Here is your open thread for this lovely Monday night. Lovely in New York, anyway. The Giants and Nationals are playing Game Three of their NLDS right now (on MLB Network) and later tonight the Dodgers and Cardinals will play Game Three of their NLDS (9pm ET on FOX Sports 1). The Giants are looking to sweep while the other series is tied at one. Seahawks-Redskins is the Monday Night Football Game. You know how these open threads work by now, so talk about whatever you like right here. Have at it.
Via George King: CC Sabathia is close to throwing off a mound as he rehabs from surgery and stem cell treatment on his right knee. “I will play catch at 90 feet for three or four days and then go to 120 feet and after that probably get off a mound,” he said following the end of the season last weekend. “It feels good after the stem cell. It’s been feeling great. I am definitely coming back.”
Sabathia, 34, was limited to eight starts and 46 innings (5.28 ERA and 4.78 FIP) because of knee problems this year. He says he’s anxious to pitch after missing almost the entire season — “Having almost a year off has gotten the fire back in me. Having baseball taken away from me stunk. I am excited to get going,” he said — but the Yankees have to assume Sabathia can give them nothing in 2015. If he comes back and pitches well, great. But they have to prepare for the worst case scenario, which means adding pitching depth and maybe penciling Shane Greene into the sixth starter’s spot rather than the number five. · (62) ·
The 2014 season is over and it’s time to look back at the year that was. Our old What Went Right/Wrong format has gotten stale, so it’s time for a new review format. We’ll review individual players, performances, tendencies, and all sorts of stuff in the coming days and weeks.
The Bronx Bombers are gone. Long live the Bronx Bombers. After hitting at least 200 homeruns every year but one from 2000-12 — the postseason-less 2008 season was the only exception (180 homers) — the Yankees dropped down to 144 homers in 2013 and 147 homers in 2014. Some of that is due to the declining offense around the league, some of it is due to injuries, and some of it is due to having too many players without much power on the roster.
The Yankees looked to compensate for their lack of pop this past season by adding speed, specifically by adding guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Kelly Johnson to Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki. Ellsbury was the big name, but Johnson also stole 13+ bases every year from 2010-12. The return of Derek Jeter and addition of Brian Roberts might have added some speed to the roster despite their recent injuries as well. They’re both veteran guys who knew out to pick their spots and run the bases despite a lack of pure speed.
Sure enough, the Yankees ranked fifth in baseball with 112 stolen bases and second with an 81.1% success rate. Only the Nationals (81.5%) had a better success rate. These days the stolen base break-even rate is something like 66-68% due to the drop in offense, not the 72% we so often cited five or ten years ago. The Yankees stole a ton of bases this season and they were very good at it, stealing them with a high rate of efficiency. So why then did Joe Girardi say the team needed to improve its base-running next year during his end-of-season press conference?
“At times our runners couldn’t score from second on a hit just because they weren’t physically able, and that’s something I think we as a club need to get better at — base running,” said Girardi last week while discussing the team’s offensive woes. “Some of it’s limited because of the speed of some of the guys that we have, but I that’s something tangible we need to get better at.”
Despite those strong stolen base numbers, the Yankees took the extra base on a hit just 33% of the time last year, dead last in baseball. The Angels led MLB at 46% and the Orioles were second worst at 34%. The Yankees went first-to-third on a single only 21.5% of the time, again dead last in baseball. They scored from second on a single 49.7% of the time, once again dead last in baseball. They scored from first on a double 34.6% of the time and the good news is that wasn’t dead last in baseball. It was only third worst behind the Phillies (30.6%) and Astros (34.5%). All base-running stats come from Baseball Reference.
Furthermore, the Yankees compounded their base-running problems by getting thrown a bunch of times, particularly at home. It’s one thing to only go from second to third on a single, it’s another to get thrown out at home. They actually had the eighth fewest outs on the bases in 2014 with 45, but they had the fourth most outs at the plate in 21. Part of that is a lack of team speed and part of it falls on the shoulders of third base coach Rob Thomson, who anecdotally made some really awful sends this summer. Pushing the envelope with no outs in the inning, sending a runner on a ball hit to shallow left, that sort of stuff. It happened a lot. I saw it and you saw it.
The Yankees also had a knack for silly base-running mistakes. Carlos Beltran (video), Chase Headley (video), and I believe Stephen Drew were all thrown out wandering off a base because they forgot how many outs there were. And then stuff like this happened a whole bunch of times:
Every club makes dumb base-running mistakes and has runners thrown out at the plate during the season, it’s part of baseball, but it happened to the Yankees more this past season than at any point in the last, I dunno, 10-15 years it seemed. There were lots more base-running blunders in 2014 than we’ve seen in recent years. Lots more.
In terms of stolen bases and advancing on hits, the Yankees were worth +0.4 runs on the bases in 2014 according to FanGraphs, 16th best in baseball. Baseball Prospectus‘ base-running stats are more all-encompassing because they account for stuff like advancing on wild pitches and fly balls, and they say the Yankees were worth -5.9 runs on the bases this year, sixth worst in baseball. That’s not quite a full win — 9.117 runs equaled a win in 2014 — but it’s not nothing either.
The elite stolen base total and success rate saved the Yankees from being a total disaster on the bases, which basically means Gardner and Ellsbury saved the Yankees from being a total disaster on the bases. Those two plus Ichiro were the only players who seemed to consistently take the extra base and force the issue — Gardner stopped stealing halfway through the season because of his lingering abdominal strain, Girardi said — because almost everyone else on the team is really slow. Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann … those guys simply can’t run.
We’ve seen this postseason (the Royals) how much of a weapon elite base-running can be but it is not a requirement to win the same way a good pitching staff and a deep lineup is. You do still need to be competent on the bases though, especially when your offensive production is less than stellar overall. I’m sure part of the reason Thomson sent so many runners in seemingly inopportune times was the team’s lack of offense in general — he simply pushed the envelope to try to get runs when he could. When you’re only getting one or two hits with runners in scoring position per game, sometimes you have no choice but to be aggressive on the bases.
For the most part, the Yankees did not have the right personnel to be overly aggressive on the bases this year. Ellsbury, Gardner, and Ichiro could do it but not everyone else, and it cost the team quite a bit. Girardi spoke about improving the base-running next year but there is no way to make guys like Beltran and Teixeira faster through Spring Training drills. It’s just not happening. They can make changes in their few open lineup spots to get speedier players even though options are limited. Instead, the team will have to focus on making smarter base-running decisions in 2015, which in most cases will mean being more conservative.
Baseball America published their list of the top 20 prospects in the Florida State League today as they continue looking at the best players in each minor league in 2014. As always, the list is free but the scouting reports are not. Pirates RHP Tyler Glasnow, Phillies SS J.P. Crawford, and Blue Jays LHP Daniel Norris make up the top three. OF Aaron Judge ranked 15th and is the only Yankees’ farmhand on the list. RHP Luis Severino didn’t throw enough innings with High-A Tampa to qualify.
Judge, 22, hit .283/.411/.442 (149 wRC+) with eight homers in 66 games for Tampa this summer after a midseason promotion from Low-A Charleston. “He has prodigious tools to go with his jumbo frame, yet the separating factor in his success may be his short swing for a man his size … Judge works with a swing geared for the gaps, so his huge raw power may not necessarily translate into future 30-homer seasons … He fits the right-field profile, running well enough for the spot and flashing double-plus arm strength, with improved arm accuracy,” said the scouting report.
The write-up also notes 3B Eric Jagielo had support from league personnel but fell short off the top 20. Others like OF Jake Cave and 1B Greg Bird are good prospects but not top 20 in the entire league material. The Double-A Eastern League is next up, and C Gary Sanchez should make the list while 2B Rob Refsnyder is a good bet as well. Other possibilities include OF Tyler Austin, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and LHP Manny Banuelos. Severino didn’t throw enough innings with Double-A Trenton to qualify.
Other League Top 20s: Low-A South Atlantic League, Short Season NY-Penn League, Rookie Gulf Coast League. · (74) ·
2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for postseason
Top stories from last week:
- With the 2014 season complete, Joe Girardi gave his annual end of season press conference. Hal Steinbrenner also spoke about the club during a radio interview. Both discussed all sorts of topics in what were essentially state of the Yankees addresses.
- Injury Updates: As expected, Carlos Beltran (elbow) had surgery to remove “loose pieces” and a bone spur. He can begin baseball activity in six weeks and resume playing in 12 weeks. Eric Jagielo (face) had surgery and will miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a fractured zygomatic arch. Jose Campos (elbow) is throwing from 90 feet as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery.
- The Yankees are working on a new contract with GM Brian Cashman, Steinbrenner confirmed. Long-time scout and front office staffer Gordon Blakeley left the organization for a position with the Braves.
- Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas was officially declared a free agent by MLB. Ichiro Suzuki said he wants to continue playing and hinted at some unhappiness in the clubhouse. Josh Outman was outrighted to Triple-A.
- The Yankees hold the 19th overall pick in the 2015 draft. C Luis Torrens, OF Aaron Judge, RHP Luis Severino, and LHP Ian Clarkin all ranked among the top prospects in their respective minor leagues this summer. 3B Dante Bichette Jr. will replace Jagielo in the Arizona Fall League.
- Derek Jeter declined to play in MLB’s exhibition series against the Japanese national team in November. Brett Gardner is the team’s finalist for the AL Hank Aaron Award.
- For the 12th consecutive season, the Yankees led the AL in attendance in 2014.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Via Steven Marcus: Derek Jeter has declined an invitation to play for a team of MLB All-Stars heading to Japan to play a five-game exhibition series against the Japanese national team in November. Robinson Cano, Adam Jones, Albert Pujols, Yasiel Puig, Jose Altuve, Bryce Harper, and Justin Morneau are the only players committed to play so far. Red Sox skipper John Farrell will manage the team.
Since this is an international promotional event, I’m guessing MLB will want to include someone from the Yankees. I’m just not sure who it will be. I don’t think it’ll be a pitcher since they will have had several weeks off by time the series takes place, which leaves position players like Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann as the likely candidates. Ellsbury (hamstring) and Teixeira (wrist) ended the year hurt. So I guess that leaves Gardner and McCann? I’d be very surprised if MLB sent a team to Japan without a Yankees representative. The pinstripes are way too marketable. · (123) ·
Via George King: Long-time pro scout Gordon Blakeley has left the Yankees for a position with the Braves. He will be a special assistant to their new GM whenever they hire a permanent replacement for the recently fired Frank Wren. King says Blakeley’s contract was up later this month. “I was with the Yankees a long time. But this is a new challenge, and I am looking forward to it,” he said.
Blakeley held a few different positions during his 21 years with the Yankees, including VP of Baseball Ops and head of pro and international scouting. Blakeley had been working in the pro scouting department since 2004, focusing mostly on Latin American prospects. He was the scout who originally signed Robinson Cano, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras, and Phil Hughes, among others. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman is retiring and some other player development folks are said to be on the chopping block, so there will be a lot of turnover among the head farm system honchos this winter. · (35) ·
In case you missed it, 3B Eric Jagielo will miss the Arizona Fall League after taking a fastball to the face in Instructional League over the weekend. He will be out 4-6 weeks after having surgery. Jim Callis confirmed Jagielo suffered slight fracture in his zygomatic arch near his left eye. “He should be fine. His vision is A-OK and we don’t anticipate any lingering issues. He’ll be back for Spring Training,” said director of player personnel John Kremer to Callis. Scary. Here are some more minor league notes.
- 3B Dante Bichette Jr. has replaced Jagielo on the Scottsdale Scorpions roster in the AzFL, according to Chad Jennings. Bichette rebuilt his prospect value some this year by hitting .264/.345/.397 (~113 wRC+) with nine homers between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year. The AzFL is a great place to hit, so Bichette could put up some nice numbers there.
- RHP Jose Campos is currently throwing from 90 feet as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Josh Norris. That puts him right on schedule with the usual rehab timetable. It’ll be interesting to see what the Yankees do with Campos once healthy. Bullpen time after two serious elbow injuries in three years?
- C Luis Torrens was recently named the fourth best prospect in the short season NY-Penn League. In the chat, Aaron Fitt (subs. req’d) said RHP Ty Hensley was “up to 96 at Staten Island, pitched at 90-93, and showed a plus curveball. When he had his fastball command, he looked very good, from what I heard.” Hensley, who was coming off surgery on both hips and a hernia this year, didn’t throw enough innings to qualify for the top 20 list.
- Jagielo was named one of the most disappointing prospects of the season by Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d). “He has a gaping hole on the outer half of the plate … His plate coverage was quite poor and will be exposed at higher levels unless he makes a major adjustment,” said the write-up. “Because of his size and strength, he’s still going to run into his share of home runs and should hit for moderate power …. Jagielo profiles as a second-division regular at best.”
- The Yankees have re-signed RHP Joel De La Cruz and RHP Wilking Rodriguez, according to Matt Eddy. De La Cruz, 25, had a 4.44 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 121.2 innings split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year. He’s the guy Brian Cashman tried to send to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano instead of Corey Black. The Yankees signed the 24-year-old Rodriguez a few weeks ago, released him a few days later, and now have brought him back.
- Also according to Eddy, the Yankees have also signed RHP Yoel Espinal. The 21-year-old has not pitched since 2012 due to injury and was released by the Tigers in May. He had a 6.89 ERA (6.18 FIP) with nearly as many walks (24) as strikeouts (26) in the rookie Gulf Coast League back in 2012. Doesn’t sound like much, but every so often someone like this turns into Jose Quintana.
- J.J. Cooper compiled a verified list of pitching prospects who have hit 100+ mph in the minor leagues this year. The only Yankees’ farmhand listed is 20-year-old RHP Domingo Acevedo. The 6-foot-7, 242-pounder had a 4.11 ERA (2.42 FIP) in 15.1 rookie ball innings this year. I wrote him up as a prospect to watch back in February.
And finally, in honor of his final season, Baseball America re-published their story naming Derek Jeter their 1994 Minor League Player of the Year. It’s free, you don’t need a subscription. “He’s a level-headed kid who would be able to handle the bad with the good. Being under the microscope in New York, I think with his makeup he would be able to handle that. He seems unflappable as far as what surrounds him,” said then Double-A Albany manager Bill Evers. Yup.
Got six questions for you this week, the first week of the offseason. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime, mailbag comments or otherwise.
Terri asks: What do you think the chances are for Derek Jeter to go into the Hall of Fame as a unanimous choice?
Very small, but better than they would be in 2015 because there will be some turnover in the voting body before Jeter is eligible for induction in five years. Greg Maddux, whose Hall of Fame case was unimpeachable, did not appear on 20 (!) of the 575 ballots this year. Jeter may get a higher percentage of the vote — Tom Seaver still holds the record after appearing on 98.8% of the ballots — than Maddux because he won more titles and was simply more popular, but I’ll continue to bet against a player getting in unanimously until it actually happens. Too many older voters still send in blank ballots in an attempt to make some kind of statement. It’s silly, but that’s life. Don’t worry, Jeter will still get in on the first ballot.
Dan asks: Would it hurt the Yankees brand if Alex Rodriguez, given what we know about his connections with PEDs, broke Babe Ruth’s home run record? Also, is it financially responsible to allow A-Rod to reach the $6 million bonuses from the incentive clauses in his contract that was signed under the pretenses of marketing these achievements from a then “clean” athlete?
On the contrary, I think it will help the team’s #brand. They’re going to make a ton of money if Alex Rodriguez manages to get close to
Babe Ruth’s Barry Bonds’ homerun record. People are still going to pay oodles of money to see history and boo the everloving crap out of him. Yeah, the bonuses were signed under the pretense that A-Rod was clean, but CC Sabathia‘s contract was signed under the pretense he would be a 200+ inning workhorse. It didn’t work out, that’s the risk you take when entering into a contract with a player. If the Yankees try to get out of those bonuses, A-Rod and the union will file a grievance and probably win given the contract language. They’re not going to let the team weasel out of that money. It’s a precedent the MLBPA won’t allow to be set.
Daniel asks: Given the new regime entering the MLB offices, how important is it for the Yankees’ financial freedom that this year’s playoff picture includes lower budget teams like Royals, Pirates, and Athletics? Obviously spending money doesn’t win you championships per se but more often than not it puts you in contention and the Wild Card has proven that’s all you need. Will these lower budget teams getting a chance have an impact on the CBA? Will it prevent MLB from considering a salary cap?
A salary cap won’t happen because the union won’t allow it to happen. The luxury tax system is a compromise. Baseball is way too strong financially right now to start putting limits on payroll. The owners would love one, sure, but the MLBPA will fight this tooth and nail. I think they would strike before accepting a salary cap and no one wants a work stoppage. The game is too healthy. Maybe seeing those smaller payroll teams get into the postseason both this year and the last few years (Rays!) will help keep the salary cap conversation at bay, but I don’t think it will have a big impact. The biggest argument against a salary cap is the league’s revenue.
Jack asks: CC’s days of going 200+ innings per year are over. The knee can’t take the pounding, especially over the course of a season. On the other hand, if he is only needed for say 100 innings a year he might be able to play out his contract. What do you think of putting him in the bullpen? It’ll be less strain on the arm (and knee) and will allow him to air it out for each of the one or two innings he pitches, so instead of maxing at say 90 mph he can get back to say maybe 93/94?
I think it’s worth it to find if Sabathia can still start first. He’ll almost certainly never be an ace again, but maybe he can be what Hiroki Kuroda was this year following knee surgery, even if it’s only for one year. If Sabathia can’t start, either physically or because his performance is terrible, then stick him in the bullpen and see what happens. I don’t think they’re at that point yet. Give him a chance to start following surgery and see where he’s at. We all just might be pleasantly surprised.
Dustin asks: How playable do you think Jose Pirela is at SS? Could the Yanks save a little cash and maybe even slightly upgrade offensively and in terms of defensive flexibility by bringing Pirela off the bench as a super utility guy? That’s assuming they have a rock-solid everyday SS like Hardy.
The Yankees moved Pirela off shortstop permanently following the 2011 season — he’s played only eight games at the position since, all this year with Triple-A Scranton. He’s been a second baseman and left fielder more than anything these last few years, though he’s seen time pretty much everywhere other than pitcher or catcher. Pirela could probably play shortstop the way Yangervis Solarte did earlier this year, a spot start here or there but not everyday. If the Yankees signed J.J. Hardy or whoever and he got hurt, they’d have to play Brendan Ryan at short everyday, not Pirela. He can hit though, and there’s a decent chance he’ll force the team’s hand in Spring Training the way Solarte did this year. His versatility and right-handed bat would be nice to have on the bench.
JPK asks: Using just players that came through the Yankee system, who are no longer Yankees, and were active in MLB this past season, make your best starting lineup…. Mine is Jackson CF, Melky RF, Cano 2B, Soriano DH, Montero 1B, Navarro C, Nunez 3B, R Pena SS, A. Almonte LF… Did I miss anyone?
I’ll do you one better. Here’s an entire roster of former Yankees’ farmhands who played in MLB this season.
|Dioner Navarro||1B Jesus Montero||LF Melky Cabrera||RH Phil Hughes||RH John Axford|
|2B Robinson Cano||CF Austin Jackson||RH Ian Kennedy||RH J. Chamberlain|
|DH||SS Ramiro Pena||RF Jose Tabata||RH Zach McAllister||RH Tyler Clippard|
|Alfonso Soriano||3B E. Nunez||LH Vidal Nuno||LH Mike Dunn|
|LH Jose Quintana||RH D. Farquhar|
|Bench||RH George Kontos|
|C Eric Fryer||IF Dean Anna||RH Mark Melancon|
|UTIL J. Paredes||OF Abe Almonte|
The roster would look quite a bit better if I could include players the Yankees drafted but did not sign, specifically Gerrit Cole, Doug Fister, Drew Storen, and Chris Davis. The notable omissions are all pitchers: Hector Noesi, Tommy Kahnle, Phil Coke, and Randy Choate. The Yankees have produced a bunch of decent arms recently but not many bats — Fryer and Anna are really stretching the definition of “coming up through the system.” My lineup one through nine would be similar to JPK’s:
- Rakin’ Ramiro
The pitchers are listed alphabetically but my rotation would be Quintana followed in order by Hughes and Kennedy, with Nuno and McAllister in whatever order in the fourth and fifth spots. Pick ‘em out of a hat. Melancon would close with Clippard and Farquhar setting him up. I don’t really have a long man but whatever. Just spit-balling it, that roster would win what, maybe 70-75 games? It would rely (heavily) on the pitching and Cano driving in Jackson and Melky. That’s pretty much it. Maybe some trademark Yankees Magic™ would get them to 81 wins.