Open Thread: Juan Miranda

(Kathy Willens/AP)

With the light at the end of Jason Giambi‘s contract tunnel starting to draw closer, the Yankees made a move to bring in someone they hoped could be their first baseman of the future. During the 2006-2007 offseason, they signed Cuban defector Juan Miranda to a four-year Major League contract worth $4MM, hoping he’d be able to step in for Giambi when his contract expired after the 2008 season.

Miranda, reportedly 23 at the time, mashed at two minor league levels in 2007 and was anchoring the Triple-A Scranton lineup by Opening Day 2008. He hit .287/.384/.449 with a dozen homers that season, then got his first taste of the big leagues (14 plate appearances) that September. Miranda’s shot at becoming the full-time first baseman disappeared when the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira the following offseason, a move that sentenced Miranda to two more years in Triple-A with intermittent call-ups. He hit a respectable .253/.330/.458 with four homers in 94 plate appearances spread across three seasons in pinstripes, with his most memorable moments being this walk-off single against Kyle Farnsworth, this moonshot against the Rays, and this walk-off walk against the Red Sox.

One year ago today, the Yankees traded the out-of-options Miranda to the Diamondbacks for Single-A pitching prospect Scottie Allen. Allen was a total disaster in 2011 (7.52 ERA in 93.1 IP), but Miranda finally got his first chance at extended playing time in the bigs. He started out very well, hitting .270/.387/.539 through Arizona’s first 51 games, but he stopped hitting after that. Miranda finished the season with a .213/.315/.402 batting line in 202 plate appearances, and was taken off the 40-man roster in June. He remains in the D’Backs’ system.

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Here is tonight’s open thread. None of local hockey teams are in action, so there’s not a whole lot going on in the New York sports scene. You can talk about anything you like here though, have at it.

Yankees, Rafael DePaula still waiting on visa

One year ago today, the Yankees agreed to sign Dominican right-hander Rafael DePaula for $500k, pending a work visa. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Ben Badler that DePaula still hasn’t been able to get the visa, so he remains stuck in limbo. He spent this past season working out at the team’s academy in the Dominican, but he is not allowed to participate in games since his contract is not yet official.

DePaula, 21 in March, had been suspended by MLB for a year after lying about his age and identity. His actual age and identity was confirmed by MLB’s verification process last summer, allowing him to sign. Unfortunately, the U.S. government doesn’t like the idea of letting people who lied about their identity into the country, especially after Sept. 11th. DePaula may never get a visa, but the Yankees also don’t have to pay him unless he does. The 6-foot-3 righty was said to be able to run his fastball up to 97 last year.

Yankees add five to 40-man roster

With the deadline to set the 40-man roster for next month’s Rule 5 Draft looming, the Yankees added RHP David Phelps, RHP D.J. Mitchell, OF Zoilo Almonte, IF Corban Joseph, and IF David Adams to the 40-man roster today. The first three guys are not surprising at all, as I explained yesterday.

Joseph, drafted out of high school in 2008, was eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft because he graduated at 19 years old, so he had to protected one year earlier than usual. Adams is somewhat surprising to me; he’s missed the majority of the last two seasons following a brutal ankle injury suffered last May. He’s played in just 29 games since, so the Yankees must feel pretty good about his health if they protected him.

There’s only spot on the 40-man roster left open now, so some guys will get the axe as the Yankees add players this offseason. Kevin Whelan is probably first in line to go, and something will have to give with the out-of-options trio of Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell, and Chris Dickerson.

Will the Yankees pony up for Cespedes?

When news first broke of Cuban superstar Yoenis Cespedes’s impending free agency, the Yankees were immediately connected. In fact, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan wasted little time in making the connection, opening his second paragraph with: “The New York Yankees are particularly hot for the right-handed Cespedes.” This is not a surprise. The Yankees are always connected to international talent and high-priced free agents. But given the team’s recent words about spending, there’s a chance that they might sit this one out.

Earlier today Peter Gammons heard word that Cespedes will cost more than the $30.25 million the Reds paid Aroldis Chapman in 2010. The low end, according to Gammons, is $35 million, and the target is around $50 million. That’s an enormous outlay for unproven talent, and chances are Cespedes won’t hit the high end of that projection. But even at $30 to $35 million, the Yankees could back away from Cespedes, perhaps focusing on some of the younger and less expensive Cuban defectors.

In an article for the Star-Ledger, Marc Carig describes the Yankees financial situation:

These Yankees work with budgets — yes, still the largest war chest in the game — but limits nonetheless. And this week, with representatives for the game’s top free agents trying to drum up interest in their clients, the Yankees left no indication that they’ll stray from the target area they’ve established over the past three years.

Instead, according to people with knowledge of the team’s thinking who requested anonymity to speak candidly, the Yankees came away from the GM meetings Thursday skeptical of their willingness to meet the asking price of top free agents such as pitcher C.J. Wilson or Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish.

True, the $30-$35 million outlay for Cespedes isn’t quite the $100-million-plus outlay for Wilson or Darvish. But it’s a significant chunk of money for a player who has zero major league experience. The Yankees have around $190 million on the books for 2012, when counting projected arbitration raises, and the focus this winter centers on pitching. It’s doubtful that they’ll fit both a pitcher and Cespedes in their budget. They’d have to really like Cespedes in order to make that kind of exception.

They are the Yankees, though, and you never know. After all, in the same article Carig describes the process behind signing Russell Martin, which involved asking Hal Steinbrenner for a few extra million. But that filled a specific need, and it went towards a player who had significant major league experience. Will the Yankees make a similar exception for a player whose only experience has come in another country? The smart money, right now, is on no.

This is also incidentally why I think they’ll make a non-aggressive bid on Darvish, but that’s a subject for another day.

The RAB Radio Show: November 18, 2011

MLB announced some big changes, and the Yankees talked money. That’s what we’re covering in the podcast.

  • The added playoff team. Mike and I run through the situation pretty thoroughly, talking about the goods and the bads. While the new system will bring more teams into the playoff hunt, there are some negative unintended consequences.
  • The Astros are moving to the AL, which could cause some minor problems with interleague play. Mike and I run down the single biggest issue with future interleague scheduling.
  • Brian Cashman talked budget this week, and it seems he’s playing coy again. What does this mean for the Yankees offseason?

Podcast run time 37:52

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

Not getting owned by starters they’ve never faced before

Shut down the Yanks, win a trip to Japan! (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

Last week I looked at how the 2011 Yankees turned one of the 2010 team’s more vexing issues — a seeming inability to hit with runners in scoring position — around, and ended up as the top-hitting team with RISP in the AL compared to the league (though in fairness, they weren’t a bad team with RISP in 2010, just not as good as they’d been in other recent seasons).

Today we’ll take a look at the 2010 team’s other major bugaboo, one that longtime TYA/Yankeeist readers have been beaten over the head by and that I’m probably unhealthily obsessed with — getting owned by Starters-They’ve-Never-Seen-Before™ — and see how the 2011 team fared against this subset of pitchers and whether they were able to shake this particular shortcoming.

While RISP Fail wound up being the result of confirmation bias more than anything else, the 2010 team’s struggles against the notorious Pitchers-They’ve-Never-Seen-Before demographic were very real, as seen in this Jay Jaffe piece from this past June. Per Jaffe, the 2010 team faced 14 pitchers for the first time, and went 5-9 in those contests while those starters pitched to a collective 3.29 ERA/3.68 FIP over 82 innings (though it should also be noted that some of this success was probably partially luck-induced, as the pitchers also collectively recorded a miniscule .216 BABIP).

Even more vexing was that this group of first-timers wasn’t exactly a who’s-who of the league’s top pitchers — save perhaps Clayton Kershaw and new Yankee-killer Max Scherzer — and included names like Hisanori Takahashi, Kyle Kendrick, Sean O’Sullivan, Bryan Bullington (pictured above) and Josh Tomlin. For me, the Tomlin game was a breaking point, and really made it seem as though whoever might face the Yankees in the postseason — assuming they got there — could guarantee themselves of a sweep by simply calling up their four greenest Triple-A pitchers and starting them against the Bombers.

Jaffe followed the aforelinked Baseball Prospectus piece up with another important read at the Pinstriped Bible, and found the following:

“It’s worth noting that others have taken a look at fresh faces against the Yankees and gotten different results using different criteria. William J. at the Captain’s Blog found that if you’re looking at relatively inexperienced pitchers facing them — those with 60 or fewer starts in their career — the Yankees have actually beaten them pretty handily over the past decade. Meanwhile Sean Forman (the founder) wrote at the New York Times about how pitchers facing the Yankees for their major league debuts — as Josh Tomlin had then just done — had enjoyed an inordinate amount of success from 2000-2010. So it depends on how you frame the question, and what you focus upon. In my study, the Yankees have struggled against the newcomers, in large part because those pitchers have gotten exceptional, unsustainable support from their defenses.”

William also had previously posted two excellent pieces regarding this phenomenon in his own inimitably comprehensive fashion, If at First You Don’t Succeed: A Look at the Yankees’ Performance Against “First-Timers”, posted on August 17, 2010, following the Bullington game; and In Coming! It’s Duck and Cover for the Yanks When Facing a Debutant, posted on July 28, 2010, after the Tomlin game. All of these pieces are well worth your time.

In any event, that brings us to the 2011 season. I culled the below table from Baseball-Reference, containing all of the starting pitchers the Yankees faced in 2011 that they had never previously seen (as a starter), and sorted by Game Score. The column all the way on the left denotes where that starter’s game ranked among all 162 outings against the Yankees.

Rk Player Date Tm Rslt IP H ER BB SO HR GSc WPA
7 Philip Humber 2011-04-25 CHW W 2-0 7.0 1 0 2 5 0 78 0.509
14 Carlos Carrasco 2011-06-13 CLE W 1-0 7.0 5 0 3 7 0 71 0.508
15 Matt Moore 2011-09-22 TBR W 15-8 5.0 4 0 1 11 0 69 0.102
25 Jeremy Hellickson 2011-07-19 TBR W 3-2 7.0 5 2 1 7 1 65 0.080
29 Ubaldo Jimenez 2011-06-24 COL W 4-2 7.0 4 2 4 7 0 64 0.253
32 Zach Britton 2011-05-18 BAL L 1-4 7.0 6 0 3 4 0 64 0.239
35 Carlos Villanueva 2011-05-23 TOR W 7-3 5.0 2 1 1 5 0 63 0.175
42 Alex Cobb 2011-07-18 TBR L 4-5 6.0 3 1 4 3 0 59 0.104
54 Brian Duensing 2011-04-05 MIN W 5-4 7.0 6 4 2 7 2 54 -0.182
64 Dillon Gee 2011-07-02 NYM L 2-5 7.0 7 4 3 7 1 51 -0.144
71 Travis Wood 2011-06-20 CIN L 3-5 7.0 8 4 1 6 0 50 -0.172
73 Michael Pineda 2011-05-27 SEA W 4-3 5.0 3 3 5 5 1 49 -0.104
75 Mike Leake 2011-06-22 CIN L 2-4 6.0 5 4 1 4 1 49 -0.274
77 Charlie Furbush 2011-09-13 SEA L 2-3 5.1 7 3 0 6 1 48 -0.136
82 Jonathon Niese 2011-07-01 NYM L 1-5 6.0 9 3 2 7 0 47 -0.095
92 Randy Wells 2011-06-19 CHC L 4-10 6.0 5 4 4 3 1 45 -0.127
95 Juan Nicasio 2011-06-26 COL L 4-6 5.0 4 4 1 2 2 44 -0.213
102 Tyler Chatwood 2011-08-11 LAA L 5-6 5.1 8 2 2 1 1 43 -0.063
107 Alexi Ogando 2011-04-17 TEX L 5-6 6.1 6 5 1 1 3 41 -0.395
124 Henderson Alvarez 2011-09-17 TOR L 6-7 6.0 9 5 1 1 1 34 -0.065
126 Felipe Paulino 2011-08-15 KCR L 4-7 5.1 8 5 5 4 0 31 -0.489
128 Garrett Richards 2011-08-10 LAA L 3-9 5.0 6 6 2 2 2 31 -0.260
136 Jo-Jo Reyes 2011-05-25 TOR L 3-7 3.0 5 5 2 0 2 27 -0.262
145 Aaron Cook 2011-06-25 COL L 3-8 5.2 12 5 1 1 0 23 -0.250
150 Scott Diamond 2011-09-19 MIN L 4-6 4.0 10 5 3 1 1 20 -0.247
158 Danny Duffy 2011-08-16 KCR L 7-9 3.0 8 8 2 3 1 12 -0.741
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/3/2011.

Phil Humber wound up being the 2011 version of Josh Tomlin, throwing the seventh-best start against the Yankees all season. However, that’s about where the similarities to 2010 end. We’re dealing with a significantly larger sample here — 26 games to 14 — which would seem to favor the hitting team. And while Carlos Carrasco, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Ubaldo Jimenez turned in memorable debut performances against the Yankees, the overall results of this group of tyros is a far cry from how Pitchers-They’ve-Never-Faced fared in 2010.

After going 5-9 in 2010, the 2011 Yankees went 18-8 in the 26 games started by newbies, and by my calculations, the 2011 group threw 149 innings of 5.13 ERA ball. That’s quite the turnaround from 3.29 in 2010, and far, far more like it.