In his latest Rumblings & Grumblings column, ESPN.com scribe Jayson Stark takes a look at the state of the free agent market. With just a week left until Spring Training, some big names — Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, Juan Cruz — remained unsigned, and the excuse that any or all of these players hurt team chemistry doesn’t really fly.
But that’s not important right now. In the column, Stark gives us a tidbit about Nick Swisher and the Braves. It’s the rumor that just won’t die. He writes:
In the meantime, the Braves seem to have emerged as the club most interested in Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher. But there are indications the teams got hung up when the Braves asked the Yankees to eat some of the $22.05 million Swisher has coming over the next three years — and got turned down flat.
When push comes to shove, I’m going to bet on “no deal” here. The Yanks have no incentive to trade Swisher — or Xavier Nady, for that matter — for anything less than what they want. Doing so would in fact weaken the team’s bench. If the Braves won’t give up the prospects or money for him, the Yanks may very well be better of for it.
The start of the 2008 season was an exciting time for us Yankees fans. The team had two young and talented pitchers in the rotation for the first time in a long time, and a third in the bullpen that was slated to join the other two in the rotation later in the summer. Of course things didn’t go as planned, as Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy struggled before getting hurt, then Joba Chamberlain joined them in the infirmary after successfully making the transition to the rotation. Other than being young and being Yankees, those three guys don’t have much in common. They’re three different kinds of pitchers with three different body types and three different development tracks, yet they all got hurt, albeit in different ways. Why is this?
Enter former A’s and Mets’ pitching coach Rick Peterson. Peterson and Gary Armida, author of Full Count Pitch, sat down and talked about the epidemic of young pitchers getting hurt (h/t BBTF). The article starts with Peterson stating the industry in general has been slow to react to all the injuries, and that the focus needs to be shifted from “rehab to prehab.” Amateur coaches (going all the way back to little league) don’t have enough information about the proper way to develop young pitchers, which has been a major contributor to the explosion of pitching injuries.
Aside: While I agree that amateur coaches don’t have enough info, we also have to remember that their job isn’t to develop players, it’s too win. Why should Tony Gwynn (coach at San Diego State) take it easy on Steven Strasburg, the likely first overall pick in the 2009 draft? The team that drafts Strasburg isn’t paying Gywnn, the school is, and that’s who he has an obligation to. It’s his job to do what’s right for the university, not what’s in the best interest of Major League teams. It’s a grey area, and we have to remember that the vast majority of college pitchers will never throw a professional pitch, let alone a big league pitch, so is it right to treat the true prospects differently than everyone else?
The article then goes on to list the three root causes of arm injuries. I’m going to quote at length, so let’s add a jump to keep from overflowing the front page.
As Spring Training approaches — today’s the ever-popular Truck Day up in Boston — the fantasy guides are hitting the Internets. Today, both MLB.com and ESPN.com unveiled their respective guides, and while I’m not complaining much, the early projections for the Yankees are widely optimistic.
Take, for example, Mr. Rodriguez. MLB predicts a .293/.381/.570/41/124 season for A-Rod, and ESPN predicts .303/.393/.585/44/130. Mark Teixeira looks primed for a big fantasy season as well. When you add up the totals, the Yanks come out with around 850 runs scored via ESPN and 958 via MLB. The playing time totals are a little sketchy, but I’d take that improvement in a heart beat.
On the pitching front, Sabathia emerges as a true ace. MLB pegs him at 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP while ESPN predicts 19 wins, a 3.33 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. Both sites believe he’ll toss more than 230 innings in 2009. Adding up the pitcher’s win totals on ESPN puts the Yanks at 95 for the season; MLB targets a 98-win season for the Bombers. Pessimistic PECOTA these are not.
In the end, of course, these projections are great for the plethora of upcoming drafts — and yes, we’ll probably put together a RAB Fantasy Baseball League — but they’re not great for much else. It’s fun to imagine that everyone on the Yanks will be as great as their potential, and it’s wishful February thinking to target a 98-win season for the Yankees. But if the stars align just right, it may just become reality.
A few days ago, the creatively-named online sportsbook SportsBook.com released its most recent set of odds for the 2009 baseball season. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees came out on top. Our hometown team is the 5/2 favorite to capture the title. Someone tell Mayor Bloomberg to save the date for the parade. · (23) ·
Oh, Derek Jeter, what ever will the Yanks do with you in 20 months when you’re long-awaited and long-dreaded free agency rolls around? The Yanks will be saddled with a popular player past his prime and not very good at defense coming off of a contract in which he was overpaid. Someone has the upper hand in that bargaining session. I’m just not sure which side.
But that is a conversation for next season. For now, we get to talk about Derek the short stop, also one of everyone’s favorite topics. Christina Kahrl got the party started with a Baseball Prospectus piece (hosted on ESPN.com) about how Derek should move to center field. Her argument:
Crying over last year’s spilled Melky won’t help them catch up to the Rays and Red Sox, but signing Orlando Cabrera would provide the team with a useful-enough hitter, and a slick-fielding asset at short could make a small but important difference to a bad defensive ballclub. Last season’s Yankees ranked 25th in the major leagues in defensive efficiency (their ability to convert balls in play into outs) and park-adjusted defensive efficiency, and no positions see more chances than the middle infield. For all his defensive warts, Jeter has a strong arm and has always earned praise for his ability to track bloopers and pop-ups. These skills should both translate in center field. And simply by providing his usual dose of high OBP, he’d be a much better option than running Melky Cabrera out to center for 117 games, which the Yankees did last year.
Swapping Jeter out at short to address the team’s need for a center fielder would be the sort of win-win move that can let the Yankees return to the top of the standings while breaking in their new stadium, and it does nothing to damage the Captain’s place in franchise history. If Yount or Ripken, MVP winners and top stars in their day, could agree to help their teams and themselves to make these switches, you need to ask yourself why Jeter should be any different, especially when the need has gone from debatable to obvious.
Okay. So that’s a pretty convincing argument on its face. Kahrl, however, opted against using any metrics to evaluate how Jeter might do in center field and how the Yanks would fare with Orlando Cabrera at short. Enter Driveline Mechanics.
David Golebiewski analyzed Kahrl’s proposal and came up with a statistical answer to my questions. The analysis is rigorous. The conclusion:
We have little idea of how good or bad of a center fielder Derek Jeter would be, but even if we assume that Jeter would be lousy (costing his team -12.5 runs with the leather), the projected WAR of an Orlando Cabrera/Derek Jeter duo (4.79 WAR) trumps that of a Jeter/Melky Cabrera alignment (3.89 WAR) by nearly a win. If Jeter isn’t quite so bad, that advantage grows even further, perhaps nearer 2 wins if Jeter is only kind of bad in center.
Rob Neyer had a take on this as well. He hears what Kahrl and Golebiewski had to say and doesn’t feel that the two-win differential is worth the experiment. Neyer wants to see Brett Gardner win the job, get on base enough and steal. Whether he can do it is anyone’s guess.
Neyer, by no stretch of the imagination a Yankee fan, suggests that the Yanks should cut Jeter loose after 2010. I doubt that they will, and I sentimentally hope they don’t. But for now, just like his defense, it is just an issue lurking around the corner, and it won’t go away until the Yanks have to confront it head on.
On March 3, the United States’ representatives to the World Baseball Classic will square off against the Yankees in Tampa. While it won’t be weird to see most of the U.S. team on the other side of the ball, it will be quite strange to see Derek Jeter facing his own team. The Yanks’ captain will be battling his teammates, and while Derek hopes none of the Yanks’ hurlers bust him up and in, he better watch out for that Jorge Posada character behind the plate. · (25) ·
The RAB Open Thread gods blessed us this evening, sending down this gem of a post from the Times’ Tyler Kepner about 25 random facts about 25 random Yankees. Here’s my favorites, with worthless commentary added:
Enrique Wilson – Used to love the science fiction anime DragonBall Z. He had these little characters he’d put up on the shelf of his locker at home and on the road.
And people say A-Rod does weird stuff.
Matt Smith – Was physically unable to straighten his pitching elbow.
That’s pretty crazy.
Rondell White – Had a great sense of humor about himself, admitting that he was injured so often his nickname should be “Ron-D.L.”
That’s great. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re not trying.
Chris Hammond – One of the first guys to give out his email address. One night in Oakland he was warming up in the bullpen and a colleague in the press box noted that Hammond was also on Instant Messenger at the same time. I’m sure it was a family member, but still pretty funny.
I love it.
So how’s that for some good ol’ open threadiness? The Islanders are the only local team in action tonight, and Mexico is taking on Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series at 9pm on the MLB Network. The games have been exciting, very low scoring for the most part. Best of all, none of the players have any plate disciple, so everyone swings at the first pitch and the innings just fly by. Talk about whatever you like, just be nice.
Oh, and for you video game aficionados, the demo for The Show 09 came out today. Give that shizz a download.
Apparently, Andruw Jones thinks some team is going to give him a major league contract. He’s been courted by a number of teams, including the Braves, the Phillies, the Rangers, and yes, the Yankees. According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees offered the struggling center fielder a non-roster invite to Spring Training, but were rejected. Jones will probably wait out the market until he can get a Major League deal. Speculation points to Texas right now. Jones would obviously be worth a look if there’s no guarantee involved, but I don’t think it’s worth it to DFA another player for him. · (31) ·
Via Adam McCalvy & TR Sullivan, free agent righty Ben Sheet may need surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his throwing elbow, which is different from Tommy John surgery. Apparently the Rangers and Sheets had agreed to a two year deal last week, but the elbow issue popped up and prevented the deal from being finalized. In a somewhat ironic twist, the Brewers may be on the hook for the medical costs of the surgery, which Sheets is contemplating. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Roy Firestone of Orioles Hangout beat everyone to the story this morning.
Update (4:46pm): Sheets will have the surgery and hopes to be ready for the second half of 2009. (h/t Yanke1010) · (75) ·