Game 63: Roster Moves

Do better than last time, Freddy. (Photo Credit: Flickr user maxxum via Creative Commons license)

As expected, it was a busy morning in Yankeeland thanks to all the recent injuries. Bartolo Colon was predictably placed on the disabled list following the hamstring strain he suffered yesterday, though Joe Girardi said the MRI came back “pretty good.” I have no idea what that means, but Colon told reporters that he expects to be back after his 15 days are up. Holy cow, that would be awesome. Just please don’t rush it, the last thing the Yankees need is for him to have a setback and miss three months instead of three weeks. “I feel bad because the team needs help and I got hurt,” said Bartolo. Given all he’s done for this team already, he’s shouldn’t feel bad. Amaury Sanit was also placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury, the nature and extent of which is unknown.

Replacing those guys on the roster are Hector Noesi and Chris Dickerson. Since you can’t call a player back up for ten days after a demotion, they had to use the injuries to get these two back so quickly. There’s still no word on Thursday’s starter though. As I sit here on my perch of infinite wisdom, I think the best course of action would have been to start Noesi today. It’s his scheduled day to start for Triple-A Scranton, and it would give Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett, and CC Sabathia and extra day of rest while allowing Colon’s replacement to miss the Rangers next week. They’re killing the ball right now, so keeping a rookie away from them seems like a good idea. Maybe Noesi will throw multiple innings in relief today as a tuneup, then start Thursday. That’s pretty much the best case right now.

Anyway, both Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez are in today’s lineup. Martin’s back is finally okay following his little weightlifting injury, and A-Rod‘s hip is fine after it stiffened up following that hit-by-pitch yesterday. So that’s pretty much it, hopefully they can get through today’s game healthy. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF

Freddy Garcia, SP

Today’s game can be seen on YES locally and on TBS nationally once it starts at 1pm ET. Enjoy.

The poor man’s Beltran

Yesterday I examined Nick Swisher‘s unfortunate results from the left side of the plate and argued that he’s a likely candidate to do better in the coming year. I also mentioned that Carlos Beltran was a fan favorite as a trade target. You don’t need me to explain why he’s a favorite as a trade target, but I’ll do it anyway. Beltran has always played excellent defense, he’s a switch-hitter, and he hits for power. He’s the lifetime owner of a .371 wOBA, a .282/.359/.495 batting line, and 289 home runs. This year he’s doing a touch better with a .284/.371/.512 line, a .382 wOBA. He’s showing a bit more power despite coming off a serious knee injury and hitting half his games at Citi Field. As trade targets go, you really can’t do too much better than Carlos Beltran. He’s a free agent after this season and he’s doing his best to set himself up for another nice payday. It’s not like he exactly needs another payday, having pulled in $119M from the Mets over the past seven years, but hey, I’ve lived in New York. Life ain’t cheap.

Plenty of teams will be in on Beltran this summer. Plenty of teams could use a half-season rental of a switch-hitting, power-hitting good defender. The primary deterrent to acquiring Beltran is likely his steep salary, but the Mets have indicated that they’re willing to absorb some of that salary in exchange for better prospects. Now, this could simply be posturing to get more teams involved and extract more from interested parties, but it’s hard to know for sure. The Mets may have more financial flexibility now that they partnered with David Einhorn. They may not be an East Coast version of the Los Angeles Dodgers anymore – they may be able to eat some of his contract.

This is a long way of saying that this confluence of factors – Beltran’s skillset and the Mets’ flexibility of demands – may mean that another team snatches Beltran from Queens before the Yankees can get their sticky little fingers all over him. But the Yankees could find a decent replacement in Twins outfielder Jason Kubel.

All the stars are lining up for Kubel to get traded this summer: he’s on a losing team, he has a decent in-demand skillset, and he has an expiring contract after this year. Twins’ blog The Bat Shatters makes the case for keeping Kubel, and summarizes the arc of his career nicely:

Kubel destroyed Minor League pitching for 4 years before getting a shot at the bigs in 2004. He didn’t disappoint, hitting .300/.358/.433 as a 22-year-old in 23 games with the Twins. That fall, he endured a serious knee injury which kept him out of baseball for the entire 2005 season, and while he re-emerged with the Twins in 2006, the results were nothing like before. Kubel struggled for a couple of seasons in 2006 and 2007 before putting it all together in 2008. In ’08, he hit .272/.335/.471 with 20HRs and 78RBIs while seeing part-time action in the outfield. In 2009, he had his ‘breakout’ hitting .300/.369/.539 with 28HRs and 103 RBIs. In a contract-year last season, he only managed a .249 batting-average, but did surpass the 20 homerun plateau for the 3rd straight season while driving in 92 runs…

Over the last three years, Kubel has the 11th highest OPS (.883), the 11th highest batting average and the 8th most HRs against right-handers…among all of the outfielders in baseball. You won’t find his name on the WAR leaderboards, but that’s because his defense is so atrocious. If he was strictly in a DH role, his value would increase. Without Thome next year, the Twins will likely have an opening at DH, a role Kubel is familiar with and could probably excel in.

I’m not trying to make it sound like Kubel is a superstar player. He’s not. What I am trying to say is that Kubel, as a left-handed hitter with power, possesses an offensive skill-set that is not all that common in MLB, and is not easily replaceable if they trade him or let him go.

As Krueger notes, Kubel hits right-handed pitchers well, the type against whom Nick Swisher has struggled lately. Kubel is the owner of a career .286/.345/.499 line against right-handed pitchers. By way of comparison, Beltran is a career .293/.364/.529 hitter against right-handed pitchers. Kubel is playing for a paltry $5.25M this year, a far cry from Beltran’s hefty salary, and he’ll be a free agent when the season is done. He isn’t as good against left-handed pitchers (.664 OPS against), but if he’s deployed properly he could do some damage in the Yankee lineup and bop a few fly balls over that short porch in right.

Kubel may cost less than Beltran for an acquiring team (depending on how much money the Mets eat), and this is for good reason. He’s not as good in the field as Beltran, and he’s not capable of hitting left-handed pitchers nearly as well as Beltran can. But he’s not a scrub: he has a solid bat, he’s cheap, and he’s a free agent at the end of the year. He currently profiles as a Type B free agent, so the Yankees could offer him arbitration and pocket the picks if he declines. If he accepts it’s not the end of the world – he only makes $5.25M in 2011, and the Yankees could always trade him elsewhere.

As it stands right now the Yankees have the corner outfield and DH spots manned by capable hitters, and I’m not sold that the team needs to do anything in the trade market to bolster the offense. I’d far rather see them call up that kid in Scranton that everyone won’t shut up about. But if something changes – if Posada, Gardner or Swisher get injured, or if Montero is traded – then Kubel might be a good fit. If the Yankees are looking for another outfielder-DH-bench bat type with thump and don’t want to pay the high price likely commanded by the Mets for Beltran, they could do worse than Kubel.


Yankees win the game, but lose Colon

The Yankees can’t have anything nice. Friday night’s blowout win over the Indians was clouded by the official announcement of Joba Chamberlain‘s upcoming Tommy John surgery. Saturday afternoon’s shutout win cost the Yankees their number two starter, as Bartolo Colon suffered a strained hamstring covering first base in the seventh inning. The win counts in the standings, but the net result of the day was a loss for New York.

Few things in baseball are more fun to watch than that called strike three.

RIP Bartolo

As great as he’s been this season, there’s always been an elephant in the room when Colon pitches. This could be the last start, the last batter, the last pitch … he could blow up at any moment. He did blow up today, but not in the way we all figured. Bartolo’s right arm is fine (thankfully), it was a bum hammy that took him down. That’s like a rhino going down because it stepped on a thumb tack while the hunter was loading his rifle.

Colon was again masterful on Saturday, carving up his former team with his usual diet of four and two-seamers to both sides of the plate. He struck out the first two he faced and retired 14 of the first 16 men he faced on a measly 59 pitches. Bartolo threw ten pitches in each of the third, fourth, and fifth innings, and only one batter made it as far as second base against him. Colon’s day ended at just 83 pitches with two outs in the seventh, when the hamstring gave out as he covered first base on a ground ball by Shin-Soo Choo. He had struck out six, walked one, allowed two hits, and gotten seven ground ball outs to that point. I feel like a broken record because we say this after every start, but Colon was brilliant. Unfortunately this day had a tragic ending.

Just a flick of the wrists.

All They Needed

It’s pretty cool when a guy has a dozen homers through a third of the season and it feels like we’re waiting for him to heat up. That’s kinda the situation with Alex Rodriguez, who seems to be victimized by his own greatness more than anyone in his the history of the universe. Homers like the one he hit today, a fourth inning solo shot that broke a scoreless tie, go underappreciated because he’s so damn good. Less than 24 hours after hitting a ball into the left field bleachers, Alex connected on a 1-0 fastball and drove it through the wind into the Indians’ bullpen. It wasn’t as majestic as Friday’s homer, but it gave the Yankees a lead on a day when their starter was cruising and their core relievers were rested. We’ll forget about it in a week, but it’s just a gentle reminder that A-Rod is always capable of changing the complexion of a game with one swing.

Mitch Talbot appreciates Alex’s greatness, so much so that he hit him with a pitch the next time he came to plate. Aside from Fausto Carmona’s shot at Mark Teixeira on Friday, I think this one was the most obviously intentional out of all the recent hit-by-pitches. Curtis Granderson had just taken Talbot deep (more on that in a second), Tex hit a ball to the track, and of course A-Rod hit the homer last time up. It was a first pitch fastball right to the hip, pretty much where these intentional plunkings tend to happen. There were two outs in the inning and none on, and yeah it was raining, but Talbot didn’t appear to slip in any of the replays.

I’m not one of those guys who thinks you have to retaliate for every hit-by-pitch, but this is getting ridiculous. If you can’t control your 90 mph fastball, then you don’t get to pitch inside. Colon couldn’t retaliate because both benches had been warned, but it’s time to push back a bit and send a message because this is going on too frequently. “We’re the Yankees, we’ll hit your guys back and win the game too.” Sounds good to me.

How About Some More?

Would have been more impressive if he actually caught it with the parka over his head.

A-Rod’s homer was the only run the Yankees would ultimately need, but that didn’t stop them from tacking a few more on. Granderson hit a solo shot of his own in the sixth, a golf shot more than anything else. I didn’t think it was a bad pitch at all. A Choo misplay in right allowed Nick Swisher to score from first on a Jorge Posada single an inning later, and Tex capped it all off with a solo homer in the eighth. He’s gotta keep pace with Curtis, you know? Grandy is tied with Jose Bautista for the MLB lead with 20 homers while Tex is second with 19. At what point do we start talking about these two being the Yankees’ most dangerous 1-2 punch since … I guess A-Rod and Gary Sheffield in 2005?

No LOLpen

The bullpen is in a world of trouble at the moment, so 2-0 wasn’t exactly a comfortable lead when Colon exited. David Robertson came in to replace him and immediately allowed a single before getting the final out of the seventh. Jack Hannahan and Lou Marson opened the eight with singles, but Robertson escaped the inning by striking out Michael Brantley (looking), Asdrubal Cabrera (looking), and Grady Sizemore (swinging). There was also a balk mixed in there, and you can make a case that those three are the Indians’ three best hitters. David let out an Eight Inning Guy™ caliber fist pump after Sizemore swung over top of that curveball, which is always fun. Boone Logan (of all people) threw a flawless ninth to close things out. He even struck out the only lefty he faced. Go figure.

Today's weather: dank.


The Yankees made a full innings’ worth of outs on the bases, which is at least the second time they’ve done that this season. Brett Gardner got caught stealing twice, once going for second and once going for third, then Jorge Posada got picked off second later in the game. That was partially Gardner’s fault as well; he was trying to bunt Posada over to third with no outs and just flat out whiffed. Still, Jorge can’t be that far off the base. Ah the joys of bunting.

Derek Jeter took an 0-for-4 and now has five games left in the homestand to pick up the nine hits he needs for 3,000. I’m sure he’ll get it done, the baseball gods always make sure this stuff sorts itself out. Aside from the three solo homers, Swisher and Posada each had one hit while Gardner had two. Robinson Cano drew a walk to round out the offense.

Eduardo Nunez replaced A-Rod at third base in the ninth inning, and Joe Girardi said after the game that it was just a precaution because Alex’s hip stiffened up a bit following the hit-by-pitch. No, it’s not the same hip he had surgery on. A-Rod said he’ll play tomorrow, so no problem there.

The wind was especially brutal Saturday afternoon, every ball hit high in the air was an adventure for the defenders. Didn’t matter for A-Rod, Grandy, and Tex on the homers through.

WPA Graph & Box Score has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other stuff.

Up Next

For the first time all year, the Yankees will follow up a 1pm ET Saturday game with a 1pm ET Sunday game. Every other weekend series has featured some kind of weird start time due to FOX or ESPN or west coast or whatever. Freddy Garcia gets the ball against Josh Tomlin.

Heredia, Turley strong at the lower levels

Jesus Montero did not play for Triple-A Scranton, but apparently it was a routine day off (he actually coached first base, so it’s not an injury). Brian Cashman said he’s not being called up, but here’s my conspiracy theory: Montero’s coming up tomorrow if Russell Martin is not healthy enough to play. We’re pretty much at the point were Martin will have to go on the disabled list if he can’t catch, and they don’t want to risk Montero getting hurt tonight. Anyway, we’ll see.

Oh, and Brad Halsey has already been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton. That was quick, he just made his first appearance for Tampa last night. Kei Igawa moved up to Triple-A Scranton to fill the rotation spot of whoever comes up to replace Bartolo Colon.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Syracuse)
Greg Golson, CF: 0 for 5, 1 K
Ramiro Pena, SS: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K – ten for his last 36 (.278) with five walks and four whiffs
Jordan Parraz, RF: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 0 for 4, 3 K
Brandon Laird, DH: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI – 14 for his last 36 (.389) with four doubles and two homers
Kevin Russo, 3B: 2 for 4, 1 CS
Dan Brewer, LF: 1 for 4, 3 K, 1 SB
Luis Nunez, 2B: 1 for 3, 1 2B, 1 K
Jesus Montero, PH: 0 for 0, 1 BB – see? healthy enough to pinch-hit, though Doug Bernier pinch-ran for him
Gus Molina, C: 2 for 4 – > Frankie Cervelli?
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 7 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 12-3 GB/FB – 66 of 116 pitches were strikes (56.9%) … is that enough to get him a spot start over Hector Noesi in place of Bartolo Colon? I don’t think so … he gave up two hits to a (pretty good) rehabbing big leaguer
Ryan Pope, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB – eight of his 11 pitches were strikes … > Lance Pendleton or Jeff Marquez?

[Read more…]

Open Thread: The Franchise Player Draft

Cutch's got the whole Predator look going on. (Photo Credit: Flickr user Brock Fleeger via Creative Commons license)

A little over a week ago, I post something about ESPN’s Fantasy Player Draft, specifically the sheer absurdity of Wilson Ramos being taken 30th overall. This past week the FanGraphs writers did the same thing at the behest of the readers (contracts were a non-factor, it was all about talent), and the results were published last night. Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki were predictably the top two picks, but Mike Trout was a major head scratcher at three. Why take a prospect when the guys you hope that prospect turns into are still on the board? Oh well, Carson Cistulli’s cool like that. Ryan Zimmerman and Joey Votto rounded out the top five.

I picked 15th and took Andrew McCutchen. Pitchers are too risky and I wanted a premium up-the-middle player. McCutchen has yet to turn 25 and does it all; he hits for average, draws walks, hits for power, steals bases, and plays a mean center field. Look at his FG player page and what he’s doing this season, it’s five-tool player porn. Joe picked two spots after me and grabbed Jay Bruce, a true power hitter still not in his prime at a time when power across the league is declining. Yeah, he plays a non-premium spot, but he plays it damn well and a case could be made that he’ll be the best hitting outfielder in baseball with a year or two. Jose Reyes was not picked even though everyone seemed to say they were considering him, and I’m kinda surprised Buster Posey didn’t go despite the injury. The only Yankee taken was Robinson Cano at 24. Who would you have taken if you had my pick? Joe’s? First overall?

Once you’re done with that, use this as your open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing the Pirates (Dickey vs. McDonald), and MLB Network will carry a game as well (teams depend on where you live). No basketball or hockey playoffs tonight, so that’s all you’ve got. Talk about whatever, enjoy.

Al, what makes CC so good?

Photo by alexabboud on Flickr/ licensed through Creative Commons.

For Thursday’s Red Sox game, Michael Kay, Al Leiter, and Paul O’Neill were in the booth and Kay asked Leiter the title question. One of the things I love about the ever-changing Yankees booth is that you get a  lot of different opinions and views on the game from the various ex-players that cycle through. I’m sure you all have your opinions on the best booth (I think Cone-Singleton wins it. Was Leiter there too?) but I love all the ex-player stories, and I love even more listening to how retired players view current ones. We get on certain announcers basing their opinions on players on intangibles, weak stats, and clutchness, but Leiter managed to avoid basically all of these things as he explained why Sabathia is such a great pitcher. He was insightful, comprehensive, and interesting. I want to see if he’s right. I’ll blockquote his words words here:

Yeah, you start with stuff…I think his ability to pound the zone, get ahead. He is somewhat unpredictable. He’s got the ability to have control on both side of the plate He’s aggressive. Delivery-wise, he stays closed….He’s a big man. He has good trajectory or downward plane, has an idea.

And now, for fact checking:

Sabathia pounds the zone: True. For his career, Sabathia has thrown 52.3% of all his pitches inside the zone, and 64% for strikes. In 2011, he’s right on the money with 65% strike percentage and 46.6% being in the zone. This also includes a career 60.4% first-pitch strike and a 59% in 2011.

Sabathia gets ahead in the count: Partially true. For his career, 3085 hitters have taken hacks when they’re behind to CC, and they’ve batted a worse-than-Jorge .190/.197/.276. Only 3027 hitters have hit when they’re ahead, and their .275/.441/.441 is decent at best. But the majority of hits and outs have been made with an even  count. 3116 have done it, and they’ve hit .278/.283/.417. The first pitch strike lends to being ahead, though it doesn’t always work out that way.

He is unpredictable: True. Sabathia throws a fastball, a slider and a changeup. While the slider is usually his out pitch, everything looks the same coming out of his hand, and for his career he throws the same percentage of sliders and changeups (15.9%). Should you be looking for a changeup that averages around 85 MPH or a 80 MPH slider in the dirt? Good luck figuring that one out. You’ll need it.

He controls both sides of the plate. True. While Sabathia prefers to throw the fastball away to righties, he has absolutely no problem throwing it inside or throwing it for a strike. He also can throw it high or low for strikes, too. Here’s a heat map of Sabathia’s fastball vs righties in 2010 to prove it, with a more yellow area meaning more pitches were thrown to that area:

He’s aggressive: True. Aggressiveness is really a combination of a number of the other stats above. Sabathia throws strikes. A lot of strikes. He isn’t afraid to blow a pitch over the plate (just look at all that yellow in the middle!) and overwhelm a hitter. He usually doesn’t throw around batters, either.

Delivery-wise, he stays closed: Plausible. Without a stat to back this one up, we’re finally left to depend in our eyeballs. That Leiter started with the numbers things and moved slowly into observational notes was very cool to me. From what I know about studying a pitcher’s delivery (absolutely nothing), Sabathia’s always had a relatively simple delivery. He keeps it close to his chest. His release points stay the same. It’s not complex, it’s not violent, just a big man throwing a baseball.

He’s a big man: True. No comment.

He has good trajectory or downward plane: True.  Considering the fact that CC is 6’7, I’d say he’s throwing down off the mound, yeah. Plus, his release is nice and high.

Has an idea: Plausible. What does this mean? I think it might have something to do with  that Sabathia knows what pitches he’s going to throw. He has a plan about how each at-bat is going to go, or at least, knows how to change his approach based on the game, the hitter, and so forth. He’s reached that point in his career where he knows what’s good and what’s bad.

Like your baseball players, you don’t choose your announcers. Unfortunately, when your announcers are really bad, you can’t bench them or DFA them or anything. You’re stuck with them. Now, Kay isn’t the greatest announcer the world has ever known, but having Cone, Leiter, Singleton and Flaherty rotating up with him makes him a lot more bearable. And when the guy in the booth actually knows what they’re talking about, it’s pretty wonderful. I’m willing to bet Al Leiter knows just a little about what makes a good pitcher, and he totally nailed it here. Hooray for him.

Bartolo Colon leaves game with strained left hamstring

Update (3:26pm): It’s a strained left hamstring, his landing leg. That’s bad, Bartolo’s probably headed to the disabled list even if it’s just a minor strain.

Original Post (3:02pm): Bartolo Colon left this afternoon’s game with an apparent leg injury after covering first base in the seventh inning. David Robertson replaced him on the mound. Out of shape pitchers and wet grass don’t mix well. Stay tuned for updates.