Mailbag: Phelps, Wildcard, Catchers, Cano

Minor League Links: Daley, Warren, Stoneburner
Poll: Orioles or Rangers?

Got five questions this week but two of them got short answers, so it’s more like 4.5 questions this week. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up mailbag questions, links, or anything else.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Rich asks: I have an irrational love for David Phelps. To me he’s been both durable and productive. From what I see, it seems like a lot of the damage done against him in starts is during the first inning (perhaps rookie jitters?). Any way you can find out his line in starts less that dreaded 1st? I really think he will go on to do great things for the team.

This question was sent in a few days ago, and sure enough Phelps went on to allow two runs in the first inning of Tuesday’s start before settling down and firing off zeroes the rest of the way. Here are his inning by inning splits…

1st inning 11 11.0 8.18 53 10 13 2 0 2 7 9 .295 .396 .477 .873 1 .324 156 131
2nd inning 11 11.0 4.09 46 5 8 1 0 3 5 13 .211 .333 .474 .807 2 .227 135 126
3rd inning 13 12.2 1.42 49 3 9 0 0 0 1 14 .205 .265 .205 .470 3 .290 41 34
4th inning 16 15.2 2.87 61 5 11 2 0 3 6 14 .204 .283 .407 .691 0 .216 101 80
5th inning 15 13.0 4.85 55 7 10 3 1 4 7 8 .213 .315 .574 .889 0 .171 156 136
6th inning 16 11.0 2.45 47 6 13 1 0 1 3 13 .302 .348 .395 .743 0 .414 119 101
7th inning 14 11.0 2.45 50 3 9 1 0 1 6 8 .205 .300 .295 .595 0 .229 77 71
8th inning 11 9.1 0.00 34 1 4 0 0 0 3 10 .133 .206 .133 .339 0 .190 3 1
9th inning 5 3.1 5.40 14 1 4 2 0 0 0 4 .286 .286 .429 .714 0 .400 108 112
Ext inning 1 1.2 0.00 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 .000 -100 -100
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2012.

Phelps completed six innings of work only three times in those eleven starts, due in part to pitch limits as he bounced between the rotation and bullpen. Joe Girardi also seemed to have a quick hook at times as well. Opponents did hit Phelps harder during the first inning than every inning other than the fifth, which has a lot to do with him tiring later in starts as well as some sketchy relief appearances. This is the quick and dirty method — I just don’t have the time to go through the game logs manually to pull up his stats as a starter by inning — but it does provide some evidence suggesting that the first inning is usually his worst.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t all that uncommon. More runs are scored in the first inning than any other throughout the league because it’s the inning in which the best hitters are guaranteed to bat. The fifth inning results in the second most offense league-wide as the starter begins to tire and mediocre middle relievers take over. Here is the AL inning-by-inning splits data for reference. Phelps is not unique when it comes to first inning struggles.

Tarik asks: This isn’t strictly a Yankees question, but doesn’t the extra wildcard team really highlight the problem of awarding postseason berths on winning the division? The Orioles and Rangers have better records than the Tigers, yet they have to play a one game wildcard play-in game. Not to mention the fact that the Rays and Angels have better records than the Tigers and they’re going home.

Yeah, that’s one big problem with the current playoff system. We had the same problem with the other system as well, but it really seems to stick out this year because the Tigers clinched the division so early despite having the worst record among all (AL and NL) playoff teams. The only way to completely eliminate this is by balancing the schedule and giving the teams with the top three records a “bye” to the ALDS while the clubs with the fourth and fifth best records meet in the wildcard play-in game. That isn’t practical due to travel and some other stuff, unfortunately. Hopefully the results and seeding are a little more fair going forward, because Detroit got a free pass thanks to the rest of their division being terrible.

Winter asks: What’s the catching situation looking like for next year? Russell Martin asking for too much doesn’t seem like as much of an issue anymore. Also will Chris Stewart be re-signed?

Despite being 30, Stewart is still in his pre-arbitration years and will remain under team control through 2016 (!) unless the Yankees decide to non-tender him at some point. They seem to like him, so I expect Stewart to return as the backup next season. He’ll only be paid something close to the league minimum as well.

Martin played his way out of the team’s 2013 plans … unless he played his way back into them in the second half. I still don’t think he’ll get anything close to the three-year, $24M-ish contract he turned down before the season, but re-signing with the Yankees seems more and more likely by the day. Maybe a one-year deal at $7-8M works? Two years at $15M? It’s a weird and unpredictable situation because we know the team loves him, yet for most of the season he didn’t perform at all.

(Al Bello/Getty)

Chip asks: How is Robinson Cano not getting any mention in the MVP race? He’s put up a nearly 150 wRC+ (148 to be exact) as a second baseman with outstanding defense. Is it just the lack of RBIs?

Yeah, probably. That and the fact that he kinda disappeared for a few weeks in April and August, I think. Plus Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera were so insanely good this year that they’re stealing all of the attention, so some of it isn’t even Robbie’s fault. Cano will definitely get MVP votes though, he was the team’s best player this year after all, though I suspect he’ll finish behind Derek Jeter on the ballot. I’d have him no lower than fourth behind Trout, Miggy, and Adrian Beltre if I had a vote, and you can very easily make an argument that Robbie should be third. He was absolutely one of the best players in the league this year, there’s no question.

Daniel asks: Since we all know he’s going to cost a fortune, what fictional trade would be acceptable for the Yankees to trade Robinson Cano?

We’re talking about the best second baseman in the world right smack in the prime of his career, so obviously a lot. The problem is that Cano will be a free agent after next season, so his trade value is somewhat limited by his contract status. The number of true cornerstone-type players who are traded one year prior to free agency is unsurprisingly small, so we don’t have many deals to reference.

The best recent comparable trade is probably the one that sent Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres to the Red Sox two years ago. Cano is a better player now than Gonzalez was then, plus he plays a more premium position, but this is the best comparison we’ve got. Boston forked over a pair of Baseball America top 100 prospects in Casey Kelly (#31) and Anthony Rizzo (#75), plus their first round pick from one year prior in Reymond Fuentes. Two high-end prospects plus a solid third piece seem to be going rate for one year of a superstar.

If the Yankees were to trade Cano, they would almost certainly seek a big league ready outfielder in return. That’s a glaring need. Pitching is always on the agenda as well. I don’t think the Cardinals would give up Oscar Taveras for Cano, which would sorta be the best case scenario for New York. Taveras is a left-handed hitting outfielder and arguably the best offensive prospect in the game, plus he should be ready for the show by like, next May. St. Louis has had trade interest in Robbie in the past, but that was a long time ago. Taveras plus RHP Trevor Rosenthal plus a throw-in? That’s what I would ask for and along the lines of what it should take to pry Cano from pinstripes.

Minor League Links: Daley, Warren, Stoneburner
Poll: Orioles or Rangers?
  • Eddard reboot v.1.0

    Phelps is going to be a key contributor in the playoffs. He has proven that he can pitch well in big games. I trust him more than Joba and Boone.

    With the Astros in the AL they need to balance the schedule more. I don’t think they’ll ever get rid of divisions because of the rivalries. They had a sub .500 division winner get a home game in the NFL playoffs and they did nothing so nothing will change.

    I’d put Robbie Cano 3rd on the MVP ballot for all he’s done this year. There have been a lot of injuries to the guys behind him in the order and he’s held the lineup together with Jeter.

    I wouldn’t trade Cano for a billion dollars and the Yankees should do everything they can to lock him up for the rest of his hall of fame career.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      You wouldn’t trade Robbie for Mike Trout?

      • Eddard reboot v.1.0

        The Angels wouldn’t make that trade so it’s a moot point.

        •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

          Lol. No will will offer a billion dollars either man, but you brought that up.

      • Jim Is Bored

        Plus, he didn’t say he wouldn’t trade Cano for Trout. He only wouldn’t trade him for one billion dollars.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      You wouldn’t trade Robbie for Mike Trout?

    • Jim Is Bored

      Joba has a WS ring. He’s a “proven winner”.

      Which I figured would be front and center in Eddard World.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      I trust him more than Joba and Boone.

      The delusions never end in Eddard World.

  • Slugger27

    What’s the case for Beltre over Cano?

    • Hummingbird S.

      No case, according to bWAR or fWAR. In B-ref’s version he´s second to Trout and on Fangraphs’ version he’s behind Trout, Posey, Braun and Wright.
      If you “believe” in WAR, he should be the runner up to Trout in the AL.

      • Slugger27

        i agree with you, just wondering what mikes explanation was. cano played as good of defense, at as tough (or tougher) position, hit better, played more games…. i dont know, i just dont get why cano isnt a no brainer above beltre.

        • Mike HC

          Mike did say he would have him “no lower” than fourth, and arguably third.

          • Slugger27

            right… but he did say 4th, behind beltre, and im wondering why. thats all.

            • Mike HC

              fair enough

    • Steve (different one)

      Grass being greener on the other side of the fence.

      • Slugger27

        haha, exactly what i was thinking. kinda the whole “be different just to be different” thing a little too maybe.

  • Cano fan #1

    Cano is the man

  • Kosmo

    I don´t think the Cardinals will part with Taveras anytime soon. He has a bigtime bat. Colton Wong still remains the Cardinals top 2B prospect.

    I´d like to see Cano retire as a Yank. All 16-18 years worth.

    • john

      I just don’t see Cano aging gracefully with his general lackadaisical attitude and preparation.
      (although he does seem to be saving his legs for the long run…)

      • Mike HC

        His preparation isn’t lackadaisical. He works out with Ortiz every off season and Ortiz has produced well into his mid to late 30’s.

        Now, his “attitude”, or his not running out ground balls etc …, well, theoretically, that should only help him conserve more energy and help him not wear down and be able to play a long career.

      • Slugger27

        the guy seems to be in tremendous physical condition. 161 games, 700 PAs, and still going strong, and finishing the year strong. how can you come to any other conclusion that hes a workout warrior who takes great care of himself?

        • gc

          He’s only missed TWELVE games in the past six seasons. You can’t be that durable playing that position without being in tremendous physical shape.

          • jjyank

            This. The “lazy” thing was taken too far by john over here.

      • Bo Knows

        That’s complete BS, It’s a known fact that Cano works hard in his training. It has been reported that he spends 8-10 hours a day training in the offseason, and he comes in early for extra BP. Just because he doesn’t need to dive at every groundball like Chase Utley or the imp (who are constantly injured by the way) does not make him lackadaisical

  • Matt :: Sec110

    Speaking on Cano. What do you offer him after 2013? He’ll be 30 after that season.

    Also, I think if they Yanks know they’re going to keep Cano over Granderson. Should they trade Grandy this offseason to try and get something for him, and maximize his value coming off back to back 40+ HR seasons.

    • Mike HC

      I wouldn’t. I doubt the Yanks could get enough in a trade to make it worth losing his production for next year.

      •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

        What if it allows for them to get something and keep Swish though?

        • Mike HC

          All this depends on what exactly they can get and the contract number we can sign Swish at. I generally think they should let Swish walk, play out next year with Granderson and Cano, and then re evaluate on how much you want to offer them after next season.

          •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

            I agree about the Swish contract. If it’s reasonable though, I’d like to see them keep Cano and Swish and deal Grandy. Obviously much easier said than done though.

        • Andrew Brotherton

          I think if it was possible I would look for a 3 team trade between the Pirates, Diamondbacks, and Yankees. Yankees get Upton, the Pirates get Granderson, and the Diamondbacks get Marte+prospects from both teams.

      • Laz

        I doubt they get back his value in production. He is still hitting 42 hr out of the cf spot. If they could get a few decent prospects than sure, but there is no point trading him just because, 42 hr is hard to replace.

        • Rafael Charres

          I’m totally in agreement with your assessment. 42 HR’s is very tempting to offer up to any team. Especially when the park is built for hitters like Granderson. I say, Keep all three. Get rid of Andruw Jones for sure. And, please let’s see what we can do to move A-Rod to another team for some pitching.

    • Slugger27

      then what do they do for an OFer next year? let him help make a WS run next year, let him walk, and get a draft pick, in my opinion.

      • Matt :: Sec110

        What if he could be in a package to get Upton?

        Big ‘what if’, but Upton’s making similar money now, and the DBacks aren’t looking to part with him because of money.

        So give them 2 ML ready pieces…Grandy/Nova…and then some prospects.

        Not sure that would work, but if it did. You could go Ichiro (on a 1 year deal), Gardner, Upton LF/CF/RF next year.

        • Bo Knows

          D-Backs don’t need pitching 5 of their top 10 prospects are pitchers. They need infielders (specifically a SS) and the Yankees only have a few of those.

    • toad

      You still “get something” even if he leaves as an FA. You get, besides whatever the draft benefit is, the salary flexibility to bring in or keep someone else. In the simplest case, if you pay someone else what it would have cost to keep Granderson, you’ve really just traded one for the other.

      I think it’s hard to make any sort of general statement. It depends on who’s available in a trade, what FA’s you think there will be after 2013, and what the team’s needs will be then.

      • Matt :: Sec110

        well yeah, I get that if he walks you get a pick, and if Upton comes in, you take on his (favorable) salary…and making trade proposals could go forever, but I think it’s an option.

        • toad

          Sure. Everything is an option. That’s why the decision has to based on the specific opportunities, and not on some general idea.

  • Jim Is Bored

    “That isn’t practical due to travel and some other stuff, unfortunately.”

    How so?

    This year, we didn’t know until the last night of the last day of the season whether the play in game and first 2 ALDS games would be in Texas or Baltimore. Travel concerns are a part of every single system; they wouldn’t be any worse if record determined seeding rather than division winners.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      I think he meant that by playing an unbalanced schedule within divisions, travel costs are lower than they would be by playing a balanced schedule without divisions.

      The “other stuff” I would guess to be divisional rivalries.

      • Jim Is Bored

        Ah, I guess that makes a little sense. Not enough for me to see it as even close to a deal-breaker though.

        • JAG

          I think the other stuff is the national perspective. Like it or not, a lot of the rest of the country hates the Yankees and the Red Sox and wants to see a local team in the playoffs. This year’s playoffs would have every AL team in either the East or the West coast under the “top 5” system. Previous years with only 1 wild card would have often had 3 AL East teams and one in California with nothing in between. Keeping the markets in Chicago, St. Louis, and the rest of the middle of the country invested in the playoffs is important to MLB.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    The first inning is the inning in which “the best hitters are guaranteed to bat”

    Food for thought for our lineup and our #3 hitter.

    Regardless of the opposing pitcher

    • LK

      The #3 hitter comes up with the bases empty and 2 outs more often than any other lineup spot. All the research suggests you should bat your 5th best hitter 3rd in the lineup. Batting order isn’t that big of a deal, but to the extent people want to complain about it, arguing we should bat our best hitter 3rd isn’t the way to go about it.

      • JAG

        While I agree with the research you’re quoting, the research also agrees that the difference is fairly negligible over the course of the season, particularly for a team as good as the Yankees. Batting Cano 2nd instead of 4th doesn’t increase the team’s output enough to get worked up about it, or to be worth inciting the traditionalists, who will get outraged over playing the best hitter 2nd instead of 3rd.

  • toad

    Isn’t there a mistake in the ninth inning numbers? How can giving up one run in 3.1 IP produce a 5.40 ERA? Should be 2.70, unless he actually gave up 2 ER, which gets it to 5.40.

    This message is from your local OCD Society.

    • Rick in Philly

      I looked at the linked table. BR has ER at 2, R at 1. Someone at BR must have entered the data incorrectly for that game; the rest of the data seems to check out.

      • toad


        Gamelogs show two runs, both earned, given up in the 9th.

  • Kevin

    “Detroit got a free pass thanks to the rest of their division being terrible.”

    This is fair to say, but I would nevertheless preach caution with any system whereby the 4th and 5th best team play each other in a play-off. Consider a situation next year where – say – Angels win 92 games and are 1st in AL West, Tigers and White Sox win 91 and 90 games in AL Central, but the re-tooled Red Sox and steady Orioles and Rays win 86, 87 and 88 games, with the Yankees narrowly winning the division with 89 games.

    Appreciate that my example might not be 100% possible, but the point is that having won the ‘toughest division in the game’, the Yankees would face a play-off just to get into the post-season. A low scoring division winner can be caused by a weak winner of a weak division, but also by a strong winner of a strong division


    • thenamestsam

      Fair point, but I think Mike’s preference as he stated would be for a balanced schedule to accompany the switch to a “top-3 advance, 4th and 5th play the wild card” system. That way there wouldn’t be any of the confusion you’re discussing since every team would play the same schedule.

    • JAG

      An argument can also be made that it’s unfair that the traditionally very strong AL East teams often get squeezed out of the playoffs due to the unbalanced system. If the Red Sox put it back together and the Blue Jays don’t get so injured, we could see an AL East with no sub-.500 teams. We’ve already seen an AL East with 3 90-win teams. Doesn’t seem right that one of them is going home with nothing while the Tigers scraped by at just over .500.

    • toad

      But this eliminates the whole idea of divisions. If you can end up out of the postseason even if you win the divison, as would happen to detroit this year, then divisions are meaningless.

      Then you end up with fewer teams having a shot at the post-season, and more locks. The battle is for fifth place and third place. On the other hand, this year the 7th, 8th, and 9th place teams – LA, Det, and Chi, were all in contention. Fan interest matters, and having too many teams who are just playing out the string, or coasting, introduces some unfairness toward the end.

  • bg90027

    I didn’t ask the question but I don’t think those innings splits really address the guy’s question about Phelps. The innings splits seem to include both starts and relief appearances so many of the mid-game innings might be Phelps’ first inning of the game. Not sure where you’d get the splits stats for the starts only but that’s what you’d want to look at.

    • bg90027

      Just re-read your post. Obviously you realized that it was quick & dirty and an imperfect analysis and I don’t know where you’d get better data either.

  • Cuso

    Wow, look at the very first post in that link Mike provided highlighted “had trade interest.”