The Yankees spent hundreds of millions of dollars on players outside the organization this winter to improve their starting rotation and their lineup. Yet they spent zero dollars on players outside the organization to improve the bullpen. For some, this might be cause for worry. We’ve seen the Yanks have some pretty bad bullpens in the past half decade, and one year with a solid pen might not do much to alleviate concern. However, as we’ve said repeatedly in this space, the Yankees have little to worry about with their 2009 relief pitchers.
The argument we most frequently employ is that the Yankees are going with the San Diego Padres method of building a bullpen: find as many capable arms as possible and make sure you have some flexibility with them. If some guys stumble out of the gate, they can be replaced by eager relievers in AAA. In other words, there are cases like Heath Bell out there, and you don’t find them by signing big-name relievers to fill your pen.
(Also, go me for picking three guys who put up above-average numbers out of the pen in 2008, including one monster year from Balfour.)
There’s another argument to be made for the Yanks’ above-average and underrated bullpen. Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Boxscore takes care of it for us. It revolves around FIP and Runs Above Replacement, so it covers the sabermetric ground where our argument does not. The bad news: Joba Chamberlain is on his list. The good news: The list also contains a number of players projected to have quality FIP numbers, as well as Runs Above Replacement figures.
As is always the case with BtB, the whole article is worth a read. Sky mentions that the Yankees had the best Runs Above Replacement total from their relievers in 2008, though they did pitch the most innings (higher is better in this situation). He then uses that league-leading figure to show how the bullpen is overrated. The team with the leading RAR in offense was Boston with 332, and the leader from the rotation was Toronto with 216. So the best rotation saved over three times as many runs above replacement as the best bullpen. Hmm…I wonder if we can apply this stat to any other argument…
This Angel Presinal story just won’t go away, and something about it makes me think that it might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. The vast majority of fans may no longer care, but this wide-reaching story has the potential to impact many of the game’s top current players. It might end up another tabloid-inspired red herring, but it also may make league and PA officials rethink their PED responses.
To recap: The fun started on Friday when the Daily News recapped an old revelation that A-Rod had trained with Angel Presinal in 2007, a few months before he appeared in the Mitchell Report. On Saturday, David Ortiz and Robinson Cano defended Presinal from hearsay anonymous accusations and not-so-veiled attacks on his character. As RAB commenter J.R. noted, Ortiz’s words, coming from a rival team, seemed to carry some weight.
But yesterday, two more stories broke that could trigger an avalanche, if not an investigation. In a four-page feature, the Daily News, filing the story from the Dominican Republic and New York, reported that Presinal is a PED pusher and has a way of ensuring that players pass their tests:
According to a former baseball scout, who worked with players who trained with Presinal in the Dominican, Presinal provided some players with steroids. The former scout declined to be named in this story but says that players refer to Presinal as “The Cleaner,” someone who can rid traces of steroids from the players’ urine before a drug test.
“He puts them through a cycle and then they flush the body out,” the former scout said. “If you’re afraid of testing positive, this is the guy to go to.” He said players are afraid to discuss Presinal because they depend on his expertise as a trainer. It is also expensive to work with Presinal, according to the former scout, who says the trainer charges as much as $10,000 for an offseason session.
Who knows if this is true? Who knows if these aren’t the words of a scout disgruntled with Presinal? As far as I know, MLB testing is random so players wouldn’t have the time to flush their system prior to a scheduled test. But if true, these are allegations that will spur another thorough investigation into the current state of drug use in the game instead of some misguided George Mitchell-led effort to stir up the past.
Furthermore, the Daily News also reported this weekend that Presinal won’t be training the DR team at the 2009 WBC. He is officially persona non grata from organized baseball, and the current players who train with him should probably rethink that decision.
When all is said and done, these recent developments may push baseball into further addressing PED use today. For the last three of four years, baseball officials and reporters have been singularly focused on outing past drug use, and while extensive testing programs are now in place, this story has become more about exposing and attempting to atone for the past than it has been about cleaning up the present. Those of us who care, even a little bit, about the drug issue may find a current scandal all the motivation for a better fix.
Anyway, that’s that. Games start on Thursday. Maybe we can put all of this nasty business behind, but something tells me this story is here to stay this year.
As Mike mentioned in the open thread, game action is starting a bit early this year. That’s because of the World Baseball Classic, an event which MLB officials attempt to hype, and about which the American public, from what I can gather, doesn’t care for the most part.
I understand MLB’s desire to see this tournament succeed. They think it can get people around the world hyped about baseball the same way they’re hyped about soccer and specifically the World Cup. While the WBC will never be the World Cup, it could be a successful tournament if it were run properly. Unfortunately, there are a few too many snags at this point for it to be feasible.
Most notable is the detriment it causes to MLB teams. Yes, the opening of the season might be delayed by a few days, but that won’t give the WBC players the time in camp they’re used to. Players don’t show up in mid-February just because. They show up to be around the team and to get in shape for the new season. The WBC represents practice for these players, but it’s not practice with their respective teams. Exactly how important that is I don’t know, but it has to be of some significance. This goes especially for catchers, who are tasked with learning an entire pitching staff in a month and a half.
Pitchers, though, seem to suffer the most harm from WBC participation. Just look back to 2006 and you can see what I’m talking about. A number of pitchers who participated in the WBC either befell injury or had horrible years. This is why I’m thankful that the Yankees aren’t sending any of their arms to the international tournament. They’re keeping them in camp where they can monitor their workload and ensure that they perform at peak ability for the 2009 team. That is, after all, what they’re paid for, and the entire reason why they were selected to the WBC in the first place.
Look at the starters for Team USA in 2006: Roger Clemens, Jake Peavy, Dontrelle Willis. Roger pulled his half-year thing with Houston that year, so we’ll set him aside. Dontrelle Willis had a superb 2005, and if not for Chris Carpenter would have won the NL Cy Young award. Yet in 2006 he faltered a bit. Yes, he pitched 223.1 innings and threw to a 3.87 ERA. That doesn’t sound bad on the surface, but his walks shot up from 55 in 236 innings in 2005 to 83 in 2006. That brought his WHIP up to the 1.4 range, making his ERA seem out of line with his actual output (true, true, his FIP was 4.31). This set the stage for his bed-crapping in 2007, and his injury-riddled 2008.
Jake Peavy has had exactly one bad year since 2003, and you’ll never believe what year it was. Yep, 2006. In the years 2004 through 2008 he had an ERA over 2.88 just once. His walks, hits allowed, and home runs allowed were far out of line with his career totals. Thankfully for him and the Padres, he rebounded with a Cy Young performance in 2007.
Not satisfied with a two-player sample? Bartolo Colon pitched 222.2 innings in 2005, (undeservingly) winning the Cy Young. After pitching for the Dominican Republic in 2006 managed just 56.1 innings in the majors, succumbing to injuries. He hasn’t crossed the 100-inning barrier since. Jae Seo threw 90.1 innings of 2.59 ERA ball for the Mets in 2005, but after participating in the WBC he managed a 4.56 ERA in 2006 split between the Dodgers and Rays. Joel Pineiro, while crappy in 2005, was even crappier in 2006.
Clearly, there were players who weren’t adversely affected by the tournament. Kelvim Escobar, coming off an injury in 2005, pitched 189.1 stellar innings after a WBC appearance in 2006. Erik Bedard lowered his ERA by a quarter point and pitched 50 more innings after a WBC stint. Yet, despite these improvements, the trend tends to be that if you pitch in the WBC, you’ll see diminished returns during that season.
I’m glad, then, that the Yankees’ pitchers are staying in camp and working like a normal Spring Training. Like the Hall of Fame, I don’t get much enjoyment out of the WBC. It seems like a marketing ploy by MLB. Get the best players in the world together every three years and drum up worldwide interest in the sport. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the end they will achieve. It looks like the timing of the tournament might have a generally detrimental effect on pitchers, which doesn’t bode well for the games that actually count. Clearly, we’ll need a larger sample to make any definitive conclusions, but considering the results from 2006, I couldn’t be happier that the Yankees’ pitchers will go through the spring supervised by team personnel.
In the PeteAbe post to which Mike linked earlier today, we learn more than just who will pitch next week. Additionally, Abraham tells us that Edwar Ramirez is suffering from soreness is his throwing shoulder. While aches and pains are normal this time of year, Ramirez’s potential injury just goes to show how easy it will be for another Yankee pitcher — Phil Coke, Mark Melancon — to earn his chance to shine in the Bronx this year. A team can never have too much bullpen depth. · (29) ·
The Yanks have announced who will be starting their first four exhibition games next week; allow me to quote PeteAbe:
Wednesday at Toronto: Brett Tomko
Thursday vs. Tampa: Phil Hughes
Friday at Minnesota: Ian Kennedy
Saturday vs. Minnesota: Joba Chamberlain
According the the YES Network’s site, Thursday’s and Saturday’s game will be on TV. So that’s right, in four days we’ll get to see Phil Hughes make a start againt the defending AL Champs, then two days later we’ll see Jobamania. Awesome. Just awesome.
With the exception of Joba, the regular starting rotation is being held back a week. CC Sabathia will make his first spring start on March 6th, which puts him on track to start Opening Day in Baltimore. Joba’s second spring start would come on March 5th, lining him up with the fifth spot in the rotation. No surprise really, but this kinda confirms it.
Anyway, here’s the open thread for the night. Talk about whatever, just be cool about it.
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus posted his list of the Yanks’ top eleven prospects today, with Jesus Montero beating out Austin Jackson for the top spot. Montero & Jackson were the system’s only five star prospects, and where followed by a ton of three star guys. I think that’s a little generous, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Jackson rated as a four star guy. McAllister’s a little too low in my opinion, but nothing crazy.
Eric at Pending Pinstripes posted his top thirty list as well. Make sure you check it out. For comparison’s sake, here’s my list. · (38) ·
While slogging my way through the grit-inspired book authored by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, I came across an interesting two paragraphs on a move in 2002 that could have change Yankee history. While the Yankee Front Office signed Rondell White to a forgettable two-year, $5-million contract, new Yankee Jason Giambi and then-manager Torre wanted to sign a different player to fill the left field gap.
“The one I was interested in,” Torre said, “was Johnny Damon.” Verducci eleaborates on page 170:
As the Yankees were wrapping up the Giambi negotiations, Giambi lobbied the Yankees to sign his buddy Damon to play left field. The Yankees decided they had a better idea; they signed Rondell White for $10 million over two years, leaving Damon to sign four days later with the Red Sox for $31 million over four years.
“Giambi tried to talk them into signing me,” Damon said. “Rondell beat me to the punch. I heard there was one person who didn’t want me there.” Damon declined to identify the person with the Yankees who did not want him.”
While it’s easy to chalk this one up to revisionist Joe Torre history, from the sound of it, Ddamon would have come to New York, and some members of the organization wanted him. Why they never signed him in 2002 will long remain a mystery, but it certainly had a lasting impact on Yankee history.
Had the Yanks signed Damon, he wouldn’t have been on the 2004 Red Sox, and the odds are good that the Yanks wouldn’t have even been in a position to blow a 3-0 lead. That they went with White over Damon probably stands as one of the bigger, if lesser known, mistakes of the last decade.
Last year wasn’t the smoothest debut for Joe Girardi. He helmed a team which got off to a slow start, suffered a number of significant injuries, and in the end didn’t make the playoffs for the first time since 1994 (1993?). He also had a tumultuous relationship with the press, so that means we get to see a number of stories about how Girardi needs to adapt and learn to relate to people, players and media alike. Most of us know the media’s take of Girardi via PeteAbe, who was up front in his criticism of the manager. Today, he writes of how Girardi is changing.
One the problems, as Tony Pena points out and Giradi confirms, is the way he spent his time last season.
“Joe is Joe; you can’t change your personality. But I think he has learned that sometimes you have to spend your time in different ways,” said Tony Pena, Girardi’s new bench coach. “I see him doing things he didn’t do last year, making those gestures. It’s good.”
“Oh, sure, I have to do a better job of that. It can’t be all managing the game. I have to improve the relationships, and finding that balance has to happen every single day,” he said.
I think Girardi proved himself year a game manager. His bullpen management was a breath of fresh air. We had a few complaints about his ever-fluctuating lineups, but part of that was out of necessity. In any case, he seemed to change his approach later in the season, consistently trotting out the team’s “A” lineup. That’s not necessary all the time, of course — the team’s back was against the wall in August. It did show that the manager is willing to adapt, and that’s an important part of the managerial game.
As a manager of people, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how effective he was last year. The media didn’t appreciate him not being truthful about injuries, so their criticism of him has to be viewed with that bias in mind. Yet it seems a few of the players had cause for concern as well. Jorge Posada noted that “it doesn’t always add up the way you want. You have to account for personalities.” Johnny Damon thinks it’s all good, at least right now: “”Everything has been cool. He has made tremendous strides in talking to people, from the top players to the guys who don’t have a shot.”
I was excited when the Yankees hired Girardi after the 2007 season, and one rough season (by Yankees standards) isn’t deflating that at all. He can certainly be the man to lead this team to a championship. By all accounts, he’s working his hardest to do just that.
Just to round off the early Sunday morning, Ken Davidoff caught up with Rob Crawford, elementary school teacher and vice president of Red Sox Nation. Whatever that means. Davidoff wanted get an idea of Fenway’s eventual reaction to A-Rod on April 24, but Crawford thinks they’ll hold just as much for Mark Teixeira, the one who got away. It will make for an interesting atmosphere when the Yankees send up their three and four hitters. Both were rumored to be Red Sox, but both ended up in pinstripes. “We really thought we had him,” said Crawford. · (74) ·
The Yanks got to suffer through the spring ritual of picture day last week, and while I don’t really know what happens with these pictures, the results sure are bizarre. The Sports Hernia took a look at some of the stranger and more humorous photos. Andy Pettitte looks might surprised to see the camera, and Derek appears, well, just vacant. For more, check out Getty Images. CC Sabathia looks either very happy or rather pensive. · (29) ·