Sunday Shorts: Drew, Pettitte, Youkilis

(Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

Drew waiting on A-Rod?

It’s pretty clear that the Yankees won’t add another position player until they know the fate of Alex Rodriguez. That could certainly cost them; players want certainty, and that means not waiting around for the Yankees if another attractive offer comes around. Yet one player could be waiting to see how this plays out.

In his typically cryptic manner, Peter Gammons says that Drew is “awaiting some further Yankee clarity” in making his decision. What this suggests is up to a wide range of interpretation, but it does indicate that the Yankees could have room for Drew in their infield plans if A-Rod is suspended for 100 or more games. Even if it’s just a 50-game suspension, they could easily find 650 PA for Drew if he’s willing to spend time at second, third, and short. On any given day he’d be the best option at one or more of those positions.

My one fear is that if Tanaka is not posted (or the Yankees don’t sign him) and A-Rod is suspended for the entire season, the Yankees will go with some patchwork in the infield and on the pitching staff, sneaking in under $189 million. As Joel Sherman heard from someone in the organization, “We either have to be under $189MM or up over $200MM or more. Think how dumb it would look if we worked for a few years to get under $189 million and we didn’t and we were at like $189 million and just missed. Either we go under or way over.”

Here’s rooting for way over.

No un-retirement for Pettitte

The Yankees still need another reliable starting pitcher, but after Masahiro Tanaka their options appear almost nonexistent. If anyone was thinking that they could convince Andy Pettitte to pitch one more year, that’s out the window. “He has shut it down for good,” said Brian Cashman. “That door is closed.”

No one should have expected it to be open, either. Pettitte went out on top, pitching a complete game in front of family, friends, and Yankees fans in Houston. Not many pitchers get to finish the way Pettitte and fellow Yankee Mike Mussina did.

Youkilis headed to Japan

We know that Cashman talked to Kevin Youkilis about coming back, and we later heard that four AL East teams contacted him about playing in 2014. Apparently none of them offered much, because Youk signed a contract in Japan with the Rakuten Eagles. He earns $4 million guaranteed with chance at another million in incentives. Safe to say that no MLB team was willing to do that. Not after his 2013 season and general injury history.

Pitching head gear

MLB has taken another step towards player safety. A few weeks ago they banned home plate collisions. That wasn’t easy, given that it’s an ingrained part of the game, but it does make catchers safer. Their latest: headgear for pitchers. These special hats won’t be mandatory, but will be available to interested pitchers. In the last few years we’ve seen guys like Brandon McCarthy and Alex Cobb take liners off the noggin. There has been many gruesome a scene involving a liner to the head (remember Matt Clement?).

Like the new batting helmets, many pitchers could opt against using the pitching headgear because of how it looks. That’s a shame, though. As McCarthy said, “It should be strong and capable enough that literally if I got hit by the exact same ball, I would have been able to keep pitching in that game.” Instead he suffered an epidural hemorrhage, a brain contusion, and a skull fracture.

Weekend Open Thread

I pretty much never look at RAB’s traffic. I’m not trying to be cool or anything, it’s the truth. I used to obsess over it but that has (thankfully) subsided. For the first time in months, I decided to check out today’s traffic for obvious reasons. Thanks to Robinson Cano‘s defection to the Mariners, we have set a new single-day traffic record at RAB. That’s what it took to beat the previous record set on July 9th, 2010, otherwise known as the day of the Cliff Lee non-trade. Believe it or not, the third highest-trafficked day in RAB history was just two days ago, when they agreed to sign Jacoby Ellsbury. I sincerely thank you for making RAB one of your stops for the latest on the Yankees.

Now that that’s out of the way, it is Friday and I did promise you links on Fridays a few weeks ago, so here are this week’s Friday links.

  • If you’re wondering how the other half feels about the Cano stuff, I recommend by buddy Jeff Sullivan’s post over at USS Mariner. The common thread here is that regardless of whether the Yankees or Mariners would have signed Cano, that team still would have had more walk to do to get back into the postseason.
  • In the wake of Ellsbury deal, here is Dave Cameron’s post about how speed players tend to age. It’s worth pointing out that of the speed guys who aged well, either they drew a lot of walks (Rickey Henderson, Kenny Lofton, Tim Raines) or hit for some power (Devon White, Steve Finley). The ones who did neither (Aaron Rowand, Marquis Grisson) either stunk as they got older or were a total freak like Ichiro Suzuki. Ellsbury’s walk rate is about league average and he’s a low power guy, which is part of the reason why I’m skeptical.
  • Know how hitters always say it’s easier to hit once the knuckleballer is out of the game because you’re used to seeing 90+ mph fastballs and all that? Christopher Carruthers examined R.A. Dickey and the pitchers who follow him either in the same game or as the next day’s starter and found that as a whole, they perform a whole lot better following Dickey than they do in other situations. His value extends beyond his time on the mound because of the adjustments hitters have to make against his knuckleball.
  • Jeff Passan, Charleson Robinson, and Rand Getlin have a story about what amounts to a human-trafficking ring involving Cuban baseball players. After they defect, some players are basically held for ransom and auctioned off to the highest bidder, with a portion of their big league earnings going to the people who held them and their families captive for months at a time. It’s pretty frightening stuff. The article focuses on Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, but he’s far from the only guy to go through this.
  • For all of you who are hockey fans like me (what else am I supposed to watch all winter?), I really enjoyed this Seth Wickersham article about the life of an enforcer and fighting in the NHL in general. I enjoy watching a guy beat the crap out of another guy as much as anyone, but it’s only a matter of time before the league bans fighting all together. Has to be done.
  • Les Carpenter wrote a feature on the legacy of Chuck Hughes, the only NFL player to die on the field during the game. He had a severely clogged artery and a blood clot broke loose during a hit, becoming trapped in the artery and cut off blood flow to his heart. The tackle essentially resulted in a heart attack. Really interesting story.

Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Devils and Knicks are playing and that’s pretty much it. Good night to go out and forget about Cano no longer being a Yankee. Talk about anything you like here. Go nuts.

Saturday: Once again, here is your open thread. All three hockey locals plus the Nets are playing, and there’s college football on as well. You folks know how this works by now, so have at it.

Sunday: This is your open thread for the night yet again. The Panthers and Saints are the late NFL game plus the Rangers are playing as well. Talk about whatever here. Enjoy.

Sunday Shorts: Cano vs. Girardi, Yanks’ Spending, Cano’s New Home

(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Just a few weeks ago, friend of RAB Jack Moore wrote an article at The Score about the potentially boring hot stove, not only this season, but for future seasons. His overall point remains strong:

The shift to buying out multiple free agent years in long-term extensions for young stars has led to fewer and fewer young stars hitting the free agent market in their 20s. The advent of the second wild card has led more and more teams to believe they can contend, leading to fewer fire sales.

Thankfully, the hot stove has remained interesting, at least this off-season, thanks to teams acting early and aggressively. Moore might be correct in the long run; he’ll certainly be right come mid-December, when all those free agents are off the board and teams are pretty set. But for the last few weeks we’ve seen a peak of hot stove activity, and nearly every moment has been enjoyable — which seems a good transition into the first short.

Cano didn’t like Girardi?

The Yankees are clearly sold on Joe Girardi at the helm. They’ve now twice extended his contract after hiring him in 2008, the latest a four-year deal that could bring Girardi’s tenure to a decade. It makes sense, then, that the Yankees wouldn’t aggressively approach a free agent who has a known problem with the manager.

According to a George King report, Robinson Cano was no fan of Girardi.

According to three people who know Cano, he didn’t enjoy playing for manager Joe Girardi and that may have factored into the decision, though the Mariners giving him $60 million more than the Yankees offered ($175 million) likely had more to do with him leaving.

“Robbie didn’t like batting second, he wanted to bat in the middle of the order,” one person said. “The Yankees wanted him second because that was best for the team. He wanted to hit in the middle of the order to drive in runs [to increase his value].”

This could just be sour grapes; we do see that kind of behavior frequently from Boston writers when players leave the Red Sox. After all, if Cano batted lower in the order he might not have driven in any more runs. It’s not as though the Yanks were awash in players who could get on base for Cano.

(For what it’s worth, Cano did hit .308/.396/.560 in 182 PA batting second.)

Money won the day, no doubt. But perhaps Cano’s displeasure with Girardi was one among many reasons the Yankees declined to increase their offer beyond seven years and $175 million.

Spending spree

Despite losing Cano, the Yankees have spent lavishly so far this off-season. To be exact: $299 million on Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hiroki Kuroda, and Carlos Beltran. I’ve seen fans and media alike questioning how the Yankees spent so much on these players, particularly Ellsbury, and didn’t go the extra mile of five for Cano. There is certainly some sense to their spending, as wunderkind Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish notes:

In other words, the Yankees eschewed re-signing their star in order to spread money among many different positions of need. That number will look a lot different by the end of December, since the Yankees have plenty of remaining needs. But their overall strategy remains clear: don’t get caught up in too-long contracts and spread the wealth. You can disagree about its effectiveness, but it’s nice to see that they have a plan, because…

Dysfunctional Seattle

This article by Geoff Baker has made its rounds, so perhaps you’ve seen it. If not, it’s an eye-opening look into the Seattle front office. They’re painted as arrogant fools who surround themselves with yes-men, rather than people whose dissenting opinions could help the team make stronger, more informed decisions. Given Seattle’s woes in the last few years, including their lack of success with young players, it comes as little surprise that the front office has its issues.

(The article actually goes well with the book I’m currently reading.)

Baker talks to only former employees, so the story would probably look better if the other side told its half. Still, that Baker got two former employees to talk on the record is pretty remarkable in today’s environment of anonymous hatchet jobs. The Seattle organization seems to be the polar opposite of the Cardinals, which you can read about in this Q&A at FanGraphs.

Sunday Shorts: Hughes, Beltran, Cano

Chances the previous batter just hit a homer? ( Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Chances the previous batter just hit a homer? ( Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Trying something new today. People like to read on Sundays, right? So let’s take a short look at a few stories that probably won’t get full posts of their own, but are of interest to anyone who follows the Yankees daily.

Replacing Phil Hughes

When Brian Cashman said that he needed to find 400 innings this off-season, he mostly referred to the loss of Andy Pettitte and potential loss of Hiroki Kuroda. He’ll also need to find a replacement, perhaps internal, for Phil Hughes, who signed with the Twins yesterday.

In his four years as a starter (since 2010) Hughes has averaged under 150 innings per year, and he failed to eclipse that mark in his walk year. Of the 96 pitchers who have recorded at least 500 innings since 2010, Hughes’s 4.65 ERA ranks 89th. In that time he has produced 3.1 bWAR*, which ranks 80th.

*bWAR is chosen here, because it works on RA rather than FIP. Honestly, measuring a pitcher’s value based on FIP seems silly to me. FIP can be a useful tool, but not as a measure of produced value. To me, RA is a much closer mark. It also helps that this is a multi-year sample.

While he’s been a rotation mainstay, the Yankees should have no trouble at all replacing both his innings and his performances, almost certainly with someone better. Which asks the question, why didn’t they seek a replacement for Hughes sooner?

Waiting for Beltran

For about a week now we’ve heard that the Yankees have prioritized signing Carlos Beltran, and that Beltran prefers the Yankees. So why haven’t they come together on a contract yet? It appears that Beltran seeks three years while the Yankees, and most other teams in pursuit, prefer to keep the deal limited to two years.

Joel Sherman recently got an executive’s take on the situation: “Beltran wants three years, so I think the Yankees will either go three years or give him a [bleep]-load more on a two-year deal. I think the feeling in the industry is if it comes down to a two-year deal because no one goes to three, then the Yankees will win.”

Even though a three-year contract would come with a lower AAV, which would seem to help the luxury tax threshold, chances are it won’t make a significant difference. It’s difficult to see a difference of more than $2 million per year (e.g., $42 million for three years vs. $32 million for two years), so the Yankees definitely benefit by waiting out this situation and trying to get him on that two-year contract. I’d expect Beltran to sign by the winter meetings at the latest.

Connecting Cano and Rodriguez

Robinson Cano might have backed off his $300 million demand, but not by much. The latest reports have Cano seeking $250 to $260 million over nine years, including a vesting option for a tenth year. There is little to no chance the Yankees go this high, and in the wake of the Albert Pujols contract most teams have to be a bit cautious about this.

In a recent post I opined that a hardline stance could benefit both sides (while obviously benefitting the Yankees more). If Cano’s camp is publicly talking about $250 to $260 million, they clearly have no intention of signing soon for less than that. While the Yankees might seem handcuffed in that case, they can afford to wait on Cano while stocking their team with players to help in 2014.

If they sign Beltran and Tanaka, that will go a long way in rebuilding the offense — but they might not have the budget to bring back Cano, who will make more of a difference than any other player on the free agent market. Yet the Yankees could open up budget later this off-season, when they learn the details of the Alex Rodriguez arbitration hearing. By that point Cano’s market should be pretty clear.

Weekend Open Thread

In case you missed it last week, I’m going to start using the Friday/weekend open threads as link dumps. Basically random interesting stuff I come across throughout the week that isn’t Yankees related and doesn’t wind up on RAB. This week’s collection of links is just okay, maybe a six out of ten. Wasn’t a great week for the internet. Lots of people are on vacation this time of year and plenty of others are already looking ahead to the long Thanksgiving weekend. I know I am. Anyway, enjoy.

  • David Laurila interviewed Michael Girsch, an assistant GM for the Cardinals. He spoke in detail about a bunch of stuff, including the team’s internal data-compiling/sharing systems, their draft philosophies, their hitting philosophies, biomechanics, all that and more. The Cardinals are the darling organization of baseball right now and pretty much everyone wants to copy them. This is a (small) look under the hood. Pretty interesting stuff.
  • In the wake of the Prince Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler trade, Grant Brisbee looked at the various awful contracts around baseball and tried to figure out which one will be moved next. He comes up with Josh Hamilton and I tend to agree since the current market has downgraded Andre Ethier’s contract from awful to merely pretty bad.
  • Zachary Levine (subs. req’d) compiled a list of baseball memes the internet beat to death in 2013. I don’t remember seeing too much of “Robinson Cano‘s 99 problems,” but the others were inescapable. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop making gritty jokes about the Diamondbacks though.
  • And finally, if you’re a Breaking Bad fan, you’ll love this. It’s Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul reading through the final scene of the series for the first time. It’s one giant spoiler, so don’t watch the video if you haven’t seen it yet. Pretty awesome.

Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Islanders and Nets are the only local teams playing tonight so ZZZzzzzzz. Talk about either game or anything else here. Have at it.

Saturday: Keep the open thread going right here. All three hockey locals plus the Knicks are playing. You folks know what to do, so do it.

Sunday: Only a few more hours left in the weekend, but at least Thanksgiving is coming up. Hands down my favorite holiday. The Broncos and Patriots are the Sunday Night Football Game and that’s it. The Nets already played and none of the other locals are in action. Talk about whatever. Go nuts.

Weekend Open Thread

If you’ve been reading my stuff long enough, then you might remember my Friday Randomness posts from the pre-RAB days. That was a long, long time ago. Geez. It was literally just a collection of links I had sitting around, interesting stuff I read throughout the week. Almost all of it was baseball related, but once a while some non-baseball stuff would sneak in. I’ve decided to bring that back here and this is the first entry. The nightly open thread is a pretty good spot to do that. This week’s stuff is pretty old, but that’s okay. Away we go:

  • My buddy Robert Sanchez profiled Cy Young winner Max Scherzer earlier this year for ESPN (Insider req’d). Scherzer’s brother Alex committed suicide last June and Max really opened up about their relationship and how his brother’s death affected him both on and off the field. Robert is one of the best writers I know and Scherzer is an impossibly great guy (met him at the ALCS). You can’t read the piece and not come away rooting for him.
  • Former big leaguer infielder Adrian Cardenas — who I once wrote up as a potential target for the Yankees — wrote an article in the New Yorker about why he quit baseball at age 25. He now studies creative writing and philosophy at NYU because he simply enjoys school more than baseball. Hard to believe someone can work so hard to get to the show then give it up to go back to school, but I guess the game isn’t for everyone, even if you’re good at it.
  • In another ESPN piece (Insider req’d), Sam Miller wrote about the science of team chemistry. Front offices are trying to measure and quantify “clubhouse atmosphere,” and a study by professors from Rutgers and Santa Clara University found that clubs with a lot of diversity outperform other clubs by about three wins a year. Young players hang out with other young players, Dominican players hang out with other Dominican players, star players hang out with other star players, stuff like that, so the more overlap you have between groups, the better the clubhouse chemistry. Pretty fascinating stuff.
  • Last one and this one’s kinda old: friend of RAB Jonah Keri spoke to Coco Crisp about the art of stealing bases, specifically getting jumps and reading a pitcher’s move. It’s a long but really interesting read. These small, easy to overlook “game within the game” aspects of baseball always fascinate me.

I’ll try to keep the links more current going forward, but I had some bookmarks to clean out and these were all in them. Figured I might as well post them here rather than just dump them. Hope you find one or two worthwhile.

Friday: Anyway, now that that’s all out of the way, here is open thread for the night. The Devils and Nets are both playing tonight, plus there’s college basketball on somewhere. I’m sure of it. Talk about whatever. Go nuts.

Saturday: Once again, use this as your open thread for the night. The five hockey and basketball locals are all playing, plus there’s college football and basketball on somewhere. Anything goes here. Have at it.

Sunday: Here’s the open thread for the evening. The late NFL game is the Chiefs and Broncos (that should be fun) plus the Rangers are playing as well. Talk about those games or anything else.

Questioning batting average, 96 years ago

If you’ve read this site long enough, then you’re probably familiar with the idea of linear weights and wOBA. If not, then I suggest checking out Joe’s primer. In a post at the FanGraphs Community blog yesterday, Sam Menzin presented an article from the 1915 edition of Baseball Magazine (pdf link), in which author F.C. Lane questions the idea of batting average and its accuracy. Allow me to excerpt…

Lane opens his discussion with a question: “Suppose you asked a close personal friend how much change he had in his pocket and he replied, ‘Twelve coins,’ would you think you had learned much about the precise state of his exchequer?” He goes on to compare two mens’ respective financial situations: Man A, with “twelve coins” consisting of a combination of quarters, nickels, and dimes; and Man B, with twelve silver dollars. Saying both men have equal financial means is equivalent to the system of tracking batting averages, he explains. “One batter, we may say, made twelve singles, three or four of them of the scratchiest possible variety. The other also made twelve hits, but all of them were good ringing drives, clean cut and decisive, three of them were doubles, one a triple, and one a home run…Is there no way to separate the dimes from the nickels and give each its proper value?” Sound familiar?


This issue was not solely unique to Lane’s inquisitiveness. John Heydler, secretary and future president of the National League, added, “that the system of giving as much credit to singles as to home runs is inaccurate to that extent. But it has never seemed practicable to use any other system. How, for instance, are you going to give the comparative values of home runs and singles?”

Lane goes on to use an example of two players, one with a higher batting average and lots of singles and another with a lower batting average but lots of extra base hits. He compared each players’ hit rates (singles, doubles, triples, homers) to the league average, which is essentially an early version of wOBA and wRC+. It’s very fascinating stuff, a nearly hundred-year old article questioning the merits of a statistic still valued so highly today. I suggest clicking the links above and reading both articles, Lane’s and Menzin’s. I really can’t recommend it enough, it’s amazing stuff.

Full Disclosure: Our own Larry Koestler edited the post for Sam. Not that that means anything, just figured I’d mention it.