Gary Sanchez underwent heart tests

Via George King & Marc Carig, 18-year-old prospect Gary Sanchez recently missed a week of minor league workouts to undergo medical tests on his heart. Nothing serious was discovered, though Brian Cashman wouldn’t say anything beyond acknowledging that Sanchez is fine now. I’m glad he’s okay, but anytime you need to get some test performed on the ol’ ticker, it’s scary. No idea if he’s back in camp yet or if he will be at some point.

(Is it insensitive to plug the Top 30 here? Sanchez did come in at number three after all.)

Open Thread: February 16th Camp Notes

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Here’s today’s news…

Here’s the open thread for the evening. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all in action, but you guys know what to do here. Have at it.

Gardner’s wrist ready for the season

There was a bit of concern about Brett Gardner this winter after he underwent wrist surgery. It wasn’t anything major, but rather a procedure to clean out tendon sheaths that had hampered him in the second half of 2010. As ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews reports, everything is fine and good on Gardner’s end. He’s completely on schedule, and actually held back a little so that he could avoid any setbacks. Says Gardner: “I’ll be ready for Opening Day. No doubt about it.”

Neal’s been Cott

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have cut lefty reliever Neal Cotts. He just wasn’t healthy enough after having Tommy John and hip surgeries in the last two years. The Yanks signed him to a minor league deal back in November, before they inked Andy Sisco and Pedro Feliciano and selected Robert Fish in the Rule 5 Draft. No big loss, obviously.

(Am I on a roll with the cheesy headlines or what?)

Yankees land F. Hernandez

Oh, did you think I meant Felix? Nah, it’s just some guy named Fernando Hernandez. The Yankees inked him to a minor league contract according to Matt Eddy, and I assume he’ll report for duty at either the Double or Triple-A level when the season begins.

Hernandez is not much of a prospect, last appearing in Baseball America’s annual handbook back before the 2008 season. Oakland grabbed him from the White Sox in the Rule 5 Draft that year (ranked 29th in their system), and he made three whole appearances in the show before banished to the minors, from which he’s never returned. Hernandez pitched to a 4.11 FIP (7.56 K/9, 2.91 uIBB/9) in 77.1 IP with the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate last summer, though in 2009 he was quite good: 2.81 FIP with 9.05 K/9, 3.23 uIBB/9, and 0.26 HR/9 in 69.2 IP. Baseball America compared him to Matt Guerrier back in 2008 because he’s a command and control reliever rather than a huge stuff guy.

Food For Thought: Cervelli & Posada

There’s no better PitchFX analyst than Mike Fast, and today he used to the data to look not at pitchers, but catchers. The graph above shows Javy Vazquez‘s called balls and strikes from last season when Frankie Cervelli was catching. It’s not terribly exciting by itself, but it is when you compare it to this graph that shows the same thing with Jorge Posada behind the plate (here’s a gif for easy comparison). Yeah, big difference. Jorge’s pitch-framing abilities have long been in question, but now we’ve got some hard evidence showing just how questionable they were.

Of course, we are looking at a small sample size of data, let’s keep that in mind. Cervelli caught 110.2 of Javy’s innings last year, Posada just 44.2. And we also have to remember that umpires tend to make mistakes, especially when they’re looking over the catcher’s shoulder and the ball is on the corner of the other side of the plate. I’m not making excuses for Jorge, because he’s bad at pretty much everything behind the plate these days, just making sure you’re aware of what’s going on. Anyway, Posada’s not going to do much catching this season, so it’s no longer a concern.

My favorite graph from the post was this one, showing pitch location (horizontally) by age. The older the pitcher, the further away from the middle of the plate they pitch (denoted as 0). If only they knew then what they knew now, eh?

The article does not appear to require a Baseball Prospectus subscription, so now you really have no reason to check it out. Great stuff from Mike.

Joba’s fat: does it matter?

People are paying just a little attention to Joba

Even after the Yankees put an end to the starter/reliever debate, Joba Chamerlain remains the most talked about player on the team. After the team signed Rafael Soriano the discussion centered not on what Soriano brings to the pen — we all knew that — but on what the signing meant for Joba. But that paled in comparison to the attention he has received since reporting to spring training.

It started last week, when Brian Costello of the New York Post, standing at a distance, observed that Chamberlain put on weight. An up-close look confirmed it, but there was an admission that it might not all have been lard. Chamberlain explained that he added a gym to his home that he used to work out all winter. That sounds good, and it speaks to a certain level of commitment to fitness. But the gut we can see, and therefore it is on the gut we will judge.

In his blog this morning, Joel Sherman discusses the loss of faith in Chamberlain, even as his results improved markedly in the second half of 2010. Of course, he opens with an observation about Joba’s weight. He’s above the level where the Yankees would like him, and apparently they don’t buy the added muscle bit. They apparently see a “wider girth.” Brian Cashman added fuel to the fire by repeating the term, “he’s heavier” this morning, without mentioning anything about how it affects the organization’s view of their once top prospect.

Yet I wonder how much Joba’s weight actually matters. Every year we hear about this player or that showing up to camp in the best shape of his life. Does it really mean anything? Last month at FanGraphs Dave Cameron examined the “good shapers,” i.e., players who showed up to camp last year professing their fitness. A few of them did beat expectations, but many others fell right in line or below. As Cameron concludes, “there doesn’t appear to be strong evidence that it is a significant predictor of a strong season on the way.” Why, then, is anyone worrying about Joba?

If Chamberlain is throwing well, how concerned can the Yankees be about his weight? Sherman addressed this point in his blog post this morning: “the early word out of camp is that Chamberlain is throwing the heck out of the ball…word is that the ball is coming out of his hand easy and hard, and if he can do that consistently than [sic] he could probably waddle around for all the Yankees care.” Chamberlain himself addressed the issue, saying he feels “awesome,” and that he’s in better shape than he was last year.

In the early days of spring, we’re all looking for something we can cling to.* With the Yankees, it seems to rotate by the day. On Monday it was CC’s out clause. Yesterday it was A.J. Burnett and his importance to the team. Today it is apparently Joba and his weight. They’re baseball related, and therefore we pay attention. But I’m not sure that this story in particular means much in terms of the 2011 season. All that matters is how Joba performs. One hundred percent of Yankees fans would prefer a fat Chamberlain throwing gas than a svelte Chamberlain serving up gopher balls. The temptation might be to focus on his weight right now, but in a little more than a month it won’t matter one bit.

*Fat joke resisted.