Kevin Long planning to work with Jeter before camp

Via Pete Caldera, hitting coach Kevin Long is planning to work with Derek Jeter before Spring Training officially gets underway. K-Long’s done some great things in recent years, but I’m not sure if even he knows the cure for “36-year-old shortstop.” Meanwhile, Long mentioned that the team is not married to a batting order for 2011, saying that the team will instead “toy with it.” I like it.

Open Thread: Jake Westbrook & Ted Lilly

Photo Credits: Suzanne Plunkett (Westbrook) & John Froschauer (Lilly), AP

Whenever you make a trade for multiple minor league pitchers, you usually hope that at least one pans out. When two turn into bonafide big league starters, you’ve struck gold. That’s what happened in December of 1999, when the Yankees traded Hideki Irabu to the Expos for then-minor leaguers Jake Westbrook and Ted Lilly. Westbrook’s pinstriped career lasted all of six months and 6.2 innings (13.50 ERA); he was traded to the Indians that June for David Justice. Lilly stuck around a little longer, throwing a total of 205.1 IP (4.65 ERA) across parts of three seasons for the Yanks before being traded to Oakland in a three-team swap that brought (ugh) Jeff Weaver to New York. All told, these two have accounted for 2,991.1 IP with 37.9 bWAR in their careers (most of that is Lilly), and were involved in what are arguably Brian Cashman‘s two best trades and his single worst.

Anyway, there’s your nostalgic moment for the night. Here’s the open thread. The Devils and Knicks are both in action, plus the Sugar Bowl is on (Ohio St. vs. Arkansas). Talk about whatever your heart desires, so go have at it.

Weekend Writer Update: We’ve made our selections and will announce the three new weekend people in tomorrow night’s open thread. Yes, we ending up “hiring” three.

Swisher to receive 2011 Thurman Munson Award

Who wants pie? (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Nick Swisher will be honored next month at the 31st annual Thurman Munson Awards dinner. The Yankee right fielder will receive a Munson Award in recognition for his on-field contributions to the team and his off-field charity work.

The dinner, hosted by AHRC-New York City Foundation, an organization that raises money for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will take place on Feb. 1, and Diana Munson, the late Yankee captain’s wife, praised Swisher.

“I love the way he plays, I love his enthusiasm,” said Diana Munson of Swisher. “Most importantly, he respects the history of baseball and the Yankees. On Old Timers Day, he was out there getting autographs and taking pictures. He’s not embarrassed by his love of the game, and respects the players. Plus, he’s cute.”

Swisher is coming off a season in which he hit .288/.359/.511 with 29 home runs and 89 RBI, and he has become a fan favorite out in right field. Off the field, he leads the Nick Swisher Foundation and its Swish’s Wishes program which helps lift the spirits of children suffering through life-threatening illnesses. He has also served as a co-Ambassador to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Lee Denim Day in their efforts to raise money for breast cancer research. The Munson Award is a well-deserved one for a Yankee who is very giving of his time and energy.

Yankees considering Andruw Jones

Via Jon Heyman, free agent Andruw Jones is on the Yankees’ “list of righty hitting [outfielders] to consider.” I assume this is the same list Manny Ramirez was on. I took a look at Jones about a week ago and figured that he’s a viable option for that Marcus Thames role, and I see no reason to change my opinion now. Andruw has declined the Yanks once before though, so there’s a little bit of history here.

The RAB Radio Show: January 4, 2011

It appears as though the Rangers will sign Adrian Beltre. What does this have to do with the Yankees? It makes the Angels that much worse. Again, what does this have to do with the Yankees? They have some decent pitchers on staff, and the Yanks could go shopping in Anaheim come deadline. Mike and I run down the guys they have and who we’d want.

(Also, more Scott Kazmir than you ever wanted to hear.)

After poking around the Angels and discussing their bleak situation, we move onto divisional matters. The Orioles further strengthened their bullpen by adding Kevin Gregg. If they have a lead late they might actually hold on. Plus, there’s another positive to signing Gregg.

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The 2010 Yankees & Inherited Runners

That was a bad day. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

One of the most frustrating things to watch in baseball is when a reliever comes into a game and isn’t able to put the fire out. Instead of stranding the runners like he was asked to do, they end up coming around to score, and even worse is when he piles some more runs of his own on top of that. It inevitably happens throughout the season, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it. Those inherited runners are one of baseball’s little statistical quirks, because when those runs score don’t get charged to the pitcher that was actually on the mound at the time.

Let’s say it’s the seventh inning, and CC Sabathia loads the bases with two outs on an infield single, a bloop into the triangle in shallow right-center, and a hit by pitch that grazed the batter’s jersey. Joe Girardi takes his ace out at 118 pitches and gives the ball to Chad Gaudin because he’s trying to force feed him a spot on the playoff roster. Gaudin walks two straight batters then gives up a solid single to center, allowing all three of those inherited runners to score before getting the final out. All three runs are charged to Sabathia while Gaudin exits with a shiny 0.00 ERA. It’s not fair or an accurate representation of what happened, but those are the rules.

As a whole, the Yankee pitching staff allowed 61 of 212 inherited runners to score in 2010, or 28.8%. The major league average was 30.8%, so the Yanks were solidly better than the rest of the league in that department. I’m guessing that has to do the team’s primary relievers having down right excellent strikeout rates, close to or above one strikeout per nine innings pitched. The best team at stranding inherited runners in 2010 was the Twins (23.8% allowed to score), the worst was the Diamondbacks (41.3%, yikes). Here is the inherited runner breakdown for Yankee relievers with at least 25 innings pitched in 2010…

It’s not an enormous amount of baserunners on an individual level, but every little bit counts. Fun fact: All three of those inherited runners Mo allowed to score came in one game, the May 16th game when he walked Jim Thome with the bases loaded before allowing the grand slam to Jason Kubel (pictured above). To give you an idea of how unstable this data really is, David Robertson‘s percentage of inherited runners scored would have been an above league average 28.1% instead of a below average 31.3% had he allowed nine runners to score instead of ten.

Aside from Mitre and CHoP, the team’s core relief crew did a fine job of stranding runners, basically league average or better. None of the primary guys really had an especially poor season in this department. But what about the starting pitchers that handed the ball off to said relief crew?

Among the many great stats kept at Baseball Reference is data on bequeathed runners and bequeathed runners scored. That is runners left on base by a starting pitcher and handed over to a reliever, the other side of the inherited runner coin. Here’s a breakdown of the team’s five regular starters from 2010, with their bequeathed runner data…

Again, it’s a relatively small amount of runners on an individual level, but it still puts a dent in the ol’ ERA. Both Pettitte and Hughes appear to have benefited greatly from work by the guys relieving them, Sabathia not so much. I wanted to get an idea of how much having an above or below average rate of bequeathed runners score impacted these guys’ ERA’s, so let’s figure out how many runners would have been expected to score had each received the team average of 28.8% inherited runners scored…

Okay, so it’s not much of a difference, nothing worth getting upset over. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started writing this post, so for all I knew it could have been a 0.50 ERA swing in some cases. I wish there was a way to get bequeathed runner data for relievers, but alas, B-Ref only keeps it for starters. I suspect that Joba might have been a little unlucky in those spots, I seem to remember quite a few times when he was lifted with men on base only to watch the inning implode. Heck, those three inherited runners Mo allowed to score in that game all belonged to Joba. Could be confirmation bias, so who knows.

As it stands, the only significant addition to the 2011 bullpen is Pedro Feliciano. He’s been an inherited runner stranding machine over the last four years, allowing just 51 of 235 runners to score (21.7%) over the last four years. Over the last two seasons, it’s 18.3%. That definitely has something to do with his status as a lefty specialist though, so don’t get too excited. As long as the Yankee relievers keep missing bats and getting outs on strike three, I would expect them to be better than league average at stranding extraneous baserunners.

The Edwin Jackson trade possibility

(Paul Beaty/AP)

As we weather the final three months before Opening Day, we’ll spend most of our time talking about pitching. Everywhere else the Yankees are decently set, and where they’re not set they have options. With the pitching staff the options aren’t immediately clear. What is clear is that no one is satisfied with Sergio Mitre. I imagine, then, that until the Yankees clear up the back end of the rotation that it will dominate our conversation.

In early December MLB Trade Rumors ran a poll asking where Rafael Soriano would land. Of the teams listed, the Angels got the most votes, but that doesn’t appear to be a strong possibility at all. They already signed Scott Downs and generally have a decent bullpen. Their needs lie elsewhere. The next top vote-getter: The Chicago White Sox. They just lost their closer, Bobby Jenks, and while Matt Thornton had a great 2010, he’s probably best used as an elite setup man. We saw that idea gain some merit on Saturday when Jon Heyman reported that “there seems to be some interest” on the part of the Sox.

The problem, as Heyman noted, was that the White Sox have little money left in the 2011 budget. After signing Adam Dunn and re-signing Paul Konerko the team has $110.575 million in committed salaries. Baseball Reference pegs their total after arbitration and reserve clause obligations to just under $120 million. The Sox have hit that total only once in team history, in 2007 when they finished 72-90. If they do intend to sign Soriano, it appears as though they’d have to shed at least one contract. Since they do have a number of quality pitchers, the Yankees will likely take a look if they make one available.

Last month Mike took a look at Mark Buehrle, who is owed $14 million this season before he becomes a free agent. There also was a clause in his contract that gave him a $1 million raise, plus a guaranteed $15 million in 2012. From the way it looks on the White Sox Cot’s page, that clause expired when Buehrle gained 10 and 5 rights on July 16, 2010. That means he can reject any trade for whatever reason. The White Sox, then, might look to another pricey starter who hits free agency next season if they want to free up some payroll.

Yankees fans should be familiar with Edwin Jackson. In 2008 he faced the Yankees six times and allowed one or fewer runs in half of those starts. Thankfully, in the other three he allowed five or more. The next year he moved to Detroit, where he’d face the Yankees less, but in his two starts he pitched 13 innings and allowed just two runs. That was by far his best year, and it was even better until he flopped in September (and helped the downfall of the then-playoff-bound Tigers). When the Tigers traded him last off-season the Yankees were involved. Could his next trade involve the Yankees again?

Jackson has certainly experienced his ups and downs throughout his big league career. He made his major league debut in 2003 at age 19, and after the season was named Baseball America’s No. 4 overall prospect. Yet he never found consistent success with the Dodgers. They eventually gave up on him, sending him to Tampa Bay in exchange for Danys Baez in the winter before the 2006 season. It took Jackson a couple of years, but by 2008 he appeared to be a decent pitcher. In 2009 and 2010 he gained notoriety, first for his spectacular first half in 2009, and then for pitching a no-hitter in 2010. He ended the 2010 season in Chicago, where he pitched exceptionally well, striking out more than a batter per inning in his 11 starts.

The problem with Jackson is that even though he has pitched in the majors for parts of eight seasons, we still don’t have a decent grasp of what to expect from him. For instance, in 2008 and 2009 he posted identical 39.1 percent ground ball rates. But in 2010 that jumped all the way to 49.4 percent. His strikeout rate has jumped around, too. In 2008 he struck out just 5.30 per nine, but in 2009 that went up by more than a batter per nine to 6.77. In 2010 he appeared to be at a similar pace, 6.97 per nine with the Diamondbacks, before he exploded at the end of the season and ended up with a K/ of 7.78.

There are two aspects of Jackson’s game that I’m comfortable in forecasting. He’s probably going to walk three per nine, which is completely acceptable for any pitcher, and actually a very good mark for a back-end guy. Also, his HR/FB ratio has hovered right around 10 percent for the past few years, which is about league average. This is excellent news if he’s the 50 percent ground ball from 2010, but less good news if he’s closer to 40 percent. Again, it’s hard to get a solid reason on the exact type of pitcher he can be for the Yankees.

The biggest obstacle in any potential Jackson trade is Chicago’s demands for a return. This will not be another Nick Swisher trade. Jackson is coming off a solid year that got substantially better at the end, when he moved back to the AL. Chicago is clearly all-in this season, so they’re not going to let one of their starters go for cheap — especially because of the uncertainty surrounding Jake Peavy. The White Sox need a third baseman, and the Yankees don’t have one to spare. Or, at least, they don’t have one who represents a substantial upgrade over what the Sox already have in-house. That means finding another match, or involving another team. That complicates the issues, and complications often kill potential trades.

If the White Sox do intent to acquire Rafael Soriano and shore up their bullpen, I would like to see the Yankees engage them regarding Jackson. He’s not a perfect fit, as his numbers have been all over the plate in the last three seasons. But he does represent an upgrade over Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova, which is something the Yankees should be seeking right now. The Sox and the Yanks might not match up on a trade, so I don’t expect anything to come from this. But if he’s available, I’d like to see the Yankees make a decent run for his services.