Pena debuts in winter ball

The Arizona Fall League regular season came to end on Thursday, and Bryce Harper’s Scottsdale Scorpions topped the Peoria Javelinas to win the league title yesterday. The Phoenix Desert Dogs finished the season at 11-17, the second worst record in the circuit. For shame.

AzFL Phoenix (5-5 tie with Mesa on Monday)
Brandon Laird, LF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K – the homer left the stadium
Jose Pirela, 2B: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K

AzFL Phoenix (2-1 win over Scottsdale in seven innings on Tuesday)
Brandon Laird, LF: 0 for 3 – threw a runner out at the plate
Austin Romine, C: 0 for 2
Manny Banuelos: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 9-3 GB/FB – 44 of his 75 pitches were strikes (58.7%) … allowed just three runs in his final three starts (12 IP)
George Kontos: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – just six of his 14 pitches were strikes (42.9%)
Ryan Pope: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-1 GB/FB – nine of 14 pitches were strikes (64.3%)

AzFL Phoenix (10-4 win over Peoria on Wednesday)
Brandon Laird, LF: 3 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI

AzFL Phoenix (3-3 tie with Surprise in seven innings on Thursday) what a crappy way to end the season
Brandon Laird, LF: 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 K – finished at just .236/.282/.436 with 26 strikeouts and six walks in 116 plate appearances
Austin Romine, C: 1 for 3, 1 K – .279/.313/.328 with 13 strikeouts and three walks in 64 plate appearances
Jose Pirela, 2B: 0 for 3, 1 K – just .180/.237/.247 with 20 strikeouts and six walks in 95 plate appearances

ESPN’s Jason Grey blurbed about Banuelos being on the top pitching prospects in the AzFL (Insider req’d), saying that he was “touching up to 95 mph in shorter stints, and sitting at 91-93 mph in his starts” with a “plus changeup that was a true strikeout pitch.” Just some more praise for a kid that’s been getting plenty of it this year.

So that’s it for the AzFL, but we still have the various winter leagues around the globe to check up on…

Australian Baseball League
Nathan Aron: 4 G, 4 for 12, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 4 K, 1 HBP (.333/.357/.417)
Kyle Perkins: 2 G, 0 for 2, 2 K – made a mistake last week, he’s not 0-for-6 with six strikeouts

Dominican Winter League
Francisco Santana: 6 G, 2 for 8, 2 R, 2 K (.250/.250/.250)
Wilkins Arias: 9 G, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K (2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)

Mexican Pacific League
Walt Ibarra: 29 G, 27 for 91, 20 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 21 K, 3 SB, 1 CS, 1 HBP (.297/.343/.374)
Ramiro Pena: 3 G, 3 for 10, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K (.300/.462/.400) – watch out, Derek!
Jorge Vazquez: 14 G, 17 for 51, 8 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 6 BB, 15 K, 1 CS (.333/.404/.588)
Francisco Gil: 4 G, 6 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP (10.50 ERA, 2.17 WHIP) – didn’t pitch this week
Eric Wordekemper: 16 G, 15.2 IP, 18 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 5 BB, 15 K, 1 WP (5.17 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)

Venezuelan Winter League
Luis Nunez: 8 G, 3 for 13, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP (.231/.286/.231)
Romulo Sanchez: 5 IP, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 2 K (8.31 ERA, 2.31 WHIP)
Josh Schmidt: 7 G, 6 GS, 33.2 IP, 18 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 14 BB, 36 K (1.60 ERA, 0.95 WHIP)

Yankees willing to offer Cliff Lee five years, $120M

Via Nick Cafardo, “word is” that the Yankees are prepared to offer Cliff Lee a five-year contract worth $115-120M, which would be $23-24M annually. Cafardo adds that the Rangers are prepared to “determined to match whatever it gets up to,” but Nolan Ryan has said otherwise. The Nationals are said to be pursuing the lefty as well, but I’m not sure anyone considers them a real threat.

The Yanks have already done the meet-and-greet thing with Lee and his family, as has Texas, so we’re getting to the point where everyone will have to walk the walk after talking the talk. Five years and $120M is basically market value for Lee and I think we’d all be happy if he signs for that price. In the end, I suspect we’ll see a sixth year added, possibly in the form of an option with a hefty buyout.

Better or Worse: Pitching Edition

Yesterday I made some predictions on whether Yankee batters would do better or worse in 2011 than in 2010, today I’ll go through the pitchers.

CC Sabathia

2010:  21-7, 3.18 ERA, 3.54 FIP

2011: At this point Sabathia is who he is, I would expect a very similar season in 2011.  He’s going to throw a ton of good to great innings and win a ton of games.  Expect more of the same next year, which of course is a great thing.  CC is an ace in every sense of the word.

Andy Pettitte

2010:  11-3, 3.28 ERA, 3.85 FIP

2011: Assuming he comes back, I don’t expect Pettitte to pitch as well in 2011 as he did in 2010, though if healthy he could certainly bring more to the team.  The 129 innings he pitched were the lowest of his Yankee career.  I don’t think he’ll pitch to a 3.28 ERA again, but if he can make 30 starts and put up a season similar to his 2009 he’ll be better for the Yankees in the long run.

Phil Hughes

2010: 18-8, 4.19 ERA, 4.25 FIP

2011:  Unlike CC and Andy, there is reason to believe he could improve greatly in 2010.  As positive as his 2010 was, there is plenty of room for improvement.  He may not win 18 games again, but he’ll likely be better.  He went through some growing pains that all young pitchers go through and hopefully he learns from them.  I also think that Hughes’ mindset may be a little different in 2011 knowing that there is no innings limit on the season, nor will he be on as strict pitch counts (20 of 29 starts were less than 105) within games.  Removing these chains could certainly help him grow.  And please Phil, hit a batter next year.

A.J. Burnett

2010: 10-15, 5.26 ERA, 4.83 FIP

2011:  Burnett has to get better in 2011, right?  I expect he will.  While the hiring of Larry Rothschild as pitching coach is a positive, Burnett’s success will depend primarily on himself.  There was no major injury to explain his poor season, and as inconsistent as he has been throughout his career, at the end of every season his line looked ok. Clearly this wasn’t the case in 2010.  One area of slight concern is that his fastball velocity did drop 1 MPH to 93.2 from 2009 to 2010, his 3rd straight year of decline and well off his career norms.  Since he’s essentially a two pitch pitcher, any further drop in velocity could be deadly.

David Robertson

2010: 3.82 ERA, 3.58 FIP

2011: Robertson finished the year strong (playoffs aside) and we were all confident when he came in, but it’s easy to forget he got off to a horrible start.  I think 2011 he puts it together and has a strong year start to finish as the primary setup man (assuming Joba is traded).  If Joba is still here I think Robertson sticks to the fireman role which he has been so great at the past few years (OPS is 107 points lower with runners on, which is good because he walks so many guys).

Mariano Rivera

2010: 1.80 ERA, 2.81 FIP

2011:  Every year there are a ton of prognosticators who predict this is the year Rivera will age.  Every year they are all wrong.  Of course they all keep saying it, so one time they might be right.  I certainly won’t be making that prediction.  In his last 8 years Rivera has had an ERA over 2 just once.  Why would I predict otherwise?  In 2011 it’ll be another year of dominance for the ageless Mo.

Cliff Lee*

2010: 12-9, 3.18 ERA, 2.58 FIP

2011:  Of course this is dependant on Lee signing with the Yankees, but I would expect a little worse season out of Lee in 2011.  Many players struggle their first year in pinstripes, though it was promising that the last big free agent class certainly bucked the trend.  Lee seems to have the composure and attitude required for pitching in the Bronx without being affected, but we won’t really know until he gets here.  I’m sure his record will be better, but pitching a full year in Yankee Stadium and the AL East could hurt his other (important) stats.  He’ll be great, but maybe not quite as great as he was this year.

As this will be my last post at RAB, I want to thank Ben, Mike, and Joe for the opportunity to write here for the past 6 months as I truly have had a blast doing it.  I also want to thank the readers for reading and commenting on my posts, both those who agreed and disagreed with me as I took a lot from both sides.  The community of Yankee fans on this site is second to none and I am glad to be a part of it.

Open Thread: Football in the Bronx

Army and Notre Dame play in the first non-baseball team sporting event in the New Yankees Stadium tonight, unless you count some charity event. The game starts at 7pm ET and can be seen on NBC, though I’m not much of a college football guy so I’ll probably pass. If anything, I’ll tune in or a few minutes just to see what the Stadium looks like. Other than that, all of the hockey and basketball locals are playing at some point, so talk about whatever you want in this here open thread. You know what to do, so have it.

Photo from the Yankees.

Larry Rothschild’s effect on pitchers

When the Yankees hired Larry Rothschild away from the Cubs to be their new pitching coach yesterday, Ben noted that his staffs tend to boast high strikeout rates. Earlier this summer a poster on the FanGraphs Community blog looked at exactly that, and found out that pitchers did in fact improve their strikeout rates with Rothschild, close to 2.5% as a group. But what about walks? Another Cubs Blog tackled that a few days later and found that yep, pitchers improved their unintentional walk rate with Rothschild as well. More strikeouts and fewer walks is a great recipe for success.

The Yanks as a group struck out 0.62 fewer batters and walked 0.19 more (per nine innings pitched) in 2010 than in 2009, with CC Sabathia‘s rates taking a hit in particular. With any luck, Rothschild will help get the staff back into strikeout mode, which would be a tremendous help.

Leyritz acquitted in Manslaughter DUI case

Jim Leyritz has been acquitted of manslaughter, a Florida jury decided today. The jury, which had been deadlocked yesterday, convicted the former Yankee only of a misdemeanor DUI. He could face up to only six months in prison instead of 15 years had he faced a conviction for manslaughter.

Leyritz was arrested in December 2007 when he collided with another vehicle at a Fort Lauderdale intersection. The other driver was killed when her vehicle rolled over. The case agains Leyritz hinged, in part, upon the traffic light at the intersection. The prosecution tried to show that Leyritz ran a red light while drunk, but defense witnesses cast doubt on both the light and Leyritz’s BAC at the time of the crash. While he blew a 0.14 later that night, experts said Leyritz might not have been drunk at the time of the crash.

The Associated Press has more on the acquittal:

Two witnesses testified that Veitch had the green light at an intersection before Leyritz’s Ford Expedition hit her vehicle, causing a rollover crash that ejected her onto the pavement. But under cross-examination, those same witnesses were less definitive about whether Leyritz’s light was red or yellow.

Defense expert witnesses also said Veitch’s lights may have been off and that Leyritz did not appear to be speeding. They also raised questions about the reliability of Leyritz’s blood tests and suggested he may have suffered a slight concussion that caused his body to absorb alcohol more slowly.

Prosecutors insisted that Leyritz was too drunk to react to the traffic light or avoid the collision with Veitch’s Mitsubishi Montero. They said he consumed the equivalent of between 11 and 12 shots of liquor in the three hours before the crash, which happened around 3 a.m.

Leyritz had settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the Veitch family earlier this year. He agreed to pay them $350,000 as a settlement. Leyritz must have had some good lawyers to escape with just a misdemeanor DUI.

Better or Worse: Hitting Edition

Today and tomorrow I’m going to take a look at some core Yankees and whether I think they will be better or worse in 2011 than they were in 2010.  I’ll start with the hitters today, come back tomorrow as I review the pitchers.

Jorge Posada

2010: .248/.357/.454, .357 wOBA, 18 HR.

2011 Outlook:  As a full time DH that is certainly a line we can live with from Posada.  Despite his advanced age I think he has a shot to improve on that line as he won’t have the same wear and tear he did as a full time catcher.  While the final line was a little subpar for Posada, it’s easy to forget he was OPS’ing over 1.000 heading into June (though with limited time due to injury).  The one issue I could see is that Posada will have trouble adjusting to the DH position as many players have in the past (and he has struggled in 90 games as the DH in his career).  Overall I expect a slightly better performance from Jorge if he is, as expected, the full time DH.

Mark Teixeira

2010: .256/.365/.481, .367 wOBA, 33 HR.

2011 Outlook:  2010 was the worst year of Tex’ career since his rookie season.  He’s turning 31 just after Opening Day so there’s no age related concerns.  He’ll be better next year than he was this year, book it.

Robinson Cano

2010: .319/.381/.534, .389 wOBA, 29 HR

2011:  I can’t see Cano improving much on his 2010, it was truly a special season, but if he can sustain his walk rate he just might do it again next year.  His BABIP on the year was consistent with his career levels, his power was very similar to his 2009 season and he continues to remain healthy.  I would guess he’ll have a slight regression in 2011 but still put up the second best season of his career.  If the walk rate sustains or even improves though, look out.

Derek Jeter

2010: .270/.340/.370, .320 wOBA, 10 HR

2011:  While Jeter’s age is working against him I expect (hope) him to improve in 2011.  While I don’t know if he’ll return to his 2009 level ever again, I think he can definitely be better in the next few years than he was in 2010.  I guess somebody should have told him it’s a contract year.  Seriously though I think he’ll improve, but he’ll be 37 in June so there’s no guarantee.  Players like Jeter have fallen of a cliff before, let’s hope he doesn’t for a few more seasons.

Alex Rodriguez

2010: .271/.341/.506, .363 wOBA, 30 HR

2011:  While A-Rod’s 2010 was great, it was pretty poor based on the insane standards he has set.  He’s regressed every year since his monster 2007 but I’d expect a little bit of a bounce back in 2011.  He may never bat .300 or slug .600 again, but I would expect him to get on base at a better clip than he did this year.  The good news is he continues to move further away from his serious hip injury but the bad news is that he’s getting up there in age.  I don’t think he’ll be an MVP candidate, but he’ll be better.

Brett Gardner

2010: .277/.383/.379, .358 wOBA, 47 steals

2011: Gardner did all that could have been asked of him in 2010.  I do worry that what we saw last year was pretty close to his ceiling though.  If he can plateau there for a few years I’ll be thrilled, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him regress to the .265/.350/.360 range next year. While I don’t advocate trading Gardner I certainly would see what his value is on the trade market.

Curtis Granderson

2010: .247/.324/.468, .346 wOBA, 24 HR

2011:  Aside from his big early season homerun off Jonathan Papelbon, Granderson was a disappointment for quite a while with both ineffectiveness and injury.  It also didn’t help that while Granderson was struggling, Austin Jackson was off to a great start in Detroit.  Once Granderson took a few days off in the summer to work with Kevin Long however, he turned it on in a big way.  Something clearly clicked (some may even say #cured) and I expect big things from Granderson next year.

Nick Swisher

2010: .288/.359/.491, .377 wOBA, 29 HR

2011:  As we all know, Swisher seemed to substitute some walks for hits this year on his way to one of the best seasons of his career.  Swisher, aside from his one year in Chicago has been pretty consistent throughout his career so I would expect something similar in 2011.  I don’t see him getting a lot better than this year, nor do I see him getting worse.