Mar
05

2012 Season Preview: Regression Risks

By

(Nick Laham/Getty)

Anytime a team wins 97 games, a lot has to go right. Some young players need to take steps forward and do more than expected, some established players have to have career years, and some other players must surprise and come out of nowhere with solid performances. It takes a total team effort to win that many games, from the nine-figure number one starter to the last guy on the bench clinging to his roster spot by the skin of his teeth.

The Yankees had a number of players provide better than expected production last year, none moreso than Bartolo Colon. He returned to MLB after the year-long hiatus and a half-decade of injury trouble to throw 164.1 innings of better than average pitching in the AL East at age 38. It was the definition of a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, not all of those surprise performances are sustainable. Some of those guys might take a step backwards in 2012.

Freddy Garcia
The Yankees got lucky with Sweaty Freddy last year, at least in the sense that he held up all season without his surgically repaired shoulder giving out. He was a pretty extreme fly ball guy (just 36.4% grounders) who didn’t give up many homers (0.98 HR/9 and 8.2 HR/FB%) because he has a serious knack for weak contract. Hitters pop-up his slop at a pretty high rate — 11.9% infield fly ball rate with a 10.7% career rate — which helps keep the ball in the park.

Garcia is a major outlier in terms of his pitching style, and he doesn’t really fit under the umbrella of modern pitcher analysis. Mark Buehrle is the same way. The concern with Freddy going forward is the decreased usage of his changeup (19.9% in 2011 after 34.1% in 2010), which allowed left-handed batters to hit him harder (116 sOPS+) than they did the year before (108). If he’s unable to hold down right-handers again (101 sOPS+ in 2011 after 130 in 2010), he could be in for a whole world of hurt. Garcia could stand to use the changeup a little more next season to keep lefties at bay.

(REUTERS/Pichi Chuang)

Curtis Granderson
Granderson is a very unique case. His performance improved overnight back in August 2010 (almost literally), but we have tangible evidence explaining his newfound success. Grandy overhauled his stance and swing mechanics – specifically switching to a two-handed follow through for better bat control — with hitting coach Kevin Long’s help, allowing him to tap into his natural power and improve his performance against southpaws. We’ve seen 945 plate appearances of MVP caliber performance (including playoffs) since the overhaul, hardly a small sample.

It’s easy to write off Granderson’s power spike as a product of New Yankee Stadium, but that’s not the case. Since the overhaul he’s hit 30 homers with a .322 ISO at home and 25 homers with a .266 ISO on the road. The performance is better at home, but that’s still serious power on the road. The newfound pop jumped Granderson’s HR/FB ratio up over 20% (20.5% to be exact) for the first time in his career, which is rarefied air. Only eight hitters have sustained a 20%+ HR/FB ratio over the last five years (min. 2,000 PA), and they’re basically the eight best pure power hitters in baseball (Ryan Howard, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Pena types). Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, and Miguel Cabrera do not make the cut.

Grandy ‘s power output isn’t something many hitters are able to repeat these days. Only six players have put together back-to-back 35+ homer seasons over the last five years, and only two of the six have been over the age of 30. That doesn’t mean Curtis won’t do it again, he certainly has a lot going for him (like Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch), but it’s not crazy to think he’ll be unable to repeat his 40+ homer effort again in 2012.

Ivan Nova
You can’t say enough good things about what Nova did for the Yankees last season, particularly upon his return from Triple-A. He improved his slider and started missing some bats, which will be important for him going forward. As with every young pitcher, Nova’s game could step a back next season just because he’s still figuring things out, but there is a very specific reason why it’s possible his performance will suffer in 2012. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say his performance is likely to suffer, not just possible.

The easy answer here is that his ERA (3.70) was lower than his FIP (4.01) and he’s doomed to regress, but that’s not necessarily the case. The concern is Nova’s performance with men on base, specifically with regards to the long ball. He faced 293 batters with men on base last year, and he allowed exactly zero homers. Not one. All 13 homers he allowed last summer were solo shots. His ground ball (54.1%) and strikeout (5.47 K/9 and 15.7 K%) rates were slightly higher with men on than with the bases empty (51.7 GB%, 5.22 K/9, and 12.7 K%), but not enough to explain the whole zero homers thing.

Avoiding homers is absolutely a skill, but avoiding homers specifically with no one on base is not. Pitchers tend to lose some effectiveness when pitching from the stretch — .318 wOBA against with men on but .313 with the bases empty — and Nova is no exception. Playing half his games in hitter friendly Yankee Stadium means he’ll inevitably allow some homers with men on base. Those multi-run dingers will do a number on the ol’ ERA, which is why his performance is likely to take a step back in 2012. At some point, someone will take him deep with ducks on the pond.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

David Robertson
Robertson was out of this world good last season, using a new cutter to generate ground balls (46.3%) in addition to his usual high strikeout ways (13.50 K/9 and 36.8 K%). He allowed just one homer all season (a solo shot to J.J. Hardy in late-August), stranded a whopping 89.8% of the baserunners he allowed, and struck out 14 of the 19 men he faced with the bases loaded. The Houdini nickname certainly isn’t misplaced.

With Robertson, there isn’t one specific thing you can point to that would lead you to believe his performance will take a step back next year. Maybe it’s his 2.3% HR/FB rate, that’s probably the most obvious. Really, it’s just a matter of him being so insanely good that he can’t maintain the pace. Only 19 qualified relievers have managed a sub-2.00 FIP season over the last ten years, and exactly two of them did it more than once: Eric Gagne (2002 & 2003) and Hong-Chih Kuo (2008 & 2010). Mariano Rivera is not one of the 19. At 4.73 BB/9, Robertson has the highest walk rate of the group, and not by a small margin. Last year’s Kenley Jansen is the only guy within one walk per nine of him. D-Rob’s really really good, but my gosh, it would be something if he was that good again.

Cory Wade
The Yankees got 39.2 strong innings out of Wade last season, grabbing him off the scrap heap when injuries started to thin out the relief corps. He limits walks (1.82 BB/9 and 5.1 BB%) and strikes out just enough guys (6.81 K/9 and 19.1 K%) to remain effective despite big time fly ball (just 38.7% grounders) and homerun (1.13 HR/9) tendencies. Like Nova though, Wade enjoyed a ton of success with men on base last season. Perhaps a little too much.

Only 8.8% of the men to who reached base against Wade came around to score a year ago, well below the league average rate (27.5%). You’d expect a fly ball guy to have a lower than normal BABIP, but a .222 BABIP with men on base is lower than even the most optimistic of expectations. Once Wade gets some more opportunities to pitch with men on base — he faced just 64 batters with men on in 2011 — his performance will come back to Earth and he’ll allow a few more runs, especially as someone prone to the long ball. Another near-2.00 ERA across a full year’s worth of appearances would be a total shocker. Thankfully, Wade has a minor league option left and the Yankees have a number of bullpen alternatives at their disposal.

Categories : Players

118 Comments»

  1. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Some regressions would hurt more than others. Cory Wade, as much as I love him, would still be pretty disposable. Freddy Garcia, as much as I actually do believe in him, could give way to one of the three MLB-ready arms in AAA just as easily.

    As for the others, an effective and improving Ivan Nova would save this team a bunch of headaches. I can’t help but think that the future plan involves him sitting in the middle of that rotation for a long time to come. Again, thankfully, there’s other arms than can step in, although ineffectiveness from him would hurt in the short term for sure, as would ineffectiveness from Robertson. It could be overcome, but the steps in getting there would be something to not look forward to.

    As for Granderson, I immediately think back to when he was first acquired and the hope that he could hit 30+ HRs a year at the Stadium. Regression from Curtis would mean a whole lot fo headaches the next two seasons.

  2. DM says:

    You should add players that weren’t on the team last year. Will Kuroda and Pineda be the same or worse? But I’d add Gardner to your list as well (and maybe take Robertson off). I hope I’m wrong but he relies on too many dinkers, dribblers and dunkers. He seems like a .220 hitter waiting to happen. And if he does regress as a hitter, no more 40-50 steals. And if no more 40-50 steals, he becomes a platoon or 4th outfielder type.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Sentiment taken, but that’s a pretty low floor you’re setting for Gardner, IMO.

      • DM says:

        I know it’s a sacrilege say something negative about gritty, grinder Gardner; and I know he’s always been an overachiever. But here’s my issue: I can remember off-hand half dozen times when he takes a full swing, gets sawed off on the inside and the ball lands two feet fair in between the LF and 3rd baseman for a double. That’s hitting in good luck. He’s not some Boggs type bat handler who intentionally serves the ball the other way. Too many things have to go right with him. Balls need to squirt thru and drop in. His game is his legs and his heart, but not much else. I know Girardi loves him — so he’ll get every chance when he slumps — but I can see him digging a huge hole if those cue shots don’t fall in.

        • GardnergoesYardner says:

          Gardner’s style of play is prone to slumps, we saw that for much of the second half in 2010 and April of last year. However, he gets on base enough to make his speed a dangerous weapon. I don’t think anyone’s expecting him to suddenly become like Boggs, but enough of those shots will fall in to make him a worthwile asset to the club.

          • DM says:

            Those shots have to fall in — literally. And I didn’t say he can’t be an asset on 25-man roster or that he should be Boggs. But this thread is about players who we have reason suspect a regression. Gardner fits that mold to me. He hit in good luck last year yet still only managed .259 with only 34 extra-base hits (I’m not expecting HRs — but a third of his doubles last year are those No Man’s Land ploppers). That scares me — and his Ks scare me more.

            • Don W says:

              You’re completely ignoring the reason Gardner is able to play in ML despite his weak bat. His speed. Those duck snorts and dribblers are hits for him, they will continue to be hits for him because of his wheels. He was not “lucky” last year, his BABIP was actually down from his career numbers a bit.

              Could he hit .220? You bet, he’s just as likely to hit .300 based on his luck swinging from one extreme to the other.

              • DM says:

                “His game is his legs and his heart, but not much else.”

                Look at what I wrote, where did I ignore his speed? But the example of getting sawed off and dropping a ball fair has nothing to do with his speed. His speed might turn it into a double, but it’s a hit regardless. So, duck snorts are the result of luck, not legs. Gardner doesn’t poke and serve a ball over the SS’s head. He tries to rip an inside pitch into right field but gets his bat shattered instead, then the ball drops in LF somewhere. How is that the result of speed? Gardner makes every inside fastball seem like Rivera’s cutter.

            • thenamestsam says:

              What makes you say he hit in good luck last year except some anecdotal evidence of some bloop hits (which everyone has)? He hit to a .303 BABIP last year which is low for someone with his speed. While his pop-ups went way up last year, his line drives and ground balls stayed relatively flat, so most of those pop-ups were just fly balls the year before, which isn’t a huge change for a non-power hitter. His infield hits were also much lower than either of the past two years despite the same amount of ground balls. To me the evidence says that if anything he was a bit unlucky last year.

              • Ted Nelson says:

                It’s DM… I wouldn’t look for any logic in the comment.

                • DM says:

                  Shouldn’t you be massaging Russell Branyan’s back or something? You need to get that ninja acquisition ready for his full-time DH role. Or barking at fan graphs for ranking Campos so high? LOL. When you’re ever right about something, I’ll let you know. It’s clear that you can’t distinguish the difference — ever.

                  • Ted Nelson says:

                    One publication ranked Campos high and that’s the one you point to… interesting… how many top 100 lists did he make? I have no problem with Campos. He’s just far away, while Noesi is MLB ready.

                    I am far from the only one bullish on Branyan and bearish on 40 year old Raul Ibanez.

                    • DM says:

                      But you’re the only dope who thought his acquisition was the “ninja” move that precluded another move.

                      The issue between Noesi and Campos was never about major league ready. That’s your latest spin. And only you could compare prospect appearances between a guy with 6 chances to make lists with a kid who just pitched his first year in low-A. Even in the short time since the trade, his rep is growing. You were the only one who dismissed him as some throw in that didn’t matter b/c he was only in A ball. Only Ted. And only b/c you were having a tantrum that Montero was gone. No logic. Just emotion and rationalization — as usual.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      No, you’re the dope who took it that way. I understood another acquisition was possible, I just didn’t expect is… especially not a 40 year old Ibanez on an MLB deal.

                      What are you talking about? My point with Noesi was ALWAYS about MLB ready. I specifically said that the Yankees gave up not only an MLB ready bat, but also an arm for Pineda… and you somehow imagined that was a slight at Campos. It’s all in your head.

                      His rep is growing without throwing a pitch… how is that meaningful in any way?

                      Those lists are not exclusive to MLB ready players. Plenty of guys at Campos’ age make top 100 lists.

                      Keep trying.

                    • DM says:

                      I’m not a defender of lists at all. That’s your game. Lists are about prominent names. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Campos rep grew without him throwing a pitch. Once he’s in a prominent trade, everyone looks in that direction. Mike or whoever posted that thing about Yankee prospects on lists said Campos was in the 100-150 group. If he shows anything at all, I’m sure he’ll move up. But Noesi wasn’t nearly as touted at the same point in his career. Only your bat-shit logic disregards how many chances a player has to make a list as a non-factor. And as usual you speak out of both sides of your mouth and ass. You dismissed Campos as irrelevant b/c he was in A ball — but now we should care if A ballers are on prospect lists??? Which is it? You threw out A-ball pitchers across the board as a class when it suited your anti-Montero trade meltdown — now we should care what lists they’re on??

                      When you say everything and its opposite, you’re saying nothing at all. That’s what you do. A parrot’s squawk has more meaning.

                      And there’s no need for me to “keep trying”. The verdict came in on you long ago. Guilty of dishonest nonsense.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      Not all players follow the same development path. Noesi isn’t 19 anymore. Campos could develop further that Noesi with age, or he might not. I understand the upside of younger prospects, but I also understand the risk. You don’t seem to.

                      You’re twisting my points, as usual. I do not make a top 100 prospect list. What I think about the immediate impact of a trade (never said he was irrelevant… you made that up), and what an evaluator thinks about prospects aren’t the same thing. You made it seem like Campos is such a better prospect than Noesi that it’s not even comparable. I disagree. If Campos is such a no-brainer amazing prospect… he’d probably make some top 100 lists, no?

                      When you don’t understand what someone else is saying (either through stupidity or an unwillingness to read), there’s no point in discussion.

                    • DM says:

                      “(never said he was irrelevant… you made that up)”

                      You described the trade as a 2-for-1 — what indicates irrelevance more than acting like he wasn’t even in the trade. And like I said, but you perpetually dodged — if the Yankees ever gave up a lowly A-baller like Mason Williams in that trade, you’d be sure to mention it and not ignore it. You’d be whining forever. You treated Campos like a non-entity at first — then you slowly slithered across to other side of your mouth like you always do.

                      “If Campos is such a no-brainer amazing prospect”

                      Who said he was a no brainer?

                      I would never make such an bizarre statement about a prospect. That’s just plain stupid. Like calling Montero a “once in a generation bat” after a few ABs in Sept — or his that his loss would lead to the end of the Yankee dynasty. Only morons like you make such grandiose claims about prospects.

                      You never argue the actual points Ted — you have to make them up then push them into an extreme corner. Why? Don’t answer. I know already. Like Gardner you can’t argue the actual point. That’s your not-so-secret admission of defeat. You can’t fight things honestly on their actual terms. You have to pretend I made a different point that you have some Ted-logic argument against. You do it every time.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      For the 1000000th time… I was commenting specifically about the immediate fall-out of the trade for the 2012 Yankees in the comment you keep referring to. Stop. Learn what context is. Enough is enough.

                      Again… you are making things up. I said that you made it seem like Campos over Noesi is a no-brainer. Learn to read… I mean this is ridiculous.

                      I said Montero HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE a once in a generation bat. Not that he is. This is not a subtle difference.

                      How much can you possibly twist the truth?

                      I am arguing the points. You are making things up.

              • DM says:

                “What makes you say he hit in good luck last year except some anecdotal evidence”

                You mean like watching all the games? Yes, everyone has bloop hits — but not reliant on them to maintain their average. There’s no stat for the scenario I described — and despite what we like to believe, there arent stats for every aspect of the game. You have to make some judgement calls with your eyes (that “anecdotal” stuff). If all this could be whittled down to these numbers, scouts wouldn’t have to sit in the stands and actually watch players play. What stat exclusively distinguishes a batter trying to pull an inside pitch, getting beaten to the spot and dropping a shallow fly ball into left field instead, then legging it into a double FROM a batter that actually handled that inside pitch and ripped it into the corner for a double. Both get doubles in the boxscore — but watching the ABs tells you something different.

                Like I said, I hope I’m wrong. But I don’t see a sustainable everyday MLB hitter in Gardner. And despite all the talk of him being some sort of selective, pitch taker, quasi-ML leadoff hitter, why are his Ks ignored? B/c he has trouble hitting perhaps? B/c he hopes the pitcher will throw 4 balls before 3 strikes? Isn’t it problematic that this should-be “just put the ball in play” speedster has trouble doing just that 100x a year?

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  You don’t see a sustainable everyday MLB hitter in Garnder, yet he’s been that for the last three seasons… hmm, ever consider that you might be wrong? You know, analyzing your opinion rather than bullishly insisting that you are always right and never wrong… Novel concept for you, I know.

                  • DM says:

                    Ahh, the Ted flip-flop. First I was a clueless, always wrong, know-nothing — now I’m the arrogant know-it-all who can never admit that I might be wrong?? Which is it? But wait, doesn’t that sound like you Ted? When you say UP to everyone’s DOWN post here or vice-versa?

                    But let’s continue to focus on reality. Gardner has been an everyday hitter for the past 3 seasons, huh?

                    2009 — 248ABs (that’s everyday???)
                    2010 — 477ABs (oooh, getting warmer!)
                    2011 — 510ABs (he cracked 500!)

                    Now let’s see if there’s any REGRESS in his two close-to-everyday-hitter years.

                    2010 — .277/.383
                    2011 — .259/.345

                    Yep, I see what you mean now, Ted — except that his average dropped 18 pts and his OBA dropped 38 pts. No regress there. Gotcha!

                    p.s. he did strikeout less last year — only 93x — just what you expect from your powerless contact-hitting speedster.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      People’s opinions can develop as they acquire more information. That’s not called “flip-flopping”… it’s called learning. You might want to try it sometime.
                      Anyway, that is not even the case here. You are consistently wrong… yet you consistently insist you are 100% right and no one else knows anything… get it now?

                      No, that is not me. I rarely take definitive stances. I more question other peoples’ definitive stances. Then they get defensive and accuse me of taking stances I am not actually taking. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

                      Are you aware that BBs don’t count towards ABs? Let’s try looking at some meaningful stats rather than your meaningless spattering.

                      2009 – 284 PAs
                      2010 – 569 PAs (is 569 above 500? Not sure)
                      2011 – 588 PAs

                      Add those three numbers up and tell me what you get. I’ll get you using that brain yet…

                      wOBA: .337, .358, .330
                      wRC+: 99, 120, 103

                      The question is whether he will regress from being an everyday player… not whether he did regress from 2010 to 2011. (That’s pretty freaking obvious.) Are you really that dense? Or is it just that you’re so unwilling to admit when you make a bad point that you’d rather change the argument?

                      He’s been a league average hitter or better three straight years. That’s the point. Get it yet?

                    • DM says:

                      “I rarely take definitive stances”

                      Oh, I know that — but your emotions expose you sometimes. But yes, you love the gray, the vague, the word that comes out of one side of the mouth, then switches to the other, then ends coming out of your ass.

                      Non-committal. That way you can massage everything from one pole to the other over time — then pretend you held that position all along. Your lack of intelligence is a fixed trait — but the slippery dishonesty is something else. You’re devoid of character.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      Turning to insults now that your nonsensical points about Garnder have been proven wrong?

                    • DM says:

                      “Turning to insults now”

                      You say the above when you started this volley with the statement below?

                      “It’s DM… I wouldn’t look for any logic in the comment.”

                      Your hypocrisy knows no bounds.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      I never said anything about starting it. That’s irrelevant to my point. I said that you are admitting defeat in your own twisted way because it is so clear that you are factually wrong about Gardner.

                      I really wonder if you are too dumb to understand these things or just such a stubborn dick you twist reality as to not admit when you make a mistake.

                    • DM says:

                      Admit defeat? About what? I made an assertion. You said 3 seasons (scaled down to 2.5 after I called out your latest fact twist). And my point — that you dodged — is that you said I resorted to insults, yet you started in with one. I guess you felt emboldened by all the other Gardner defenders — so much so that you crept out of the hole you’ve been hiding in since the explict evidence for DH rotation crushed all the nonsense you spewed on the subject.

                      I think the jury is still out on Gardner. You don’t. We’ll see. But I’ll gladly admit my mistakes. I hope I’m wrong as I said in my original post and a few times after. I need more than 1500 PAs across 4 years to make ignore the Ks and the rolled up newspaper swing the ends in a broken bat double on a 89mph fastball on the inner half. He makes my regression list. I take DRob off — and put him on.

                      Care to talk about the rotating DH that Girardi doesn’t want, would never use? You seemed to disappear during that window Ted? Why is that? What about Campos — first it was that he wasn’t on any lists, now he’s on one (but that doesn’t count b/c it’s the wrong one or something)? Or how bout your assertion that the Yankees weren’t going to trade Montero in the off-season? You’re always wrong — but you never admit anything. But I can tell your bitter about it. Just keep twisting this Gardner thing, then post your victory flag on the mountain of your assertions (aka — a pile of dung).

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      Admit that Gardner is an established MLB starter. You have specifically said he is not “proven.” He is. Everyone else sees this besides you. Notice that the other commenters disagreeing with your ridiculous points are among the strongest commenters on the site?

                      2009-2011 is three seasons. I acknowledged the PAs up front and did not twist anything.

                      “so much so that you crept out of the hole you’ve been hiding in since the explict evidence for DH rotation crushed all the nonsense you spewed on the subject.”

                      I have a life beyond you. I am writing a business plan for a new venture, not cowering because the Yankees made a stupid move in guaranteeing Ibanez’s contract. I still don’t think he lasts 1/2 a season and I still think Branyan is a good bounce-back candidate. Again… nothing has changed.

                      Again you are making things up. I never said Girardi would never use a rotating DH. Never once did I ever, ever say that. Stop lying. I said that the situation where that is preferable to a regular DH or DH platoon is rare. Chances are he will use a platoon this season unless Nunez has a real breakthrough or Chavez/Hall invents a time machine… but 1/2 of that platoon will be bad in the person of Ibanez. Then I believe they’ll add a bat at the deadline… and that will become the new DH or platoon DH. Still want to deny that Nick Johnson was brought in to DH??? You are so far out there.

                    • DM says:

                      “I have a life beyond you.”

                      Well, I hope so. You’re not that person that keeps walking up and down my block are you?

                      “I am writing a business plan for a new venture, not cowering because the Yankees made a stupid move in guaranteeing Ibanez’s contract.”

                      The lemonade stand didn’t work out? Please tell me you’re not older than 23. That’s as far as I can rationalize your arguments. I first thought you couldn’t be more than a chess club teenager — but now it’s getting scary. 24?

                      “I still don’t think he lasts 1/2 a season and I still think Branyan is a good bounce-back candidate. Again… nothing has changed. ”

                      Yes it has. Cashman expanded on the mindset which completely jived with what I said about the Girardi’s preference. You dismissed all that. Only A-Rod might need some games at DH you begrudgingly said. Full-time DH for the Yankees — in “essence” or otherwise. That’s not the case. You were dead wrong.

                      http://online.wsj.com/article/.....42250.html

                      Basically the above is what I said all along — and what you stomped your feet against in your usual denial. You were wrong again — so I guess you’re right — “nothing has changed”

                    • Plank says:

                      I am writing a business plan for a new venture

                      Does that make it sound like he’s unemployed to anyone else?

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      HAHAHA… DM… you question my logic and maturity? That’s rich.

                      Plank, mind your own business. Who cares if I was unemployed? I am an executive at a biofuel start-up with over $20 million in equity financing looking for an opportunity to run my own company… but what’s wrong with people who are unemployed? I know plenty of people who don’t work because they’re sitting on a beach, and I know plenty of other people who are perfectly qualified but struggling to find work. What makes you better than those people?

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      And, DM, I have said a dozen times that EVERYONE would rather have 10 players who can hit and play strong defense. Thanks for stating the obvious that Girardi agrees with EVERYONE. I have also said, though, that in practice putting that kind of roster together is very, very, very rare. Ibanez is unlikely to be a passable OF, so if he plays he’ll likely be a platoon DH. If the Yankees had a better hitter than Ibanez in that role, he might become a full-time DH. This is what Girardi’s done the last few years, whether it was his ultimate preference or not. Nick Johnson played almost exclusively DH, yet you insist he wasn’t brought in to DH… but to play OF where he never appeared.

                    • DM says:

                      “I am an executive at a biofuel start-up with over $20 million in equity financing looking for an opportunity to run my own company.”

                      C’mon Ted. Farting in bags, sealing them — then marking them “METHANE $5″ then trying to sell them at flea markets doesn’t make you a “biofuel” executive.

                • thenamestsam says:

                  Ted kind of jumped in, but I’d say that watching every game isn’t a very effective way to make decisions about players. Your eyes can be extremely deceiving, especially when you already have preconceived notions on a subject, which you seem to with Gardner.

                  Of course numbers can’t tell you everything, but when it comes to how good a major league player is, they’re extremely close. Scouts have a larger role with young players where there isn’t enough data to make conclusive statistical judgments, and in terms of providing qualitative aspects to go with the quantitative aspects (answering questions like “What can Gardner do to get better?” rather than “How good is he?”).

                  You keep harping on the bloop double thing, but while stats won’t distinguish that from a line drive double, over a large enough sample that becomes irrelevant as all the luck evens out. With Gardner we have 1500 plate appearances that say he’s an above average major league hitter. That’s not all luck.

                  • DM says:

                    I didn’t say watching is the only criteria either. And that’s kinda the point — you take it all in. You’re not asserting that actually watching a player is a negative are you? Scouts don’t only scout young players. There’s always advance scouts in the seats at big league games. They don’t rely on the stats alone. There’s indicators that you can only see in the flesh.

                    And I have no bias for or against any player going in. I followed Gardner’s pro career from the start like most here. I wondered what he was from his stats. But seeing him swing in the flesh added some info to the picture. I thought — is he a Dykstra type? Brett Butler? Pierre? Nah, too many whiffs. It all goes into an objective assessment. And based on the comments I’ve seen here, I think a few people might have their own preconceived notions that conveniently gel with their high hopes for players.
                    I hope Gardner hits like he did in A ball this year. But I can’t ignore plate appearances where he seems overmatched on a regular basis.

                    And I say one point about luck. This idea that it all evens out is a bogus, lazy minded baseball bromide. There’s nothing pre-ordained to say that for every line drive out you’ll shall receive a bloop hit. Do you really believe that? And I never said that it was “all luck”. But when you have a guy who only hit 19 doubles last year, and you make note of (which I did) the number of bloops (6), it’s worth bringing up. He only had 34 x-tra base hits total; it’s not hard to tally.
                    You say I harp on this point. Why do others who defend him never mention his Ks? Or does that stat not count b/c it doesn’t support the party line?

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      Advance scouts aren’t there to tell you the career or even season averages of a player… they’re there to scout recent trends. A guy has had trouble handling a certain pitch or developed a bad habit.

                      “I can’t ignore plate appearances where he seems overmatched on a regular basis.”

                      You can ignore 2.5 seasons of PAs, though? A few PAs you can’t ignore… but 1,500 you can? How does that work?

                      “This idea that it all evens out is a bogus, lazy minded baseball bromide.”

                      No, it’s a statistical trend. Nothing to do with baseball. Statistics is a science. You may have heard of it. Over a large enough sample luck will even out. 1,500 isn’t a gigantic sample, but it’s pretty sizable. You might not get 750 heads if you flip a coin 1,500 times… but you’re probably going to be close.

                      “Why do others who defend him never mention his Ks? Or does that stat not count b/c it doesn’t support the party line?”

                      No one is arguing Gardner is perfect. They are arguing against your ridiculous point that he’s not a proven starter. Again… context.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      If you argued that Gardner is the best player in MLB or even on the Yankees, you’d probably have the same people arguing against you and pointing out his flaws.

                      You didn’t, though. You argued that he’s not a starter.

                    • thenamestsam says:

                      Ted basically hit on everything I would have said, but I want to expand a little on the luck issue. It’s not that for every line drive out you get a bloop hit. It’s that at some point if you get enough bloop hits that’s a part of your skill set. Some guys hit more bloops than others just like some guys hit more line drives than others. The line drives are superior to the bloops, but that doesn’t mean the bloops don’t count. Over time the amount of bloop hits he gets ceases to be luck and converges to his true talent. Every bit of evidence suggests that his true talent is that of a MLB starter.

                      Is your point that he got a lot of bloops last year potentially valid? Sure, but you haven’t provided anywhere near enough evidence for that. What is the league average number of bloop hits a year? What is Brett’s average? Lets start there and then we can discuss whether 6 indicates he’s in for a regression.

                      Your point about supporters not mentioning his Ks is completely invalid. We’ve all mentioned them numerous times, it just happens that we mention them indirectly. They’re mentioned every time someone mentions his OPS, or his OBP, or his wRC+ because they’re taken into account in those stats. The Ks only matter to the extent that they make him an effective (or ineffective) offensive player.

                    • DM says:

                      “Advance scouts aren’t there to tell you the career or even season averages of a player… they’re there to scout recent trends. A guy has had trouble handling a certain pitch or developed a bad habit. ”

                      LOL. The expert, huh? I’ve a had a few conversations with a guy who spent most his baseball career as a scout. He was also a player — a good field, no hit type. He was also a GM — for the Yankees. And his title at that time really fit his name. And he liked to throw a few back at a few watering holes in Northern NJ. And he loved talking talent evaluation — even with a nobody like me. And in addition to crunching numbers, as a scout he was constantly traveling around the country — b/c he needed to SEE players ACTUALLY PLAY the game to FULLY evaluate them. In fact he still scouts for them today — but in a much more limited capacity — when he’s not talking to Cashman about this guy or that guy. NEWSFLASH — he laughs at those who hang it all on the numbers. Just imagine trying to predict Garcia’s arc thru numbers only — or Mussina’s 20 win season — where they completely changed their pitching styles. If this person relied on stats, he would never have plucked the pieces he did at the time. He needed to see them. It wasn’t in the numbers, it was the swing, the bat speed, the arm slot, the release point, the movement, the late life, the ball that jumps off the bat of this guy but not that guy. That’s what scouts mean when they say they “SAW something” in this player or that player.

                      “Nothing to do with baseball. Statistics is a science. You may have heard of it. Over a large enough sample luck will even out. 1,500 isn’t a gigantic sample, but it’s pretty sizable. You might not get 750 heads if you flip a coin 1,500 times… but you’re probably going to be close.”

                      That’s exactly the problem with guys like you. The first line says it all. Baseball isn’t coin flipping. People are making conscious efforts on both sides, free will and such, not an evenly weighted Wheel of Fortune or loaded dice. That’s the flaw in statistical analysis. Stats tell you something but you don’t give them more weight than they’re due. And you’ve arbitrarily assigned a number that’s statistically satisfactory for you? How does that work? Not gigantic — pretty sizable, huh? What does that mean? Sounds vague for someone who likes to crunch numbers to get to the ultimate truth.

                      Two LH hitters B1 and B2.
                      1 RH starting pitcher A1.

                      To lead off a game, B1 faces A1 and strikes out swinging — no contact at all — on 3 pitches.

                      To lead off another game, B2 faces A1 and strikes out swinging — no contact at all — on 3 pitches.

                      That’s all you get. Realizing that the sample is minute and not predictive, give me your best statistical analysis and evaluation of the hitters ABs.

                    • DM says:

                      “It’s not that for every line drive out you get a bloop hit. It’s that at some point if you get enough bloop hits that’s a part of your skill set. Some guys hit more bloops than others just like some guys hit more line drives than others. ”

                      So, are you saying if Gardner tries to pull the ball, gets sawed off, the ball drops in LF — and he does it with increasing regularity, it indicates that it’s a skill he’s developed?

                      “The line drives are superior to the bloops, but that doesn’t mean the bloops don’t count. ”

                      Who said they don’t count? And if he inadvertently bloops without trying to do so — his “skill” — don’t bloops count the same? Why would line drives be superior?

                      “Every bit of evidence suggests that his true talent is that of a MLB starter.”

                      Every bit? It sounds like you and Ted have rigged the game. 1500 PAs is the standard or no? And why? Gardner got off to a horrible start last year, correct? Did you evaluate him negatively after say 1000-1100 PAs? And what did you expect of Gardner going into last season? Better — or progress? The same? Worse? Or did you say “not enough evidence, too soon”?

                      “Is your point that he got a lot of bloops last year potentially valid? Sure, but you haven’t provided anywhere near enough evidence for that. What is the league average number of bloop hits a year? What is Brett’s average? Lets start there and then we can discuss whether 6 indicates he’s in for a regression.”

                      I didn’t say that was the only criteria — but doesn’t the decline in BA/OBA count? I need more evidence but you don’t have any misgivings at all about his dip last year? That he hit worse with more playing time, and walked less? Does that indicate anything at all?

                      “Your point about supporters not mentioning his Ks is completely invalid. We’ve all mentioned them numerous times, it just happens that we mention them indirectly. They’re mentioned every time someone mentions his OPS, or his OBP, or his wRC+ because they’re taken into account in those stats. The Ks only matter to the extent that they make him an effective (or ineffective) offensive player.”

                      Hmmm… Really? Which of those stats you mention distinguish between striking out and moving a runner over by putting the ball in play? You’re really ignoring moving runners with outs?? Isn’t that ABC, fundamental baseball?

                    • thenamestsam says:

                      My point about bloopers vs. liners was admittedly very unclear. What I was trying to say was that when you watch a game you judge a liner differently than a blooper because a line drive is a result of good process (hitting the ball hard) while a blooper is the result of bad process (hitting the ball softly). With a small sample, it’s important to judge more on process because results are affected too much by luck. So a bloop hit is lucky in that sense.
                      But once we have enough data, process becomes irrelevant. If I observe a whole career of a guy getting 200 bloop hits a season it becomes EXTREMELY unlikely that he’s just lucky. With that much data, process is irrelevant, we can look only at results because the odds of someone achieving such positive results with bad process is essentially zero (which is why no one gets 200 bloops a year). So my point about Brett was that, yes, he hits a lot of bloops, but at this point we have enough data to say that’s probably just part of his game.
                      As far as a number of plate appearances you seem to want to draw a bright line, how many PAs is enough to judge, but that’s not how stats work. Every piece of evidence is added to the pieces that came before to form a complete picture. Last year I thought Brett was an above-average major league regular, but there was huge uncertainty around that projection because there wasn’t enough data to say anything conclusively. Now with more data I’d say there’s significantly less uncertainty. The problem I see with your approach is that you’re looking at two datapoints and drawing a line, saying that because he did worse last year he’s on a downward slope. That line of thinking leads to an obvious contradiction: If he had done worse two years ago than he did last year (and worse than he did in actuality that year) you would be forced to conclude that he was on an upward slope and have a better projection for him. If worse performance leads to a better projection you’ve got things backwards.
                      As to your last point wRC+ actually does weight Ks as worse than other outs, so everytime anyone uses that to show that Brett is above-average his Ks are being used against him. Your problem with Brett seems to be that he’s an unconventional player. He’s a slap hitter who Ks a lot. He’s a speedster with bad baserunning instincts who can’t bunt to save his life. He’s a corner outfielder who’s a defensive specialist. I think if you really weigh the evidence though there’s no choice but to conclude that the good far outdistances the bad.

                    • DM says:

                      “As far as a number of plate appearances you seem to want to draw a bright line, how many PAs is enough to judge, but that’s not how stats work. Every piece of evidence is added to the pieces that came before to form a complete picture.”

                      No, actually I don’t. Maybe there’s some Ted stuff mixed in here, but I don’t feel that way. I think others are doing that. People feel they’ve seen enough of him to draw a positive conclusion. I’m saying why couldn’t it be assessed at a different moment. It seems arbitrary to me, but somehow 1500+ PAs is now enough for a verdict. I suspect those who are confident in him would still be that way if he hit .240 last year — just like some do with Hughes. We’d be talking about him “regaining his form” or something. And I think b/c of his approach at the plate, where he gets “excuse me” hits a lot, and takes a lot of called 3rd strikes, it draws suspicion from me. I’m not invested either way. It’s just part of my own scouting report. I can’t dismiss what I see as someone whose success seems so tenuous.

                      “Last year I thought Brett was an above-average major league regular, but there was huge uncertainty around that projection because there wasn’t enough data to say anything conclusively. Now with more data I’d say there’s significantly less uncertainty. The problem I see with your approach is that you’re looking at two datapoints and drawing a line, saying that because he did worse last year he’s on a downward slope. ”

                      No, I’m not drawing a line. I bring that up as counterpoint to those who have b/c we’ve reached some apparently sufficient number of PAs. I see the same flaws — and worse performance from something that was supposed to be a strength (taking walks). Does that mean it will continue downward gradually? I don’t know — but I’d bet my life if he hit .290 last year with 90 walks, his fans would be predicting an upward trend. It wouldn’t be tempered with “let’s look at the whole picture”. He’d be penciled for 10 years of all-star play instead. I don’t see at as a slope at all. I see him more like a tight-rope walker. When I watch him I think “You can’t get away with a full-time career with that bat.” I’m waiting for the music to stop with 4 for 50 slide, when Girardi sits him for another option. And any loss of speed, and not a huge loss either, he’ll fall off that wire and never get back on.

                      “As to your last point wRC+ actually does weight Ks as worse than other outs, so everytime anyone uses that to show that Brett is above-average his Ks are being used against him. ”

                      But how does it account for Ks with runners on? Where fundamentals and execution come into play? Ramiro Pena with all his limitations will get that bunt down. Gardner will foul two balls off, the bunt sign will be taken away, then he whiffs on a ball down Broadway, then grimaces like it was close or something. He’s got Bernie brain, but not Bernie talent.

                      Your problem with Brett seems to be that he’s an unconventional player. He’s a slap hitter who Ks a lot. He’s a speedster with bad baserunning instincts who can’t bunt to save his life. He’s a corner outfielder who’s a defensive specialist. I think if you really weigh the evidence though there’s no choice but to conclude that the good far outdistances the bad.

                      Yes, he’s an odd mix. I can’t compare him to anyone. He’s not Juan Pierre — JP can bunt, doesn’t walk, but doesn’t whiff either. He’s what you expect in that type of player. Slap and run. And Gardner’s definitely been more good than bad thus far. But that was never my point. B/c I feel he’s walked a tight rope — and really wobbled early in the year — with every aspect of his offense, I saw him as candidate for Mike’s list. Then hell broke loose — like I have it in for their gritty, overachieving mascot or something. Absurd. I was giddy about his future when he was in Tampa — then I saw him take an AB once (and he got a hit) — then I said “Ewww, that’s why he strikes out so much”. That’s kind of fundamental to hitting and being a legit MLB leadoff man so many think he already is, isn’t it? I hope I’m wrong — like I said from the start.

                      Brett Gardner got credited for a triple today. He hit a fly ball to deep left-center. Brown completely misplayed it. Triple in the box score. One AB, ST game, who cares, right? Right. But classic case of a stat versus what I saw with my eyes. Gardner hitting under the ball driving it up in the air isn’t a good AB for him. But 1 for 3 with a triple.

                    • thenamestsam says:

                      It’s not drawing a conclusion. With statistics you can never say anything with 100% certainty. Was Barry Bonds an above average baseball player? It’s extremely extremely ikely. 1 in a 100 billion that he wasn’t, but you can’t say with certainty. Is Brett Gardner an above average baseball player? It’s not 100%, but it’s getting pretty close. If he hit .240 last year that probability would obviously be lower, but he didn’t. If he has a bad year this year it will lower our expectations going forward, but only somewhat because in general it’s better to trust the bigger sample (what he has done in his career) over the smaller sample (what he does in one year).

                      The rest of your post is basically a anti-stat screed. I’ll touch on some points. For one, the whole reason wRC+ weights Ks worse than other outs is because of their impact with runners on: with the bases empty all outs are obviously equal. Does it specifically account for each individual at-bat and the loss there due to a K? No, but these things even out over time. Besides we’re talking about a very small part of the game. The relative superiority of Pena’s bunting is just not a skill that creates much value. You say that not King is a fundamental skill for a leadoff hitter, but that’s just narrow minded. There is exactly one fundamental skill for a leadoff hitter-getting on base. Brett does that. There are secondary skills that matter also – seeing a lot of pitches and using speed to disrupt the defense. Brett is elite in those two areas. If there’s one batter who Ks matter the least for it’s your leadoff hitter, because he comes up the most with no men on base the most of any hitter on the team. Can you offer a logical reason why a leadoff hitter should be a low K guy, or is it just tradition?

                      You last point that the stats from one game can be misleading is completely meaningless. No one would ever disagree with you. You can’t use one games worth of stats. You can’t use 3 abs and think you know about a player. With Brett we’re talking about not one game or 3 plate appearances, but 1500 plate appearances. At some point don’t you have to say, “Well, it isn’t always pretty, and my eyes keep telling me he’s going to fail, but he gets results, and that’s the name of the game.” At what point would you do that? One more year of success? Two more years?

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      DM, your point had nothing to do with mine. Advanced scouts are not a replacement for numbers. They are not there to report on a guy’s season average. They are there to report how to attack a player based on recent trends (for established players, little different with rookies). Your anecdotal experience with some guy at a bar you claim was both the GM of the Yankees and an advanced scout is irrelevant. No one is arguing that scouting is useless and only numbers are important, you’re fighting a strawman.

                      We are talking about LUCK in baseball. And luck is coin flipping. That’s the problem with people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about but are still incredibly arrogant.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      By the way, “people like me” with a half way decent education understand that stats and observation go hand-in-hand. People like you somehow envision a divide between the two, and defensively label educated people who understand statistics as “nerds who don’t understand the game.”

                    • DM says:

                      “Is Brett Gardner an above average baseball player? It’s not 100%, but it’s getting pretty close.”

                      Again, you seem to be making my point. There’s an assumption in your statement. You built it in. Is that objective? It’s getting pretty close? Doesn’t that assume that we’re getting nearer to a more positive conclusion than a negative? We’re “getting pretty close” if he continues; but we’re retreating if he doesn’t, right? So, I don’t know what meaning your statement contains besides typical question begging.

                      “If he hit .240 last year that probability would obviously be lower, but he didn’t. If he has a bad year this year it will lower our expectations going forward, but only somewhat because in general it’s better to trust the bigger sample (what he has done in his career) over the smaller sample (what he does in one year).”

                      I’ll address this one below with your “nsalem” partner. I have the same question for both of you. He dodged it once; I’ll pose it to both of you.

                      “The rest of your post is basically a anti-stat screed. ”

                      Really? I also said this “I didn’t say watching is the only criteria either. And that’s kinda the point — you take it all in. You’re not asserting that actually watching a player is a negative are you? Scouts don’t only scout young players. There’s always advance scouts in the seats at big league games. They don’t rely on the stats alone. There’s indicators that you can only see in the flesh. ”

                      I’m not against stats — I’m for everything you can get your hands, eyes and ears on. And you said this about actually watching players play the game.

                      “I’d say that watching every game isn’t a very effective way to make decisions about players. Your eyes can be extremely deceiving,”

                      I guess your pro-stat/ANTI-actually-witnessing the game, huh? The scouting profession begs to differ. And they have the frequent flyer miles to prove it. Including the ex-Yankee SS, ex-Yankee GM, p/t Yankee scout, Yoda-like mentor to Cashman — who’s often credited with bringing the Yankees back to the prominence thru shrewd talent evaluation, and signing 2-tier free agents, who didn’t have the gaudy numbers of the other guy — but might work out better for reasons that go beyond things you find on fangraphs. It’s not either/or; it’s both.

                      Gee, I’m glad ex-big league all-star catcher, Tony Pena didn’t wear a blindfold and earplugs when he was watching Colon in the off-season. But he should have, right? Just go to Bart’s career charts instead — so he won’t be deceived by the life on that Colon fastball that just popped into the glove. It’s a mirage — except it isn’t. And that type of evaluation saved the Yankees rotation last year. “Hey Brian, take a flyer on this guy, he LOOKS great.”

                      And BTW, Colon was struggling in winter league — from a statistical stand point.

                      http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/.....id=6007929

                      Could Pena have SEEN something BEYOND the stats? Nah, he just pushed for the Yanks to sign Colon for kicks. Should’ve just looked at fangraphs than passed on him, right? Wrong. Pena was lauded for his evaluation. His actual experience told him things that might not show on a chart.

                      “No, but these things even out over time.”

                      I disagree. There’s nothing in the cosmos that makes things even out. That’s rationalism in spades from a statistical wonk.

                      “You say that not King is a fundamental skill for a leadoff hitter, but that’s just narrow minded.

                      No, I didn’t. You’ve narrowed it to make me appear narrow minded. but I can see from my wording that it might be confusing. I saw him take an AB, an approach, a swing then didn’t lend itself imo to being able to hit big league pitching over the long haul. I saw why he strikes out so much. He strike out in the minors too but he was a good leadoff hitter. But like you said, it’s about getting on base in that role. Usually when a hitter in that role slumps with the bat, he draws more walks not less. Gardner didn’t hit as well — and he didn’t draw walks as well either. Is that a negative for a leadoff man? How many times have you heard a ML hitter who got off to a poor start with the bat, say “I can’t bring my average up to what it normally is — but I can still take my walks.” When Gardner needed to walk more (get on base) when he wasn’t hitting, he walked less.

                      You last point that the stats from one game can be misleading is completely meaningless. No one would ever disagree with you. You can’t use one games worth of stats. You can’t use 3 abs and think you know about a player. With Brett we’re talking about not one game or 3 plate appearances, but 1500 plate appearances.

                      I thought me saying this “One AB, ST game, who cares, right? Right.” made it clear that I understand the limitations of what I was saying — but you went to town on it anyway. It was an example of what appears to be a good AB in a box score was — in actuality — something else. Which can only be understood if you saw the play. Did my watching of the game deceive me? Or did I see Brown get a horrible jump, then make a crappy defensive play — and a powerless, slap hitter, try to drive the ball up in the air to left-center? That’s the perils of watching players play?? I’ll gladly take the risk to see what actually happened. I’ll be fine, really.

                      At some point don’t you have to say, “Well, it isn’t always pretty, and my eyes keep telling me he’s going to fail, but he gets results, and that’s the name of the game.”

                      I agree completely — except for one additional aspect. You say my eyes tell me he’s going to fail. My eyes have seen a lot of ABs from a lot of players. I’ve never seen a player who looks like Gardner does at the plate become the player you think he is or soon will be. Should I ignore that?

                      At what point would you do that? One more year of success? Two more years?

                      I need to see more. I don’t say 1500+PAs over 4 years is the magical number — like some here do. To you the verdict is in (although I have to admit that I suspect you and many others here would leave the verdict wide open still if had had a worse year in 2011). To me? After last year’s early struggles, and streakiness (I thought speed doesn’t go into slumps?? With Gardner it somehow does — but who cares, right?) and declines in hitting and walks, I’m not going to be more confident in him going into 2012. Is that outlandish?

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      DM, your post demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of statistics as a science. Read a book or take a class on the subject before ignorantly dismissing it. That you don’t understand something doesn’t make it wrong.

                      Especially look up population and sample. Because we know the entire population of very few things, we use samples. Small bits of the larger population. Samples are not always representative of the population, but with a large enough sample it gets to the point where it’s representative.

                      This is the point with Gardner. It’s in no way subjective (that you said that just screams a lack of understanding). We can’t say for sure that he’s as good as the sample of stats we have… but it’s getting to be such a large sample that it’s pretty certain. You keep ignoring that for some reason… I can only assume because you don’t understand, though maybe it’s pure stubbornness.

                      Baseball is all about using samples (PAs, seasons, months, careers) to try to get at the population (a guy’s skill level). Small samples are not reliable because there is a high degree of variability. Say, for example, someone asks you to reach in a bag of 100 pens and pick two pens. You pick two blue pens. It would be logical to assume blue pens make up a large portion of the bag… but perhaps you happened to grab the only two blue pens in the whole bag. That was “luck.” Random chance. If you grab 20, 30, 40 pens out, though, it’s far more likely you’re going to get close to the composition of the bag. Then if you pick randomly again tomorrow and the next day… you’re going to really start to get an idea.

                      Whether or not there is a cosmic force governing luck misses the point… again you don’t seem to understand the point. Things do not even out 100%… they TEND to even out because with a large enough sample you minimize variability. Once you have 1,500 PAs stretched across 3 different seasons… you’ve got a pretty reliable sample. Of course players develop and decline over time mentally and physically, but there’s a general trend of career arc.

                      Again, you are making up the stats vs. watching debate. The human brain is not powerful enough to watch 600 PAs spread out across 150+ games and compute a guys’ productivity, let alone 1,500 PAs almost 3 years apart. (Maybe a handful of people in the world can do that, I sort of doubt it though.) It’s a lot easier to just note down how a guy did and follow it… stats. No one is saying scouting isn’t valuable. They are saying it isn’t a valuable way to measure a player’s worth over a large enough sample, especially relative to other players.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          It has nothing to do with sacrilege… just logic. Which I know generally escapes you.

          It can certainly happen, but guys with three straight seasons at a given level of performance against the same level of competition are far less likely to regress than guys who suddenly had results that were out of line with their career results. Those guys are candidates to have had outlier seasons rather than to have actually improved. Candidates for statistical regression more than physical regression. Gardner has about 1,500 PAs the last three years at this level of play. That’s a lot different from 40 inning for Wade or 65 innings for Robertson. It’s pretty well established at this point that Gardner is this good, not lucky. He’s basically going to have to physically or mentally fall off in his prime years. That certainly can happen (might be one hamstring or knee injury away), but it’s just not as likely as someone getting lucky for one season.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      I’m not the biggest Gardner fan in the world, but as long as he has his speed and can beat out some of those dinkers and dribblers, he can be a useful #9 hitter for the Yankees. He’s just so damn streaky.

      • DM says:

        Fair enough. But there’s another angle to this as well. Money. A guy like Gardner has been a great value thus far, but like Hughes, we still don’t know what he really is despite his recent substantial increase in pay. If he loses ABs to his own poor performance or the better performance of others, do you still want to pay him 3-4mil to be a piece on the roster? Gardner and Hughes are those tweener-types that have done enough to get arb awards (or pre-arb settlements) at good money — but the jury is still out on them. It’s no longer about development for these guys. They have to produce enough to justify their pay now. They are bargains no more — and austerity is in the air.

        • Mike Axisa says:

          Agree completely.

          Melky was similar. Nice guy to have at close to the league minimum, but once he got close to $3M via arbitration, time to cut bait. I feel the same way about Cervelli. Gardner’s elite defense makes his salary a little earlier to swallow.

          • CJ says:

            It’s not only his defense, try replacing him via trade or free agency. Can’t do it. Get a lesser coco crisp for 2/15 or a bad Juan Pierre on a minor league deal. Also, gardner’s speed is really the team speed at this point, they’d be really slow if granderson and jeter were your only speed threats.

          • DM says:

            I think there was a little more to the Melky thing. They wanted to break up Butch and Sundance (Cano) too — and they ate 500k to do so.

        • CJ says:

          Coco crisp cost Oakland $7 million. Gardner is still a bargain.

          • DM says:

            Or some might think Crisp is grossly overpaid. Judging by how the market developed, that doesn’t seem like a good deal.

        • nsalem says:

          Gardner has already established what he can do on a major league level, while Hughes except for a great half a year as a set uo man has shown little else. Gardner is a Gold Glove caliber defender a slightly above average OBP hitter who steals a lot of bases and a top 10 P/PA hitter which is a crucial asset in getting to teams weaker part of the bullpen. Gardner is far from a tweener. You are using your subjectivity and misusing objective numbers to prove your point that he is a non sustainable player. Doesn’t work.

          • DM says:

            Prove my point? I just suggested that he was a candidate for regression — then I gave my reasons. And since he did from 2010 to 2011, I don’t think that’s a radical concept. But you can disagree. As I said from the start, I hope I’m wrong — but I can’t ignore what I see. I see Gardner as at least an asset on a team with his range/speed — but I’m not in the camp of him as everyday leadoff hitter type. B/c of his grit and little-engine-that-could tendency, he’ll probably fall somewhere in between — but along with the money he’ll earn, that make him a “tweener” in my mind. I can’t pencil him in for anything. You can do that with an established player (excluding injury of course) with some confidence. I could see him steal 40-50 bases — if he gets on enough. That “if” is the question mark — moreso with him than established players.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              Your comment doesn’t even come close to addressing nsalem’s criticism of your stance.

              You really don’t understand the concept of regression do you? Gardner had a spike in 2010 and then regressed to his 2009 numbers again. That doesn’t mean he is on a downward slope that will continue going forward.

              The guy stole 49 bases in 2010 and 47 in 2011… and he’s not established enough to anticipate 40 steals? How does that work? He even stole 26 bases in only 284 PAs in 2009.

              • DM says:

                Oh, a “spike” — so, the 2009/2011 is the real Gardner in your statistical analysis? 2010 is an outlier?

                • nsalem says:

                  Also offensively Gardner has a positive impact on Derek Jeter who will probably be hitting behind him. Defensively he may allow Granderson to cheat a step or two in CF which is good for both Granderson and Swisher.
                  I really love the extra dimensions and nuances that Gardner and his speed adds to the Yankees.

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  wRC+ 99… 120… 103

                  What does that suggest to you. Are you really that clueless about statistics? Based on the information we have right now, 2010 was maybe not an outlier but at least above what we expect every season from Garnder. However, what we expect is still league average offense with very good speed and defense. Somehow you are twisting that into him not being a “proven” or good player.

                  Try to take a statistics class to expand your knowledge rather than wasting time arguing about things you don’t understand.

            • nsalem says:

              He maybe a tweener in your mind but the reality is the Yankees see him as a valuable asset who will start 135 to 140 games this year. Can you give me a comp on Gardner who you regard as a tweener. Someone who has .350 OBP has a established he can steal 50 bases a year and is one of the top fielders in his game at his position. As opposed to you I see Gardner as progressing rather than regressing. He took a big step in his running game last year having a 26/29 SB AS ratio which was a marked improvement to his 20/33 first half. If Gardner improves his bunting game he can improve even more with a better BA and OBP because in addition to bunt hits you will see more balls “squirting through the infield”. If Gardner learns to bunt well his upside would probably be Maury Wills who had even less power than Gardner. His 27 and 28 yo season were similar to Gardner”s last 2 in the sense that they were .350 OBP guys in the 40 stolen base range. Wills had a very good season after those two years which were similar to Gardner’s except wills was an excellent bunter. I am confident that if he is healthy Gardner at worst will replicate last season which in my mind makes him far than a tweener.

              • DM says:

                No offense but your post kinda begs the question and reasons in a circular way — but I’ll bite.

                “but the reality is the Yankees see him as a valuable asset who will start 135 to 140 games this year.”

                Yes, if he hits — which is kinda what we’re both speculating about. You have great confidence in him, and see him as more established. I see him more as a project player who hasn’t been as clearly defined. But I’ll add something to the mix. Do you think this roster might be more of a threat to a slumping Gardner than last year’s? Do you think a lighter Jones, with a fixed knee, who claims to be on a mission, might take some PAs away from Gardner? How bout another lefty hitter who started more games in LF last year than Gardner did (Ibanez)? Who has $ incentives based on playing time (Jones too)? Aren’t there more options than before (now that the DH clog is gone)? Won’t it be easy for Girardi to say “Well, Gardy’s been pressing lately, so we’re gonna give Ibby a look in left for a few games — and Jones and Chavey will DH a few games.” — then Gardner comes in for defense late. Are those scenarios outrageous or possible? Those guys have some “established” credentials too, right?

                “Can you give me a comp on Gardner who you regard as a tweener.”

                Skill set wise? No. Gardner is an odd player to say the least. When I saw his minor league stats without seeing him live, I thought — Dykstra? Pierre? Butler? But I couldn’t understand the whiffs for a speedster — then I saw his swing in a ST game. He’s odd mix of little power, too many Ks, and speed but with Bernie Williams style baseball instincts.

                But if you mean situation wise, I’d say Melky. It was clear he could play on the big league level. He came up early, didn’t embarass himself — but what was he? CF? LF? Part-time, full-time? Give him 3-4mil without knowing? He had his worst season with the Braves, then a monster season with KC? Using all your analytical skills, how would you describe him then or now? And he had many more ABs than Gardner did. What is Melky? You have loads of data for him.

                “He took a big step in his running game last year having a 26/29 SB AS ratio which was a marked improvement to his 20/33 first half.”

                But that’s his game. He’s supposed be good at base stealing. That shouldn’t be a trouble area. If you were talking about his power, you’d have a point — but you seem to be making mine. His base-stealing is his bread-n-butter yet even that was an issue to start last year. He’s 28 — not a raw 22-23 yr old. Yet he isn’t savvy at all — he freezes on leads and leaves you scratching your head. Like in the OF, he outruns his mistakes sometimes. His baseball IQ isn’t high. He’s been a perpetual project.

                “If Gardner improves his bunting game he can improve even more with a better BA and OBP because in addition to bunt hits you will see more balls “squirting through the infield”. If Gardner learns to bunt well his upside would probably be Maury Wills who had even less power than Gardner.”

                I’m not going to say anything about Wills and Gardner b/c I’m not an expert on the former — but I will say that I don’t think Gardner will have 200 hits and 100 SBs next year, like Wills did at that age. But as for the rest of what you said, it’s filled with “IFs” — I don’t have those kinda question marks for established players. Gardner’s game is his speed, yet he’s had trouble bunting. Again, I love that he keeps working on it — but this is stuff you don’t expect to be talking about for a 28 yr old whose game is his legs. Look at the Pierre of old. His game was his legs — but as you would expect, he put the ball in play, excellent bunter — and didn’t whiff. And despite Pierre’s demise and lack of BBs, his career OBA is the same as Gardner. People here say that Gardner’s game is prone to streaks and slumps. Why?? The whole point of “speed doesn’t go into slumps” is that he can always drag a bunt and break a bad hitting streak — but he doesn’t do that too well either.

                “I am confident that if he is healthy Gardner at worst will replicate last season which in my mind makes him far than a tweener.”

                I’m much more suspicious of Gardner’s game. It has holes — hence all the need for a player in his prime to be working on these flawed elements. To me, he’s gritty, all heart player with great speed — but continues to be a project b/c of poor instincts and an innate problem hitting. He’s a .264 hitter with little x-tra base power, who strikes out 90-100x a year — and he’s needed every last dinker and dunker to do it. And he hit .259 in his most recent — and most voluminous — season. I hope you’re right and I’m wrong. But I don’t think my views are outlandish. And I doubt he’ll be tweener after this year too – but I’m just not as optimistic that he’ll stay the same or improve. He might drift in the other direction. What would you call him then? How bout .230/.340 and 30 steals in 350-400PAs? 3.5-4mil in arb next year? Staying the same wouldn’t shock me but declining in this way wouldn’t surprise me either. Like Hughes, this needs to get settled this year — for economic reasons if nothing else. You need to know what you have — and what it’s worth.

                • nsalem says:

                  So Gardner has the 31st best OPB in the league, leads the league in SB, improved asa basreunner in the second half, is the best defensive left fielder in the league (for some strange reason you never mention defensive) and you think he’s a tweener and a project, Okay I understand

                  • DM says:

                    No, you don’t — but that’s fine. And thanks for ignoring my specific points. I’ll be sure to treat yours in the same manner next time. And at this point, I’m convinced you didn’t read what I wrote prior. I didn’t mention his defense but I don’t consider it a problem. I mentioned it later as an asset along with his speed. I’m utterly convinced that he is more than good enough to come in for defense and pinch-running. And if you don’t think he’s been a project player, you haven’t been paying attention. Tex needing extra-help bunting makes sense. Gardner whose whole game has been his speed — and needs to bunt, literally — needs that too at 28? That indicates something about him. Great speed results in steals (despite bad reads) — and rangy defense (despite bad reads where he turns the wrong way routinely, and a shotput arm). He’s 28 — he won’t get any faster — only slower. Gardner minus a step in speed = Bubba Crosby with less power and less arm.

                    But I get your message: He’s Maury Wills — except he has trouble bunting and strikes out way too much. Other than that…

                    Me? I’m just like a bird — except for that flying stuff. I have trouble with that.

                    • thenamestsam says:

                      He’s a project because he doesn’t do one thing well? I guess every player is a project by your definition. Or is it that he’s not good at the things you want him to be good at? Yes, traditionally speed guys are good bunters. That doesn’t mean a speed guy has to be a good bunter to be a good player and traditionally when someone calls a player a project they mean a player who must improve to become useful. If you’re using the word in that sense you’re flatly wrong. If you’re using it In another sense you should make it clear what you mean.

                    • DM says:

                      One thing? Despite his speed, he often freezes on his leads. He’s got Bernie brain — but raw speed enough to outrun the ball at times. But he doesn’t know when to go — despite being a base stealer his whole career. And how many lead off men types — or 9-hole hitters — who don’t drive in runs — have 3 times as many strike outs as x-tra base hits? He doesn’t just have trouble bunting. He’s an odd player, with a low baseball IQ. Super fast and plays hard, yes. And he got a much longer leash early on than most for the latter. He’s not a raw Nunez or Montero just starting out. He’s a 28 yr old banjo hitter with great speed, little power, who doesn’t drive in runs — yet has trouble bunting, reading pitcher’s pick off moves, and strikes out a lot. You don’t see any other work-in-progress issues beyond bunting with your leadoff and/or 9 hitter? Aren’t his weaknesses related to things that should be the strongest part of that kind of player’s game? I’m not saying he’s a “project” player b/c he needs to work on his power or something. Not at all. He’s a project b/c he has flaws in what should be — and needs to be — his bread-n-butter.

                    • nsalem says:

                      I did read everything you wrote and I disagree with most of it,
                      We both agree that he is a flawed hitter and without his speed he would not be a sustainable major league starter. This is a legitimate concern when discussing long term contract that extends past his early 30′s and you make very good points.
                      I disagree with everything you say as to how you view him in the present. I think he has established himself as someone who can maintain a .350 OBP level and all your criticism as to how he obtains these results are meaningless. He has a 1/6 Krate. You may consider that high for a slap hitter but in the context of
                      being in the top 25 in BB/PA and BB/K and also 7th in P/PA it hurts his game. You claim he is a poor baserunner but he tied for the league lead in SB last year and got his CS rate down to about 12% in the second half of last year. You claim he doesn’t get good jumps on balls but has been acknowledged as an elite defensive left fielder and I think he led the league last year in defensive WAR. You claim he has a low baseball IQ and his speed makes up for these errors, but the reality is that there are plent of fast players who don’t steal bases at Gardners rate and many speedy outfielders are not regarded as elite. There are numbers to back this up. You are looking at poor derivatives of Gardner’s game (which I agree do exist) in combination with your subjective opinions such as low baseball IQ bad jumps on balls, poor baseball instincts and deducing that he is a marginal major league ball player. I’m looking at his results .350 OPB over 3 years, stolen base leader, defensive WAR leader and coming to the conclusion that he is an above average player who is an asset to the Yankees. Is he worthy of 6 year 60 million dollar contarct?
                      maybe not. Is he one bad leg injury away from being out of the major leagues? definitely yes. I think we both agree. What he represents in 2012 and 2013 to the Yankees is where our opinions diverge. QED for me anyway

                    • thenamestsam says:

                      Thank you nsalem. DM you keep repeating the same points that all boil down to “he doesn’t do well what he should do well.” But who cares? If he’s still a good player he’s still a good player. And an average hitter who’s the best defender in the league at his position is a good player. Case closed. If your definition of project allows for calling him a project that’s fine, it’s just semantics. But understand that other people not calling him that isn’t because they’re “not paying attention”, it’s because they’re not as narrow minded about what makes a good ballplayer.

                    • DM says:

                      nsalem,

                      “We both agree that he is a flawed hitter”

                      Yes — but this is interesting. Tell me and thenamestsam what tells you that? What are these flaws you speak of?

                      “You claim he is a poor baserunner but he tied for the league lead in SB last year and got his CS rate down to about 12% in the second half of last year. You claim he doesn’t get good jumps on balls but has been acknowledged as an elite defensive left fielder and I think he led the league last year in defensive WAR.”

                      These are false dichotomies. Like I said, he can outrun mistakes at this point. Incredibly dependent on his after-burners — but that’s a dangerous game. And what stat tallies Gardner locking up on a lead — not getting picked off, but not stealing either — b/c he missed the opportunity. That’s not a caught stealing — but it’s a brain fart where Girardi grimaces with “Why didn’t he go on that pitch??” Then he wraps his arm over this 28 yr old’s shoulder like he’s his son in little league in the dugout telling him what he did wrong out there. Makes senses with a guy like Nunez — but a negative with a base stealer who’s at the age where he should be in his prime. And his defense is all range — and he turns and twists and makes solid plays seem like circus catches b/c he never just runs to the spot. He isn’t a ball hawk — and he doesn’t have much of an arm. Minus a step, he’s Damon on his roller skates. All heart, wall crashing, dirty uniform — but the same ball to a guy like Upton or Wells a couple of years ago is in their respective hip pockets without breaking a sweat. Some elite defenders know where the ball is going to land off the bat. Gardner doesn’t; he makes up the difference zigging and zagging with his speed, then jumping off the wrong foot at the last second. But you have to watch players play to know this.

                      “You claim he has a low baseball IQ and his speed makes up for these errors, but the reality is that there are plent of fast players who don’t steal bases at Gardners rate and many speedy outfielders are not regarded as elite. ”

                      I agree and disagree at the same time. Your statement about plenty of fast players who don’t maximize that talent is true — but most aren’t Gardner level fast, right? Bernie is the perfect example. Very fast, not like Gardner — but you’d never know. But do you think Gardner has a high baseball IQ? Does he seem shrewd? Savvy? Or more heart than baseball brain?

                      “Is he one bad leg injury away from being out of the major leagues?”

                      Yeah – but one regular leg injury from being less than an elite defender, less than a stolen base leader, even less of hitter when he doesn’t beat out that squibber by a half step, and not much more than a 4th outfielder/pinch runner as a result. And he won’t get faster from this point on — only slower. He’s all legs.

                      And like I mentioned, he’s one prolonged slump from losing time to Ibanez and/or Jones. Girardi has more options now. They picked Ibanez over other options b/c he can take the field — left field — and hits left handed.

                      “What he represents in 2012 and 2013 to the Yankees is where our opinions diverge.”

                      Fair enough. But I don’t know if I’d say “represents”. Don’t we need him to play in 2012 first to know that. And he already represents something for 2013 before the 2012 season starts?

                      Anyway, I guess my crime was to say that I’m suspicious enough of him to put him on my 2012 regress list. Amazing.

                    • DM says:

                      thenamestsam,

                      ” same points that all boil down to “he doesn’t do well what he should do well.” But who cares? ”

                      He doesn’t do well what he should do well doesn’t mean anything? I get the feeling that your Gardner argument boils down to “I like Gardy. Don’t say anything bad about him.”

                      “If he’s still a good player he’s still a good player. And an average hitter who’s the best defender in the league at his position is a good player. Case closed.”

                      Wait a second. He’s an “average hitter” now? I thought he was above? Are you already scaling back before a game has been played? Has Ted been tutoring you?

                      “If your definition of project allows for calling him a project that’s fine, it’s just semantics. But understand that other people not calling him that isn’t because they’re “not paying attention”, it’s because they’re not as narrow minded about what makes a good ballplayer.”

                      Narrow minded again, huh? I wonder what scouts and other actual MLB minds would say about the breadth of your baseball mind with this statement:

                      “watching every game isn’t a very effective way to make decisions about players. Your eyes can be extremely deceiving”

                      That’s why Buck Showalter watched every game on video right after the game. Silly MLB mgr. Time to shut down the scouting profession. Just give them the requisite links to the stat sites. Save on airfare and lodging.

                      But to both you and nsalem:

                      The latter asked about the tweener situation. I brought up Melky.

                      Give me your stat analysis of him just before he left the Yankees. Despite still only being 24, he had over 2100PAs at that point. Were you upset that he was leaving? What did you project his future as being at that point? What did you think he was? The verdict must’ve been in after 2100PAs if Gardner only needs 1500PAs, right?

                      Now let’s jump to today. He has 3200PAs now.
                      What IS Melky Cabrera? You have twice the data as Gardner. What kinda player is he? What are your expectations going forward?

                      p.s. Interesting note regarding player evaluation. A-Rod worked out with Melky last off-season. He said that he looked fantastic, in top shape, and said he had recommitted himself to the game of baseball. A-Rod begged the Yankees to sign him but they weren’t interested. What was A-Rod talking about? I couldn’t find it in the stats anywhere? Do you think there’s a link between that and what happened in KC? Or just coincidence? Did the coin land on its edge or something? Or is there something more to all this?

                    • thenamestsam says:

                      I actually am not much of a Gardner fan. Not one of my ten favorite Yankees, but I am a fan of rational analysis. I’m not going to get sucked into an argument about semantics, his career wRC+ is 105, which is above average. However there is uncertainty around that number which is why calling him an average hitter is also correct. Either way the distinction is marginal. Go argue with Ted about that nonsense if you want. If you want to have a discussion with me please leave those attempts at “Gotcha!” type crap out of it.

                      I do think you’re narrow minded in that you like traditional type ballplayers, but I think you’re taking that as some sort of insult when it’s not. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just means you’re going to underestimate the strengths of someone like Gardner who has an unconventional style. I’ll gladly stand by my statement that watching the games isn’t an effective way to judge someones overall production, which is the main piece of information you need to judge players. If you disagree I will gladly make a simple wager with you. You promise not to look at a players stats all year, any player you want (of course if you watch the broadcasts this is impossible, but maybe you go to all the games I don’t know). At the end of the year you tell me his OBP. No counting allowed (that’s stats after all). If you can really tell how good a player is without stats you should be able to come within 10 points of his OBP right? Otherwise you don’t really have a very good sense of how good he is right? So that will be the wager. Or more realistically we can both make projections for every Yankee for the upcoming year. I’ll use stats and you promise not to do any stats research and use only what your intuition is telling you. At the end of the year we’ll see how we both did.

                      You can come up with plenty of anecdotes to support your ideas but “The plural of anecdote is not data”. If you really believe that the method is effective lets determine it on the field as they say.

                    • DM says:

                      “Go argue with Ted about that nonsense if you want. If you want to have a discussion with me please leave those attempts at “Gotcha!” type crap out of it.”

                      I’ll do that when you don’t make Ted style arguments that create strawmen to argue against (like you do below). And I’ll leave out “Gotcha” if you leave out “completely meaningless” or “completely invalid” as responses to assertions you disagree with. That sounds certain for someone who claims that there’s always some potential uncertainty –i.e., you might be missing something.

                      “I do think you’re narrow minded in that you like traditional type ballplayers, but I think you’re taking that as some sort of insult when it’s not. ”

                      No, I don’t care about “traditional” ball players. But there are certain skills and talents involved in a sport — which is what scouts look for. Let’s say someone held the bat the “wrong” way — lead hand on top — or crossed his feet in his stance — as some technique that he developed and performs with. I have no issue with that. But when I think the result has been unrelated to any intent or logical relation to what the performer is doing, I pause. Just like I would if someone says, “I cross streets with my eyes closed, I haven’t gotten hit by a car yet!” I wouldn’t shrug my shoulders and say “Hey, that’s just the way he does it. Works for him.” Even if he did it 1000x without getting hit. The 1001 time I’d say “Please don’t do that.” And I would never defend it as the “closed-eye method of street crossing. Perfectly valid option. Look at his track record.”

                      “I’ll gladly stand by my statement that watching the games isn’t an effective way to judge someones overall production, which is the main piece of information you need to judge players. If you disagree I will gladly make a simple wager with you. You promise not to look at a players stats all year, any player you want (of course if you watch the broadcasts this is impossible, but maybe you go to all the games I don’t know). At the end of the year you tell me his OBP. No counting allowed (that’s stats after all). If you can really tell how good a player is without stats you should be able to come within 10 points of his OBP right? Otherwise you don’t really have a very good sense of how good he is right? So that will be the wager. Or more realistically we can both make projections for every Yankee for the upcoming year. I’ll use stats and you promise not to do any stats research and use only what your intuition is telling you. At the end of the year we’ll see how we both did.”

                      This is the strawman that I mentioned. I said so many times in all these posts to –”take it all in” — “both” — “not either/or” when it comes to stats and observation and any other thing you can logically add to get the fullest context.

                      And the bet sounds a bit challenging to me anyway, I can’t see how there wouldn’t be any contamination on either side. But ask yourself, what are scouts doing judging prospects — with bodies that often aren’t fully developed. What are they looking at? That some kid hit .550 in a HS in the suburbs? What are they assessing? How are they distinguishing one from the other. There’s many players who post gaudy amateur numbers but some won’t get drafted while others will — why? What do they see in them that’s predictive? They don’t have a slate of meaningful numbers to start with. Is it just luck? Drag in enough, some will make it?

                      I won’t make a wager going forward — but answer this with honesty if you can detach for a second. What if you had never seen a single moment of Gardner’s play to date — you only had the stats, no reports from other sources — just your collection of numbers. You’d come up with an assessment. But then someone tortured you and forced you go back and watch every single moment of Gardner’s play. Would your assessment of him change at all, one iota, a broadened horizon, an insight that might color a past view a different way? Anything at all? Or you already had everything you needed with the numbers?

                    • thenamestsam says:

                      Of course it would. If you expected a different answer you haven’t been reading very closely. But it’s going to matter much much less than the stats. You’re obviously not going to be convinced and the nature of your argument (because it relies entirely on your own observations) makes it difficult to use to convince others. So I think it’s best if we leave it there. I appreciate you remaining polite (to me at least) throughout the conversation. There’s space for every perspective in the Yankees camp.

                    • DM says:

                      “Of course it would. If you expected a different answer you haven’t been reading very closely.”

                      No, I didn’t expect a different answer. And I intended to ask a follow up question after I got that answer; but I won’t now since we’re leaving it here — or there.

                      Thanks for answering my questions (those that you did).

          • Ted Nelson says:

            Don’t even bother wasting your time. There’s no way to get through that vortex of ignorance.

            Strong rebuke, though.

      • CJ says:

        Gardner is an elite defensive OF and elite base stealer. If he improved to .300/.400 he would steal 70 bases as a leadoff hitter and be one if the best players in the game. That’s not really fair to expect him to improve from being a useful #9 to the best lead off hitter in baseball. Wonder why players have trouble playing in New York?

      • fin says:

        I use to be higher on Gardner. I was hoping he could become more consistent and hit some more line drives rather than all that bloob hit stuff. I have my doubts now. I think he is who he is and if he slows down at all, it will be the end of his effectiveness. It seems to me he takes more pitches right down the pipe than any player I have ever seen. Its probably not the case, but sure seems like it.

        • DM says:

          Agree completely. Minus a step, he’s an instant 4/5th outfielder. And he takes pitches in the other way, the way that says “I have a better chance at trying to squeeze ball four than hitting this guy.” Opposing pitches know this too; they throw it right down the middle in those counts. They don’t even bother with attempting a pitcher’s pitch.

  3. DSFC says:

    Remember that regression doesn’t automatically mean “bad season”. Granderson could easily regress and still have an excellent year. He put up MVP quality numbers last year – dropping to 30-35 homers from 41 is hardly cause for alarm.

    • GardnergoesYardner says:

      True, but the lower that the extra base hits and power production go, the harder it is to accept his high strikeout total and low batting average. I think last year was his peak, and if he did that again, I’d be amazed, but the fact is his game has noticeable flaws, which are only tolerable with compensation in other areas.

      • DSFC says:

        Strikeouts are no different than any other out for the most part. I feel pretty confident that Granderson will put up another season with around .350+ OBP, 500+ slg% and 30+ homers. That’s still a very good hitter.

    • Phil says:

      I would also note that regression doesn’t necessarily always mean “bad” period. You could reasonably assert that Tex will regress to his career norms. Although he was very valuable last season, I think we’re all in agreement that it was a down year by his standards.

      • Cris Pengiucci says:

        A healthy ARod could regress toward his career norms as well. Whil he may not hit 40 or 50 dingers again, 30 – 35 with a .280+ BA and .370+ OBP would also help make up for any loss of performance from others. He looked good yesterday. Let’s hope he can stay healthy and produce over the 162+ games that count.

      • thenamestsam says:

        Just what I was about to say. Add Martin to the positive regression group. According to xBABIP he was the 6th most unlucky player in the majors last year. With his batted ball profile his “expected” BABIP was .318. Actual was .252. If he finds a few more holes he could hit for a significantly better average (although his power may regress the other way somewhat).

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Good point

    • CJ says:

      Granderson and Robertson can regress and still be great. Cory wade’s line could take a beating from a couple bad innings while maintaining the same overall usefulness.
      Granderson repeats 2011 he will be too expensive. 2010 numbers he may be affordable. Preference? Take the big numbers and sort it out later.

      • GardnergoesYardner says:

        I agree. People who are saying the Yankees should sell high and trade Granderson are thinking that they see him as regressing and other people won’t. If they think that, other GM’s probably share that vision and wouldn’t value him at his 2011 numbers. I’d rather him post big numbers and walk as a free agent than him post mediocre numbers and be affordable or for them to trade him for a prospect load suitable for a mediocre player.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Even in his down years Granderson is still a 3+ fWAR CF. No one is saying trade Granderson for a mediocre return. People are saying that if there’s a team that’s willing to blow the Yankees away for Granderson they should seriously consider it.

          I would personally not say to trade him… just that we may look back and think trading him would have been the best move either if he regresses the next two years or is re-signed to a huge deal and regresses later. We may not.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            Also… there’s no perfect information in baseball. Different people will have different projections for different players. It is not correct to say that if one GM projects Granderson to fall off, every single MLB GM will have the same projection. In fact, it’s extremely unlikely. Every GM is probably going to look at that as a career year-type season he’s only so likely to repeat or top, but projections for the next two seasons and beyond might vary pretty widely. If you find a team that is a lot higher on your own player than you are… there’s definite potential for a trade.

  4. Slugger27 says:

    Those multi-run dingers will do a number on the ol’ ERA (and FIP)

    i was under the impression FIP counted all homers the same. multirun homers are part of the algorithm?

    • Mike Axisa says:

      No, I worded that poorly. More homers will hurt his FIP, that’s all. Doesn’t matter how many men were on base at the time.

      • Don W says:

        I think you have to look Nova similarly to Granderson although the sample size isn’t as definitive. Once Nova incorporated the improved slider he was a much better pitcher. I think the regression based a few multi-run homers will be offset by the fact that Nova is the post-call-up version of himself now.

        • CJ says:

          As long as Nova can keep his ERA below 4.25 he’ll be productive. I think that’s the magic number for his regression.

  5. Monterowasdinero says:

    I think Grandy will have another big year-especially if he bats at the top of the order with protection.

    It was mentioned yesterday that Freddy has the 2nd most wins in the AL since 1999 (behind Halladay). Freddy is crafty and I think he will be good again. More changeups to lefties is certainly something he can adopt.

    Arod was thin and great last year in ST. I am reserving judgement on an aging guy who hasn’t been healthy 4 years in a row.

    • CJ says:

      I think grandy will have a big year too and I agree that the 2 hole is a major factor in his success. He can have a big year and still be short of his monster 2011 numbers.

  6. Guest says:

    Great piece. One thing I love about this site is it handles subjects comprehensively. So since this is the piece about regression risks, can we expect a piece on regression rewards?

    Tex, A-Rod, and Soriano could be some pretty good candidates for a bounce back type season. (Maybe Swish as well).

    • CJ says:

      ARod and Soriano yes. Tex and Swish could improve some statistically but not so much that you would “see” or “feel” it, won’t impact W-L column.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Have to disagree about Tex. Guy is still at the tail end of his theoretical prime years and has a very clear flaw he needs to correct.

  7. GardnergoesYardner says:

    I think that on this list, Robertson and Nova are surefire regression candidates due to their young age. Age is huge when talking regression. Younger players who haven’t necesarily been around as long, then get some good luck in a season and run with it, don’t know how to adjust to not enjoying that same kind of luck as compared to the older veterans who have been around for a while and know how to handle whatever comes at them.

    A prime example of this was Trevor Cahill last year, as he had a ridiculously low BABIP in 2010. In 2011 when the hits started falling, his ERA rose to the same level as his FIP both years, around 4.10. He was only 23, and I’m sure he wasn’t prepared for a situation like that as a veteran like Garcia might be.

  8. CJ says:

    There’s Mo too as a regression risk. He repeats those stretches of games where it appears it’s all over and then he returns to classic Mo form.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Yeah, this one is definitely sacrilege but there’s got to be a day where he doesn’t have it anymore. Hopefully it doesn’t come till after he retires I guess.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Hopefully it happens in the broadcast booth.

        “Holy shit….I think Mo just lapsed into John Flaherty territory in the ninth there.”

  9. steve s says:

    I also have concerns about Cano who sort of regressed a bit last year. But even if Cano stays about even exactly who is going to make up for the anticipated offensive regression across the board? Montero, obviously, was a pretty good hedge but I don’t see this Yankee team scoring at the pace of the teams from the last 2 years (867 and 859) and rather I see them missing the 800 runs mark as the 2008 team did (789). Perhaps the better pitching will make up for it so they can maintian comparable run differentials.

  10. Eric says:

    This whole post is some excellent Sprotbait

  11. steve s says:

    Several components. Age related regressions for Jeter and Ibanez. Performance regression from career year for Grandy. Status quo for Cano, Tex, Gardner and Swisher (but Tex has been trending south for 2 years and Cano went somewhat south last year). Injury regression for Martin and Arod basically a question mark.

    • steve s says:

      Sorry, the above comment was supposed to be in response to Ted’s question above.

      • thenamestsam says:

        Okay, but you realize 60 runs is a huge amount right? Last year Tex, Swisher and Gardner totaled 60 runs above replacement. So basically it’s the equivalent of 3 every day players being entirely replaced with AAA fillers. That’s more collapse than regression.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I disagree with your definition of trending downwards. Tex has been pretty even the last two seasons… .367 wOBA –> .361 wOBA. He’s 32 and it’s pretty obvious what he’s doing wrong. I would argue that two data points on Cano doesn’t make a trend going forward.

      I expect Ibanez to be terrible, but he’s replacing a terrible Jorge Posada. I expect he’ll lose his job to Branyan or be replaced via trade mid-season anyway… at which time they’ll hopefully upgrade over 2011 Jorge for half a season or something.

      There’s an upside to the downsides you’re pointing out. Even Ibanez is coming off a career worst year he might bounce back from (have to imagine the Yankees think he will, though I don’t think it’s likely) and same with Branyan. A-Rod could have a much better season if healthy. Nunez could (should) have a much better season. Jeter could continue second half 2011. Martin is capable of much better seasons, and has been very durable on his career. Tex has a lot of room for improvement. Cano might have another 2010 as easily as another 2011, same with Gardner. Swisher has a bit of room for offensive improvement after a down 2011. Andruw Jones might continue to produce in more PAs. And they’ve got a strong farm system should they need to trade for replacements. (Few internal options, though not a lot… Romine, Laird, JoVa, CoJo, Adams if his recovery is miraculous, Pena isn’t the worst 3rd string SS…)

      • DM says:

        “I expect Ibanez to be terrible, but he’s replacing a terrible Jorge Posada. I expect he’ll lose his job to Branyan or be replaced via trade mid-season anyway”

        What’s the evidence to suggest that Ibanez will be terrible — and lose his job to Branyan (who must be better than Ibanez, if he’s replacing him)??

        Why the support of Branyan over Ibanez that you’ve pushed from the start? Show me the logic — other than something that ultimately boils down — “I hate Ibanez!” or “I like Branyan!”
        You thought Branyan would be the full-time DH this year. You thought his acquisition precluded others. Why?? You said “I thought it would have been Damon” the day he was signed like it was either/or – and now it’s settled. Branyan has already declined in the way people expect Ibanez to. He was horrible last year – getting worse each year of the past 4 and he already shows the physical breakdown people fear with Ibanez. Why should he get the nod? Complete nonsense.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I have shown it to you a dozen times and you don’t seem to care to look at it. Your total inability to learn is really tiring. It is useless to explain myself for the 13th time since you are certain to ignore my explanation and decide your opinion is more valid than my analysis… but I’ll try anyway.

          You seem to be the one with the subjective love for Ibanez and hatred for Branyan. I have made it very clear that my preference rests on facts.

          Ibanez is 3 years older and fell off a cliff last season. He hasn’t had a plus skill in 3 or 4 years. Branyan had a really rough 2011 in limited opportunities, but for three straight seasons before that he had a truly elite skill hitting RHP (which happens to be 2/3 of all pitchers…). On my bench I’d rather have a player with one truly elite skill if I can minimize his weaknesses (by playing him at DH) than a mediocre 5th OF who might be ok all-around if he isn’t physically done.

          Ibanez has already declined, too. No one is expecting it. It happened in 2011. Branyan’s was at least due to a known injury.

          • DM says:

            Your analysis = a rationalization for your desire.

            “I was expecting Damon, but I like this better. Another nice ninja move.”

            A minor league contract = ninja move? LOL. Like it was Damon vs Branyan for this bat they were seeking? Only you thought it was settled — as if Branyan (one of a group of non-guaranteed invites) precluded a Damon or an Ibanez or a Matsui signing. Yeah, you don’t have a subjective leaning towards Branyan, right. What’s Bill Hall’s minor league contract signing, a coup? Absurd. And you pounded your chest like Branyan was an example of a DH-only type who couldn’t take the field — but you were too uninformed to know that Russell the Muscle signed to play 1st for AZ (another minor league deal — since he can’t seem to land the other kind any longer — I guess a .230 career p/t player who whiffs every 3rd AB isn’t as appealing to others as it is to you) — and he’s played more in the field than DH’d for his whole career.

            “Ibanez is 3 years older and fell off a cliff last season.”
            Don’t worry about Raul — Branyan broke his fall when he landed. Russell had already tumbled end over end to the bottom of the canyon over the past two years. But he’s the “bounce back” guy — and Ibanez’s career is already over — it’s just that no one’s told him — or the Yankees — that yet. But Branyan is gearing up to take over — as soon as he’s done getting treatment on his back in the trainers room. I can see why there’s less skepticism of Branyan than Ibanez in regards to performance and maintaining health. It makes perfect sense in the Ted echo-chamber.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              “What’s Bill Hall’s minor league contract signing, a coup? Absurd.”

              “Branyan was an example of a DH-only type who couldn’t take the field — but you were too uninformed to know that Russell the Muscle signed to play 1st for AZ”

              “Russell had already tumbled end over end to the bottom of the canyon over the past two years.”

              Your ignorance is showing. That you make these comments seriously is hilarious.

              I am satisfied now that two of the most reputable commenters on RAB have also thoroughly dismissed you as a lunatic. Before it was frustrating to be the only one arguing against your ridiculous points. Now I feel bad for you.

              • DM says:

                The usual dodge.

                It’s interesting that you talk about 2 of the most reputable commenters on RAB calling me “a lunatic” — but with your usual emotional meltdown you provide no evidence. More importantly, you think I’m a lunatic too, right? If that’s the case, you don’t consider yourself one “of the most reputable commenters on RAB”?? Interesting.

                Ted, I misjudged you.

                Finally — if through indirect ass-backwards implication only — managed to convey something truthful. You didn’t count yourself as a reputable commenter here. Bravo! Progress.

                Now, if you can only cop to your rotating DH uber-flub (culminating with the usual flip flop) and your bizarre diminishment of Campos due to his lowly A-balledness – and the mother of all crazy gaffes, where volcanos erupt, a plague of locusts shower down, earthquakes, tsunamis — and worst of all: the Yankee habit of always making the playoffs will now end due to the loss of Jesus (aka John Carter-Neo-Luke Skywalker) despite him never contributing to said “dynasty”.

                Who will save us now??? I know! Russell Branyan! Please lay your own healing hands on that bad back so you get better ASAP! Please don’t sign with the Yakult Swallows or the Newark Bears a month from now.

                Oh the humanity!

                LOL

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