1. YES had an interesting graphic displayed during last night’s game. It showed which teams had the lowest batting averages in the American League versus left-handed pitching. As you may have expected, the Yankees (.199) were number two on this dubious list, trailing only the offensively inept Mariners (.189). What you may not have known, was that among the five worst lefty hitting teams, three teams came from the AL East. Trailing right behind the Yankees are the Red Sox (.215) and the Blue Jays (.220). The White Sox (.243) round out the bottom five.
We knew this would be an issue coming into the season given the configuration of the lineup. However, as is so often the case, we are either unaware of dismissive of the rest of the league’s struggles in relation to our own. Ideally, the Yankees simply would not have such drastic splits. However, seeing as they do, it’s of some comfort to know that some of their divisional rivals are experiencing the same dilemma. Perhaps, to some degree, this makes one of the Yankees more noticeable vulnerabilities a bit less alarming at the moment. Obviously, it’s still a problem the team should look to address as quickly as possible. You know their competition will look to as well.
2. Yesterday was a pretty gratifying win. Hiroki Kuorda didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept the team in the game. We saw some displays of power from both likely and unlikely contributors, and of course we enjoyed the perks of a dominant bullpen. On top of that, the Yankees managed a come-from-behind win (against a lefty no less). Ideally, the Yankees won’t get into the habit of trailing the other team. However, it’s good to know that when they do they can muster up some resilience occasionally. We’ve seen them come from behind several times this year already – a few times against the Diamondbacks and against the Rays if memory serves. These early season wins are especially gratifying while the team is navigating through all the injuries.
3. How about Robinson Cano? Turns out he’s pretty good. He looked lost at the plate against the Red Sox and Tigers in the first two series of the season. Since then, well … he’s been himself. He’s now batting .322/.372/.632 (.424 wOBA, 171 wRC+). He’s tied for fifth in all of baseball in home runs (with seven), and trails only Chris Davis and J.P. Arencibia in the American League (with eight). Not too shabby, especially considering his position. What is interesting though, is that his K% is a few percentage points higher than his career norms in the early goings of the season. That said, I would certainly expect that to normalize as the season progresses a bit further (but we’ll keep an eye on it nevertheless). If the Yankees are going to have any kind of sustained success this season, they’ll need Robinson’s bat to remain hot — especially if some of the other overachievers begin to slow down.
4. Since it’s Friday and I’m feeling frivolous, let’s take a quick pit stop into the world of arbitrary and meaningless observations. Yesterday was my 29th birthday and the Yankees won, which was perfect. I remember telling my wife that it had seemed like forever since the last time the Yankees won on my birthday. Well, as it turns out, that wasn’t too far from the truth. The last time they won on the 25th of April was 2006. Since 1984, they’ve gone 9-16 (there were five off days since that time). So there’s that.
Last night, my brother hooked me up with his 2013 MLB Preview edition of ESPN The Magazine. As I was perusing through the articles, one particular piece caught my eye. An author by the name of Anna Clemmons wrote about a sports facility in Foxborough that opened last June. The facility is Mass General Orthopedics Sports Performance Center.
The article begins by discussing Minnesota Twins prospect Andrew Ferreira, standing shirtless on a fake pitcher’s mound with “62 button-size reflective markers attached to his body.” Ferreira throws 25 pitches off of a fake mound in a simulated pitching session. Meanwhile, the facility’s bioengineers gather and analyze huge amounts of data about the athlete under observation.
The 22 high speed LED 3-D cameras reveal arm speed, rotation, but most importantly isolate the movements of various muscle groups and how they behave under duress. The cameras expose inconsistencies in body motions, in addition to tracking velocity and pitch movement. In other words, Ferreira’s session basically represents the strange, albeit fascinating, nebulous where anatomy begins to merge with advanced baseball metrics. What’s more incredible, is that Ferreira’s personal evaluation cost him only $75.
After reading the article, my mind immediately arrived at two conclusions. First, this is pretty awesome stuff – it actually reminds me of the type of innovation that a guy like Ray Kurzweil might endorse. If knowledge is power, than boy, athletes could potentially have a lot to gain. What was once seemingly proprietary (and probably limited) information is now cheap and completely available, and can be accessed by any player looking for a competitive (legal) edge. As the facility notes, their job is not to replace the pitching coach. It’s designed to revolution how players train.
The second thought was that I hope the Yankees are absolutely keeping their eye on this type of technology if they haven’t already begun exploring like options. Obviously player development and injuries are not entirely controllable, and as we all know, setbacks are inevitable. After all, players still have to execute a plan, and injuries can happen to even the most durable guys. Still, if there is any possible way of preserving players and helping them reach their maximum potential, I think it should be explored. A small investment now could pay off in a big way down the road. I would think that nominal cost would pay for itself and then some the first time a player who may not have been able to “put it all together” was able to do so thanks to a different approach.
Anyway, if you get a chance, check out the website. It’s cool stuff and it’s definitely the future of sports.
Twelve games down, 150 to go (or, I guess about 93% of the season remaining). I thought I’d take a page out of the Axisa Book of Introspection, and jot down a few thoughts on the season thus far on this random Wednesday. Anyway, you know the routine…
1. Who else has been pleasantly surprised by Vernon Wells? Be honest. He’s batted .300/.391/.600 (good for a 170 wRC+). Obviously it’s very very very early in the season, and I still think two years of Vernon at any amount of dollars is probably two years too long. Still, the guy does deserve a bit of credit for taking advantage of the opportunity. The same has to be said for Kevin Youkilis too. Hopefully, the Yankees can continue turning the league’s various retreads into useful contributors – especially now while the team is working through so many injuries.
2. On the other hand, wow, Ichiro Suzuki has sure looked cooked early on. Anecdotally, it seems as though every single time he makes contact with the ball, it results in a soft grounder to the opposing team’s second basemen. Now, just as Vernon could morph back into the pumpkin we’re all anticipating at any moment (and he probably will), so too could Ichiro regain some of the spark he displayed at the end of last season. Of course, given Ichiro’s age, I’m not overly bullish on that happening. Alas, keeping Nick Swisher would have been a fantastic alternative this past offseason, but as we all know, that ship has long since sailed.
3. Injuries, injuries, injuries. The walking wounded have dominated our attention this season. I keep telling myself that eventually the team will not be able to sustain the next one that happens. I mean, you know times are a bit desperate when a Eduardo Nunez plunking causes us to cringe. Mike discussed his concerns about Andy Pettitte the other day. I think one could probably show justifiable concern about all of the injurious for various reasons honestly – age, severity, etc. We’ve seen teams such as Toronto and Boston basically crash after being decimated by injuries in recent years.
With that being said, I think every team in the AL has obvious warts. There really isn’t that “complete” team (though the Tigers maybe the closest thing to it at the moment now that they’re finally giving Benoit a shot as their closer) — especially in the AL East. So, if New York can stay afloat and weather the storm for the first month or so, you have to like the team’s chances to capitalize down the stretch … at least as much as anyone else’s.
4. Ivan Nova really needs to get himself together and keep himself together. The team seems more than willing to show him patience as he figures things out too. Perhaps this because they still see potential in him. Or, perhaps it’s because they are
desperately avoiding apprehensive about their alternatives. Or, perhaps both to some degree.
In any event, Nova needs to be a positive part of the rotation and fast. He and Phil Hughes have been a huge burden on the bullpen. The problem, as I see it, is that Nova may not be a very good pitcher in actuality (his own real sustained success was limited to the second half of 2011), and may never be more than a fifth starter kind of arm at best. I guess time will tell. In any event, last night certainly helped the cause in terms of runs surrendered, though it would have been nice if he could have logged another inning and not given up so many base runners. Let’s hope the trend continues upward.
5. I’m not sure if this final thought is really appropriate for this post, but here goes nevertheless. What happened in Boston a couple days ago was completely horrific. Tragedies such as this impact us all differently. For me, as a 28-year-old newlywed, events such as this tend to discourage me a bit about having children someday. It also makes me fear for the safety of my friends and family. In any event, my heart goes out to all those affected and I hope we, collectively, can find the resolve to move on as gracefully as we can as often as we can, despite the sinister efforts of those who would wish to do us harm.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with author Christopher Frankie about his new book, NAILED! The Improbable Rise and Spectacular Fall of Lenny Dykstra. You may remember Lenny Dykstra from his time in the Majors (he played with both the Mets and the Phillies). You may remember him for his $55M car wash empire, or his affiliation with Mad Money’s Jim Cramer. Or you may remember him for his increasingly baffling behavior that was so publicly scrutinized.
So without further ado, let me present Christopher Frankie.
Matt Warden: You were obviously motivated to write this book. What prompted that?
Christopher Frankie: First and foremost was the realization that this is an absolutely astonishing story and that my front row seat in 2008 allowed me to tell this insider’s tale with the texture and context that was severely lacking in the mainstream narrative. Many people had heard some of Dykstra’s story from TV and the newspapers, but I guarantee they haven’t heard it like this.
On a personal note, I also wanted to show how and why so many smart, talented, hard-working and well-intentioned people got caught in Dykstra’s web and had such a hard time walking away. It’s a story of abuse, leverage, coercion and manipulation that I think will shock many people.
MW: What made working with Lenny so difficult to cope with?
CF: The manic and self-destructive behavior that wreaked havoc on everyone in Dykstra’s life. The chaos he introduced into nearly every situation masked a lot of his misdeeds.
What also made working for Dykstra so difficult in 2008, when I worked for him, was the contrast between his public image and what I saw behind the scenes. The positive press, such as the HBO Real Sports feature, as well as Jim Cramer’s endorsement, his $18 million mansion and private jet, all gave Dykstra added credibility and helped him explain away the “red flags” that would surface during the beginning of his financial downfall. It made it very difficult to discern fact from fiction at the time.
I’ll admit the title is a bit of a misnomer. It should probably be “Some MLB players should consider cheating as it pertains to banned substances some of the time.” Also, before going any further with this, I’d like to point out that this article was inspired by one of my great friends (who will hopefully allow me to share his proposal on how to best resolve this issue at some point in the near future). For the sake of the article (and dialog in general), let’s put conventional sentiments surrounding ethics as they pertain to athletics on the shelf for a moment*.
* In other words, let’s not just claim players shouldn’t use banned substances simply because it’s “wrong.” Before you all completely hate on me for writing this article, know that my personal beliefs on performance enhancers are not being reflected, but rather, my observations on how players may perceive the current environment are. I am not really qualified to explain the long term effects of steroids to one’s physical health, so some of my points may be leaps of … ahem, faith. Okay, disclaimers in order … check.
As far as I can tell, the basic motivation for cheating comes down to one primary goal in baseball (and probably sports in general) – that is to obtain a competitive advantage whether it be via skill or durability. For some players, this means transitioning from “subpar or expendable” status to, say, a useful role player. For other players, it may mean going from very talented to exceptional. In any event, I believe certain players in Major League Baseball have much more to gain by cheating then they have to lose compared to others.
Now, I’m not talking about your Alex Rodriguez or your Barry Bonds. Personality traits aside, it’d be completely asinine to claim that either of those players weren’t incredible in their day. Both represent generational talents, who in their prime (and perhaps even past it), would represent an upgrade for any team looking to contend. The problem with cheating for these guys is a matter of perceived legacy. They were always likely to get paid assuming they could stay on the field. If they get caught cheating, the only real jeopardy they’d face is exclusion from the Hall of Fame (assuming the HOF doesn’t change its criteria which I think it will in time). Sure, they may face a suspension as the rules currently stand, but my guess is they’d still typically acquire the big contract more often than not as they’re naturally more gifted than their peers, and being gifted is an expensive commodity. To put this into clear context, I’m not talking about a guy like Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, or any of the other exceptional players in the league.
No, the type of guys I’m referring too are of the Melky Cabrera ilk. Let’s rewind back to 2010. Having been traded to the Braves (in the infamous Javier Vasquez swap) from the Yankees, he was awful. We’re talking a .255/.317/.354 slash line (.292 wOBA) with four home runs bad. For those wondering, that translates out a 77 wRC+ and a -1.1 fWAR. Basically, if all was just in the world, he would have had to pay the Braves for letting him “contribute” to their cause (and he’d probably have to offer a sincere heart-filled apology to [insert generic replacement level player here] for keeping him in the minors). Instead, he was non-tendered as the Braves wanted no part of his $3.1M salary. But the point stands; at this juncture, Melky barely qualified for any Major League roster spot … anywhere.
But something happened, and no, it wasn’t the invigorating atmosphere of Kauffman Stadium or the refreshingly cool San Francisco air that caused it (presumably). Over the next two seasons with the Royals and Giants, Melky was legitimately good. This past season he was so good, in fact, he even contended for the batting title in the NL (.346/.390/.516, .387 wOBA, 149 wRC+, with 11 home runs). There were rumblings as far back as May, that by the end of the year, he was going to cash in a serious contract too, whether it be with the Giants or another team – some even mused a paycheck as lofty as four or five years, $50-60M (roughly $10-15M per year) which was probably quite realistic. For a guy who was about to potentially face a minor league contract, and who was barely a footnote in Major League Baseball as recently as 2010, that’d be one hell of a pay day.
Obviously, things went a bit differently though. Melky was caught using a banned substance. He didn’t win the batting title (because he withdrew his name from consideration), and he was suspended from baseball for 50 games. Now you’d think that teams might have been worried this offseason that some major performance regression could happen for Cabrera and that his performance as player wasn’t entirely legitimate the past couple seasons. You might reasonably expect that Melky could be an interesting “buy low” type of candidate for a lot of teams looking to strike gold on a player with some question marks along with some potential. Instead, the Toronto Blue Jays set the market with a two-year deal worth $16M – that is to say eight million dollars per season despite the question marks surrounding him! Not too shabby, really. And if he puts up solid numbers for the Blue Jays for the next couple seasons, he’ll be right back in line for another solid pay day the next time he hits free agency. That’s far more certainty than he had a few seasons ago when he was viewed as nothing beyond a fourth outfielder/depth guy.
So let’s pretend we’re the proverbial little red devil sitting on the shoulder of the next Melky Cabrera for a moment. We’re going to say. “Son, let’s be honest. You suck. Your dream of being a Major Leaguer could disappear very soon altogether. Go ahead; give yourself a boost while you still can. Maybe you’ll turn it around and extend your career a little while (let’s face it, you’re not getting any younger). Maybe you’ll heal faster from your injuries. Maybe you’ll even become more productive like the Melk Man with a just a bit of help, and you’ll put yourself (and let’s not forget your family) in a better position to earn whatever you can while you can! And if worse comes to worst, you’ll get caught, you’ll face suspension, and you’ll be viewed as a pariah. But then again, that sounds a lot like what’s happening right now. Just consider it. You know everyone else is.”
Of course, ironically, Melky still has the footnote to his name. He’s just substantially wealthier for it.
Like some of you (and some of us here at RAB), my head is still swirling from last Friday’s trade escapades. Cashman, in vintage ninja-like fashion, redefined the Yankees landscape in what seemed like a matter of hours when he elected to ship Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi off to Seattle in return for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos. Not only could the trade drastically influence the 2012 season, but it may reverberate for years to come on a number of different levels.
Frankly, I have not completely sorted out my thoughts on the trade yet; although, my initial response was some combination of bewilderment and panic. On the surface, the deal seems to make a great deal of sense for both teams though – the Mariners obtained a potential middle-of-the-lineup threat to aid their otherwise meager offense, while the Yankees theoretically acquired another potent arm to complement a rotation comprised of CC Sabathia and a bunch of question marks. Incidentally, both organizations received players that are very young and cost-controlled to boot.
While Hector Noesi and Jose Campos are certainly not the feature pieces of the deal, both offer some honest upside as well. Noesi will probably slot into the Mariners rotation and should deliver some decent production, especially in spacious Safeco Field. Similarly, Campos, a 19-year-old right-handed pitcher with a dazzling fastball, will likely qualify as a top ten prospect within the Yankees organization upon arrival. High-end bullpen pitching depth is never a bad thing, right?
Yet, general consensus here in Yankeeland seems to be that the deal was “good but not great” despite the fact that it clearly addressed some of the franchise’s obvious concerns. Some of the luster of the move was certainly dulled by the fact that we, as fans, have been captivated by Montero for quite some time now. He was supposed to be the next homegrown superstar after all, who would grow up donning pinstripes and ultimately retire to the Hall of Fame as a True Yankee™. So as great as Pineda could potentially be, the loss of Montero is still bittersweet.
As if sentiments weren’t hazy enough already, Brian Cashman did his part to complicate the discussion further as he went on the record stating, “I gave up a ton [for Pineda]. To me, Montero is Mike Piazza. He’s Miguel Cabrera.” Assuming for a moment that Montero does have that kind of ceiling at the MLB level (and boy that is a lofty assumption), what’s that worth to a team exactly? I suppose it depends on the team’s needs first and foremost. For what it’s worth, WAR tells us that Miggy has been been an outstanding player (only once in the past seven seasons has he delivered a fWAR value below five). There’s only a handful of players in all of baseball who can deliver similar production consistently.
Even if Montero was relegated to designated hitter role early on in his career, at that level of production, he’d still contribute some serious value going forward. Consider David Ortiz; in 2011, he was valued at 4.2 WAR according to FanGraphs. Also keep in mind that in 2011, there were only 24 pitchers total who could claim a WAR above four, and only 16 topped five. Last season, Cabrera eclipsed the seven fWAR plateau – a feat only pitchers Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, and Justin Verlander could claim. So in the spirit of gross over-simplification, our hearts and eyes told us Montero carried huge clout, a point which Cashman reiterated right after trading him to the Mariners for some kid not named Felix.
Now, I generally tend to value very good pitching beyond very good hitting simply because of supply and demand, a philosophy which makes it easier for me to accept Cashman’s decision to pull the trigger (not that he needs my official endorsement). However, I also contend that elite talent (regardless of the role) should hold trump. The reason why elite talent is so tantalizing is because, by very definition, it’s a rarity. If Cashman was serious about Montero becoming a generational talent, I sure hope he has similar aplomb in Pineda’s future as well. Trading future Miguel Cabrera away for, say, Ricky Romero just doesn’t satisfy me.*
Realistically speaking, at this point, Montero’s a highly touted prospect who is still in the process of transitioning into the bigs. Although he had an exciting September, it’s probably unfair to label him the next big deal until he showcases some consistency. As for Pineda, his strengths are obvious but he’s also not without his flaws. We’ve all heard by now about his gaudy strikeout ratio. We’ve also heard about his fly ball tendencies and the changeup that needs to develop. Nevertheless, he is definitely a very talented kid, and the Yankees were not likely to obtain that caliber of a player without giving up something comparable in return. Considering the value of other young cost-controlled quality arms, it would appear Cashman gave up a reasonable amount relative to the haul.
Cashman said that the trade will likely be a bust for the Yankees if Pineda doesn’t develop a viable changeup and become a number one starter. Those are some hefty expectations (that we all probably feel in the pit of our stomach to some extent or another). Then again, I’m sure Seattle is saying the same thing. Montero needs to live up to the hype in order to justify the loss of a pitcher who could become a bonafide ace; moreover, he’ll likely need to do it behind the plate for some folks to be truly content. The uncertainty is the rub. It’s the reason I flinched at the trade initially, and it’s also the reason I completely support the reasoning behind it now.
I know I wasn’t alone in wondering whether the Yanks could have had the proverbial cake and been able to eat it too. It’s plausible that the Yankees would still be dubbed the AL East favorite at this juncture if they had just signed Hiroki Kuroda and not made the trade additionally. Although the rotation would not have been as appealing in 2012 without Pineda’s services, perhaps the differential in run support would have made up for it. I think we were all prepared to face that reality with open arms.
In the long run, hopefully we’ll wind up thanking Cashman for his foresight. Unfortunately, because baseball isn’t played in a vacuum, such hypotheticals are not only abstract but at times haunting. Only Cashman truly knows the true game plan, and he gets to make the tough decisions while only we get the benefit of being able to scrutinize his moves without the torments of accountability.
In any event, the wheels are in motion and there is no real option other than to embrace the future. Hopefully, the team does not lose interest in some of the other quality arms on the free agent market come next season **. There’s nothing more we can do but wait and see how this will pan out for the Yankees. For now, I’ll trust in Cashman’s judgment with optimism, say a fond farewell to the superstar-in-the-making we barely knew, and welcome with open arms the future face of the rotation.
* Please know that I’m not comparing Michael Pineda to Ricky Romero here. The example was simply the first name that popped into mind for the sake of discussion.
** Just for the record, I do not expect the Yankees to skip out on elite pitchers next offseason should they be made available.
*** Apologies for my hiatus the past two months. Between work and wedding planning, my life has been rather chaotic. That said, I hope to regain normalcy in my daily routine soon and get back to posting at my typical frequency. Cheers!
Recently a friend and colleague of mine, Gregg, tried to sell me on an idea he’s been mulling over for quite some time. No, the idea doesn’t involve wife-swapping or eating our children; but rather, it’s a solution to the designated hitter debate. As it currently stands, each league plays to its own set of rules. Perhaps there is room for compromise though.
Both leagues would have a designated hitter. However, the designated hitter would only hit for the starting pitcher. Once the starting pitcher was removed from the game, the designated hitter would no longer be available. The designated hitter spot would then be filled by whoever is on the mound (obviously forcing the manager to consider using a pinch hitter every time the DH is due). This would obviously force the manager into contemplating the double switch. Perhaps an additional roster spot could even added for further bench depth.
Here’s a practical example of how a scenario in this plan could play out:
A.J. Burnett is on the mound (this already sounds promising, eh?); the game is entering the top of the fifth, and up until this point Burnett’s surrendered a few runs but the team is still very much alive. Let’s pretend the score is tied up at three. As to be expected, Burnett’s pitch count is just about to surpass the century mark and the team is preparing itself for the obligatory meltdown. Jesus Montero (who was slotted into the roster as the DH) is expected to bat second in the bottom of the fifth.
Do the Yankees allow Burnett a little more leeway on the mound so that the heart of the order can have their at-bats in the bottom of the fifth? Or, does Girardi cut his losses, yank Burnett preemptively, and substitute Andruw Jones (or whichever bench player you prefer) into the game to bat in the fifth which will subsequently result in using a pinch hitter in that slot for the remainder of the game?
- Standardizes league rules.
- Allows for the DH to still have a role (which would obviously be required by the players’ union). It might even create more jobs if teams were looking for an extra bat to add to their rosters.
- It makes the NL lineups deeper which could result in more exciting outcomes.
- Would encourage even more strategic decision making.
- Pitchers would not be hitting which would limit the “easy outs” and injuries.
- The DH value is minimized due to less at bats and a codependency on the pitcher. Just think, in 605 plate appearances in 2011, David Ortiz earned a 4.2 fWAR by posting a .309/.398/.554 triple slash (.405 wOBA — seventh best in the league). Imagine how frustrated Sox fans would be if he were limited to 350-400 plate appearances.
- Could encourage less lineup optimization (although admittedly, the net effect of this over the course of the season is minimal).
- Reduces some of the strategy currently deployed by NL pitchers (pitching around certain hitters intentionally to try and get to the opposing pitcher for the “assumed out”).
- Somewhat aggravates the purists who believe a pitcher is a player and should hit.
- Somewhat aggravates the reformists (is that what we want to call them?) who want to see strictly see a DH as the role is currently defined.
Personally, I’m still not sold on the idea as I tend to enjoy American League rules. That said, it’s still a creative compromise that’s worth considering. What’s your take?
Today’s weekend mailbag question pertains to a potential replacement for Eric Chavez if he doesn’t rejoin the Yankees in 2012. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.
J-Bone asks: Mike Aviles is listed as a non-tender candidate on MLBTR. In the event that Eric Chavez retires or signs elsewhere, what do you think of Aviles as a replacement?
Good question, J-Bone. Let’s take a look.
As a point of comparison, in 2011, an effective (albeit fragile) Eric Chavez provided the Yankees with some solid bench depth. When he was able to keep himself on the field, he routinely flashed slick defensive ability. The veteran third basemen also produced decent production with the bat (especially early on in the season). Over 175 total plate appearances, he batted .263/.320/.356 (.294 wOBA). His efforts were valued at a 0.6 fWAR, all for the reasonable cost of $1.5M.
In 2011, Mike Aviles had a productive season as well as he spent time with both the Royals and the Red Sox. In 309 total plate appearances, Aviles’ provided a respectable .255/.289/.409 triple slash (.307 wOBA) with seven homeruns. Although Aviles did manage a handful of long balls last season, he’s definitely not known for showing consistent power (career .151 ISO). To Aviles’ credit though, he made decent contact (14 K%) although he rarely drew the walk (4.2 BB%).
Aviles has only been in the league since 2008 so he still has several more years of arbitration eligibility; his $0.64M earned last season would also be a mere drop in the bucket for the Yankees.
Personally, I’m fairly impartial on this one. Bench players generally have noticeable flaws in their game and Aviles is no different; he is what he is. He’ll occasionally get wood on the ball and he’ll provide serviceable defense at third. With too much exposure, he’ll likely be a detriment to the team overall. Is he better than a guy like Pena? Probably. Is he better than some of the other potential depth options on the market? Meh.
Basically, if the Yankees decide to roll the dice on Aviles, I’d be fine with it given his price and skill set. That said, if they passed him over for another option, I wouldn’t lose sleep either. In any event, I’m guessing the Yankees 2012 campaign probably won’t hinge on a backup infielder one way or another.
There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, that George Steinbrenner would have been furiously scrutinizing the Yankees organization had they been eliminated from the postseason in the ALDS round. His wrath would have probably begun by challenging the players’ performance (not to mention, their resolve), and ultimately wound its way through each level of management. After a few tension filled weeks of wondering who the latest casualty of the proverbial chopping block would be, decisions would be made and life in Yankeeland would continue.
After all, winning championships was second only to breathing in Steinbrenner’s book. Consequently, ever since Steinbrenner took charge, New York has experienced a culture shift like no other franchise had before (in my opinion). Winning became valued above all else; so much so, that anything short of a championship was deemed a failure — a failure deserving of immediate recourse. Of course, this model appealed to a large population of fans who sought immediate compensation every time they experienced “disappointment” (despite the fact that the Yankees enjoyed far more overall success than many other organizations). Obviously, it frustrated many fans as well as organizational moves weren’t always well thought out.
Unfortunately, this mentality revolves around extremely lofty expectations that are nearly impossible to fulfill (which makes the Yankee dynasty years all the more incredible). It has also led to a lot of very shortsighted, reactionary decisions over the years. My generally-very-level-headed-colleagues were petitioning, on Friday, for the immediate removal of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher (because that’s simple!) since they “sucked and weren’t clutch.” Despite the fact that the pitching staff did a largely brilliant job, Girardi received more than his fair share of criticism as well. How dare he pull Ivan Nova? How dare Nova not show more grit and deal with a little arm discomfort? It wasn’t just the knuckleheads at work though; a not-so-rational Twitterland was in full freak out mode the day after the Bombers stranded eleven on base and lost the game.
While Hal Steinbrenner’s recent comments weren’t quite as provocative as his father’s undoubtedly would have been back in the day, they still managed to reinforce the “win all or bust” mantra. Steinbrenner remarked, “I personally share in our fans’ disappointment that this season has ended without a championship. That is, and always will be, our singular goal every season. I assure you that this disappointment will strengthen our resolve to field a team in 2012 that can bring a twenty-eighth championship to the Bronx. That work starts now.”
Personally, I see this type of passion as something of a double-edged sword. Sure, as fans, we invest ourselves whole-heartedly. We love our team. We bleed pinstripes. When they win, we win. When they lose, we lose. Or, at least, that’s how it feels to us. It’s also great that the team constantly strives for success and is willing to improve each offseason; I think that’s what all successful organizations should do. Perhaps, though, we may want to consider another shift in culture though. Maybe if we can shift our expectations slightly, we can once again appreciate how much effort it takes to simply have the opportunity to win a championship year in and year out. World Series are the ultimate thrill, but making the playoffs and witnessing a representative effort is still pretty exciting too.
Man we’re an overzealous group. The 2011 regular season hasn’t officially concluded yet, the postseason is right around the corner, and yet the questions regarding next year’s rotation continue to fly in! It’s all good though; that’s part of being a fan and it makes for entertaining conversation! Anyway, RAB had a number of questions submitted regarding Roy Oswalt and whether or not he’d be a good fit for the Yankees rotation come 2012. Remember to use the always handy Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in any questions.
As it currently stands, Roy Oswalt is in the process of concluding his five year, $73M contract. There is a $16M mutual option for 2012 with a buyout cost of two million (which I imagine the Phillies will likely take advantage of). That’s not to say though, that the Phils wouldn’t be interested in bringing him back on a more team friendly contract if that option were possible — although a lower cost would certainly warrant more potential suitors. Unfortunately for Oswalt (who’s now 34 years old), he’s faced some setbacks this season due to back injuries. However, the right-hander has mentioned that he’d like to continue pitching beyond this year, after speculation regarding his retirement arose while he spent significant time on the disabled list earlier on in the season. Should the Phillies allow him to test the open market this offseason, he’ll likely qualify as a Type-A free agent.
In terms of results, Roy has pitched to a 3.86 ERA/3.50 FIP/3.96 xFIP this season, spanning over the course of 133 innings pitched (good for an 8-11 record for the preordained NL World Series representative). He’s averaging 6.02 K/9 (down from his career average of 7.35) and 2.17 BB/9 (which is basically right in line with his career average). He’s also mitigated the long ball quite well (0.68 HR/9) in what is otherwise considered to be a fairly favorable hitter’s park. He’s also maintained his reputation of forcing a respectable number of ground balls (44.8 GB%). Oswalt’s .321 BABIP is certainly higher than his career norm of .297; that said, he’s done a pretty good job of stranding opposing baserunners ( 73.4 LOB%). In terms of pitches, he primarily throws a plus fastball (11.6 wFB in 2011) which hovers around 91 miles per hour, and a change up (which hasn’t been quite as effective this season, -4.1 wCH) approximately 20% of the time. He’ll also mix in a slider or curveball occasionally, although neither pitch has been particularly impressive this year.In general, Oswalt’s been a fairly reliable (if not excellent) starter for the vast majority of his career. Over the past ten seasons, he’s only failed to produce at least 30 starts twice.
For what it’s worth, he’s also been an All-Star three times and a Cy Young candidate six times. That said, I would probably be in favor of the Yankees passing on Oswalt. His contract would probably have to be reduced to approximately $8-10M (perhaps with some incentives), in order to make his likely 2-2.5 WAR justifiable. Injuries can absolutely plague any pitcher, but by age 35, I’d assume the Yankees would be especially leery of those nagging back injuries that have become quite persistent over the years. While I typically do not put a whole lot of stock into the whole NL pitcher narrative, there is that to consider as well. Mostly what deters me from Roy, though, is the prospects that would have to be surrendered for what would undoubtedly be a short term agreement.