Open Thread: Veterans Day

I just want to take a second to say Happy Veterans Day to all you veterans out there, it’s the brave and wonderful people like you that let wimpy saps like me talk about baseball and post videos of Jonathan Papelbon blowing games against the Yankees all day. You guys are great.

Here’s tonight’s open thread. The Devils and Rangers are both in action tonight, but talk about anything you like here. Especially Papelbon blowing games. We’ll have to watch him do that in the other league now. Some more Papelblown videos after the jump…

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Girardi Stuff: Sabathia, Noesi, Pitching, Coaches, Montero

As the work week winds down, let’s round up some news and notes from Joe Girardi. Marc Carig spoke to the skipper recently, but here’s the really important stuff…

  • “I always thought that he’d be a Yankee and something would be worked out,” said Girardi when asked about re-signing CC Sabathia. “I’m glad I was right. I didn’t want to imagine life without CC.”
  • When asked about potential pitching reinforcements from the minors, the first name out of Girardi’s mouth was Hector Noesi. “Is it the ideal situation where we all think they have enough innings in the minor leagues? Maybe not,” said the skipper. ” Between the regular season and winter ball, Noesi is now up to 102.2 IP this season after throwing 160.1 IP in 2010.
  • Just as Brian Cashman said the other day, Girardi reiterated that it’s still too early in the process for him to begin making recruiting calls to free agents. I suspect we won’t hear about teams (not just the Yankees) getting serious with major free agents until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is announced and everyone knows what’s up.
  • “If he wants to continue to play, and there’s not a spot here, I would encourage him to do it because as a player, you have to make sure all of that is out of you before you decide to retire,” said Girardi when asked about Jorge Posada. Jorge recently said he’s accepted that his Yankees career is over.
  • “I think our guys did a good job last year but these are things we need to sit down and discuss,” said Girardi in reference to his coaching staff. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild and hitting coach Kevin Long are in the middle of multi-year deals, but everyone else’s contract is up.
  • Jesus Montero‘s role next season is still to be determined. He could be the full-time DH, a part-time DH, the backup catcher, whatever you can think up. Girardi did say that Montero’s strong September showing leads him to believe he can have an impact next year.

The RAB Radio Show: November 11, 2011

Today we bring the newest member of RAB, Moshe Mandel, onto the show. It’s nice getting a third voice onto the podcast, at least in terms of recording and discussion. We hope you agree.

  • We lead off with the Yankees’ pursuit of, well, everyone. Are they just feeling out the market, or are they laying big plans?
  • Onto the smaller moves that have happened already, and a bigger one that wasn’t. We talk about how these moves affect the market going forward.
  • Another event that will affect the market: Yu Darvish getting posted. It’s no guarantee but it looks very likely. That will change how teams operate.
  • Caddy for A-Rod? We further the discussion from Mo’s article earlier this week.
  • And plenty of miscellany to fill time.

Podcast run time 42:32

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.

Phillies sign Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon has faced the Yankees 46 times in his career, but it could be a long time until he reaches appearance No. 47. After spending the first seven seasons of his big league career with the Red Sox, Papelbon will pitch for the Phillies in 2012 and beyond. Jim Salisbury of Comcast SportsNet reports that the Phillies have signed Papelbon to be their closer. That pushes out Ryan Madson, with whom the Phillies reportedly had a deal earlier in the week. That apparently was a false report and was never as far along as reports indicted. There’s no word on contract terms yet, but that’s just a matter of time. Papelbon is one face that Yankees fans won’t mind missing, though he has been part to some of our favorite comebacks in the past few years.

Update (2:39 p.m.): Salisbury tweets that the deal is “four years and approaches $50 million.” That’s definitely the kind of payday Papelbon has repeatedly said he seeks in free agency.

Dispelling the RISP Fail myth

Ah, RISP Fail, a phenomenon that really gained traction — merited or not — during the 2010 season. Last year’s team posted a .267/.357/.441 line with runners on, good for a 103 tOPS+, and 12% better than league average (112 sOPS+); and a .258/.363/.420 line with runners in scoring position, which was essentially exactly how they hit in all other situations (100 tOPS+), and a mark 9% better than league average.

While those full-season numbers with runners on and RISP are plenty respectable, the RISP Fail meme grew to apocalyptic proportions during the 2010 season’s final month, as the team hit just .225/.350/.331 (.681 OPS) in 338 September plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Coupled with an anemic offensive performance against Texas in the 2010 ALCS, and the team’s seeming futility with runners in scoring position became an easy scapegoat for the team’s shortcomings.

So was there any truth to this perception? Below are two charts showing the team’s numbers with runners on and with runners in scoring position going back to 2007. As an aside, the reason I’ve chosen 2007 as the cutoff for the majority of the historical team-wide comparisons I’ve been doing thus far is because several seasons worth of data helps detect patterns and/or trends, but going back any further than five years will likely make any conclusions less meaningful given that the composition of both the team and the league was quite a bit different. Even going back to 2007 doesn’t really tell you anything about the 2011 team, but simply showing the 2010 and 2011 numbers paints a fairly limited picture.

Anyway. (click to enlarge)

It turns out the one year fans may have actually had a legitimate gripe regarding the team plating baserunners was 2008, the only season of these five they were below-league average both with runners on and runners in scoring position. Though the 2010 season did end up coming in as the second-lowest of the five in terms of sOPS+, lending perhaps some credence to the frustration with the team’s periodic inability to hit with RISP, at least in comparison to how Yankee teams of recent vintage fared.

Fortunately the 2011 team put the 2010 Yankees to shame when it came to hitting with both men on and runners in scoring position, posting five-year highs in both tOPS+ and sOPS+ in both splits. In fact, they were the second-best hitting team with runners on and the best-hitting team with runners in scoring position compared to the league in 2011:

BOS .294 .364 .474 107 127
NYY .270 .349 .465 106 120
DET .288 .349 .444 105 115
TEX .277 .335 .438 94 110
BAL .266 .329 .432 109 106
CLE .271 .345 .412 113 106
KCR .277 .330 .419 101 103
CHW .259 .333 .401 108 100
TBR .242 .326 .406 102 99
TOR .248 .324 .406 100 98
LAA .252 .316 .406 102 96
OAK .254 .321 .376 105 90
MIN .253 .317 .360 104 85
SEA .241 .307 .357 108 81


NYY .273 .361 .455 108 122
BOS .278 .359 .452 101 121
TEX .285 .354 .450 102 119
DET .280 .350 .426 101 112
CLE .269 .354 .409 115 108
KCR .276 .333 .426 104 107
BAL .263 .332 .416 106 104
OAK .266 .340 .399 118 102
LAA .255 .334 .405 108 102
TOR .237 .331 .387 98 96
CHW .239 .324 .373 98 90
TBR .224 .322 .371 92 89
MIN .248 .319 .354 103 84
SEA .222 .306 .325 98 73

Interestingly, Cleveland of all teams really turned things on when they had runners on, compared to the way they hit in all situations, with an AL-high 113 tOPS+ with men on, and a second-best-in-the-league 115 tOPS+ with runners in scoring position. Strangely enough, Oakland led the league in tOPS+ with RISP, hitting 18% better than usual in these situations, though given their overall season line of .244/.311/.369 that’s still not saying much.

Also, next time you’re concerned about the Yankees’ hitting with RISP, just be glad you’re not a Mariners fan. The folks in Seattle must be among the most patient in the world; I’m not sure how you follow a baseball team that not only put up a .233/.292/.348 line over 162 games, but actually managed to hit 2% worse than that with runners in scoring position.

Mailbag: Aramis, Cuddyer, CC, Brown, Darvish

Got six questions for you this week, covering a wide range of topics. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week, that’s the easiest way to do it.

(Photo Credit:

Chris asks: What kind of contract will Aramis Ramirez get? Is it too soon into the A-Rod deal to bring in someone like Ramirez to play 50 games at 3rd? As Alex declines in his ability to play every day when do the Yankees look to put more than a bench player at 3rd?

I don’t know what kind of deal Ramirez will get, but he’s not going to sign with the Yankees to be a part-time player. Even if you sell him on the idea of being a part-time third baseman and a part-time DH, then you’re blocking Jesus Montero with another guy past him prime. I thought Alex Rodriguez looked fine defensively late in the season and during the playoffs, plus he can still hit (fifth among third baseman in wOBA over the last two years), just not at the absurd level he once did. The problem is staying on the field. Going year-to-year with Eric Chavez types is perfectly fine right now, spending big bucks and locking yourself into more bad contracts is counterproductive.

John asks: Hey guys, I just wondered what you guys thought about signing Michael Cuddyer to a contract as the ultimate utility man? He could be the 4th outfielder, cover A-Rod at third, cover first (if the Yankees trade Nick Swisher) and also get a few at bats at DH. By covering all of those he could get 350-400 at-bats guaranteed. Also if someone went down injured he could get more. What would it take to sign him?

Again, it’s the same thing as Aramis. Cuddyer’s not going to settle for 350-400 at-bats with the Yankees when half the league is willing to play him everyday. Versatility is nice, but he’s nothing special with the glove (at any position) and nothing special against right-handed pitchers (.313 wOBA last two years). You’re again taking playing time from Montero, and again handing out a big contract to a player in his decline phase. Cuddyer’s the kind of guy that will get a three or four year deal, and a year from now the team that signs him will be asking themselves “what have gotten ourselves into?”

The idea of a super-sub has gotten out-of-hand in the last few years, going back to the obsession with Chone Figgins and Mark DeRosa. There’s someone like this every winter. Just sign bench players to be bench players rather than sign an everyday player and pigeon-hole him into a reduced role. That’s better than locking yourself into someone that doesn’t really want to do the job.

John asks: Are you concerned by the new CC Sabathia contract? I am no expert on contracts but I found his contract very interesting in that the option vests once he avoid shoulder injuries over the years – Is this normal for an option? Has he had shoulder issues in the past? Or why would they put that in there? If they were putting conditions in there I would have figured issues with his weight or knee (past issue and weight) over his shoulder?

I’m not at all worried about it, frankly I think that contract was the best case scenario. They only had to add one more guaranteed year, and sixth year option does include some protection against major shoulder injury. Sabathia’s arm has been perfectly healthy throughout his career, with his only two DL stints resulting from oblique strains.

The Yankees probably just put that in there to protect themselves a bit. The guy’s thrown a ton of innings already and figures to throw a ton more during the life of the extension, so I think it’s perfectly reasonable to worry about his health five years from now. Elbows are generally fixable, but shoulders can’t be much more problematic. I’m guessing the Yankees didn’t put any kind of weight clause in there because they feel comfortable about his work ethic and all that, plus his weight is theoretically controllable. The health of his shoulder is pretty much out of everyone’s hands. If it’s going to go, there’s not much they can do about it. I think both sides did very well with the contract, CC got his extra money and the Yankees kept their ace at a reasonable cost.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Sam asks: Would it make sense to trade for Dom Brown and then have him try and re-discover his mojo in AAA? That way, when Swisher’s contract is up next year he could hopefully slot right in.

Oh definitely, I’m a big Domonic Brown fan, I just don’t think the Phillies will trade him. They need to add some cheap pieces around that expensive core, and Brown figures to step right in for the departed Raul Ibanez. He does have big left-handed pop though, and when those bonus Brown-for-Dellin Betances rumors popped up on Twitter before the trade deadline, I prematurely started drooling about Brown and Montero hitting three-four for the next decade.

Matt asks*: Why not play hardball with Yu Darvish? Why not use their best asset (money) while using the posting system to their advantage, i.e. bid $40-50 million for his rights then offer a 5-year $30 million dollar deal. The Yankees could just make it a take it or leave it offer, and if he rejects he heads back to Japan and the Yankees get their posting fee back. They could then do the same thing next year. 

* I had to do some major chopping to get this question down to a reasonable length, but this gets the point across.

As far as I know, there’s nothing actually stopping the Yankees (or any team, really) from doing this, though MLB and NPB can award the player’s negotiating rights to the second highest bidder if they feel the winning team did not act in good faith. This isn’t a video game however, there are reputations and business relationships at stake here. Darvish is represented by Arn Tellem, one of baseball’s most powerful agents. He represents guys like former Yankees Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi (so we know the two sides have a good working relationship already), as well as plenty of other clients, including some of the best players in the game. If the Yankees stonewall Tellem with Darvish, it doesn’t exactly set a good tone for their relationship going forward. I think their overall reputation within the game would take a hit as well.

Remember, negotiations aren’t a “Team vs. Player” situation. It should be two sides working together to make a deal happen, and there’s give and take on both sides. Play hardball with Darvish and coax him into signing an unfair deal, then you’re stuck with an unhappy player.

Dan asks: With the possibility that the Yankees bring back Freddy Garcia and the number of potential back of the rotation pitchers they have in AAA, how likely is it that the Yankees pass on making any major moves this offseason? They could plan to go into this season with a rotation of CC, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, and Garcia and try to get a pitcher like Cole Hamels next offseason to replace Garcia and then maybe Josh Johnson the following year when A.J. comes off the books?

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees didn’t do anything more to shore up the rotation beyond bringing Sweaty Freddy back. That would be a mistake in my opinion, because you can’t count on Garcia repeating what he did last year, nor can you count on Phil Hughes rebounding or A.J. Burnett not sucking. Nova’s not a given to do anything either. I like the depth in Triple-A, but I’d rather not see those guys on April 10th or something. This pitching staff wasn’t a problem in 2011, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in 2012.

Next winter’s crop of free agent pitching is crazy deep, and it’ll continue to be even if a few of those guys sign extensions between now and then. Can’t get Hamels? Then there’s John Danks. Can’t get Matt Cain? There’s Zack Greinke. Or Shaun Marcum. Or Francisco Liriano. The list goes on and on. The Yankees do want to win in 2011 obviously, but Brian Cashman showed tremendous restraint last offseason after losing out on Cliff Lee. I suspect he’ll do the same if nothing to his liking comes along this winter.