A second chance at Bill Hall

(Photo Credit: Flickr user lakelandlocal via Creative Commons license)

As the Yankees searched for bench help this past offseason, one of the names we heard them connected to Bill Hall. He was coming off a damn fine season for the Red Sox (18 HR, .342 wOBA) and apparently the brain trust thought he could do the same in pinstripes. Hall eventually took an offer from the Astros, turning down a chance to come off the Yankees’ bench in favor of playing every day. Can’t say I blame him.

Well, the Houston experiment did not go well. Hall hit to the tune of a .269 wOBA with two homers and 55 strikeouts in 158 plate appearances with the Astros before they released him over the weekend. GM Ed Wade called the signing a “failure in judgment,” opting to eat the $2.25M left on Hall’s contract (approximately $2M in remaining salary this year plus the buyout of next year’s option) instead of hoping for a rebound in performance. That means any team can now sign Hall for the pro-rated Major League minimum (peanuts), and the Yankees have a second chance to add him to the team.

I have no problem picking up any player on the cheap, so in that sense I’m on board. The real question is why should we expect Hall to bounce back from his awful start and be worthy of a roster spot? The reality is that last year was an outlier for him, just look at his year-by-year wOBA …

Hall was fantastic back in 2005 and 2006, earning himself a fat four-year, $24M contract from the Brewers, but he’s been damn near replacement level since. Except for that one year with Boston. It wasn’t a Fenway Park thing (.346 wOBA at home, .334 on the road), it wasn’t a BABIP thing (.300 BABIP in 2010, .311 career), and it wasn’t a batted ball profile thing. His HR/FB rate was an unsustainably high 17.0% compared to a much more normal 13.1% for this career, so maybe that was behind the good year. Whatever it was, it’s not exactly something any team should count on happening again.

Late last week Joe wrote about the option of improving the team by upgrading the utility infielder, but Hall can’t replace Eduardo Nunez (assuming the idea is to send him down to Triple-A so he can play regularly) because he hasn’t played shortstop since 2006. Yeah, he stood there for 36 innings last year, but that was the only time he’s played the position in five years. Plus his defense at second is terrible, I’m not sure why it would be better on the other side of the bag. He’s more of an emergency shortstop more than anything, not a guy a team could legitimately use there. Andruw Jones has a) done nothing to lose his job, and b) is better than Hall anyway, so they’re not going to change fourth outfielders. The Yankees could use him in place of Chris Dickerson, but then they have no left-handed bat on the bench. Not a huge problem, more of an inconvenience. I assume that would be his way onto the roster.

Like I said, bringing Hall in for the pro-rated minimum is a perfectly fine move, but I really don’t see enough of an upgrade to consider it a no-brainer, an “oh my goodness they have to go out and get this guy” kind of move. If they sign him, great. If not, well no big deal. Hall’s more name value than substance, has been for more than four years now.

The RAB Radio Show: June 6, 2011

After a 6-3 road trip, including 2-1 against the Angels, the Yankees head home. Mike and I talk about the weekend, including a big portion on Jorge Posada. It seems that even when he does something good, one of his shortcomings turns it into a negative (e.g., a good at-bat followed by a GIDP, a double and getting thrown out on the bases). And, of course, we’re talking about the draft, which begins tonight at 7.

Podcast run time 31:08

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

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

MLB still probing A-Rod’s connection to Galea

Alex Rodriguez hanging out with his cousin is only news in the sense that he’s a famous person who did something. The story carries a little more interest, because of Yuri Sucart’s connection to steroids — after all, A-Rod was the one who outed him. But the meeting happened in a public space, and even MLB said there wasn’t any wrongdoing. Yet that has apparently led to an actual story, which Michael S. Schmidt and Serge F. Kovaleski reported in the Times yesterday. Apparently, MLB is still investigating Rodriguez’s connection to Dr. Anthony Galea, who is accused of supplying athletes with PEDs.

This is one of those things where you’re definitely better off reading the source article than our summary of it. Schmidt in particular has been following this story, and he lays it out in a reasonably easy to understand manner. But, for those who just want the facts, here’s what we know right now about the issue.

  • A-Rod met with MLB before last season to discuss the former’s connection to Galea. He denied having received PEDs.
  • Apparently A-Rod also testified before a federal grand jury for the case. I don’t think I’d heard that before. There is no word of what his testimony comprised, because of the rules of secrecy for grand jury proceedings. His lawyers wouldn’t even confirm that he did make the appearance.
  • MLB specifically wants Galea’s medical records pertaining to Rodriguez, and he has acquiesced. “Alex fully cooperated with Major League Baseball and federal authorities in Buffalo regarding his treatment with Dr. Galea, including granting a release of his medical records,” his lawyers said in a statement.
  • It is unclear why MLB has not yet received the medical records, which might be a bigger part of this story. If A-Rod did indeed give clearance, then why haven’t they seen them yet?
  • Galea maintains that he didn’t give HGH to athletes, but rather to other patients. If you’re looking for a reason why MLB is continuing their investigation, there it is. That just sounds fishy. If he’s distributing HGH, is he really going to withhold it from athletes?

As was the case last time this story came to the fore, I expect it to again fade into the background until something moves in Galea’s case. For now there appears to be no connection between Rodriguez and Galea beyond the anti-inflammatories the latter gave the former. But with A-Rod’s hip doctor, Mark Philippon, sounding skeptical upon hearing about the connection, there are definitely loose ends in this case. Since MLB seems eager, maybe even overeager, to punish anyone remotely connected to anything that might be a performance enhancer, I don’t expect this to fully go away until Galea’s case is decided.

Shadowing the Sickels’ Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Andrew Stanfill, The Independent Florida Alligator)

Every year, right before the draft, John Sickels over at Minor League Ball holds a community mock draft where his readers act as scouting directors and made picks for the 30 teams. I acted as the Yankees’ scouting director way back in 2007, and although it was fun it was also extremely time consuming. No way will I do that again. Instead I’ll continue to do what I’ve been doing in the three years since, reviewing the picks made for the Yankees and saying who I would have taken. Best of both worlds.

They did four rounds this year (first, sandwich, second, third), so the Yankees made three picks. They didn’t have one in the first round, but here’s what happened afterwards…

First Pick, Sandwich Round, #51 Overall
Mock Draft: Derek Fisher, OF, Pennsylvania HS
My Pick: Tyler Goeddel, 3B/OF, California HS

Fisher’s a fine pick here, I just prefer Goeddel. I’m a big Hudson Boyd fan (and a fan of high school pitchers in general), so it was tough to leave him on the board (he went the very next pick). Goeddel has the whole hitting thing figured out (at least as much as a high school kid reasonably could), you’re just projecting on the power. Fisher has the power and you’re counting on him learning how to hit breaking balls, which is very tough to do. I would be happy if the Yankees landed either player later tonight, it’s just personal preference here. Everything you need to know about Fisher and Goeddel can be found here and here, respectively.

Second Pick, Second Round, #88 Overall
Mock Draft: Nick Burdi, RHP, Illinois HS
Mike’s Pick: Carl Thomore, OF, New Jersey HS

After missing out on Fisher’s power in the first round, Thomore more than makes up for it here. Pure homerun hitters are in short supply these days, so I wanted to get at least one early, and I mean a legitimate prospect and not a Kyle Roller type (no offense to him). Pitches that break aren’t a huge concern with Thomore either, so I’m very pleased to get two high school bats with upside (and different skill sets) early on. Here’s my write-up.

Burdi is a risky but potentially high reward pick. He showed huge velocity in showcases last summer (like, 95-97 consistently), but he missed some time this spring and hasn’t been the same since. He spent most of his senior year pitching anywhere from 83-93 mph, and his slider varied from unhittable to unusable. Given the declining stuff plus a commitment to Louisville and reports of first round bonus demands, I would have waited a while before pulling the trigger on a guy like Burdi.

Third Pick, Third Round, #118 Overall
Mock Draft: Rookie Davis, RHP, North Carolina HS
Mike’s Pick: Nick Maronde, LHP, Florida

The Davis pick is interesting in that he doesn’t really appear to be much of a prospect. I had never heard of him before and he’s not on any of the top draft prospect lists from the regular publications (Baseball America, Keith Law, etc.). Google led me to this year-old article that may or may not still be valid. Maybe everyone completely missed Davis and he’s some kind of hidden gem, maybe he’s just a friend of whoever acted as the Yankees’ scouting director in the mock draft, maybe he’s something else.

Anyway … I don’t like that the first pitcher I took is a reliever, but Maronde is a prime candidate to be transitioned back into the rotation. His fastball sits 93-96 in relief but a tick lower when he starts, and he backs it up with both a quality slider and a changeup. Those three pitches are why he’s a candidate to start. Maronde’s command came apart a bit when started for the Gators, but I think it’s worth another shot (since my neck isn’t on the line). Worst case scenario, he goes back to being a shutdown lefty reliever. Around these parts, that’ll get you $4M a year without even having to pitch!

Fan Confidence Poll: June 6th, 2011

Record Last Week: 5-1 (29 RS, 13 RA)
Season Record: 33-24 (293 RS, 222 RA, 36-21 pythag. record), two up in loss column
Opponents This Week: Monday OFF, vs. Red Sox (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Indians (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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 Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

{democracy:160}

Yanks survive late innings, finish road trip 6-3

Sunday afternoon’s game against the Angels was not an easy one. The Halos seemed to have a runner on base at all times, and in the late innings they often did. The Yankees used some evil homeruns and ugly but effective relief work to win the weekend series and finish the nine game west swing.

Clobbered.

Two Times The Tex, Two Times The Fun

Curtis Granderson has been the Yankees’ best player pretty much all season, but you know what? Mark Teixeira has been pretty damn awesome himself. He went 3-for-4 with two homers in this game, pushing his season line to .258/.365/.549. His 18 homers are one more than Granderson and two behind Jose Bautista for the Major League lead.

The first homer, a solo shot in the third to give the Yankees a two-run lead, was an absolute bomb off a hanging changeup, which is essentially a batting practice fastball. The second homer was a two-run shot in the fifth that turned a 2-2 game into a 4-2 game, another absolute bomb deep into the right field seats. Tex didn’t hit his 18th homerun last season until July 17th, the team’s 90th game. He hit four long balls on the road trip, and has nine homers in his last 16 games overall. That’s pretty nuts. Tex is a streaky dude, and right now he’s locked in.

Swish’s Back

When the road trip started, Nick Swisher‘s season line was sitting at an unsightly .204/.321/.289. He managed to boost that all the way up to .215/.342/.348 during the nine games in Seattle and California, capping the trip off with a solo homer off the right field pole to give the Yankees a big insurance run. Overall, Swish went 8-for-29 (.276) with nine walks (.436), three homers (.655), and just five strikeouts during the trip. That’s the Nick Swisher we all know and love, and I’m glad to see him back. It just adds another level of depth to the lineup.

By The Skin Of Their Teeth

Uuuuge.

The Yankees’ bullpen has been very strong this year, despite getting next to nothing from high priced imports Rafael Soriano and Pedro Feliciano. David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain have done most of the heavy lifted ahead of Mariano Rivera, who’s been his usual brilliant self. Sunday’s game wasn’t so easy though, those three had to combine for 11 outs following a solid but unspectacular effort from Bartolo Colon.

Robertson replaced Colon with one out and a man on second in the sixth, then walked two batters after a fielder’s choice before escaping the inning by striking out Maicer Izturis. He coaxed a ground out from Erick Aybar to start the seventh, then Joba came in only to allow an infield single to Bobby Abreu. He got out of the inning with a strikeout of Howie Kendrick, then pitched around a one out walk in the eight. Rivera nailed down the save despite two singles, escaping the jam thanks to a Torii Hunter ground out.

It was definitely one of those games that does a number on your blood pressure, but all three guys got out of their jams by making big pitches when they had to. It’s cliche, but that’s what happened. Izturis whiffed on a 2-2 curveball in the dirt, Kendrick hacked at a 2-2 curve off the plate, Bourjos grounded int a double play on a 3-2 slider, and Hunter did the same on a 0-1 fastball. All told, the late-game trio of relievers combined to allow six baserunners over the last three-plus innings, but none of them came across to score. Good stuff.

Leftovers

Colon was dominant in the first two innings, but the Halos adjusted their approach and started to swing away at fastballs early in the count with great success. They scored three runs on six hits and two walks off the Yankees’ starter over the next 3.1 innings, and he needed a great barehand play by Robinson Cano to get out of the third inning. It was just the second time in nine starts that Colon failed to complete six innings, but that kind of stuff happens form time to time.

Jorge Posada had perhaps the ugliest 2-for-4 in the history of baseball. He grounded into a double play in the second inning and got thrown out foolishly trying to stretch a double into a triple in the fourth, so he still managed to account for four outs despite the two hits. Seriously, I don’t know how much longer this charade can go on, but it’s pretty obvious that Jorge is dunzo.

Curtis Granderson appears to be slumping, but he reached base twice in the game (single and walk) and has reached in four of his last eight plate appearances. That’ll do. Cano had a hit, Derek Jeter had a hit, and Brett Gardner had a pair of hits, including an RBI double in the second to kick off the scoring. He also got thrown out trying to steal second later in the game, continuing a troublesome trend.

A 6-3 road trip is pretty much the best case scenario, especially considering the high-end starting pitching they faced. In fact, they had multiple run leads against Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez only to lose the game. I’ll take it, this is as good as west coast road trips get. At 33-24, the Yankees have tied the fading Indians for the best winning percentage in the AL (.579), and their +71 run differential is 20 runs better than anyone else. Their lead in the division sits at two games in the loss column.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other stuff.

Up Next

Time for the Yankees to come home. They’ll take Monday off then head to the ballpark on Tuesday to take on the Red Sox. Freddy Garcia will kick the series off against Jon Lester.

Heredia’s big day pushes Tampa to win

Carlos Silva was scratched from today’s start with shoulder stiffness, though Triple-A Scranton manager Dave Miley said he’s just being “pushed back.” Good news for Ivan Nova, I supposed. Austin Romine, meanwhile, has a sore back and neck following a collision at the plate the other day, and he might have a concussion. He’s already seen the team doctor, though there’s no timetable for his return to the lineup.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Toledo)
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K
Ramiro Pena, SS: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – 12 for his last 31 (.387) with three doubles and two homers
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 4, 1 K
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 K
Brandon Laird, 3B: 2 for 3, 1 RBI – 13 for his last 28 (.464) with four doubles and a homer
Jordan Parraz, DH, Kevin Russo, 2B & Dan Brewer, RF: all 0 for 3 – Parraz struck out
Austin Krum, LF: 1 for 3, 1 SB – threw a runner out at second
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3-1 GB/FB – 35 of 51 pitches were strikes (68.6%) … solid job in the spot start for Silva
Ryan Pope, RHP: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-3 GB/FB – 13 of 18 pitches were strikes (72.2%)
George Kontos, RHP: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 15 of 25 pitches were strikes
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K – 12 pitches, ten strikes … he’s been every bit as good as Jon Albaladejo was closing games last year, which is pretty crazy

[Read more…]