Mailbag: D-Rob, Jeter, Oppenheimer, RoY, More

Sanit saves the pen as Royals blow out Yankees
Must Click Link: The Slade Heathcott Story

I managed to keep the answers short-ish this week, so I squeezed in a few more questions than usual. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Tony asks: How much longer do the Yankees have team control over Robertson?

David Robertson rode the Bronx-Scranton bus in 2008 and finally stuck for good in May 2009. He’s in his final pre-arbitration year right now, and is under team control through 2014 as an arbitration-eligible player. So long story short, three more seasons after this one. That was easy enough.

Dan asks: So, this kills me to ask, but seeing as how I don’t think he’s been hit by one pie since the thing started, and I’ve pretty consistently watched him ground out late in games for the last few years, when was the last time Cap’n Clutch was really clutch?

There’s two ways we can quickly look at this. Just looking at Derek Jeter‘s “Clutch” score, he hasn’t been positive since 2006 (+2.33). He’s hovered between -0.11 and -0.85 over the last few seasons. I prefer WPA/LI, which uses win probability and leverage index to tell us how much the player contributed in the context of the game situations. Jeter last had a positive WPA/LI in 2009 (+1.41). Subjectively, I’ll say 2009. That’s the last time I was confident in Jeter getting the job done, so to speak, whenever he came to the plate in a “big” spot.

J.R. asks: Couldn’t Damon Oppenheimer be a great in house option to replace Cashman? I remember that another team wanted to interview him for a GM spot but that the Yankees wouldn’t grant him permission. (I’m not advocating it, just pointing out that the Yankees have an in house option).

This was sent in following yesterday’s post about contract non-news. Oppenheimer’s the best in-house candidate, and the Yankees actually blocked him from talking to the Diamondbacks about their GM opening over the winter. They had the right to do that, but I still thinking blocking a potential upward move is a dick move. Anyway, it’s either Oppenheimer or pro scouting director Billy Eppler, but neither has even assistant GM experience. Yeah, they’re candidates to replace Cashman, but they’re hardly ideal options.

Jonathan asks: What are the chances the Yanks have three guys play for ROY next year? Assuming those three are Montero, Banuelos and Betances.

I’m comfortable giving this one a big fat 0% chance. There’s a far better chance that one of those guys is playing elsewhere at this time next year, but even if they all are in the organization it’s unlikely all three will be up. Frankly if both Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are in the rotation all year in 2012 (which they would basically have to be to get Rookie of the Year consideration), then something has gone horribly wrong. There’s also a non-zero chance that Jesus Montero will cross the 130 at-bat rookie threshold this year. It would be pretty cool if all three guys were that good that soon, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

(AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

Ryan asks: What do you think of Grady Sizemore as a replacement in RF for Swisher after this year. He looks healthy, and as long as he remains healthy and productive, CLE will not be able to sign him long term after next year’s option. That would be a fun defensive outfield with Gardner, Granderson, and Sizemore, if not just a little too left handed.

I’ve written quite a bit about Sizemore already this spring, and my stance remains unchanged: he has to show he can produce and stay healthy. He’s been pretty good since coming off the disabled list (power heavy .413 wOBA), but it’s been 18 games and 84 at-bats. Let’s see him make it the rest of the season before we start thinking about acquiring him. The other question is how do you acquire him? His club option for 2012 turns into a player option if traded, so you can’t trade for him and expect him to stick around next year. If he’s worth trading for, then he’ll be good enough for a nice contract and will presumably opt for the open market. His bad start notwithstanding, right now I’d just pick up Nick Swisher‘s option and and go from there.

Rich asks: I was hoping you could shed some light on something different I’ve noticed about A.J. this year. Not only has his curveball lost some of it’s bite, but his fastball seems almost straight compared to the movement it’s had in years past. I know he’s made some obvious (and less obvious) changes to his mechanics and I’m sure Rothschild has had an influence, but what happened to all that movement?

Really? I think his curveball has regained some bite after it disappeared last season. PitchFX says the pitch had 5.7 inches of drop last year and 6.3 inches of drop this year. Just over half-an-inch, so it’s not a huge change, but a change nonetheless. Burnett got a swing-and-miss on the curve 14.1% of the time last year, and it’s up to 17.7% this year. A little more vertical movement and substantially more whiffs leads me to believe the bite is back, and even if it’s not, the pitch has been more effective this year based on the run values.

Anyway, PitchFX says he’s lost an inch of horizontal movement off his fastball, down from 5.1 to 4.1 inches. Perhaps it’s the result of the revamped mechanics, or maybe it’s a conscience decision to try to help him improve command. There were times over the last two seasons that it seemed like Burnett’s fastball was moving too much for his own good. It could also just be normal decline, pitches tend to flatten out as the guy gets older. Either way, A.J.’s been good so far this year, so I hope he just keeps doing whatever he’s been doing.

Sanit saves the pen as Royals blow out Yankees
Must Click Link: The Slade Heathcott Story
  • T-Dubs

    Anyway, PitchFX says he’s lost an inch of horizontal movement off his fastball, down from 5.1 to 4.1 inches.

    What’s considered average or good movement for a big league fastball? 4.1″ still seems like a decent amount of movement to me.

    • T-Dubs

      I’ve been told via Twitter that 4.1″ is pretty average.

      • I am not the droids you’re looking for…


        • T-Dubs


  • Will F.

    I’m really hoping that ManBan and Betances pan out. I just hope the Yanks don’t rush them like they did with the big three. Brackman is a bust/trade fodder. Grady would be a great improvement over Swish.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      Brackman is a bust/trade fodder.

      Oh okay.

      Grady would be a great improvement over Swish.

      Not if he can’t stay healthy.

    • Clay Bellinger

      The big 3 were rushed? They came to the bigs with inning limits and training wheels. Brackman is a bust based on what? His 6 AAA starts? Your opinion?

      • Matt Imbrogno

        To be fair, Joba didn’t get many innings to properly build up arm strength to start.

        • Clay Bellinger

          Yeah maybe. I don’t that was his downfall as a SP though. Everything looked good until the shoulder debacle in Texas.

          • Chris

            How is a shoulder injury a debacle?

            He’s a pitcher and he got hurt. That’s what happens.

            • Clay Bellinger

              My bad. Poor choice of word. Shoulder injury would be more proper. Point is, he didn’t looked the same after that game, at least not consistently.

          • MikeD

            I don’t think most people realize that the shoulder injury most likely resulted from an accident that had nothing to do with bouncing from bullpen to starter, or from overuse. Joba was attempting to get out of the way of a thrown ball by Ivan Rodriquez, and in the process slipped and fell on his right arm. He attempted to stay in the game, but he had a problem on the very first pitch he threw. The Yankees, concerned, removed him from the game shortly thereafter.

            These things happen.

            • The Big City of Dreams

              It seems like his stuff is getting close to what it once was although it might never be exactly the same.

        • Ted Nelson

          Neither did Tim Lincecum…

          • Chris

            But Lincecum did have a full extra year in college (he threw almost 150 more college innings than Joba).

            • Ted Nelson

              I was trying to be short-and-sweet… but my point is that correlation is not causation. He didn’t pitch many MiLB innings and he was removed from the starting line-up. Those two things happened, but that doesn’t mean one caused the other.

              Joba did not struggle when he came up, he actually dominated. He’s struggled since the Texas incident. Saying he was rushed based on nothing but the workload he got in the minors is pure speculation. It’s at least as likely he did some sort of damage in the Texas fall as that he was rushed.

              Hughes got about as many innings in the minors as Felix Hernandez, among others. Felix was not a college pitcher. No one is complaining about how the Mariners rushed him. Every prospect is different. The Big 3 looked special, so the Yankees pushed them. Would they be better off with slower development tracks? I have no idea. The Yankees have been slow with Brackman… and the guy still stinks this season. Kei Igawa has been “developing” for years, and he doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

              I have no problem with a well-thought out argument hypothesizing that the Yankees “rushed” the Big 3… one that actually analyzes the situation. I do have a problem with blindly hurling accusations like that based on a lack of early MLB dominance in their early 20s without actually examining the situation. All 3 are successful MLB pitchers at this point. Expecting that they’d turn into Cy Young candidates before 25 was not fair. Fans are more disappointed with their own lofty expectations than the actual players.

              • Ted Nelson

                *starting rotation, not line-up

          • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Lincecum had more experience in college, and also might be the exception that proves the rule.

            But in any event, isn’t it somewhat irrational to say something like that without having performed an exhaustive statistical analysis of every pitcher who ever lived?


            • Ted Nelson

              “But in any event, isn’t it somewhat irrational to say something like that without having performed an exhaustive statistical analysis of every pitcher who ever lived?”

              I know this is kidding, but yes… that’s what I think has to be done to actually discuss the issue. There are plenty of examples of guys who were “rushed” through the minors and went on to great MLB success. The best prospects tend to be rushed because they’re the best, and then (surprise, surprise) they tend to go on to be the best MLB players. They’re good enough for a higher level at an early age. Perhaps the Yankees mis-identified the Big 3 as the best, but given their results and the consensus view on them it doesn’t really seem like it. They killed the minors, had some growing pains in the bigs in their early 20s, and have all had a fair amount of MLB success.

              “Lincecum had more experience in college, and also might be the exception that proves the rule.”

              I don’t think there is a rule. I think every prospect is different. If the Yankees had left the Big 3 in the low minors to dominate hitters they had no business pitching against, they might very well still be in the same spots they are in now and in that case people would be bitching about how they should have challenged them more.

              I was trying to be short-and-sweet by just throwing Lincecum out there (this is why I post such lengthy comments… because short ones lead to misunderstanding), but he was just one counter-example.

              • Ted Nelson

                As an example, if Montero struggles when he gets up people will almost definitely say he got bored in the minors, they left him down there too long, etc. If he does well when he gets up people are unlikely to laud the Yankees patience, and more likely to criticize them for not replacing Jorge with him earlier. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

            • Ted Nelson

              To be short-and-sweet again… The Lincecum example was just meant to say: there is no one-to-one relationship between development time in the minors and MLB success.

              • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi


    • Jeety

      No need to jump to conclusions on Brackman…

      Just hope for 1 of the Killer B’s to be a stud, 1 to contribute and hopefully we trade the 1 that’s nothing

      • Kosmo

        You mean Brackman ?
        If there is any pitcher in the Yankee farm system that is overhyped it´s Brackman.

        • Jeety

          I just hope we get 1 star… I guess smart money is on Manny but you never know

          • The Big City of Dreams

            Hopefully they can get one. They were suppose to get one out of the big 3 but….

        • Jorge

          How many times do you see a guy make it to the majors with the tag, “if he can walk less guys, he’s going to be a success.” Brackman is going to get the chance at some point to show what he can do at the MLB level.

    • Ted Nelson

      To call out a team for rushing prospects, it’s nice to at least fully examine the situation. There’s no definitive time every prospect needs at every level. People criticize for not calling guys up, for calling guys up, for anything they do or don’t do that doesn’t work out. Got to at least analyze the situation to be credible.

      I’m not that high on Brackman, but I wouldn’t rush to judge. If he makes it even as a major league reliever he’s not a bust. When you’re drafting #30 the norm is for the guys available not to work out.

      Since Swisher joined the Yankees in 2009, he has been 7.6 fWAR… Sizemore has been 2.9… If he’s healthy he’s an improvement, if not he’s not. And it’s not like Swisher has been some sort of hole in the Yankees line-up for the past 3 years. Sizemore has a career .366 wOBA, and Swisher has been above that in both 2009 and 2010.
      Plus… Sizemore does not just replace Swisher… he replaces Swisher and one or more high-profile prospects the Indians would demand… MLB ready prospects probably, as the Indians have the best record in the AL. They are not rebuilding right now.

  • Chris

    I prefer WPA/LI, which uses win probability and leverage index to tell us how much the player contributed in the context of the game situations.

    I’m not sure that WPA/LI would be a good way to measure clutch. It intentionally reduces the importance of clutch at bats (i.e. those with a high LI).

  • Klemy

    I don’t need WPA/LI to tell me when a player is clutch, I have eyes for that!


    • JMK

      Correction: It should read, “/RAB First Name Male Handle.

      • Jorge


    • RL

      Advance metrics are overhyped! :-)

  • noseeum

    You’ve got WPA/LI wrong. WPA/LI is completely context neutral. It’s meant to help measure a player’s true talent level regardless of context.

    WPA on its own is the “story” stat.

  • Jon

    I think Sizemore would be an interesting fit in RF with the Yankees. That is a hell of a lot of pressure for a guy coming from Cleveland where no one shows up.

  • Cuso

    Re: AJ’s straight”er” fastball. It probably seems that way because of the tweak in his rotation.

    Rothschild has him going like a ferris wheel straight towards the plate, as opposed to last-year’s merry-go-round analogy (where there was too much twisting and lateral movement prior to delivery).

    The more direct route to the plate has resulted in him having better control of his fastball, whereas last year it would drift inside (or back over the middle of the plate) to righties incessantly.

    Notice, last years movement on his fastball wasn’t the healthy cutting movement that you see with Bartolo’s fastball that’s so devastating to lefties.

    Colon is able to complement that pitch with a four-seamer with pinpoint accuracy (to this point in the season) on the outside edge of the plate.

    Burnett’s fastball last year wasn’t “cutting” or “moving.” It was actually “leaking” into the happy zone for so many hitters because of his consistent 2010 control problems.

  • Mike N

    Joba never should have been taken out of the pen. This was a classic example of a player exerting too much influence in where and how he was played. Remember when Yogi made Righetti a reliever? Rags wasn’t happy but he did what the manager asked. The starting experiment screwed up Joba who had the right intensity for bridging to Mariano and could have limited the strain on a closer who has shown for +2 seasons now that he’s not as bullet proof as he used to be — as for Sizemore, all things considered I’ll keep Swisher over him any day. It is nice to see a guy who despite being streaky comes and plays the game every day with a smile on his face and looks happier to be there than a lot of guys who came before him.