Archive for Guest Columns
In light of Armando Galarraga’s near perfect game this week, I decided to take a look at the 10 greatest pitched 9 inning games of all time that weren’t perfect games or no-hitters. It’s a pretty interesting list, and be assured that many of these guys likely pitched better than the perfectos, just didn’t get the bounce or two needed. I used a variety of metrics, but didn’t base my choices on any one statistic. While I compiled the list, I came across quite an interesting nugget. Since 1920 there have been 62 games in the majors with at least 14 k’s, 9 innings (or less) and a WPA of at least .50. Randy Johnson is responsible for 12(19%) of them, but did he make my list?
#10. Since the theme of this post was based on Galarraga’s performance this week, I snuck him on at #10, though his 3 strikeout performance really doesn’t belong here. The Indians put a ton of balls in play against him, and the Tigers fielders managed to make a bunch of plays behind him to get him just one blown call away from a perfect game.
#9. In the first of the “who?” pitchers on the list, Stoneman pitched a gem this day. Stoneman managed just 54 wins in his big league career, but was dominating for this game. For a guy who twice led the league in walks (in only 4 full seasons), Stoneman managed to walk just one guy while striking out 14 in a 2-0 victory. He also managed a base hit and drove in 1 of just 2 runs for the Expos. He does get knocked back a little, as like Galarraga, the team he was facing was pretty weak. Amazingly enough, despite just 170 games started in his career, Stoneman managed 2 no-hitters in addition to this dazzling performance.
#8. In a 1-0 game, Seaver had to be great and was against a Pirates team that included both Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, who went 0-7 with 5k’s. The only thorn in Seaver’s side was Al Oliver who went 2-3 with two singles. Seaver walked none and struck out 14 on his way to #8 on my list.
#7. Lefty outdueled Juan Marichal, holding the Giants to just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 14. It was 1-0 until the 8th when the Phillies pushed two runs across to give Carlton a little breathing room that he clearly didn’t need. Of his 14 k’s, Carlton didn’t strike out anyone 3 times, instead getting 5 guys twice each, and 4 more one time, including a pinch hitting Willie Mays. After giving up a leadoff single to Chris Speier, Carlton allowed just one baserunner the rest of the game with a walk in the 6th. Carlton even managed to chip in with one of only 6 hits off of Marichal, also scoring a run.
#6. Nomo, who like Stoneman also had two no-hitters came close to perfection in this 2001 game against the Jays, giving up just a 4th inning double to Shannon Stewart. This was a solid Toronto offense in the heart of the steroid era that had 8 guys end up with double digit HR’s. Nomo struck out 14, including tough lefties Carlos Delgado and Brad Fullmer 3 times each. The final score was 4-0, but it was a pitchers duel up until the 8th when the Sox scored 3 times to provide the final margin of victory.
#5. Santana only went 8 innings on this night, but he was too dominating not to include. While the Rangers are generally a top offensive team the 2007 version wasn’t great with the bat. Santana struck out 17 in his 8 innings, including 31 swinging strikes. A well past his prime Sammy Sosa was the only batter to get a hit off of Johan, managing a single and a double. Johan didn’t get his shot for 20 strikeouts as Joe Nathan closed out the 1-0 victory in the 9th with 2 k’s of his own.
#4. In another 1-0 game, Maddux was at his best, striking out 14 (with just 109 pitches) against the Brewers. This was a pretty solid Brewers offense with 8 guys in double digit HR’s and 6 of their 8 regulars with OPS+’s over 100. The Braves got their run in the 2nd, and Maddux took care of the rest. Maddux walked the first batter of the game, who was quickly thrown out trying to steal and gave up both of his hits by the 5th inning. From the 6th inning on, Maddux struck out 8, including 5 swinging.
#3. A month before Johan Santana dominated the Rangers in 2007, another lefty in Bedard took his turn making Texas look foolish. Bedard gave up 2 hits while striking out 15, and was in the strike zone all day with 79 of his 109 pitches going for strikes. Bedard went to a 3 ball count just twice and got outs both times. Jerry Hairston was the only Ranger to avoid being K’d by Bedard but was still hitless. I couldn’t find video of a postgame interview, but I’m sure, even despite his domination, Bedard was his usual pleasant self.
#2. Neither of Clemens’ 20 strikeout games made the list, as he allowed a run in 1986 and gave up a whopping 5 hits in his 151 pitch 1996 performance. Against Kansas City in 1998, Clemens gave up just 3 hits while striking out 18 in a 3-0 win. While it was the Royals, they did throw a out a lineup that included Johnny Damon, Jose Offerman, Dean Palmer, Jeff Conine and Jermaine Dye, so they weren’t total pushovers. 11 of Clemens’ strikeouts were swinging and despite 6 3 ball counts, Clemens walked no one.
#1. The gold standard of games pitched in my lifetime and maybe ever. Wood was just a light single that could have been fielded away from a no-hitter. Wood had all of his pitches going on that day, dominating a Houston team that won 102 games and had 4 guys in the lineup that day that ended the season with an OPS+ greater than 120. Houston led the league in scoring in 1998 by 29 runs. This was a great lineup and they had absolutely no answer for Wood. Wood struck out every batter at least once, and the 3-4-5 hitters went 0-9 against him with 9 strikeouts. On the other side of the diamond Shane Reynolds gave up just 1 ER while striking out 10 of his own, but the final score might as well have been 20-0. 13 of Wood’s strikeouts were swinging. Wood went to 5 3 ball counts, and all of them ended in strikeouts. If Kevin Orie had just a tiny bit more range at 3B, I think this would be widely considered the greatest game ever pitched. While this game is often cited when discussing Wood’s later breakdown, the 122 pitches he threw weren’t totally unreasonable (he had 6 more of 122+ and another at 121). In just his 7th career start, Wood made baseball history in pitching a game that I will never forget.
For more of my work, head over to Mystique and Aura.
I know I’m in the minority when I saw this, but the Yankees made the wrong call when cutting Randy Winn. I say this not in support of Winn’s ability, but in support of Kevin Russo’s. While I believe that Russo likely at this point can bring more to the table than Winn, he’s not a big enough improvement to justify having Russo lose important development time. Russo has the ability to be a decent super-sub type of player, and riding the pine at the big league level isn’t going to help. If there is a serious injury and someone is going to get 300 AB’s, I’d much rather it be Russo than Winn, but for the role the Yankees need to fill now, Russo is not the man for the job.
As the winner of the Winn/Russo battle (as 4th or 5th outfielders), Russo is going to maybe start one game a week. How much more can Russo possibly bring to the table than Winn? Winn is the better defensive outfielder, and he also has the ability to play CF. Now Russo likely will be more productive with the bat than Winn, but a glance at his triple slash line (.250/.286/.350 in a very SSS) doesn’t show the type of impact some feel he has had. A couple of “big” hits and everyone thinks he’s off to a great start, but he’s not. If Russo were 30 years old, I could care less. Russo, however, is 25 and has a chance to be an important (and cheap) player off the bench for the Yankees for years to come. He needs to be in the minors getting reps all over the diamond to see if he can become that player.
Russo does not have the bat to be a corner infielder or outfielder, and likely doesn’t defend well enough to be a full time 2B. If he’s relegated to 4th or 5th OF now, he’s eminently replaceable. Kevin Russo the outfielder carries almost no value, Kevin Russo the jack of all trades does. I’d like to see Russo get the chance to be a Mark Derosa or Jerry Hairston type of player, instead of being just another guy.
If you send Russo down, he’s a short drive back the New York if he’s truly needed. Right now he’s not needed; he’s a short term luxury that comes at a long term price. (My) best case scenario is that the final shoe has not yet dropped. Maybe the Yankees bring up Greg Golson in a few days to become the final OF on the roster and get Russo back to Scranton. Maybe they pick up one of the available OF’s still looking for jobs (Rocco Baldelli, Eric Byrnes, Elijah Dukes?), maybe they make a trade to pick up a veteran to fill the job. In any of these scenarios, I have no problem with them cutting Winn today; I just don’t want this to be a long term thing at the expense of Russo. Likely his only chance of having a long term career (and maximizing his value to the Yankees) is by learning to play everywhere. Let’s hope they find a way to make that happen sooner rather than later.
For more of my work, head over to Mystique and Aura.
The Yankees three game losing streak this week brought out the worst in Yankee fans. After blowing a 5-1 lead to the rival Red Sox, and getting swept (in a 2 game series) to our main competition the Rays, bridges were crowded all over. I’m just trying to figure out why. Hell, twitter seemed to blow up as soon as the Rays jumped to a 3-0 on Andy Pettitte, and my guess is that it was Yankee fans discussing how much their team sucked that overloaded the servers. Friday night’s win and strong Javy performance saved some lives but last nights loss have the bridges crowded again. I’m here to just remind you all of a few important things. (stats as of Saturday morning)
Record: After 42 games, the Yankees have a 26-16 record (and a 27-15 Pythag), good for the 3rd best record in all of baseball. They have played just 19 games at home, where they have a .684 winning percentage (and .704 in 2009). Last year after 42 games they had played an even 21 games at home and on the road. After 42 games in their World Series season of 2009 (had to remind everyone) they were 24-18 and it took winning 10 of 11 just to get there. On May 22nd last year they were in 3rd place and had the 9th best record in baseball with a +1 run differential. This year their run differential is +69. Wow.
One run games: The Yankees finally won a one run game Friday night. They are now 1-4 in one run games, which should continue to improve. For the most part all teams will win roughly 50% of their one run games with good teams winning a little more than 50% and bad teams winning a little less than 50%. They are almost truly a tossup. Last year they were 22-16 in one run games for a .579 winning percentage with an overall winning percentage of .636. The 2003 Tigers, who won just 43 games were above .500 in one run games. They are due for improvement here.
Derek Jeter: Jeter, despite his (rather empty) 9 game hitting streak is struggling. It’s been dissected so I won’t get any further into it, but Jeter has gone through struggles in the past. While there is some concern that he could be slowing in his age 36 season, it’s still too early to have an major concerns over Jeter’s performance. In 2004, when he was famously booed during a 0-32 streak he was batting .190/.253/.279 after 42 games. There were questions then, as there are now about if he was slowing down at the age of 30, and while the slowdown is certainly more likely 6 years later, his .273/.316/.393 line doesn’t look quite so bad.
Alex Rodriguez: While A-Rod’s season ended as perfectly as possible, it got off to as rocky a start as possible. First he had the steroid scandal and there was concern about how a guy who was perceived to be weak mentally would concern the extra scrutiny. Then, soon after showing up to Spring Training, he ended up under the knife having surgery on his hip. There were articles proclaiming that the Yankees were better off without him. Seriously. That’s how bad it was a year ago for A-Rod. Due to the injury, A-Rod got off to a delayed start and a (aside from 1st pitch) slow start. Through May 22nd he had only played in 14 games. As late as June 23rd he was hitting .207/.362/.443. Again, as rosy as things ended, all was not well for A-Rod last year.
Red Sox: We all remember the 0-8 start against the Sox last year. I was almost ready to jump off a bridge then, as living in Massachusetts for that was terrible. This year the Yankees have a solid 5-3 record against the Sox, and have already played 44% of their season schedule against them, which is a good thing as the Sox have yet to hit their stride. Last year the Yankees didn’t beat the Sox until August. Think about that for a second. The trading deadline had already come and gone, and the Yankees (and us as fans) had yet to celebrate a win against their bitter rivals.
Rays: The Rays are a great team. They are better than they were in 2009 and will provide more competition for the Yankees. They aren’t, however, as good as they have played so far. They have had an easy schedule and recently lost key reliever J.P. Howell to a season ending injury. Unlike the Yankees and Sox, the Rays don’t spend the money (won’t vs. can’t) to upgrade when they lose a player to injury. Injuries can certainly derail the Rays more than the Yankees. They have also taken advantage of the struggling Sox (4-0), but still have 14 to play against Boston who will only get better as the season moves on.
I’m ok with getting pissed off at losses and celebrating wins, but no one game, one series, and one week of bad baseball should cause people to overreact. The 2009 Yankees went through losing streaks and managed 103 wins. The 2010 Yankees have gone through, and will go through more losing streaks and are on an early pace for 100 wins. I have done my best to comply with Zen Baseball, here’s hoping more people can hope aboard the train.
For more of my work head over to Mystique and Aura.
How are the offseason targets of the Yankees faring so far in 2010? Every offseason all big name and big money free agents are tied to the Yankees. Obviously this is often posturing by the agents to drive up the bidding elsewhere (if the Yankees truly have no interest). I’m going to look at a few of the players they likely had at least a passing interest in and how they are faring so far in 2010. It’s truly to early to judge any of these contracts any differently than I would have when they were first signed, but it’s interesting nonetheless to see how these players are faring so far. Last weekend I touched on the hitters, today I will address the pitchers.
Sheets missed all of 2009 with injury and was a big question mark heading into the offseason. Would he return to greatness or was he too big of an injury risk. Sheets ended up doing very well for himself getting a 1 year/$10 million contract from the A’s. While the A’s likely overpaid, it’s only for 1 year. If they are in contention and Sheets is pitching well it will look good, and if they aren’t in contention but Sheets is pitching well, he’s a prime trade candidate. Sheets has struggled so far (and been a little unlucky) as you can see, but has shown signs of life lately. There were reports that he was tipping his pitches and he was getting crushed early. After combining for just 16 strikeouts in his first 6 starts, Sheets has 16 in the past two over 12.1 innings. Sheets needs to cut down on the walks, as he walked just 2.1 batters per 9 innings in the NL and is more than double that so far this year. If it’s the beginning of his turnaround, and he stays healthy, Sheets should have a strong season going forward.
The Duke got off to a good start, but is already on the DL. While he is expected to come off this weekend and make a start, he would have been a risky signing to rely on in the rotation. He also missed all of 2009 and coming into 2010 had made just 27 starts in his career. He would have been a nice pickup for the pen in a long role similar to Aceves, but there was significant risk involved. He resigned with the A’s for 1 year/$2 million, which could end up being a bargain. If healthy, the Duke should provide a lot more value than that, and could also be trade bait at the deadline if the A’s are out of it. While his BABIP against of .274 is lower than the major league average, it is right in line with his career, so expect him to continue to outperform his FIP, though not as drastically as he is so far.
The Angels signed Pineiro to a 2 year/$16 million deal which isn’t bad from a long term perspective, but if they are expecting the 2009 Pineiro, I’m guessing they will be slightly disappointed. Pineiro could succeed with his repertoire in the NL, but at best will be a league average pitcher in the AL. If he can throw 200 innings at league average that provides value, but there isn’t a team in the AL that won’t be thrilled to see him take the bump in a playoff game if the Angels make it. He’s been a little unlucky on balls in play so far, which has helped lead to his league leading hits allowed total. Pineiro surprisingly is getting more strikeouts than normal (4.8/9 in 426.1 innings with St. Louis) and is keeping walks down. His strikeout rate will likely fall, but so will his BABIP against. Again, not a star, but Pineiro figures to provide some value for the Angels this year.
The best of the free agent pitchers available, Lackey got by far the highest contract of any free agent pitcher, more than doubling the next highest pitcher for total dollars. Lackey signed with the mid-market Red Sox for a 5 year/$82.5 million deal, very similar to the deal the Yankees signed A.J. Burnett to after the 2008 season. Lackey has struggled so far, but does have a long term track record of success in the AL. The move to the AL East is bound to hurt his stats though, and he’s not quite the innings eater he used to be as he has missed time with injuries in the past 2 seasons. So far Lackey has the lowest K rate of his career, and the highest BB rate. Not a good trend, and if he wasn’t 4-1, the Boston media would be all over him.
Chapman signed with the Reds for 6 years/$30.25 million. While probably a little steep, if that was the cost to the Yankees, I would have been on board with the signing of Chapman as a lottery ticket. The deal could be a steal if he lives up to his abilities, but he’s still a huge question mark. It made more sense for Chapman to sign with a team like the Reds, so for the Yankees to have signed him I’m sure the cost would have been higher. Chapman has pitched well so far in AAA, but there are certainly some red flags with the control. If he’s walking almost 5 batters per 9 in AAA, what’s he going to do at the major league level? In an admittedly very small sample size, Chapman is having a lot more success against left handed batters, with a 16.2 K/9 vs. 8.2 vs. RHB. That is something to watch going forward, as RHB have just a .246 BABIP against Chapman, so he is due for some regression there.
You can check out the rest of my work over at Mystique and Aura
The following guest post comes to us from baseball historian Daniel R. Levitt. He is the author of Ed Barrow: The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees’ First Dynasty, a book I reviewed in 2008 which is now available in paperback. It was one of three finalists for the 2009 Seymour Medal, an award honoring the best book of baseball history or biography published during the preceding year.
Baseball, like all businesses, responds and adapts to its economic environment. The greater the disruption, the more profound the adjustment. The economic disorder of the Great Depression shocked the baseball owners: total profits of major league baseball collapsed from $1,335,742 in 1929 to a loss of $1,651,530 in 1933. Some of the less well capitalized owners were forced to sell their best players to raise capital. This expedient reached its apex in 1934 when Washington sold future Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Cronin to the Red Sox for $250,000, an amount greater than the entire 1933 player payroll of 14 of the 16 teams.
But the most lasting effect of the Great Depression on baseball was the realignment of the major and minor leagues. Like today, teams were limited to a 25-man roster of players during most of the season and a 40-man roster overall. The 15 players not on the 25-man roster were typically on option to minor league teams for continued development. Today, of course, teams control many, many more than 40 players though their farm systems. Prior to the Depression, however, this was not generally possible; all players on minor league teams controlled by a major league club counted against the 40-man roster. Some of the smoother operators, such as St. Louis’s Branch Rickey managed to skirt the edge of these rules, but on the whole having a farm system offered few advantages.
The economic imperatives of the Depression led to rules that allowed for the modern farm system. The major leagues had always resented being limited to the control of only 15 minor leaguers, but the minors liked it. The setup allowed minor league owners to control most of the best prospects and sell them to the major leagues for large prices once they were ready. The Depression, however, decimated minor league baseball–the number of leagues went from 25 to just 16 between 1929 and 1933–and the minors came to major leagues looking for financial relief. The major league owners agreed to invest in and help recapitalize minor league teams. In return, however, the major league owners demanded a rule change so that players on a minor league team controlled by a major league club no longer counted against the 40-man roster. Although the specific structure of the player control rules took several years to fully evolve, the new arrangement encouraged the development of the farm system as we know it today.
The Yankees were uniquely positioned to take advantage of this new environment. Like all capitalists, owner Jacob Ruppert saw his wealth severely curtailed in the economic downturn. But Ruppert had one unique advantage; he was a brewer, and with the repeal of prohibition in 1933, Rupert had an expanded and valuable source of income outside of his baseball franchise. Furthermore, unlike most other owners, Ruppert did not take distributions from his team’s profits; he reinvested them into the team.
Today the Yankee run from 1921 though 1964 is often remembered as one long dynasty. In realty it consisted of several distinct phases; one of the greatest began in the later years the Depression. Ruppert and general manager Ed Barrow quickly recognized the far-reaching impact of the new rules on minor league ownership and player control, and with Ruppert’s money built the best farm system in the American League. Supplemented with purchases of top minor league talent from many of the still independent minor league teams, the Yankees built one of the greatest sports dynasties of all-time. In the eight years from 1936 though 1943 New York won seven pennants and six World Series Championships and laid the groundwork for continued post-war success.
So what might the current economic downturn bring? Most obviously player salaries will stabilize or fall slightly as revenue falls off. So far, though, overall revenues have not declined. According to Forbes’ estimates, total baseball revenues actually increased from $5.5 billion in 2007 to $5.7 billion in 2008. Of course, the recession hit hardest in 2009, and those revenue figures are not yet available. Even if revenues fall slightly, however, it will not be enough to materially impact the structure of the game.
The largest impact may prove to be at the ownership level. Although team values have held up, the total wealth of many owners has been significantly reduced due plunging asset and hedge fund values. The baseball franchise itself, therefore, has become a greater proportion of the overall net worth of these owners. As their outside resources decline, they will have less financial flexibility to smooth out seasonal ups and downs in their team’s operational cash flow.
While baseball has always been subject to a diversity of wealth at the ownership level, the difference with this economic crisis is two fold: in the volatility of the relative wealth of the owners and in that market size will no longer be as important as ownership solvency. We have already begun to see this with Tom Hicks’ financial troubles in Texas and the Tribune Company’s bankruptcy in Chicago. The finances of both the Dodgers and Padres were recently thrown into confusion by the divorce proceedings of their principal owners. The fate of teams, and their willingness to spend on players, scouting, and marketing, is no longer as dependent on the fortunes of the team and its market size as on the changing economic circumstances of the owner.
As we know, yesterday, the BBWAA elected Andre Dawson and no one else. The outcome was horrendous; the explanations even weaker. Today, RAB regular TommieSmithJohnCarlos grew so fed with Jon Heyman’s explanation of his ballot that he penned a massive response in the style of the late, great Fire Joe Morgan. You know how it goes.
…Generally, I’ve voted for one or two more players than average in most years, and this year should be no exception. This time I listed six “yes” votes — Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Andre Dawson, Jack Morris, Dave Parker and Don Mattingly.
Dawson: A solid player, but NO
Parker: NOT F$%&ING REMOTELY, CHICO
Mattingly: NOT QUITE
Seriously, Dave Parker? Dave “.290/.339/.471/121+” Parker? Dave “Al Oliver and Rusty Staub were better players than me” Parker? Dave “people only love me because I wore a fancy black pillbox hat with horizontal yellow stripes and sang Sister Sledge songs” Parker? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a ball game.
As we await Game 1 of the 2009 ALCS, tonight marks the anniversary of the Yanks’ last American League title. Six years ago, Aaron Boone, an unlikely hero, launched a Tim Wakefield offering into the left field stands to to win one of the best Game 7′s of all time. While I enjoyed the game from the den at my grandparents’ house in Florida, my dad and sister were at Yankee Stadium. My sister, currently in Nicaragua where she will have to watch los playoffs in Spanish, offered up to share her memories of the game. So a guest post by Victoria Kabak on Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS…
During the Octobers that I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 years old, my family employed an elaborate rotation system to determine who went to which playoff games and with which other family member. Sometimes I wasn’t so lucky—the Yanks’ sweeping the 1999 World Series was a mixed blessing, as Ben and I were supposed to go to Game 5 (we each have a framed laser copy of the tickets, but it’s not quite the same).
But sometimes I did get lucky. It was with my dad, sitting on the main level in foul territory in left field, that I witnessed Roger Clemens pick up a piece of a broken bat and hurl it at Mike Piazza in 2000. Ben and I watched Jeter back flip into the stands in the 2001 ALDS against Oakland. All of these times I remember the palpable fervor of the crowd, especially as everyone exited the stadium at the end of the game, barely moving down the ramps and spontaneously erupting into cheers and chants.
Never did I experience a mania that came anywhere close to what I experienced six years ago today. I was 16 and it would appear that luck was on my side for that postseason family rotation. Again with my dad, I sat in the Tier Reserve down the third base line to watch the Yankees and the Red Sox determine who would play in the World Series and who would go home. The game had been going on for over four hours. The series had been going on for seven games. I would either go to school the next day tired and happy, or I would go tired and sad, with the prospect of five and a half boring months without baseball.
The game had already been an exciting one, with a less-than-stellar outing from Roger Clemens, a more-than-stellar relief appearance by Moose, and Pedro Martinez’s blowing the Sox’s three-run lead in the bottom of the 8th. Whatever happened after the 9th inning would be very exciting to one team’s fans. The feeling in the crowd was truly electric.
In the 11th it was really time for the Yanks to wrap it up. Probably the least desirable batter was at the plate—Aaron Boone. I’m sure my dad and I groused, wishing someone else – anyone else – was up.
Of course, as it happens, this is baseball we’re talking about here and the impossible is possible. Aaron Boone, in the peak moment of his career, sent the ball sailing into the seats behind left field. I had the most fleeting sense of worry as I could feel the upper deck literally moving up and down, palpitating below my feet. As the celebration continued, I called my mom, who was watching the game alone at home. I have no idea what, if anything, she said to me, but I know what she heard: a crowd of Yankee fans going wild.
Even though Boone’s homerun came after midnight, on October 17, it is an omen of the highest order that the Yanks are beginning their final push toward the Fall Classic on the sixth anniversary of the day Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS began—the sixth anniversary of a seemingly impossible occurrence. I only hope that the Terrace can shake the way Tier Reserve did.
The following is a guest post by Kyle Dugan, but you probably know him better as commenter K.B.D. Any readers interested in submitting guest posts can contact me via e-mail at mike at riveraveblues dot com.
We’re roughly a third of the way through the MLB season, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but DotF is probably my favorite part of RAB. Some of you, like me, get real worked up about the prospects whenever they seem like they’re putting it together. Similarly, sometimes we probably overreact when guys in the minor don’t seem to live up to the hype. It’s my hope that this little snippet of the minors might quell some of your fears about players, as well as temper your enthusiasm for others.
Due for improvement:
Mike Dunn (LHP, AA) – 36.0 IP, 4.00 ERA, 2.42 FIP
His ERA-FIP discrepancy is likely due to high BABIP (.360). Dunn is sporting a very impressive 12.25 K/9 on the season, though is struggling a bit with his control (4.75 BB/9). When you’re striking that many people out though, you can get away with being a bit wild. Ten bucks says he’d be more useful out of the pen right now than Tomko or Veras.
Ryan Pope (RHP, AA) – 50.1 IP, 4.83 ERA, 3.24 FIP
Pope has pitched decently this season so far, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from his ERA. Pope has managed to keep his peripherals eerily similar in the last year: 1.90 BB/9 in A+ to a 1.79 BB/9 in AA. He has slightly improved his strikeout rate giving him a 3.80 K/BB. I know we’ve all been critical of Pope as he’s moved through the system. H was drafted in the 3rd round with high expectations and while he hasn’t lived up to them entirely, he’s done an admirable job. Maybe it’s not the results we should be looking at, but his performance: Ryan Pope’s FIP has outperformed his ERA every year he’s been with the Yankees.
Justin Snyder (LHB, 2B, AA) – .198/.307/.298 in 139 PAs
Snyder’s line is really nothing to look at, understandably, though his IsoD does jump out (.109), so he’s not just going up there and throwing his time at the plate away. He’s being selective at the plate, keeping his walks up and strikeouts down to the tune of a .86 BB/K. J-Snyde (because our system needs more letter-dash-last-name guys) is doing this after completely skipping A+. If Snyder could get a full season of ABs at second, we could be seeing a damn respectable line out of him.
I can’t say I blame the Tony Franklin for not playing Snyder, however, as the AGNH-ostic (All Glove, No Hit) Reegie Corona is dispelling that moniker by OPSing a solid .854. Maybe he’s coming around after all.
By the way, does anybody like my AGNH-ostic thing?
Due for regression:
Zach Kroenke (RHP, AAA) – 25.0 IP, 1.08 ERA, 4.16 FIP
Kroenke wasn’t going to maintain a 1.08 the entire year, anyways but it’s noteworthy that his ERA is outperforming his FIP by 3 full runs. That’s more than significant. What’s really worrying is his K rates have slipped while his walk rate is still very high, leading to a K/BB of 1.13. That’s not a pretty number no matter how you look at it. His average against is a paltry .175 largely due to his BABIP of .207. His LOB% is… wait for it… 94.4%. Zachary has been a lucky man in the early going, look for his performance to come back to Earth.
Austin Jackson (RHB, CF, AAA) – .335/.408/.443 in 235 PAs
I know we’d all like to think that this is what we’ll see from A-Jax at the major league level, but there are some numbers here that have to give us pause. First off, his BABIP is .476 while his career line sits at .365. H’s also posting his highest K rate since his rookie year in 2006, striking out 28.8% of the time. When he’s not busy striking out, he’s actually making pretty damn good contact: his line drive percent sits at 22.1%, 7.0% higher than his career line. Austin has been the beneficiary of some luck this year and it’s already starting to show: in the last two weeks he has been OPSing .110 point less than his year to date.
Reegie Corona (2B, AA) – .318/.438/.417 in 160 PAs
… Or maybe he’s just lucky. Corona is seemingly looking to prove he can be more than a defense first second baseman. After being taken by the Mariners in the Rule V Draft only to be returned, Corona has been great. Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to last. His 21.2% walk rate is roughly double his career average. His BABIP rests at a friendly .371, .061 points higher than his total minors line. Overall, his OPS this year is .168 points higher than his career OPS and unfortunately for us, the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come, or maybe its a guy getting lucky and hot at the same time.
There it is for your consideration. If you want to let me know what a terrible job I’ve done, I post as K.B.D. around here and will be perusing the comments. Thanks for reading.
The following is a guest post by Rebecca Glass. RAB regulars may know her better as Aunt Becca-Optimist Prime. While not chatting up a storm on RAB, Rebecca maintains her own site at This Purist Bleeds Pinstripes. Any readers interested in submitting guest posts can contact me via e-mail at ben at riveraveblues dot com.
During Thursday’s game, Ken Singleton asked Michael Kay if he remembered Ramiro Mendoza. Kay sputtered for a minute, wondering why Singleton would ask him such an obvious question before Singleton corrected himself and asked after Mario Mendoza.
While the exchange was innocuous, just the mention of the name “Ramiro Mendoza” while Alfredo Aceves was on the mound seemed, at the very least, apropos.
The long man is traditionally the bullpen’s least important reliever: to be used in mop-up duty, low-leverage type situations when the starter’s appearance is cut short due to ineffectiveness or injury, and the manager needs an arm to abuse for an inning or five. Some long men are quite good. Some…well, some you end up with a 20-1 Twins win over the White Sox or that game where Texas scored 30 runs against Baltimore.
Typically, long men are the least acknowledged players on a team because when things are going well, they don’t appear. When a starter gives inning and the set-up men and closer do their jobs, the long man becomes redundant.
Still, the Yankees should know — perhaps more than any other team — that a good long man can make all the difference in the world. Even when things are going right.
The most underrated player of the Yankees during the “Dynasty Years” may very well have been their long man, Ramiro Mendoza. It wasn’t that Ramiro Mendoza was an exceptionally good pitcher–he had a career ERA of 4.30 and WHIP of 1.34 , but that Mendoza was more than a long man.
He didn’t just come in and mop up; he could spot start, throw short relief and do pretty much whatever the Yankees needed of him that day. The day after, he could then do something completely different and perform all of these roles to a standard of general competency.
Mendoza’s number will never be retired by the Yankees and only hard core fans beyond our generation will ever know his name. But I’m not entirely sure the Yankees win three straight, and four of six over all from 1996-2001, without him. (Ed. Note: In 1996, Mendoza made 11 spot starts and one relief appearance, but from 1997-2002, he was a pitching savior for the Yanks. Over six seasons, he won 50 games and had a 3.86 ERA and a 118 ERA+. You can’t buy that kind of versatility anymore.)
So why bring this up? Because if you’ve been watching Yankees baseball at all with the devotion that would bring you to RAB, you’d know that Alfredo Aceves is kinda sorta doing everything that Ramiro Mendoza did.
And he’s doing it better.
Okay, so there’s a giant enormous argument to be made for “Holy small sample size, Batman.” I acknowledge that. And hey, if Sabathia, Burnett, Joba, Hughes, Pettitte, and/or Wang all do their collective jobs, the sample size is probably still going to remain pretty small and not rival Mendoza’s 100+ innings pitched in four of the nine seasons he pitched (and four of his six seasons during the great run in the Bronx).
Still, though, Aceves’ meteoric rise through the minors last season, from high A to the majors, is Joba-like, and while, at 26, Aceves isn’t projected to be a future ace, he did come through as a starter. Given how successful Aceves has been in the bullpen thus far, it’s perhaps hard to imagine that he was a starter so recently.
Yet, few pitchers, starter or reliever, could throw two innings one night and then three the next. It’s different than a closer, who might throw one inning three nights in a row, especially if they are ‘easy’ innings, which many of the elite closers do without breaking a sweat.
Aceves threw two critical innings in the game on Wednesday, when it was still 5-3, and then three innings last night. While those innings were low-leverage by the 6-0 score, they become higher leverage considering that the Yankees needed to fashion so many innings from the pen.
That kind of versatility, especially in light of the relative (lack of) talent of the short relievers with any sort of hair, is invaluable for the Yankees.
Just consider this: Aceves was recalled from SWB on May 5. On that day the Yankees were 13-13 and had lost three straight. Since then, they are 11-4, and have won nine straight. Aceves didn’t win most of those games, and the ones he won, he didn’t do so on his own. But we can’t say that he hasn’t helped.
The sample size is too small right now to be able to do a full comparison — perhaps at the end of this season we’ll have a better idea — but right now, Alfredo Aceves could very well be that ghost of Ramiro Mendoza we have wanted for a while.