Mailbag: Burnett, Haley, Marmol, OPS+, WAR

Carlos Beltran gets it done in the postseason
Yanks waiting on A-Rod decision for further improvement

Got seven questions for you this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us mailbag questions, links, comments, whatever.


Anonymous asks: Why not an A.J. Burnett reunion? He could easily eat up 200 innings and wouldn’t be that expensive and doesn’t require a draft pick.

I mentioned this to Joe yesterday. If it wasn’t for 2010-2011, wouldn’t Burnett be the perfect one-year stopgap for the Yankees if Masahiro Tanaka is not posted? He has a 3.41 ERA (3.17 FIP) over the last two seasons, he misses bats (8.90 K/9 and 23.6 K%), the walks aren’t out of control (2.95 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%), he gets grounders (56.7%), his velocity has been steady, and he’s thrown 180+ innings in each of the last six years. What more could you want?

Of course, it’ll never happen. Burnett was a disaster during his final two seasons in New York and I think the Javy Vazquez wound is still fresh enough to keep the team from trying a reunion. Burnett has said he will either pitch for the Pirates or retire next season, so maybe he wouldn’t even entertain the idea of coming to the Yankees. If he was open to it and his name was anything but A.J. Burnett … man he’d be a perfect fit.

Dustin asks: If the Yankees miss out on Tanaka or he doesn’t get posted, what do you think of the Yankees offering Ubaldo Jimenez or Matt Garza a one-year contract with a promise of not extending a qualifying offer? Yankees get a decent pitcher for one year that they can replace with one of the man good pitchers next off season, and Ubaldo/Garza can get to negotiate without having a pick attached to them. Do you think this is at all possible?

First, Garza will not cost a pick this winter, so that’s not an issue for him. He was traded at the deadline and a player has to be with their team for the full season to be eligible for the qualifying offer. Second, the Collective Bargaining Agreement strictly prohibits teams from promising they won’t extend the qualifying offer to help entice a free agent. I guess they could still do it under the table, but MLB is watching.

Third, I don’t think either guy would go for that.  Ubaldo and Garza (and Ervin Santana for that matter) should have no trouble getting a nice multi-year contract as soon as the Tanaka situation is resolved. That is holding everything up, teams just want to know if he’ll be available before moving on to the alternatives. It would be hard for Ubaldo and Santana in particular to improve their stock in 2014 given their 2013 seasons. If any of those three are still sitting there unsigned when Spring Training rolls around, sure, make them a fat one-year offer. I just don’t expected them to still be on the board that long.

Kameron asks: Trey Haley was designated for assignment by the Indians yesterday. Do you think the Yankees should make a run at him? He has been around the 100 mph mark his entire career.

(Rich Pilling/Getty)
(Rich Pilling/Getty)

Yes, definitely. Haley’s name caught my eye when I saw the Tribe cut him to make room on the roster for John Axford. The 23-year-old had a 4.71 ERA (4.31 FIP) with 46 strikeouts and 39 walks in 44 innings at Double-A this season, so he’s a project. He has two minor league options remaining, so a team can afford to be patient with him.

Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Haley as Cleveland’s 14th best prospect before the season, saying his “fastball now operates at 93-98 mph (and) has touched 100 (with) late, heavy life” and his “curveball had good depth … it shows flashes of becoming a plus offering.” The raw stuff is awesome — the Indians paid him $1.25M as a second round pick in 2008, so he didn’t come out of nowhere — but the general strike-throwing ability needs a lot of work. The Yankees have a tight 40-man roster but they could make room for an arm like this. Someone is going to trade for Haley or claim him off waivers and it would be cool if it was the Bombers.

Dale asks: If Seattle needs a backup catcher and are trying to move one of Dustin Ackley or Nick Franklin, would a Austin Romine for one of the two of them be fair enough? Or would we have to include another outfield prospect?

I don’t think Romine would be enough for either guy but especially not Franklin, who hasn’t been a Mariner long enough to have his value destroyed. A package of Romine plus a second prospect (Nik Turley? Jose Ramirez? Peter O’Brien? I have absolutely no idea) might be enough to land Ackley at this point, who I prefer to Franklin. I like the idea of buying super low on a guy who is only 25 and two years removed from being arguably the best hitter in the minors. Franklin is expected to be more of a solid regular long-term, and while that’s pretty good, I’d rather take a shot on Ackley’s talent while he’s still relatively young.

Adam asks: Thoughts on Carmol Marmol for the pen? Could he be a fit or is he done?

I don’t think he’s done, he’s just incredibly erratic. Marmol, 31, struck out 59 batters in 49 innings this past season (4.41 ERA and 5.19 FIP), but he also walked 40 (!). He’s got a 7.33 BB/9 and 18.0 BB% over the last two seasons. Few batters can miss bats as well as Marmol but few hit the strike zone less often. I’d take him on a minor league contract in a heartbeat — there’s always a chance it clicks and he has a Kimbrelian year or something — but I’d be wary about guaranteeing him a roster spot.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Jorge asks: Would you rather have a lineup composed of all 100 OPS+es or half 150 OPS+es and half 50 OPS+es?

Well, there are nine lineup spots, so let’s call it four 150 OPS+es, four 50 OPS+es, and one 100 OPS. The idea is that the nine spots would average out to a 100 OPS+ but that wouldn’t actually happen in real life. The four 150 OPS+es would be stacked at the top of the lineup and they’d get more at-bats than the 50 OPS+es. Instead of averaging out to a 100 OPS+, that lineup would average out to a 105 OPS+ or something like that.

Anyway, I’d much rather have a lineup of nine 100 OPS+ players. I prefer a deep and circular lineup to a top-heavy one. Those four 50 OPS+ spots are just killers. That’s three full innings in any given game where you have close to no chance to score. The lineup of league average hitters might not be sexy but the more good hitters you have, the better your chances are of scoring. Simple as that.

Jamie asks: What’s the difference between WAR used on and And why can’t they just agree on one? I think a universal WAR algorithm would go a long way towards old school guys taking it more seriously than they do.

I agree that having one universal WAR would lead to it being taken more seriously, but I also think the different versions (we could throw WARP from Baseball Prospectus into this ring) are a feature, not a bug. The WAR model isn’t perfect and as long as the various systems are coming up with different numbers, they will continue to be tinkered with and improved. I consider that a good thing.

As for the differences, B-Ref uses Total Zone for position player defense while FanGraphs uses UZR. The different defensive stats lead to different player values. On the pitching side, B-Ref’s WAR is built on runs allowed while FanGraphs’ WAR is built on FIP. I prefer FanGraphs for position players and B-Ref for pitchers — FIP is theoretical and if you want to but a number on a player’s value, it should be based on what he’s done, not what we think he should have done — but either way WAR is not definitive. It’s one tool in the shed. The concept of WAR (combining everything a player does into one number) is a really good but it’s not close to being a finished product.

Carlos Beltran gets it done in the postseason
Yanks waiting on A-Rod decision for further improvement
  • Johnny O

    I’m glad Burnett left and I’m glad he had success in Pittsburgh. He claims that the Yankees kept trying to change the way he pitched whereas Pittsburgh just left him alone. I wonder how much of that is true and how much of an impact it really had on him. Of course the NY MSM puts forth the absolute truth that AJ is a small minded weakling whom they must tear down in their righteousness.

    • Mike Axisa

      Remember, if you have good stuff but struggle to command it well, it’s because you’re stupid and a headcase and not because pitching is hard.

      • Cookiemilk

        Burnett is not stupid or a headcase, he’s just an excuse maker. By your logic Carmol Marmol is both because he’s a good pitcher and look at his ridiculously high walk total you pointed out in this very mailbag segment.

        You are obviously miffed at Burnett’s words. He was excuse-maker but maybe there’s a degree of truth to what he said thus he’s not stupid. If you suck chances are you will suck at an even older age with more miles on the odometer, Burnett didn’t after cuz he joined Pittsburgh. One could argue he would’ve had even more pressure on him in Pittsburgh because the stakes are much higher for the Pirates, payroll decision wise. I don’t buy that a return to the N.L. and the 90% or better free out in the #9 slot automatically makes you better. Burnett was hitting batters and throwing wild pitches left and right in 2010-11. That could be a function of someone messing with him as well as his own doing i.e. it could’ve been a little of both. I’d say he’s more tempermental than a headcase. Also he never said what he said about the Marlins or Blue Jays and hasn’t said that about the Pirates. If he bitched about one, any two, or all three of them oh he’s definitely stupid and a headcase but he hasn’t, so he could have a point. Again he shouldn’t make excuses which is stupid. Shut up and pitch.

        • Cliff

          He was being sarcastic

        • jjyank


          Mike’s comment:


          Your head.


        • Chris in Maine

          I don’t understand the concept of more pressure despite less in terms of expectations. The Yankees ate a lot of money when they moved him. The stakes really were not that high for the Pirates. They bought low and it was a low risk decision for them.

        • the Other Steve S.

          I don’t recall ever hearing Burnett make excuses for anything. He mostly sat there and said, “I sucked.”. Same for Hughes.

          Also, Carmol Marmol needs to have a candy bar named after him.

      • Now Batting

        I’d still like to know the story behind that black eye.

        • TWTR


    • Midland TX

      Well to be fair to the Yankees coaching staff, I recall reading that the velocity differential between his fastball and his off-speed stuff dropped from 9-15 mph to 5-7 sometime around 2010, and that’s what caused most of his issues with control and higher contact in the zone. Batters started laying off the breaking stuff and catching up to the fastball. If “trying to change the way he pitched” means helping him to adjust to changed stuff, then I don’t think that’s something he should be complaining about.

  • Coolerking101

    Burnett? How about simply saying NO FUCKING WAY. Some guys just can’t pitch in NY. Maybe it’s the media being in your face all the time or maybe it’s the fact that when you’re rich, NYC can discretely get you whatever you want (girls, drugs, alcohol), whenever you want it. Whatever the reason was for AJ’s problems….he stunk it up for the majority of his stay in pinstripes. A reunion would be a nightmare.

  • Johnny O

    This websites cool but I never see people chatting

  • TWTR

    Burnett is a riddle wrapped in mystery…

    Some people say he couldn’t handle the pressure here, but he came up huge in the WS vs. the Phillies in Game 2 (not so much in Game 5, but I digress). If Rothschild and Joe G. were a yes, why not?

    • HK

      Wrapped in Carmol.

  • Cookiemilk

    I think the Yanke es should give A.J. Burnett a call and try to re-sign him.

    His 2010-11 you say? Ok let’s l ook at it shall we?

    He made 65 starts 2010-11 (33 in 2010 + 32 in 2011), so he was durable. He still is durable with 30 or more starts in each of his last seven seasons and eight out of his last ten including 31 starts in 2012 and 30 in 2013.

    He gave the 2011-12 Yankees 377 IP (186.2 in 2010 + 190.1 in 2011), so he was an innings eater. He still is as he has pitched at least 190.1 IP in each of the last six seasons including 202.1 in 2012 and 191 in 2013.

    He struck out 340 batters 2010-11 (195 in 2010 + 145 in 2011) so he was a strikeout pitcher. He still is has he has struck out at least 145 batters in eight of his last nine seasons, 173 in seven of his last nine seasons (more recently six of his last nine), including 180 in 2012 and 209 in 2013 (the second total his second highest single-season SO total.)

    In short, he’s a veteran durable innings eater who strikes guys out. That, his 3.99 ERA across 15 seasons (11 as a near year-round or year-round starter), and his 2012-13 ERA are indicators that he can be a high 3 to mid 4 ERA pitcher again.

    Oh yeah, 2010-11 IS IN THE PAST, and he’s a surer bet to last an entire year in the rotation than Phelps, Nuno, Pineda, Banuelos, or Warren who have a combined total of 57 MLB starts between them and that number is skewed because Pineda’s 28 MLB starts, almost half the total, were all in 2011 almost three years ago as he hasn’t pitched in MLB the past two seasons. Phelps is probably better suited as a swingman. Nuno and Warren have only three MLB starts each and Banuelos still hasn’t made an MLB start. So what qualifies any of these five pitchers to win the fifth starter job? Really nothing. Pineda last pitched in MLB in 2011 and has demonstrated he’s a fat, out of shape, lazy slob. Say what you want about Burnett but one thing he isn’t, never was, or will be is any of that.

    Spare me the “better to have a bad fifth starter making under $1M than one making well over $1M” crap. Burnett could be an overpriced fifth starter, sure, but again, at least he’ll most likely give the 2014 Yankees at least 30 starts, 180 IP, and 150 SO and definitely be way more likely to give the Yankees that than Phelps, Nuno, Warren, Banuelos, and Warren.

    If the Yankees indeed/actually sign Tanaka they should re-sign Burnett, too, for Sabathia/Kuroda/Tanaka/Nova/Burnett with Phelps as the swingman, Warren, Nuno, Pineda, and Banuelos further developing in AAA and plenty of rotation insurance along with Phelps.

    • mitch

      I think you’re forgetting how bad he was in 2010 and 2011. He was as bad then as Hughes was this year.

  • blake

    Really love the idea of buying low on Ackley if they’d actually sell low….just think he’s a lot better than he’s shown and would like to see how he re-booted away from Safeco.

    • TWTR

      Yeah, me too.

  • HectorLopez

    Been there done that, why not try Javier Vasquez while we are at it!!!!

  • dicka24

    Love the idea of buying low on Ackley. Romine + sounds good to me. GID.

    I like AJ Burnett, but it’s not happening. He’s not made for NYC.

  • FLYER7

    How about Cervelli instead of Romine with Noonie and a MiL arm for Ackley?

  • 101010

    I disagree with FIP vs runs allowed for WAR. Runs allowed is dependent on the defense behind a pitcher. If you take a league average pitcher and place him on a team with below average defense, the number of runs allowed will be higher than if he were on a team with above average defense. Personally, I would much rather evaluate a player on the aspects of their game that they can control.

    • Ed

      Baseball Reference WAR takes your raw runs allowed and adjusts it based on the quality of the team defense. It’s a normalized value assuming an average defense behind you.

      • 101010

        Ah, that’s insightful. Thanks.