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.
Only two links this week (again) because of the Hall of Fame. That soaked up a lot of my time these last few days. I should be able to get back up on the reading horse and have more links next week, assuming the Alex Rodriguez ruling is handing down relatively soon. I’m sick of waiting for it.
- Conor Glassey is a must-read at this point. A few days ago he looked at every team’s amateur scouts to see exactly how many of them played once upon a time. Sixteen of the Yankees’ 24 amateur scouts (66.7%) are former players, which is more than the league average (52.2%). I’m surprised it was so low. They always say the best way to get a job in baseball is to have played, but I guess that isn’t much of a requirement these days.
- Following the chaos of Hall of Fame week and Dan LeBatard and all that, Dustin Parkes wrote about the sucky state of sports writing. Blogs are more prevalent and they can create a disconnect with the average fan, making it difficult to continually produce quality content. It’s weird. There are a lot of great sites out there but also a frickin’ ton of crap. Check it out.
Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Rangers, Islanders, and Nets are all playing, but talk about whatever you like here. Go nuts.
Saturday: Once again, this if your open thread. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are playing, but any self-respecting sports fan will be watching the NFL playoffs. Talk about those games, the A-Rod suspension, or anything else. Enjoy.
Sunday: One last time: here is your open thread for the night. The three hockey locals are in action plus the second NFL game should still be on as of the time of this post. Also, Anthony Bosch is going to discuss his relationship with A-Rod on 60 Minutes later tonight (8pm ET on CBS). That should be interesting. Talk about whatever.
I’ve only got two links to share with you this week. Blame the holidays. No one was writing anything worthwhile, myself included. As enjoyable as the break is, it’ll be good to really get back into the swing of things next week. Hopefully with a lot less snow. Here are those two links:
- Spurred on by Robinson Cano‘s mega-deal with the Mariners, former Baseball America staffer Conor Glassey went back through the publication’s rankings to see if there was a common trait shared by players they “missed” on, meaning guys like Cano. Good but not great prospects who turned into high-end big leaguers. The short version: Baseball America tends to overlook college position players without a ton of power and innings-eaters.
- For the hockey people: Scott Burnside put together a really long (more than 13,000 words) but really in-depth look at how the U.S. Olympic team was selected. NHL players are allowed to play for their countries in the Olympics — MLB players were not allowed — so there’s a temptation to just take an All-Star team. The U.S. staff instead came up with a system/playing style and built the roster around that, eschewing some big name players along the way.
This is your open thread for the night. The Rangers, Devils, and Knicks are all playing tonight, plus there’s some college football bowl game on somewhere. I think. Talk about those games, the links, the video, or anything else right here. Enjoy.
(video h/t: @MatCollis)
It took entirely too long, but there’s finally a Dan Girardi/Joe Girardi commercial. Way overdue. It’s not like either guy is new to New York at this point (Dan’s been with the Rangers since 2007.) The Rangers are playing two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium next month (one against the Devils, one against the Islanders) and I’ve already paid through the nose for tickets. Can’t wait.
I only have four links to share this week because of general holiday-related craziness. Between the Winter Meetings and the upcoming holidays, I haven’t had much time to sit down and
relax read anything these last few weeks. Here, enjoy:
- Jack Moore put together an awesome post looking at how Lou Gehrig and other great hitters from the 1920s used sabermetrics. Obviously they weren’t using spreadsheets or stuff like that, but they were thinking about the game in a more empirical way. The quotes from Gehrig (and others) are pretty fascinating.
- I haven’t even read it yet, but here is Steve Fishman’s massive NY Mag feature on Alex Rodriguez. You are forewarned: It focuses on the Biogenesis scandal. I’m sure many of you are sick of it by now.
- Bill Deane, who has been predicting Hall of Fame results for more than three decades, expects only Greg Maddux to get in this year. That would be a shame. The ballot is stacked and I count more than ten guys who belong in Cooperstown (in my opinion).
- And finally, Grant Brisbee tries to figure out the next time the Yankees will be truly awful. Not 85-77 awful like this past season. Like 2013 Giants everything goes wrong awful. His guess: 2015.
Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. All of the local hockey and basketball teams are playing except for the Knicks, so talk about those games or anything else right here. Have at it.
Saturday: This is your open thread for the night again. I’m stuck in holiday shopping hell and I have no idea who is playing what tonight. I’m sure you can figure it out. Talk about whatever here. Go nuts.
Sunday: Use this as your nightly open thread one last time. The Bears and Eagles are the late NFL game plus the Rangers are playing. You folks know what to do by now, so do it.
(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.
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.