Archive for October, 2008

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.

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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)

Yanks fire Meacham

October 15, 2008

The Yankees have decided not to renew the contract of 3B coach Bobby Meacham. (Source)

I bet they don’t trade Cano

October 11, 2008

Long signed a three-year agreement worth approximately $1 million before the campaign, and he has already planned offseason trips to work with both Alex Rodriguez in Miami and Robinson Cano in the Dominican Republic. Cashman said that the Yankees have scheduled their pro scouting meetings to begin Sunday and run into early next week. The club expects to hold its annual organizational summit in Tampa closer to the end of October, when other avenues — including free agency — will be discussed in more detail. (Source)

Would the Yankees send their hitting coach to the DR if they planned on trading Cano?

Rep your hood

October 10, 2008

According to Baseball Prospectus’ third order wins, there were only five teams in baseball that won 90 or more games. Four of those teams were from the AL East and the other was the Chicago Cubs. It is fitting that the clear class of baseball this year represents the last two teams standing in the AL.

A terrible idea

October 10, 2008

Buster Olney:

But here’s an outside-the-box thought: The Yankees could sign Hudson and shift Cano to first base, a position that the Yankees are currently trying to fill. This would give the Yankees incredible range on the right side of the infield, and Cano has the kind of power to justify his place at a position usually reserved for power. (Source)

Playing Cano at first base would be an incredible waste of value.

Hughes

October 9, 2008

Even though he walked five, Phil Hughes pitched five scoreless innings Tuesday for the Javelinas of the AFL. Hughes allowed just one hit and struck out seven. Still, issuing five walks and hitting a batter versus Double- and Triple-A competition isn’t very impressive. Rangers prospect Julio Borbon, who walked just 29 times in 546 at-bats this season, drew two of the free passes. (Source)

Wild rumor

October 9, 2008

Frank Russo, on New York Baseball Digest Radio’s Yankee Special, mentioned that his connections have shared that the Mets are accepting inquiries for Carlos Beltran. And, further, according to Russo, his sources have also shared that there’s a rumor of a possible deal between the Mets and Yankees which would breakdown as follows:

Carlos Beltran from the Mets to the Yankees in exchange for Robinson Cano (with the Yankees taking on most of Cano’s contract), either Jose Veras or Brian Bruney, Ian Kennedy, and another prospect from the Yankees system. (Source)

PeteAbe: Hates Joe Girardi

October 8, 2008

Heyman said that Joe Girardi has problems in the clubhouse with the veteran players and it’s something he needs to address.

I’m sure some people will waste time wanting to kill the messenger or figure out who is telling Heyman this information. The point is that what he is saying is true. It’s pretty much the same thing I’ve been writing about on this blog since May. Girardi’s style takes a lot of getting used to.

This isn’t about candy and ice cream. It’s about whether he can lead a group of people. (Source)

Abraham is always first in line to throw Girardi under the bus, even when the issue in question was probably made up by the unreliable Jon Heyman.

In the case that it is true, my concern would be with the veteran players and not with Girardi. The vets need to shut up and get in line. Especially Posada, who should have no right to say anything until he is back on the field.

Sign Mark Teixeira

October 7, 2008

The number one priority on the Yankees list should be signing Mark Teixeira. He is the perfect player for them. With Jason Giambi’s contract expiring, the Yankees have a lot of money to spend and production to replace.

Offensively, Teixeira easily fills that void. He has posted OPS+ numbers of 153 and 150 the last two years. Those numbers are comprable to Giambi at his peak.

Defensively, Teixeira is a gigantic upgrade as he posted a +9 FRAA in ’08. Also, Teixeira will be 29 next year and has never played less than 132 games in a season. It’s a no-brainer.

It is hard to find Yankees officials juiced up to chase Teixeira. Perhaps they don’t want to give his agent, Scott Boras, further leverage. It is amazing how many executives say almost verbatim that: “Teixeira is the ultimate Boras client.”

Translation: Teixeira will go to the team that gives him the most. Period. (Source)

The Yankees should be that team.