Remember to send your questions in via email or the Submit A Tip box, the more the merrier. Today’s topics: the third place Red Sox, the 2015 rotation, Adam Dunn, biggest needs at the trade deadline, another look at the post-George Steinbrenner Yankees, and better pitching statistics. Let’s get too it…
The Red Sox seem to be fading fast. Sure they’ll start getting some guys back from injury, but will it be too late? Should we start just assuming that the Yanks and Rays will make it out of the AL East? – Anonymous
This question was sent Sunday night, after the Mariners beat the Red Sox for the second straight day. Boston has since gone on to beat the wimpy Angels the last two nights, so their fade has slowed down. Either way, no, we can’t assume they’re out of it yet.
Winning the division is nice, but the first thing the Yanks have to secure is a playoff spot, and they’ll do that by clinching a better record than either the Red Sox or the Rays. Boston has started to get their key guys back from injury – Victor Martinez, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz – like you said, and are just waiting on Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia now. I’m sure Theo Epstein will do something to fix that bullpen, making them even more dangerous.
They’re seven games out in the division right now, which is a big deficit but not enough to count out a team of that caliber. Not when they still have 16 combined games left against the teams in front of them (ten against the Yanks). The Rays are definitely the Yankees’ biggest threat right now, but anyone who thinks the Red Sox are done in July is kidding themselves.
If you had to pick one guy pitching for the Yankees in minors right now who will be a key starter for the team in 2015, who? – Moshe
It’s too bad the Yanks didn’t sign Gerrit Cole back in 2008, because that would have made this a much easier question to answer. I’m going to go with Andrew Brackman simply because he’s the closest to the majors among the team’s high upside pitching prospects. The Yanks don’t seem to have much patience for young starting pitchers that project to become back-end starters, which puts guys like Ivan Nova, Zach McAllister, David Phelps, and Adam Warren at an instant disadvantage. I’m willing to bet three of those four are traded by Opening Day 2012.
Brackman’s main competition for me was Jose Ramirez, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances, but those guys are still quite a ways off. Ramirez is still in Low-A, and a level-a-year climb doesn’t get him to the big leagues until the second half of 2013 at the earliest. Betances still has to stay healthy for a full season just for development’s sake. The more time he misses, the less likely it is that he’ll reach his potential. Nine great starts this year doesn’t change that. Banuelos is still in still in A-ball and his size (listed at 5-foot-10, 155 lbs.) is going to work against him whether you accept it or not.
My dark horse candidate is Hector Noesi, who like Brackman is in Double-A, but unlike Brackman doesn’t have blow-you-away stuff. He’s got good stuff, sure, but his best trait is his command and willingness to attack the strike zone. He’s the kind of pitcher that could come up right away and succeed because he’s willing to challenge batters, strike zone jitters shouldn’t (but always could) be an issue.
Remember, being a key starter in 2015 means a guy has to take his lumps at the big league level in 2012 and 2013 and possibly even 2014. Look at Phil Hughes, he came up in 2007 but didn’t turn into a key starter until 2010, and he’s better than anyone I mentioned above. Brackman could potentially be in the majors by the second half of next season, but even if it takes him a little longer he still has a considerable head start and more talent over the other guys.
Do you think Adam Dunn to Yankees would be good addition? – David Robertson’s biggest fan
Hell and yes. I’ve even written about this exact topic already. The Nationals are going nowhere quick and haven’t even offered the guy a contract extension, so it would be pretty foolish of them to keep him around and take the draft picks after the season (or hope to re-sign him). Prospects now are worth a whole lot more than draft picks later.
There’s no reason that Dunn would be a bad pickup for the Yanks, unless they plan on playing him in centerfield. Imagine that guy in the New Stadium.
Biggest need at the trade deadline: 5th starter, reliever, or bench help? I say 5th starter. – Will
I’m leaning towards the bullpen. Andy Pettitte will be back soon enough and that’ll take care of the whole fifth starter thing. They certainly have plenty of in-house options to run through in the interim. If he wasn’t on his way back, then yeah, I think another starter would be the priority.
The relief corps needs a lot of help though. Joba Chamberlain can’t be counted on for anything right now, and you can’t expect Al Aceves to come back and a) be effective, or b) stay healthy. Anything out of him is gravy. Jon Albaladejo could help in the 6th and 7th innings, but right now Robertson is the team’s only reliable righthanded reliever (NMD). That just won’t cut it.
The bench stinks, but you can survive with a bad bench when you have the kinds of regulars the Yankees do. Bad middle relief is the kiss of death, though.
You answered a question about the short-term impact of the passing of The Boss, but I have a nagging concern about the long-term. It seemed that when Hal and Hank began getting involved in the family business that they were reluctant, and I suspected they might have been doing it to please their father. Now that he’s gone, is there a concern that the Steinbrenner family could sell the team? Or have Hal and Hank embraced the pinstripes the way George did? I still remember your 2010 April Fool’s Day joke, and I don’t want that nightmare to become reality. – Howie
Ben is our resident Business of Baseball guy, so I handed this question off to him. Here’s his response:
Beyond a few comments by Randy Levine indicating that the Steinbrenner family has no intention of selling the Yankees, the owners themselves have been awfully quiet about their intentions since George’s passing. That said, the feeling around baseball is that Hal Steinbrenner and his brother and sisters will continue to hold onto the club for the foreseeable future. Despite his initial reluctance to do so, Hal has taken a liking to running the Front Office, and he appears to command respect among his peers. He has George’s drive to win but a cooler head on his shoulder, and Hank has clearly taken a backseat to Hal. For the Yankees, that could only lead to good results on the field.
With that in mind, the Steinbrenners will look to expand their empire as much as they can. They seem more focused on the bottom line than the Yanks have been in previous years, and even with a payroll in excess of $200 million, there is a limit to the Yanks’ spending. So perhaps the team will look at investing in the English Premiere League as had been rumored. Perhaps the Yanks will continue their push into Asian markets. Perhaps the club will continue to monetize the YES Network and all that comes of it. Whatever the future holds, it ought to be a lucrative one.
To see how the Steinbrenners are going to manage the club, I would look to the upcoming CBA negotiations as well. The Yankees and their spending will again be targeted, and I’d expect Hal to push back and hard. If he does, you know the family has truly embraced the pinstripes. Plus, no matter what happens, there is no love lost between the Steinbrenners and the Dolans. So that nightmare — our April Fools joke — will not come to pass.
I had a question regarding pitching stats. namely innings pitched. I think we know that not all innings pitched are created equally. You could get through an inning with as few as one pitch (come in with men on and induce a triple play) or a Joba-esque 35-40 pitches to get 2 outs. Is there any push to move or develop stats based on number of pitches thrown instead of innings pitched? – Anonymous
Innings aren’t all created equal as you, so yes, it would be better to use a more stable denominator. Batters faced would be a great start, so strikeouts per 27 batters, or walks per 27 batters, stuff like that would be better than the usual K/9 and BB/9. Rich Lederer introduced the concept of K/100 many moons ago, which is strikeouts per 100 pitches. Striking a batter out on three pitches is better than striking someone out on five pitches, and that difference is expressed in K/100. It measures dominance and efficiency.
It hasn’t caught on yet, obviously, but it’s easy to understand why it makes sense. One day we’ll start seeing some more extensive per pitch data, and it will be glorious.