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A couple of weeks ago we asked you for some feedback regarding the preferred delivery time for a RAB Daily Digest email. Now it’s time to actually start sending out that daily email.

A near majority of you prefer email delivery first thing in the morning, so you can expect this email to hit your inboxes at 6 a.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday. If this proves popular enough, and people want different delivery options (an evening regurgitation of the day’s posts, a Sunday edition, etc.), we’ll consider expansion. But for now, we’re sticking with the one daily email, first thing, five days a week.

What will you get in this daily emaiL?

  • What you missed on RAB – in case you didn’t read the previous day’s posts
  • News and intriguing tidbits from around the league, with commentary
  • One daily mailbag question: from subscribers, for subscribers
  • When we have the info available, a preview of what’s on tap for RAB today

As with any project, this will start rough and adapt as we go. We’ll respond to your thoughts and recommendations and hopefully create a neat new entity for RAB.

So why not give us a shot and sign up? Worst case, you click that Unsubscribe link and go about your day. Best case, we can talk about the Yankees in perhaps a different way.



Tuesday Night Open Thread

Buster Olney (subs. req’d) continued looking at the top ten players at each position today with left field. (He looked at third base two days ago but no Yankees were on it, because duh.) Michael Brantley topped the list, which I don’t necessarily agree with despite his huge year. Alex Gordon and Justin Upton round out the top three. Brett Gardner made the list at No. 8, between my boy Christian Yelich and J.D. Martinez. Yelich is so, so good. Gardner’s pretty cool too.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Devils are the only local hockey or basketball team in action, though I’m sure there’s college basketball on somewhere as well. Talk about the game’s top left fielders, the Devils game, the new Jurassic World trailer, or anything else right here.

Joe’s Shameless Promotion

Also, if you want to get some quick holiday shopping done before everyone goes nuts this weekend, the MLB Shop (and by extension the RAB Shop) is offering a buy one, get one 50% off deal on caps and tees.

Buy One Get One 50% Off Caps & Tee Shirts. Valid 11/25 & 11/26 Only

2014 Season Review: Splits, Velocity and More

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Every year, when I jot down a list of topics for the season review series, I always end up with extra stuff that doesn’t get written. I’m nice and ambitious at the start but by the end I’m just ready for it to be over, so some stuff doesn’t get written up. This year I had a few talking points I wanted to write up mostly because I was interested to see the information myself, though the topics weren’t necessarily worth a full post of their own. So I’m going to lump them all together here. Here are some random statistical tidbits about the 2014 Yankees.

Home/Road Splits

The Yankees went only 43-38 at home this year and were actually outscored by 22 runs. That includes a ghastly 18-23 at home in the first half, so at least they improved at home after the All-Star break. The Yankees outscored their opponents by 1.002 runs per game at home during the first five years of the new Yankee Stadium, yet they were outscored in the Bronx in 2014.

The Bombers both hit and pitched marginally better at home than on the road this past season, at least on a rate basis. They scored fewer runs at home even though they hit slightly better in terms of OPS+. Here are the offense’s home/road numbers:

Split PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip OPS+
Home 2965 304 662 117 9 88 286 64 11 218 558 .247 .309 .396 .706 .280 97
Away 3117 329 687 130 17 59 305 48 15 234 575 .244 .305 .365 .669 .284 95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2014.

The pitching staff, on the other hand, allowed 12 more runs on the road in 33 fewer innings pitched. Here’s the home/road splits for the pitching staff:

Split ERA IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WP BF WHIP SO9 SO/W
Home 3.66 743.0 712 326 302 97 199 15 734 28 17 3115 1.226 8.9 3.69
Away 3.84 710.0 680 338 303 67 199 8 636 37 32 2999 1.238 8.1 3.20
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2014.

Opponents had a 104 OPS+ against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium but a 94 OPS+ against them on the road, so they did hit them harder in the Bronx. Yet it resulted in fewer runs allowed. The Yankees hit better at home than they did on the road, but scored fewer runs. They pitched better on the road than at home, but allowed more runs. Weird.

Platoon Splits

Once Alfonso Soriano showed he was cooked, the Yankees had very little right-handed power on the roster. Derek Jeter had zero pop and both Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran failed to make an impact from the right side of the plate. It wasn’t until the Martin Prado trade that the team had a bonafide above-average right-handed hitting everyday player on the roster.

And yet, the Yankees hit quite a bit better against left-handed pitchers than right-handed pitchers in 2014, mostly because their lefties mashed same-side pitchers. Here’s the team platoon splits:

Split PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip OPS+
vs RHP 4359 428 942 173 18 108 403 328 800 .240 .302 .375 .677 .272 94
vs LHP 1723 205 407 74 8 39 188 124 333 .260 .320 .393 .712 .306 102
vs RHP as RHB 1132 95 255 53 2 13 84 54 228 .245 .289 .337 .626 .299 84
vs RHP as LHB 3227 333 687 120 16 95 319 274 572 .238 .306 .389 .695 .263 94
vs LHP as RHB 1043 116 238 46 3 21 109 74 199 .250 .310 .371 .681 .295 87
vs LHP as LHB 680 89 169 28 5 18 79 50 134 .276 .334 .426 .760 .325 134
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2014.

Overall, the Yankees had a 94 OPS+ against righties, including an ugly 84 OPS+ against righties by their right-handed hitters. Their lefties, meanwhile, had a 134 OPS+ against left-handed pitchers. Left-on-left was the team’s single best platoon split this year. Thank Jacoby Ellsbury (121 OPS+ vs. LHP) and Brian McCann (143 OPS+) for that in particular.

That is sorta scary because McCann’s reverse split this year is a total outlier compared to the rest of his career. He had a 92 OPS+ against lefties from 2011-13 while with the Braves. Considering he batted only 145 times against southpaws this past season, I’m guessing this is just small sample size noise and not some newfound skill. I hope that’s not the case but it likely is. The offense would have been worse if McCann hadn’t performed unusually well against lefties. Yikes.

The pitching platoon splits are interesting only because the Yankees’ right-handed pitchers dominated opposing left-handed hitters. I’m not going to embed the table but you can see the stats right here. Masahiro Tanaka‘s splitter acts like a changeup and allows him to be very effective against lefty hitters. The same goes for Hiroki Kuroda, just to a lesser degree. Michael Pineda‘s slider is so good it doesn’t matter what side of the plate the hitter is on. David Robertson has dominated lefties for years and Dellin Betances dominates everyone. Those five are a big reason why the team’s righty pitchers performed so well against opposing lefty hitters.

Velocity

There is more velocity in the game right now than ever before. Pitchers simply throw harder these days thanks to many reasons. Improved training, better understanding of mechanics, advanced throwing programs, more short relievers, better genetics, all of that and more is a factor. Throwing 96+ just isn’t as rare as it once was (unless you’re the Twins).

I wanted to see how the Yankees handled big fastballs this year, so, with the help of Baseball Savant, I looked at 2 mph chunks of fastballs from 88 to 100+. Here are the results (New York’s rank among the 30 clubs in parenthesis):

NYY AVG NYY ISO NYY K% MLB AVG MLB ISO MLB K%
100+ .500 (1st) .000 (t-30th) 50.0% (14th) 0.152 0.014 54.4%
98-99 .278 (8th) .000 (t-30th) 26.3% (11th) 0.206 0.084 28.0%
96-97 .197 (26th) .095 (12th) 18.0% (8th) 0.238 0.091 21.2%
94-95 .233 (24th) .123 (14th) 21.6% (23rd) 0.250 0.122 20.4%
92-93 .262 (23rd) .176 (5th) 15.5% (15th) 0.272 0.144 15.9%
90-91 .276 (19th) .146 (23rd) 10.6% (5th) 0.281 0.165 13.6%
88-89 .277 (20th) .160 (17th) 10.7% (8th) 0.286 0.170 12.5%
<87 .272 (18th) .187 (7th) 14.5% (18th) 0.276 0.159 13.7%

The sample sizes here are a couple hundred pitches except at the very top of the velocity chart — the Yankees had only 18 at-bats end with a pitch at 98-99 mph this year and only four end with a pitch at 100+. They saw more total pitches at that velocity, they just took a bunch for balls and fouled off some others. Those aren’t included in the table because nothing happened.

In those four at-bats that ended with a 100+ pitch, they went 2-for-4 with two singles and two strikeouts. So, naturally, I had to dig up the two hits. And guess what? They came in the same inning of the same game against the same pitcher. Those two hits came on July 20th against (who else?) Aroldis Chapman. I totally forgot the Yankees played an interleague series against the Reds this year. First, Ellsbury put together a great at-bat to single the other way:

Then, two batters, McCann hit this frozen rope to right field for the walk-off single:

Remember when I said McCann’s success against lefties this year was probably small sample size noise? Hits like that one are why.

Anyway, going back to the table for a second, the Yankees had their most trouble with pitches in the 92-97 mph range, in terms of batting average. (I’m ignoring the 98+ pitches because the sample’s so small.) They still hit for power against pitches at that velocity relative to the league average, but getting a simple base hit was a chore. It could be that the pitches they were hitting were mistakes pitches they were able to drive. That would explain the low AVG but higher ISO.

The Yankees did have a lot of older players who looked overmatched by quality fastballs this summer — Jeter, Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Brian Roberts stand out — which helps explain why the team as a whole struggled against higher end velocity. That leads us into the next section…

Bottom of the Roster

Here is a very quick and dirty breakdown of New York’s plate appearances this season. I split them into three ranges: players with a 95-105 OPS+, and then anything above or below that. I figure 95-105 captures everyone who can be considered league average with some wiggle room in each direction. Here’s the breakdown (this doesn’t include pitchers who hit during interleague play):

  • 106+ OPS+: 1,914 plate appearances (31.6% of the team’s total)
  • 95-105 OPS+: 1,331 plate appearances (22.0%)
  • <94 OPS+: 2,812 plate appearances (46.4%)

That’s a lot of plate appearances going to players who are comfortably below-average hitters and not nearly enough going to players who are easily above-average. Ellsbury and Brett Gardner combined for 1,271 of those 1,914 plate appearances by 106+ OPS+ players, by the way. Most of the rest belong to Prado and Chase Headley.

The Yankees had a stars and scrubs offense with no real stars and way too many scrubs. They have to figure out a way to raise the floor of the roster, if that makes sense. That’s much easier said than done because bench players are unpredictable, but with openings all around the infield, it’s an opportunity to really improve the team. The question is whether the Yankees can find pieces that fit, even if they have to overpay a bit. I’m totally cool with overpaying for a big bat right now. Offense is at such a premium.

For the sake of completeness, here’s the pitching staff using a similar breakdown:

  • 106+ ERA+: 637 innings (43.8%)
  • 95-105 ERA+: 277.2 innings (29.1%) (all Hiroki Kuroda and Shane Greene)
  • <94 ERA+: 538.1 innings (37.1%)

That’s a much better breakdown. Nearly two-thirds of the innings went to pitchers who were no worse than average and most of those innings went to guys who were way better than average. More of that in 2015, please. And hopefully with an offense to match.

Sherman: Yankees have made several trade offers for shortstops

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees have “made a series of trade offers to teams for shortstops” this offseason. He doesn’t name names, but we can make some halfway educated guesses: Elvis Andrus, Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Didi Gregorius, and Troy Tulowitzki. Sound good? I’m sure the Yankees at least placed a phone call asking about those players (and others!) this winter, even if it was only out of due diligence.

The free agent shortstop market is pretty weak right now. Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera are still available, though both are better suited for second base at this point. Stephen Drew is still out there and he’s an actual Major League caliber shortstop, but he absolutely stunk at the plate this past season. Hanley Ramirez, who is a shortstop in name only, is now off the board as well. After that there’s Clint Barmes. So yeah.

Anyway, I’m glad to hear the Yankees are pursuing trades for a shortstop because that’s the only way they’re going to add an impact player at the position. I’d love love love to see them nab a young shortstop who can man the position both in 2015 and for the next five years. That would be the dream scenario even if it costs half the farm system. If that doesn’t happen, stopgaps better than Drew might be available. Someone like Ramirez or Jimmy Rollins.

The Yankees need half an infield this winter and Sherman says the team seems to prioritizing a shortstop, which makes sense. They can play Martin Prado at second or third base and have others like Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder available for second if necessary. The fact that they’ve already made some trade offers is a good sign because it shows they’re being aggressive and not waiting for the market to develop. The sooner they get this sorted out, the better.

Thoughts before Thanksgiving Weekend

"He must work out." (Presswire)
“Hmmm. He must work out.” (Presswire)

As much as I love baseball, I am a sucker for the holiday season, and that kinda sorta starts this week with Thanksgiving. The short work week this week and awesome food is really great as well. Anyway, here are some random thoughts on a random Tuesday.

1. The Red Sox’s decision to play Hanley Ramirez in left field seems pretty interesting. Apparently Hanley contacted Boston and said he was willing to play the outfield — I can’t find the report now but I saw it yesterday, just can’t remember where — which is great, but being willing to do it and being able to do it are two different things. Transitioning from the infield to the outfield is pretty tough in general for a player at that point in his career, and left field at Fenway Park is a different animal entirely because of the bounces off the wall. Yoenis Cespedes is a pretty good outfielder and he looked lost out there after the trade this summer. Ramirez can flat out mash — he and Victor Martinez were the only two true impact hitters on the free agent market this winter in my opinion — but the outfield learning curve could be pretty steep and hopefully hilarious.

2. Boston made their two big splashes yesterday and I’m sure they’ll bring in a pitcher or three this winter — you don’t sign both Hanley and Pablo Sandoval only to skimp on pitching — but I don’t expect the Yankees to make any kind of big move as a knee-jerk reaction. It’s been a long, long time since they’ve done that. I think you have to go back to the Rafael Soriano signing for the last time it happened and even that barely even qualifies. The Red Sox brought in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez that winter, and the Yankees had a bunch of money burning a hole in their pocket after losing out Cliff Lee, so ownership gave it to the best free agent left on the market. It’s been a while since the team operated that way and that’s a good thing. They have enough problems to sort out this winter. If they start worrying about what other teams in the division are doing and make moves as a “response,” they’re only going to dig themselves into an even deeper hole.

3. That said, it’s probably time for the Yankees to get serious about re-signing Chase Headley. Sandoval and Hanley are both off the board, meaning Headley is clearly the top third baseman available, so his market should soon take off. I’m sure the Giants will have interest. That feels inevitable. Headley is two years older but he and Sandoval are closer in production than everyone seems to realize — Headley had a 102 OPS+ and 3.5 bWAR this past season (123 OPS+ and 13.6 bWAR since 2012) while Sandoval had a 111 OPS+ and 3.0 bWAR (116 OPS+ and 8.2 bWAR since 2012) — yet it feels like he’s going to get maybe half the money. The best free agent third baseman on the market next year will be David Freese, and, as far as I can tell, the best on the market the year after that will be 37-year-old Adrian Beltre. Headley is by far the best third baseman who will be available via free agency for the foreseeable future, and I think if a team gives him four years at $14M annually, we’ll look back at it in a year and say it was a really smart signing. I mean, Kyle Seager just got $100M. Headley’s too good of a fit for the Yankees and the upcoming third base market is too weak for it not to happen. With Sandoval and Ramirez signed, it’s time for New York to get this hammered out.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

4. There is a shockingly large number of people who are sincerely angry with Brian Cashman for the whole “sleeping on the street/rappelling down a building for charity” thing he does every winter. Like really, really angry. I can’t possibly wrap my head around that. They seem to think that if Cashman misses a call from, say, Jon Lester’s agent because he spends ten minutes going down the side of the building, the Yankees will miss their chance to sign him all together. As if the two sides haven’t already been in touch or agents won’t circle back to the highest spending team on the East Coast just to see if they’ll make one last offer. Why do people act like athletes and sports executives should be working 24/7? Like half of you reading this are at work right now. This is the silliest, most inconsequential thing to get upset about. Seems like a total waste of perfectly good outrage.

5. The 2015 Hall of Fame ballot was released yesterday and, off the top of head, I count 16 guys I would vote for: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz, and Sammy Sosa. There are one or two others I’m on the fence about who I’d have to research further. Point is, there are more than ten deserving players on the ballot this year in my opinion, yet the BBWAA only allows voters to vote for ten players each year. If I had a vote, I’d be forced to essentially rank the guys and I want to vote for and pick the ten most deserving. Or would it be better to leave guys like Pedro and Johnson off my ballot because I know they’re going to get in anyway and others will need more help, like Mussina and Raines? These are decisions I don’t think a voter should have to make. Voters should be allowed to vote for as many players as they want. A player either is or isn’t a Hall of Famer and the voting process should be that simple. Limiting the ballot is unfair to the players, more than anything.