As 2008 draws to a close, let’s ring in the New Year and this open thread with a look at RAB’s top ten posts of 2008. After the list, use this thread as a general open thread. Have a safe and happy New Year. We’ll see you tomorrow in 2009.

1. Watch the nine-minute Venditte fiasco
Everyone loves a sideshow, and apparently everyone loves ambidextrous pitchers facing switch hitters as well.

2. Inside the new Yankee Stadium
In March, the Yanks unveiled some fairly detailed renderings of the steakhouse, martini bar and premium seating suites inside the new Yankee Stadium. We went for a digital tour.

3. The Free Agent Starter Debate: Sheets vs Burnett
A few weeks before the Yankees signed A.J. Burnett to a five-year deal, we decided that Ben Sheets would be the safer bet. Sheets, by the way, is still unsigned and is the subject of few rumors these days.

4. ESPN: Yanks acquire Swisher
In early November, long before the Yanks decided they needed to acquire everyone this off-season, they made the first splash of the Hot Stove League by trading for Nick Swisher. We had all the news.

5. Yanks seemingly rule out Sheets
The Yankees ruled out Ben Sheets. This, apparently, was our fifth most popular post of 2008, and it almost qualifies as anti-news. Who knew?

6. Preseason Top 30 Prospects
Mike unveiled his preseason rankings of the Yanks’ top 30 prospects, and everyone wanted to talk about it.

7. What about Swish?
One week before the Yanks went out and landed themselves Nick Swisher (see number 4, above), Mike urged Brian Cashman to do just that. We could be the Yanks’ GM.

8. Game 112: Hot hot hot
The only game thread to make this list just happened to be the one in which Joba Chamberlain left his start against the Rangers with a shoulder injury. Over the last two seasons, the Yanks have lost Joba, Phil Hughes and Chien Ming Wang to injuries while playing in the great state of Texas. Coincidence? I think not.

9. What would happen if the Yankees didn’t bring back Derek Jeter?
For better or worse, the fate of Derek Jeter will continue to be a hot topic of conversation over the next two seasons.

10. Where’s CC?
Four different reporters had CC Sabathia in four different locations over one weekend in November. We got a good laugh out of that one.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (146)
  • MLB Network set to debut tomorrow
    By

    If you’re looking for a way to kill your hangover spend New Years day, check out the new MLB Network. Baseball’s own TV channel debuts tomorrow at 6 p.m. with a Hot Stove League show. At 7 p.m., catch a retransmission of the original broadcast of Don Larsen’s perfect game followed by an interview with Yogi and Don. It’s hard to beat baseball on a Thursday in January. · (35) ·

Garrison Lassiter | SS

Background
Lassiter grew up in High Point, NC, just outside of Greensboro and Winston-Salem, where he attended West Forsyth High School. He had been “a guy,” as scouts call them, for several years, having played on the American Legion senior team as a 14 yr old after starring for years on AAU and UAAA teams. As a junior he hit .413 with 5 homers and 34 RBI, and he followed that up by hitting .500 with USA Baseball’s Junior National Team during the summer, where he was one of 20 players to make the team. He also participated in the prestigious Aflac All-American Game.

Lassiter hit .468 as a senior for the Titans, stealing 21 bases and scoring 29 runs in the process. He drove in the game winning run with a triple off the wall in the left-centerfield gap in the North Carolina vs South Carolina Senior Challenge in his last game as an amateur. Larrister was part of a powerful UNC recruiting class that included Tim Melville (Royals’ fourth rounder, but a top 15 talent), Derrik Gibson (BoSox’s second rounder), and LJ Hoes (O’s third rounder).

His commitment to the Tar Heels caused him to drop big time in the draft; Lassiter lasted until the Yanks bit in the 27th round, #830 overall. Considered a low priority guy, the Yanks ramped up their effort to sign him after first rounder Gerrit Cole decided to follow through on his commitment to UCLA. Lassiter signed late on the August 15th deadline for $675,000, equivalent to slot money for a mid-second round pick.

Pro Debut
Because he signed late, Lassiter appeared in only six games for the Rookie level GCL Yanks. He went 3 for 4 with an RBI and a stolen base in his first game as a pro, following it up with a 2 for 4 effort the next day. He finished up with a .261-.292-.261 line in 23 at-bats.

Scouting Report
The first thing everyone notices about Lassiter is his swing; he has a sweet stroke from the left side and outstanding bat speed. It allows him to hit for average and more power than expected out of a typical middle infielder. Standing very upright and slightly open in his stance, Lassiter uses a pronounced leg kick as a timing mechanicm, similar to Johnny Damon. His approach at the plate is unrefined and will need improvement, particularly for when he climbs the ladder and faces better pitching.

Lassiter has good actions and is athletic in the field, but he has to improve his hands and footwork. His strong and accurate arm is his best defensive attribute. Like his plate approach, his fielding skills need work. Listed at 6’1″, 185 lbs, there are no concerns that he’ll outgrow shortstop, however if he doesn’t improve his fielding enough he will have to move to either second or third. His speed is good and he’s a weapon on the basepaths.

You can see his MLB Scouting Bureau video here, and his video from various high school showcases here.

2009 Outlook
Although he could probably hold his own in full season ball because of his pure bat skills, Lassiter should start 2009 in Extended Spring Training to work on his plate approach and fielding. With Carmen Angelini set to repeat Low-A Charleston, Lassiter could move on to Short Season Staten Island when the season starts in June, or perhaps take over at short for the River Dogs if Angelini earns a midseason promotion to High-A Tampa.

My Take
You gotta love it. Anytime you get a player and prospect with this kind of ability in the 27th round you can’t not approve. Lassiter has star potential if everything clicks, but he’ll more than likely end up a solid regular, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It should be noted that he’s a bit of a project, and will likely need a full year at each level as he moves up the organizational ladder.

Categories : Prospect Profiles
Comments (33)
  • Manny probably won’t retire after all
    By

    Now that Manny Ramirez and Scott Boras know that the market for the slugger isn’t as robust as they hoped, the dynamic duo has gone crawling back to the Dodgers. While Boras still contends that a market for Manny will soon materialize, I wonder if they’ll be able to get the Dodgers to put that generous two-year, $45-million offer back on the table. Everyone in baseball knows that Ned Colletti will be competing with himself for the services of Ramirez. · (30) ·

On December 1, 24 players were offered arbitration. Only two of them — Darren Oliver and David Weathers, both relievers — accepted. Of the remaining 22, six have signed, three with the Yankees. We’ve heard names like Manny Ramirez, Brian Fuentes, Derek Lowe, and Milton Bradley discussed, but nothing seems imminent. Would some of them have fared better by accepting arbitration and re-entering the free agent pool next winter?

Fred Claire tackled the topic at the end of his latest article. It deals with the free agent class of 2009, noting that it’s not nearly as top-heavy as this year’s talent. The top pitcher, John Lackey, might not even make it to free agency. Matt Holliday is a very good hitter, but after him there’s not much unless Vlad Guerrero can stay healthy. That is, unless you count Chipper Jones, who is a decently safe bet to stay with Atlanta.

So why didn’t a few more free agents accept arbitration this year and hope for better conditions next year?

“I was particularly surprised that so many ranking free agents refused arbitration,” observed a general manager. “It would seem that next offseason would be a better marketplace from a player’s perspective. I think a few agents didn’t offer the best advice to their clients [at the arbitration deadline on Dec. 7.]”

Is it really going to be a better market, though? There might not be as high end talent available after the 2009 season, but for the most part the unsigned guys who declined arbitration either are getting on in years or aren’t top-tier guys. The older guys want their final multi-year contracts, and the second- and third-tier guys don’t necessarily stand a better chance next winter. Maybe economic conditions improve and teams can spend a bit more. But with attendance forecasted to take a hit next year, is that a likely scenario?

No, for the most part I don’t blame these guys for declining arbitration. It’s worked for CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, Raul Ibanez, Casey Blake, and Francisco Rodriguez. I’m sure Ben Sheets, Derek Lowe, Orlando Hudson, Oliver Perez, etc. will find buyers for their services.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (45)

Earlier today I posted a breakdown of how much value the 2008 Yanks’ offense provided, and shortly after that I received an email from reader Diony, basically asking how much of an upgrade Mark Teixeira is over Giambi. Using the same Fangraphs data I used in the post earlier today, let’s take a look.

Mark Teixeira
Batting
: +45.7 / +35.0
Fielding: +11.7 / +2.1
Replacement: +22.8 / +22.1
Positional: -12.2 / -11.7
Value Runs: +68.0 / +47.6
Value Wins: 6.8 / +4.8
Value: $30.5M / $19.6M

Jason Giambi
Batting
: +21.5 / +19.9
Fielding: -1.8 / -2.6
Replacement: +18.8 / +16.1
Positional: -12.0 / -11.1
Value Runs: +26.5 / +22.2
Value Wins: +2.7 / +2.2
Value: $11.9 / $8.8M

The first number is the player’s 2008 stats, the second number (after the slash) are their average over the last three years. The most cited difference between the two players is defense. Last year there was a 13.5 run difference between the two, nearly one and a half wins. Over the last three years that difference is just 4.7 runs, but remember that Giambi is going to 38 in a week while Tex is still in his prime. It’s not unreasonable to expect Tex to maintain that 13.5 run difference. For arguments’ sake, let’s round it down to 10 runs, or one win.

Offensively, the difference between the two is Tex’s ability to hit for average, which also gives him an advantage in slugging percentage. As you can see, Tex has been more than 15 runs better than Giambi over the last three years, and nearly 25 runs better last year. If you want to split the middle and say Tex is expected to be 20 runs more productive than Giambi next year, I think that’s fair.

So add it up: 10 runs (defense) + 20 runs (offense) = 30 run upgrade, or 3 wins

Three wins is a ginormous upgrade. It’s ever so slighty more than the difference between Marco Scutaro and A-Rod last year, and just a tad less than the difference between Melky and Matt Kemp. Sure the homer and RBI numbers might not look much different, and obviously this is just a quick-and-dirty analysis, but don’t kid yourself. Replacing 38 year old Jason Giambi with 29 year old Mark Teixeira is a massive upgrade for the 2009 Yankees.

Use this as your open thread for the evening. The Knicks are in Charlotte, and the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (Ok. State vs Oregon) is on as well. I’ll be watching House. Make sure you check out Blueseat Blogs as well, I’m filling in this week while Dave’s on vacation. Okay, you know the routine. Have fun, play nice.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (290)

We missed last week because of Christmas, but Mike and I are back this week a bit earlier than our normal Thursday spot. As you know, there was a major deal last week in which the Yankees acquired a top-tier first baseman. Mark Teixeira is now in the fold for eight years and $180 million. Mike and I talk the deal and how it went down.

From there we move onto the roster implications this move creates. Do the Yanks trade an outfielder or hold onto the depth? Do they keep their $10 million offer to Pettitte on the table, or do they pull it and have a fifth starter competition? Do they bat Tex third or fourth? Some of these questions are more important than others, but they’re all ones the team will face prior to April 6.

Since we had some time, we decided to talk salary cap, since a couple of owners decided that since the Yankees have the same payroll as last year, there should be a cap. There are plenty of arguments here, but in the end Mike and I just can’t support a cap. If anything, a cap is just a red herring. The real issue is the management of smaller market teams.

Onto the podcast. It is available in a number of formats. You can download it here by right clicking on that link and selecting Save As. If you want to play it in your browser, just left click the link. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, which will send it to you every Thursday. You can also subscribe in iTunes. Finally, we have the embedded audio player below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

We appreciate any feedback. You can leave it in the comments or email either of us.

Categories : Podcast
Comments (20)
Dec
30

Bang for the Yanks’ buck

By in Analysis. · Comments (66) ·

Fangraphs is great, and continues to get better. While B-Ref is still the undisputed king of … well … baseball reference sites, Fangraphs has established itself as the clear #2 thanks to its assortment of advanced statistics, including those pertaining to plate discipline, win probability and defense. Last week they added a new replacement level section for hitters, and included in it is a cool little feature that represents how much money the player is worth based on how many wins they provide above a replacement player.

Essentially, this value is determined by adding up how many runs the player adds over one of those mythical replacement level players in terms of hitting and defense (runs saved, in this case). The numbers are adjusted for park effects and position, so a first basemen in a small park needs to do more to provide positive value than, say, a shortstop in a big park. Here’s a quick example:

Ryan Howard
Batting: +22.3 runs
Fielding: +0.8 runs
Position Adjustment: -12.6 runs
Replacement Level: +23.3 runs
Total: +33.9 runs

Howard produced 22.3 offensive runs above replacement level in 2008, and his defense was ever so slighty above RL at 0.8 runs. His position works against him, taking away 12.6 runs. Add it all up (including a replacement level first basemen’s output to get his total contribution), and Ryan Howard was worth 33.9 runs last year. Ten runs approximately equals one win, so he was worth 3.39 wins. 2008 wins were worth $4.5M (according to the Fangraphs guys), so Ryan Howard provided the Phils’ $15.2M worth of value, $5.2M more than his actual salary. Now take a look at another player for a quick comparison:

JJ Hardy
Batting: +16.3 runs
Fielding: +11.6 runs
Position Adjustment: +6.8 runs
Replacement Level: +21.0 runs
Total: +55.6 runs
Value: $25.0M

So because he provided well above average offense and defense at an important (actually the most important) position, Hardy’s value to his team was nearly 65% more than Howard’s. That might be hard to grasp because of Howard’s gaudy HR and RBI totals, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in baseball. Check out Albert Pujols; dude was worth $40.5M last year, or 291.4% more than his actual salary. Insane.

Using this cool little analysis, we can determine which Yankees’ players provided the most bang for the buck last season. Data is available for hitters only, so we won’t be able to get an idea of how much value the Yanks got out of their arms in relation to their salary. Perhaps another time.

A really big table is after the jump.

Read More→

Categories : Analysis
Comments (66)
Dec
30

A Joba musing

By in Pitching. Tags: · Comments (43) ·

Remember the glory days of the Winter of 2007/2008 when some people thought missing out on Johan Santana was the end of the world? Well, it turns out it was just part of the master plan to sign every free agent in baseball this year.

But beyond the Santana talk last year, the Great Joba Debate was par for the course. Barely a day went by without some fight about Joba’s pitching out of the pen as opposed to the rotation. Nowadays, while we sometimes get a random “Joba to the pen” comment, mostly silence greets news about Chamberlain.

Nothing was more indicative of that silence than the reception a massive if unoriginal article from Saturday’s Daily News received. That reception was a big nothing. The article, relying mostly on Joba’s mom, talks about addiction in the Native American community and Joba’s confronting success on the big stage. It is, in other words, exactly what you would expect and nothing very compelling.

As I was reading over the Yankee news last night, I came across a Joba-centric post on Bleacher Report. There, Sean Serritella writes that Joba may, in a way, be the biggest beneficiary of the Yanks’ off-season spending. “I feel it’s good that Joba won’t be the center of attention,” he writes. “There will be less pressure on him and a lot of pressure on the two big-named free agents that just signed. Joba can now go out and pitch his game whether it’s in the bullpen or the starting rotation.”

That game, to deal with the final sentence, will be out of the starting rotation. The Yankees are very unequivocal about that. But that note aside, Serritella makes a good point. The spotlight won’t be on Joba Chamberlain as the season starts. It will very squarely be on A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. At this stage in his career, that is a very good development for a pitcher that has earned himself some weighty labels and expectations with just over 124 innings under his belt.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (43)
  • Bernie hurt in winter ball
    By

    Via PeteAbe, Bernie Williams suffered what was described as a serious quad injury while playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. Bernie was trying to win a spot on a Puerto Rican WBC team, but it looks like this injury ends the comeback attempt. I was rooting for Bernie to make the team just to see him play one more time, and I wish him a speedy recovery. Bernie had been 1 for 7 with two strikeouts before the injury. · (22) ·