Mailbag: Binder, Danks, Frenchy, Pineda

Gumbs' big night not enough in Charleston loss
6/15-6/17 Series Preview: Washington Nationals

Six questions and five answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

Jersey untucked. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Jerome asks: With the Yankees starting to win a lot of games (and close ones at that) without David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, who should we credit for this? Does Joe Girardi‘s binder deserve some love? I’m not saying we’re better without D-Rob and Mo but will this help convince the Yankees to never again spend big bucks on bullpen help in the future?

Yeah, it’s funny how the binder jokes went away when Girardi mix-and-matched his bullpen to 16 wins in 20 games without Robertson or Mo. I’ve always been amazed at how every industry in the world uses available data to make informed decisions and progress forward, but in sports it’s frowned upon. The number of people that think relying on “gut feel” is a good thing is staggering.

Anyway, I wouldn’t hold my breath if you think the team’s recent ability to put together strong bullpens using internal options and the scrap heap will keep them away from the free agent market. They are the Yankees and will always spend on players. Maybe they won’t splurge to the extent to Rafael Soriano again, but I doubt the Pedro Felicianos and Damaso Martes are going to go away forever. There’s nothing wrong with taking a one-year flier on a guy like LaTroy Hawkins or Chan Ho Park or Luis Ayala each winter, but the multi-year commitments for less than elite relievers are what really irk me.

Anonymous asks: Would you still be interested in acquiring John Danks after this rough start he has had to the season, including injuries? I know you were pretty high on him as a trade target.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Danks was terrible early on this year — 5.70 ERA and 4.97 FIP in nine starts — and is currently on the DL with a shoulder strain. He’s expected back sometime later this month. I drove the Danks train this offseason, I’m a big fan of the guy and like his chances of improving into his age-27 season, plus I liked his left-handedness and the fit for Yankee Stadium. Obviously the shoulder problem changes that somewhat, but also his new contract extension — five years and $75M — changes things as well.

The new contract basically eliminated my interest. I liked the idea of getting Danks for one year (2012) and seeing how he handled the AL East and Yankee Stadium before committing long-term. Now they’d be locked in long-term right out of the chute, which could be problematic given the 2014 payroll plan. I still like Danks and think he’ll be very good going forward, but I don’t think he makes sense for the Yankees at this point. Not with that contract.

Miller asks: If the starters keep pitching effectively, will the Yankees go after another starter at the deadline? Will they have faith in Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova to carry them through the playoffs?

Yeah, I’m sure they’ll trust those two into the postseason. Remember, you only need four starters in October and the fourth starter will be marginalized, maybe three starts tops if you make a deep run and play five or six or seven games in each series. The Yankees have a strong front three with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda, so just one of those two — I’d go Nova and stick Hughes in the pen if the playoffs started today — needs to serve as the fourth starter.

The non-waiver trade deadline is still six or so weeks away and a whole lot can change between now and then. Injuries could pop up, guys could start stinking for no apparent reason, all sorts of stuff could force the Yankees to swing a deal for a starting pitcher. Things are going well right now and I wouldn’t expect rotation help to be all that high on the deadline shopping list at the moment.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

D.R. asks: If Gardner is out for an extended period of time, what do you think of Jeff Francoeur as a trade target?

Peter asks: Jon Heyman reports that the Royals are putting Jeff Francoeur on the block. He’s a bit pricey for his production, but do you think he could be a fit for the Yanks to 1) fill in for Brett Gardner this year and 2) be a one-year stop-gap if they don’t re-sign Nick Swisher in 2013?

Frenchy is still only 28 years old and he’s under contract for $6M this year and $7.5M next season, so he’s not cheap. He had a very good season in 2011 (.346 wOBA and 117 wRC+) but has since reverted to his usual terrible self: 93 wRC+ in 2012 vs. 92 career. The two things Francoeur can do really well is hit left-handers (114 wRC+) and play defense (both just running down balls in the outfield as well as making throws). He also has a reputation as a great clubhouse guy, for what it’s worth. Frenchy is a classic underachiever in the sense that he should be so much better than he is; the talent is there for him to be a top-25 player in the game. The lack of plate discipline — not just not walking (5.0 BB%), I mean swinging at bad pitches and making weak contact — has been his downfall.

That said, Francoeur isn’t a terrible platoon option given his production, but he is given his salary. He’s being paid like an everyday guy and there’s no way the Yankees could run him out there for 500+ plate appearances. If he was making like, $2-3M or so, maybe it’s a different story as a one-year stopgap. He’s on the short-end of the platoon stick as the right-handed bat, so you’d still need a quality left-hander to make this thing work.

Rahul: Is there any update on the Michael Pineda injury? I actually forgot he is even a Yankee. I just haven’t even thought about the guy since maybe mid-May.

Pineda had his surgery as scheduled on May 1st, and Brian Cashman confirmed that everything went well that day. Based on the Twitter feeds of various Yankees’ farmhands, Pineda is currently in Tampa doing whatever he needs to do. I haven’t been able to find any kind of rehab timetable, but his arm may still be in a sling since we’re only six weeks out from surgery. I wouldn’t expect many updates at this point just because we’re less than two months into a year-long process.

Gumbs' big night not enough in Charleston loss
6/15-6/17 Series Preview: Washington Nationals
  • jsbrendog

    dear mo,

    please fix pineda so he is good as new.


    • jjyank

      Joba needs to share his superhuman recovery abilities!

      • The Big City of Dreams

        Is it possible to share animantium?

  • DM

    I think the Yankees are always looking to acquire pitching — and anything else that might help for the last 2 months. With the final push towards the post-season, they wont worry about displacing anyone if they believe a new acquisition will give them an edge.

  • HogWild

    This part of the reader’s question makes no sense: “I’m not saying we’re better without D-Rob and Mo but will this help convince the Yankees to never again spend big bucks on bullpen help in the future?”

    Um, Soriano is the main reason the bullpen is performing! He was the reliever they spent big bucks on and it’s working!

    Most teams are desperate for a closer. The Yankees pay lots of money to employ two in case one gets hurt.

    It’s great that the other dudes are performing in their roles but let’s not overlook the importance of Soriano. It’s not so easy to close.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Soriano is the main reason the bullpen is performing!

      Valid point, but what concerns most people is value. Unfortunately the Yankees competeed with themselves for his services and overpaid because of it. He’s great to have and is doing an outstanding job, but he probably could have been doing the same for less since no one else was offering anywhere near what the Yankees paid.

      • Mr. Sparkle

        “Overpaid” is relative. It seemed at the time of the signing and all of last year that they overpaid for Soriano. Doesn’t seem so much now that his value and importance have increased…as well as the improvement (so far) in his performance.

  • Bill Style

    “I’ve always been amazed at how every industry in the world uses available data to make informed decisions and progress forward, but in sports it’s frowned upon. The number of people that think relying on “gut feel” is a good thing is staggering.”

    I think Girardi excels in mixing the two, as a fan watching every game you observe who’s slumping or riding a hot streak, as well as which pitchers have been consistently hitting their spots, or working themselves into jams. I credit Girardi for somehow combining these two elements, and that’s why the bullpen has been lights out without having to overtax the main guys (e.g. Atlanta last year)

    • gc

      Agreed. I think there is an antiquated mindset amongst players and fans that people are afraid to let go of. Maybe not afraid, but unwilling, as they think the game ceases to be what it is if they let go. This is not to say that totally abandoning the human element (or instinct or gut or whatever it is) is the best way to go, but as you said, a mix of styles. I think folks can be too set in their ways about the game in certain aspects. Change is frowned upon and takes generations to really come about. It must be some “unwritten rule” (another of my least favorite hold-overs from a bygone era).

      • jjyank

        Yeah, baseball seems to hate change. Instant replay is the most visible example. It’s the reasons why managers like Maddon can do what they do in part because it’s a small market and they can get away with moves that buck traditional views.

        Agreed about Girardi. I never understood the binder hate. This isn’t a small sample either, Girardi has long been considered an excellent bullpen manager.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          The binder stuff comes from making him your fall guy when the team doesn’t do well, THEN trying to match that up with some sort of excuse. I’ve always said it’s the single dumbest thing brought up on here.

          All managers can be blamed for over-relying on whatever their worldview is at one point or another and, then, that leading to a loss. You don’t get through 162 games as a manager without feeling the heat on a few losses, no matter the reason.

          In the non-profit world, the equivalent of going by actual data is called “evidence-based practice” and, if you’re not moving to that sort of model, you’re not getting money.

          Not that the Yankees should be run like a non-profit….

    • thenamestsam

      Girardi? Excelling? Pretty soon you’ll be telling us we should give credit to Cashman too. Never have I heard such blasphemy.

  • Darren

    Most people don’t have a problem with using stats and matchups effectively. The problem is when a picther is pitching great and he is removed for a match-up that even on paper isn’t significantly better, and when coupled with the way the removed pitcher was pitching, seems too “by the book”.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      But it’s only an issue when the decision doesn’t work.

  • http://riveraveblues austinmac

    Can you imagine Torre with thtis bullpen? The top three guys would be pitching every day since he never had faith in anyone else. Girardi has the ability to put the pen guys in a position they can succeed and develop some confidence.

    • gc

      Torre rode Stanton, Nelson, Mendoza and Rivera pretty hard as “guys he trusted” for a few years and he won some championships with them. The only comments about Torre’s usage of the bullpen when they won was more along the lines of him always knowing how to “push the right buttons.” It seems like that when players perform well and the team wins, don’t it?

      • jjyank

        To a degree, but Torre didn’t recognize that you can’t ride ALL guys like that. Proctor is the obvious example, and that infamous game a few years ago when Torre let Broxton throw close to 40 pitches in an inning comes to mind as wll.

        Whereas Girardi took Soriano out the other day when he realized that he didn’t have it that night.

        • gc

          Then again, I would also say that as Torre’s time as Yankee manager continued, the roster construction of his bullpen wasn’t as good. This isn’t said to totally excuse him for what he did, but to try and put it into a more reasonable perspective.

          • jjyank

            That’s a fair point. But would Torre be as comfortable using guys like Rapada or Eppley in big spots, or would he ride Soriano and Wade into the ground?

            I’m inclined to believe that Girardi is more diverse with his bullpen usage.

            • gc

              Oh I agree. Torre was always more “gut instinct” reliant than Girardi, and I prefer the younger Joe’s approach. I just think it’s en vogue for some Yankee fans to pile on Torre as this awful manager when I think they weren’t really complaining much when he was winning. That’s, of course, how it seems to be with ALL managers, but all the off-field stuff with Torre towards the end has led to some negativity that tends to cloud the memory at times with some.

              • jjyank

                I agree with this. Torre was far from an awful manager. His bullpen management was the weakest part of his game, but he wasn’t a bad manager at all.

            • Kosmo

              Torre tried to use pitchers like Mike Myers and Tanyon Sturtze and they usually failed big time.
              It seems Girardi is blessed with more depth than Torre ever had. Go back and look at some of the relief pitchers who auditioned for relief roles with NY during the Torre era and you´ll find hardly if any got the job done.

              • jjyank

                There’s no question that Giradi has a better bullpen, but he’s getting the most out of scrap head guys like Rapada and Eppley too. Ayala from last year as well.

          • Havok9120

            Wasn’t as good as Soriano, Eppley, Rapada, Wade, Logan, Garcia?

            Heck, even throw DRob in there if you want and you’ve still got 2 good-great relievers with fairly big names and a bunch of nobodies who happen to be pretty good….the type of guys Torre just didn’t feel comfortable enough to use in anything close to a tight game.

            • Havok9120

              Unless, of course, they were “hot,” at which point they’d warm up every night for three weeks until they couldn’t lift their arm.

            • Kosmo

              Mike Myers ,Sturtze,Weathers,Holmes , Tessmer, Erdoes, Witasick, Wohlers ,Osuna, Acevedo, Hammond, White, heredia,Prinz,Proctor,Rodriquez,Visciano,Henn,Groom,Villone,Farnsworth,Beam. All sucked and there are dozens more.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                BUDDY GROOM!

                You forgot my personal favorite, Wayne Franklin.

                A few of those guys served the same purpose Buddy Carlysle, Iragosha (sorry, I never get his name right) and Amaury Sanit do, and that’s pitch the most garbage of innings.

                • Kosmo

                  I thought of Franklin but I also began to think of the absurdity of my post and had to pull the plug.
                  T.J. Beam was my favorite. I always like the name.

              • Steve (different one)

                Right, but a LOT of the guys on that list managed to have success with other teams.

                Meyers, Witasick, wohlers, Osuna, Hammond, white, Rodriguez, Vizcaino, etc all had success with other managers. Not saying Torre was to blame for all of them, but these guys weren’t all nobodies.

                • Kosmo

                  they all had some degree of success before they pitched for NY but most were on the downside of their careers.

        • Kosmo

          “I´ve got blisters on my fingers“

  • Reggie C.

    So the Yanks are now in on Ryan Dempster?

    Why? The man walks at the end of the season. Maureen he’s pitched we’ll and is arguably an upgrade over Nova and Hughes, but I would still roll Pettitte before Dempster for a playoff start.

    • jjyank

      Interesting. If he comes super cheap prospect wise, I’m cool with it. But I doubt Theo and Hoyer are looking for a salary dump trade, and I agree that he’s not enough of an upgrade to give up real prospects for.

    • Thomas

      Maureen he’s pitched we’ll

    • Reggie C.

      Just re read my post bc I’m vain. Wtf is Maureen? I meant to type “I mean” … Yeesh, #autocorrectsuperfail

      • pat

        More importantly, who’s Maureen?

    • JohnC

      Pure specualtion. DOn’t beleive everything you read or hear

    • Kosmo

      It could just be a Yankee smoke screen, it might drive the price up a bit knowing well enough Boston is a starter or 2 short.

  • thenamestsam

    Giradi definitely deserves a ton of credit for effectively piloting this bullpen, and doing it during a stretch with a ton of close games. Cashman also deserves a lot of credit. He has done a great job putting together enough pitching depth to withstand the loss of three very important pitchers for long periods with barely a hiccup. Not a lot of teams are in that position.

    • Havok9120

      Hiss boo. Heretic.

    • Robinson Tilapia


    • Tom

      Girardi has been good, but let’s not overstate things…

      You know how many times over the last 12 games he has needed the bullpen to get more than 6 outs?

      TWO – one time 7 outs and one time 9 outs (yesterday). Everything else over the last 12 games has been 6 outs or less.

      One of the reason the pen and Girardi’s usage of it has looked so good, is that the starters have been on an absurd run of going deep into games. When you are just going into your bullpen in the 8th inning you can afford to use 4 pitchers to close out the last 2 innings. If he is going to these guys in the 6th or even the 7th inning, things look a lot different.

  • A.D.

    Given Francouer usually does well every other year, along with when he changes teams, seems like no-brainer for the Yanks, get the change of team lift followed by the ever other year lift

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    I think the binder hate is akin to where Mr. Burns had Homer Simpson pinch-hit for Darryl Strawberry (even though Strawberry was 7 for 7 with 7 HRs) because a lefty pitcher came in.

    Overall fans want managers that use data but are not slaves to data.

    As Pete Incaviglia once said, “Statistics are like a bikini. They show you a lot, but not everything.”

    • stuckey

      The inherent flaw with this argument is by rule based on the notion that if you don’t get the desirable outcome, an alternative method would have worked.

      “Not being a slave to the binder” in essence means “when you follow the binder and it doesn’t work, I don’t like that.”

      Unfortunately there is no empirical data to support the idea that if a manager uses “his” instinct (which REALLY means the critics instinct) every once in a while, he’ll achieve better results.

      There is NO possible way to prove that. Its based solely on the premise that if it didn’t work out one way, it would have worked out another.

      Which is VERY bad science.

      When to use the binder and when not to use the binder is fraught with the same randomness at the heart of the criticism.

      You either use it or you don’t. Again, there is no way to empirically support exactly when it is a good idea to deviate from your method.

      People saying he shouldn’t be a slave to his method are playing a mental game/trick on themselves.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        You’d think that, after reading this, no one would ever mentioned the binder again.

        • jjyank

          If only it was such a perfect world.

        • Jim Is Bored

          People who still want to bring it up will see “inherent flaw to this argument” and skip the rest of his post, then post about how nerds are ruining baseball.

          Logical arguments do nothing to dissuade those who won’t listen.

        • stuckey

          btw – I personally wish Girardi would open up the three rings, take out the page about sacrifice bunts and replace it with Billy Beane’s page, and close it back up, but that’s a different criticism.

          • Incitatus

            Yeah my problem is more with what’s in the binder than that it is being used. So far this year I haven’t had too many complaints though. That Swisher bunt in the Mets game on Sunday just about gave me an aneurysm at the time (I was at the Stadium), but once the recaps made it clear it was Swisher’s call, that let Joe off the hook.

      • Havok9120

        Excellent post.

      • Tom

        It’s not only “fraught with the randomness”. The inherent flaw in your argument is your belief that you can’t evaluate the process without the result – while some do only rely on the result to dictate whether it was a good or bad decision, others can actually differentiate the decision process from the result. (you can look at things like expected outcomes)

        The issue with the binder is at times it can be fraught with failure to understand the statistical limitations of some of the numbers in the binder.

        For example – Girardi has commented at times on the head to head #’s, and that is one of by bigger issues with the binder usage. If it’s anything less than 15 PA’s that number is probably completely useless unless every PA was a K (like an 0 for 10 wih 8K’s) or nearly every plate appearance was a HR (like a 6 for 8 with 4 or 5 HR’s). 1 for 10 vs 4 for 10…. pretty much no difference on a sample that small, yet I’m not sure Girardi doesn’t see .100 avg vs .400 avg and acts on it.

        The issue (or at least my issue) is not the usage of statistics, it’s understanding if the data being used is statistically significant. And in some cases I don’t think it is.

        While I think in general he blends information in pretty well there are times where he seem overly reliant on it – one example is the defensive shifting (especially the infield), it’s one thing to look at a spray chart but is he looking at the spray chart based on handedness of the opposing pitcher? pitcher type?(power vs finesse), is he looked at batted ball speed trends? (for both his pitcher on the mound and the batter at the plate) He might be for all I know but there have been some head scratcher shifts put on at times.

        • Incitatus

          Well said, Tom.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Pete also struck out a zillion times, so he may not have wanted you to notice.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Frenchy as Swisher-replacement is an interesting thought, but not via trade and if we’re having an identical search for a Frenchy-replacement in 2014.

    Melky’s so going to be eating gold-plated mofongo off a stripper next year.

    • jjyank

      As long as he’s doing that on someone else’s dime. I like Melky, always have, but he’s gonna get overpayed like it’s going out of style.

      • Havok9120

        Yeah. All respect to Tilapia’s wife….but I’ve had enough of the Melky Cabrara experience.

        • Kosmo

          Quite frankly, I´m on the “Bring back Melky“bandwagon.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            “… the right price, which may not be likely.”

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Thanks for remembering her. :)

  • M-Three

    “There’s nothing wrong with taking a one-year flier on a guy like LaTroy Hawkins or Chan Ho Park or Luis Ayala each winter”

    Maybe I’m nit-picking but I disagree with this 1 statement. Its always wrong to sign these type of relievers. We are better going with our young guys to fill bullpen spots than signing scrubs like these 3. Look at the good track record we”ve had with young guys in the pen: D-Rob, Joba, Aceves and Coke. Its reason like this that I hope kids like Montgomery, Kahnle and Burawa are part of our future bullpen rather than signing trash like Hawkins, Park and Ayala.

    • Kel

      You missed the point. Taking flyers on relievers is smart. Every year there are a dozen or so relievers that fans thought were trash, but ended up having good years. Relievers are extremely volatile year to year.

  • Incitatus

    That Francoeur picture is hilarious, Mike. And cruel. But mostly hilarious.