As I expected, the Yanks’ decision to decline arbitration has fired up the Manny-to-the-Bronx rumors with Jon Heyman leading the charge. I’ll have more on this tomorrow — law-school work permitting — when I get around to delving into the Abreu decision, but I’m not at all surprised to see Heyman’s pursuing this line of reasoning right now. · (97) ·
As Yankee fans grapple with the arbitration decision, another list of sorts hit the wire today as the voters received their Hall of Fame ballots. Nothing, as we’ve seen, boils the blood quite like a good Hall of Fame discussion.
Now, this year’s ballots are notable for a few reasons. First, it’s the smallest ballot in recent history with just 23 names on it. Additionally, of those listed, I believe that only Rickey Henderson should be elected. Mostly, the folks on the ballot are retreads. They’ve all been denied entry in the past but due to the Hall of Fame’s rules, they get a second, third or even tenth crack at the Hall.
Finally, this year is significant because of the presence of Jim Rice. In New England, most people think that Rice should be in the Hall of Fame. Elsewhere, most baseball fans don’t seem him as deserving. The arguments are out there for all to read. This is Rice’s last year of eligibility, and his showing last year — 72.2 percent — fell just 2.8 percentage points short of election.
My question to those who vote for Rice though is this: What has he done in the 14 years that he’s been on the ballot that earns him a spot in Cooperstown this year that he hadn’t accomplished when he retired? I’m almost tempted to say that eligiblity isn’t restrictive enough. If Rice wasn’t a Hall of Famer for the last 14 seasons, he shouldn’t be one this year just because no one else outside of Rickey is good enough to make the Hall.
Anyway, for our open thread tonight, let’s run the ballot. The names of those are below. Who would you pick for the Hall of Fame? I’d go with Rickey Henderson and only Rickey Henderson.
2009 Hall of Fame Ballot: Harold Baines, Jay Bell, Bert Blyleven, David Cone, Andre Dawson, Ron Gant, Mark Grace, Rickey Henderson, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Jesse Orosco, Dave Parker, Dan Plesac, Tim Raines, Jim Rice, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Greg Vaughn, Mo Vaughn, Matt Williams
To anyone. Seriously. They won’t be getting any compensation draft picks for Bobby Abreu, Andy Pettitte, and/or Pudge Rodriguez. PeteAbe says it came down to economics. The Yanks can not loose the comp picks they received for not signing Gerrit Cole and Scott Bittle, so at worst they’ll have two of the top 76 picks after signing some free agents.
Update by Joe: Having paid close attention to the Hot Stove, I’ve noticed a lack of mentions for Bobby Abreu. When I did hear his name, it appeared that most teams preferred Raul Ibanez to him. So the Yankees fears that he’d accept arbitration seem reasonable. They clearly do not want him on the roster next year at $16 million, and by offering him arbitration they’d give him a clear window. Same with Pettitte. They don’t want to pay him $16 million next year. That’s what this all comes down to.
Criticize as you will.
Update again: Bryan Hoch has the transcription of Cashman’s explanation:
“We certainly have been going through this process for quite some time. First and foremost, unlike in past years, we’re not in a position not to be able to sign these players as we move forward. That’s the most important thing. In the past and in the previous basic agreements, you were in a position that if you didn’t offer, you lose the ability to sign.
“Today’s date really has everything to do with the compensation attached to various players, if they had some. Bobby was a Type A and Andy was a Type A, so the determination that we made today was to make sure that we control what amount we’d be spending, at least in the event that we’re fortunate enough to bring those players back.
“We did not want to put ourselves in the position of having that determined by a third party without knowing what that figure would be. The arbitration time period falls in early February, so obviously as we attempt to put this team together, in Andy’s case and in Bobby’s case, they made $16 million a year. It’s been tough in the past to try and deviate from previous years’ earnings in an arbitration setting.
“We just wanted to control the cost that we would allocate for every position on the club by offering them arbitration, even though we wanted Draft picks if we lost anybody. By offering arbitration, we would lose our ability to at least determine a final cost. By doing so, we chose to go a different direction, not offer the arbitration, and we’ll still stay engaged with the entire free agent market including those two players.”
Allow me to take time out of this busy, busy Hot Stove Day — something happened! Mike Hampton signed with the Astros! — to thank everyone who stopped by RAB last month. While the news, outside of a Nick Swisher trade, was slow, we had more unique visitors and more page views than any other month in this site’s 22-month history. We had over 281,000 visitors and 444,000 page views, and we just want to thank everyone for stopping by and contributing every day.
Over the next few days and weeks, we’ll have some announcements about some upcoming plans and a new t-shirt design as well as Hot Stove coverage as it happens when it happens. Don’t go away. And as always, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Phil Hughes had a terribly disappointing 2008. There’s really no way around that fact. The subject of numerous true and untrue Johan Santana rumors, the Yanks expected big things out of the 22-year-old in 2008, but injuries derailed his season. He flashed some signs of life at the end of the year and had a generally stellar showing in the Arizona Fall League. To that end, Hughes is ready for 2009, as he told Mark Feinsand today. We lose sight of the fact that Hughes is still young, but there is no reason he won’t be a good Major League starter. While critics may say, “Fool me twice” and warn about over-hyping Hughes again, I’m expected big things from the right-hander next year. · (43) ·
Baseball America released their top 20 prospects list for Hawaii Winter Baseball today, and two Yanks’ farmhands made the cut: Andrew Brackman at #2, and Jeremy Bleich at #8. Brackman was behind Giants’ first rounder Buster Posey, while he & Bleich were two of just three pitchers in the top 13. Austin Romine and Damon Sublett didn’t make the cut. (h/t Reggie C. for the heads up) · (12) ·
Despite Mike’s well-reasoned argument, the Yankees are not going to offer Andy Pettitte arbitration, according to Ken Davidoff. The Newsday scribe writes that the team is planning on extending an arbitration to Bobby Abreu and Mike Mussina but not to Pudge. Team officials feel that doing so with Pettitte would give the lefty leverage to earn more than the team wants to pay him. If Pettitte feels slighted and undervalued, this move could blow back in the Yanks’ face as he jets for Joe Torre’s Dodgers. The Yanks would get burned by Pettitte and lose the draft picks at the same time. Considering that the $4 million difference isn’t that much to the Bombers, the team should just offer Andy arbitration. · (132) ·
Those geeks who live in their mothers’ basements have done it again. They’ve gone and made another stat, which clearly makes everyone enjoy the game less. Plus, they don’t even watch baseball! They just play with their Excel spreadsheets. What happened to the days when men were men? We judged baseball players on what we saw, not on what some computer told us. Someone get Billy Beane on the line. I have to give him a piece of my mind for writing Moneyball.
Silliness aside, I just got through reading this article by Dave Cameron explaining wOBA. Before you dismiss this statistic, I suggest you read it as well. Then read this article by Tom Tango, the dude who developed the statistic.
At this point you might find yourself saying that the last thing the baseball world needs is another statistic. I’ve heard plenty of people, including a beat writer or two, say the same thing. However, I think that’s missing the point. If we find a better way to measure baseball production, why shouldn’t we use those stats when making our arguments? You might not like Baseball Prospectus and their not-so-up-front formulas, but wOBA is spelled out pretty clearly. So is its intention:
OPS, as you probably know, significantly undervalues the ability of a hitter to get on base. It treats a .330 OBP/.470 slug as equal to a .400 OBP/.400 slug, when the latter is more conducive to scoring runs. wOBA gives proper weight to all the things a hitter can do to produce value, and is a more accurate reflection of a hitter’s value.
Of course, getting people on board with this is the problem. Many are comfortable saying Nick Swisher had a .219 batting average, therefore he sucks. No argument, no matter how well articulated, could bring this type of person around. We’ve always used batting average, so why change now? wOBA is for the fan who understands that just because things used to be done a certain way does not mean they should always be done that way.
What makes wOBA easy is that it’s scaled to OBP. League average is usually .335, plus or minus 5. So you know if a player is doing well or not without comparing him to other players. The average is already set to the league average OBP. Here is the 2008 Yankees leaderboard. As you can see, A-Rod wins by a mile.
We’re not going to shove this stat down your throat. Not by any means. But when we get into an argument over player performance and stats come into play, I’m probably going to defer to this.
Today is the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their free agents (players have until Sunday to accept), and over the weekend we had a nice little discussion about whether or not the Yanks should offer Andy Pettitte arbitration. Most fans seem weary of Pettitte because of the combination of how he pitched in the second half (he had a 6.23 ERA & 1.68 WHIP after July 30th) and his ever increasing age (he turns 37 next June), but to me this is a no-brainer: offer the guy arbitration.
Note: Before I go any further, let me just make it clear that my opinion about offering Pettitte arbitration has nothing to do with him being a “Dynasty Yankee” or his very good, but often overblown postseason track record. Nostalgia has no place in roster moves.
While Pettitte endured his worst big league season in terms of ERA+ last year, there is also considerable evidence that bad luck played a role in his performance. Check it out:
If you looked at the raw numbers without having seen Pettitte pitch over the last two years, you’d say he was at least as effective in ’08 as he was in ’07, perhaps even moreso. The slight increase in hits allowed is almost entirely negated by the decrease in walks allowed, while the improved GB/FB & contact rates indicate that Pettitte did a better job of keeping the ball down while still getting swings and misses. The significant increase in strikeouts is obviously a big plus and evidence that his stuff is still fine, but the decrease in homerun rate is a negative, albeit a small one (it’s a difference of one extra homer every 52.2 IP).
Despite the general improvements in his rate stats, Pettitte’s ERA in 2008 was just about half-a-run higher than it was in 2007. When you allow fewer walks, induce more grounders, and rack up more strikeouts than the year before without significant spikes in hits and homers allowed, you almost have to blame the defense behind him. Decreases in DER (.678 in ’07, .667 in ’08) and GIDP rate (one GIDP every 7.43 IP in ’07, one every 13.60 IP in ’08 despite increased GB rate) support this.
My one real concern about how Pettitte pitched in 2008 is how righties just tattooed him. During his career prior to ’08, Andy held RHB to a .267-.322-.395 batting line (.282-.332-.394 in ’07), but last year they smacked him around to the tune of .325-.376-.476. Via the wonder that is Fangraphs, we can see that Pettitte threw his cutter 27.9% of the time last season, up more than 10% from past years. Maybe Andy relied too much on the pitch, and because RHB saw the pitch so much last year, they were able to tee off against it. I honestly don’t know, this is all just speculation on my part, but something worth considering.
As far as the actual arbitration process goes, it’s a very low risk situation for the Bombers. If he declines, then you’re netting draft picks if he goes elsewhere (there are rumblings that he’s considering the Dodgers, but I suspect that’s just to give himself some leverage) while still maintaining the ability to resign him. If he accepts, then he’d be back for another year at $16-18M (the 20% max salary cut rule doesn’t apply to players with more than six years of service time, however that’s irrelevant because no player has ever had their salary decreased in arbitration, and it’s not about to start with Andy Pettitte despite an ever so slightly below league average year). Given Pettitte’s recent track record as a league average starter workhorse, the risk is worth it for a team with ginormous holes in it’s rotation and more money than they know what to do with.
If the Yanks choose not to offer arbitration, what do they gain? The risk of potentially paying him $16-18M is reduced, but there’s always the possibility that another team makes a big offer and they end up paying him that much money to stay anyway, maybe even over multiple years. If Pettitte does decide to go somewhere else, the Yanks would receive no compensation picks, and would have to replace Pettitte’s innings with someone who they’ll probably end up paying a similar amount of money to over several years. As the say goes, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
It’s a no-brainer, offer Pettitte arbitration and take the risk of overpaying him for one year rather than having to replace him by overpaying someone that may not be able to handle New York while not gaining any draft picks. Did I really need 800 words to explain something this obvious?