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.
Kenny R.’s got a new column up. While he focuses more on John Lackey’s impending free agency and Boston’s potential interest in Adam Dunn, he has a few Yankee-related items as well. First, he speculates via the ever-popular “rival executive” that the Mets could and should add Andy Pettitte at one year and $13 million. Pettitte would add depth to a Mets’ rotation sorely lacking in just that. At that price though, I have to believe the Yanks would step back in to the Pettitte fray.
Rosenthal also adds a note on Xavier Nady. Noting that Nady will probably wind up with Type A free agent status next season, Rosenthal feels that this designation could help the Yanks trade the righty later on this year. With no right-handers other than Manny Ramirez on the market, Nady, at a low price point, is attractive to many suitors, and as Rosenthal writes, “a team could offer him arbitration without fear that his salary would be exorbitant, thus preserving its right to draft-pick compensation.” · (104) ·
The Yanks announced the list of players they’re inviting to Spring Training today, all twenty of them. Here’s the breakdown (PeteAbe gets enough links, so let’s give Mike Ashmore some love this time):
Catchers: Kyle Anson, Kevin Cash, Jesus Montero, PJ Pilittere, Austin Romine
Infielders: Doug Bernier, Angel Berroa, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo
Outfielders: Colin Curtis, Shelley Duncan, Austin Jackson, Justin Leone, Todd Linden, John Rodriguez
Pitchers: Kei Igawa, Jason Johnson, Mark Melancon, Sergio Mitre
Everyone on the 40-man roster tags along too, so the Yanks will have a total of sixty players in big league camp this year. Last year they had 66 players in camp; the only guy from last year’s group that’s still with the organization and healthy enough to participate in ST that didn’t get an invite this year is poor Eric Duncan. Can you call him poor when he got a $1,275,000 signing bonus? In reality, it is a shame what happened to the kid. He was one of the Yanks’ few legit prospects a few years ago, so they rushed him up the ladder to boost his trade value. For shame.
Todd Linden carved out a nice little niche for himself a few years ago as Barry Bonds’ late inning defensive replacement out in San Fran, but he’s got a 66 career OPS+ and a .290 wOBP. Bernier and Leone are just filler Triple-A guys, both can play a ton of positions. It’s unlikely either factors into the utility infielder situation, at least early in the year. Mitre is still rehabbing from having Tommy John surgery in July, so he’s just getting back on the bump.
Melancon was in camp last year despite having less than 8 pro innings under his belt after TJ, but he’ll be given every chance to win a bullpen gig this year. Montero, Romine, Jackson and Anson were in camp last year, but they’re just there for the experience. However with the WBC taking place this year, a lot of these young guys will be getting extended looks while the vets are off doing their thing. I’m looking forward to seeing Brackman more than anyone.
Anyway, it looks like Shelley Duncan cleared waivers after his DFAing. Justin Christian headed for the greener pastures of Baltimore, where he’ll actually get an opportunity to play. I wish him the best.
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Andy in Sunny Daytona, I think you should go and try out for this. It’s only what, a three or four hour drive down to Miami? That’s nothing. Plus I hear that your jiggliciousness rates a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
Here’s your open thread. Anything goes, just be cool.
With Opening Day less than three months away, the Yankees have some real estate to sell. Seven of the team’s fancy luxury boxes remain vacant and a quarter of the 4000 highest priced premium seats are unsold as well. To that end, the Yanks have hired Prudential Douglas Elliman, a high-priced real estate firm, to help move some seats.
To me, this seems like an unnecessary move. The Yanks aren’t selling out the new stadium because the seats are disproportionately overpriced considering the current state of the U.S. economy. Once the markets rebound, the Yanks will have no problem selling out their 52,325-seat stadium. For now, though, if the Yanks don’t fill those seats, they may come dangerously close to missing out on that four-million attendance mark during their first in the new digs. · (2) ·
While Paul Byrd might not have much to do with the Yankees 2009 plans, Freddy Garcia might. Via MLB Trade Rumors we learn that the veteran righty could sign within the next few days. Not only that, but Jon Heyman says that the Yankees are one of four teams interested. The others include the Mets, the White Sox, and the Rangers. Garcia tossed 15 shaky innings for the Tigers at the end of 2008 after missing most of the past two seasons with shoulder issues.
That’s the red flag right there. A 34-year-old pitcher who missed significant time with a shoulder issue? I’m not so sure I’d take a gamble on that. If it’s a minor league deal with an opt-out if he doesn’t make the big league club, then that’s do-able. But if some team is willing to offer Garcia a major league deal, I have to hope the Yanks back off. There’s no reason to commit money to a guy with this much risk.
Garcia’s career, up until 2007, was filled with 200-inning-plus seasons. He was known as a horse, and that was a major reason the White Sox traded for him in June of 2004. His strikeout rates aren’t great, and he doesn’t have the low walk totals you’d like to see from such a pitcher. Plus, he gives up more than his share of home runs. From the way his stat lines look, a big part of his monster 2001 season was his ability to keep the ball in the park — just 16 homers in 238.2 innings. After surrendering 30 and 31 homers over the next two seasons, Garcia allowed just eight in 2004 before the trade. After the trade, in 103 innings, he gave up 14 homers.
So while he has name value going for him, that’s about all he’s got. He even had to leave winter ball with shoulder soreness. That might just be the cumulative effect of not having pitched much over the past two years. Yet it’s still cause for concern. If the Yankees can get him on a minor league deal, I won’t complain. But if they’re placing him on the 40-man roster, I think there’s reason to take issue with it.
I’ve heard a few people argue the case of the Yankees adding Paul Byrd as a fifth starter. While I don’t agree myself, I can see the point. He can give you 180, 200 innings of league average ball. From a fifth starter, that’s dandy. However, the argument is now moot, as Byrd has said he’ll sit out the first half of the season. He hopes to pitch for a contender, and if the Yankees aren’t getting the production they need from the No. 5 spot, they could definitely put in a bid for the junkballing righty. Byrd is a Type B free agent, but if he doesn’t sign until after the draft the Red Sox will not receive a sandwich pick. · (72) ·
About two weeks ago I examined the Yanks’ 2008 offense using Fangraphs’ new replacement value section, which expressed each player’s output in an actual dollar figure. Simply put, the determination of a player’s value is dependent on both their offense and defense relative to their position, and I used Ryan Howard ($15.2M value) and JJ Hardy ($25.0M) as examples.
This week David Appelman & Co. have added pitching win values to their already brilliant site, which expresses a pitcher’s true worth in a nice and easy dollar amount. Unfortunately the determination of these values is way more complex than it is for the position players, because factors like run enviroment and leverage are such major considerations. Dave Cameron (of USS Mariner fame) will be explaining what goes into all of this via a weeklong series which began on Monday. Yesterday he touched on the use of the Fielding Independant Pitching (FIP) statistic in lieu of ERA in the calculation, and then the determination of replacement level for pitchers.
I became an engineer because I enjoy seeing and understanding how things work, so I’m going to definitely going to check out the rest of Dave’s posts this week to see the nuts of the bolts of these calculations. If you’re not a total nerd like me and couldn’t care less how these things work, then let’s get right to it and see what kind of value the Yankees got out of their pitching staff last year.
A decent sized table is after the jump.
While the Yankees were busy prepping for today’s trip Albany defending their bond request, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson took the city to task for its handling of the stadium financing deal. Thompson, a potential 2009 mayoral candidate, slammed the incumbent Bloomberg Administration for its handling of the Bronx mega-project.
The Times’ Sewell Chan reported on the Thompson slam for the City Room blog:
The city comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., on Tuesday accused Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the New York City Industrial Development Agency of bungling the negotiations over the new Yankee Stadium, saying the project’s direct cost to the city has skyrocketed to $325 million from $129.2 million as a result of a series of oversights and mistakes.
“While our financial review cannot determine intent, this incredible mismanagement begs the question: Was this plain old incompetence or a blatant attempt to mislead the public?” Mr. Thompson, who plans to challenge the mayor this fall, said at a news conference at which he presented a new audit of the project. “Either way, New Yorkers now have a box-seat view of fiscal mismanagement.”
“The original city capital contribution now has ballooned to $325 million, two and a half times the amount we were told in 2006,” Mr. Thompson said. “With this deal, New Yorkers lose. At a time when we can least afford it, the administration is bending over backward to subsidize an enormously profitable corporation, one that just signed three players to contracts worth a total of $423 million.”
This aspect of the deal has little to do with the Yankees and more to do with the NYCIDA. While one could argue that Bloomberg’s negotiators should have saddled the Yanks with the cost overruns, the truth is that the financially-strapped city did not. It was a bad deal then, but for once, I’m exculpating the Yankees. Grandstanding aside, Thompson is probably write to blame Bloomberg’s Industrial Development Agency for this one.
Of course, a more cynical reader would simply contend that Thompson is currying favor with the voters as he faces a popular mayor running for a third time. The comptroller did, after all, approve the deal in the first place, but that’s New York politics for you. As Jim Dwyer wrote in a column highly skeptical of the 1000 jobs claim and sharply critical of both the Yanks and Bloomberg’s administration for their handling of this deal, it’s basically just business as usual in the Big Apple.
In a column on the disgruntled Michael Young, Jon Heyman drops in some fairly significant news about the now-estranged Andy Pettitte. While news got out recently that Pettitte had declined the Yanks’ offer, according to the Sports Illustrated scribe, the Yanks were the ones to yank the offer to Pettitte, and the southpaw’s pride prevented him from inking a deal sooner.
The Yankees’ longstanding one-year, $10 million offer to lefty Andy Pettitte expired when the club signed star free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to a $180 million deal. The Yankees explained to Pettitte all along that the offer could go away if they hit their payroll limit, and they apparently did that when they signed Teixeira.
Pettitte, 36, never took the Yankees’ offer because he was hurt by the idea of a $6 million pay cut, never mind the fact that he started and finished poorly last year (he began the year with his HGH press conference and ended it with seven losses in his last nine decisions.) Overall he was 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA.
But it doesn’t appear that Pettitte has anything better, and if he wants to pitch in 2009 he will have to wait. If the Yankees can trade either Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady, that may open up payroll room to resubmit a similar offer to Pettitte, a beloved Yankee. This time we’d have to think Pettitte might finally except.
So much for that three-year, $36-million deal that Heyman himself reported on in mid-December.
Personally, I go back and forth on this one. As I mentioned yesterday, I thought the Derek Lowe signing would up Pettitte’s cost a bit, but I realize that Lowe finished stronger and had better overall numbers than Andy in 2008. Pettitte, however, would be pitching for just one year and could conceivably make $12 million in 2009 simply because a team would be willing to pay a few extra million this year for the roster flexibility next year that Derek Lowe’s contract doesn’t give to the Braves.
No matter the outcome, it sounds like it’s doomed to be retirement of the Bronx for Pettitte. If he wants it badly enough, he can probably work out a deal with the Yanks, but if I’m Brian Cashman, I’m not about to sell low on Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher simply to make payroll room for Pettitte’s return.
The premise is rather simple. ESPN The Magazine writer Peter Bernstein asks, “Who is really the best in MLB at creating wins from dollars?” The answer — Billy Bean’s A’s — is hardly to surprising and demonstrates the superiority of Beane’s Moneyball approach. The other findings though bear more discussion.
First, Bernstein discusses methodology:
If you look at the correlation between a team’s opening day payroll and their final season victory total over the 11 seasons from 1998 to 2008, some trends become clear…There is a slight positive correlation between payroll and victories as indicated by the line shown in the picture.
We conclude this: for every $7 million a team spends on payroll (at 2008 player salary levels) the team will on average win one more game. A team that spends $125 million, or $35 million more than the 2008 average payroll of about $90 million, would be expected to win five more games than average. That comes out to 86 for the season.
Now off the bat, there’s a glaring problem. In the age of the Internet and free-flowing information, Bernstein doesn’t tell us what that “slight positive correlation” is. If it’s just a slight correlation, then the findings are ultimately meaningless. We just don’t know with the information given. For now, we’ll give Bernstein the benefit of the doubt.
Moving on though, Bernstein runs the numbers on the Yankees and manages to miss the point. The numbers show that the Yankees should win 98.7 games per season. Reality shows the Yanks to have averaged 97.8 wins per season for a difference of -0.9. In other words, the Yankees pretty much win the number of games they are expected to win.
Still, Bernstein’s analysis misses the point. “In the Yankees’ case,” he writes, “despite their success and ability to get into position for title runs, they are in the bottom half of the league over the last 10 years in terms of wins per dollar spent. When they lock up Mark Teixeira at $180 million, a player whose stats are equal to or worse in many cases than Milton Bradley, who the Cubs just secured for a sixth of that total … Well, you get the idea.”
In the Yanks’ case, they got what they paid for. As David Pinto (linked above) writes, “They weren’t terribly efficient, but they didn’t waste money either.”
For the Yankees, that’s just right. They have more money than anyone else. The team’s Front Office wants to — and, at times, has to — spend the money, and by and large, it’s been money well spent. The Yanks have made the playoffs every year except one during the course of this study. The team has made five trips to the World Series, capturing three titles in the process.
Money can win; money can lose. While Billy Beane’s approach and his +11.5 win difference is fantastic, I’ll take the money team with no complaints.