Via Tim Dierkes, Ivan Nova has hired Greg Genske of Legacy Sports to be his new agent. He had previously been represented by SFX. CC Sabathia is also a Genske client, and I wonder if he steered Nova in that direction since we know they’re pretty close. The Yankees don’t have to worry about a new contract for their young right-hander anytime soon; Nova can not become a free agent until after the 2016 season. They still have two more years until he’s even arbitration-eligible, so the switch isn’t of much consequence right now.
Back on August 16 I took a look at how the Yankees were faring against the five major pitch types captured by FanGraphs compared to the previous four seasons, and with the season over I wanted to follow up to see how the team finished the year out. Of course, there are a couple of caveats: I’ll be the first to admit that given the already wide gulf between the BIS data collection that FanGraphs uses and the PITCHf/x data that powers Brooks, TexasLeaguers.com and JoeLefkowitz.com — not to mention the fact that the latter three sites have their own classification issues — these numbers are not a 100% perfect representation of what occurred.
Another issue I have with FanGraphs’ BIS data is that four-seamers and two-seamers are all binned under one catch-all “Fastball” category, which seems inherently result-skewing given a two-seamer/sinker’s increased likelihood of generating a ground ball over a four-seamer. You also end up with things like Ian Kennedy — no one’s idea of a particularly overpowering fastball-thrower (avg. vel. 90.3 mph) — leading all of MLB with a 28.7 wFB, due in part to the fact that he threw more two-seamers (36.7%) than four-seamers (29.8%), while Justin Verlander — who probably has the best four-seamer in the game — ended up coming in 3rd, at 25.5 runs above average.
So now that I’ve spent 200 words telling you why you should be wary of the numbers, let’s dive right in, shall we? Until someone comes along with a more reliable freely available system that tallies how teams/players fared against specific pitches, these should at least represent a close approximation of accurate pitch type linear weight results.
The 2011 Yankees creamolished fastballs, but you already knew that. Interestingly they only saw a fastball ~56% of the time, which is a five-year low. At the time of the August 16 post they led all of MLB in wFB/C, but in September the team posted their second-worst monthly wOBA out of the last 66 months dating back to the beginning of the 2001 season, enabling the Rangers and Red Sox to slug past them. The Yankees who performed best against the fastball were Jesus Montero, Andruw Jones and Curtis Granderson. The only member of the everyday lineup with negative run values against the fastball was Jorge Posada.
The team hit sliders well for a second-straight year, and this shouldn’t be a surprise, as they generally seemed to fare pretty well against the heavy fastball-slider types (think Alexi Ogando, Juan Nicasio, Felipe Paulino, etc.) they faced during the season. Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter had the three highest run values against the slider in 2011. Of the lineup regulars, Nick Swisher was the least successful against the slider.
This may be the most surprising chart. The Yankees haven’t posted positive run values against the cutter during any of the last five seasons, and are on a three-year decline against the cut fastball. Unsurprisingly, opponents’ deployment of the cutter is on a five-year increase. I’d imagine that both the decreased effectiveness against and uptick in cutters seen is at least due in part to the fact that the Yankees have to see Jon Lester — who threw the 7th-most cutters in MLB last season and had the 7th-best wCT/C — and Josh Beckett — 16th-most cutters in MLB; 9th-best wCT/C — approximately 8,000 times a season. Also high on the cutters-thrown list are Dan Haren (1st), Gavin Floyd (5th), Josh Tomlin (6th) and John Danks (9th). Despite this cutter issue, Robinson Cano annihilated the pitch, while Posada and Jeter also fared well. As we saw on Wednesday, the cutter has not been kind to Alex Rodriguez of late, and in fact he got positively destroyed by the cutter in 2011, coming in at -3.03 wCT/C — a mark that would have been 7th-worst in baseball had he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
On August 16th the Yankees’ wCB/C was -0.30, but they managed to finish the year at 0.26, representing their biggest improvement of the five pitch types in this post. They also saw a five-year high in curve% this season. Jeter, Nunez and Russell Martin fared best against the curve. Of everyday players, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Tex (-0.35 wCB/C) was the least effective member of the lineup against the hook.
If you were to poll a swath of Yankee fans and ask “which pitch do the Yankees have the hardest time with?” I’d imagine the changeup would be the most popular answer. Though they posted positive run values against the change in 2009 and 2010, anecdotally it feels like we see them flail away at changeups to no avail quite frequently. That said, my view may be somewhat distorted due to the fact that two of the game’s very-best changeup-throwers — Felix Hernandez and James Shields — have owned the Yankees seemingly forever. Though they did shockingly get to Felix for the first time in eons this September, he and Shields have been the Yankees’ greatest foils these last few seasons. Going back to the beginning of the 2008 season, Felix and Big Game James have the top two lowest ERAs (2.82 and 2.91, respectively) against the Yankees among pitchers who have made a minimum of eight starts against the Bombers. That’s insane. Even crazier is that Shields’ mark is across 15 starts to Felix’s eight. Additionally, Shields pitched to a 2.33 ERA over 38 2/3 innings against the Yankees in 2011, the third-lowest ERA among starters that made at least three starts against the team this year.
Gardner, Cano and Granderson were the team’s most effective everyday players against the change, while Russell Martin, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter got destroyed by it. Alex Rodriguez also posted negative run values, so basically if you’re a right-handed pitcher with a great changeup, you’ve got three auto-outs when facing the Yankees. Hopefully Kevin Long can do some work with the Yankees’ right-handed bats to help them combat their offspeed difficulties.
And they’re off. Free agency officially opened this week, and teams are free to negotiate with whomever they please. Of course, we probably won’t see any major moves for another month or so. But we still have plenty to talk about.
- We start with CC Sabathia, who did not become a free agent. Mike and I talk about why this was huge for the Yankees.
- From there there’s a lot of free agent talk. Do any fit for the Yankees?
- Warning: John Danks talk ahead.
- There’s also a decent segment on trading Burnett and what it would take. The chances don’t look great, you guys.
- And there’s a bit on Brackman, plus some optimism about the coming season.
Podcast run time 45:48
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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.
As I mentioned yesterday, the trade market can offer viable alternatives to free agency during the offseason. There aren’t many quality starting pitchers available on the open market this winter, so trades could be the best and most efficient way for the Yankees to improve their rotation for 2012 and beyond.
MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported yesterday afternoon that the Braves have informed teams they’re willing to trade right-hander Jair Jurrjens and utility guy Martin Prado, seeking to gain some financial flexibility. Brian Cashman and Frank Wren have gotten together for just one trade in the past (the ill-fated Javy Vazquez deal two winters ago), but I’m sure their working relationship is fine. Prado is of little interest to us, but Jurrjens is definitely someone worth looking into as a rotation candidate. Let’s see what he has to offer, starting with the positives…
- It feels like he’s been around forever, but Jurrjens is still really young. He’ll turn 26 in January, and he has two years of team control remaining. MLBTR projects a salary of $5.1M next season, which puts him in line for an $8-9M payday in 2013, his final trip through arbitration.
- A true four-pitch pitcher, Jurrjens uses two fastballs in the 88-91 mph range (two- and four-seamer) to set up his low-80’s changeup and high-70’s slider. He’s got good control (2.79 uIBB/9 in the last three years), and the slide-piece is a put-away offering that he’s used to hold right-handed batters to measly .228/.280/.362 batting line with a 3.3 K/uIBB ratio over the last three seasons.
- Jurrjens has had a lot of trouble staying healthy in recent years, missing the final month in both of the last two seasons with right knee problems. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus last September, then dealt with inflammation this August and September. He’s also missed time with an oblique strain (2011), a hamstring strain (2010), and shoulder inflammation (2007 and 2010), limiting him to just 43 starts and 268.1 IP over the last two years.
- That 88-91 mph fastball used to be 92-94 mph, but Jurrjens’ velocity dropped off in a big way in 2011. The velocity graph is quite scary, actually. His offspeed stuff isn’t enough to compensate, which is why left-handed batters have tagged him for a healthy .273/.349/.424 batting line with a 1.4 K/uIBB ratio over the last three seasons.
- Jurrjens is a fly ball pitcher (41.9% grounders last three seasons) and his strikeout numbers are not great (6.11 K/9 with 8.1% swings-and-misses last three seasons). That’s why there’s a considerable gap between his 3.20 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and 4.27 xFIP since the start of the 2009 season.
Bowman’s article says the Braves have already talked to the Royals about a Jurrjens trade, asking about upper-level bats like Wil Myers and Lorenzo Cain. Myers is one of the better prospects in the baseball and Cain is a big league ready center fielder, so that seems a little rich. The point is, they obviously want young position players in return, and the Yankees really aren’t loaded in that department outside of Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, and maybe Brandon Laird or Eduardo Nunez if you squint your eyes and look real hard.
Atlanta traded Derek Lowe earlier this week, so I find it pretty surprising that they’re willing to trade another one of their big league starters. They obviously have a lot of confidence in the young kids they have coming up (Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, and former Yankee farmhand Arodys Vizcaino), but isn’t this also a bit of a red flag? It’s not like Jurrjens is making a ton of money. Some guys peak early, and I’m worried that the Braves realize this and are trying to move him before his value declines any further.
There are two major red flags here as far as I’m concerned: the velocity drop and all the injury problems, specifically the recurring knee issues. The two problems might be related, since it is his push-off leg. If he can’t push-off properly, you have to worry about him overcompensating and possibly hurting his arm. You want to like Jurrjens, a young hurler who’s put up a sub-3.00 ERA in two of the last three seasons, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Given the injuries, underwhelming peripherals, and declining velocity, I really have a hard time valuing Jurrjens as anything more than a glorified Phil Hughes, and the Yankees don’t need another guy like that at this point.
I was in the writing mood when I put this together yesterday, so you’re getting seven questions and close to 2,000 words worth of mailbag this morning. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions.
Many, many people asked: What about Grady Sizemore in some capacity?
The vast majority of the questions we got this week were about Sizemore, either as a fourth outfielder or a full-time corner guy with Nick Swisher or Brett Gardner being traded away. From 2005-2008, Sizemore was arguably the best player in the game, hitting .281/.372/.496 (.376 wOBA) with power (107 homers) and speed (115 steals) to go along with very strong defense in center field. His 27.4 fWAR and 24.4 bWAR during those four years were both the fourth highest in the game. He’s a free agent because the Tribe declined his $9M club option earlier in the week.
The now 29-year-old Sizemore is a shell of his former self due to injuries, specifically to his knees. He had microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2010 (and then some setbacks), and had an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee just a few weeks ago. He’s also needed surgery for two sports hernias (2009 and 2011) and for a debridement in his elbow (2009). All those injuries have limited Sizemore to just 210 games over the last three years (no more than 106 in a single season), during which time he’s hit .234/.314/.413 without any of the speed he showed before (just 17-for-29 in steal attempts). Over the last two years, it’s a .220/.280/.379 line with four steals in eight attempts in 104 games.
I don’t see the fourth outfielder thing working for the Yankees because he’s a left-handed hitter, and they have enough of those in the outfield already. They need a right-handed bat that can step into the lineup against tough southpaws, especially the AL East guys like David Price, Jon Lester, and Ricky Romero. I also don’t see any reason to believe that Sizemore can hold up for a full season playing everyday, he hasn’t done that in three years now. He’s a sexy name because he was legitimately one of the best players in the sport at one time, but Sizemore isn’t that guy anymore and there’s not much evidence that he’s coming back. I expect him to sign with some team that guarantees him a bunch of playing time, then is left scrambling when he gets hurt again.
Ed asks: Let’s say the Rockies non-tender Ryan Spilborghs this offseason, should the Yanks sign him to replace Andruw Jones for the 2012 season? Spilborghs has a career .277/.357/.443 line against lefties, and is a decent fielder.
Spilborghs is okay, but he got wildly overrated a few years ago because he had some dramatic hits during the Rockies’ run to the World Series in 2007. I don’t even think he even qualifies as a platoon bat anymore, he’s hit just .236/.332/.401 against lefties over the last three seasons (.258/.317/.384 vs. RHP), so the majority of his career damage against southpaws came 4+ years ago. Spilborghs is a big step down from Jones, who works the count well and (more importantly) can really hit for power.
As an aside, my all-time favorite Ryan Spilborghs moment was when Woody Paige said the Rockies should trade Matt Holliday (in June 2008) so Spilborghs could become “a full-time starting outfielder who could be the next Holliday.” Nice thought, if it wasn’t for the fact that Spliborghs is four months older than Holliday. Fire Joe Morgan did a number on that one.
The Players Choice Awards were handed out tonight, and Curtis Granderson was named the 2011 AL Outstanding Player of the Year. He beat out Jose Bautista and Adrian Gonzalez for the award. Bartolo Colon was nominated for AL Comeback Player of the Year, but he lost out to Jacoby Ellsbury. No shame in that. Chad Jennings has the full list of winners, which were voted on by the players (hence Players Choice Awards). Congrats to the Grandyman on the well-deserved honor.