About last night, the wild card, and AL MVP

October 2, 2010

Here’s the short version: it rained all night in Boston and Bruce Chen threw a two-hit shutout as KC beat the Rays 7-0.

So, technically, the Yankees could clinch today with a sweep of the 4:05/9:05 doubleheader and another Rays loss. This is fun. This is why I have an always will love the 162 game baseball season: all the pieces matter (just like Freaman said on The Wire). Think back to every close loss your team has suffered this year, they all matter in the end.

Bud Selig will look at this last weekend, see one tight Padres-Giants series and use it as justification that “the wild card works.” That may sound nice, but it doesn’t make it true. The wild card doesn’t really work. This year it robbed us of a tremendous race between the Yankees and the Rays. Both teams aren’t sprinting to the finish line because of the safety blanket that is the wild card. The Rays were two-hit last night, but their best player Evan Longoria didn’t even play. The Yankees started resting players weeks ago, before a serious slide created a “must-win” game last Sunday against the Red Sox.

Now, it’s not as if we have been robbed of a matchup between the two best teams in baseball. They’ve played 18 times this year and are likely to meet up in the ALCS for at least a few more. What really gets me about the wild card is that it opens the door for some teams that aren’t very good to win the World Series (like the 82-80 2006 St. Louis Cardinals). With eight teams in and a short first round series, anything can happen. The privilege of having a fighting chance in October, in my estimation, is something that a team really doesn’t deserve  if they win less than 93 games.

Switching gears here for a minute, honestly I didn’t expect to even write about the wild card just sort of went off on a rant. Anyway, most of the mainstream baseball writers came out with their awards columns yesterday and it’s looking very much like Josh Hamilton will win the AL MVP. If you followed me on twitter yesterday (@true_yankee) then you know that I feel differently about Hamilton’s season. It’s been a great year for Hamilton as he leads in most important offensive categories, which is as fine as it is dandy. The thing is Hamilton has competition for the award, mainly the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera and our very own Robinson Cano. Personally, I have both over Hamilton for the award and here’s why: Hamilton is, to some degree, a product of his ballpark and lineup protection. He holds a slim lead over Cabrera in OPS, but Hamilton’s 1.049 OPS is heavily weighted by a 1.205 home OPS. He isn’t doing nearly the same kind of damage on the road as Cabrera (1.015 to .894 road OPS). Hell, even Cano has a .917 road OPS.

Another thing I didn’t like especially about everyone who is going to vote for Hamilton is the line, “Hamilton’s defense wins it.” Sure, Miguel Cabrera isn’t a premium defender nor does he play a premium position. But, then again neither is Hamilton, who has only started 28 games in center for the Rangers. On the other side, there’s Robinson Cano who has played 157 games at second base with three to play making incredible plays and drawing plenty of gold glove buzz along the way. Though Fangraphs’ WAR only has him saving 1.5 runs, the entire industry is searching for refinement in defensive metrics. I hate to be that guy, but I’ve watched Cano all year and 1.5 runs doesn’t pass the eye test.

Not to mention that Hamilton has missed almost all of September, he only played in two games before a rib cage injury. If the division race in the west would’ve been closer, who knows if Hamilton would’ve come back sooner. Regardless, I think a combination of Hamilton’s ballpark which contributed to his home/road splits, lineup protection IBB: Hamilton (5), Cabrera (32), Cano (13), overrated defense, and missed time make this still a very tough call.

Don’t get me wrong, Josh Hamilton had a tremendous year. I know he leads in Fangraphs’ WAR, Runs Created, OPS, VORP, etc. I just think that given the other factors I mentioned that went into his lead in those statistics are advantages that Cabrera and Cano didn’t have. Cabrera’s numbers even in Comerica Park are still very close to Hamilton’s. Even with his .359 batting average, Cabby still tops Hamilton in OBP .420 to .412. And despite Hamilton’s slim lead in slugging, Cabby holds a .020 lead in Isolated Power. Cabrera certainly had a more balanced offensive game than Hamilton while playing half of his games in a pitcher’s park. Even though his team is in third place, remember that this is not a team award despite the fact that an October golfer hasn’t won the AL MVP award since ARod in 2003.

So here’s my ballot that doesn’t count:

1. Miguel Cabrera
2. Robinson Cano
3. Josh Hamilton
4. Jose Bautista
5. Shin-soo Choo
6. Carl Crawford
7. Evan Longoria
8. Adrian Beltre
9. Paul Konerko
10. Mark Teixeira

I hope you enjoyed this and that I didn’t go on for too long. Any questions about the rest of my ballot? I’d be more than willing to answer, just leave a comment on the story and I’ll get back to you soon enough.

Yankees clinch in Toronto

September 29, 2010

Both AL East powers celebrated clinching playoff berths Tuesday night, the Yankees did so in Toronto while the Rays got to clinch at home. However, only one team will celebrate winning the division and it’s likely that one of these two teams will celebrate winning the AL pennant. But, that’s getting ahead of ourselves. For now we can all enjoy the pictures of Yankees doused in champagne as they come in off the wire.

Still up in the air

September 28, 2010

Nothing is set in stone yet. The Yankees still need a win or a Red Sox loss to clinch. Hopefully that changes tonight.

Other issues:

  • A.J. Burnett certainly has pitched terribly, but whether he takes the mound for the Yankees in October is still up in the air. Jon Paul Morosi inexplicably (because he’s usually terrible) and astutely comes to the conclusion that he should not.
  • Just a note on why I didn’t do a game story last night. Um, I was too disgusted to watch the rest of the game after Burnett defecated on the mound continued to serve up homers to the Blue Jays.
  • Regardless of who is on the mound in the playoffs, this team needs to hit. That means not getting dominated by guys like Marc Rzepczynski and his 5.56 ERA. Work the count, get on base, and hit the ball out of the ballpark. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Tony Dungy totally ruins everything

September 25, 2010

A four game losing streak at home certainly wasn’t what the Bronx Bombers had in mind after taking the first two from Tampa earlier this week. After Joba Chamberlain saved Phil Hughes’ 17th win on Tuesday, the Yankees proceeded to lose a crazy rain delay induced bullpen game followed by a game they looked to have in their grasp—CC on the mound at home, lead in hand—until a one out bases loaded 3-2 pitch at the knees to Sean Rodriguez didn’t go their way leading to a seven-run sixth inning. Then, after Andy Pettitte, who the Yankees are going to be counting on once again in October, really had nothing Friday night, they don’t get a hit off of Jon Lester until the sixth inning.

Now, are there things they could’ve done differently? Of course, one painfully obvious idea would be using Chad Gaudin and his 5.86 ERA a lot less. Another would be not calling on someone as boring and lame as Tony Dungy to give a “life lessons” pep talk before Saturday’s game. That would explain why they were almost no-hit. The hitter’s didn’t wake up until the sixth inning. Well, it was probably half Dungy and half the big zone Lester was getting. Oh, and a little credit to Lester for, you know, being a really good pitcher.

Anyway, the point remains: it’s very easy to lose four games in a row. Especially in September, when the front office has told manager Joe Girardi to rest guys, which he then decides to interpret as reason to start Austin Kearns just because he bats right-handed for two plate appearances before lifting him for the clearly superior Brett Gardner who, of course, has no platoon split.

So, the magic number is three for another day and the Red Sox postseason chances are mathematically intact while at the same time virtually impossible (just the way we like it). There isn’t a real reason to panic yet, but this will likely ease any concerns.

Yankees really wanted to win last night’s game

September 23, 2010

That’s why they used Royce Ring, Dustin Moseley, Chad Gaudin, and Jonathan Albaladejo in relief of starter A.J. Burnett after the rain delay last night. Talk about calling on the cavalry.

CC and Price again tonight. Hold on to your butts!

Boras starting early this year

September 21, 2010

Ask Scott Boras about his newest client, Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth, and the first words out of the agent’s mouth are, “He can play center field.”

Werth, a free agent at the end of the season, has made 18 starts in center this season – mostly while Shane Victorino was on the disabled list – and 77 in his career.

Because few center fielders hit like Werth, his marketability will only increase if prospective suitors consider him a viable defender at the position.

“He has the closing speed to play center,” Boras says. “It makes your team so different. Normally you get that production out of a corner outfielder.” (Source)

Bologna

Oh, you again

September 20, 2010

Yep, back in the sack just in time for the stretch run and the playoffs. Let’s not waste time with intros, I missed you too.

Alright, so last week the Yankees and the Rays played a very tight series that the Rays took 2-1. Those three games felt close to a playoff atmosphere or as close as you can get to a playoff atmosphere when the stands are half full. Anyway, tonight we get another Matt Garza-Ivan Nova matchup. Last week, the Yankees got all over Garza early and Nova seemed to be in control of the game, which some were calling his “postseason audition.”  This was all fine and dandy until Nova lost the zone in the fifth and an overworked Boone Logan surrendered a three-run homer to Willie Aybar to cap a seven run inning for the Rays.

Now, after yesterday’s return of the great Andy Pettitte, it’s pretty clear as to how the Yankees playoff rotation should shake out. CC Sabathia will start game one in every series and likely be brought back on short rest in as many series as the Yankees play this October. After CC, the Yankees only need three other starters. Most likely that will be Pettitte, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes in some order.

I would advise and be much more comfortable with Pettitte and his 2.81 ERA being the number two starter. Of course, even with Pettitte’s extensive postseason resume, that’s not a sure thing (the only sure thing at this point is that Javy Vazquez and his 5.35 FIP will be nowhere near a major league mound in October). When slotting their rotation this year and last year it is clear that the Yankees believe that Burnett is better at home.  They wouldn’t be wrong (4.66 ERA at home, 5.42 on the road in ’10, 3.51 at home 4.59 on road in ’09). Should the Yankees win the division and have home field advantage in the first round, it will be interesting to see who is the number two starter. The Family Man with the most postseason wins or the guy with a 5.61 ERA in the second half this year who was clearly punched in the face the other night? What do you think?

Also, if you like twitter hit me up there @true_yankee

That CC Don’t Lie

August 14, 2009

So, remember when CC said “the best is yet to come”? He wasn’t lying as he shut down Boston last Saturday and straight-up clowned the M’s last night. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay up to watch Baseball Tonight to find out if these starts made him a True Yankee.

Defense should be a priority this off-season

October 17, 2008

(AP)

If you haven’t watched playoff baseball this year and the last few, that’s okay. The Yankees haven’t won a postseason series since 2004 and unless you LOVE baseball like I do there isn’t a lot of reason to be subjected to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver (or worse… Chip Caray) if you can avoid it. But, if you have been watching, you might notice that the teams that play deep into October tend to rate well in Baseball Prospectus’ Park Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, or how well a team is at turning balls in play into outs.

This year, the Red Sox and Rays were 2nd and 3rd in all of baseball in PADE while the Phillies were 6th. In 2007, the Red Sox and Rockies were 1st and 2nd on their way to the World Series. In 2006, the Tigers were 4th when they won the AL pennant. They lost in the World Series to the Cardinals, who were 9th. The White Sox were 1st when they won the World Series in 2005. The Cardinals and Red Sox were 2nd and 4th in 2004 when they met in the World Series. Not since the Yankees lost to the Marlins in the 2003 World Series has there been a World Series without a team that was in the top ten in PADE during the regular season. So, really, defense wins championships (a true sports cliche, who knew?).

The Yankees were 25th in all of baseball in PADE this year, a fairly large step back from being 12th in 2007.

The fact that the Yankees defense took this step back and still were able to decrease their runs allowed total from 777 in ‘07 to 727 in ‘08 is a testament to how terrible this team’s pitching was in 2007, where the team had 30 starts from Kei Igawa, Tyler Clippard, Matt DeSalvo, Sean Henn, Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright. Credit is also due to Joe Girardi for improved bullpen management and the ‘08 Yankee pitching staff for striking out 132 more batters than they did in ‘07.

Why was the Yankees defense so much worse in 2008?

1. Jason Giambi only played 18 games at 1B in ‘07, 113 in ‘08. He is a terrible defender and the more time he spent in the field the more runs the Yankees gave away.

2. Bobby Abreu became the worst RF in the league with a -14 FRAA. Abreu seemed disinterested when it came to fielding balls at the wall.

3. Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano regressed. Each lopped at least 10 Fielding Runs off their ‘07 totals.

But, there is hope. It isn’t impossible to have a large defensive turnaround in one year. Part of the reason the Rays have had so much success this year was their large defensive turnaround. In 2007, they were dead last in baseball in PADE. This year, they were 3rd. That’s how you go from winning 66 games to 97 games in one year.

So, what do the Yankees need to do to be a top ten team in PADE in 2009?

1. Let Giambi walk and sign Free Agent 1B Mark Teixeira, who was 19 runs better than Giambi in the field this year, according to Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs.

2. Let Abreu walk and insert Xavier Nady in RF. Any average RF will be almost a 15 run upgrade off the bat. Nady was +10 FRAA in LF this year, its unlikely that he repeats that as he is -32 for his career.

3. Cano and Cabrera would be good bets to bounce back in the field should the Yankees choose to retain both players as starters. It looks like Cano will keep his job as it has been reported that hitting coach Kevin Long will go to the Dominican Republic this off-season to workout with Cano, which is a sign the Yankees don’t plan on trading him. However, if they do trade him, signing free agent 2B Mark Ellis, who has led AL 2Bs in RZR the past two seasons, would make the Yankees better defensively.

Melky is a different story. There aren’t any obvious free agent centerfielders that the Yankees should be interested in like there is with Teixeira at 1B. If the Yankees really want to improve in center they’re going to have to get creative and make a trade, which is something I doubt they do. With 21-year-old Austin Jackson to start next year in AAA, the Yankees just need to hold the fort in CF for one year (maybe less than that) before they turn the reins over to the youngster that led the Eastern League in Equivalent Runs this year. The Yankees probably feel that in Melky, Brett Gardner and Johnny Damon they have enough to get by for one year without giving up value. They might be right.

I know you haven’t seen him pitch in awhile because of a fluke foot injury this year, but in case you forgot the Ace of the Yankees is still Chien-Ming Wang, a sinkerball pitcher. The fact that the best pitcher on the team gets so many balls in play makes it even more important for the Yankees to have a good defense. The Yankees are said to be interested in free agent starter Derek Lowe, another sinkerballer. An improved Yankees defense would be a great way to recruit Lowe.

Any way you slice it, defense is very important. Remember, base runners = runs and runs = wins. Part of preventing runs is preventing base runners and turning balls in play into outs. The Yankees need to get better at doing that or get used to watching the playoffs from home.

Bring Andy Back

October 16, 2008

As the New York Yankees began a round of scouting meetings this week to discuss the future of the team, they know that veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte intends to pitch in 2009, and his intention is to pitch for them.

Sources said on Wednesday that Pettitte’s agent, Randy Hendricks, has informed the Yankees of this recently. (Source)

In case your tired of reading me advocate the possible acquisition of Mark Teixeira, I decided to add more content to the site this off-season. This is not an all Teixeira all the time site, other aspects of this team will be discussed. That brings me to an old Yankee standby, but one that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Going into the off-season the Yankees have three open slots in their rotation. For the last two years they’ve had Andy Pettitte in their rotation. For the last two years he has produced. Both years he logged over 200 innings pitched and lead the Yankees in that category.

Despite his bad second half this year, he was an asset to this club the past two years. His ERA+ went from 116 in 2007 to 95 in 2008. Those numbers might be deceiving as there were plenty of positive signs in ’08. Pettitte raised his GB% from 47.7 to 51.5. He raised his K/G from 5.9 to 6.9. Also, Andy’s FIP was 80 points lower than his ERA. Anytime a pitcher’s FIP is that much lower than his ERA it’s a sign he’s due for regression.

Also, because of Pettitte’s commitment to his family he will not be looking for a deal longer than one season and it’ll probably be in the $10M-$16M range. That will still leave the Yankees a lot of money coming off the books to spend on other free agents without increasing payroll. It’s a good bet that Pettitte bounces back a little and provides good value on a one-year deal for the Yankees in 2009.

Phranchise

October 16, 2008

After viewing much of his campaign as a disappointment, Phil Hughes has come out firing in the Arizona Fall League, looking to set an early tone for what he hopes will be the beginning of a rebound season.

The 22-year-old Hughes has pitched well in his first two starts for the Peoria Javelinas, limiting opponents to one run — a solo homer — and five hits in 10 innings (0.90 ERA).

Hughes has walked six and struck out 10 in his two AFL outings, logging a win in the Javelinas’ 10-3 Opening Day victory on Oct. 7. Hughes also pitched five innings of four-hit ball on Monday in a no-decision against the Phoenix Desert Dogs, the day he was named the AFL’s first Pitcher of the Week of 2008. After viewing much of his campaign as a disappointment, Phil Hughes has come out firing in the Arizona Fall League, looking to set an early tone for what he hopes will be the beginning of a rebound season. (Source)

You excited for Game 5?

October 15, 2008

Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus:

However, you can’t get away from what Joe Torre did last night. From starting Pierre to managing the bullpen, he did not put his team in the best position to win the game. As Steven Goldman pointed out in the Roundtable, Torre has struggled running bullpens ever since the roles weren’t clearly dictated by the personnel. Last night’s game was the latest chapter in that book. (Source)


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