Looking for some Sunday morning reading? Here’s a great piece from Jorge Arangure on Shingo Horie, Masahiro Tanaka‘s translator. Arangure goes into Horie’s background (he applied for the job despite having no translating experience), the relationship between the two men (they first met the day of Tanaka’s introductory press conference), and why Japanese players are given individual interpreters rather than sharing one. It’s really interesting stuff, so check it out. Comes with RAB’s highest level of recommendation.
This is the last baseball-less Saturday until sometime in November. The Yankees open their exhibition schedule against Florida State on Tuesday, then they begin Grapefruit League play against the Pirates the following day. Here are some stray links and notes as we gear up for real, live baseball.
Sizemore’s Opt-Out Dates
According to Chad Jennings, infielder Scott Sizemore has two opt-out dates in his minor league contract: May 1st and August 1st. I assume he has to be added to the 25-man active roster on those dates, not just the 40-man roster. That’s usually how these things work.
Sizemore, 29, has played in only two games over the last two years due to back-to-back torn left ACLs. He is competing for the final bench spot in camp and I get the sense he might have a leg up on guys like Eduardo Nunez and Dean Anna. That’s just a hunch though. If Sizemore doesn’t make the team, the Yankees will have about a month of Triple-A time to evaluate him before his first opt-out comes into play.
Following his disastrous 2013 season, CC Sabathia spent part of the winter at Dr. James Andrews’ institute in Alabama having his mechanics analyzed, report Jennings and Bryan Hoch. It’s a biomechanical analysis, so they strap a bunch of sensors to him and the data is recorded electronically. Sabathia had the same thing done following the 2003 season and the analysis showed there has been little change in his delivery over the years.
“It was brought up, and I thought it was a great idea, because I knew they had the data,” said Sabathia. “It’s the same as it was ten years ago. Pretty much, except the rotation in my hips. You get old. You get bad hips when you get old, right?”
Sabathia said he changed his arm angle in 2012 to compensate for the bone spur in his elbow, but apparently things were back to normal last year. The bone spur was surgically removed last winter. “I think they talked a lot about my arm angle and stuff like that, but it’s been the same … But where I was at last year is where I should be,” he said. With his mechanics looking good, Sabathia focused on adding strength this winter.
“I feel good. I feel strong. I don’t feel any fatigue or anything like that,” he said after throwing to hitters yesterday. “It’s just strength,. I’ve been doing a lot of long toss this year, and like I said, I threw all offseason. I’m ahead of where I was last spring, maybe even the spring before, just from all the work I’ve been doing. I’m encouraged by the way I feel. My arm angle seems to be good, getting the ball out. My arm just needs to catch up with the rest of my body.”
Baseball America’s Top Prospects By Position
Baseball America published their list of the top 100 prospects in baseball last week, a list that included only two Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (#4) and C Gary Sanchez (#35). I don’t consider Tanaka a prospect given his lengthy career in Japan, but whatever. It’s their list and they can do whatever they want.
Following the top 100 list, Baseball America published lists of the best prospects by position. Here’s the index and here are the Yankees’ farmhands who made the cut:
- Catcher: Sanchez (2nd out of 25), John Ryan Murphy (12th)
- First Base: Greg Bird (11th out of 20)
- Second Base: Gosuke Katoh (21st out of 25)
- Third Base: Eric Jagielo (14th out of 25)
- Corner Outfield: Aaron Judge (19th out of 40)
- Center Field: Slade Heathcott (15th out of 30), Mason Williams (19th)
- Right-handers: Tanaka (1st out of 65)
- Left-handers: Ian Clarkin (22nd out of 30)
Sanchez is second to only Austin Hedges of the Padres (an elite defender with a promising bat) behind the plate, which surprised me. I guess they love the bat enough to overlook his long-term defensive concerns. Other than that, the Yankees don’t have many guys near the top of the various positional rankings (again, Tanaka doesn’t count in my opinion) and that’s why their system ranks among the bottom half fo the league.
In about an hour, the Yankees will (finally) introduce Masahiro Tanaka with a press conference on Yankee Stadium. As you may have already heard, he spent nearly $200k to charter a massive Boeing 787 from Tokyo to New York over the weekend, which the New York Post is already trying to turn into a controversy. If you’re not going to use your $155M contract to charter 787s around the globe, well then I just don’t get the point of it all. Here are some stray Tanaka links from around the web.
The Transition From NPB To MLB
Buster Olney (subs. req’d) had some really great stuff about the transition from NPB to MLB in his blog today. The whole thing is worth reading, but the most important takeaway is that Tanaka has already embraced the Yankees’ throwing program as he prepares to go from starting every seven days to every five days.
“This is not something unusual. It’s like a guy moving from the AL to the NL. He’s going from 20 to 25 starts to 32, and you’re forced to work and make adjustments,” said Brian Cashman. “You can’t make someone do something they’re not comfortable doing. That would be doomed for failure.”
We’ve already heard that Tanaka was using an MLB ball during his between-starts bullpen sessions last year, but Olney says teams were impressed with the quality of his splitter with the MLB ball during the World Baseball Classic last spring. Daisuke Matsuzaka had trouble throwing his splitter over here and it essentially took away his best pitch. Make sure you check out Olney’s post, it’s well worth the read.
Tim Dierkes polled several non-Yankees officials who have extensively scouted Tanaka, and in general they are very optimistic. More than I expected, really. They all agreed he has three better than average big league pitches — one evaluator said they like his slider more than his splitter — and an extra gear for his fastball in tight spots. At least one deemed him a number one starter.
“He pitches inside, he doesn’t pitch away from contact a lot,” said one evaluator. “Some guys in Japan, they’re not as aggressive. He has more of a Western style that he’s not afraid to go up and in, he’s not afraid to pitch inside. He pitches kind of with a little chip on his shoulder.”
He’s Not Kei Igawa
This goes without saying, but Jack Moore went through the trouble of writing it up anyway. Tanaka and Igawa have pretty much nothing in common outside of their nationally, as Tanaka was a considerably better pitcher in Japan with better stuff. There is no comparison statistically — Jack didn’t mention that Igawa’s inferior stats also came in Japan’s DH-less league — and the idea that Tanaka will be another Igawa is click bait at best and intellectually dishonest at worst. Tanaka might be a total bust, it could happen, but if he does, it won’t be for the same reason as Igawa, who simply lacked the stuff for the big leagues.
Nothing really groundbreaking here, but the Japan Times has some quotes from Tanaka before he left for New York over the weekend. “I’ve heard that the New York media can be severe,” he joked, “but I don’t want to be overly concerned about what’s going on around me. I would rather focus on the things I need to do.”
With pitchers and catchers due to report one week from today, this was the last Yankees baseball-less Friday until hopefully sometime in late-October/early-November. No, the actual games are still more than two weeks away, but camp starts in a week and that’s good enough for me. This time of the year is always exciting. Here are the weekly links:
- Stephanie Storm at the Beacon Journal wrote a feature about the Indians’ analytics department, which includes ex-bloggers Sky Andrecheck (SI.com) and Keith Woolner (Baseball Prospectus). They discussed their roles with the team and how they turned a hobby into a career, among other things.
- Jeff Zimmerman at the Hardball Times explained that all fly balls are not created equal, which is something I think a lot of us forget from time to time. Fly balls, especially those hit high in the air, tend to be easy outs. There’s a reason fly ballers like Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander tend to have low BABIPs. Yankee Stadium and Phil Hughes have scarred us, but being a fly ball pitcher doesn’t automatically mean being a bad pitcher.
- Jason Lukehart at Let’s Go Tribe looked at how the game’s best players were ranked as prospects by Baseball America. Eight of the top 30 pitchers and six of the top 30 position players in bWAR from 2011-13 never appeared on a top 100 list, including Doug Fister, James Shields and, of course, Robinson Cano.
- I have not read this yet but I am going to pass it along anyway: Kate McSurley and Greg Rybarczyk put together an introduction to the FieldFX system, which is basically PitchFX for defense. I’m not sure if FieldFX data will ever be made available to the public (it’s supposed to be proprietary to the 30 clubs), but either way it will be an information goldmine.
This will be your open thread for Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night. The Winter Olympics have started, so you’ve got that in addition to the various local hockey and basketball teams for entertainment. Talk about anything and everything right here.
I know Pedro Martinez isn’t exactly a beloved Yankee (quite the opposite, in fact), but that highlight video is just too awesome not to share. I figure the Yankees had enough success against Pedro (compared to other teams) that we can step back to appreciate his greatness for a second. Those changeups, man. So nasty. Here are the weekend’s links:
- Great interview with Mets GM Sandy Alderson by Steven Tydings. Alderson discussed how he got into baseball, how his military service helps him as a baseball executive, his leadership style, all sorts of stuff. Really great interview.
- Jon Roegele examined the strike zone during the PitchFX era and found that the zone has been growing in terms of total area in recent years. Specifically, the bottom of the zone is expanding while the edges are contracting. As a result, strikeouts (especially called strikeouts) are up and walks (and runs) are down. Pretty fascinating research.
- Lastly, Alec Dopp examined Hiroki Kuroda‘s struggles late last year and found he was throwing way fewer pitches in the zone than earlier in the season. His BABIP also jumped about a hundred points, which to me suggests he fell into too many hitter’s counts and paid for it.
Friday: This is your open thread for tonight and the next two nights as well. Every local sports team is playing tonight except for the Knicks, so there’s lots to talk about. Enjoy.
Saturday: Here is your open thread again. Both the Knicks and Nets are in action as we all await the Super Bowl tomorrow. Talk about whatever. Go nuts.
Sunday: Ready for the Super Bowl? The game starts at 6:25pm ET and can be seen on FOX. My official prediction: Broncos 38, Seahawks 30. No real reason, just a guess. Nothing else is going on other than Super Bowl. No basketball or hockey, no new television shows, nothing. Enjoy the game.
Well that was a pretty eventful week. If Masahiro Tanaka lives up to the hype, it might have been one of the most important weeks in recent Yankees history. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. The Yankees did announce Tanaka will wear #19 today, in case you missed it. Here are the weekly links:
- I thought this David Laurila interview with Jake Odorizzi was really interesting, especially the question about the differences in organizational philosophies between the Rays and Royals. He said Kansas City stays on top of their prospects and prescribes things (so many changeups per start, for example), but Tampa leaves it up to the kid. If they want help, they have to ask. Maybe that’s how the Rays weed through their pitching prospects; the ones who ask for help are more likely to make it long-term.
- The latest from Conor Glassey is a look at how many big leaguers each team drafted from 1996-2013. The Yankees probably rank towards the bottom, right? No, not really. They’re 16th with 68 MLBers produced, but “at 11,461, the Yankees have drafted and signed the fewest at-bats of any team since 1996.” The Cardinals (94 MLBers) and Diamondbacks (90) hold the top two spots while the Indians (62) and Astros (52) are at the bottom.
- Jon Shepherd at Camdet Depot analyzed Baseball America’s top 100 prospects rankings from 1990-2006 and found that 70% of them flopped, which seems reasonable. Seven out of ten prospects busting makes sense. However, Baseball America has gotten progressively better at ranking pitching prospects, part of which is due to teams doing a better job of developing them. Goes to show that even the best minor leaguers are more likely to flame out than contribute.
- This is a subscriber-only article, but Sam Miller wrote about the Astros and whether they should be shamed for their extreme rebuild. Rebuilding and adding young players is one thing, but running a $25M payroll with no effort to be competitive is another. Houston is playing within the rules and that’s the problem — the rules may need to change to prevent similar embarrassment in the future. It’s hurting the league.
- The Yankees could open the year with a rotation featuring five pitchers whose names end in -a (Sabathia, Kuroda, Tanaka, Nova, Pineda). Has that ever happened before? Diane at VORG looked into and found rotations with members whose names ended with the same letter, with -n being the most popular case. Which team had the most -a pitchers in the rotation? The 2011-13 Yankees with three (Sabathia, Nova, and either Kuroda or Freddy Garcia), of course.
Friday: Here is your open thread for tonight and the next two nights as well. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all playing, so talk about those games or anything else. Have at it.
Saturday: Once again, this the open thread for the night. None of the local hockey and basketball teams are playing tonight, but the first NHL outdoor game will be on at 9:30pm ET (NBC Sports). It’s the Kings and Ducks at Dodger Stadium. The first of the two Yankee Stadium games is tomorrow. Talk about whatever. Enjoy.
One way or another, the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes will be over one week from today. His signing deadline is 5pm ET on Friday but I think we’ll probably hear about an agreement a day or two earlier. He has to pass a physical and literally sign the contract before the deadline, so there needs to be a little wiggle room. These next few days should be fun. Here are the weekly links:
- We know the Yankees have an old roster, but just how old? According to Ben Lindbergh (subs. req’d), they’re projected to have the second oldest crop of position players in baseball history thanks to an average age of 33.59 (!) years. The Barry Bonds-led 2006 Giants are history’s oldest team in terms of position players (34.46 year). The good-ish news: five of the ten oldest teams in history made the postseason. The bad news: none of three oldest teams did.
- The 2009 Yankees had arguably the best infield in baseball history at a combined 19.7 fWAR, but this year’s team is much different. My pal Paul Swydan (subs. req’d) writes that the team’s current infield is only projected for 3.5 fWAR combined (roughly half a Robinson Cano), which would be a bottom-15 mark in franchise history. Mark Teixeira and Kelly Johnson are the only guys expected to be safely above replacement level. Yikes.
- The Yankees haven’t had much success in the draft over the years but they aren’t the only team. Ryan Topp looked back the Brewers’ 2009 draft haul, which was a disaster up top but salvaged by some late-round selections. It’s similar to New York’s 2008 draft, from which they’ve gotten nothing from their top picks but have received value from David Phelps in the later rounds.
- As expected, the Dodgers locked up ace Clayton Kershaw to a seven-year, $215M contract earlier this week. It’s easy to wince and say it’s too much for a pitcher, but, as Grant Brisbee writes, Kershaw is no ordinary pitcher and the Dodgers are no ordinary team. The rules of normal contract evaluation do not apply to them. The same of true of the Yankees, in some ways.
Friday: This is your open thread for the night and will be for the rest of the weekend as well. The Knicks are the only local team in action and, from what I understand, they’re unwatchable. It is Friday though, so it’s a good night to go out. Talk about any and everything right here.
Saturday: Once again, this is your open thread. The Islanders and Devils are both playing, but that’s pretty much it. Talk about whatever. Enjoy.
Sunday: For the third and final time, this is the nightly open thread. The AFC Championship Game should be just about ending and the NFC Championship Game should be close to beginning as of the time of this post. The Rangers are playing as well. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.