Pondering the lineup and bullpen

Spring Training Game Thread: Facing Derek Jeter
More looks inside the New Stadium

Yesterday afternoon, with an assist from The Artist Formerly Known as “The” Steve, I explored the Yanks’ improved pitching depth heading into the 2009 season. Today, we move onto Steve’s questions about the lineup and bullpen. The quotes are his; the commentary is mine.

On Jorge Posada: “How does the shoulder hold up? What does another season of Jose Molina starting do to our offense?”

This is of course the $64,000 question surrounding the Yankee lineup this year. Already this Spring, we’ve suffered through a scare over Posada’s shoulder. The Yanks and Jorge insisted that the injury meant nothing, and Posada has been hitting this week. But that fear of a recurrence will linger well into the summer.

Over the winter, we covered this topic in a variety of posts. In wrapping up the season, I conclude that Jorge’s injury by itself led to the Yanks’ missing the playoffs. Joe raised some concerns about the Yanks’ potential back ups. In a nutshell, those analyses still stand. The rest of the Yanks who can hit will have to overcompensate for Jorge, and the team would have the equivalent of a pitcher hitting in the catcher spot if Posada can’t catch or misses significant time.

Right now, Ivan Rodriguez remains a free agent, and a few teams have some near Major League-ready catching prospects. Landing one of those coveted pieces will cost a king’s ransom, and the potential for Jorge’s shoulder to flare up again is something against which the Yanks haven’t really addressed.

On Brett Gardner/Melky Cabrera: “The league has already figured out Melky and may very well adjust back to Gardner’s effective late season adjustments. If Gardner is starting and hitting .220 in June, then what?”

This morning, Joe IMed me as I was heading out the door. “I wonder if there’s a chance, any chance, that this Manny-Dodgers fallout leads Manny to the Bronx,” he said. I countered with a one-year, $15 million that the Yanks could conceivably offer. I don’t see Manny signing for such little money though even if Ron Gardenhire envisions him in the Bronx.

But as long as Manny remains unsigned, Scott Boras has to be rooting for Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera to flame out. Manny’s availability always means the Yanks could shift Johnny Damon into center and sign Ramirez for the other outfield spot. It would create a terrible defensive outfield and one of the best lineups of all time. In reality, however, the Yanks are probably not heading down that path. If Melky and Brett can’t cut it, the Yanks could try shoving NIck Swisher, against his wishes, into center or the team will end up repeating 2008 when their center fielders hit a combined .261/.320/.391.

On Mariano Rivera: “Coming off a great season, but he is 39 and can’t keep it up forever.” I’d also add that he’s coming off of surgery as well.

Aren’t Yankee fans in denial about reality when it comes to Mariano Rivera? Every year, he gets a little older, but the only way that shows up is in his face (and lack of hair). I don’t like to and can’t imagine a scenario in which Mariano doesn’t throw in 60-70 games this year while notching 30-45 saves. One day though, it will happen. When it does, I don’t envy the person tabbed to Mariano’s heir apparent. It’s no small task to replace the greatest ever.

Spring Training Game Thread: Facing Derek Jeter
More looks inside the New Stadium
  • http://www.bronxbaseballdaily.com Bronx Baseball Daily

    Talking about replacing Mo, I really hope that when the time comes, people have realistic expectations of whomever does become the new closer. It’s very rare to have a pitcher this consistent year in and year out.

    I also feel like losing him will take away a big advantage the Yankees have had over the years. They will most definitely be a worse team when he moves on.

    Although it doesn’t have to be that soon. Like you said the only place the age difference seems to make a difference is in his face and on his head.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Talking about replacing Mo, I really hope that when the time comes, people have realistic expectations of whomever does become the new closer.

      Good luck with that.

  • touchtoneterriost

    Who cares about a catcher in this line-up.Tex,A-rod and Cano if they can hit well you don’t need Jorge.Like Jeter he isn’t and was never a cornerstone of this line-up.People are just blaming Molina for being a defensive catcher.

    Molina catching 2-3 games a week will hit like a 7th guy in any line-up just like Jorge is gonna be.Also Molina is a superior defensive catcher you need a couple of people to be more defensive minded on your team.Like Molina and Caberea.

    Pitching is gonna make this team not a catcher who can hit .280-20 Hr-80 rbi’s.

    Thats why we have Tex.And for Mo we always have Joba.

    • steve (different one)

      ok.

    • ColoYank

      On the contrary, touchtone, when Posada is hitting, he is one of the cornerstones of the lineup, and I agree with Ben’s analysis that his injury is the single biggest reason the Yanks fell short last year.

      Jorge being Jorge gives the Yankees the single biggest positional advantage over other teams.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      I’m blaming Jose Molina for being a waste of space in the lineup. His defense isn’t nearly good enough to compensate for his bat. That’s just the reality of what type of player he is: fine for a back up but terrible for a starting role.

      As for the whole Joba/Mo thing, you don’t really want to go there.

      • Stanton Social

        But, you cant really quantify a catchers defense. Because a huge part of that is handling pitchers and controlling the flow of the game. He did a phenomenal job last year. If our line-up cant cover a Molina batting 8th or 9th, we have bigger problems and probably leads to a very up and down season like last year with our offense either in overdrive or sucking.

        Finally, Jorge just being in the lineup is HUGE. If he can just get 270 15 and 70, it would be great. Not because of the increase in production over molina, but because Jorge is the vocal leader of the team. Jeter may be the Captain, but Jorge runs the daily grind.

        But, even though this is a big question mark, I dont think its going to end up being a problem. I think Jorge will be good to go for 120 games, and Molina will get his fair share of PT at the start of the season, to allow Jorge to work his way back.

    • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

      You’re severely underrating Jorge Posada’s importance to the team and his offensive prowess. Jorge Posada is one of the best offensive catchers of the last decade.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I still want to know what the hell “touchtoneterriost” means.

  • Chris

    I don’t think there is much different that the Yankees could (or should) do for catcher. There certainly weren’t any quality catchers available on the FA market, and it doesn’t make sense to trade a bunch of prospects for a third string catcher. It makes more sense to hope that Jorge stays healthy, and go out and trade for another catcher during the season if he goes down.

  • mustang

    God I can’t wait for Manny to sign so we can stop talking about him coming to the Yankees.

    • A.D.

      agreed

  • Rob in CT

    1. I think we just have to hope Jorge’s healthy.

    2. The question says it’s June and Melkner has failed. What are the trade options? Mike Cameron was explored and it didn’t work out… but is there reason to assume it cannot still be done? Who else is out there that would be an upgrade? The fielding stats show Damon cannot play CF anymore. Swisher can, sortof, but apparently doesn’t like it. I’m not sure I care what he likes. Maybe that messed up his hitting last year… or maybe it was just crappy luck. Any trade option needs to be better than Swisher out there to be worth considering.

    3. The thought of Mo not being healthy and effective is scary, but far less so, IMO, than Posada. The team has a bunch of decent relievers. The only reason this scenario scares me is the possibility that if Mo goes down they will cave in and replace him with Joba.

    • A.D.

      For #3 I doubt they do that, they’re committed to Joba as a starter, and like Melancon.

      I would imagine that Marte would take the closing duties (maybe Veras)right away, and if he wasn’t up already Melancon would be called up (assuming he’s pitching well at AAA) to fill a role in the pen and potentially earn the closing duties.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        We need Melancon to succeed SO BAD.

        Because only the actual presence of some real, tangible, warm-blooded mammal filling the “role” of “Mo’s heir apparent” will allow the less intelligent fans to stop contemplating wildly idiotic scenarios to solve the HUGE Yankees problem (that isn’t really a huge problem at all…)

  • A.D.

    Hasn’t been much obvious option to sure up any of these concerns, and the trades out there, i.e. Texas catchers or Cameron for CF will probably be there all season.

    • 27 this year

      yea but Texas seeing us desperate will cost at least Hughes if not more. They have waited one year on the Red Sox giving up Buchholz so they have all the leverage although within the next year that will go away once the catchers start wasting time in the minors once they are developed fully.

  • Tom Zig

    That would be a really terrible defensive outfield. As much as I would enjoy Manny on our team, I really am looking forward to having a good defensive outfield for the first time in I don’t know how many years. That and having 2 effective non-LOOGY lefties in bullpen. Opening day is how many days away?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Agreed. While I love Manny and would put up with just about anything to add him to the team, replacing Gardbrera in CF and Damon in LF with Damon in CF and Manny in LF may well be a 60-90 run swing downward defensively.

      Maybe more. Yeesh.

      • FL Yank

        Imagine Matsui in LF, Damon in CF, and Manny in RF. The possibility of horridness is absolutely mind boggling.

  • Mike Pop

    Gardenhire is talking about Grudz, ya’ll are silly.

  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    The thing you have to remember with Rivera, however, is that he’s not gonna matter a whole heck of a lot unless the team before him can do its job.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      The other thing about Rivera — and I realize what I’m about to say borders on blasphemy — is that we as fans tend to overrate his impact a bit. I’m not saying we overrate his position as the best closer ever, but the difference between Rivera and someone who would close but not be Rivera is rather low. The numbers-based argument is very similar to the starting vs. relieving debate we’ve relived ad nauseum with Joba.

      I’m also talking purely regular season and not his superhuman post-season figures.

      • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

        I agree with everything you just said. The closer is the most overrated position in the history of American sports.

        • mustang

          How come I’m not surprise.
          LOL
          Brothers in Arms
          or should I say Numbers in Arms.

          • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

            Okay. I’m gonna give a classic closer scenario. Home team up by one, top of the ninth, no one on, no one out. Classic save situation, right? The home team wins 86% of the time in that situation. Using a light’s out pitcher in that situation is almost a waste.

            This thing is very fun: http://winexp.walkoffbalk.com/expectancy/search

            Perhaps I’m being overly hard on the closer and not hard enough on the save.

            • mustang

              Matt
              I’m going to learn a shit load from you the link is very fun.

              • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                Isn’t it? I think it’s awesome that it goes all the way back to ’77.

                • mustang

                  I save the link and I’m still playing with it.
                  thank you.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

            I have a bone to pick with you here, Mustang. We’re having a very nice civil conversation about this, and you feel the need to belittle people who don’t agree with your baseball worldview.

            Talk, but don’t be insulting. That’s all we’ve ever asked.

            • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

              Ben, I don’t think he was trying to be condescending. He and I had a long, if not productive, stats v. intangibles debate yesterday and I think he’s just chiding me in a joking way.

              • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

                My bad, then. Carry on! I missed that thread yesterday.

                • mustang

                  Sorry wrote below before you wrote this.

                • VLM

                  Actually, you didn’t. Look at the time stamps. You wrote that a good 11 minutes after Ben apologized.

                  Anyway, you proved his point by leaving an obnoxious reply too. Why add the “Mr. Sensitive” dig below unless you absolutely feel the need to be both superior and belittling to those with whom you disagree? In my opinion, it’s just unnecessary and unendearing.

                • mustang

                  I was writing it while playing with my son so and I missed the exchange. If you need to know.
                  I never have belittled or disrespect anyone here unless they have come of that way to me.
                  So please you don’t know me so don’t pass judgement
                  Thank you
                  The end.

              • mustang

                Thank you for clearing things up with Mr. Sensitive.
                Ben, just because you and I go at it doesn’t mean that I treat anyone here with nothing less than respect.
                I’m glad that Matt got it at least.

      • mustang

        I can see your point and I’m sure you can kill me with the numbers, but all I remember is the Yankees looking for a closer for years before Wetteland and River. If we need an example of how important a closer is take a look at the Mets.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

          Well, keep in mind that I’m talking about the difference between Rivera and the next tier of established closers. I’m not talking about the difference between Rivera and a bunch of crappy relief pitchers. The Yanks aren’t going to replace Rivera with someone who can’t close.

          Anyway, I think you’re forgetting about Righetti and Steve Farr. Those guys weren’t ninth inning slouches.

          • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

            Well said.

          • MattG

            My only hope is that they replace him with someone that definitely can’t start.

            I’m not sure the difference between Rivera and Bob Wickman amounts to much in the regular season. It’s the post-season that made Rivera into Mo.

          • mustang

            I give you Righetti, but Steve Farr.

            • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

              He was bad in 1993 but he was dynamite in 91 and 92. ERA+ tallies of 190 and 254 respectively.

            • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              Check out Farr’s numbers, he was very good in ’91 and ’92.

              http://www.baseball-reference.com/f/farrst01.shtml

              • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                I didn’t see Matt’s comment above, obviously. My bad.

              • mustang

                I stand corrected.

  • MattG

    About Gardner, a while ago we were looking for players that might represent his best case scenario…and today, while looking at some numbers, I noticed something. Look at Esteban German’s minor league career, the seasons he had at AA and AAA at roughly the same age, and especially the scouting report:

    German: http://thebaseballcube.com/players/G/Esteban-German.shtml
    Gardner: http://thebaseballcube.com/players/G/Brett-Gardner.shtml

    That’s freaky similar, especially when you adjust for PCL vs IL. Personally, I don’t think the Royals knew what they had with German–I think he would make a fine everyday 2B, and I don’t understand why KC never gave him a shot.

    I have two conclusions from this:

    1. The Yankees need to give Gardner the shot the Royals did not give German

    2. The Yankees should DFA Giese, sign German, try and trade Melky for a low-level prospect, and make German the utility player. I bet he would handle CF fine, and make a good platoon partner for Brett if he needs one.

  • A.D.

    If Gardbrerra sucks it up Swish should prob go to CF, he his just fine playing CF for a 1/3 of the season in 2007. ’08 was probably more of an issue with a down year + the issues of hitting leadoff, etc.

    That said if everyone else is doing what is expected, then we can afford to have our 9 hitter hitting poorly and/or bunting everytime they come up if we really want the defensive boost.

  • Mike Pop

    Hopefully the injury bug is long gone after last season. IF AJ, Jorge, and Matsui stay healthy…..Watch out!

  • Eirias

    Can’t the Steinbrenners just buy the Orioles to get Wieters?

  • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve

    Wow, this Steve guy sounds like a real buzz kill.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Yeah, sounds like Steve’s got mental problems, man.

  • barry

    lets just be positive about gardner and hope for the best.

  • Mike Pop

    Ya it is right, they bid 26 mill and 194 dollars for him and gave him a 20 mill contract. So technically it is 46 million.