• Wrapping up the Stadium hearings

    With Yankee President Randy Levine’s tardiness in responding to his subpoena kicking things off yesterday, the New York State Assembly’s Yankee Stadium hearings were unfriendly and downright tense. There were some nasty back-and-forths between Levine and Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, on one side, and Assembly Member Richard Brodsky on the other.

    For solid coverage of the hearings, check out Neil de Mause’s running journal of the proceedings at The Village Voice’s Runnin’ Scared site (Part 1, Part 2), and I highly recommend reading through it if this issue interests you. De Mause clears up some questions many RAB readers have had about the funding mechanisms and who is paying for what.

    Meanwhile, few conclusions emerged from these hearings The Yankees, it seems, have not been completely transparent with their numbers but neither has the city. It also remains unclear whether someone did something wrong, who has the power to penalize anyone, who would be penalized and what the punishment would be. Now that New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson has thrown his hat into the mayoral ring, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from him on the stadium issue again as well as Brodsky and perhaps Congress. The IDA vote on the bonds will go on as scheduled tomorrow, and I expect them to be approved.
    · (9) ·

Yes, this is in direct response to the four year, $40M+ deal Kevin Youkilis agreed to today, which bought out his two remaining arbitration years and two free agent years, with an option to cover a third. As you can imagine, Sox fans are now out in full force claiming that Youk is better than Mark Teixeira  because he spurned them for greener pastures (I’m looking at you, Fire Brand), which is just not true. Let’s break it down.

Here’s Youkilis’ stats over the last three years:

2006: .279-.381-.429, 42 2B, 13 HR, 72 RBI, .357 wOBP, 106 OPS+, 2.3 WAR, 18.6 VORP
2007: .288-.390-.453, 35 2B, 16 HR, 85 RBI, .373 wOBP, 117 OPS+, 3.9 WAR, 29.6 VORP
2008: .312-.390-.569, 43 2B, 29 HR, 115 RBI, .402 wOBP, 143 OPS+, 5.6 WAR, 53.6 VORP

And now, Tex:

2006: .282-.371-.514, 45 2B, 33 HR, 110 RBI, .374 wOBP, 126 OPS+, 3.2 WAR, 37.7 VORP
2007: .306-.400-.563, 33 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .406 wOBP, 150 OPS+, 4.0 WAR, 54.0 VORP
2008: .308-.410-.552, 41 2B, 33 HR, 121 RBI, .410 wOBP, 151 OPS+, 6.8 WAR, 67.2 VORP

To get Tex’s VORP in ’07 and ’08, I just added his VORP totals for the two teams he played with those seasons. So ’07 is VORP (Rangers) + VORP (Braves), and ’08 is VORP (Braves) + VORP (Angels). I know this isn’t 100% accurate because a AL replacement level 1B is different than a NL RL 1B, but it’s close enough for this application. I mean, what are we talking about here, maybe a 4-5% error?

Anywho, let’s average these bad boys out:

Youk: .292-.387-.483, 40 2B, 19 HR, 90 RBI, .377 wOBP, 122 OPS+, 3.9 WAR, 33.9 VORP
Tex: .298-.393-.541, 40 2B, 32 HR, 112 RBI, .397 wOBP, 142 OPS+, 4.7 WAR, 53.0 VORP

In the words of Mr. Mackey, mmmkay. Tex has considerably more power and slightly better on base skills, although it’s probably a negligible difference. Youkilis had a 143 OPS+ in a career year last year, which is basically the same as Tex’s average output over the last years. Also, that 143 OPS+ would be just the fourth best OPS+ Tex has put up over the last five years. It’s obvious Tex has been an elite player for a much longer period of time, which makes it easier to project future performance. In fact, let’s check out what CHONE projects for 2009:

Youkilis: .286-.388-.474, 35 2B, 18 HR, 79 RBI, 3.9 WAR
Teixeira:  .286-.381-.521, 33 2B, 32 HR, 108 RBI, 5.4 WAR

Heh, I’m sure some fans with boo Tex for that “subpar” performance, even though he’ll still be better than Youk. Here’s some other small factors that are also worth noting:

  • Tex is thirteen months younger
  • Neither player has a significant platoon split, but Tex is a switch hitter
  • Both players are Gold Glover caliber first basemen
  • Youkilis can slide over to third without incident, Tex hasn’t played third since 2003

Now, obviously Kevin Youkilis is an excellent player, there’s no denying that. And for ~$10M a year, he’s a bargain. Based on the above however, I don’t see any way you can claim Youkilis is a better player, unless you really believe last year was a true breakout year and he’ll produce like that for the next three or four years while Tex plateaus at a .280-.370-.510 level.

Also, I know some people are comparing contracts, but you can’t do that because Youkilis wasn’t a free agent. He didn’t have the leverage of going to another team and shopping his services to the highest bidder like Tex did, but if he did you can be sure he wouldn’t have settled for 4/40. There’s no doubt Youk is more cost effective, but Tex is the better player on the field.

Here’s your open thread. Chat away.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (299)

Hopefully, most of you are familiar with Ken Burns’s Baseball, a documentary on the history of the game. If not, I suggest you go drop $120 on the box set. While the creator says he’d never revisit any of his other works, he’s currently working on an update to the series. It’s a year away, slated for spring 2010 on PBS, and will be titled The Tenth Inning.

A great segment from the Houston Chronicle article:

“There was a guy named Pete O’Brien who said in 1858, ‘You know, they don’t play baseball the way they used to,’ ” Burns said. “Every 10 years, somebody is saying the same thing — that it’s all over.”

Burns clearly does not subscribe to that theory.

“Think of it. Since the end of (the original Baseball documentary), we have seen Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and the Braves,” he said. “We have seen the Yankees finally coalesce under one of the game’s most gifted managers (Joe Torre), throwing off the buy-buy mentality of George Steinbrenner to give him time to develop Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

“Sure, we had steroids, but, man, look at what else we have to offer. The Red Sox. We have Ichiro. We have Cal Ripken. Think of the Willie Mays catch (in the 1954 World Series). Now we have a caliber of play and athleticism that produces similar (catches) all the time. The Marlins won the World Series, twice. The Rays made it to the World Series.

“We are in the middle of a baseball renaissance, as (commissioner) Bud Selig says, and, working on this, I have to agree.”

As Burns contemplates the steroid era, he looks at it through the filter of American life at large.

“We live in the age of Viagra,” he said. “People take (medications) to make things better. Why would players be any different?”

The series moves forward from the 1992 World Series. Count me among those who will watch this with rapt attention.

Categories : Days of Yore
Comments (24)
  • Smoltz: Yanks courted me

    Via MLBTR, we hear a Dan Patrick interview with John Smoltz in which the former Brave and current Red Sox pitcher explains that the Yanks were in on his contract talks. According to the injured hurler set to come off the DL by early June, the Yanks were one of four teams — the Red Sox, Dodgers and Braves being the others — to come calling, but in the end, Boston won out. It’s good to hear that Brian Cashman was doing what he could to land a low-risk, high-reward starter. If Boston wanted to guarantee more money, so be it. · (159) ·

In a time where baseball talk hits a lull, we have plenty to talk about on the podcast. The theme of the last few weeks has been building out the team, both the back end of the rotation and the bench. In our discussion, Mike and I find that the bench isn’t all that bad, and that it’s tough to improve since it only contains four guys, and one of those spots is locked in with Jose Molina.

There is a little concern about the other spots, though. If the Yanks hang onto both Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher, one of them can be a powerful force off the bench. Then you’d have one of Melky and Gardner, whoever isn’t starting. And then utility infielder, who at this point looks like Cody Ransom. I suggest another player, someone who turned down arbitration and the money it guarantees for the chance to play for a winner. Listen in to find out who (though I’ll probably say it in the comments for those who don’t/can’t listen).

We take plenty of questions from readers. If this bit about Ben Sheets is true, the Yanks would have to jump on it. Most teams would probably enjoy that, but he only costs the Yanks a fourth rounder — though the Mets would get away with only a second rounder. I know picks can be overrated at times, but why would a small market team spend $6 million+ and a draft pick on a player who might give them zero innings?

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.

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

Categories : Podcast
Comments (30)

It came as a surprise, but earlier this week we got word that Jorge Posada plans to play in the WBC. As many commenters noted, the Yankees would probably rather have him in camp working with the new pitchers. That, and he’s coming off pretty major shoulder surgery. Because Posada ended the season on the DL, the Yanks have the right to deny his entry into the tournament. According to Bryan Hoch’s latest, it appears that they’ll do just that.

“I am sure he would love to play [in the World Baseball Classic], but he is currently rehabbing from surgery and would not be ready,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

There’s no direct quote, but Hoch says that Jason Zillo confirmed the team’s stance. It’s understandable. The WBC is a luxury. It’s a nice little event we have every few years, and it’s somewhat enjoyable to some fans (yeah, I’m hedging here). What’s more important is Jorge’s ability to play for the Yankees. He signed a huge contract after the 2007 season, and after year one he hasn’t lived up to it. I would think that fulfilling his obligation to the Yankees would be more important to him than a — I don’t want to say meaningless, but — meaningless tournament.

Jorge is an integral part of the 2009 club. There’s no sense in risking his health by having him play in the WBC. If he just DHs, maybe, just maybe I can see the argument for allowing him to play. But even then, he’s got to get to know the new guys. And Joba.

Categories : Injuries
Comments (188)
  • Hockey coming soon to Yankee Stadium

    Following the success of Jan. 1′s Winter Classic outdoor hockey match at Wrigley Field, the NHL would like to do it again. Unsurprisingly, the new Yankee Stadium is at the top of the league’s list for potential hosts. While this is a rather gimmicky game, the idea of the Rangers playing hockey outside in New York City at Yankee Stadium tickles me. It’s certainly cold enough in January, as we’ve learned over the last few days. Somehow, the Vegas Strip and the Rose Bowl are on the NHL’s short list as well. Hockey outside in Miami California (or Vegas) just doesn’t make sense. (Hat tip to the shell-of-its-former-self NJ.com.) · (53) ·

  • Submit your questions for the RAB Radio Show

    We’ll have Ben on the show sometime soon, we promise, but for now you’re stuck with Joe and I again. If you have any questions you want us to answer today, send them in via email (our addresses are on the left sidebar) and we’ll get to them on the show. Emailed questions get priority, but we’ll go through the comments here if we have time.

    Just as a heads up, pretty soon we’ll be broadcasting an actual radio show, where you guys can call in and stuff. Another week or so and we should be up and running.
    · (6) ·

Over at LoHud, Peter Abraham hit upon a topic yesterday weighing on the minds of the Yankee Front Office and the team’s fans. In light of all of the spending on two front-line starters and an All Star first baseman, do the Yankees have enough pitching depth? His answer, when the Yanks are compared to the Red Sox, is no. I disagree.

Here’s what Pete had to say on the topic, and the emphasis is clearly mine:

Penny, Smoltz, Masterson and Buchholz are much, much better options than Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves and the assorted dreck the Yankees have lined up.

The LoHud Yankees Blog charter states “We believe Phil Hughes will stay healthy and realize his vast potential as a starting pitcher.” But facts are facts. He has a 5.15 ERA and a 1.416 WHIP in 21 starts.

It’s not acceptable for a contending team to go into the season with four good starters and hold a contest for the fifth spot. You need to have a good No. 5 and decent options beyond that. Or do you believe that Sabathia, Burnett, Wang and Chamberlain will all stay healthy for six months?

Now, I have a few problems with this argument. First, “much, much better” is rather hyperbolic. While Brad Penny and John Smoltz certainly are, career-wise, much, much better than anyone the Yankees are throwing out there right now, will they be in 2009? Penny is a soon-to-be 31-year-old career NLer with unimpressive Interleague numbers. He is also coming off a shoulder injury but could wind up being a decent low-risk pick up for the Sox.

John Smoltz will turn 42 in May, a few weeks before he is set to return to game action after a major arm surgery. There are questions surrounding his health, and he has never pitched in the AL either. While the Red Sox don’t need much from Smoltz to get their guaranteed $5.5 million out of him, he, like Penny, is not a slam dunk.

Then, we get to the Hughes/Buchholz issue that any astute fan would recognize right away. Of course, we’re huge fans of Hughes around here, but you can’t dispute 106 innings of a 5.15 ERA and a 1.416 WHIP. There’s only one problem. Do you know who’s been worse in his career than Hughes? That’s right; it’s Mr. Laptop Lover himself, Clay Buchholz. In 98.7 innings, Buchholz — who, by the way, is two years older than Hughes — sports a 5.56 ERA and a 1.601 WHIP. In no way should be Buchholz be considered much, much better than Hughes. The jury is still out on Masterson, but he certainly has more upside than Giese. (Ed. Note: Originally, I had Bowden over Masterson. That was a mistake. Bowden is ninth on the Sox’s starting depth chart.)

Now, in a way, I’m being too hard on Pete’s argument. When you line up the two rotations, as things stand right now without Andy Pettitte or a similar starter, it breaks down something like this:

CC Sabathia – Josh Beckett
Chien-Ming Wang – Jon Lester
A.J. Burnett – Daisuke Matsuzaka
Joba Chamberlain – Tim Wakefield
Phil Hughes – Brad Penny
Al Aceves – John Smoltz
Ian Kennedy – Clay Buchholz
Dan Giese – Michael Bowden Justin Masterson

In that sense, you can see how the Red Sox, on the right, seem to have some more reliable names at the bottom of the order than the Yankees do, and those names do give the Red Sox the edge in that all-important depth category. Those pitchers, however, have question marks just as the Yanks’ bottom four do. Andy Pettitte would go a long way toward improving the Yanks’ rotation depth, but the Red Sox’s depth isn’t “much, much better” than the Yanks’ right now.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (200)