Mailbag: Cy Young Award, Mo, White, Rasmus

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Another week, another edition of the RAB Mailbag. This week we’re going to cover the Cy Young Award debate, Mariano Rivera benefiting from his reputation, Pat White, and a potential Colby Rasmus trade. If you ever want to submit a question, just use the Submit a Tip box under The Montero Watch in the sidebar.

Andreas asks: During the recent Cy Young discussions I asked myself if the run support (and therefore maybe the wins of a pitcher) changes the whole stats of pitcher: Take CC Sabathia for example, who normally gets a good run support (or just for the sake of the argument we assume that he gets it). Isn’t this changing the way he is pitching? For example trying to throw a lot more strikes, trying to avoid the big inning, getting lifted after 6 or 7 innings to keep his workload down, etc. Where on the other hand pitchers like Greinke who have to be perfect all time to grind out a one run victory for their team have a different approach pitching? At least in the later innings? So the question is: Do you think that the different approaches of pitching with a big lead compared to a close game affects a pitcher’s statistics?

This is the “pitching to the score” argument, which I’ve always found silly (that’s not directed at Andreas, just saying in general). Theoretically, a pitcher should always pitch the same way and try to give up as few runs as possible, but we know that doesn’t happen all the time. Like you said, guys will change their approach depending on what kind of lead they’re working with, and that will absolutely impact their statistics in some form. The question is how much, and I’m not sure that’s something we can quantify. For all we know, it might be completely negligible.

Let’s use Sabathia and Felix Hernandez as examples, since they seem to be the front runners for this year’s Cy. The Yankees have scored a total of 173 runs in Sabathia’s 30 starts, but the Mariners have scored just 95 runs in Felix Hernandez’s 30 starts. CC has gotten more starts with 6+ runs of support (14) than Felix has with 4+ runs of support (13). Just six times have the Yanks scored two or fewer runs for their ace, but the Mariners did it seven times in a row to Felix from mid-July to mid-August, and 13 times overall. Clearly, CC has had some more wiggle room to work with, enabling him to just throw strike after strike and not worry that every little baserunner might cost him the game.

So to answer the question, yes, I do think “pitching to the score” affects a pitcher’s statistics, though I just don’t know how much. If we can’t measure it, I don’t see the benefit of guessing at it’s impact and letting it affect judgments about awards, Hall of Fame votes, etc.

Anonymous asks: Does Mo benefit from his reputation these days when facing younger hitters? Obviously he still has great stuff so it’s not like he needs the help, but I was watching him against Travis Snider (the other day)  and I thought that Snider must be thinking “I’m facing Mariano frickin’ Rivera, I have no chance here!”. How much does a pitchers reputation come in to play during at-bats?

Oh sure, a guy’s reputation definitely comes into play. Aside from the intimidation factor, there’s also pretty strong evidence that a guy like Mariano Rivera will get the benefit of the doubt on borderline strikes. Umpires favor the veterans for whatever reason, that’s why guys like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were able to work with a 22-inch plate later in their careers. It does work both ways though, if Barry Bonds didn’t swing at a pitch late in his career, then it was a ball dang it, because Barry knew the strike zone better than anyone including the umpire.

I’m not saying it’s fair, because it’s obviously not, but that’s the way it goes.

Matt asks: Hey just wondering if the Yankees still own the rights to Pat White? The Dolphins cut him :) if not, would he be a baseball free agent or enter the draft again? Also, what position does he play? Got a scouting report and upside?

The Yanks drafted White in the 48th round of the 2009 draft and it was a bit of a surprise because he hadn’t played baseball in so long. White was a big time prospect coming out of high school, but instead went the football route and never played baseball at West Virginia. It’s hard to argue with his decision, he got a deal worth $4.5M with $2.4M guaranteed from the Dolphins when they made him a second round pick two years ago. White wouldn’t see $2.4M in baseball until he reached the big leagues and probably hit arbitration for the first time.

Anyway, the Yanks do not still own his rights. Because he was out of college eligibility, they held his rights for a full year after drafting him, but they lost those rights at this year’s draft. White is now a free agent, able to sign with any team. He’s been away from baseball so long that it’s tough to imagine him making a successful comeback, but stranger things have happened. Here’s a snippet of Baseball America’s scouting report from 2004, when White was coming out of high school…

He has emerged this spring as the best athlete in the prep class. White is an explosive runner whose quick hands at the plate and power potential evoke Devon White comparisons, and his power/speed combination is unmatched in the state. He hit .487-12-48 with 26 stolen bases this spring. To see White’s power, scouts have to watch him take batting practice; his approach means it’s usually absent during games. He’s shown more polish than expected in center field, and may not make it out of the third round.

I’m sure that’s changed a whole bunch over the years, but that gives you an idea of what he once was.

Pablo and many, many more asked: I’d be interested to know how much you’d give up for Colby Rasmus, if you would trade for him at all. Personally, I would give the Cardinals the option of picking any three of Betances, Banuelos, Brackman, Romine, Heathcott. Is that too much in your view?

A dozen people must have sent this question or some variation of it in this week, and understandably so. Rasmus is one of the best young players in all of baseball, and that’s before you consider last night’s 4-for-4, two homer game that raised his season batting line to .276/.360/.514 (.370 wOBA). He and Tony LaRussa apparently had some kind of falling out that led to Rasmus requesting a trade and getting called out by Albert Pujols. Imagine if Alex Rodriguez did something like that. But I digress.

It looks like the two sides are headed for a divorce in one way or another. LaRussa and Pujols might not appreciate Rasmus’ abilities, but I’m sure GM John Mozeliak and the rest of the front office do, so I don’t expect them to just give him away to resolve the clubhouse conflict. The only absolute negatives in his game at the moment are his strikeout rate (32.3%, fourth highest in baseball) and his platoon split (.386 wOBA vs. RHP, .327 vs. LHP). It’s worth noting that Rasmus’ strikeout rate in the minors (22.6%) was tolerable, and that he showed a much less pronounced platoon split (.860 OPS vs. RHP, .826 vs. LHP). His struggles in those departments probably have more to do with him being a 24-year-old in the big leagues than anything else.

I’m not sure letting them pick any three of those five prospects would work, because I know I’d want a more established player in return for a guy like Rasmus. Would I do it? Yes, though I might ask them to take two pitchers tops, just for depth reasons. A Jesus Montero for Rasmus trade doesn’t appear to make sense for the Cards since they have Yadier Molina at the plate and Pujols at first, though maybe they go for it if they don’t believe they can re-sign Pujols after next season. That seems extremely unlikely though.

Both Erik Manning and Peter Hjort, people much smarter than I, ran some numbers on Rasmus, and came up with trade values of $40.6M and $48.1M, respectively. Let’s split the difference and call it $44.4M for simplicity’s sake. In terms of prospects, that’s equivalent to a boatload according to Victor Wang’s research, basically three players ranked on the back half of a top 100 list. So yes, the proposed three of five package does fit the bill, but like I said, I’d want established players, not unproven prospects for a guy like Rasmus.

Let’s start a package around Brett Gardner, since the Yanks would need to displace an outfielder if they acquired Rasmus and because he seems like a LaRussa kind of guy. I pegged his trade value at $53.3M a few weeks ago, but I was using different dollar values than Manning and Hjort. They used roughly $4.5M per win, mine was closer to $4.8. I probably overshot Gardner’s value a bit (in fact, I know I did), but just looking at it subjectively, you have two outstanding defenders in center (by reputation, UZR isn’t a fan of Rasmus in a relatively small sample) that both profile as high OBP lefthanded hitters. The difference is that one player uses his speed to steal bases, the other hits homeruns. Homers are far, far more valuable than stolen bases.

Frankly, if Gardner’s the starting point for a Rasmus deal and the Cards are open to it, I don’t see how the Yanks could pass. Rasmus is three full years younger than Gardner, and how much room for growth is there in Brett’s game? It’s very possible that what he is right now is what he’ll be for the next five years, and not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s easy to see how a player with Rasmus’ ability can be more valuable down the road. Even if they have to include someone like Ivan Nova, that’s a fine deal. He’s expendable the Yanks given their upper level pitching depth.

I will qualify this answer by saying that I fully expect this year’s outfield to return next season, and that Rasmus will be traded somewhere, just not to the Yanks. If I had to put money on it, I’d guess either the Red Sox or Rays get in on the action. We can still dream, though.

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  • Mike
  • Brian

    When I heard about the Rasmus and LaRussa falling out I quickly thought he could be a target for the Yanks since Granderson is a waste. But Granderson still carries value and is a veteran and would be in my opinion a great fit in St. Louis, so why not center a package around Granderson and add a prospect for Rasmus instead of Gardner who actually is helping the Yanks win…just a thought.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      I’ll pass on this “thought” as well.

    • pat

      2010 WAR

      Colby Rasmus: 3.2
      Curtis Granderson: 3.1

      One is an upstanding citizen who has been hot since making some mechanical changes. One has repeatedly requested a trade from the team Albert Pujols plays on and would require many other players being sent over.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


        As soon as I read “Granderson is a waste” I filed that entire paragraph in the “batshit insane” folder.

    • Zack

      If Granderson is a waste, why would the Cardinals want him?

    • len margolin

      I agree with Brian. Trade Granderson and move Gardner to center field. We don’t need more power in the lineup, we need more people on base when homers are hit.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    If any big league team should take a flier on White, it’s us. We drafted him for his upside; we have the money and patience to see if he can pan out.

    He’ll probably sign with the Marlins/Rays/Braves/Astros, though, to stay closer to home.

  • Scotty B

    Why is it so hard to quantify the difference between pitching with a big lead and pitching in a tight game? Just compare aggregate pitching performance with a big lead against all other pitching situations. It might not go anywhere, but it shouldn’t be hard to tell whether in general there’s a difference in pitchers’ stats in the two different situations. It wouldn’t get you very far with an individual pitcher, but it might at least clear up whether there are any large-scale trends there.

    • T-Dubs

      Go for it dude. I have faith in you!

    • Thomas

      CC this season

      0-2 runs scored: 42 IP, 4.29 ERA, 1.405 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 1.81 K/BB
      3-5 runs scored: 73.2 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.127 WHIP, 6.5 K/9, 2.52 K/BB
      6+ runs scored: 93.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.189 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 3.03 K/BB

      So it seems based on the data that Sabathia pitches best when his team scores a lot (lower pressure situations).

      However, there are just too many variables in this situation. First, the sample sizes are small. Second, we don’t know who he was facing in each game. It would be expected that the Yankees would score more (6+ runs) against bad teams like the Royals and since these teams are bad, Sabathia should have an easier time pitching to them. Third (and most importantly), we don’t know how Sabathia would have done on high scoring days if the Yankees score 0-2, he may have just had his best stuff and still pitched excellent.

  • Carlosologist

    Rasmus would be a great addition to the club. He still has ridiculous upside and is left-handed. If you haven’t heard, lefties benefit greatly from the short porch in right. I think that a package of Gardner, David Phelps, and an A-ball prospect could get talks started with John Mozeliak.

    • Marcos

      Gardner 2010 WAR: 4.9 (504PA)
      Rasmus 2010 WAR: 3.2 (438PA)

      I’m stickin’ with Gardy on this one…
      Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to get Rasmus, just not for Gardy.

  • T-Dubs

    “Let’s start a package around Brett Gardner, since the Yanks would need to displace an outfielder if they acquired Rasmus and because he seems like a LaRussa kind of guy.

    Can’t trade for those dirty immigrants without a birth certificate to be named later?


    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      I blame William Howard Taft, who wasn’t even a f#45ing U.S. citizen and is an illegitimate president.


      • T-Dubs

        I’ll have to invite Rose to my Ozzie Guillen baseball card burning this weekend.

      • Ross in Jersey

        Please sign my online petition to get that waste, Curtis Granderson, off my team!

    • Chris

      Isn’t Joba more of a TLR kind of guy?

      /too soon?

      • Mike Axisa

        Oh snap.

    • Poopy Pants

      I thought we’re not allowed to talk politics here anymore? Or is it just ok to mock one group of people?

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Or is it just ok to mock one group of people?

        Only if that one group of people is really, really dumb.

  • Stottlemyre68

    I’d be concerned about Rasmus’s attitude, albeit LaRussa is pretty high maintenance himself. Also, adding HRs at the expense of speed gets us into the same trap we were in during the mid-2000’s — lotsa HRs and lotsa K’s and DP’s that killed more rallies than they produced. We have plenty of power now (especially with Montero coming up next year) & you just don’t win with a lineup of 9 Sheffields, I don’t care what Bill James says.

    Bottom line to me is that if you add Rasmus, you need to trade some power for more speed somewhere else, even if the deal is Granderson-based (in which case you need a center fielder who can throw better than Gardner). The best candidate from a purely statistical standpoint would therefore be Swisher, and I’d hate to see him go, as he’s played hard and brought a fun and positive presence to the team.

    • Thomas

      Just a random point, could you imagine an OF of Rasmus, Gardner, and Granderson. That would be ridiculous defensively. Their combine UZR this year is 21.8 (and that includes Rasmus’ UZR of -3.9 last year, but can do better as shown by his 10.2 UZR last year).

    • Guest

      A lineup with 9 Gary Sheffields in his prime, would, without a doubt, be the best lineup in the history of baseball. I mean not even a question. That team would MASH. There simply would be not enough baseballs to keep up with all the jacks that team would hit.

      HRs>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>*takes deep breath*>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>SBs

    • Zack

      “I don’t care what Bill James says”

      And that’s the bottom line, cause Stottlemyre68 said so.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      I think we can argue quite easily that the offense was not the problem during the mid 2000’s.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      Also, not sure why you went with Sheff here. If you’re going with the attitude problem angle, then I get it. But if you’re going with the power/K angle, I definitely don’t get it since Sheff actually has more BB than K in his career and never struck out more than 85 times in his career (83 twice).

    • Esteban

      I’ll take 9 Gary Sheffields over 9 Juan Pierre’s every day of the week.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        Who would want a LHed shortstop and 2nd baseman? Not me. Give me the Sheffield 9.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Fun Fact: Only two members of the 500 HR club have fewer career strikeouts than Gary Sheffield (Mel Ott and Ted Williams).

    • Chris

      adding HRs at the expense of speed gets us into the same trap we were in during the mid-2000?s — lotsa HRs and lotsa K’s and DP’s that killed more rallies than they produced.

      2002: 5.57 R/G (1st)
      2003: 5.38 R/G (5th)
      2004: 5.54 R/G (2nd)
      2005: 5.47 R/G (2nd)
      2006: 5.74 R/G (1st)
      2007: 5.98 R/G (1st)

      So the 1st or 2nd highest scoring team in baseball wasn’t good enough? The problem in those years had nothing to do with the offense. And certainly there was no problem with the lack of speed.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Also, adding HRs at the expense of speed gets us into the same trap we were in during the mid-2000?s — lotsa HRs and lotsa K’s and DP’s that killed more rallies than they produced.

      The problem with those mid-2000s teams wasn’t the hitting, it was the pitching. The last good pitching staff we had pre-CC/AJ was the 2003 team that lost to the Marlins.

  • Guest

    Also, Gardner and Nova for Rasmus? Yes, please! Given the Yankees current organizational structure (already have Granderson and Swisher, tons of high quality SPs in the high-minors), I would drive the two of them to the airport myself.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      If all it takes is Gardner and Nova, I’d do it w/o thinking twice.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Agreed. Which is why we can be sure that the price won’t actually be Gardner and Nova. That’s laughably low, and the Cards would dismiss it out of hand.

        • Guest

          Agreed. I just went with that because they were the two centerpiece names Mike mentioned. My mistake was not picking up the fact that Mike said “included,” meaning others would need to be in the deal as well.

        • yanksfan81

          Gardy seems like a TLR type player and would be a good fit for the cardinals but a package of Gardy and Nova would get laughed at, i don’t car what Gardy’s WAR is this yr.

          I think a more realistic pack would be Gardy, Nunez or Phelps because the Cards need middle infield help, Laird the need a 3rd baseman, Brackman who would be a great project for Duncan with tons of upside and another pitching prospect not named Betence or Man ban.

          I would make a package of any of our prospects other than Montero Sanchez, Man ban and Betence. I would also like to hang on to Warren and Heathcott but parting with them wouldn;t be a deal breaker for me. Rasmus is probably one of the top 3-5 cf in baseball at only 24, With as weak as we are in outfield prospects above rookie ball and with as stacked as we are with pitchers this could be a huge chance to sell High on Gardy and every other prospect mentioned and get a player that is young cheap under team control and is one of the games top young talents. If he really does hit the trade market I could see a package built around anyone other than Sanchez, Man ban or MOntero

    • Accent Shallow

      I’m bearish on Rasmus. Sure, high Ks are part of just about anyone’s offensive package these days, but I’d prefer to avoid someone who strikes out more than ~20% of the time.

      • Guest

        Bearish enough to not trade Garner and Nova for him? I would respectfully disagree with that choice.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          That’s a moot point. Of course you’d overlook Rasmus’s K’s if the price was only Gardner and Nova, but it wouldn’t be only Gardner and Nova, it would be much more than that.

    • ZZ

      Your (and others) eagerness to part with that package is usually a dead giveway that it is not nearly enough.

      Gardner+Nova is not getting you someone that cheap and with such great tools.

      • Matt Imbrogno

        You know, you come in here with your sobering reality and you just suck all the life away!

        Seriously, though, that’s not nearly enough to get it done. If it did, either Mozlieak would be horrendously stupid or there’d be something wrong with Rasmus to which we were not privy.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


        It would take at least Melky and IPK in addition to Gardner and Nova. At least.

        • ZZ

          haha. IETC.

        • Matt Imbrogno

          I think you may need to sprinkle a little Wordekemper on there, too.

    • vin

      This. I’d even throw in Jose Ramirez if need be.

  • ZZ

    If I had to put money on it, I’d guess either the Red Sox or Rays get in on the action.

    I don’t see Rasmus getting traded, but if he did, how would the Red Sox acquire him?

    Unless they are willing to give up Buchholz, I don’t see where they have the talent to get a player like Rasmus.

    • Zack

      Casey Kelly for Rasmus, Pujols, and Wainwright?

      • Ross in Jersey

        Red Sox gave up too much. Lars Anderson gets that done.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Ryan Kalish for Rasmus, straight up. Of course, the Cardinals will have to kick in some cash to make the deal fair.

          For Diamond Cutters, I’m Peter Gammons, ESPN.

  • icebird753

    Dudes, I’ve been unblocked!

  • Tony

    “If we can’t measure it, I don’t see the benefit of guessing at it’s impact and letting it affect judgments about awards, Hall of Fame votes, etc.”

    I dont agree with this line of thought. You acknowledge that stats are/can be affected by how a pitcher approaches a game but since you can not quantify it you will not use it an inteligient analysis?

    I feel that you need to take all the info & if you cannot quantify something than you do need to use your own reasoning to help bridge the gap. If you do not take this piece of information into account I feel that you are not seeing a complete picture but a partial one. At the very least it should help tip the scales in close races.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      The problem is the info itself isn’t reliable or trustworthy.

      • Tony

        ok – do you just ignore this piece of information? Are you not then making a decision with incomplete information?

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Yes, you’re making a decision with incomplete information, but you still feel good about that decision because the information you don’t have isn’t reliable or trustworthy.

          Considering it wouldn’t help the soundness of your decision, it would hinder it.

  • Pete

    Re: “pitching to the score”: no. And here’s why: Felix Hernandez has thrown a metric fuckton of innings this year. You can say that that’s because he has to go deeper into games, or whatever, but Felix isn’t throwing 130 pitches per start. I have to rush to class in a second so i can’t look it up right now, but i’d be surprised if he throws more pitches per start than Sabathia. Same # of pitches (or fewer) and more innings. So CC, despite “pitching to the score”, is pitching less efficiently. Less efficiency + worse results = not as good. Period.

    Not to knock CC’s performance this year – he’s been fantastic. But Felix has been undeniably better. In every way.

    • raisin

      Felix pitch’s in the AL West.

  • sleepykarl

    Follow up on Pat White, he signed with the KC Royals today.