Guest Post: Why the Yankees should sign Ike Davis

The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, whose work can be found at Double G Sports, among other places. He previously wrote a guest post about Chris Capuano‘s turbulent 2015 season.

Another lefty relief option. Wait, what? (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Another lefty relief option. Wait, what? (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Seemingly out of the blue on Monday afternoon, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that promising youngster Greg Bird is going to miss all of the 2016 season following shoulder surgery, which the 23-year-old will undergo today at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

Bird suffered a right shoulder labrum tear and the issue is a reoccurrence of an injury sustained in May, when Bird spent approximately a month on the disabled list with Double-A Trenton. He returned to the field after following a rest and rehab program, but Bird informed the team after the season that the shoulder was again bothering him. The news is a big blow for both the Yankees and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Bird made a big splash after being called up to the Yankees last year, slashing .261/.343/.529 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs over the course of 46 games. He was slated to start the season at Triple-A Scranton, but the young lefty was almost certainly going to see a good chunk of playing time in 2016 if — or more likely when — either Mark Teixeira or DH Alex Rodriguez hit the disabled list, which is a fairly safe bet at some point.

Even though Teixeira missed nearly all of the final quarter of the 2015 season, it’s fair to say that he rebounded in a big way last year to produce his best numbers in at least five years. Teixeira hit 31 home runs — his highest total in four years, but there are still concerns about him staying on the field.

Teixeira, 36 in April, is about to enter the final season of his eight-year, $180 million contract and he’s become porcelain fragile. He hasn’t played more than 123 games since 2011, however, general manager Brian Cashman informed reporters yesterday that the team would look for insurance at Triple-A rather than a major league first baseman such as Pedro Alvarez or Justin Morneau. In fact, the Yankees are allergic to giving out major league contracts this winter – they are the only team in the baseball to not spend a wooden nickel in free agency.

Cashman believes that the team is set for now at first with Teixeira and Dustin Ackley. Brian McCann could possibly spend some time at first if needed. But he and Ackley can’t play the position everyday. The Yankees can offer a minor league deal to the 34-year old Morneau, who has been battling a recurring concussion issue and only played in 49 games with the Rockies a season ago. But the 2006 MVP is far from a guarantee to stay healthy himself.

Alvarez, who grew up a few miles from Yankee Stadium in Washington Heights, is the best first baseman still available despite his subpar 2015 season. The lefty slugger probably wouldn’t end up settling for a minor league contract, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility, as 28-year old outfielder Travis Snider just signed a minor league pact with the Royals. Alvarez also grew up a Yankee fan and who knows how many homers he could hit at Yankee Stadium.

Perhaps, though, the Yankees should give former Met top prospect Ike Davis a call. Some scouts still think there’s something left in 28-year-old’s tank and he’s gettable for a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Davis, the son of former Yankee reliever Ron Davis, has played for three teams over the last two seasons with exactly zero WAR in 666 at-bats.

Davis earned $3.8 million in 2015 while batting just .229/.301/.350 with three home runs and 21 RBI over 239 plate appearances for the Oakland Athletics. He underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn hip labrum in August and A’s understandably didn’t think that level of production was worth keeping him around for a raise, non-tendering Davis in December.

In 2012, Davis was struck with Valley Fever early in the year but he went on to hit 32 homers. It’s been all downhill since. He’s played at the major league level every year since but the most home runs he hit after that were 11. Davis is just the kind of bounce-back candidate and undervalued commodity that the Yankees are looking for. Plus, there may not be a better place than the short porch at Yankee Stadium to revive the career of the 18th overall pick of the 2008 draft.

With Davis you’re mostly hoping he can tap into some of the skills he’s shown in the past. He has always been known to be a patient hitter with a double-digit walk rate, but he has trouble making contact and he typically has very low batting averages. There’s potential for big power and decent defense, but with no guarantees he’ll be good in any aspects.

Not that long ago, Yankee pinstripes turned beleaguered Met Chris Young – the outfielder — back into a major leaguer and maybe the uniform can work the same magic for Davis.

Guest Post: Remembering the career of Jim Coates

The following is a guest post from reader Julian Bussells.

Coates and Paul O'Neill at Old Timers' Day last year. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Coates and Paul O’Neill at Old Timers’ Day last year. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

It can be difficult being a MLB swingman, having to keep switching between the rotation and bullpen and not having a set job. Those types of players don’t normally see the spotlight, but I want to cover a certain Yankees pitcher from the 1960’s because he grew up where my family is from and is even good friends with my grandparents. The pitcher I want to talk about in this article is Jim Coates.

Coates, also nicknamed “The Mummy”, was born in Farnham, Virginia and grew up in Lively, Virginia, which is where my grandparents have lived for a long time and where my father grew up. Signed by the Yankees in 1951, Coates spent seven years in the minors before finally getting called up to the show in 1956. After pitching in two games in September of 1956, Coates was sent back to the minors where he would spend the next two seasons pitching for the Yankees AAA team in Richmond and recovering from a fractured elbow injury.

In 1959, Coates was brought back up and did pretty well for himself as he went on to pitch to a 6-1 record with a 2.87 ERA in 37 games (four starts) and 100.1 innings. Coates even converted three saves in the process. Coates’ best season may have been 1960, when he pitched to a 13-3 record with 4.28 ERA in 35 games (18 starts) and 149.1 innings. While also being the Yankees’ Opening Day starter in 1960, Coates was named to the American League All-Star team where he allowed no runs on two hits in two innings pitched, facing all-time great hitters such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Ernie Banks.

Coates was lucky enough to go to three straight Fall Classics with the Yankees, winning it all in 1961 and 1962. Across those three World Series appearances, Coates pitched in thirteen innings across six games. In April 1963, Coates’ tenure with the Yankees came to an end as he was traded to the Washington Senators for pitcher Steve Hamilton. Coates never got settled in the nation’s capital and was shipped off to Cincinnati that July for Don Blasingame. After pitching nine games for the Reds in 1963 and spending the whole 1964 season in the minor leagues, Coates got traded to the California Angels and went on to pitch for them from 1965 to 1967 to round out his career.

After a nine year career, Coates finished with a 43-22 record, a 4.00 ERA, 396 strikeouts, and 17 saves over 247 games (46 starts) and 683.1 innings pitched. During five seasons with the Yankees, Coates pitched to a 37-15 record and a 3.84 ERA in 167 games.

Still living in Lively, Coates actually made an appearance at the 2015 Yankees Old Timers Day, marking it his first appearance at the historic event. Coates even had a book published in 2009 titled Always a Yankee which I am lucky enough to have personally signed. Unfortunately, Coates has been really sick for a while now and I just want to personally send out my best wishes to him and his family. Even though Jim Coates will never have his number retired or have a plaque hanging in Monument Park, he played a big part in two World Series championship teams and played alongside many Yankee greats, which in my book are the most rewarding things a baseball player could ask for.

Guest Post: Constructing the 1927 Team: From the Goat to the Great

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, Jerry Kenney, and the Copacabana incident.

Koenig. (MearsOnlineAuctions.com)
Koenig. (MearsOnlineAuctions.com)

For my next articles, I want to take a look at individual members of the 1927 Yankee team, which as we know, was one of the special teams in baseball history. The 1927 team won 110 games behind the great Miller Huggins and the Murderer’s Row lineup. This also happened to be the season in which Babe Ruth hit his 60 home runs and the Yankees crucified the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series with a four-game sweep. For the first post, I’d like to focus on the very first shortstop who eventually wore No. 2, the great and underrated Mark Koenig.

The Swiss Kid of California

Mark Anthony Koenig was of Swiss descent, the child of Charles and Stella Koenig, the former a second-generation bricklayer from Germany. Koenig was an intelligent child, taking up books at a young age, such as The Illiad from Homer. The young Californian also played the piano and admitted that he wanted to do more with his talent in playing the instrument.  Koenig was playing in the sandlots of San Francisco in the early 20th century with future teammate Tony Lazzeri, eventually attending Lowell High School (a magnet school located on Hayes Street).

Baseball was important in the life of Koenig after he was introduced at age twelve by Anson Orr, a window dresser and former member of the Golden Gate Park Bums. The Bums were an unusual baseball club in which you would have to be dressed with old clothing (trousers that barely fit and that their wives would want to get rid of) along with a baseball cap and spikes (the only two items of baseball uniforms that were allowed). The Bums did not allow the rest of the uniform as we know in baseball. Mark Koenig eventually became a member of the Golden Gate Park Bums. However, Orr sponsored two teams in the Sunset District of San Francisco, which played at the recreation center at 7th Avenue & Lincoln Way. Koenig joined the Sunset Midgets with his first uniform and people have stated that if you were able to make the team, you had to be pretty good in the first place. (This elite group includes other MLB players which as Lew Fonseca, Willie Kamm, Gene Vala and Sammy Bohne, among others.)

At Lowell High School, Koenig made the baseball team, but was nothing more than a utility infielder because of Artie Berger, who was the regular starting shortstop. When he reached his junior year at age 16, Koenig finally became a starting shortstop and his play caught the attention of Marty Kearns, a professional scout. Kearns recommended him to Nick Williams (a career minor-leaguer and long-time B-level manager) of the Moose Jaw Millers. The Moose Jaw Millers were a member of the B-level Western Canadian League, which contained only six teams: The Edmonton Eskimos (managed by ex-pitcher, Pete Standridge); the Saskatoon Quakers, Calgary Bronchos, Regina Senators and the Winnipeg Maroons. In fact, the Millers had just changed their name from the Moose Jaw Robin Hoods in 1920.

The Minors

Because of the suggestion, Koenig decided to leave Lowell High School and join the Millers for their 1921 season. Still only age 16, Koenig trained in Pendleton, Oregon, taking a train for the first time in his life via the Union Pacific Railroad. After that, Koenig would drive to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to play for the Millers. Playing with the Millers, Koenig batted a mere .202 in 84 games. On the team, however, he made a couple important decisions, becoming a switch hitter, which caught the attention of Yankees scout Bob Connery. At the same time, the Western Canadian League folded in the middle of the 1921 season, and as a result, Koenig hooked up with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association.

Koenig was the youngest member of the Saints, by far, at age 16 (the next was Binky Jones and Ren Kelly, both 21 at the time). However, Koenig only got into four games with the Saints that year, and hit exactly .000. Between the two teams, he managed a .199/.199 /.232 batting line. He had 61 hits that year in 306 AB, with eight doubles, one triple and no home runs. He stayed with St. Paul, but instead, was sent to their farm leagues (the D-leagues), first with the Jamestown Jimkotans of Jamestown, North Dakota. Koenig showed much improvement with the Jimkotans at age 17. He had a .254 average and .363 slugging percentage in 347 at bats with 88 hits, 18 doubles, seven triples and two home runs. The Saints did call him back in 1922, and he responded by raking in a small sample size. He had a .412 average with seven hits in seven games (six singles and a double).

The 1923 season served as a promotion for the young Koenig. Koenig played for the Des Moines Boosters, another farm team of the Saints, but now the A-team rather than D-team. Koenig responded to the promotion by improving even further. He hit at a .288 average with a .402 slugging in 156 games. He had 159 hits, 29 doubles, 8 triples and six home runs. However, the one problem with his 1923 season was his best Marcus Semien impression, THIRTY-SEVEN errors at 3rd base (not shortstop), with a .910 fielding percentage in 120 games at the position. After the season, the Saints called back Koenig.

By 1924, the young Koenig had finally filled out to his main size (six feet tall and 180 lbs). Now a member of the Saints, he was a utility player as Danny Boone was the starting shortstop for the team. Koenig struggled to hit in the AA in 1924, responding with only a .267 average and .333 slugging percentage in 68 games with 44 hits, seven doubles and two triples. His poor hitting prevented him from getting more batting opportunities, but he was convinced he would become a regular at some point, waiting for his opportunity. That opportunity did come. In the “Little World Series”, the St. Paul Saints faced the Baltimore Orioles, who played for the International League. Before the series even started, Boone was injured a freak batting practice accident and knocked out of the series. This caused their manager, Nick Allen to freak. He wanted to bring an outsider in because he felt Koenig was inexperienced, but the Orioles would not permit it with Koenig already on the team. As a result, he was forced to play Koenig at shortstop and hope for the best. The best is what he got. Koenig had an excellent series, batting .429 with two home runs (including one off 26 game-winner Lefty Grove), winning the nine game series 5-4.

To The Majors

After a great performance in the 1924 Little World Series, Koenig attracted the attention of more scouts. Harry Strider, a Minneapolis-based scout for the Cincinnati Reds, who wrote a number of letters to Garry Hermann, then-President of the Reds. In November 28, 1924, he noted that he was a fine shortstop and that he was a star in the making. They considered him a versatile player able to play any position in the infield with an excellent arm. This arm would later be measured as going at 127 mph (204 km/h) thrown from 60 feet 6 inches! This was the equivalent of a 1957 automobile and 29 mph less than Bob Feller’s top arm speed.

When Koenig returned to the Saints in 1925, Nick Allen named him starting shortstop and moved Danny Boone to third base. With St. Paul, Koenig hit .308/.474 /.782 in 126 games and 496 at bats. This included 153 hits, 35 doubles, 7 triples and career high 11 home runs. The Yankee scout Bob Connery joined St. Paul as an official and kept Miller Huggins and general manager Ed Barrow in touch about his performance. After Huggins watched Koenig play at St. Paul, he joined the fan club and persuaded Barrow to acquire him. The Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies were also interested. On May 29, 1925, the Yankees acquired Koenig for $50,000, Fred Hoffman (a catcher), Oscar Roetteger (utility man maximus) and a player to be named later (Ernie Johnson, a utility infielder).

Koenig made his Major League debut on September 8, 1925 at Fenway Park during a double-header. Batting eighth in the lineup, Koenig got his first hit in the 2nd inning off pitcher Buster Ross. Playing in 28 games that September, Koenig got 110 AB and hit for only .209/.243/.282 with 23 hits, six doubles and one triple. However, the 1925 Yankees, known for Ruth’s massive misbehavior and poor treatment of Miller Huggins, finished seventh place in the American League. In Baltimore in 1926, Ruth and Koenig got at each other because Ruth had been ragging about a play that Koenig didn’t make. When they got back to the dugout, a war of words turned into a pushing and shoving match.

The 1926 season marked Koenig’s first season as the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees, replacing Pee Wee Wanninger, a rookie the year prior. In order to accomplish this, Huggins moved Tony Lazzeri to second base instead of keeping him at shortstop. Lazzeri himself came from Salt Lake where he hit 66 home runs! The writers did not expect that this double play combo of Lazzeri and Koenig would be good for competing toward a World Series. Skeptics stated that Koenig could hit big league pitching but that he was erratic in his defense, which would be his failure. Writers however never affected Huggins, who stated that Koenig would play as long as he decided it was alright.

The Goat

Koenig hit his first home run on April 23, 1926 off Red Ruffing at Yankee Stadium with him leading off instead of batting eighth. Koenig in 1926 hit his career high five home runs and hit for a .271/.319/.363 batting line in 147 games. He had 167 hits, 26 doubles and eight triples to go with the five home runs. He drove in 65 runs. Unfortunately, the defensive black hole at shortstop was pretty blatant. Koenig had a career-high (minors and majors) FIFTY-TWO errors in 1238 innings. (He had 47 errors at St. Paul in 1925 along with 8 with the Yankees, which would total 55, but I count them separate statistics.)

The 1926 Yankees reached the World Series, despite the critics stating that they wouldn’t go anywhere after the disaster known as the 1925 season. Currently age 21, Koenig started all 7 games at SS, and had what would be considered potentially one of the worst performances ever. In 33 at bats, Koenig managed an atrocious .125/.125/.156 line. (I’m not even sure Jason Bay or Mark Reynolds could be that bad!)  He had four hits, 2 RBI and six strikeouts. However, what became the focal point of the poor 1926 World Series for Koenig was his defense.

Koenig noted that he had a powerful arm (and the metrics proved it!), but that his glove skills was far from the best. He noted he had small hands and that gloves were smaller, causing him to boot a double-play ball in Game 7 that gave the Cardinals the World Series. Koenig admitted that he had nightmares about that bobble, but it was a prelude to being the goat of the 1926 Yankees. Regardless of his famous booting, he didn’t lose trust of Miller Huggins whatsoever. Tony Lazzeri helped Koenig work on his shortstop. Koenig would admit later on that the 1927 Yankees could’ve had a midget at shortstop and still won the pennant. Huggins noted that once again, Koenig was playing Huggins, not the media.

Koenig batted 2nd in 1927, after Earle Combs and before Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and proved to be a proficient bunter. Koenig hit .285/.320/.382 with an 83 OPS+. He also managed a grand total of 21 strikeouts in 123 games. In 526 at bats, Koenig managed 150 hits, 20 doubles, 11 triples, 3 home runs and drove in three stolen bases. Koenig missed 31 games after 38-year old and White Sox lifer Red Faber nailed him in the leg with his fastball. The Yankee trainer put a rolling pin to the bruise to cut off circulation and unfortunately, it caused him to go to the hospital. However, despite that, his defense wasn’t exactly improving. He managed 47 errors in the games that he played at shortstop.

The Great

In the 1927 World Series, the Yankees faced the Pittsburgh Pirates. Koenig felt they were just as good as the Cardinals the year prior, but Koenig responded, hitting .500/.500/.611 in 18 at bats. This included 9 hits and 2 strikeouts. Most importantly, there were no errors by Koenig whatsoever! The Yankees, as many people know, swept the Pirates in 4 games, but the vital moment came in the 4th game. Tied 3-3, Johnny Miljus walked Combs, Koenig laid down a bunt that he ran out for a single. After a wild pitch, both advanced, then Babe Ruth walked to load the bases. After Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel struck out, Mijus threw another wild pitch away from Johnny Gooch and Combs scored, winning the series.

So, what were the changes that Koenig made? Coach Art Fletcher gave new instructions to Koenig in how to help his defense. Critics had a great time going after Koenig during 1926, and as writer George Moriarty noted, Koenig lacked gameness. Moriarty felt that Koenig was a victim of circumstances with only an obvious fault. Playing shortstop, Koenig bobbled too often at critical moments and he felt that Koenig had a weak heart without a better idea. Moriarty noted that Koenig could do anything else just as well as any other shortstop, but he could not seem to hold on to balls and commonly bobbled them, causing the Yankees to lose some games.

Fletcher noted that Koenig was fighting ground balls. When he would run to go after a ground ball, his arms would be stiff, bring them forward in a rigid pattern and force them onto the ball. By doing this, this would cause him to commonly bobble the ball. Koenig was told by Fletcher to do the opposite, make his arms and wrists both relaxed and bring them backwards with the ball. Doing this, Koenig could give with the impact and grip onto the ball because there would be no tension in his hands. Following these suggestions by Fletcher, Moiarty noted that Koenig had become a star on his way because of a simple suggestion from a former star.

Wrapping It Up

While Mark Koenig does not get the same amount of stardom that Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel get in the Murderer’s Row of 1927, he deserves a lot of credit for being one of the ground layers for those players along with Earle Combs. Koenig would play for the Yankees until 1930, but the defense didn’t improve that much. In 1929, the same season that Miller Huggins died unexpectedly, Koenig developed a chronic eye problem. The Yankees traded him and Waite Hoyt to the Detroit Tigers in 1930 for Ownie Carroll, Harry Rice and Yats Wuestling (the second shortstop to wear No. 2).

The Tigers figured if Koenig wore glasses, he would improve. However, it did not and they decided they would turn Koenig into a pitcher. This also failed. In the first inning, Koenig gave up six runs to the White Sox. He managed to go the next five innings cleanly, but caved again in the 7th when he gave up four more. By 1932, Koenig ended up in the Pacific Coast League, where played well. The Cubs picked him to replace Billy Jurges after Chicago showgirl Violet Popovich Valli shot him in the hand. That year, he faced his former Yankee team in the World Series and was cheated out of money from the losing Cubs. Jumping to the Giants, Koenig made the World Series once more in 1936 against the Yankees, which the Yankees also won. Koenig headed to San Francisco and played for the Mission Reds, but left at the end of the season.

Koenig made it well in San Francisco, operating gas stations and acting in a few biopics about Ruth and Gehrig. However, he also turned into a recluse, keeping in touch with his some of his teammates. In 1987, Lowell High School gave a rare honor to Koenig, giving him his high school diploma 66 years after leaving the school for Moose Jaw. After the death of Ray Moreheart in 1989, writers flocked to Koenig, the last living survivor of the 1927 team. On April 22, 1993, Koenig died from cancer in the city of Willows, California at the age of 88.

When Derek Jeter’s number 2 is retired by the Yankees, keep in mind the man who started the pseudo-tradition of Yankees shortstops wearing the number. Is Mark Koenig the greatest ever? No way. That role is reserved purely for Jeter, but you can make an argument that Koenig at least deserves a top five position for his offensive prowess.

Guest Post: Masahiro Tanaka Can Anchor The Rotation

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Carlo Macomber, who goes by CoryWadeDavis in the comments. Carlo is a freshman at Colby College in Waterville, ME.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

There has been plenty of talk this offseason (and last season) about the injury questions in the Yankees starting rotation.  Perhaps the biggest one is Masahiro Tanaka.  Over and over again, Yankees fans have heard about Masahiro Tanaka’s minor tear in his UCL.  People have tried to claim he needed Tommy John Surgery, even though every doctor he visited advised against it.  Every pitch he threw once he returned caused Yankees fans everywhere to hold their collective breaths.  A return to the DL in 2015 once again had fans everywhere screaming for Tommy John Surgery.  Now, Tanaka had surgery earlier this offseason to remove a bone spur from his elbow.  Looking back at all of this, everyone’s reactions seem really crazy but somewhat justified.  Tanaka teased everyone in early 2014 by pitching like an MLB ace.  Every Yankees fan hopes that he can be that pitcher again.

While I cannot predict injuries, I believe that, when healthy, Tanaka can return to (at least) something close to his 2014 form.  And, the Yankees desperately need him to do just that.  We have all heard about Michael Pineda’s lengthy injury history since being traded to the Yankees in 2012.  Luis Severino, while showing great promise in his two-month debut in 2015, is 21 years old.  Young pitchers deal with growing pains and sophomore slumps, among other things. Nathan Eovaldi has even made himself into a question mark by missing the end of 2015 with a forearm injury.  And CC Sabathia, at this point, is best described as CC Sabathia (#BelieveInTheKneeBrace).

As a result, Brian Cashman has made it extremely clear this offseason that the Yankees have been looking to add a young starting pitcher with under three years of service time.  So far, this has not come to fruition.  However, at least to me, this does not mean that the Yankees rotation is destined for disaster next year.  Below, I present you with one positive outcome for the Yankees most important pitcher and why it could just happen in 2016.

Masahiro Tanaka: The Ace (or something close to it)

That’s right.  I’m telling you that Tanaka could pitch like he did for roughly 130 innings in 2014 before the elbow tear.  Well, not exactly, but I’m about to give you reasons to think Tanaka can approach that level of production over 180+ innings.

The two most noticeable differences between 2014 Tanaka and 2015 Tanaka are his not huge but not insignificant drop in K% and his spike in HR/9.  Tanaka posted a 26% K rate in 2014 and a 22.8% rate in 2015.  Naturally, fans may become worried when their team’s best pitcher begins to strike out fewer hitters.  This means more balls are put into play, which can lead to bad things.  Tanaka’s batted ball profiles from the last two years, however, may show signs that his drop in K% is not a huge deal.

Year Soft% Med% Hard%
2014 17.6% 47.6% 34.8%
2015 19.3% 50.1% 30.6%

As you can see, Tanaka produced more soft contact last season and less hard contact.  This is obviously an encouraging sign.  If a pitcher is going to experience a decrease in K%, he better make sure the increased number of balls put into play are not hit overly hard.  Tanaka managed to do just that in 2015, which, if you choose to think positively and believe the trend will continue, may show signs that he can be ace-like with a slightly decreased K%.

Tanaka’s other noticeable difference from 2014, his spike in HR/9, definitely appears to be a more challenging obstacle in his quest of returning to ace status.  Tanaka’s HR/9 jumped from 0.99 in 2014 to 1.46 in 2015 (so basically from 1 to 1.5).  For a little context, Marco Estrada, who has long been considered to be HR prone, has a career HR/9 of 1.36.  It goes without saying that a team doesn’t want its top pitcher to have a worse HR/9 than Marco Estrada.

Let’s look at a little more batted ball data to see if there’s anything obvious contributing to this spike:

Year LD% GB% FB% HR/FB
2014 24.4% 46.6% 29.0% 14.0%
2015 19.2% 47.0% 33.8% 16.9%

The table shows a significant decrease in line drives surrendered by Tanaka, almost the same number of ground balls induced, a pretty significant increase in fly balls, and another noticeable increase in home runs per fly balls.  It’s clear that the line drives Tanaka surrendered in 2014 essentially “became” fly balls this past season.  On paper, this looks good; fewer line drives are turned into outs than fly balls.  However, Tanaka saw a lot of these fly balls turn into home runs.  This looks like a problem, but is it really one that will last?

The previous table revealed that Tanaka allowed less hard contact in 2015 than in 2014.  One would think that if a pitcher were to allow more fly balls that were also home runs, the fly balls would have to be hit very hard.  The data does not seem to back this up in Tanaka’s case, however.  More fly balls but less hard contact wouldn’t seem to equal that many more home runs.

With this information in mind, I think it’s certainly possible that Tanaka’s home run problem ends up as a one-year aberration.  I’m not sure if his Japanese stats mean much of anything at this point, but he never had a HR/9 of over 0.8 in Japan.

There seems to be reason to believe that his HR/9 will stabilize much closer to 1.0 as it was in 2014 than the 1.5 of 2015.  If this is indeed the case, and he can either maintain his increased soft contact or increase his K% again, I think it’s entirely possible that Tanaka can return to something approaching his pre-injury 2014 form.  That is, of course, if he can stay healthy for roughly a full season.  Will any of this actually happen?  We’ll have to wait and see.  Opening Day can’t get here soon enough!

Former Yankee Luis Arroyo passes away at 88

The following is from Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments.

Arroyo at Old Timers' Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Arroyo at Old Timers’ Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Yankees power lefty reliever and member of the 1961 championship team, Luis Enrique “Tite” Arroyo, has died at the age of 88 in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico from cancer, which he had been diagnosed with in December. A reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds before coming to the Yankees in 1960, Arroyo surprised many people by getting off to a hot start in 1955 despite his portly-size and extended length in the minors. By the time the 1955 season ended, Arroyo (an All-Star) went downhill and finished with a 4.19 ERA and an 11-8 record. He continued to pitch around the minors and with the Pirates before reaching the Reds. The Reds sent him to Havana to play for the Sugar Kings in the International League. The team won the playoffs for the International League, finishing with a 1.15 ERA and Fidel Castro said it was a “happy day for Cuba.”

In 1960, Arroyo returned to the Havana Sugar Kings, but soon ended up in Jersey City, New Jersey. The Yankees selected his contract on July 20, 1960 after purchasing him from the Reds. Casey Stengel noted at the end of the season that Arroyo along with Billy Stafford did more than ever expected of him, helping in winning the 1960 American League pennant. Arroyo, despite his work in the late season (2.88 ERA), only appeared once in the 1960 World Series (Game 5, specifically). At that time in baseball, it was rare a 34-year-old was considered nothing less than old, especially for one with no specialty.

In 1961, the Yankees expected the same of Arroyo, despite the prediction of Sports Illustrated, stating that he would fall back. Arroyo was injured in Spring Training of 1961 when hit by a line drive by Jesse Gonder. He quickly returned, and Arroyo found himself facing the West Point cadets on April 14. Arroyo quickly established himself as the ace of the Yankees bullpen, and they decided that Ryne Duren was expendable. (Duren himself was on a flight to face the Angels when he because inebriated and grabbed the breasts of a flight attendant.) Duren was traded to the Angels along with several others for Bob Cerv and Truman Clevenger. Ford established himself as the personal reliever for Whitey Ford because of the fact that Whitey could not go nine innings anymore. Arroyo replaced Ford 24 times in 1961 and got saves in 13 of the wins Whitey started. At the end of the 1961 season, the left-handed Arroyo pitched in 65 games (a league lefty record at the time) with 29 saves, 15-5 record and a 2.19 ERA, helping Ralph Houk tremendously.

The 1962 season was different, Arroyo could not stand up the numbers he had posted in late 1960 and 1961, appearing in only 27 games and accumulating a 4.42 ERA. The next season, his arm completely gave out and he finished with a 13.50 ERA in just six games. On September 27, 1963, the Yankees released Arroyo and he never appeared in a Major League Baseball game ever again.

Thoughts and prayers go to the Arroyo family in this hard time, though Arroyo’s reputation as a portly old reliever that could never fully establish himself remains. He was vital for the 1960 and 1961 teams, but became just another arm with a 40-32 record and a 3.93 ERA. Arroyo was also the first player from Puerto Rico to play for the Yankees. Rest in peace, Tite.

Guest Post: Who Punched the Delicatessen Man? The Yankees at the Copacabana

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, and Jerry Kenney.

(Books on Baseball)
(Books on Baseball)

The early part of the 1957 season for the Yankees would qualify as extremely interesting, considering the season wrapped up with the Yankees losing to the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series, 4 games to 3. The early Yankees were very streaky, and by mid-May, the team was starting to show some signs of getting out the streaky form, only to revert back. However, May and June became more famous for an event that occurred off the field, and the delicate history between Billy Martin, George Weiss and Casey Stengel, all of which changed as a result.

May 15 – The Game Before

The Yankees won a game at Yankee Stadium against the Kansas City Athletics on May 15, 1957. The winning pitcher was Tom Sturdivant, who was coming off a complete game loss against the Cleveland Indians and Herb Score/Bob Lemon (the future Yankee manager). That game on May 7 also happened to be the game where Herb Score was nailed in the eye on a liner from Gilbert McDougald. That ball managed to deflect to third and McDougald was thrown out at first. Score would be carted off the field in a stretcher while Lemon came in and threw 8.1 innings of one-run baseball. Tom Sturdivant gave up 2 runs, 5 hits, 2 walks and 9 strikeouts.

Sturdivant was in the middle of one of his better streaks. Sturdivant had thrown a 7-hit complete game against the Athletics earlier in the month (May 2). On May 15, he threw a complete game shutout (called by Hall of Fame umpire Nestor Chylak) against the Athletics. This game had 5 hits, 1 walk and 3 strikeouts, complete opposites of the loss the week prior. The next start was yet another complete game against the Washington Senators on May 24. This time, he gave up 4 hits, 1 run, 7 walks and 6 strikeouts. (You wouldn’t see a 7 walk player throw a shutout in this day and age!)

That stretch of excellent starts for Sturdivant was ruined in his next start, also against the Washington Senators on May 29. The starter gave up 6 earned runs in 6.1 innings and 7 hits. Ralph Terry and Bob Turley wrapped up the game with 1.2 clean innings. The Yankees that day had a complete game thrown against them instead by Pedro Ramos, one of those extremely rare switch-hitting pitchers (who would become a Yankee in 1964 for Terry!).

May 15-16 – A Trip to the Nightclub

Billy Martin was due to have his 29th birthday on May 16, 1957. Martin was an eccentric infielder for the Yankees and a particularly fond student of manager Casey Stengel. However, his personality had become a burden on General Manager George Weiss. Weiss felt that a Yankee should be a professional on and off the field and that his behavior was a poor influence on stars Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. It has been noted that they didn’t need Martin’s encouragement to be unprofessional off the field, and that became evident on the night of May 15.

Mantle, Ford, along with catcher Yogi Berra, pitcher Johnny Kucks and outfielder Hank Bauer took Martin to a nightclub on West 47th Street, the famous Copacabana. On that particular night, the headline entertainment for attendees was the great Jazz artist Sammy Davis, Jr. Things went pretty smoothly for the clan of Yankees who attended the nightclub, until a group of white bowlers entered the Copacabana. These bowlers began to heckle Davis, who had big fans in the Yankee players. Though they were drunk from their party, they came to the back of Davis.

It is at this point where details become hard to find, and some of the players deny their participation or lack thereof. The reports were that Bauer had baited and punched Edwin Jones, a 40-year-old owner of a delicatessen in the Bronx. Berra claimed that “nobody did nothing to nobody,” while Mantle noted in a later civil trial that he was so wasted that he was unsure who threw the first punch. This broke out at 2:30 AM on May 16, and the New York Daily News claimed potentially on the blocking of Jones’ view. Words were exchanged between the clan and Jones’ which contained 19 people. Jones was taken to the hospital with a busted nose and jaw.

May 16 – The Evening After

After reports of all this came out in the news, Casey Stengel became red-faced. Stengel generally had been a hands-off manager since taking over in the 1949 season, but this took things to another level. Stengel noted to the press that the players would have to pay extra for their “entertainment.” Stengel noted that he would talk to front-office officials about the nightclub escapades and deal with it.

Daily News front page dated May 17, 1957 Headline: YANKS BENCH 2 IN COPA BRAWL Beck Repays Another 100G It Was a Hit, Say Jones, But Hank Calls it Error Delicatessen owner Edwin Jones, 40, feels his battered jaw as he rests at 602 W. 188th St. Jones says he's still a Yankee fan, but he's going to sue Hank Bauer for $250,000, charging Hank slugged him at the Copacabana. Hank, hoisting a couple of bats for last night's Stadium game, said he did not strike Jones. Casey Stengel, irked at his players' nightclubbing, bench Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra.

At the same time, Stengel made punishment immediate. Whitey Ford was pulled from the start he was due to make on May 16 for Bob Turley and Yogi Berra was benched in favor of Elston Howard. He put Bauer in the 8-hole (just above the pitcher, since there was no designated hitter at the time), but left Mantle alone. Stengel’s justification for leaving Mantle in the three-hole, was that he was not going to sacrifice an attempt to the win the pennant because of the brawl.

Neither Billy Martin nor Johnny Kucks were scheduled to play in the May 16 game and were unaffected. The moves proved to be magical, like most of the Professor’s. Turley threw a 4-hit shutout of the Athletics with 5 walks and 8 strikeouts. The lineup jumped on Alex Kellner and tagged him for 2 runs in 3 innings. Mickey McDermott finished the last 5 innings and gave up 1 run on 3 hits. One of those three runs came from a solo shot by Mantle.

As for fines, Dan Topping, president of the team, laid out 6 fines, totaling $5,500 (1957 USD; $46,000 today) on June 3. $1,000 fines were levied against Bauer, Berra, Ford, Mantle and Martin for their behavior. A $500 fine was also given to Kucks because he had a lesser salary. Stengel noted that he was upset over the stiff fines, but Weiss noted that it was not because of anything between the manager and the front office.

May 21 & June 24 – Jones v. Bauer

On May 21, Edwin Jones came to Bauer and made a citizen’s arrest, because no one would have him arrested (neither the NYPD nor the NY District Attorney’s Office). Jones had Bauer fingerprinted, booked on felonious assault charges, photographed with a mugshot and arraigned on the charges. He was released without bail to his attorney. Bauer’s attorney, Sidney O. Friedman noted denied the charges against him and that they would sue for false arrest despite it being legal unless Jones could prove the charge against him. Bauer told the press that he never hit anyone while being accompanied by two police officers and fans along the street were supporting Bauer.

Jones’ attorney, Anthony Zingales, noted that he would produce two witnesses to help support Jones’ story. One was his brother-in-law, Phil Esposito who claimed that it was in an alcove where Jones was hit. Jones however claimed that that he did not see his assailant. Zingales also noted that they intended to sue Bauer for $250,000 in damages. The hearing for Bauer’s felonious assault charges would be held on June 21.

Testifying in front of a grand jury, Mantle told the prosecutor that “I think Roy Rogers rode through the Copa, and Trigger kicked the man in the head.” This caused the jury to break out in laughter. Ford, Kucks, and Berra also testified in Bauer’s behalf. However, Bauer never came to the stand himself. The grand jury voted “no bill,” meaning there was not sufficient evidence to indict. By this point, Bauer had left the courtroom with his wife. Because of the decision, Jones now became liable for damages relating to the arrest on May 21. Bauer sued him for $150,000, but the records of either lawsuit have never been released.

June 16 – The Final Judgement

Well, while Bauer was dealing with the upcoming grand jury testimony, George Weiss finally got his wish: he was rid of Billy Martin. The infielder was traded with Ralph Terry to the Kansas City Athletics for Suitcase Sampson, pitcher Risold Duren, outfielder Jim Pisoni (both who were sent to Denver) along with Milt Graff, who was an infielder acquired and sent to Richmond. Weiss used the incident, along with a brawl on June 14 against the White Sox as an excuse to trade Martin at the trade deadline (which was June 15 back at the time). The rest is known history, but the fight at the Copa is by far the most famous off-field event in Yankee history aside of Thurman Munson’s funeral in 1979. The true answer of who punched the delicatessen man may never be fully known due to death of players, their denial and their state of intoxication at the time.

Guest Post: Designated For Assignment: Inside the Turbulent Season of Chris Capuano

The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, whose work can be found at Double G Sports, among other places.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

In baseball, being designated for assignment is essentially a sort of ‘limbo’ a player goes when he’s temporarily not on any roster. The term is sometimes abbreviated as DFA or DFA’ed. When a player is DFA’ed, he is immediately removed from the 40-man roster. The team then has ten days to trade him, release him, or convince him to stay with the organization in the minors. Most players will not accept a minor-league spot, so they usually end up moving on.

However, for veteran lefty Chris Capuano such transactions became a part of daily routine this season with the New York Yankees. He was designated for assignment four times in less than a month’s time and returned to the big leagues all four times. Once, he had checked into his Scranton-area hotel for less than an hour before general manager Brian Cashman called to summon him back to the big club.

“I didn’t waste a lot of time,” said Capuano, who is now plenty familiar with the two-hour drive on Interstate 80 between New York and Class AAA Scranton (Pa.). “I know you technically have a couple of days to actually report, but I’m someone who likes to not just sit around, I like to be proactive and get right to work. So when that’s happened I generally reported that next day down to Triple-A and not wasted anytime just try to stay in a routine.”

Pitchers are considered creatures of habit, but this wacky season provided the 37-year old southpaw with little routine. To keep his command sharp and his arm strength up, Capuano took to throwing a good deal of live bullpens with reserve hitters standing in the box.

“Well my arm hasn’t had enough work to really have a tired arm or sore arm, it’s more keeping the feel,” Capuano told me in the Yankees clubhouse. “And obviously, I haven’t done the best job at that, given that I’d have one good outing and one really bad one. It’s been tough, I haven’t been able to kind of master given that kind of inconsistent schedule being as consistent as I’d like on the mound.”

Capuano’s trying 2015 campaign started when he pulled a leg muscle covering first base during a spring training game. He was a good soldier, who tried to use his time in Scranton to iron out any mechanical flaws and get into a rhythm. In six starts for the RailRiders, Capuano posted a 1.27 ERA across 28 1/3 innings.

“Every time I’ve been able to go back down to Triple-A and get in the starting rotation for whether it’s been five or ten days, this last time I went down and made two starts and that’s really helped me I feel like to get that feel back and rhythm back,” said Capuano, who grew up in Massachusetts as a Red Sox fan.

Capuano, a career starter, began last season with his hometown team and pitched in 28 games out of the bullpen to a tune of a 4.55 ERA. But he was designated for assignment in late June. After a quick detour through the Rockies’ organization, Capuano was traded to the Yankees where he went on to make 12 decent starts, going 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA. He went at least six innings in eight of those starts and showed enough to earn a one-year, $5 million deal in the winter from the team.

Despite being a free agent, Capuano pitched for the MLB All-Star team in the 2014 MLB Japan All Star Series. Wearing a Yankee uniform, he started two games for the MLB All Stars, allowing just one earned run and striking out seven batters. There were reports that he had interest in possibly signing with a Japanese team. He eventually stood stateside, but Japan could offer more money and a more prominent role sometime in the future.

“I’d never rule it out just because I love the culture, I love the people,” said Capuano, who also pitched for Arizona, Milwaukee, the Mets and Dodgers from 2003 to 2013. “It’s a beautiful country and they’re very passionate about baseball over there. So I would never rule it out. My wife and I don’t have any children. I love to travel so I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

While this season was a trying one for the Springfield, Mass., native, Capuano is no stranger to hardships. From 05/13/07 — 06/03/10, the soft-tossing southpaw appeared in 26 games for the Milwaukee Brewers (19 GS) and the Brewers lost all 26. He has also endured despite two Tommy John surgeries on his left elbow, the second of which cost him two full seasons in the big leagues, 2008 and 2009.

“After I had the first one it was really eleven months and I was back but the second one I missed two years and that’s a lot of time to miss – kind of similar to the situation Andrew Bailey is in for us now,” said Capuano, who is the only two-time Tommy John patient to make more than 10 major-league starts after his second procedure. “But when you do make it back, I think it gives you a healthier perspective having gone through that. You appreciate the game, you appreciate being around your teammates and the ballpark that much more.”

His ERA this past season sat at an unsightly 7.97, but he definitely helped spike the IQ of the pitching staff. He was valedictorian of his high school class at Cathedral High. He had the academic numbers to get into Dartmouth or Yale, even signing a letter of intent to enroll at Yale. But then he saw the Duke campus during a camp and changed his mind. When he graduated in 2000 with an economics degree, he did so Phi Beta Kappa with a 3.86 G.P.A., an impressive number he would probably prefer as his earned run average.

At age 37, Capuano is fully aware that his big league career may soon be coming to an end. He has been approached by one television network about a career in broadcasting, but he is leaning towards going for his MBA degree full-time. Capuano knows that a baseball career is a fleeting livelihood, and he wanted to complete his economics degree so he could follow his father, Frank, a financial planner, into the business world after his baseball career ended.

“My father is a financial planner and I’ve done a lot of work with him over the years too and I’ve stayed active in our union and our pension committee,” said Capuano, who has also made an All-Star team in 2006 and earned a silver medal while playing on Team USA in the 2001 World Cup of Baseball. “There’s a whole world out there after baseball is done, but while I’m playing I’m going to enjoy it and have fun.”