:


Robinson Cano opened the season with a 10-game hitting streak before having it snapped on Sunday. A big reason why that hitting streak was snapped was that despite going to the plate 6 times, Cano only took 4 official at bats due to being intentionally walked twice (3). While it sucks that his hitting streak is over, it is impressive that opposing teams now fear Cano enough to walk him in critical situations. In Monday night’s game, Cano ended his 1 game “slump” by going 2 for 5 with 2 singles and is currently hitting .373 through his first 51 at bats of the year.

Chien-Ming Wang gutted through Sunday’s game for Columbus. The 25-year-old finished the game with a line of 7-7-4-4-3-2-0, as he did not have his typical control of the pitches. This included a 3rd inning that featured some very sloppy fielding by him and his teammates. In the end Wang was able to pitch a solid game as he continues to bide his time while Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright scuffle in the majors.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:

Eric Duncan was 1 for 8 with a walk (8) over the course of Sunday and Monday’s games. The 3B has now been dropped down to 6th in the order after beginning the season hitting 4th, but continues to struggle to find consistency. Duncan also, shockingly, has yet to collect an extra base hit after averaging 1 every 7.8 at bats prior to this year. In addition, Duncan has only struck out 6 times, which works out to once every 6.8 at bats, after striking out once every 4 at bats prior to this year. It’s still early and Duncan’s lack of power could just be a slump, but I can’t help, but wonder whether he made a conscious effort to cut back on his swing in order to curtail strikeouts and as a result, his power has been affected. Hopefully, he breaks out soon and this will no longer be a worry.

Melky Cabrera was recently able to parlay one of his customary hitting streaks into his first AA HR and XBH of his career, but has since returned to the form he showed in the earlier portion of this season. Melky went 0 for 9 over Sunday and Monday and just like that his average has dropped all the way down to .250. Due to his only having 1 walk, which was intentional, and 1 XBH, his average is more harmful than the standard .250 would be.

Bronson Sardinha went 3 for 8 with a home run (1), 2 doubles (3), and 2 strikeouts (13) over the Sunday and Monday period. Sardinha has been better at the plate as of late, but surprisingly still only has 1 walk to his credit and has had strikeout issues. Despite all of the issues he has had throughout his career as far as defensive inconsistency and power production inconsistency, one thing Sardinha has typically managed to do is maintain control of the strike zone, so I wouldn’t look at this as a long term problem. Once he gets where he needs to be with that issue his average should hopefully go up and his solid power production thus far will become more evident.

Steven White pitched the Sunday game and was horrendous, giving him 2 awful starts in 3 tries; White’s final line was 4.2-8-4-4-2-2-1. White has had some serious control issues in his 12.1 innings thus far as evidenced by a BB:K ratio of 7-9. With 16 hits, including 2 HRs, given up already it also seems to reason that his fastball may not be fooling many hitters either. The positive lining in all this is that White usually got better as his stints in a league went on last year and we can hope for that happening this year as well.

Jeff Karstens pitched the Monday game and continues to impress in the early going. Karstens took the loss, but his defense was to blame as his final line was 6-7-5-1-0-3-0. I expected Karstens control to aid him in making the transition to AA more easily than White would, but his performance thus far has exceeded those expectations.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor: .979

If Monday’s game is any indication, Rudy Guillen may finally be awaking from his season long slump. The RF was 3 for 4 with a walk (3) and a strikeout (11) to bring his season average up to .220, which isn’t much in the absolute sense, but it is MUCH better than what he was doing earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Erold Andrus and Hector Made continued their slumps after getting off to more promising starts than Guillen. Made was 1 for 5 and his average sits at .196 while Andrus was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts (6) and is hitting .244 thus far.

Tampa is the Yankee affiliate most difficult to get detailed information from/about, but at this moment I’m going to assume that Tyler Clippard left yesterday’s game after 4 innings due to reaching his pitch count rather than any sort of injury. Clippard began the game by getting strikeouts for his first 5 outs while allowing a single in between, but then seemed to run out of gas as the game went on to finish with a mediocre final line of 4-4-2-2-3-6-0.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor: .966

Tim Battle was only 1 for 8 with a double (3), a walk (4), and 3 strikeouts (21) between Sunday and Monday, but I have been impressed with his play of late. While he still strikes out a lot, it is not as much as he was earlier this year. In addition, while his strikeouts used to be mostly made up of at bats where he went to the plate, hacked at every pitch and then struck out swinging, some of his strikeouts of late have been due to working the count and laying off borderline pitches that don’t go his way. In addition, he has also been hitting the ball with much more authority has 6 XBH on the year.

Marcos Vechionacci was 1 for 9 with 2 strikeouts (10) during the 2 games, but I have no worries about him. He has been pretty consistent all year as far as putting together solid at bats, the only difference being that sometimes the line drives fall fair and sometimes they fall foul. I’m extremely impressed with the consistency displayed in this 18-year-old’s game.

Irwil Rojas has had a strange last two games as he struck out once in each game to give him 3 on the year. Rojas was 1 for 7 with a walk (5) to go along with those Ks. Rojas has been similar to Vechionacci thus far in terms of the offensive consistency when it comes to his approach. However, he does not the ball as consistently hard and has been very poor on defense; Rojas had 2 passed balls in Monday’s game and already has 5 on the year.

Jon Poterson, after a brief stretch of a couple games where he was good, has gone back to sucking. The RF was 0 for 8 with a strikeout (12) between Sunday and Monday. Estee Harris was not much better on Sunday, 0 for 4 with a strikeout, but then tripled his season hits total on Monday by going 2 for 4 with a strikeout (10). OF corners usually provide a lot of a team’s offense, but thus far this has not been the case for Charleston.

Brett Smith was victimized by poor defense and badly timed BABIP luck on Sunday, resulting in his worst start of the season, 5.2-8-3-3-1-8-0. Smith has still been very impressive thus far and still looks to be on course for at least a midseason promotion as opposing batters are having big problems handling his repertoire.

After Monday night’s game where Phil Hughes went 4-4-2-2-1-2-0, I began contemplating Hughes’ 3 starts thus far. The one thought I could not shake was that while Hughes had the nice tidy ERA of 1.88 thus far, none of his starts had left me as impressed as I thought they would heading into this year. His curveball had shown flashes, but that had been the only really exciting thing thus far as he had relied on weak contact by opposing hitters to get outs and was lacking the strikeouts I thought he would generate with a low to mid 90s fastball. Today’s BA Daily Dish shed some light on why this might be: “The Yankees are bringing right-hander Philip Hughes along slowly, and his stuff his coming along slowly as well. Hughes, the Yanks’ first-round pick last season, picked up his first loss Monday as he gave up two runs in four innings with two strikeouts against Columbus; his fastball topped out around 90 mph. He has a 1.88 ERA through three starts and has 11 strikeouts and four walks in 14 1/3 innings”. While it’s nice to know there is a reason why Hughes hasn’t been as spectacular as expected, it does worry me that he was only throwing around 90 as that leads me to worry about injury issues…or it could just be early season rust, hopefully.

Monday, April 18, 2005

by Larry Mahnken

Certainly George will be happy, and probably a little self-congratulatory after last night’s shellacking of the Devil Rays, but lets keep things in context:

They beat the Devil Rays.

There, that’s pretty much enough context. They beat the crap out of a crappy team, it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be okay from now on. It doesn’t mean that they’re going to suck as soon as they play a good team again, and to win pennants you have to beat up on the weak teams, but it’s just one win, no matter how big.

To me, the element of this game most likely to be overlooked is the terrible performance by Jaret Wright. In his three starts, Wright has been pounded twice and was close to getting knocked out of the box by Boston. With a huge lead against a weak team, Wright barely got through five innings, and probably shouldn’t have been allowed to go that far. After a spectacular second inning, Wright quickly instilled a feeling of dread – if they blow this thing, it’ll be the low point of the year.

I didn’t expect much of Wright this season, and yet he’s failing to meet my expectations so far. How long it will take the Yankees to decide he’s worthless, and who will ultimately take his place in the rotation are fair questions to ask, but they can wait for another day, when Wright has actually cost the team a game.

For now, let’s focus the rest of our attention on the fact that the team won. They won with an amazing offensive outburst in the second inning against Rob Bell, sending seventeen batters to the plate, hitting two homers and scoring 13 runs. In two innings, Alex Rodriguez ripped a double and two homers, knocked in six runs, and was on his way to one of his best games in pinstripes – if not the best: 5/6, 2 HRs, 13 TB, 5 R, 6 RBI.

Jason Giambi doubled and singled, was walked twice, once intentionally, and hit by a pitch. Bernie Williams was 3/6, Derek Jeter 1/3 with 3 BBs. Tino Martinez hit his 11th career grand slam. With one out in the second, everyone in the lineup had at least one base hit.

These are the kinds of games that the Yankees are capable of when most of the lineup is clicking. Rob Bell is the type of pitcher who can help a lineup click, but he’s not that bad. Was this team angry, embarrassed, or scared of George Steinbrenner? Possibly, but it’s also possible – probably equally possible, I’d say, that this was just fortuitous timing, several slumping hitters breaking out all at once, at the end of a long skid. The Yankees won’t need these kinds of offensive performances all season, even behind Jaret Wright, but they’ll get a few of them.

I looked at the standings after yesterday’s game for the first time since Opening Day, not surprised to see the Yankees near the bottom, but also not concerned about that particular placement. Their overall performance has been frustrating, and I’ve been bitter, about the decisions they made that helped that frustrating performance, but I also knew that at this point in the season, a slump like this one, bound to be overreacted to at any time, will never be more overreacted to than in mid-April. Last night stopped a slide, for now, and it woke up some sleeping giants, for now. But the Yankees are still in fourth place.

For now.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Enough Negativity
by SG

My last two posts have been very negative, and rightfully so. The Yankees have been playing like crap. However, after reading some of the stuff that's coming out in the media today, I've gotten a bit annoyed.

Yankees turning into $200 million failure

First, we get the insight of JT the Brick:

American League team don’t fear New York anymore. They look forward to beating them. Boston proved that a team could not only beat the Yankees, but also embarrass them, evidenced by last year’s when the Yankees became the first team to lose a 3-0 lead in the ALCS.

I don't know what last year has to do with this year, but whatever JT.

Then came the news that Joe Torre held a meeting with the team.

When Torre talks, Bombers listen.

A quote from Torre:

"I'm not happy. We need to play a better brand of baseball," Torre said. "The confidence level is never good -- I don't care how good you are -- until you can go out there and dictate what goes on. We haven't been able to do that, and until it happens, not only am I concerned, but everybody in that room is, too."

And lastly, George Steinbrenner himself chips in with his thoughts.

Steinbrenner irate after another Yankees’ loss

“Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed as I’m sure all Yankee fans are by the lack of performance by our team,” Steinbrenner said in a statement issued immediately after the game.

“It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in baseball would start the season in such a deep funk. They are not playing like true Yankees. They have the talent to win and they are not winning. I expect Joe Torre, his complete coaching staff and the team to turn this around.”

In addition to this, the Yankee haters are out in full force. Full of glee and sarcastic comments, and this is also getting under my skin.

The Yankees are 4-8. That stinks. It doesn't matter. We know about all the problems with many of the decisions they made in building this team, but like it or not, this is the team we will be watching for the rest of the season, with the exception of a few pieces perhaps. Rather than look back at what's been a bad start, I'm going to start looking forward.

I'm going to start rooting for Tony Womack to do well. I hated his signing, but being happy when he fails is being happy that he is hurting the Yankees.

I'm going to hope that Alex Rodriguez stops pressing and just lets his natural talent and ability come through.

I'm going to root for Bernie Williams to go out with a bang, and not be a laughingstock. Sure, his defense won't be good, but there's no reason he can't make up for it on offense, and he's looked better of late.

I can't imagine that Jorge Posada will continue to hit like Rey Sanchez, and once he gets going a big hole in the lineup will be filled.

We know the bottom of the lineup isn't that good, but when Sierra plays, I'll root for him to get a clutch hit. When Tino plays, I'll root for him to make good defensive plays and get some big RBI.

I'll pull for Giambi's continued comeback. I still think he is going to perform well, as he gets more comfortable and gets his timing back.

I don't worry about Jeter, Sheffield, or Matsui. They are all consistent performers for the most part, and we can expect them to do well.

On the pitching side, Randy Johnson's had a rough start, but I feel confident that he will be mowing hitters down for most of the season.

Mike Mussina has not been that good so far, but he's getting results. As long as he's healthy and keeps building arm strength, I see no reason to not expect him to resemble the Moose of the second half last year, the one with 57 Ks in 57.1 innings and a 3.45 ERA.

I've seen more good than bad from Carl Pavano. His raw numbers will look worse due to the move to the American League and the defense he'll be playing in front of, but as a third starter I see no reason not to expect him to be an asset.

I'm going to hope that Kevin Brown can make 25 starts and build on the last four innings of his game today. If he can't, I'm going to be excited to see if young arms like Tiger Wang, Ramon Ramirez, or Jorge Depaula can be parts of the pitching staff for years to come.

I get the impression that Jaret Wright is going to be inconsistent, but will have good games at times. I'll just hope that more often than not he can keep the team in the games he starts.

I am not concerned about the bullpen, only with Torre's handling of it. Rivera is still working his way back, but I have no doubt that he will be fine. Gordon may not be as good as last year, but if that's the case, they can give some of his innings to Felix Rodriguez. I also think Sturtze can be an asset despite his bad outing against Baltimore, and look forward to watching him defy expectations. I don't know what to think about Mike Stanton, but I do think he should not be used strictly against lefties, and that he shouldn't pitch as much as Torre seems to be using him right now. I think longer outings will help him stay sharper. I also hope that Quantrill and Karsay can get the consistent work they need to be assets.

We know the bench isn't good, but hopefully the Yankees will use the few strengths they have on it to the best of their ability.

Joe Torre could be a problem, but he won't be a problem if these players do what they should do.

I won't let all the asses rooting for the Yankees to fall flat on their faces get the satisfaction of watching me panic.

If they are still shitty in a month, then we can start to worry.

John Sickels on Robinson Cano
by Fabian

Sickels' take on Columbus 2B Robinson Cano. This was posted a few days ago on his website, but I havn't had time to link until now.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Mismanagement 101
by SG

Joe Torre has gotten a lot of praise for his team's successes over the time since he came aboard in 1996. Torre has his strengths, although they would seem to be in mostly unmeasurable areas. I'm not one to discredit team chemistry and intangibles, however since they are not something we can measure I can't really assess them. It seems that Torre does a good job of managing his team's personalities, he handles the voracious New York media with aplomb, and he manages to keep George Steinbrenner off his players' backs for the most part. However, he is clearly not a good in-game tactical manager, and as the quality of the team that the front office has assembled for him deteriorates, it becomes more and more clear.

I want to make it clear that Torre is not the only one to blame for the current flaws on this team, which is a good enough team to win the division and World Series as constructed, but has a lot of issues with its defense and depth. Brian Cashman deserves some blame as well. Granted, it's not clear how much autonomy he has with decisions, but as the face of the Yankee decision-making team, he is responsible for how this team was put together. If he is being overridden on all his personnel moves, then he needs to be more vocal about it and perhaps step down if that's what it takes. Otherwise, he risks any chance of moving on to a more favorable situation at some point in his career. That he has not done so tells me that he either approves of the moves being made, or does not feel strongly enough about them to fight them.

Also culpable in this is the Tampa think tank. This mysterious group, led by "superscout" Bill Emslie and "pitching guru" Billy Connors carries a lot of weight and influence with George Steinbrenner. They are the ones who recommended Tony Womack and Jaret Wright, while at the same time running the minor league organization into the ground.

The bench that was assembled this year is an embarrassment, particularly given the Yankees' tremendous financial advantage over the rest of baseball.

All of these factors came into play tonight, in a tough 7-6 loss.

In the starting lineup and batting fifth was Ruben Sierra. This is the first example of Torre and his mismanagement. He based this decision on the fact that Sierra has 7 hits in 23 AB against Rodrigo Lopez. It's certainly possible that this is indicative that Sierra has good AB against Lopez, but the sample size is not significant enough to completely warrant it. Torre has a bizarre fascination with batter/pitcher matchups, which have basically been debunked as having much validity by people far more astute than me about these types of things. To no one's surprise except Joe Torre, Sierra went hitless in five plate appearances, although he did drive in a run on a grounder to short late in the game.

Torre also took Jason Giambi out of the game after the top of the sixth inning to replace him defensively with Tino Martinez. Mark this one down, because it came back to bite the Yankees in the ass in the ninth inning.

Mike Mussina pitched a decent game, but he still doesn't look good to me, as his velocity is still in the mid to high 80s and his control is not sharp. However, he gutted through this outing and exited the game with two outs in the sixth, a 3-1 lead and one runner on. Mike Stanton was brought in to turn Brian Roberts around and walked him on 5 pitches. However, newest Yankee bullpen hero Tanyon Sturtze came in, allowing a single to Melvin Mora which cut the Yankee lead to 3-2. However, he then induced a grounder to retire Tejada and escape with the lead.

This is the second example of Joe Torre's mismanaging. Sturtze had been outstanding this year, but he is on pace to pitch 149 innings. On a team with 7 relievers, all of whom have a track record of success, there is no excuse for using one guy that much. It's still an open question if Sturtze has discovered a new talent level due to the change in his role and the cutter that he was taught by Mariano Rivera, but assuming he is now a good reliever, is he likely to be better than Felix Rodriguez, Paul Quantrill, or Steve Karsay?

The Yankees added 3 more runs in the top of the 7th and all looked well. However, reality came back to bite Sturtze in the top of the 7th. He was a bit unlucky as some flare hits landed in bad places, but he gave up five hits and four runs. Two of these runs scored when Flash Gordon gave up a two out HR to Brian Roberts.

Gordon has not been good this year, and my guess is that it is a lingering effect from his overwork last year. He has an extensive injury history and had not pitched nearly that many innings since 1998.

Gordon's innings pitched as a reliever:
1998 79.1
1999 17.2
2000 Out for the season
2001 45.1
2002 42.3
2003 74
2004 89.2

He is 37 this year, his season last year was huge, but there is no reasonable way to expect anything close to that this year, and I would not be shocked if he suffers from markedly decreased effectivenss due to his workload last year. However, Torre has his mind set up with roles. Stanton is the LOOGY, even though he is no more effective against lefties than righties, and is not nearly the same pitcher he was when Torre had him last. Sturtze apparently will always pitch the 6th and 7th with a lead, Gordon the 8th, and Rivera the 9th. Felix Rodriguez, Paul Quantrill, and Steve Karsay will apparently only pitch in blowouts, as they are not on Torre's infamous "trust" list.

Relief pitchers need to pitch regularly to stay sharp in my opinion, and Torre will often bury guys that he has no confidence in, which in turn affects their effectiveness and their own confidence, which in turn appears to justify Torre's use of them.

These are all season long issues however. The biggest blunder in last night's game came in the ninth inning. With dominant lefty relief pitcher B.J. Ryan in for Baltimore, the Yankees were due to send up Ruben Sierra, Tino Martinez, and Jorge Posada. Sierra struck out on three pitches, and looked awful in doing so. Giambi's spot in the order came up, but he was not in the game anymore, having been pulled in the 6th freaking inning. Ryan is tough on lefties, but Giambi has the power to hit a mistake pitch a long way, or at least the eye to work the count. However, in his place now was Tino Martinez. With a tough lefty on the hill, Torre decided to go to his bench for Tino, which was a fine move in theory.

His options:
Andy Phillips, Righty, age 28, a career .296/.366/.509 hitter in the minors who had a torrid spring training, hitting .333/.409/.718 with 4 HRs in 39 AB.
Rey Sanchez, Righty, age 37, a career .271/.308/.334 hitter who hit .246 last year and is known more for his defense.
John Flaherty, Righty, age 37, a career .255/.293/.382 hitter who is known for "calling a good game" apparently since he can't hit for crap or throw out a base stealer to save his life.
Bubba Crosby, Lefty, age 28. Primarily Bernie Williams's defensive replacement and a pinch runner, and would be overmatched against a lefty like Ryan.

I won't claim that Andy Phillips is a good hitter because of his minor league track record. I won't claim that he has that much potential, because a 27 year old beating up minor league pitchers isn't overly impressive. However, we do know the track records of Rey Sanchez and John Flaherty, and they're not good.

With only two out remaining in the game, Torre sent up Rey Sanchez to hit for Tino Martinez. By some miracle, Sanchez hit a weak grounder up the middle that just eluded Brian Roberts's dive. That brought up the comatose Jorge Posada, who has been horrendous so far this season. Posada struck out, leaving the game in Bernie Williams's hands. Bernie has looked a little better of late, and managed to draw a walk, putting two runners on. This brought up lefty "hitting" Tony Womack. Torre wisely realized that Womack would not be a good option to use against Ryan, and went to his bench again. This time, he chose John "Bad Flash" Flaherty over Phillips. Flaherty hit a flare that Brian Roberts caught to end the game.

Phillips should have hit for Sanchez, and when it got to Womack he should've hit for him. He has more power than either Sanchez or Flaherty, and at that stage of the game against that type of pitcher you need to hope you get lucky and connect on a pitch.

This team will start hitting, and when they do they can beat anyone, but the flaws they have are being compounded by the conservative and outright foolish manner that Joe Torre is using the players he has. I still think they are likely to make the postseason, and I haven't seen enough out of Boston that tells me the Yankees shouldn't be considered a co-favorite to win the division. However, I think it's time for the Joe Torre era to end, whether they win or lose this year. He's had a great run, and I thank him for that, but he's becoming more and more detrimental to this team's chances every year.

I'm going to go drink this one off, and enjoy my hangover and a sweep tomorrow.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Birthday Surprise
by Larry Mahnken

At 8:04 in the morning of April 13th, 1977, in a hospital in Bay Shore, New York, I entered this world.

About 16 hours later, 26-year-old Ron Guidry won his first major league game in relief of Ed Figueroa. It was the team's first win since an Opening Day victory six days earlier, and their last for seven more days, but despite this poor 2-8 start, the team was on it's way to a 100-win season and their first World Championship in 15 years.

Since I was born, the Yankees have gone 2484-1926 (a .563 Pct., or 91-win pace), they’ve won 12 division titles, made the playoffs 14 times, won nine pennants and six World Championships. And they’ve gone 16-10 on my birthday, which is an even better winning percentage.

Now I’ve been a Yankees fan for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t become a hardcore, watch or listen to every game, thrill over every victory/agonize over every defeat kind of fan until May 27th, 1991, when Mel Hall hit a 3-run home run off of Jeff Reardon to beat the Red Sox 6-5 (after trailing 5-0). Since that day, the team has gone 1258-907 (.581, 94-win pace), but frustratingly, only 4-6 on my birthdays heading into last night’s game.

They hadn’t played the Red Sox on my birthday until 2001. In that game the Yankees had been shut down by Paxton Crawford and Boston’s middle relief, and had relied on strong performances by Orlando Hernandez, Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton to get the game to the ninth tied at 1. In the ninth they put a run across on Derek Lowe, and in came Mariano Rivera to close it in the bottom of the inning.

But he couldn’t get the job done, and a Manny Ramirez base hit won the game for Boston 3-2, which totally ruined my birthday.

A year later they met again in a faceoff between David Wells and Pedro Martinez. The Yankees scored four off of Pedro in the first inning, and were holding onto a 6-3 lead in the eighth, when Wells started to lose it, and Mariano Rivera came in and gave up a game-winning, 2-run homer to Shea Hillenbrand, and the Sox won again, 7-6. Another birthday ruined, this time exacerbated by the fact that I had to watch it with my Sox-fan friend and roommate.

So two Yankees/Sox games on my birthday, two Yankee losses, and with Curt Schilling facing Jaret Wright this time around, the prospects of that trend reversing itself wasn’t promising. The relocation of Tony Womack to the leadoff spot didn’t help that impression.

Of course there are no sure things in baseball, and some good luck kept the Yankees in the game early while Wright was struggling and Schilling was dealing. A close play at first in the third held the Red Sox to one run after they’d loaded the bases with one out, and in the fifth inning the Yankees were able to push across a couple of runs. Trot Nixon immediately tied it with a homer in the bottom of the inning, but the Yankees responded in the top of the sixth with homers by Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams off a tired Schilling.

From there on the Yankees were in control, Tanyon Sturtze and Tom Gordon shut Boston down through the eighth, and Rivera came in to a standing ovation from the Fenway crowd, and pitched an effective ninth for his second save and the Yankees’ fourth win.

It was a good win and a strong showing from a team that’s been struggling, but I’m still just as concerned about them as I was 24 hours ago. I’m still worried about Bernie, I’m concerned that Womack was stuck at the top of the order, and I’m sickened by their defense. Wright didn’t inspire any confidence with his 4-walk performance, where he threw 49 strikes and 48 balls. Rivera got the job done but wasn’t at his best (half his pitches were out of the strike zone again).

So while beating the Sox always feels good, and they got an unexpected win they really needed right now, it doesn’t cure all ailments. But at least I got a nice present, the first Yankees win on my birthday since 2000.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/13/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):

Park Factor: .989

Record: 4-3

On the day Tony Womack was named the Yankee leadoff hitter, thereby sounding the alarm that a new 2B is going to be needed in the Bronx, Robinson Cano went 2 for 5 with 2 singles and a strikeout (6). Cano has either had 2 hits or at least one extra base hit in all, but one game this season. In addition, my nagging has gotten John Sickels to agree to do a full write-up on Cano and as soon as that becomes publicly available, I will point you towards it.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):

Park Factor: .986

Record: 2-4

Report to be posted later.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):

Park Factor: .979

Record: 1-5

Report to be posted later.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):

Park Factor: .966

Record: 5-2

The Charleston Riverdogs were able to pick up an exciting extra innings victory today and Marcos Vechionacci scored the tying run in the 9th and the go-ahead run in the 11th. Nacci was on base to score the tying run by virtue of a HBP and was put back on in the 11th when he easily coaxed a walk (3) out of the opposition’s pitcher on 4 tosses. Outside of those two plate appearances this game was not a great one for the 18-year-old; he was 0 for 3 in the rest of his times up with a strikeout (7) and made an error (2) on a routine play in the 11th as he lost the ball while transferring from glove to hand.

Coming off a game in which he hit his first long ball of the season, Tim Battle had some hacktastic at bats where he took mammoth cuts and at the end of the game what he had to show for it was an 0 for 4 with a walk (2), 2 strikeouts (14), a near extra base hit down the line and a fly out to the warning track in RF. Jon Poterson built on his multi-hit game with another multi-hit game. This time around the RF was 2 for 4 with 2 singles, one was a blooper the other a hard hit ball, a strikeout (8), and a GIDP. In general, Poterson did a better job working the count and had quality at bats. Estee Harris did not start, due to a combination of poor on-field results and being HBP late in yesterday’s game, and neither did Irwil Rojas, who was just getting some recovery time since the game started at 10:30 AM EST, around 12 hours after last night’s game ended, but both entered the game late. Harris only got work in as a pinch-runner while Rojas was able to get an at bat that ended in a weak chopper for an out, but was nonetheless a typical Rojas quality at bat where he made the opposing pitcher work.

On the mound for Charleston was Phil Hughes. Hughes started the game by allowing a leadoff double, but from that point attempted his best Brett Smith impression as he would retire the next 12 batters in a row and do so in dominant fashion. However, when it looked like Hughes was about to make quick work of the opposition in the 6th inning his defense failed him, committing an error and things began to fall apart as he allowed a deep sac fly, a single, and then a walk though the walk was on a borderline pitch. I’m not sure whether Hughes came apart a little bit because of emotions from the botched play or tiredness, but the game would have left a better feeling on me had he finished as strongly as he did in his first start of the year. Hughes’ final line was 5.2-3-2-0-2-3-0 and he was excelled at having the opposition put the ball into play weakly today. The most impressive aspect of the game was the effectiveness of his curveball as there were plenty of swings and misses on the pitch, which is especially encouraging since he’s only really begun throwing it after being drafted last summer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/12/05
by Fabian

Note: Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point in the season.

AAA Columbus (International League):

Robinson Cano continued his rampage on International League pitching tonight. The 22-year-old 2B was 2 for 5 with a double (3), a triple (1), and a strikeout (5). While I’m normally a stickler for walks, I have no qualms about Cano only having 1 of those thus far as he seems to be hitting everything hard right now and once he cools down I expect a more patient approach, leading to more walks, will emerge.

Chien-Ming Wang was dominant in his second start of the season for Columbus. The injury insurance for the Yankee rotation went 7-2-0-0-1-6-0 (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR) and was in complete control against the B.J. Upton-led Durham Bulls.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):

Steven White was much improved in his second start at the AA. The right-hander with the impressive fastball did a much better job of keeping his pitches in the strike zone and as a result was able to go deeper in the game, but was unable to pick up a victory due to the thus far disappointing Trenton “offense”. White’s final line of 6-3-2-1-1-3-0 was only missing the strikeouts I covet in top pitching prospects’ statistics.

Prospects’ Row was a big part of the poor Trenton offensive showing. Melky Cabrera had the best night of the 3 as he went 1 for 4 with a single and extended his empty hitting streak. Bronson Sardinha was also 1 for 4, but threw in 2 strikeouts (6) for good measure. Eric Duncan was 0 for 3 and also with strikeout (4), but he also ended the game with a very good at bat where he walked (5). I’m frustrated by the early season performances of all 3 guys, but not worried about any of them, yet.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):

Hector Made had a decent game from the leadoff spot in the Tampa lineup; the SS was 1 for 4 with a single and a walk (2). Made is the prime example of why early season stats are so fluky. One bad game turned an excellent start into a poor one and this decent game has brought him back to decency. Erold Andrus was the brightest spot on the Tampa team for this day; the LF went 1 for 3 with a home run (1), 2 walks (3), and a strikeout (3). Andrus has been solid thus far. Rudy Guillen…has been far from solid, but it’s too early to give up. The RF was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts (8), and has not had a hit since his opening day double.

Tyler Clippard followed up an excellent opening day start with a very mediocre second one. T-Clip gave up a career high 3 home runs and had an overall line of 6-5-4-4-2-3-3. I’m very high on Clippard and doubt that there will be many, if any, more games like this while he is in the FSL, especially at Tampa.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):

Brett Smith followed up a dominant opening day start with another dominant effort. The right-hander nearly pitched a complete game shutout despite working on a pitch count, but instead had to settle for 8-4-0-0-1-5-0. Smith was considered a good college pick by any and has thus far been making SAL hitters look silly. At no point did any of the hitters from the Columbus squad, of the extremely good Dodgers organization, pose a serious threat.

While Smith was dominant on one side of the ball, Marcos Vechionacci took care of business on the other side. The SS has broken out of his early season doldrums and following a 3 for 4 night with 2 doubles (3) and a walk (2) his overall numbers to date look solid for an 18-year-old in full season baseball though they are not at the Delmon Young/B.J. Upton level…yet.

Tim Battle hit a wind aided blast to the opposite field for his first home run of the season, but still managed an uninspiring night at the plate as he was 0 for his 4 at bats outside of that one and struck out twice more (12). Jon Poterson displayed signs of life in his first 2 at bats getting a single for his first hit of the year and a double for his first extra base hit of the year and then struck out in his next two at bats. To be fair to him, his 3rd at bat was pretty good as he ran the count full and fouled off some pitches until he got caught chasing a high fastball. Estee Harris was 0 for 3 with a strikeout (8) and HBP and has no hits outside of a mammoth home run. Irwil Rojas went 1 for 3 with his customary single while shockingly managing not to get HBP or draw a walk.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/11/05
by Fabian

Venting (SG)

AAA Columbus (International League):

Robinson Cano extended his season-opening hit streak to 5 games by doubling in his final at bat as he would end the day 1 for 4 with that hit. The double was Cano’s 2nd of the season and he now has 5 extra base hits total as he continues to flash somewhat surprising power.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):

Sean Henn opened his second AA season with a very good start, as his final line for the day was 6-5-0-0-1-6-0 (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR). While I am down on Henn due to his ’04 season, he’s actually not much off from where Chien-Ming Wang was at this point last year, in terms of being a pitcher who’s results aren’t living up to his stuff, and I’m somewhat high on Wang at this moment so there is definitely still hope for the left-hander.

Melky Cabrera did not have a stand out game, grounding out twice and also striking out, but was still able to extend his hit streak by picking up a single. Unfortunately his multi-hit game hit streak ended and he’s still looking for his first extra base hit. Bronson Sardinha has already had his first extra base hit, but has still been less than stellar out of the gate. The RF was 1 for 4 with a strikeout and has only had 3 hits in his first 16 at bats of the year. Eric Duncan is in search of any sort of offensive consistency with respect to base hits. He, shockingly, has not had an extra base hit yet and only has 3 hits in 20 at bats thus far after an 0 for 3 night. On a positive note he has managed 4 walks against just 3 strikeouts, and generally has put together excellent at bats so I remain hopeful that a breakout is coming soon.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):

Tampa had a horrendous defensive game, committing 5 errors, and was not much better offensively as they could only generate 1 run on 4 hits. It was a dismal night that saw every prospect in the lineup held helpless as Hector Made, Rudy Guillen, and Erold Andrus were a combined 0 for 10 with 3 strikeouts. The night turned Made’s hot start into a cold one and extended the early season futility being experienced by Guillen and Andrus.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):

Tim Battle had a decent game from the leadoff spot as he was 1 for 3 with a sac bunt and the customary strikeout and provided some of the positive prospect news from this club. The other contributor at the top of the lineup was Marcos Vechionacci, who seems to be on the right track after a slow start. After getting a double in yesterday’s game he was able to collect 2 hits in this game. Jon Poterson was given the night off, no doubt as a result of his early season struggles, and Estee Harris is having a start about as futile as the one he experienced with Battle Creek last year. The LF was 0 for 4 with 1 strikeout though he did manage to hit the ball solidly in his final plate appearance. Lastly, Irwil Rojas continues to impress me, as he was 1 for 2 with a walk.

by SG

Granted, it's way too early to start panicking yet, but there are some troubling things already apparent on the 2005 Yankees. Most sabermetrically aware fans are aware of the litany of missteps that were undertaken in building this team, but it's worth re-hashing with the way they've stunk it up over the last five games.

With the Yankees starting rotation struggling mightily last year, it made a lot of sense to try and rebuild it. The Yankees went after the best available pitcher in Randy Johnson, which still appears to be a good choice although the price was high in dollars and in talent surrendered. Johnson was good in his first start, bad in his second, but the major concern with him is his health, and so far that does not appear to be an issue.

In addition, by locking up Johnson for two more years and $32 million, they are again putting themselves in the position of being stuck with a large contract that they won't be able to do anything with.

The second key piece added was Carl Pavano. His low strikeout rate was a legitimate cause for concern, especially considering the fact that he was leaving the National League for the American League, but he was great in his first start and was ok in his second until he got struck by a line drive. The latest news is that he suffered a very mild concussion, and he should be ok to make his next start. Pavano has had a long injury history but appears to have put it behind him at this point.

The third piece added was Jaret Wright. Wright has always had a world of talent, but never put it together until last year under the tutelage of the best pitching coach in the game, Leo Mazzone. The Yankees did what they do "best", buying high on a basically unproven commodity, due to the advice of their scouting group in Tampa. Wright's effectiveness is certainly an open question, as he was lousy in his first start, and has a troubling injury history.

In addition, Kenny Lofton was traded for Felix Rodriguez. Rodriguez is not a bad pitcher, but he became the 12th man on the pitching staff. There is no excuse for a team to carry more than 11 pitchers, and Lofton would've been a good fit on this team as a platoon CF and 4th OF. Trading Heredia for Stanton was a good move, but Stanton is not really a lefty killer and if that is the role that he will be used in I doubt he will be very effective.

After working on their pitching staff, they went after the lineup next.

Despite a defense that ranked amongst the worst in baseball by most statistical measures, the Yankees failed to make any moves to address it. I will not bash Bernie Williams because he has had a great career and is one of my favorite players. The fact that he is still the everyday CF on this team is a reflection on the team's management, from the owner on down, and not on Bernie. There was a young superstar CF who would've been an upgrade on offense, defense and just entering his prime on the free agent market, and the Yankees chose to ignore him. If this was because they've reached their reasonable payroll limit, that's fine, they still have a tremendous financial advantage over all other teams. It just points to how stupidly this team has been put together. A bigger long-term problem is that there does not appear to be a viable option for CF over the next few years on the free agent market, and the Yankees have one of the worst rosters in baseball as far as attractive trade chits.

In addition to ignoring Beltran, the Yankees replaced Miguel Cairo, who's not a great player, but had a good year last year, with Tony Womack, who's not a good player but had a good year last year. Womack typically scores poorly in defensive metrics, makes out 68 % of the time, and has no power. They also brought back Tino Martinez for a last hurrah, who was not bad last year but is 37 years old and could (and apparently has) fall off a cliff at any time. With someone like Andy Phillips rotting away in the minors, what was the purpose of this move?

Compound these bad personnel decisions with Joe Torre's management, and it could lead to bad things. When Ruben Sierra is batting cleanup, when the bench has four players not fit to play major league baseball, and when a manager overuses a reliever when he has a seven man bullpen, he is hurting the team. Torre has gone away from what made him successful as the Yankee manager earlier in his career. This is the man who found a role for Mariano Rivera, and helped to break in Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada(stupidly, but still), and Andy Pettite. However, now he manages ultra-conservatively. The way he ran Quantrill, Rivera and Gordon into the ground last year was probably a big factor in the bullpen's struggles in the second half and the postseason. He appears to be doing the same thing with Sturtze now.

So now, you've got an old, declining core on offense. You have zero depth on offense or on the pitching staff. You have a manager who's becoming more and more of a liability, and you have no flexibility to do anything about it.

Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic, they haven't even played 10 games yet, but this team is not fun to watch right now. I also get the sense that these guys are not a team, and appear to be having no fun on that field. There are very few guys on here whom I would root for if they weren't wearing Yankee uniforms. I like the Yankee core (Rivera, Posada, Jeter, Bernie). I like Matsui, who exemplifies quiet professionalism. I'd like to see Giambi bounce back but I'm not as much of a fan of his as I was prior to his steroid admission, and I wouldn't be surprised if he never gets unhinged. Alex Rodriguez has a world of talent and ability, but there's no denial that he's been a disappointment so far in his Yankee career. Other than that, I'm either ambivalent or dislike most of the rest of this team. A few wins might change things, but man, what a bad stretch.

by Larry Mahnken

On the one hand, six games is about 50 games too early to do any bridge-jumping, and even then a .500 record is nothing to despair about. Losing three of the last four is hardly the problem, it's what's been happening in those four games that gives cause for concern.

In these first six games, the Yankees' offense has consisted of two players, Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter... well, I guess you can include Ruben Sierra in that, too, but he's really only had one at bat that was worth anything in these six games. Outside of those three players, the Yankees have six extra base hits, they're hitting .236 with a .663 OPS. Obviously they'll do better than that, but how much better, and will it offset Matsui and Jeter's inevitable regression?

Some of the players who are struggling are players who there were legitimate concerns about before the season. Jason Giambi has an acceptable .847 OPS, but he's been hit by 3 pitches, and had his homer been a few feet shorter, it would have been a flyout, so that's not the strongest .847 OPS. He needs to start hitting the ball with more authority.

Jorge Posada hit 8 home runs through April last season, and only hit 13 more the rest of the way, he posted a .793 OPS after May, which is a decent OPS for a catcher, but for a 33-year-old catcher with a career .854 OPS it's an ominous sign.

Tino Martinez had a decent season last year, but he's 37 and wasn't very good the previous two seasons. Tony Womack just plain sucks.

Turn to the rotation, and even the good looks bad. Randy Johnson isn't blowing people away, he's giving up hits, his fastball seems a little slow -- not positive signs. Mike Mussina is getting hit, he's not hitting 90 with his fastball again, and he was lucky to not get knocked out of the park by the Red Sox last week. Carl Pavano was great in his first start and looked a little shaky the second time around, though he got knocked upside the head with a line drive before he had a chance to really get going. Jaret Wright bore a disturbing resemblence to Jose Contreras on Friday night.

Tanyon Sturtze has gotten off to a good start -- but Joe Torre appears to be not willing to use any other relivers in a tight situation, a problem he suffered from last year, which resulted in an exhausted bullpen in October. Now, it sounds silly to be complaining that Tanyon Sturtze is getting worn out, but when Sturtze struggles, Torre will just start overusing the next reliver who pitches well. If he were to use his whole bullpen instead, especially early on to find out who's really worth using and who's not, then he'll both find out who his best relievers really are over the course of the season, and he'll avoid burning them out.

I don't place much importance on the outcome of this week's series with Boston. Of course I really want them to win, but more imporant than victory is that they get better performances out of the players who've struggled so far. I think we learned last season that April slumps and hot streaks don't decide a season, and the continuation of these slumps doesn't mean that these players won't perform all season. But a lessening of these concerns through strong performances would be very beneficial for the emotional well-being of a lot of people, myself included.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/10/05
by Fabian


Columbus exploded for 13 runs and 12 hits today, but, shockingly, Robinson Cano did not factor into the run scoring much. The 2B who has started the year on a tear was a mere 1 for 4 with a single as he let his teammates have the spotlight on this day.


Trenton lost in extra innings, but Melky Cabrera really seems to be warming up. The CF had his 3rd consecutive multi-hit game, as he was 2 for 6 with 2 singles and a strikeout. The only thing differentiating this streak from some of the ones he went on his breakout year last season is the lack of doubles or some other form of extra base hit though Melky is hitting the ball very solidly.

Eric Duncan, on the other hand, is still struggling a bit at the plate, but the opposition continues to respect his bat as he drew another intentional walk today and overall was 1 for 5 with a single and that walk.


Hector Made had another productive game today, as he was 1 for 4 with a single while picking up his 1st walk of the season. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Made’s walk total since he is a hitter that walked a good bit prior to playing for Battle Creek last season and it was not until late in ’04 that that ability reappeared for him. If he can maintain the control of the strike zone that he did late in ’04 I’d be more confident about his chances for a successful season in the very tough FSL.

Erold Andrus and Rudy Guillen have not had as much early success as Made. Andrus is hitting for average and continued to do so today, 1 for 3 with a single and a HBP, while Guillen is not doing much of anything, going 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout.


Jeff Marquez had a performance similar to Christian Garcia’s on the previous day. On the one hand you saw the potential as hitters grounded the ball off of home plate and weakly to infielders or in the stretch where he struck out 3 of 4 hitters, utilizing a mid 70s curveball and the weak contact made on low 90s fastballs. On the other hand you saw the not so great side as groundballs got through the infield and balls left up were hit to the OF. Marquez could/should be a quick mover, but I’m not confident he’ll put up the prettiest numbers while doing so because of the role defense plays in his game. Marquez left the game with a line of 4-8-3-3-2-4-0 (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR).

Tim Battle, despite drawing a walk, is as lost as ever at the plate. The plate appearance that ended in a walk was one where the manager must have told Battle he’s not allowed to swing as he laid off of 5 pitches before going to 1B, unfortunately, as soon as he got there he was caught leaning towards 2B and easily picked off. His next time up, Battle promptly struck out by swinging and missing on the first 3 pitches he saw, for the day Battle was 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout.

Estee Harris was not able to build on the home run he hit in the previous day’s game, but did manage to match the 2 strikeouts from that game as the talented, but contact challenged LF was 0 for 3 with 2 strikeouts. Harris works deep counts, which is usually good, but instead a feeling of hope that he may tire the pitcher out and drive the ball the feeling is that he is about to strike out at any moment.

Marcos Vechionacci had his best game of the season, which is not saying much. The young SS was 1 for 4 with a strikeout and a double as he continues to try and find his way offensively. Jon Poterson was 0 for 3 with a strikeout and continues to have at bats unbecoming of the man who many feel has the organization’s best power potential. Irwil Rojas was 1 for 2 with a HBP as he continues to get on base by any means necessary. Rojas is quickly becoming one of my favorite prospects as he has a very sound approach at the plate, making contact and working the count. He’s had some rough moments behind the plate thus far though and does not have much power.

Minor League Notes: 4/9/05
by Fabian


In the past I have consistently expressed confidence in Robinson Cano’s ability to hit for average while expressing doubt in exactly how much power he would develop, especially in comparison to early scout predictions of possible 30 home run seasons. It appears that in ’05 Cano has discovered his power stroke as he went 2 for 4 with a home run, a single, and a strikeout. The home run is Cano’s 3rd of the season in just 3 games and 13 at bats; Tony Womack, I hope you hear the footsteps.

Ramon Ramirez was on the mound for Columbus and had the best AAA start of his career as he went 7-4-1-1-0-6-0; numbers I believe he was fully capable of putting up had he been healthy while he was at AAA last year.


Matt DeSalvo, my 2nd favorite pitching prospect in the Yankee organization, had a dominant first start of the season for Trenton. The smallish right-hander put up a line of 6-3-1-1-3-9-1 as Erie hitters were helpless against his change-up. DeSalvo was able to set hitters up with the array of pitches from his arsenal, toss a well placed fastball, and then catch hitters off balance with a change-up for the strikeout. Acknowledging that DeSalvo does not have the best stuff or isn’t the most physical guy, I still find it incredible he could have gone undrafted, I’m willing to bet more than a few minor league hitters would agree.

The bookends of Trenton’s Prospect Row continue to struggle with base hits in the early going. Bronson Sardinha was 1 for 3 with a single and a HBP, but does not seem to be locked in at the plate yet and Eric Duncan was 0 for 3 with an intentional walk. It is a credit to Duncan’s prowess as a hitter that opponents will intentionally walk him though he has not gotten much in the way of results at the plate thus far. Melky Cabrera, hitting between the two, seems to be on track; he was 2 for 4 for with 2 solid singles and has now had back-to-back multi hit games. It shouldn’t be much longer before the doubles start dropping in.


Hector Made is off to a much quicker start than I anticipated; the SS had his second consecutive multi-hit game, this time he was 2 for 4 with a single and a double. That leaves Made 4 for his first 13 with two extra base hits. Neither Erold Andrus nor Rudy Guillen were able to get a hit though as both OF were 0 for 3 with a walk, which is nice, Andrus also struck out once.


Christian Garcia took the mound for the Riverdogs and they were handed their first loss of the season as the game highlighted the best of Garcia and the worst of Garcia. The worst was immediately visible as he allowed a leadoff walk, a misplayed bunt base hit, and another walk to load the bases. He then proceeded to easily strike out the side with an array of mid 90s fastballs and hard curveballs. Garcia’s final line ended up being 3-4-3-1-4-4-0 and this start just affirmed that while he has tremendous talent, possibly more raw talent than Phil Hughes, he will be quite the project, definitely more so than Phil Hughes.

Outside of Estee Harris, who was 1 for 3 with a huge home run and 2 strikeouts, the Charleston offense did not do much. Tim Battle and Jon Poterson both seem lost at the plate, swinging and missing at some bad pitches and making weak contact when they do connect. Battle was 0 for 4 with 4 strikeouts and Poterson was 0 for 3 with a strikeout. Marcos Vechionacci, unlike many of his teammates, has maintained an excellent approach at the plate and worked deep counts, but at this point the results are not showing up; Nacci ended the game 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts, but I have no doubts that he will be breaking out soon.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/8/05 (Updated)
by Fabian


Robinson Cano continued his hot start to the season. Following a Spring Training where he admittedly did not do anything overly impressive on offense other than hit some singles; Cano has discovered his power stroke. In Columbus’ second game of the year he was 1 for 4 with a double and a strikeout giving him 3 extra base hits in his first 2 games.


Jeff Karstens, one of the more unheralded pitching prospects in the Yankee system was very good in his AA debut. Karstens, a known control artist, began the game battling his control, but was able to work out of a 2 on no out jam and pitch to a promising line of 5-3-0-0-2-6-0 (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR). The most encouraging aspect of his line was that he was able to go as deep in the game as he did on a 75 pitch limit. Karstens may lack the physical ceiling of Steve White, but similar to Matt DeSalvo, he is a candidate to move faster due to being more polished.

The Trenton offensive prospects did not do much on this night. Bronson Sardinha was 0 for 4 with a walk and a strikeout, but managed not to make an error, so there’s that. Melky Cabrera was able to relax and work the count in his first at bat as he lined the 6th pitch of his at bat up the middle for a single, the harbinger of a solid night; he finished the game 2 for 5. Eric Duncan was 0 for 4 with a walk and a strikeout. Now all he needs to do is get an extra base hit and he’s shown all of his primary offensive skill set.


Hector Made followed up a quiet opening night with a loud second day of the season. The 20-year-old SS was 3 for 4 with a single, a double, and a triple. Rudy Guillen seems to be off to a good start as far as power; he hit his first home run of the season in going 1 for 4 with 2 strikeouts. I wouldn’t expect standout numbers from either of these guys being that they are playing in the FSL, but if Made can hit for average and Guillen could rack up XBH, not necessarily HR, their campaigns should be considered a success (Late edit: Rudy Guillen was actually 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts last night; the home run initially credited to him was actually Matt Carson's. In addition, Hector Made was actually only 2 for 4 with a triple and a single, I'd like to thank for the confusion. Lastly, some pitcher with the last name Abreu pitched last night, 1-3-3-2-0-1-0, no word yet on whether it was Eric, but I doubt it was). Erold Andrus, by comparison, had a quiet night as he went 1 for 4 with a single and 2 strikeouts.


In his first start of the year, Phil Hughes was very promising. While he did not throw as many strikes, in the umpires view, as I thought he would, he was still consistently around the strike zone; many of his misses were near misses that could have gone either way. In addition, outside of a troublesome stretch from the 3rd inning to the middle of the 4th he was dominant. Hughes ended the game throwing harder than he opened it, according to the announcers, and easily struck out the last 3 batters he faced for a final line of 4.2-5-2-2-1-6-0.

Irwil Rojas had a productive day at the plate despite not getting a hit; the C was 0 for 1 with a walk and a HBP. Despite his offensive productivity, Rojas had a poor day behind the plate as he had two errant throws to the 2B end up in CF, the first of which directly led to a run scoring on Phil Hughes. Estee Harris was 0 for 4 with a strikeout and Jon Poterson was 0 for 3 with a strikeout as both power-hitting strikeout prone players continue to look for their first official base hit of ’05.

Tim Battle was 1 for 4 with 2 strikeouts. In general, his approach at the plate thus far seems inconsistent; he’s either hacking away or waiting without conscience. Battle’s single was a key hit though as it enabled him to be on base when Marcos Vechionacci came through with a game winning single. Prior to his single Vechionacci had had 3 quality at bats with nothing to show, but came through when it counted. The CF misplayed Vechionacci’s ball and he was able to score, which makes him somewhat faster than I had imagined.

Minor League Notes: Opening Night
by Fabian


Robinson Cano was 2 for 5 with 2 home runs and 2 strikeouts as he begins his quest to force the Yankee organization’s hand in promoting him. One homer was to left-center and the other was a straightaway shot.

Chien-Ming Wang had a very middling performance. He walked a man and then gave up a home run in the 1st inning, but managed to pick up the victory by settling down. All told he went 6-6-4-4-1-5-2 (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR). The line seems similar to what he did in his first AAA start last year, so we all know he’s about go on a run of dominance.


Steven White was terrible in his AA debut. He threw fastballs on the first 8 pitches of the game and all told he used his fastball about 80% of the time, though he did not have much control of the pitch. His curveball was worse though and it seemed to land in the dirt on about every try and since White does not use his change-up much, if ever, at this point, the Erie hitters were able to sit fastball. It’s a testament to the quality of that pitch that the Erie hitters did not have a complete field day, often having to foul off or miss on a couple pitches before driving the ball fair. The final line was 1.2-4-6-6-4-4-1.

Eric Duncan was 2 for 5 with 2 singles and a strikeout. Duncan displayed his customary terrific approach, as he worked the count. The highlight for him was, surprisingly, in the field. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the scouting consensus is that Duncan’s arm only plays at about average from 3B due to a hitch in his throwing motion that had not been fixed. If last night’s game was any indication, that hitch may have been fixed as the announcers had no qualms raving about Duncan’s arm…or it could just be homer-ism, we shall see.

Duncan’s plate approach was in direct contrast to the hitter in front of him in the lineup, Melky Cabrera. Other than one loud lineout to near the CF warning track, Melky appeared lost. He was not able to parlay a hot spring training finish into a productive opening night, as he was 0 for 4 with a HBP and 2 strikeouts, the product of seemingly swinging at every pitch.

Bronson Sardinha started the game off in spectacular fashion as he lined the first pitch he saw down the right field line for a triple. After that, his night was not so memorable. From there he would go 0 for 3, striking out once, and…(drum roll please)…making a 3 run error in RF to blow the game open.


Tyler Clippard was Tyler Clippard in his FSL debut. The lanky right-hander put up a line of 6-4-0-0-1-6-0. One start does not a season make, but I feel pretty confident that Clippard will enjoy his time in the FSL and that he won’t be there all year.

Erold Andrus, playing LF in a surprise move, was 2 for 4 with 2 singles. I’m encouraged to see that the switch to 1B hasn’t taken place yet, at least not permanently, and though I’d prefer it were he a CF, just being in the OF will do for now.

Rudy Guillen showed some pop in his first game in his return FSL campaign. The RF was 1 for 3 with a double, a HBP, and 2 strikeouts. With the Yankee organization deciding that it would actually be a better idea for Guillen to prove himself at High A he’s going to have to put together a very good campaign to be promoted.

Hector Made had a poor A+ debut going 0 for 5 with a strikeout.


Brett Smith authored a dominant pitching performance for the Charleston Riverdogs, which should be the case with this team 4 out of 5 games. The ’04 college draftee made his ’04 debut by going 4.1-2-1-1-2-7-0. This was an impressive showing following a disappointing instructional league and spring training, which caused the right-hander to go from probable starter for Trenton or Tampa to head of the Charleston rotation. Smith, like most other Yankee pitching prospects at the moment, was on a strict pitch count so he was not able to rack up gaudier totals.

Despite scoring 5 runs, none of the Riverdog hitters had a good night as their offense was more a result of taking advantage of the opposition’s poor showing in the field. Tim Battle was 1 for 4 with 2 strikeouts and a stolen base. Marcos Vechionacci was 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout; he worked the count well, but was not able to get any results. C Irwil Rojas was 1 for 3 with a single and a walk. Estee Harris was 0 for 4 with a strikeout, a stolen base, and a caught stealing as he hit the ball hard on this night. Jon Poterson was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts (no snide comments…yet).

Hardball Times - The Devil's Advocate: All-Star Lineup
by Sean McNally

Larry's got a new column... I guess some of you might want to read it or something.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

by Fabian

Well, that sucked (SG)

Eric Duncan, 20, 3B

The Yankees drafted Eric Duncan in ’03 to moderate fanfare. At the time I thought he was a good pick, but based on pre-draft scouting reports and his amateur record, I felt Duncan did not have superstar potential. While Duncan was able to earn enough accolades during his GCL stint after signing to get some time with the NYPL SI Yankees, I still was not overly impressed. Despite scouting reports with mentions of Chipper Jones or Nick Johnson with more opposite field power, I was not sold. My thought process was that Duncan was a pretty poor defender at the hot corner and his power was lacking; in ’04, Duncan made me a believer.

Duncan’s MWL stint started off solidly at the plate and only got better until about the 1st of June. At that point he was hitting for average, taking walks, showing power and not striking out excessively. However, during that month, Duncan experienced the worst slump of his professional career and the result was that while his power and walking were able to maintain some level of consistency, his AVG had taken a huge hit and was spiraling downwards. Once the dust cleared the Yankees promoted the 3B to the FSL. At the time I was not the biggest fan of the move because I felt the Yankees should have waited for him to get hot before promoting him. In addition, I also felt that such a promotion meant a trade was imminent and as I had been growing attached to Duncan I did not approve of this. The 3B was able to overcome a seemingly hasty FSL promotion by maintaining his performance from the MWL and is now amongst the game’s better prospects.

Duncan’s greatness as a prospect cannot be seen by looking at his overall offensive production, but rather by breaking down his peripherals, specifically his isolated Power and Patience. This is best demonstrated in the Hardball Times write up on Duncan, where he ranked 22nd overall, as I corresponded with Aaron for the write-up:

[Duncan's] Isolated Discipline (.112) and Isolated Power (.208) would have ranked third and fourth in the Florida State League, respectively. His combined IsoD and IsoP of .320 would have ranked second in the league behind only Brandon Sing, a 23-year-old Cubs prospect in his sixth minor-league season. Similarly, Duncan's .310 combined IsoD and IsoP in the Midwest League would have ranked fourth. Perhaps most impressively, Duncan's extra-base hit percentages (59.0% in the FSL, 49.3% in the MWL) would have ranked first and second, respectively. In plain English, Duncan was excellent compared to his peers last season and could put up some scary raw numbers if given a chance to shine in a better offensive environment. If Duncan can up the batting average, he could be in for a big year at Double-A Trenton.

Overall, I am supremely confident in Duncan’s ability to be at least an average offensive contributor due to his combination of power and patience. The primary risk with his offense is that the strikeouts are somewhat disconcerting, though it is nice that he cut back on them following a promotion, and as scary as it may seem, strikeouts are sometimes a portent of even greater power to come according to research done by Baseball Prospectus. The secondary risk is that if Duncan is truly only a .260 or so hitter, his ceiling is obviously more limited than if his true BA ability were much higher. At this point I would say Duncan should be expected to be about a .280 hitter in the bigs, though I reserve the right to adjust this estimation.

The aspect of Duncan’s game that has not been addressed at this point is his defense. When the Yankees initially drafted him, Duncan was seen as a horrid defensive 3B destined for 1B due to poor throwing mechanics and range. In a little over a year and a half in the Yankee minor league system, Duncan has done a lot of work on his general athleticism and is now seen as an acceptable defensive 3B, though the throwing mechanics still need work. If he remains a Yankee, his future is likely still across the diamond due to the presence of Alex Rodriguez. Having seen the awesome power he displayed all of ’04 I no longer worry that he lacks the bat to uphold the offensive responsibilities of a 1B. ’05 will be a key year for Duncan; since Tino is only signed for 1 year, a huge season could mean Duncan has a shot at seeing the Bronx by ’06. Otherwise, he will continue to look to replace Giambi down the line or be traded for something shiny when a perceived need arises in the Yankee quest for the World Series.

Previous Prospect

by Fabian

Well, that sucked (SG)

This was written before spring training.

Robinson Cano, 2B, 22

Coming into the 2004 season, I did not think highly enough of Cano to rank him amongst the top 10 Yankee prospects, which Baseball America did. While I liked that he hit for average and played, reportedly, good defense, I saw too little power and/or patience to be truly interested and longed for Cano to at least return to his ’02 offensive level, where he at least displayed good pop. The lefty 2B ended up making a larger leap forward than I could have ever dreamed.

While I have long had concerns with Cano’s low BB rate, his K rate was never really an issue since he was the type of hitter that swung at everything and hit most things. The greatest change to this approach in ’04 was that Cano began swinging less and waiting more while maintaining his contact skills, the result was the best season of his career.

While early BA reports pegged Cano as a poor man’s version of Soriano, capable of 30 home runs in his peak, his statistical performance has altered this outlook. Cano walks more than Soriano did and strikes out less. This leads me to have more faith in Cano’s ability to consistently hit for average, and he looks like a future .285-.300 big league hitter, while forcing me to doubt his ever hitting as many as 30 home runs in a season. According to some statistical work done by Baseball Prospectus, players with higher strikeout rates in the minors tend to develop more power. With this in mind, I see Cano’s home run ceiling as 25 with about 15-20 as the expected seasonal total. Another difference between Cano and Soriano is that while Soriano is a prolific base stealer, Cano does not have that ability or natural speed so don’t expect too much excitement out of him on the base paths.

My personal anger about the Tony Womack signing was due to both Womack’s demonstrated career ineptitude combined with my belief that Cano is ready for the big leagues. I think Cano would prove at least a similar defensive player to Womack, a poor fielding SS who was solid at 2B last year, in addition to providing around the same offense with potential for more. Though Cano struggled after his promotion to AAA, posting a .259 average and .403 slugging percentage, he hit better down the stretch and into the playoffs in addition to hitting well in the Dominican Winter League. At this point, my sole offensive concern would be that he might require protection from LHP to begin his big league career as he managed only 8 extra base hits against them in 109 at bats between AA and AAA this year, as opposed to 44 in 399 at bats against RHP. That in mind, Miguel Cairo would have been great to have on hand for this job, but hopefully, Andy Phillips will be able to provide this service and Cano will make the service at least a consideration by beating out Tony Womack for the 2B job in spring training.

While not a player with an outstanding ceiling, Cano looks to be a very good big leaguer in his prime with prime years in the .290/.350/.470 (AVG/OBP/SLG) range. Hopefully, for the sake of Yankee fans who lack the need to see Tony Womack perform poorly some more, the journey towards that ceiling begins in ’05.

Next prospect: Position player

Previous Prospect

by Fabian

Well, that sucked (SG)

Marcos Vechionacci, SS, 18

Making his stateside debut in ’04, this switch-hitting Venezuelan quickly became my favorite prospect. The first thing that caught my attention was how young he was, 17, when the Yankees decided to use him for a game in the FSL due to fallout from a brawl. While being used for one game may not be a big deal, this instance was different as I found it interesting the Yankees would choose to use someone so young for the job. A short amount of research later I became enamored with Nacci as I found out that he hit for average, showed some pop, walked a good amount, and struck out infrequently in the ’03 DSL. In my brief experience with the Yankee program down there I had not seen anyone combine those attributes so well and to make it more perfect, it was done by someone a year younger than ideal for the level.

At this point in his extremely young career, the thing that stands out the most about Nacci is his mature approach at the plate. In ’04, his GCL walk total was only solid, but this is probably more a result of him swinging more often as he was given more pitches he could easily handle, which the above .900 OPS would agree with. For the month that he spent in the NYPL, Nacci was able to amass an impressive 11 walks in 72 at bats while only striking out 13 times. This was not a case of a player benefiting from pitchers who had idea where the strike zone was either. Rather, Nacci would come to the plate and wait for his pitch, not just a strike, but also one he could handle reasonably well and then let loose a line drive swing. At 17 years old he, subjectively, looked like the best hitter on the team, and statistically was just about the most productive. Overall, he did find playing in a league against college draftees more difficult as he could only muster a .361 slugging percentage.

In addition to being a great asset at the plate, Nacci can also get the job done in the field and on the base paths. While not blessed with blazing, or even great, speed, Nacci is somewhat aggressive on the base paths, which allowed him to run up a 5 stolen base to 3 caught stealing total in 131 GCL at bats this past year. While Nacci is slated to open the ’05 season as the SS for the Charleston minor league club, don’t expect him to stay there for his career; he played all around the infield in ’04 (37 games at 3B, 9 at SS, 7 at 2B) and projects as a 3B down the line. Regardless, he is ahead of the game in this department as well since he seems much more sure handed than the typical player his age.

Vechionacci will start next year in Low A and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him end the year in High A due to putting together a great season. More likely, he spends the entire year at Low A and has a solid season as he is already well ahead of schedule. Normally, I would voice concerns I have about his transition to full season baseball, but unless he tires, I have none. He has the type of mature approach that should allow him to adjust quickly and he has yet to demonstrate significant weakness against either RH or LH pitching. The message in all this is that the Yankees have a hugely talented all around player on their hands, and hopefully, they don’t screw this up because he has the look of a “special” player, though it is still way too early to know for sure.

Next prospect: Position player

Previous Prospect

by Fabian

Well, that sucked (SG)

Melky Cabrera, 20, CF

Despite the general perception that all Yankee minor leaguers are stuck behind veterans with no chance of ever wearing the pinstripes, Melky Cabrera is one of several Yankee farmhands currently holding their destiny in their hands. A solid or lesser year and Melky likely increases his chance of being yet another former Yankee prospect. A breakout year and Melky will have lined himself nicely to attempt to continue the CF tradition in the Bronx.

While many scouts doubt Melky’s ability to stay in CF, citing average current defensive ability with a high likelihood of that declining, as he gets bigger, I do not…to an extent. If Melky Cabrera stays a Yankee, he probably stays a CF, if he’s traded it remains to be seen. The Yankee organization has run Bernie Williams out there as a regular CF since ’02 without much hesitation, I doubt that they will be scared by Melky’s defense. Because of this, Melky’s offensive value to the Yankees is increased, making him more valuable as a Yankee prospect than he would be in other organizations.

Melky is somewhat of a unique case in that despite being only 20-years-old and about to enter his first season above A-ball, there are little doubts about his offensive ability. In 4 minor league stops, Melky has posted BA of .335, .283, .333, and .288 (DSL, NYPL, MWL, and FSL respectively); so from a statistical point of view, it is hard to doubt his ability for average. The scouting angle upholds this view and provides little doubt that any less should be expected of this aspect of his offensive game as he is recognized as one of the better breaking ball hitters around. That is the pitch type that has provided the immovable obstacle for many a hot shot hitting prospect and it is reassuring to know that it should not be a problem for this hitter.

Having a high BA has aided Cabrera in consistently posting above league average OBP, despite his lack of a spectacular walk rate. For his career he walks once every 12.7 AB and as he has progressed up the minor league ladder that number has remained somewhat consistent: 12.1, 12.1, 11.4, 14.5. Outside of his FSL stint to end ’04, Cabrera can/should be expected to walk about once every 12 AB, which is close to the 10 AB breakpoint and made more reasonable considering his aptitude for hitting breaking pitches.

While Cabrera’s BA ability is excellent and his OBP ability is solid, the lone question one could ask concerning his offensive game is about his power. Until the final 2 months of the ’04 season, Melky excelled at hitting line drives into the gaps, but struggled with consistently lofting the ball over the fence. Then once he hit his first FSL home run, and first of the ’04 season, the HRs seemed to come easier as he would go on to knock 8 over the season’s final two months, a very impressive total for the FSL. It is commonly accepted that power is the last tool to develop and looking at Melky’s track record, it would appear that tool has arrived. If the power he displayed in July and August is in fact here to say, he is a very exciting prospect; the .300 BA is almost guaranteed, the defense should be solid, the OBP should be good, long-term, and he should be a suitable replacement for Bernie in the Yankee CF lineage.

Next prospect: Position player

Previous Prospect

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

by Fabian

Well, that sucked (SG)

Statistics may be slightly off.

Tyler Clippard, RHP, 20

Tyler Clippard was a product of the New York Yankees, thus far, solid 2003 draft. Picked in the 9th round from a Florida high school, Clippard did not come with too much hype, but has thus far outperformed fellow HS RHP and ’03 draftee, Jason Stephens, who drew draft-day Mark Prior comparisons from Yankee officials.

From his first start as a member of the ’03 GCL Yankees through his last start this past season for the Battle Creek Yankees, the easiest thing to note about Clippard is his impeccable control. After posting an incredible 11.2 K:BB ratio in R ball Clippard followed up with an impressive 4.5 in Low A. Interestingly enough, though Clippard only walked 32 men in 149 innings, he also hit 15 batters in that period of time. Perhaps that is nothing more than a statistical anomaly, but the number of hit batters seems a bit disproportionate for someone with such excellent control and it may be the sign of a pitcher who is unafraid of challenging batters and coming inside, which is always nice.

In addition to having great control, Clippard also utilized his fastball/curveball combo to register ground out after ground out. A relatively high hit-rate, one of the knocks against the RHP, may be the product of the large amount of groundballs he generates causing trouble for the erratic IF that played behind him. Despite being a groundball pitcher, Clippard displayed a somewhat significant home/road split. In 9 games and 49.2 innings pitched at home, opponents hit .262 with a .401 slugging percentage against the righty. In 17 games and 99.1 innings pitched on the road, opponents hit .251 with a .347 slugging percentage against T-Clip. This may be testament to the difference in the quality of various minor league playing fields, or a sign of BC not being as conducive to pitching this past year because, in addition, Clippard’s K-rate was significantly higher on the road, 9.7 per 9 road innings compared to 6.9 per 9 home innings.

More noteworthy than his home/road split, was the huge difference in Clippard’s performance versus RHB from his performance versus LHB. Lefties facing Clippard had just about no chance, think Enrique Wilson, then imagine he struck out almost uncontrollably. Meanwhile, RHB had a field day as Clippard allowed them to have an OPS in the .800 area. This huge difference in outcomes is likely the result of the type of pitcher Clippard is right now more than anything else. Without a better fastball, RHB can just sit on Clippard’s other pitches and hit them comfortably, whereas LHB have more trouble handling a solid curveball/change up combination. Hopefully, the continued development of Clippard’s fastball, which is now a consistent 88-92 with a max of 94, will force RHB to cease sitting on his out pitch, the curveball. Further development with his changeup would also be useful in offsetting this problem.

Heading into ’05 as the likely ace of the Tampa Yankees rotation Clippard has a good shot of ending the year at AA Trenton, assuming he adjusts to the FSL as quickly as he did to the MWL. If that happens, look for his name to begin to come up a lot around the trade deadline as his results have thus far been great and his arsenal is developing rapidly. While Clippard does not knock look to have ace potential, he does seem to have all the tools to become a good middle of the rotation starter on a serious contender.

Next prospect: Position player

Previous Prospect

by Fabian

Well, that sucked (SG)

Abel Gomez, 20, LHP

Abel Gomez was on my Yankee prospect radar when I compiled an organizational depth chart before the ’04 season. However, he did not make my list of top 10 prospects for the system for a couple reasons. The first was that while I loved that he struck out 43 men in 38 innings and only gave up 19 hits and 1 home run, I was worried about the 26 walks. This made me question how long his effectiveness would last as well as whether or not the Yankees would even promote him from the GCL. In addition, I had no idea what kind of physical tools he had to do what he was doing. So, playing it somewhat conservatively I decided to just leave Abel Gomez as someone for the backburner. During the ’04 season he was able to continue his solid performance and close the gap between him and ’03 GCL teammate Tyler Clippard, who did make my list last year.

Gomez’s main weapon, and some would say his only weapon, is a fastball that sits in the low 90s and can touch 95 on occasion. While this is a terrific weapon for any left-handed pitcher to possess, the problem is that Gomez’s control of the pitch is spotty at best. In addition, his curveball and change up are not legitimate pitches at this point. Gomez’s other physical shortcoming, no pun intended, is his diminutive stature. He stands only 6’0’’ tall and is lighter than his listed 170 pounds. Any pitcher in this situation will find himself under intense scrutiny for any signs of physical breakdown.

These shortcomings did not prove much of a problem in the Midwest League as Gomez struck out 149 in 143 innings while limiting opponents to a .222 BAA and 7 home runs, all excellent numbers. On the negative side, he also walked 73 men during that time. Fortunately, much of his struggles with the strike zone were at the outset of the season, when he was nearly demoted to extended spring training, and as the year went on he seemed to gain a better idea of where the ball was going upon release.

In ’05 Gomez will begin the year as an integral member of the Tampa rotation. His progress through the Yankee system has thus far been slow and steady; he’s played 1 level per year while holding opponents to a career .192 BAA along with 247 strikeouts and only 149 hits and 8 home runs allowed in 220 career innings. He and Clippard are an example of attempting to balance ceiling and risk. At this point, Gomez appears to have the higher ceiling because of his big time fastball, however, Clippard’s performance, specifically his strike zone control, and his larger frame would make him a safer pick. If Gomez can even begin making minimal strides in either his control or development of his secondary pitches he can easily become one of the top left-handed prospects in baseball. By the same token, hitters will only get better as he moves up the chain and his control could effectively prove a huge obstacle to a successful career because even LOOGYs need some modicum of control.

Next prospect: Pitcher

Previous Prospect

Well, that sucked
by SG

After two great wins to start the season, the Yankees appeared to be well on their way to the season-opening sweep that I foolishly predicted. Gary Sheffield's bases loaded sac fly in the bottom of the 8th gave them a 3-2 lead. However, for the second game in a row, Mariano Rivera was unable to hold the lead. The top of the ninth started badly with a leadoff walk to Bill Mueller. Mark Bellhorn followed with a single, then Johnny Damon with another single on which Mueller held, unsure if Gary Sheffield could catch it or not. Rivera came back to strike out Trot Nixon, then induced a double play grounder to Alex Rodriguez. Unfortunately, Rodriguez did not pick the in-between hop, and recorded no outs. This tied the game, then a weak Ortiz grounder towards first scored a fourth run. Rivera then walked Dave McCarty and gave up a single to Edgar Renteria that scored two more runs. He followed this up with another walk, this time to Doug Mirabelli.

Then came one of the rarest things that a Yankee fan has seen over the last 10 years. Mariano Rivera getting relieved mid-inning.

There's been a lot of chronicling of Rivera's recent struggles against Boston. He's blown 12 of 20 save opportunites against them dating back to 2001. Some people will claim that the Red Sox are in Mariano's head, or they have his number. Until today I wouldn't have paid any mind to that, but Rivera's approach in today's game was markedly different. He was working away to every hitter, which is not his strength. This was troubling to me, because it may be an indicator that this recent history is worrying him.

More likely, this is just one of Rivera's occasional slumps, where his cutter is not sharp and his command is off, a/k/a WWWMW (What's wrong with Mariano Week). I don't know if his spring training bout with elbow bustitis is still an issue, or if it affected him getting ready for the season. However, he is 36 now, and as scary as it is for Yankee fans to think about, his best days are probably behind him. I will say one thing, I was more pissed about the fans that dared to boo him as he left the mound today than the blown save.

One thing to think about though, as much mystique and importance that Rivera has been given for the Yankees' success since 1995, it is a basic fact that in the regular season a ninth inning closer does not have that much impact over the course of the season. Granted, the playoffs are a different story, but that's a long way off. Rivera will have ample time to sort out his problems if he can, and if not, the Yankees will manage somehow.

Baseball is a game that will ground you, as players and as fans. The strong get through ruts, and I don't know if there's a stronger player in baseball than Mo.

I am more concerned about the bottom of the lineup, which is looking like it will be a weakness all season. I still have hope for Bernie to at least hit decently, maybe not with the power he once had but at least to not make outs. Tino did have a HR today, but has looked lost at the plate. Tony Womack is what he is, despite last year's career best season, he'll most likely be making outs in 70% of his plate appearances.

Looking at the big picture, I think anyone would take winning 2 out of 3 against Boston to open the season, so that is good. Hopefully the HBP on Jeter will not have any lingering effect.

I am just happy to get through one of the Boston/Yankee series at this point, they are emotionally draining games. It's turning into a great rivalry, especially now that it can't really be called one-sided anymore, but how about some nice non-pressure games against Tampa?

by Fabian

Season's Second Game (Larry, Me, SG)

Chien-Ming Wang, 25, RHP

I was somewhat disappointed in Wang entering the ’04 season. Though making the jump from the NYPL to the AA Eastern League is admittedly very difficult, I had great expectations for Wang due to his having already spent two seasons in the NYPL and being 23. Unfortunately, Wang was very mediocre other than his walk and home run rates as he struggled to make it through his first full season of professional baseball. Thankfully, in ’04, Wang returned to AA and redeemed himself.

While Wang’s strikeout rate still was not standout it was very respectable at 7.43 per 9 innings. He also held opponents to a respectable average against of .266. The areas of statistical performance where Wang excelled were his walk rate, 2.15 BB/9 and homer rate, .50 HR/9. Despite this, I remained unconvinced that Wang deserved to reclaim his prospect status, at times calling for a bullpen demotion. It was not until Wang’s season capping run in the AAA International League that I became a believer once more. In 40.1 AAA innings, Wang pushed his K/9 to 7.81, lowered his BAA to .215, and his BB/9 to 1.79. The only peripheral that worsened was his HR rate, which is somewhat suspect given that 2 of the 3 home runs he allowed took place in his first AAA start, so there is some leeway. Wang continued his run of pitching success in the Olympics and in Spring Training where he caught Joe Torre’s eye and has solidly taken hold of the first-call-up-for-when-Kevin-Brown/Jaret-Wright-are-needed-to-make-a-start-and-can’t-spot.

Wang is able to excel by placing his fastball, which currently runs 92-95 and tops out at 97, throughout the strike zone’s quadrant. It is his best pitch by far and in combination with his split-finger fastball he can give right-handed hitters fits. Unfortunately, since his secondary arsenal is not as far along as his fastball in the development process, minor league left-handers have been able to take advantage of him. During Wang’s spring training starts this did not seem to be much of an issue, but long-term it is still a concern when evaluating whether or not Wang truly has the ability to stay in a starting rotation. The other question looming as far as the topic of Wang and being a starting pitcher is the issue of health. Wang missed all of ’01 with shoulder surgery, he missed some time in ’03 due to blisters, and he missed time in ’04 due to a hamstring issue. While it is somewhat encouraging that Wang has yet to demonstrate a single recurring injury, it is tougher to trust him knowing that he has come down with some issue in 3 out of his last 4 years with the organization.

Though I am no longer disappointed in Wang for his performance not matching his stuff, I still am not his biggest fan. The injury history is a big concern for me as is the issue of dealing with left-handed hitters given his age and the continued presence of the problem. However, he is the Yankee pitching prospect closest to the majors, which counts more so for pitchers as far as I’m concerned. In addition, there is no denying that his fastball is very good and even in a bullpen role, in a possible attempt to stave off health issues, Wang could be very useful. As it stands, his usefulness as a starter is likely to be tested in ’05 given the older slant of the Yankee rotation.

Next prospect: Pitcher

Previous Prospect: Pitcher

Captains Clutch
by Larry Mahnken

No question, 2005 is off to a good start. No major disappointments to speak of, some outstanding performances, some great surprises. One great game, two wins.

Will it all go this well? Of course not, there will be stretches of immense frustration, and there will be stretches where it all goes even better. At least they've started out the good way this year.

Last season, coming off of an excruciating defeat in the ALCS, the Red Sox started out hot and laid the smack down on the Yankees in six of their first seven meetings. This year, the Yankees have rebounded from their humiliating ALCS defeat to make Boston look bad. As well as things have gone for the Yanks, they've gone just that bad for Boston. There is little to be happy about so far for the Red Sox, the things that have gone well were more or less expected to go well, and several things that were hoped for or expected to go well have gone poorly. Of course it's just two games, of course it doesn't mean that much, but these are two games that Boston fans recieved almost no enjoyment out of, and Yankees fans recieved almost complete enjoyment from.

There were high expectations for the Yankees today, with the debut of the newly accquired Carl Pavano. Pavano had a career year in 2004, posting a 3.00 ERA and winning 18 games, after being generally mediocre and often injured. He is expected by many in the mainstream to repeat his 2004 in pinstripes, and by many in the online community (including myself) to struggle somewhat this season due to his low strikeout rate and reliance on his defense.

So he came out and struck out two in the first inning. Then he struck out two in the second, and another two in the third.

Of course he returned to form after that, striking out only one more over the next 3.1 innings, but he only gave up seven singles and a homer to David Ortiz, and two runs. When he left, the Yankees lead 3-1, behind an RBI groundout by Gary Sheffield and a two-run homer by Hideki Matsui (his second in as many games). Mike Stanton gave back one of those runs, but the Yanks went into the ninth with a 3-2 lead and Mariano Rivera on the mound.

Unfortunately, after two consecutive seasons of close games and 7-game ALCS's, the Red Sox have a good bead on what Rivera's doing. He still has a low ERA against them, but they've come back a number of times in recent years, more than anyone else by a wide margin. Few teams are more capable of jumping on Rivera's mistakes than the Red Sox, and it happened again today.

It's easy to overblow this, Rivera's two blown saves in the ALCS last year consisted of a walk, single and a fly ball. Today it was a little more straightforward, as Rivera gave up a home run to Red Sox captain Jason Varitek.

Rivera got out of the inning after a single to Mueller, a strikeout by Bellhorn and a long flyout to the warning track by Johnny Damon, but with Keith Foulke already in the game, it looked like a repeat of last October's excruciating extra-inning battles was in order.

But at least the Yankees had the top of their lineup leading off the ninth, and Derek Jeter quickly took the count to 3-0. In the top of the ninth, my friend Kristen had asked me to give her some quick analysis to tell her boss so she could look like she knew a lot about baseball (all she knows is that she likes baseball, especially the Yanks. Smart girl). I told her to tell him that Jeter would win it in the ninth, because he's Mr. Clutch. I also told her that saying that kind of thing was a good way to piss me off, because it's so irrational and stupid.

But lo and behold, after Foulke battled back to get the count full, Jeter smacked the ball over the right field wall to win the game for the Yanks, make Kristen look prophetic to her boss, and made her boss a pleasure to work with the rest of the day. It was a truly outstanding finish to a great game, one of those "thank God baseball is back" moments, or if you're a Red Sox fan, a "I thought this stuff was supposed to end after October 27th" moment.

Maybe now Sox fans will realize that all those heartbreaking moments from the past 86 years had nothing to do with Babe Ruth or a curse... it was just baseball. That's how it goes sometimes.

Of course, it all adds to the Jeter legend now, a legend of clutch hitting, clutch fielding, clutch leadership, clutch fist pumping, clutch banging of hot chicks. It will be overblown in today's pregame and for the first half of the game as a deflating loss for the Red Sox, when in fact this is about the only time of year where this kind of loss (or victory) will have a negligible impact, because there's so much time to make up for it left.

No doubt the demons of last October are being exorcised this week in The Bronx. The "2000" chants will rain down upon them in a week, but if things keep going this way, they'll be raining down upon a first place team. Last year is gone, that loss and shame is permanent. All that matters now is this year. And this year is going just dandy so far.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Jeter, Jeter, Red Sox Beater
by Fabian

There are many in the statistical community who doubt Derek Jeter. They feel he is hugely overrated by the average fan and not nearly worth his paycheck. These are the same people who will tell you that clutch does not exist. Well, on this day, Derek Jeter once again demonstrated what clutch is.

For many fans, seeing your star closer, who happens to be one of the best of all time, give up the lead in the top of the 9th may be damning. They may be overcome with grief or worry, but such was not the case for any true Yankee fan on this day. Noted Jeter Fan, (in fact, his number 1 such follower by many accounts) Will, put it best, “I get out of my final, see Tek, and then I say, ‘that’s ok, this just lets Jeter hit a walk-off’”. Will was not the only person watching the game knowing that Jeter held all the cards. Dingbat Charlie, sitting in front of his computer and “watching” the game via Gameday knew what was about to happen as he “called Jeter’s homer [,] to himself”. Even lacking confirmation of Jeter’s calm eyes, Dingbat Charlie knew it was only a matter of moments before Jeter would snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

While Jeter winning the game was no-doubt huge, it was surely expected. Perhaps more telling was the choke job by the other team’s Captain; a man who feels the need to parade around his Captain-ness while our guy remains one of the guys. Had the other team’s Captain had the clutch sense of Jeter, rest assured he would have gotten Damon’s ball to leave the park, but he did not. He seems overwhelmed with his status as Captain and even if he gets comfortable, there can only be one Clutch God. That Clutch God mans SS for the New York Yankees.

April Fistpumps
by SG

Game 2 of the 2005 season continued in the vein of many of the Yankee vs. Red Sox matchups of the past few season. New import Carl Pavano was very impressive in his Yankee debut, mixing a variety of pitches and hitting his spots well, and even striking out 7 batters. MVP-Zilla™ added another big HR in the 3rd inning, keeping on pace to hit 162 this season. With Tom Gordon cruising through Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Kevin Millar in the top of the 8th, everything looked good for another Yankee victory. Unfortunately, Jason Varitek temporarily put a damper on the festivities with an HR off Mariano Rivera, which tied the game at 3 and put the Yankees in a position of having to score off Keith Foulke, a task they had plenty of trouble with last year.

Leading off the ninth was the much maligned Derek Jeter. Jeter took a high and outside pitch for ball 1, took a low slider for ball 2, took another one for ball 3, then took two strikes to work the count full. On 3-2, he fouled a pitch off towards the first base side of the stands. Then came an outside fastball.

Jeter did what he does when he's at his best, working his inside-out swing towards right field. As the ball sailed out over Trot Nixon's head, Jeter pumped his fist and began circling the bases.

Jeter continued around the bases, rounding third and heading home where his teammates greeted him.

Most of the readers of this blog are aware of Jeter's limitations. He's a fine hitter for a SS, if a bit overrated, and a wildly overrated defensive player who did improve fairly significantly last year. However, he gets savaged by most sabermetric types unfairly, because he is overrated by the conventional media. On this day, he was worth his paycheck and more.

I am loving the 2005 season so far.

by Fabian

Steven White, 23, RHP

My initial instinct was to place Matt DeSalvo ahead of Steven White on this list due to superior statistical performance. However, at the last moment I decided to go with the scouting school of thought on the decision between the two. It is tough to ignore White’s ideal pitcher’s build, 6’5’’ and 205 pounds, and his low-to-mid 90s fastball. Of course, the problem with that fastball is that it is White’s only truly dominant pitch at this moment.

While White did not have much of a problem overpowering Low-A hitters with his fastball, even when it was strictly in the low 90s early in the season, he’s going to need to develop the rest of his arsenal for the full scouting approval. Like pretty much every other Yankee pitching prospect, White throws a curveball and a change-up. White’s curveball came on as the year progressed, but his change-up lags behind due to lack of use. AA hitters will test whether or not White was able to make the necessary adjustments during the winter.

Developing said arsenal would ease my major concerns about White. While some may point to White’s fastball, physical size, and 2.61 overall ERA as enough evidence of his prowess, I worry about his peripheral numbers. White struck out 8.74 men per 9 innings as a member of the Battle Creek Yankees, which was along normal expectations considering his amateur experience and tools. Perhaps more encouragingly, White only allowed a .183 opponents batting average, which is spectacular. Despite that, his WHIP was still slightly above 1 as he struggled a bit with his control, 4.06 BB/9. Some of that may be explained by working off the rust from not pitching in quite a while. Lastly, White’s HR/9 was .62, which is solid. Upon promotion to the FSL, White was able to keep his HR/9 around the same level, .60, and improve his control, 2.87 BB/9, but he was more hittable, .226 BAA and 6.64 K/9. This is somewhat of a big deal to me because, once again taking into account his amateur experience, I expected White to do a better job of maintaining his hit and K rates. Since he did not, despite the other performance indicators and his big fastball, I’m not as big on White as some.

In general, it is prospects without big time tools that are expected to be proven or broken at AA, but I’m approaching White in the same light. While acknowledging that he has a higher physical ceiling than Matt DeSalvo, I think he will struggle more than DeSalvo in AA at this point due to his repertoire being shallower. Additionally, while I agree that White looks like a future innings eater, I’m not sure if he will be a middle of the rotation one, based on his performance I’m more inclined to think of him as a back of the rotation innings eater. This could change quickly if he can do a better job of maintaining his K rate as he rises through the minors. The key to that will be getting comfortable with more pitches because major league hitters can and will hit the best of fastballs (see: Capellan, Jose).

Next prospect: Pitcher

Previous Prospect

Monday, April 04, 2005

Opening a Can of Whup-Ass
by Larry Mahnken

Opening Day is never a must-win. It's never a crucial game. It's never a particularly important game. Ever.

But sometimes it means a little more than others. The final four games of the ALCS last year were the most excruciating, humiliating games I've ever had the horror to witness as a fan, and they've stewed for the past five months. I'm sure the Yankees have been eager to move past it too, and they needed a win to start that process.

Maybe the Red Sox were still riding a little too high from their championship offseason, and maybe the Yankees came out more determined than in years past. However it happened, last night was perfect.

For the first time in a long while, the Yankees have best pitcher in baseball, and a better pitcher than anyone the Red Sox can throw out. Randy Johnson't isn't just that, he's a pitcher who plays right into Boston's weaknesses, limiting the effectiveness (or outright usage) of David Ortiz and Trot Nixon, throwing strikes and keeping his walks low, and giving up few home runs. Boston's lineup is good enough to get to him, and at some point this season probably will get to him to some degree, but they'll always go into the games he starts as the underdog. Seeing Johnson against the Red Sox tonight was a great feeling. I didn't expect Boston to score runs, I was surprised when they even got on base. He pitched quite well, but it seemed like he wasn't sharp, the expectations are that high.

And Tanyon Sturtze followed him with a perfect relief outing, raising hopes that maybe the last month of 2004 was real, and that he's a useful reliever.

Derek Jeter started off with a couple of hits, Jason Giambi ripped a single and took a couple of plugs to get on base, and got a standing ovation to start the game (whoulda thunkit?). Hideki Matsui ripped the ball, hit his first homer of the year to seal the win, and stole a homer from Kevin Millar in the second to set the tone. Tino came back, made a great play at first, and gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside, almost like it was the late 90's again. A-Rod got a hit with a runner at second (though he also made out three times). Sheffield ripped an RBI double. Even Womack was good.

And the Yankees won going away, 9-2.

I've been critical of the way the Yankees built this team, and I will continue to be so. One game is just one game. Bad players have good games, it doesn't mean they're suddenly good. Joe Torre made a foolish move batting Sierra cleanup, and he went 0-3 against Wells (who was giving up hits to almost everyone else). Bernie looked terrible, and didn't do anything but hit a sac fly and walk. It's bad enough that he can't field, if he can't hit either, then the Yankees look even more foolish for passing on Beltran.

They'll probably lose one of the next two games, they might even lose them both. This win doesn't mean they'll win the division, or the Wild Card, or the World Series. It doesn't mean they'll be able to handle the Red Sox any better than last year. It doesn't mean there'll be less taunting and booing at Fenway next week, and it doesn't mean that they've made the right moves.

But everything that could be accomplished on Opening Day was. They won, they won decisively. They put on a good show, they made us happy. Oh man, am I glad baseball's back.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A great start
by SG

If you were to draw up the perfect opening day scenario, it would've been pretty close to what we saw tonight. It's only one game out 162, but there were several signs that portend good things.

1. Randy Johnson
I never liked Randy Johnson, although I've always admired his talent. But in the first inning when he threw three straight fastballs to Manny Ramirez clocked at 96, 96, and 97 mph, I realized how exciting it's going to be to have him leading the staff this year. If he keeps pitching like he did tonight, he'll win me over.

2. Jason Giambi
Giambi looked like last year never happened. He ripped a ground ball single in his first AB, which was precedeed with a nice ovation by the crowd. He also took two HBP, made a nice play on an errant throw by Jeter, and misplayed another ball, but he looked pretty good out there.

3. MVP-Zilla?
Hideki Matsui made a tremendous catch to rob Kevin Millar of a two run homer, and added three hits, including a monstrous homerun to CF off Matt Mantei. He appears even more confident and locked in than last year, and I think he can hit 40 HRs this year. If he can improve his defense, hit around .300, and maintain his walk rate, he would be a legitimate MVP candidate. I wonder if Mike Francesa still thinks that signing "that Japanese guy" was a huge mistake?

4. Tanyon Sturtze
I'm ready to start believing that he's for real. He threw two perfect innings against a pretty good lineup, striking out three. He was a little shaky on the first two batters command wise, but once he got loose he started cruising.

5. Derek Jeter
After last year, Jeter needs to have a big year to re-establish himself. If he can get back to .315 or so, and keep his power from last year as well as his much improved defense (still not Gold Glove worthy), he'll be right in contention with Miguel Tejada for best shortstop in the AL.

5. Joe Torre
Joe Torre again showed that there is cause for concern in Yankee-land. Between batting Ruben Sierra cleanup, taking Giambi out after only six innings, and pitching Tom Gordon with a 7 run lead in the ninth inning, he showed his continued tendency to make strange moves. The Giambi move was defensible, the game was fairly well in-hand and he probably wanted to let Jason leave the game with a good feeling about his play. The Sierra decision was pretty bad, especially when Ruben failed to do anything against Wells (although he managed to get a hit off of Alan Embree). The biggest issue I had was using Gordon in that spot, with a 20 man bullpen.

6. Tino Martinez
I always felt Tino was overrated during his time on the Yankees, but I do admit it was pretty cool seeing him back in the dugout, in a memories of better times kind of way. He made a great defensive play as well, and I think he can be a positive contributor this year as long as Torre is aware of his limitations and uses him accordingly. This is especially true with the news that Andy Phillips has been recalled to take Kevin Brown's spot on the roster when Kevin shockingly got placed on the DL. Phillips should get some platoon AB at the very least and a chance to show what he can do.

All in all, you had to be happy not just with the win, but the way things shook out. Obviously, it's a long season and a lot can change, but I'm going to enjoy this one until Tuesday.

by Larry Mahnken

It's only a few hours now until the season starts, and I am really, really excited.

There's nothing special about this season, I'm curious about how the imports are going to do, hopeful that Pavano and Wright can be good and that Womack can be not completely putrid. I'm really excited about seeing Randy Johnson in pinstripes, and boy do I hope he makes the Sox look bad tonight.

But what I'm really excited about is just the fact that it's baseball! Baseball that counts! Baseball that people would pay good money to see!

Baseball is always more enjoyable when you have an emotional investment in it. I don't have much emotional investment in anyone other than the Yankees, and it's hard to care that much about a preseason game. And the Yankees Classics on YES always lose something when you know how the game is going to end.

Oh, I'm excited.

I've said this several places, I've made it part of all my picks; I don't think the Yankees are going to win the AL East this season. I think their front line is as good or better than anybody's, but they have absolutely zero depth. There is no position on the field where an injury is not a complete disaster. Kevin Brown may be going on the DL, that means that Tanyon Sturtze is the fifth starter. If Posada goes down, then Flaherty starts; Bernie, Matsui, Sheffield, Giambi or Tino Martinez going down means more ABs for Sierra; if they lose A-Rod, Jeter or Womack, then they're playing Rey Sanchez -- who is actually a downgrade from Womack. Every team of course loses something when someone goes down, but the Yankees lose more than anyone, and by a lot. A few injuries could kill this team, and I think they'll get a few injuries.

I wouldn't have thought that the Yanks would win last year, either, though. I didn't pick them, and had you told me the numbers they would put up, I would have absolutely picked them to finish second. Sometimes the actual games break differently than you'd expect, and they could win out again. I certainly hope they do, but it's important to look back at the last three years, and take note that all you need to do is get in. Four of the last six pennants, and all three World Series' were won by the Wild Card team. And I don't think there's a better team for the postseason than the Yankees.

Unless things go terribly wrong, they'll have two aces, Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina. Carl Pavano might turn out to be good again, and he could be a third ace, or a #2 caliber pitcher. I don't expect much from Brown, maybe Wright will still be good. That's as good, probably better, than what Boston, or any other team will have, and the front end is no-doubt the strongest in baseball. Their lineup is superceded only by St. Louis and Boston, and not by a large margin. The bullpen, if rested enough, is outstanding. That's a killer combo for the playoffs, and I think they can win through no matter who the opponent or the ballpark.

We'll see how things break over the course of the season. But it's finally time to stop speculating about how things will go during the season itself, baseball is finally here!

One man's Yankee predictions
by TVerik

I don't mean to slap SG around for his staff predictions, but this is a Yankee blog. So I'm going to give a few individual predictions.

One of the reasons I didn't give my predictions for individual awards the other day is because I really only follow one team enough to know rookies or non-star breakout players.

Picking injuries is not fun and fruitless. So I assume here that everyone's as healthy as they were last year, or the year before.

So without further ado:

Yankee team leaders:

OBP: Last year, Posada had a .400, Matsui had a .390, and Sheffield had a .393.

I don't see any new acquisitions challenging for this. Giambi, Jeter and A-Rod are both capable of challenging for this if they have good years (Giambi had a .412 in 2003, in an "off" year).

But the choice here is Posada. I think he'll hit a bit better this year, and walk about the same amount.

SLG%: Last year, A-Rod had a .512, Matsui had a .522, and Sheffield had a .534, finishing second in MVP voting. In 2003, Giambi had a .527, while Posada had a .518.

I think it's a bit of a toss-up. But I'll take A-Rod. I think he'll have a good year, for A-Rod-in-Yankee-Stadium.

Caught Stealing: This isn't usually seen in stat lists. But I regard stolen base counting totals as next to meaningless, and SB% unfairly penalizes very small sample sizes.

Last year, Sheffield was caught 6 times in 11 attempts, and Bernie was caught a putrid 5 times in 6 attempts.

Everyone's favorite second baseman, Tony Woe-mack, was only caught 5 times in 31 attempts last year; I don't know if we can count on that continuing. He was also caught 5 times in 2003, in 18 attempts. These numbers have been fallling; Tony was good for consistent double-digits earlier in his career.

Few of the Yankee basestealers are inefficient (save Bernie, and I don't consider him a basestealer). So while the smart choice to "lead" the team in CS would be Womack, I think Sheffield will continue to run and get caught. So Gary is my pick.

ERA: Only the dearly departed El Duque had an ERA under 4 among last year's Yankees (among starters). Kevin Brown was actually next-best at 4.09. But neither of them 150 innings. Newcomer Randy Johnson has been as high as 4.26 in 2003, but had a 2.60 last year.

Even given that those numbers will go up with a change of leagues (although Yankee Stadium might keep them a bit lower), it would be idiotic not to pick RJ for ERA leader (over 150IP). Unless Mussina (3.40 in 2003) bounces way back and RJ falls off or gets hurt, I have to choose Johnson.

The final choice here measures the usefulness of the Yankee bullpen. Picking anything for Rivera is silly - if he's healthy, he'll pick up 35 saves; even if he isn't effective. ERA for relievers is not a wonderful tool - sample size issues abound. Most statistics for relievers are usage-bound.

So, completely arbitrarily, I'll be choosing the Yankee reliever with the most strikeouts next year. in 2004, it was Gordon, with 96. Contrary to his reputation, Rivera is not particularly a strikeout threat anymore. So I'll have to choose Tom Gordon again this year; I can't see a newcomer having that many (unless Felix Rodriguez is better than I think he is, or unless Mike Stanton cleans out Giambi's medicine cabinet).

What do you think, blog readers? What categories would you throw into the list? Which players do you like or not like to lead the team in these?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

An Open Letter to Joe Torre
by sj

Dear Joe Torre,

Why do you hurt me, Joe ? I've always been loyal to you.

First of all, let me openly admit that I was not a huge fan of your hiring in the offseason after the 1995 season. However since then, I have been a big supporter of yours, for example, I think you have used Mariano Rivera better than any other manager would have, and I have said so publically.

This all started in 2003, I remember the day clearly. It was a cloudy August day in the Bronx, The Yankees were trailing the Orioles 4-3 in the ninth inning, the Yankees rallied with 2 outs, loading the bases with Nick Johnson due up. The O's brought in Buddy Groom, who was slowed by the weight of a 5.36 ERA in 2003.

Instead of leaving Nick Johnson in the game, you decided to pinch hit Ruben Sierra. Ruben proceeded to ground out. Game Over. Yankees Lose.

This hurt me, but I was willing to overlook this as a one time thing. But I can no longer bite my tongue. The opening day lineup is beyond horrible. Sierra? Batting fourth? Ruben Sierra? Why Joe? Is this some sort of statement? I do not understand. Why not, to pick a name, anyone else in the world not named Womack?

The madness must end.

Yours always,


by Fabian

2005 RLYW Staff Predictions

Phil Hughes, 18, RHP

Hughes was seen as one of the best HS talents available in the draft and like Eric Duncan before him, the Yankees were the beneficiary of him sliding back to their first pick. Hughes signed quickly, but unlike many who sign early, he was not able to get much work in. This was because Phil Hughes seemed to just have really bad luck in the year ’04. On his way to an appointment with the Yankees, Hughes was involved in a minor accident, which fortunately, did not slow the timetable for his GCL debut. Then, after two starts in the GCL, Hughes was shut down with a sore elbow. While some feared the worst, considering the history of high school pitchers (looks around nervously…raises hand), Hughes was eventually diagnosed with just having a slight case of tendonitis. After some extra cautious rehab, the Yankees felt comfortable enough to let Hughes return to the mound. He put together a great start and then was never heard from again in the GCL box scores. This time, the issue was that Hughes, was running to answer the phone while in a hotel and broke his toe when his foot a wall. Hopefully for the Yankees, all these occurrences are just bad luck, because there are enough natural injury concerns to think about with young pitchers.

While Hughes only managed to take the GCL mound 3 times, each time he was dominant. *Ridiculously, almost comical in fact, small sample size alert* In 5 GCL innings, Hughes allowed 4 hits and struck out 8 with an otherwise clean statistical record.

Though he throws a low 90s fastball, what always stood out about Hughes was his control and command. In his senior year of high school, Hughes allowed 41 hits, 12 runs, 6 earned runs, 3 walks and struck out 83 in 61 innings. While some may feel that I am overly concerned about strikeout rate, I still think it is worth noting that Hughes “only” had a K/9 of 12.2 in his senior year, while other top prep prospects had rates of 23.4 (Mark Rogers), 19.6 (Homer Bailey), 19 (Scott Elbert) and 13.9 (Eric Hurley). Of course, I have no idea about the relative quality of competition that these players faced, other than guys in warm states tend to face the best players, so this could mean nothing. In addition, Hughes’ control was much better.

Hughes was primarily a fastball-slider pitcher in high school and this may present some problems in 2005. Since the Yankees want their pitchers focusing on fastball, curveball, changeup trio before anything else they will limit or disallow Hughes’ use of his slider, which means he will have to adjust the way he has pitched throughout his career in addition to making the amateur to pro adjustment. While this may slow his initial performance, I have little doubt that Hughes should get better as the year goes on and hopefully his mature physical build will allow him to hold up down the stretch. Given how advanced he is, I would not be shocked to see Hughes end the year in Tampa, assuming all goes well with him learning and utilizing the curveball. Though he is still far away in the overall big picture and is thus vulnerable to the injury and performance pitfalls of a young pitcher, Hughes has the look of a stud.

Next prospect: Pitcher

Previous Prospect

by Fabian

2005 RLYW Staff Predictions

Matt DeSalvo, 24, RHP

Usually, a 24-year-old pitcher with only 27.1 innings of mediocre AA performance accounting for his upper level experience would not rank this highly. Due to a combination of the Yankee system being weak on players with ANY upper minors experience and DeSalvo’s track record, he does.

The Yankees were able to pick DeSalvo up as undrafted free agent despite his Division III college career concluding with him as the all-time NCAA leader in wins and strikeouts. Dominant performance was not enough to overcome scout skepticism given to smallish right-handers. Standing 6’0’’ and 170 pounds, DeSalvo is one of those. DeSalvo also does not have an overpowering fastball as most reports have him sitting in the 87-91 range with the ability to touch as high as 94. Yet another concern with DeSalvo from a scout’s point of view is that in the past his delivery has seemed stressful due to a Kevin Brown type spin before he delivers the ball to the plate. It seems this may have caught up to him last year as he ended the year on the disabled list with back problems.

Though I keep all of those scouting concerns in regards to DeSalvo in mind, I’m still very excited about him because of his performance in spite of those doubts. After dominating at the college level, DeSalvo has dominated during his minor league stints. Overall, he has a career 2.28 minor league ERA with ratios of 6.84 H/9, 0.31 HR/9, 3.32 BB/9, and 9.17 K/9. This includes his 27.1 innings of AA where all of those ratios, other than the walk rate, were worse. Some may look at this as a sign of the scouting concerns catching up with DeSalvo’s performance, but I would surmise that it was more a result of his injuries derailing him. During DeSalvo’s starts at the AA level he was noticeably uncomfortable on the mound and consistently missed his spots within the strike zone, which led to him giving up as many homers in AA, 3, as he had in his entire minor league career to that point. While some slippage in performance in comparison to how successful DeSalvo has been to this point is expected, I think he should be able to pitch well enough at AA and earn a promotion to AAA. Despite a deep repertoire that includes a 2-seam fastball, 4-seam fastball, curveball, forkball, change-up, and slider, DeSalvo’s ceiling is likely not that of a number 1 starter. His smallish size will also prevent many from looking at him as a future workhorse, but since I can’t find much fault with his performance to this point DeSalvo would seem to conservatively have solid middle of the rotation potential.

If he can hold up to the stress of a full minor league season in ’05 and continue to put hitters away with ease, DeSalvo’s ceiling will look much more impressive since AA is seen as the level where command of a deep arsenal, DeSalvo’s greatest strength, is put to the test by “real” hitters.

Next prospect: Pitcher

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