Sunday Links: Tanaka, Puig, Cardinals, Pitchers

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox do not play the final game of their four-game weekend series until tonight (8pm ET on ESPN), so here are some random links I have lying around to help pass the time. Most of them aren’t Yankees-related but they’re all worth reading. I wouldn’t link to them otherwise. Enjoy:

  • Tom Verducci put together a great article on Masahiro Tanaka and it covers pretty much everything. His career in Japan, the pursuit from various MLB teams, blending into the clubhouse, the cultural differences — “The [toilet] washlet is a system in Japan where you press a button and water comes out and washes your ass. Not having that is a big difference,” he said — and a bunch of other stuff. It’s really good, so check it out.
  • Yasiel Puig might be the most polarizing player in baseball today. He’s insanely talented but prone to dumb plays (overthrown cutoff man, etc.) and dumb off-field decisions (speeding arrests, showing up late), and that makes him a popular target for the media. Dan Le Batard, who is a bit of a dope on television/radio but a brilliant columnist, penned this excellent piece on why it’s difficult for us to understand why Puig doesn’t just change. Culture, man.
  • The Cardinals are the premier player development organization in baseball right now, and Derrick Goold wrote this article on their strategy for scouting and developing pitchers. They specifically look for guys with arm strength and athleticism, two traits that can not be taught. In the minors, they emphasize weak contact (not necessarily on the ground) and throwing all pitches to hitters on both sides of the plate. Patience as well. They don’t mind if players take five or six years in the minors to develop.
  • With that in mind, here’s an article by Travis Sawchik on fastball velocity, the average of which continues to increase around the league. The recent emphasis on young players means more fresh arms who can really cut it loose. Velocity isn’t everything, obviously, but it sure does give a pitcher more margin for error. The Pirates, who have flame-throwing former Yankees first rounder Gerrit Cole, are one club that has placed more emphasis on pure heat.
  • And finally, I enjoyed this post by Drew Fairservice about making advanced stats work for television. The Astros show stats like WAR and BABIP on their broadcasts, but most fans don’t care about that stuff and explaining it each time isn’t practical. I think less is more on television broadcasts.

Sunday Link: Breaking the language barrier with Masahiro Tanaka

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.

Saturday Links: Sizemore, Sabathia, Prospects

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

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.

Sabathia’s Biomechanics

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:

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.

Masahiro Tanaka Links: Transition, Scouting Report, Igawa, Quotes

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

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.

Scouting Reports

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.

Some Quotes

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.”

Weekend Open Thread

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.