Guest Post: Frankie Crosetti: Historically Underperformed and Under-Respected

The following is a guest post from longtime RAB reader Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam from the comments. He’s previously written guest posts about umpire Tim McClelland and uniform No. 26.

Crosetti. (Getty)
Crosetti. (Getty)

For several decades from the 1920s to the 1960s, Frankie Crosetti was a household name for the New York Yankees, serving numerous different roles, including starting shortstop and third base coach. Crosetti historically was not the best batter the Yankees had during the early dynasty years, but the young man from San Francisco fit right in with the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and Bill Dickey under manager Joe McCarthy. Offensively, he was in his prime from his debut in 1932 at age 21 to his age 29 season in 1940. In that time period, the Yankee dynasty had racked up 5 World Series rings (1932, 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939) while Crosetti served as the starting shortstop for the Yankees.

However, in this day and age, Crosetti is almost completely forgotten but in the form of historical records. Crosetti’s teammates from many World Series: Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Dickey, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing are all in Monument Park in one way or another (with their numbers retired or with just a plaque). By the time Crosetti left the Yankee organization in 1969 to join the Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers), he had racked up 17 World Series rings in 23 tries, which is more than even Yogi Berra had ever gotten (13/21). Crosetti is not in Monument Park and no one has seemed to make an argument to why he does not deserve induction. Monument Park isn’t just for retired numbers of Yankee greats but for the greatest of the Yankees and those who serve the franchise in a major fashion. This article is about the argument over the reasons why Crosetti does and does not deserve his induction.

His Tenure

Crosetti first played Minor League Baseball for the Pacific Coast League team in San Francisco until his contract was acquired by the Yankees on August 23, 1930 for a player to be named later and three other players. The player to be named later ended up being Julie Wera, a third baseman and the very first No. 20, which will be inducted in Monument Park later this month for Jorge Posada. Crosetti’s first season for the Yankees was 1932, in which he was paid a grand total of $8,000. Only age 21 at the time, he hit a meager .241/.335/.374/.709.

Twice an All-Star (1936 and 1939), Crosetti’s best year arguably would be 1938. That season, Crosetti played a MLB high 157 games and set a then-record 757 plate appearances with 166 hits, 9 HRs and 55 RBI as well as a .263/.382/.371/.752 slash line. However, the negatives to those numbers, he set a major league high in 97 Ks (he had 106 walks in return) and stole 27 bases, also a season high for the league. Crosetti also has a MLB high 15 HBPs, a thing he learned quite well from Manager Joe McCarthy. That year, he finished a measly 29th in the MVP voting, which went to Jimmie Foxx of the Red Sox.

After that peak in 1938, he was able to set high numbers in HBPs, PA and at-bats for 1939, but his numbers were visibly declining. After hitting .263 the last season, Crosetti’s average dropped to only .233. By 1940, the numbers became even worse, when in 145 games; he hit an absolutely terrible .194/.299/.273/.572. The Yankees finally had enough and had the next best thing coming in 1941 in a young shortstop prospect named Phil Rizzuto. Rizzuto was intended to replace Crosetti in 1940, and some article we would’ve won the 1940 American League Pennant with Rizzuto, who hit .347 in AA.

1941 was the year. Crosetti was relegated to a bench player and only appeared in 50 games as a utility infielder, and while his numbers went up to a respectable .223 (and a 31st place spot in the MVP voting!), it clearly was the end. For 1942, 1943, and 1944, Crosetti was a bench player, but managed to get into 95 games in 1943 (another WS year) and hit only .233. 1945 was a bit unusual because he got into 130 games and only managed a .238 batting average. A lot of the extra playing time from 1943-45 was due to the fact that his replacement, Phil Rizzuto had spent all three years fighting in combat for World War II. Once Rizzuto returned from action, Crosetti went to backup status and after missing most of the 1947 season, he went from 1946 to 1948 participating in a grand total of 48 games, which he had only 1 HBP (his strength) and a .284 average in 86 plate appearances.

After 1948, Crosetti went from a player to a coach (he had been a player/coach in 1947), and became the third base coach for the Yankees. The longest-tenured third base coach in Yankee history (1948-1968), he coached during the Yankees best years with Casey Stengel at the helm and thanks to Joe McCarthy, he took the skills taught by the great manager and brought it to generations of Yankees and the front office absolutely loved it. Crosetti decided to leave the Yankees in 1968 for the new Seattle Pilots that had been established through expansion, but only lasted the year in Seattle because he had many differences in ways of doing things than Jim Bouton, a pitcher for the Pilots.

After coaching for the Minnesota Twins, Crosetti hung up the spikes for good and retired to Stockton, California. He never did appear at an Old Timers’ Day for the Yankees, but did make his fair share of appearances (especially when the Yankees were in Oakland) before passing away in 2002 at the age of 91.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

The reason I wrote this article is I got interested in the fact Crosetti is basically forgotten for someone who has 17 World Series rings and 23 appearances. On paper, that would get you a Hall of Fame nod, but there’s much more than on paper that needs to be examined here. As I mentioned in the intro, Frankie Crosetti’s name is not in Monument Park, the place of the greatest Yankees who ever played, coached or managed the team. If you asked old-time Yankees if Crosetti was a vital part of their success, they’d probably say yes, but statistics can argue away a lot of the personal love.

Let’s start with the blatantly obvious problem. Crosetti spent 16 years as a Yankee player (1932-48), but in 1,683 games, he basically produced a meager 83 OPS+ and only a .245 batting average. Those numbers would never get you in the Hall of Fame and I expect that wouldn’t get you into Monument Park in this day and age short of some abnormalities. SABRmetrics are a little kinder to Crosetti, but even that’s a bit pushing it. He had a 19.9 oWAR (using Baseball-Reference’s WAR) and a 14.2 dWAR. His overall WAR from 1932-48 was only 23.9, which the true stars can manage in one or two seasons at times. Also, while being a figurehead leader, he was not always a big factor in the team’s performance. In games he appeared in, the Yankees only had a .501 winning percentage. That’s not exactly the “I can change the direction of games” player. This is despite the amount of World Series rings won in that time. As a player, if you read the statistics alone, Monument Park has no place for Crosetti, but to base it only on statistics as a player would be poor judgement.

As I’ve mentioned, Crosetti became a third base coach in 1948 for the Yankees. He coached for six managers (McCarthy, Bucky Harris, Stengel, Ralph Houk, Yogi Berra and Johnny Keane). Waving home over 16,000 runners, Crosetti arguably was the cornerstone of the Yankees franchise who wasn’t a player named Mantle or Berra. Crosetti was always a person who was fashioned a leader, he would be awake early in the morning and always the first to the clubhouse and made sure that players weren’t always slouching or doing something wrong. He basically was an honest coach, including a famous issue with infielder Phil Linz, who was playing a harmonica during a losing streak and it caused chaos on the Yankees team bus. When the Yankees brought up a new player, the Yankees turned to Crosetti to make sure they were guided well and would give a pamphlet that discussed what to do as a Yankee and as a ballplayer. This even turned into a youth player book in 1966 published as “Frank Crosetti’s Secrets of Baserunning and Infield Play”.

As a coach, Crosetti was the rock who was always present to work on my generations of Yankees of the past and future. When he headed off to Seattle in 1969, his No. 2, which he wore, was not retired on his choice, but rather given to the next flashy player. At the time that player was Jerry Kenney, an infield prospect who made his MLB debut in 1967. In 1969, Crosetti’s 2 was given to Kenney, but it didn’t really work out for the infielder, who had pretty poor years in New York, hitting only .234 from 1969-1972. By 1973, he was in Cleveland and by 1974, out of the game completely. Obviously, the No. 2 has been given in good hands since then in the form of Bobby Murcer and the Captain, Derek Jeter. As a coach, you can see enough service to the Yankees that he deserved his spot in Monument Park as Mel Stottlemyre Sr. does now. While that’s comparing apples to oranges, the reason I compare it is because they were both career Yankees who always felt like there was something a little missing if you ask me.

Conclusion

One issue that was brought up to me when discussing my idea for this article was why would they bother at this point? Yes, Crosetti’s been dead for 13 years now and not in the organization since 1968. However, the Yankees under the George Steinbrenner administration put Red Ruffing in Monument Park with a plaque of his own, 18 years after his death. With the recent trend of installing historic players on Old Timer’s Day (Rich Gossage, Willie Randolph & Mel Stottlemyre), it seems only fair you could use this as a chance to break the trend and get “The Crow” where he belongs, a plaque in Monument Park emphasizing you don’t have to be a great player to be a Yankee.

TiqIQ: One Month Away, Yankees-Rays July 4 Clash Takes on Added Importance

When fans look at their favorite baseball team’s schedule for the first time prior to Opening Day, one of the dates they intently pinpoint on is the good ol’ Fourth of July, undoubtedly one of the most fun and special days of the summer, if not the entire calendar year.

In the baseball world, July 4 seemingly represents the unofficial halfway point of the Major League Baseball season, with teams reflecting on how their year has unfolded up to that crucial juncture of the campaign, while looking ahead at what the summer potentially has to offer for their playoff aspirations. Luckily as it concerns the New York Yankees, they have nothing but good thoughts when looking back on how the first two months have played out, owning a somewhat surprising first-place lead in the AL East division about a month before Independence Day.

Perhaps just as important, the Fourth of July also serves as one of the grandest trips to the ballpark throughout the season for fans, with some unique giveaway usually planned for everyone in attendance, not to mention a fireworks display during the postgame proceedings. The whole allure of Independence Day is certainly one of the most anticipated points of the MLB campaign, and it appears that will be exactly the case once again when the Yankees host the Tampa Bay Rays this year on July 4.

For this year’s Fourth of July promotion, the Yankees are hosting Fathead Day, presented by sweetFrog, in which they are giving away Fathead Yankee wall stickers to the first 18,000 fans in attendance who are age 14 and younger. This is rare giveaway, as a glance at any team’s promotional schedule will reveal most clubs do not offer up the popular Fathead items.

At the moment, the average Yankees tickets on TiqIQ for this July 4 affair is $117.90. On Yankees.com, tickets cost $27.80 with fees to get in the stadium. Surprisingly, this pricing actually represents some of the cheaper Yankees tickets for the month of July. Being a month away, however, it is expected this will not remain the case as we draw close and closer to Independence Day.

That’s especially true given the quality of opponent for the Yankees on this day, when they clash with the division rival Rays, whom just happens to be their closest competition for the top spot in the AL East at the moment. Thus, you can fully expect the price to go up considerably on the secondary market as the next few weeks go by. Not only is there a rare giveaway planned, and not only will this game have an impact on first place in the division, but there’s just nothing quite like being at the ballpark on the Fourth of July.

Guest Post: Uniform No. 26: The Best of a Bunch of Stragglers

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He wrote a guest post about umpire Tim McClelland back in February and will now tackle uniform No. 26. Enjoy.

(Getty)
(Getty)

We complain that the Yankees retire too many numbers (21 by the end of the season) or should un-retire numbers. However, you look at statistics, particularly on Baseball-Reference, the Yankees seem to have an inordinate amount of numbers that have an insane list of players. Yet, 26 seems to stick out. Most recently, we associate the Yankees’ No. 26 with Eduardo Nunez, who was wearing it from 2011-2013 (he wore 12 in 2010, his first season). The first time the No. 26 was assigned by the Yankees was Cedric Durst, a former outfielder for the St. Louis Blues from 1922-1926. Durst joined the Yankees in 1927, but did not get his number 26 until 1929. He only wore 26 for one year, changing to 27 for the 1930 season. That season he was traded to the Red Sox with $50,000 for Yankee legend, Monument Park and Hall of Fame inductee Red Ruffing.

I am not going to go through the entire list of who wore 26 in this blog post, it would take forever. Since Cedric Durst, 71 other players have worn the No. 26 for the Yankees, currently with Chris Capuano wearing it. However, the No. 26 also seems for the most part to deal with a lot of straggler players. In 2012 for example, we had Darnell McDonald wear No. 26 (and cut his famous dreadlocks) for 3 games before being designated for assignment. Since 2009, the Yankees have assigned the No. 26 to 9 players: Austin Kearns, Kevin Russo, Greg Golson and Nick Johnson all in 2010; Eduardo Nunez in 2011; Ramiro Pena, Darnell McDonald and Eduardo Nunez in 2012; Nunez kept it for all of 2013; Yangervis Solarte took 26 after Nunez was designated for assignment in 2014, and after he was traded away, Capuano took the number.

The Best Batter to wear No. 26

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

You’re going to probably watch your eyes melt when you hear me say this, but Eduardo Nunez has arguably had the best statistics for all batters who have worn No. 26. In 270 games with the Bombers, Nunez had 201 hits, 10 home runs and 75 runs batted in. He hit for a .267 average, .313 on-base percentage and .379 slugging. Of course, when the Yankees promoted Nunez in 2010, they thought he was quite possibly the heir at shortstop for Derek Jeter and the future face of the franchise at shortstop. Baseball-Reference’s SABERmetrics have not been so kind to Nunez offensively, as he never produced higher than an 0.4 offensive WAR for the Yankees (he has a 0.5 bWAR for the Twins this season thus far, but he’s only played 17 games due to injury.).

However, his defense has never quite been the same as his offensive production. Nunez has played various positions all over the place since his debut in 2010 (3B, SS, the OF, DH and 2B). From 2010-2013, Nunez managed 30 errors at the shortstop position alone (14 in 2011 and 12 in 2013, correlating with his most active seasons with the Yankees (he spent most of 2012 in the minors, only had 4 errors). At third base, he had another 11 errors, and 1 at second base in 2012. When Yangervis Solarte hit his way into the scene during Spring Training in 2014, the Yankees clearly had enough of Nunez and designated him for assignment on April 1. Regardless of our opinions on Nuney, there has clearly been no sign of a better hitter wearing that number.

The Best Pitcher (and overall player) to wear No. 26

No. 26 has produced many pitchers as well, but there was no one better wearing the number than Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Hernandez, the Cuban free agent, signed on March 23, 1998 with the New York Yankees, two years after his brother Livan signed with the Marlins. During his first stint in New York, Hernandez started 121 games in the regular season for the Yankees, throwing 8 complete games from 1998-2000, when he was in his prime at ages 32-34. He racked up 791.2 innings in that span, striking out 619 (I am not kidding). He allowed 105 home runs and 707 hits. Despite all that, he only had 18 wild pitches when facing 3,324 batters. He had a 114 ERA+ and a 1.232 WHIP. In all, the first stint the Yankees had with El Duque resulted in a 53-38 record and a 4.04 ERA.

As you probably know, the Yankees traded El Duque to the Chicago White Sox on January 15, 2003 for Eddi Candelario and Antonio Osuna. Hernandez was immediately flipped to the Montreal Expos with Rocky Biddle and Jeff Liefer for Jorge Nunez and future-Yankee Bartolo Colon. El Duque did not pitch in 2003 due to a rotator cuff surgery. As a free agent in 2004, El Duque re-signed with the Yankees for $500,000! His 2004 season was definitely not as electric as his first stint with the Yankees, as he only started 15 games for the Bombers at age 38, pitching only 84.2 innings and a 3.30 ERA (which was his best since 1998 at that point). The next year he signed as a free agent to the White Sox and gained his 4th ring in his career. Interestingly, at the end of that season he was traded to the Diamondbacks with future Yankees Luis Vizcaino and Chris Young (!) for another Yankee, Javier Vazquez.

Hernandez, his eephus pitch and his unusual leg kick were one of the best things to come out of the 1998 season. What Yankee fan doesn’t love El Duque? I sure don’t. He had a memorable time in New York, throwing his glove to Tino Martinez at first base, making quality starts constantly and just being unusual compared to most pitchers. Unlike Eduardo Nunez, who has a very timid reputation in Yankee lore, El Duque is forever a favorite and overall the best player to wear No. 26 since 1929.

Notable Runner-Ups

There is no question that El Duque was the best overall player with No. 26, and the best pitcher. However, there are 70 other players who deserve comment, but I want to focus on one batter and one pitcher. Starting with the batter, you have to scroll back to the 1932-1938 seasons for the arguable second-best batter who wore the No. 26. This player was a catcher named Joe Glenn. Glenn was a backup catcher to the legendary Bill Dickey, debuting in 1932 when he was 23 years old. He wasn’t an offensive powerhouse, but as he got older, he managed to start hitting with some average (.233, .271, .283 and .260 from 1935-38). On October 26, 1938, Glenn was traded with Myril Hoag to the Browns for Oral Hildebrand and Buster Mills.

On the pitchers side is a name older Yankee fans should recognize, John “The Count” Montefusco. Montefusco, a recent addition to Old Timer’s Day, was acquired from the Padres by the Yankees in 1983 after a long career with the San Francisco Giants. He only pitched in 18 starts for the Yankees, a majority during the 1984 season. He did, however, managed a 3.55 ERA and a 19-7 record for the most part of that time with a 106 ERA+ in 208 innings. In total, he allowed 209 hits and 19 home runs with a 1.303 WHIP. Yes Montefusco wasn’t amazing as El Duque was, but there’s no question that Montefusco was one of the better pitchers to wear No. 26. The Yankees were actually Montefusco’s last team in the majors.

Finally, you look at the number 26, one of these days, someone is going to get that number and put it to good use. For those curious, after 26, the number 39 is the most-used number. One of the other pitchers who deserve credit for both 26 and 39 is the great Joe Niekro, who played for the Yankees during the same time as Montefusco, strangely enough. While Capuano has held the No. 26, it’s not going to be forever, and at some point, another straggler will probably inherit the number.

Guest Post: Umpire Tim McClelland Retires After 33 Years in Baseball: Tied to the Yankees Forever

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you may know from the comments as Roadgeek Adam. Adam wrote about long-time umpire Tim McClelland and his ties to the Yankees. McClelland did not work due to a back injury last year and recently retired.

McClelland and Jorge Posada in the 2003 ALCS. (Getty)
McClelland and Jorge Posada in the 2003 ALCS. (Getty)

Veteran Major League Baseball umpire Tim McClelland has retired after 33 years in the game. Hired by the American League in 1981, the Michigan State University product umpired his first game on September 3, in a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Chicago White Sox (which also included the MLB debut of Jesse Barfield!) Tim McClelland had back surgery in 2014, which kept him out the entire season and had him considering retirement. Earlier this week, that officially happened.

McClelland is notably famous for the day of his first ever ejection, which we mostly know as the Pine Tar Game, July 24, 1983. We Yankees fans know quite well the story behind the Pine Tar Game, with Billy Martin questioning George Brett’s bat after a home run that would’ve given the Royals the lead. The bat supposedly had too much pine tar compared to the league rules, and after talking with fellow umpires Drew Coble, Joe Brinkman and Nick Bremigen, McClelland officially agreed with Martin and called Brett out (overturning the home run).

McClelland immediately ejected George Brett, who wanted a piece of the young umpire at that point. McClelland also ejected Royals manager Dick Howser, coach Rocky Colavito and pitcher Gaylord Perry for trying to get the bat away from the umpires (by using the bat boy) so it would not be brought to the umpire’s room and make a trip to the American League office, run by Lee MacPhail. As we know, MacPhail overturned the decision of McClelland and the Yankees lost the game 5-4. It would not be the last time McClelland’s had to deal with questionable bats, as in 2003, Sammy Sosa used a corked bat (“reserved for batting practice”) against the late Geremi Gonzalez of Tampa Bay. McClelland, now 20 years removed from the Brett incident, ejected Sosa, and the ground out RBI that Sosa made with the bat was reversed. (This is also the most recent time a person has been caught using a corked bat.)

McClelland also gained some notoriety in the 2009 American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Angels. First off, he was the third base umpire in Game 4 when Jorge Posada got caught in a rundown in the 5th inning between third base and home plate. Robinson Cano used this opportunity to advance to third, and both Posada and Cano were both tagged out by Mike Napoli. Instead, McClelland only called Posada out because he felt Cano was touching third base when he was tagged. The other call involved Nick Swisher leaving third base too soon when tagging up to advance to home. On that call, McClelland was quoted: “I’m not sure I believe the replay of that one.” In other words, he thinks that he’s right.

Tim McClelland was also the home plate umpire for the David Wells’ perfect game on May 17, 1998. He has also been a part of seven no-hitters, including Phillip Humber’s perfect game in 2012. In all, McClelland worked parts of 33 seasons, umpiring officially 4,236 games with 1,075 at home plate. He’s been part of five Division Series (1997, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006), nine Championship Series (1988, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009) and four World Series (1993, 2000, 2002 and 2006) as well as three All-Star Games (1986, 1998 and 2003).

As far as ejections, McClelland ejected 77 players, coaches and managers, including the four on July 24, 1983. He’s ejected people from the Yankees 12 times, including every single manager from Yogi Berra through Joe Girardi (except for Buck Showalter).

Honestly, losing McClelland is a big loss to Major League Baseball. While some people were very displeased with his ball and strike calling style, which is notoriously slow, he was one of the most respected umpires as voted by the players. I have major respect for the great McClelland, who I honored in my fantasy league this year, and he’s going to finish a career that is well-respected. I will miss the great McClelland behind the plate, and I am sure many others will as well.

Reports: Korean left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim to be posted, Yankees have checked in

The following is a guest post from Sung-Min Kim, who has also written guest posts about Kei Igawa and Hyo-Jun Park.

Kim at the 2014 Asian Games last month. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)
Kim at the 2014 Asian Games last month. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

According to Eun-Byul Park of eDailyStar, left-handed pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim of the SK Wyverns in Korea will have a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the “pursuit of going over to the Major Leagues.” The article also states that the Wyverns’ general manager and main representative will also be present. All signs point to the team posting their star pitcher.

Kim, 26, is one of the most popular players in the Korean Baseball Organization. He was drafted by the Wyverns in the first round in 2006. By the end of 2007, Kim had already posted 3.62 ERA in 77 IP as a 19-year old. His rise is very storied among Korean fans. The Wyverns were down 1-2 to the Doosan Bears in the Korean Series and the manager decided to start the teenager to save their season. The starter for the Bears was one-time Yankee Danny Rios, who later went on to win the league MVP after having a phenomenal season with 2.07 ERA in 234 IP and 22 wins. Undaunted by the task, Kim threw a 7.1 IP gem with only one hit allowed while striking out 9, earning the win for the Wyverns that later went on to win the Korean Series title. Here’s a Korean television segment about the fateful game.

From 2008 to 2010, his ages 20 to 22 seasons, Kim rivaled Hyun-Jin Ryu as the most talented young lefty in the nation. He went 16-4 with 2.39 ERA in 27 starts in 2008, winning the league MVP, the gold medal for Team Korea in the Beijing Olympics, and another Korean Series trophy as the Wyverns won consecutive titles. He went 12-2 with 2.80 ERA in 2009 and 17-7, 2.37 ERA in 193.2 IP in 2010 (and another Wyverns title). By the end of 2010, there wasn’t much doubt about his place as one of the best lefties in the history of Korean baseball. However, starting in 2011, Kim became plagued by slumps and injuries. From 2011 to 2013, he posted 4.84, 4.30 and 4.47 ERAs, respectively, with worse control (4.64 BB/9 from 2011-13 as opposed to 3.64 BB/9 in 2008-2010) and strikeout numbers (7.10 K/9 from 2011-13 as opposed to 8.11 K/9 from 2008-10).

The 2014 season was not his best year, however he came back as a healthy, full-time starter who finished second in the league in ERA (3.42) and home run rate (0.52 HR/9) and seventh in strikeout rate (7.51 K/9). His fastball hit as high as 96 mph, which is around where he topped when he was a younger ace. His 3.42 ERA in 173.2 IP may not be impressive for a pitcher that is pitching at a well-below NPB’s level, but KBO experienced a historical offensive explosion this summer.  The ex-San Francisco and Lotte Giant Ryan Sadowski describes it the best:

“As of September 10th, we have seen 5,762 runs scored over the course of 505 games. There have been about 11.4 runs scored per game or 5.7 runs scored per team. We have witnessed about a 40% increase in runs scored from the 2012 season. We have also seen 1,047 home runs during the 505 games that have been played.  In 2014, we have seen an 80% increase in homeruns produced in comparison to the 2012 season.”

That is insane. There were only SIX starters in KBO with ERA under 4.00 and Kim is the only Korean-born pitcher in that group. The other five: Rick VandenHurk (3.18), Andy Van Hekken (3.51 and the first 20-game winner in KBO since Rios), Charlie Shirek (3.81), Dustin Nippert (3.81) and Cory Riordan (3.96).

A huge knock on Kim’s 2014 numbers is that his walk rate remained mediocre at 4.20 BB/9. There have been Asian imports, or just pitchers in general, that had less-than-ideal control and pitched decently in Majors, but for every Kaz Ishii there are names like Kei Igawa and Ryota Igarashi — pitchers you did not want anywhere near the 40-man roster. The lefty was also one of the luckiest pitchers with runners on base: 74.6 LOB% is the second in league (though one can argue that Kim bumps up his velocity a notch in dicier situations). I would say this video summarizes Kim’s season in a nutshell: showing some control hiccups to get into trouble but using his upside to get outs and out of the trouble.

My assessment: I do not see Kim being a full-time starter in the Majors unless there is a major improvement in command. It would be a wishful thinking for him to be an “effectively wild” pitcher a la early-2002 Kaz Ishii. I don’t know if Kim would post walk rates as abysmal as Ishii’s (6.19 and 6.18 BB/9 in his first two seasons with the Dodgers) but what mattered was that he was a pitcher expected to start in every five games for three Major League seasons. I think a lot of Korean baseball fans would more than gladly take that for Kwang-Hyun Kim.

If Kim were to sign with an ML team, it’s because they would be sold by his stuff. His fastball usually plays around high-80’s-to-low-90’s. He is able to bump it up to mid-90’s but don’t expect a first-grade heat from the lefty. According to a big league scout quoted in Global Sports Integration, Kim has “big league stuff. Definitely a big league slider.” The scout adds “Kim’s raw stuff is electric. If he were a raw prospect with low mileage, he would be the best prospect in Asia. But he has injury history and isn’t 21 years old.”

Some fans may remember RHP Suk-Min Yoon, who signed a ML contract with the Baltimore Orioles in the previous winter. The deal, however, has not gone well at all for the Birds. Yoon, who was also one of the best young starters in KBO along with Kim and Ryu, was trending downwards with health and performance when he signed with Baltimore. Ryu, who had showed endurance in Korea, came off one of his best seasons in 2012 before he signed with the Dodgers. Kim, I would say, is somewhere in between those two. He has his share of injury history but he’s trending upwards in stock – definitely not at Ryu’s level but enough to maybe give some team to take a flier or two.

As for the Yankees, I doubt that they will look at Kim as a rotation option. First off, there are other names in the free agency that could possibly woo the team to spend bigger money on (Jon Lester, James Shields, Brandon McCarthy, etc.). The team also has in-house rotation candidates and pieces that delegitimize a need for a risky signing like Kim. There have been reports that Yankee scouts have checked on him and some think a posting fee between “$10 to 12 million” is “not a stretch.” But then again, I will believe what the ML teams actually think of his value when I see it. All indications say Kim will be posted and it will be interesting to see how a pitcher from Korea with less-than-optimal history would be seen among the teams.

Guest Post: The ultimate Kei Igawa retrospective

The following is a guest post from long-time reader Sung-Min Kim, who you can follow on Twitter at @SungMinKim116.

(Yahoo)
(Yahoo)

I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of the offseason of 2006~07, I always think “what if?” the Yankees had signed Ted Lilly. Theodore Roosevelt Lilly, as you may recall, was a Yankee long time ago until the trade that brought Jeff Weaver to Bronx (“Lilly had cried the day in 2002 when Cashman traded him.”) The lefty went on to have few solid seasons with the Athletics and the Jays – 9.7 cumulative fWAR from 2003-06 – until he hit free agency for the first time after the ‘06 season. Lilly strongly wanted to be a Yankee again but the team let him take the Cubs’ offer. Actually, they had someone else in mind by the time Lilly agreed with the Cubs – on November 29, 2006, the Yankees had won the bidding to talk with the Japanese lefty, Kei Igawa. Lilly signed for a four-year, $40 million contract and the Yankees spent a total of $46 million dollars ($26 million in bidding, and $20 million in 5-year contract) for Igawa.

Safe to say, the Bronx Bombers probably should have gone the other way. During the four-year contract with the Cubs, and later the Dodgers, Lilly compiled 12.8 cumulative fWAR — a top 30 figure among the starters who pitched between 2007-10. Igawa, on the other hand, made only 16 total appearances during the five-year contract while compiling an abysmal -0.2 fWAR. Looking at it any shape or form, the Yankees lost out pretty big on this one. While in the Yankee organization, Igawa became the laughingstock of the fans, toiling in the minors for the most of his contract. But before the ill-advised decision by the Yankees front office, what got Igawa the Yankee attention? Who was he?

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Guest Post: Everything you need to know about Yankees target Hyo-Jun Park

The following is a guest post from long-time reader Sung-Min Kim, who you can follow on Twitter at @SungMinKim116.

(Sports Q)
(Sports Q)

As many of us know, the Yankees are set to pour a lot of money into international signings come July 2nd. The reports say they already have come to an agreement with three big-name prospects in Latin America and there is possibly one more coming from Korea. On Tuesday, it was reported that 18-year old SS prospect Hyo-Jun Park will sign with the Yankees and it sounds official — his parents have quipped on it as well. What does this signing mean and what kind of talent is he?

In terms of the Asian market, the Yankees have a richer history with signing Japanese and Taiwanese players, but not much with Koreans. In the 2004-05 offseason, the team was actually strongly linked to LHP Dae-Sung Koo (who, by the way, was a beast in KBO in the 90’s and did a decent job in Japan as well. At the age of 44, he was the saves leader in the Australian league in 2013-14) and reportedly came to an agreement, but the lefty ended up signing with the Mets and this ended up happening. Before the 2010 season, the team signed veteran RHP Chan-Ho Park, who had rejuvenated his career as a reliever, but he proved to be ineffective (5.12 FIP in 35.1 IP) for the Bombers and was DFA’d within few months.

Well, the reports strongly indicate that the Yanks are an official announcement away from sealing Park as their farm commodity. The bonus amount is reported to be around $1 to $1.2 million and the team is ready to supply Park a good amount of accommodation for his adjustment to the new culture, including a full-time translator, a “hotel-quality dormitory,” etc. He would be the first Korean IFA ever to sign with the Yankees.

As a junior of the Yatap High School of Kyung-gi province, the shortstop is tearing the cover off the ball in the Gogyo Yagu Jumal League (high school weekend league), hitting for a .467/.614/.967 slash line in 44 plate appearances in 10 games. Out of his 14 hits, 7 of them are extra-base hits with three homers. Considering that Park’s been considered a cream of the crop tier prospect since his sophomore year, when he hit .371/.475/.557 with 1 HR, his offensive performance so far this year has put him into a formidable prospect status. Another note about his power performance is that he’s done it all with a wood bat in a league that banned the use of aluminum bats back in 2004. Also, he has shown a good eye throughout his high school career. For example, during his freshman year, even when he hit for only .256 avg., he managed a .468 OBP. So far in 2014, he has a 13-to-4 BB-to-K ratio in 10 games.

Garnering attention since his sophomore year, a lot of Korean scouts have pegged Park as the possible No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 KBO Draft. At this point, it’s unlikely any KBO team will choose Park. Back in 2006, the Kia Tigers selected RHP Young-Il Jung, who had already generated strong ML interest, and the righty ended up signing with the LA Angels and the Tigers ended up wasting their 1st-round pick. The team with the first pick on the upcoming KBO Draft, the KT Wiz (an expansion team that will make its debut in KBO next season), has already announced their first two picks they received as an expansion team (RHP Sung-Moo Hong and RHP Kwon Joo). Many speculate that had Park not maintained a strong connection with the Yankees, the shortstop would have been the Wiz’s pick.

According to this article, before this winter Park looked forward to being selected in the KBO draft. “I was approached by the Yankees during the sophomore year of high school,” Park said, “my parents liked the idea of going to ML but I wasn’t sure what to expect so I declined their offer at the time.” Park’s decision changed when he trained in Los Angeles over this past winter. “I played with American players few times then and I felt they had better power and basics,” said Park, “despite all that, I felt that I played very well against them, so I started to feel confident about (playing in America in the future).”

(dearsanta.tistory.com)
(dearsanta.tistory.com)

The Yankees were not the only team that showed an interest in Park. The San Diego Padres reportedly made a $1 million offer and their scout said that “(in his sophomore year) Park was a $500K-worthy player and after I saw him in Los Angeles, he was more of a $1 million-worthy talent.” The Padres are not alone. According to Chi-Hoon Lee, Park’s agent, seven ML teams, including the Yankees, have shown interest in the shortstop, but the link also states the Yankees are Park’s sole priority.

The $1.2 million bonus is not as high as what the Yanks are giving to few other IFA signees but it’s still a lot of money. In fact, it rivals the top-tier annual salary of KBO. The highest-paid player of the league, 1B Tae-Kyun Kim, is set to receive $1.403 million for 2014. For another point of reference, OF Hyung-Woo Choi, a 30-year old proven offensive commodity, gets paid only $421K for 2014 season. A 18-year old prospect Park has a chance to receive 3x the money that an offensive star Choi is – who is hitting for a 1.074 OPS so far this season. It is suffice to say that the amount is too good to easily pass up on.

The biggest Korean IF prospect to have signed with an ML team prior to Park is SS Hak-Ju Lee for the Rays farm system. Park has gotten comparisons to Lee for both his offensive and defensive game. This would have been a more thrilling thought last year, before Lee tore his ACL while hitting for 225 wRC+ for the Durham Bulls in AAA level. He has yet to find his offensive groove so far this season (73 wRC+) but he is still only a 23-year-old in AAA and have some time to work himself into position to be a future SS for the Rays. Lee was signed by the Cubs as a 17-year-old back in 2008 with a $1.15 million bonus. Park may get around that figure (or a little more). In six minor league seasons, Lee has hit for a .285/.360/.380 line overall.

Here’s MLB.com’s scouting report on Park – he ranks #12 in the overall list (also the site misspelled his name as “Hyu-Jun Park”).

Scouting Grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 60

Park and his teammates from Yatap High School in South Korea spent more than a month in the United States playing against top high school teams from California earlier this year. There’s a real possibility the young infielder will get a chance to see a lot more of the country in the near future.

A legitimate shortstop prospect, Park has the tools to stay at the position as he develops. What’s more, some scouts think he has the potential to be above average in every facet of the game, except for power. That said, there’s the belief that he could still hit at least 10 home runs when he gains strength. He can also spray the ball to all fields.

Scouts view him as a good defender with solid fundamentals and compare him to Tampa Bay infield prospect Hak-Ju Lee. Park has been scouted heavily by the Yankees.

Based on what I hear about Park, the scouting grades and report sound about right. Personally, I’d like to see Park fill out his frame and have a better power display than projected (because power is sexy), but he’s still projected to show plus hit, run and field tools. If his high school slash lines are any indication, he also has some plate discipline.

Of course, the tools translating in pro ball are all big ifs. He could develop as well as Lee or he could be a costly flop like Kelvin De Leon. The odds for the latter is much bigger than the former — especially considering the cultural adjustment and language issues — it won’t be an entirely smooth ride for Park. Rangers OF Shin-Soo Choo is the main example of a Korean position player who enjoyed success after years of toiling in the minors and going through cultural and language adjustment as a teenager. However, for every Shin-Soo Choo, there are a bunch of failed prospects who never adjusted to the American lifestyle and English language and returned to their home country.

Lee started out at a low-A level instead of any short-season leagues and, according to reports, Park may start at the same level as well. The shortstop himself said he wants to be a ML regular in “three years” but I think it will take longer. The tools and the hype are there. Will he be the next Shin-Soo Choo or the next Carmen Angelini? Too early to speculate what will he be like in 3-4 years, but as a Korean and a Yankees watcher (who wanted to see Choo sign with the Yankees over the offseason), I’m looking forward to seeing his development in the system.