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The RAB Radio Show: May 13, 2011

It’s everyone’s favorite time of the season: Yanks-Red Sox. The two teams open a three-game series this weekend, and we’re getting ready by talking to Marc Normandin of Baseball Prospectus and Red Sox Beacon. We run down topics ranging from the pitching matchups to slumping players, to Joe West and his awful umpiring crew. Mark really knows his stuff, which makes for a good listen.

Podcast run time 34:11

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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

Must Click Link: The Slade Heathcott Story

When the Yankees drafted Slade Heathcott in the first round of the 2009 draft, everyone knew the kid had a troubled past, but we didn’t really know what happened. The most popular rumor was that his parents were in jail for drug-related issues. Well, thanks to Gene Sapakoff of The Post & Courier, now we know what happened, and it’s far worse than I think anyone could have imagined. If you only read one thing on this site all day, this is it. Absolute must read.

Mailbag: D-Rob, Jeter, Oppenheimer, RoY, More

I managed to keep the answers short-ish this week, so I squeezed in a few more questions than usual. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Tony asks: How much longer do the Yankees have team control over Robertson?

David Robertson rode the Bronx-Scranton bus in 2008 and finally stuck for good in May 2009. He’s in his final pre-arbitration year right now, and is under team control through 2014 as an arbitration-eligible player. So long story short, three more seasons after this one. That was easy enough.

Dan asks: So, this kills me to ask, but seeing as how I don’t think he’s been hit by one pie since the thing started, and I’ve pretty consistently watched him ground out late in games for the last few years, when was the last time Cap’n Clutch was really clutch?

There’s two ways we can quickly look at this. Just looking at Derek Jeter‘s “Clutch” score, he hasn’t been positive since 2006 (+2.33). He’s hovered between -0.11 and -0.85 over the last few seasons. I prefer WPA/LI, which uses win probability and leverage index to tell us how much the player contributed in the context of the game situations. Jeter last had a positive WPA/LI in 2009 (+1.41). Subjectively, I’ll say 2009. That’s the last time I was confident in Jeter getting the job done, so to speak, whenever he came to the plate in a “big” spot.

J.R. asks: Couldn’t Damon Oppenheimer be a great in house option to replace Cashman? I remember that another team wanted to interview him for a GM spot but that the Yankees wouldn’t grant him permission. (I’m not advocating it, just pointing out that the Yankees have an in house option).

This was sent in following yesterday’s post about contract non-news. Oppenheimer’s the best in-house candidate, and the Yankees actually blocked him from talking to the Diamondbacks about their GM opening over the winter. They had the right to do that, but I still thinking blocking a potential upward move is a dick move. Anyway, it’s either Oppenheimer or pro scouting director Billy Eppler, but neither has even assistant GM experience. Yeah, they’re candidates to replace Cashman, but they’re hardly ideal options.

Jonathan asks: What are the chances the Yanks have three guys play for ROY next year? Assuming those three are Montero, Banuelos and Betances.

I’m comfortable giving this one a big fat 0% chance. There’s a far better chance that one of those guys is playing elsewhere at this time next year, but even if they all are in the organization it’s unlikely all three will be up. Frankly if both Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are in the rotation all year in 2012 (which they would basically have to be to get Rookie of the Year consideration), then something has gone horribly wrong. There’s also a non-zero chance that Jesus Montero will cross the 130 at-bat rookie threshold this year. It would be pretty cool if all three guys were that good that soon, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

(AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

Ryan asks: What do you think of Grady Sizemore as a replacement in RF for Swisher after this year. He looks healthy, and as long as he remains healthy and productive, CLE will not be able to sign him long term after next year’s option. That would be a fun defensive outfield with Gardner, Granderson, and Sizemore, if not just a little too left handed.

I’ve written quite a bit about Sizemore already this spring, and my stance remains unchanged: he has to show he can produce and stay healthy. He’s been pretty good since coming off the disabled list (power heavy .413 wOBA), but it’s been 18 games and 84 at-bats. Let’s see him make it the rest of the season before we start thinking about acquiring him. The other question is how do you acquire him? His club option for 2012 turns into a player option if traded, so you can’t trade for him and expect him to stick around next year. If he’s worth trading for, then he’ll be good enough for a nice contract and will presumably opt for the open market. His bad start notwithstanding, right now I’d just pick up Nick Swisher‘s option and and go from there.

Rich asks: I was hoping you could shed some light on something different I’ve noticed about A.J. this year. Not only has his curveball lost some of it’s bite, but his fastball seems almost straight compared to the movement it’s had in years past. I know he’s made some obvious (and less obvious) changes to his mechanics and I’m sure Rothschild has had an influence, but what happened to all that movement?

Really? I think his curveball has regained some bite after it disappeared last season. PitchFX says the pitch had 5.7 inches of drop last year and 6.3 inches of drop this year. Just over half-an-inch, so it’s not a huge change, but a change nonetheless. Burnett got a swing-and-miss on the curve 14.1% of the time last year, and it’s up to 17.7% this year. A little more vertical movement and substantially more whiffs leads me to believe the bite is back, and even if it’s not, the pitch has been more effective this year based on the run values.

Anyway, PitchFX says he’s lost an inch of horizontal movement off his fastball, down from 5.1 to 4.1 inches. Perhaps it’s the result of the revamped mechanics, or maybe it’s a conscience decision to try to help him improve command. There were times over the last two seasons that it seemed like Burnett’s fastball was moving too much for his own good. It could also just be normal decline, pitches tend to flatten out as the guy gets older. Either way, A.J.’s been good so far this year, so I hope he just keeps doing whatever he’s been doing.

Sanit saves the pen as Royals blow out Yankees

The AP didn't bother to take a picture of Sanit. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

There’s nothing from Thursday’s game worth writing about, so I’ll just say “thank you” to Amaury Sanit for sparing the bullpen. He was called up before the game for that very reason, and he ended up throwing 81 pitches from the fourth through eighth innings after Ivan Nova‘s implosion. In fairness to Nova, his defense really let him down. That six-run second inning was some of the ugliest baseball I’ve seen the Yankees play in a long time. Sanit’s season high in Triple-A was 62 pitches, and on only one other occasion did he throw more than 40 pitches. So yeah, a big thanks to him for sacrificing his 31-year-old arm and saving the rest of the bullpen before Boston comes to town.

Otherwise, ugly ugly ugly. I mean, at least Alex Rodriguez hit a homerun (plus another ball hard for an out), so maybe he’s starting to come around. We can dream, can’t we? The Royals won their first series in the Bronx since 1999, and now we get to welcome the Red Sox to town for a weekend set. Bartolo Colon gets the ball against Clay Buchholz on Friday night. Here’s the box score and WPA Graph of this game, if you’re curious.

Montero goes way deep in SWB win

Update: Here’s video of Montero’s homer. That’s a bomb, you can see why his power will play well in Yankee Stadium. Opposite field, baby.

Another day, another Double-A Trenton starting pitcher gets hurt. This time it’s Craig Heyer, who was placed on the disabled list with a hand issue. Apparently he took a batted ball to the hand the other day, and they’re still waiting on x-ray results. Doesn’t like anything major, so hopefully he’ll just miss a start or two, nothing more. Kevin Russo is back with Triple-A Scranton after clearing waivers, by the way.

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 win over Buffalo)
Chris Dickerson, DH: 1 for 4, 1 R, 2 K – just four for his last 22 (.182)
Dan Brewer, RF, Jordan Parraz, LF & Luis Nunez, 2B: all 0 for 3 – Brewer walked, scored a run, and struck out … Parraz got hit by a pitch, scored and whiffed
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 K – just his second homer of the season … this one came off a rehabbing big leaguer, turning a one-run deficit into a two-run lead in the eighth inning … apparently it landed well beyond the right field wall in the party pavilion, which is the opposite field
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 0 for 4, 2 K
Justin Maxwell, CF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 SB – that’s just his fifth double, though the dozen homers make it okay
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 4, 1 K
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 E (throwing)
Adam Warren, RHP: 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 10-3 GB/FB – 61 of 105 pitches were strikes (58.1%) … allowed a homer for the fourth straight start (five total) … he’s allowed five homers total in 192 IP over the last two years
Andy Sisco, LHP: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – seven of his nine pitches were strikes
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 11 of 16 pitches were strikes (68.8%) … continues to cruise right along

[Read more…]

Game 35: Happy birthday, Yogi

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Yogi Berra turns 86 years young today, and I’m pretty sure he’s seen more baseball and knows more about the game than all of us combined. I hope the Yankees’ gift to him a big blowout win over the Royals tonight. Happy birthday, Yogi. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, DH
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B – I guess the ol’ melon is okay after yesterday’s plunking
Nick Swisher, RF
Brett Gardner, LF
Eduardo Nunez, SS – over/under on the number of bad throws is set at 2.5
Frankie Cervelli, C – guessing that Joe Girardi wants to use Russell Martin in all three games vs. Boston

Ivan Nova, SP

You can watch this game on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Note: The Yankees will play a day-night doubleheader in Baltimore on August 27th to make up for the April 22nd rain out. That a Saturday five days into a 16 games in 16 days stretch, so a) they’ll need to call up a spot starter, and b) it might wreck the bullpen. But then again, it’s more than three months away, so who knows.